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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3999

Senator FERRIS —My question is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy. Can the minister outline to the Senate—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! Opposition senators should cease interjecting. I have not been able to hear the question.

Senator Robert Ray interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Ray! Senator Ferris, would you start again please.

Senator FERRIS —My question is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy. Can the minister outline to the Senate how the budget enhances the government's `Supermarket to Asia' strategy?

Opposition senators interjecting


Senator FERRIS —What a pity the opposition does not want to listen to this question. How will these measures assist in providing opportunities for increased exports of Australian food to Asian markets and contribute to the increased volume and variety of exports of high value products from rural and regional areas?

Senator PARER —I would like to thank Senator Ferris for that question. I could not help but notice before, with all this ridiculous juvenile stuff coming from the other side, that today in the gallery we have a whole bunch of young people. Do you know what they are interested in? They are interested in the future development of this country and the jobs that are going to be there for them. This is the basis of Senator Ferris's question.

The `Supermarket to Asia' strategy is the cornerstone of efforts by this government to achieve our vision of a competitive Australian agri-food industry which is able to make us a significant global supplier of food, especially to the burgeoning markets of Asia.

Senator Bolkus interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Bolkus, cease interjecting.

Senator PARER —We are now living in the fastest economically growing area in the world. We have before us enormous opportunities. All we are getting from that side is interjections, because they do not want to hear it.

Senator Bolkus —I rise on a point of order, Madam President. The point that I was making is that he is talking about a previous government initiative. He should acknowledge it and give credit to the previous government for it.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator PARER —It is worth pointing out that this country currently exports five times as much food as we import. This is why the work of Mr Tim Fischer is so important in breaking down tariff and non-tariff barriers. We have a vested interest in Australia doing that.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! There are far too many interjections. It is impossible to follow the answer that is being given. It is totally disorderly and in contravention of the standing orders.

Senator PARER —It is a great lesson, is it not, Madam President, for the young people in the gallery to hear that rabble on the other side. Some 400,000 Australians are employed in the agricultural sector and around 200,000 Australians are employed in Australia's largest manufacturing industry, the food processing industry. Our desire is to see these areas grow and develop. You have no interest in this—none whatsoever.

This strategy will bring more investment and more jobs to Australia as a whole but, in particular, to rural and regional Australia. For this reason, the 1997 budget included total funding of $11.8 million over the coming three years to help implement this strategy. A total of $1.4 million per annum for three years has been provided to establish and run the Prime Minister's Supermarket to Asia Council and for initial funding to commission studies in high priority areas.

A total of $2 million per annum for three years will be used to fund a technical market access program to be run by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to overcome quarantine and other technical barriers to trade and to fund other high priority projects associated with the development of the strategy. This funding includes action to provide two AQIS technical access experts in Japan and Korea to pursue vigorously Australia's access concerns in these markets. In addition, the budget provides an additional $210,000 to develop the quality food Australia proposal.

The Supermarket to Asia Council working group is developing the quality food Australia program which has three broad elements: undertaking coordinated retail and food service promotions in Asian countries with Australian food companies; promoting a quality food Australia logo as a quality certification mark; and establishing a network of contacts throughout Asia which will assist current and new exporters with the development of their businesses. This is another coalition initiative to promote exports and jobs.