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Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2893

Mr CUNNINGHAM —I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen ongoing reports of legislation before the Congress of the United States of America relating to lamb imports? What is the Minister's understanding of the current state of play and the possible impact on our lamb exports?

Mr KERIN —As honourable members would know, the procedures in the United States Congress are very complex and the situation at present is particularly complicated. The Congress is going very protectionist in a range of areas, not all of which are related to agriculture. I think that the way the Congress is going, the mood of the Congress and the imbalance between Japan and the United States, is of concern to all of us here, not just to farmers. For quite some time the Minister for Trade and I have been monitoring some 21 Bills and amendments that are progressing through the Congress. One of the major Bills is the Trade Bill, which has now just got through and on which there was considerable debate, with many congressmen attaching various amendments and requirements. Eventually a compromise was reached between the Ways and Means Committee and the Rules Committee and that Bill finally passed by about 290 votes to 137, and that included the Gephardt amendment, which has caused so much concern not just in Australia but everywhere.

That Gephardt amendment passed by 218 votes to 214 and therefore it is considered that it does not have enough support for any subsequent veto override. There were quite a few amendments of direct concern to Australian farmers. One was an amendment by a Mr Jack, I think it was, a Buy American requirement. That was defeated. There was another one by Mr Michel, which combined various elements of Buy American and the Gephardt requirement and that was also defeated. Most importantly, an amendment by Republican congressman Smith from Oregon, to bring lamb within the meat import law, was removed by the compromise between the two committees I referred to earlier. The compromise is that the Secretary of Agriculture will report back to Congress by 1 June on the effect of lamb imports into the United States.

The United States and Canadian lamb producers are strongly backing their congressmen and members. They believe that Australian and New Zealand exports to North America are affecting their production. However, I think that the figures show quite clearly that we are not filling even half of the gap provided by the decline in production in the United States. We could really act together to complement each other-we could complement the work of the lamb producers in Australia and New Zealand and in the United States and Canada to develop lamb markets in those countries. Indeed, the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation has put forward that proposition.

Every effort has been made by the Minister for Trade, Mr Dawkins, to make our views known on this matter. We have been in regular contact with the Administration and also, to the extent that we can, with key congressmen and movers of the various motions. The current pos- ition is that the Secretary of Agriculture has invited people from Australia and New Zealand to a meeting on 21 May to discuss the whole question. Mr Austin and Mr Frawley of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation will be attending. The Minister for Trade and I have recently had an opportunity to discuss the matter with Ministers Wise and Carney from Canada.