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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1552

Senator SCOTT (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(5.10) —I want to address myself briefly to the 1983-84 annual report of the Australian Wheat Board. It is a comprehensive and well presented report. Indeed, one would expect that to be the case because that statutory organisation has been saddled for many years with the mammoth and constantly increasing task of marketing Australian wheat crops under increasingly difficult conditions in terms of international trade and the capacity and determination of some countries to give all sorts of support to their export industries. That task is also related to the constantly changing economic and climatic circumstances in Australia whereby drought and good seasons, at least in some measure, confuse our capacity to seek out and satisfy markets for our grain.

It is worth recalling that in 1983-84 Australia had a record crop of in excess of 22 million tonnes. This was an enormous amount of wheat in terms of Australia's average production. Indeed, I suppose we must be looking to the real possibility of finding markets and, more importantly, delivering to those markets something like 20 million tonnes of wheat instead of the 14 million to 15 million tonnes that have been harvested in more recent years. Consequently we have to seek more markets and find more efficient ways of handling our crop.

The marketing authority began this year with an enormous amount, in Australian terms, of 19.5 million tonnes of wheat for which it had to find markets. Indeed, basically it has done just that. I believe that it was encouraging to find that there was a strong demand for Australian wheat in many places around the world, including our traditional markets and new markets. Because of the 1982 drought our capacity to supply wheat was somewhat diminished. It is something of a compliment to the Australian industry that Australian wheat was sought when it became available again in significant quantities. More than 14 million tonnes was shipped from this country in 1983-84. The shipment of this sizable amount was an excellent performance in many ways, although it should be recalled that the amount could have been greater had it not been for delays resulting from industrial relations problems, particularly in my own State of New South Wales, which led to an inability of facilities to handle the amount of grain that one would assume would be normally grown in this country.

It is not that long ago that we lost 37 per cent of our export market in the European Economic Community. However, we have found new outlets in China, Egypt, Iran and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for at least the amount of wheat we have lost. The year was also of importance in that the Australian Wheat Board had to find, and in very large measure did find, a market for its rain damaged wheat. This grain has largely been sold, although two million tonnes remain in this country, again unfortunately because of our inability basically to bring ships alongside the loading facilities.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.