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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2089


Senator ARCHER(3.48) —I do not want the Australian Agricultural Council resolutions to pass by the Senate without some comment. The AAC is important, and not only because it, too, met in Queenstown, New Zealand. It is important because it is the area where the States and the Commonwealth get together and look at a whole range of issues in a fairly bipartisan way.

Two main points emerged from reading the report. The first was the state of the agricultural industries of Australia. The principal resolutions covered many of the areas that show the problems now being faced. The Council investigated long term plans to determine how it envisages the future and the development of the long term plan for the year 2000. In particular, the AAC emphasised the urgent need for the Government to address the critical issue of interest rates and farm costs. I suppose that that is hardly surprising because, with interest rates the highest that they have been over a longish period, the farmers are in real difficulties in trying to budget to survive. The prime interest rate in Australia has increased 5 per cent for farmers since the last election, whereas it has fallen by 4.3 per cent in the United States of America, 3.2 per cent in Canada and 2.5 per cent in France. Implicit in the AAC's reference to the cost factor is the warning that the Government simply cannot continue to blame external factors.

The report covers a fairly wide range of issues, and I want to mention some of those that are not regarded as major issues, but are important for a variety of reasons. One such issue is the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign. It is very gratifying to find that, with all the work that has been done, the position now is as planned and that things are progressing satisfactorily. It is of concern, however, that it has now been determined that some of the deer in South Australia have tuberculosis. That will create another problem.

Another issue is hormonal growth promotants, the effects they are having on markets and the actions that will have to be taken. It is just as well that this should be determined now. The grain storage, handling and transport inquiry will be very important because I believe that it will show the situation regarding handling, storage and transport not only in the grain industry but also in a whole variety of others. It is interesting to note that the closer economic relations agreement with New Zealand is barely on the notice paper, although much has happened. The Lazenby report on plant breeding is also reported upon. We hope that the plant variety rights legislation will get into action very quickly.

The potato cyst nematode in Western Australia is a most important issue for the whole of the Australian potato industry. I am pleased to have been advised by the Department in the last few days that investigation so far has not produced any further outbreaks beyond those which were originally determined. It is important that the situation should be kept under very close scrutiny and that there should be no movement or import of potatoes.


Senator Button —Imported from where? From Western Australia or from overseas?


Senator ARCHER —From overseas, in particular, but also from Western Australia to the eastern States. There was a lot of concern on the part of the honey bee industry a couple of years ago about the release and development of the leafcutter bee for the fertilisation of lucerne crops. The assurance is that it will not affect the industry, and that it will not be able to carry diseases. After our insistence that there be quite a reasonable quarantine and delay period I am pleased that we have had an assurance that there are no problems now nor are likely to be any.

Question resolved in the affirmative.