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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2388

Senator WATSON —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Given the importance of the opium poppy industry in Tasmania, is the Minister aware that major producers, India and Turkey, have disregarded international convention provisions against stock buildup in excess of that required to meet current trading needs? Acknowledging the existence of this excess stock, will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government will not relax its policy of banning codeine imports so that excess stock will not find its way into Australia? Can he also explain why Australia did not call for the vote during the February 1987 United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on implementing previously approved resolutions, and assure the Tasmanian opiate producers that Australia's position was not, as was alleged in some quarters, used as a trade-off or negotiation for the entry of Australian products into Turkey?

Senator BUTTON —Although the question is one which is appropriately directed to me in this chamber, it has implications for the Department of Trade, the Department of Health and other departments. I must confess that the growing of opium is not high on the list of my industry policy priorities. But I have had representations or discussions with a company in Australia involved in the growing of poppies and a producer of codeine products, and I undertook to have the problem examined for them. I also understand that the Premier of Tasmania has written to the Prime Minister about this matter. I think the best I can say at the moment is that there is clearly room for an urgent examination of the question by the Government, and I will undertake to get an answer as soon as possible.