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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 550

Senator COONEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Our rural sector is now facing serious problems. Can the minister point to any relief that is likely to be received from the outcome of the Uruguay Round?

Senator McMULLAN —I thank Senator Cooney for his very timely question because it shows his eminent good judgment, as would be expected. It is a very appropriate day to ask this question because I have just released a booklet prepared by my department outlining the extent of the gains for the rural sector from the Uruguay Round of negotiations. I will be making it available to all honourable senators and members today.

  Senator Panizza interjecting

Senator McMULLAN —Senator Panizza may wish to denigrate it, but it contains a preface—

Senator Panizza —I am not denigrating it.

Senator McMULLAN —Senator Panizza runs around the world looking for a black cloud to stand under. I have a bit of good news, and I am sorry Senator Panizza has to listen to it. This booklet contains a preface from the President of the National Farmers Federation, Mr McGauchie, who fully endorses the very close cooperation between the Australian government and the Australian rural industry in achieving the major results for Australia on agriculture—as he properly does and should—because my predecessors, collectively, did an outstanding job in achieving this outcome. They received tremendous support from the rural industry and industry groups in that activity. It is a major win for the Australian rural community. We have to remember that it is not the end of the process of gaining better market access for Australia, but it is a very good start.

  The other preliminary point to realise is that the key question now is to get these commitments implemented. I am optimistic that the results of the Round will be implemented, particularly by the major players—namely, the United States, Japan and the European Union—and I will be writing to key US congressional leaders to urge the early passage of the Uruguay Round legislation, particularly in my capacity as chair of the Cairns Group because those countries share a very profound concern about that question.

  Let us have a look at the hard edge of the benefits. It is very easy for people to make quips in here about 1999 and about all those things that Senator Panizza wishes were, but are not, true. The fact of the matter is this: ABARE has assessed the benefits for beef at approximately $330 million each year over the six-year implementation period; $210 million a year for dairy; $320 million for wheat; $50 million for coarse grains; $30 million for rice—for 2,000 rice-growing families there will be $30 million; and $10 million for sugar each year over the six-year implementation period. These are very substantial, important, recognised and welcomed benefits for our rural communities, thanks to the combined good work of the Australian government, the ministers and the public servants who provided the enormous support, and the industry groups and industry organisations which also participated and whose support was invaluable.

  The bottom line is that there will be increased export income for Australia's farmers, heightened economic activity in rural communities and additional jobs in country towns and regional centres. They are gains that will not just fall into our laps; we will have to work for them and we will have to be competitive to win them. But there are important tangible opportunities and very substantial benefits.

  The Uruguay Round deal, for example, will provide significant openings for our beef exports to the US market in particular which alone could provide additional exports of around $1 billion over the implementation period. We will be working with our fellow Cairns Group members to ensure that the commitments are honoured and that the good start we have achieved is built upon. That Cairns Group, which was established at Australia's initiative, will be working with us to ensure that the pressure for agricultural trade reform is maintained so that we can get even greater opportunities for Australia's rural exporters and enable the income gains that should flow to so many deserving Australian farming communities, regional centres and country towns to be built upon in future years.