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Tuesday, 22 October 2002
Page: 5592

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Forestry and Conservation) (3:06 PM) —Yesterday, Senator O'Brien asked me a question, in my capacity representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, relating to a grain audit by ABARE. I indicated I would get a response from Mr Truss. I have that response. I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows

The Government is aware of concerns of a shortage of grain for feedstock purposes as a result of the current drought.

The Minister is also aware of calls by Senator O'Brien for a National Grains Audit.

For the information of the Senate, during the 1994-95 drought an audit was conducted through ABARE amongst various statutory marketing authorities and in conjunction with the States. At the time such an audit was feasible given the statutory nature of the grain entities.

However, as these former Commonwealth and State grain statutory marketing authorities and bulk handling organisations have since been privatised, the idea of a national grain audit is not practical.

Information on grain storage levels is commercially sensitive and the government has no legislative authority with which to require companies to provide data on stocks held.

The grains industry has taken action to address the security of feed grain supplies, recognising the interdependence between grain producers and intensive livestock industries.

The Grains Council of Australia is monitoring the levels of grain through its Feed Grain Action Group comprising representation from all sectors of the feed grains and intensive livestock industries.

AWB Ltd has reported on 19 October 2002 that it is confident that there will be sufficient grain to meet domestic requirements for this year and next.

The National Pool is quoted as having a carryover of four million tonnes. Furthermore, AWB Ltd has taken action to redirect export orders from New South Wales and Queensland in an effort to retain stocks for domestic use.

The 2002 harvest has begun and will ensure that adequate supplies are available for domestic use. While prices are expected to be higher than in recent years, the Government is confident that adequate supplies of Australian grain will be available.

Imports are permissible and a number of applications have been lodged. Imports are subject to an import protocol which will ensure that our pest and disease status is not compromised.