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Thursday, 18 November 1976

Mr HOWARD (Bennelong) (Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs) - I thank the Opposition for its support of this legislation and also Government speakers who contributed to the debate. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said that the trade agreement could have been more generous. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who I understand to be the Opposition spokesman on overseas trade matters, was not of that view when he spoke for the Opposition in response to my ministerial statement, though it is not unusual to have differences of opinion on the front bench of the Opposition even on matters that are normally regarded as bipartisan. I would have thought that trade with Papua New Guinea, given the unique relationship to which the honourable member for Adelaide rightly referred in his speech, would have been of such a nature as to prevent the honourable member from trying to score a mere debating point by saying that the agreement could have been more generous. Any trade agreement can be more generous for either participant but the fact is that under this trade agreement total duty free entry is accorded to products of Papua New Guinea coming into Australia. On the other hand, Australia's position with regard to entry of our goods into Papua New Guinea is limited to most favoured nation treatment; in other words, we are at no advantage over any other third nation.

There inevitably has been some reference to the drug problem in Australia during this debate and I want to quickly respond to remarks made by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). He made a suggestion which he has made to me before about undue publicity being given to the value of drug seizures. I will have the matter investigated and will positively respond to what the honourable member has said but this is only one side of the argument. It could be said that anybody who is of the character likely to become a drug trafficker would probably find out the value of such trafficking irrespective of whether that information appeared in a daily newspaper. I should not think that the mere suppression of the value of drug seizures and sales would of itself prevent people who had a disposition to engage in drug trafficking from getting involved. Nonetheless, I accept that it was a very genuine concern that was put by the honourable member for Prospect and I will respond to it.

The honourable member for Port Adelaide asked that the House be informed of any discretions exercised under the free trade agreement. I will take that on board and see whether it is possible for some arrangement like that to be made. It was a very legitimate request on his behalf. There is only one other comment that I would like to make on the general drug question. I think all speakers have shown how widespread is the concern in this House about this matter. I would like to respond to the remarks of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) about the Narcotics Bureau. It is composed of an outstanding group of officers within my Department. The Bureau has an extraordinarily difficult job to perform. We have an extraordinarily large coastline. We have a large number of points of entry into this country. Often the Bureau has to strike a difficult balance between the civil liberties of the innocent citizen and strong pressure on the part of the community to have effective surveillance methods for the interception of the people who are trying to smuggle drugs into

Australia. I should hope that those who are minded to criticise on the occasions when perhaps searches should not have been undertaken and so forth would bear in mind that the surveillance of this particular problem is extraordinarily difficult and that the Bureau is charged with a very difficult job. I would not want the opportunity to pass by without recording my personal appreciation and that of the Government of the job that the Bureau is doing at the present time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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