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Wednesday, 1 December 1976
Page: 3022

Mr CARIGE (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) -Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that yesterday a radio broadcast stated that the United States was convening a meeting of all meat exporting countries on 6 December to work out beef allocations for next year? Will the Minister inform the House whether Australia will be attending that meeting? If it is, what stance will it adopt in those discussions? Further, can the Minister say what progress he has made in getting Japan to increase quota access for Australian beef after the severe cuts announced by Japan? Is it true that, as recent newspaper reports indicate, the European beef market is opening up for Australian beef exports?

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) - The honourable gentleman has directed his question to 3 specific areas. The first is with respect to the United States of America. The difficulties in relation to beef access to the United States market in 1977 are concerned with the necessity for negotiations to be concluded with the Ford Administration which, I understand, remains in control of the White House and the United States Administration until 20 January 1977, yet the period within which beef will be admitted to the United States will be largely in the term of President-elect Carter. The discussions on 6 December and thereafter to which the first part of the honourable gentleman's question was directed therefore are most important. Australia will be represented at an appropriate level. We regard the negotiation as most significant as it presents the opportunity for selling beef to what is still Australia's principal beef export market, which is of tremendous importance for the revival of the Australian cattle industry. I should perhaps mention 2 aspects in relation to the American market which have caused much comment. One is the extent to which the free trade zones were used by Australia allegedly to by-pass the quota restraints. This is not true as the whole question of the inclusion of the free trade zones was discussed first with the United States Administration at the time when negotiations for the 1976 voluntary restraints were first initiated. Indeed, prior to the signature of the correspondence which set levels of voluntary restraint, the United States had given the Australian Government to understand that it did not wish the free trade zones to be included. It was as a result of that negotiation that they were excluded.

The other aspect of American trade that is of concern to Australia is the suggestion that in some way there was a significant shipment of meat through Canada into the United States and that thereby Australia also avoided the implications of voluntary restraints. We reject that allegation also. There is no doubt that individual Canadian importers were in a position to ship their product where they wished. But the United States has not raised the question of Australian beef being shipped in that way. Our principal concern is that we get a sufficient price for the product sold to Canada, and that, following the determination arranged with the United States, access to Canada also be opened up for the 1977 year.

With respect to the other 2 markets which were mentioned in the honourable gentleman's question, I will deal first with Japan. The Japanese Government has now advised us that the 20 000 tonnes which were allocated in a recent announcement for the first half of 1977 are to apply only to the first 3 months and, therefore, there will be an expectation in January for a further allocation which we would hope would bring us up to at least approximately the quota allocation for the final 6 months of this year. With respect to Europe, it is true that the safeguard restrictions on beef imports are said to be lifted on 1 April 1977. However, a new import regime is still to be concluded by the European community. Australia is pursuing every possible diplomatic initiative to try to ensure that we do again obtain reasonable access to the Community for Australian exports. This year, in spite of restrictions, we have exported a not insignificant quantity of beef to the Community. The general projection is that demand will increase there next year. In all, in each one of these markets -

Mr Uren - One minute!

Mr SINCLAIR - The prospects of the cattle industry, I know, do not interest the Deputy Leader of the Opposition one whit. Unfortunately, there are a good many men, women and children in this industry in Australia who are probably as impoverished as any other sector of the Australian community. The failure of the Labor Party to recognise the plight in which these people are currently suffering is a great indictment of it. In all, the markets for Australian beef I see opening up during 1977. Certainly, we are pursuing every possible initiative to ensure maximum possible access for Australian beef to those markets.

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