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Thursday, 5 May 1977

Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to authorise an initial Australian Government contribution of $A8m, to be paid initially in the form of promissory notes, to the International Fund for Agricultural Development- IFAD- as well as to approve Australia's membership of the Fund. As honourable members may know, the decision to set up the International Fund for Agricultural Development was one of the major initiatives taken at the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome. Australia was one of 3 developed countries, together with the Netherlands and New Zealand, which with 3 1 developing countries cosponsored Resolution XIII of the World Food Conference which recommended the establishment of such a Fund. The Secretary-General of the United Nations subsequently convened a conference to work out the details and size of the Fund. Following meetings of interested countries in May and October of 1975 and in February 1976, the terms of the Agreement for the establishment of the Fund were finalised at a plenipotentiary conference on 13 June of last year. The text of the Agreement is set out in the Schedule to the Bill. However, the Agreement was not opened for signature before prospective contributors to the Fund had made pledges amounting to an aggregate of $US 1,000m. This was achieved in December 1976, and the Agreement was opened for signature at the United Nations on 20 December 1976. To date 40 countries have signed the Agreement and six have ratified it. Australia signed the Agreement on 30 March 1977.

Membership of the Fund is divided into 3 categories. Category I comprises members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Category II the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Category III other developing countries. The Agreement will enter into force upon ratification by 6 States in Category I, 6 States in Category II and 24 States in Category III and when the aggregate of initial contributions amounts to at least the equivalent of $US750m.

The principal objective of the Fund is to make available finance ibr agricultural development projects. More specifically, the broad aims of IFAD include the encouragement of agricultural development in low income countries, with particular emphasis on food production in those countries which have the most serious food deficits; the encouragement of greater utilisation of the potential for food production in other developing countries; the improvement of the living conditions of the rural poor through activities which will increase their opportunities and incomes; and a reduction in malnutrition through the improvement in food production and distribution systems. The Fund will become a new Specialised Agency of the United Nations.

One of the important features of the International Fund for Agricultural Development is that it will tap not only the traditional aid resources of the OECD countries, but also the substantial resources of the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The OPEC countries and the OECD countries are making roughly equivalent total contributions to the Fund. The Government warmly welcomes participation by the OPEC countries in a co-operative venture of this nature with the developed West. Australia played a significant role in the establishment of IFAD and has, as a prospective member, pledged an initial contribution of $A8m in the form of non-negotiable noninterest bearing promissory notes encashable over a period of not less than 3 years. This compares with pledges by the United States of America of $US200m, the United Kingdom of stg15m, Canada $C30m and New Zealand $NZ2m. Amongst the pledges of the OPEC countries are Saudi Arabia 's pledge of $US 1 00m and Iran's pledge of $US 104m.

The Government believes that the International Fund for Agricultural Development has an important role to play as a new source of investment for projects designed to increase food production in developing countries. The Fund accords with one of our chief aid priorities of providing the impetus for developing countries to help themselves to achieve self-reliance in food production. It is particularly appropriate that a major primary producing country such as Australia should play an active role in an organisation of this nature. Furthermore, it is likely that, as IFAD gets under way, there will be commercial opportunities for Austraiian agricultural machinery, technology and expertise in connection with IFAD projects. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations already looks to Australia for significant contributions in such specialised areas as dryland farming and pastoral land use in arid zone Middle Eastern countries. IFAD can be expected to continue, and to expand on, this pattern.

The principal obligations imposed on Australia are stated in Articles 4 and S of the Agreement. Under section 3 of Article 4, the Governing Council of IFAD may invite Australia to make contributions to the resources of the Fund additional to its initial contribution. The major rights Australia will enjoy under the Agreement are those stated in Article 6 concerning the organisation and management of the Fund. Australia is entitled to be represented on the Governing Council and to appoint one Governor and an alternate to the Council which will conduct the business of the Fund. I believe that it is in both Australia's national interest and in the interest of the international community as a whole, that we should play an active part in the International Fund for Agricultural Development by contributing $8m to the Fund and ratifying the Agreement establishing the Fund. I commend this Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.

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