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Tuesday, 27 October 1964

Senator LAUGHT (South Australia) . - In relation to Division No. 380, Administrative, I refer to recombined milk plants, which are mentioned in the AuditorGeneral's supplementary report for the year ended 30th June 1964. The Australian Dairy Produce Board has taken a great interest in the development of reconstituted milk plants in South East Asia. On page 24 of the supplementary report, the AuditorGeneral sets out a summary of payments made by the Board in relation to the projects to 30th June 1964. The Committee will be interested to know that Asia Dairy Industries Ltd., Malaysia, has received £7,371; that Thai Dairy Industry Co. Ltd., Thailand, has received £142,926, in addition to a loan of £217,665 for the purchase of machinery; and that Milk Industries Incorporated, in the Philippines, has had loans totalling £437,157 for the purchase of machinery and raw materials and provision of working capital. An amount of £36,658 was spent on the purchase of shares in Malaysia Dairy industries Ltd. and £129,781 was lent to that company for the purchase of machinery. A loan of £27,857 was made to Cold Storage (Singapore) Ltd., Malaysia, for the purchase of machinery and there has been general expenditure on sundry establishment costs of £106,053. The total payments amounted to £1,105,468. This is Australian money that has been spent in these areas of South East Asia.

Last year I visited the plant of Milk Industries Incorporated in the Philippines as a member of a parliamentary delegation and observed the activity that was going on there. This factory was staffed at the executive level by Australians and at the production level by the local inhabitants. Will the Minister for Customs and Excise state what quantity of raw materials was sent from Australia to these areas in the 1 2 months ended 30th June 1 964 and what were the respective materials that were despatched there? Can the Minister also state from what parts of Australia the materials were sent? What were the results of this expenditure in Asia exceeding £1 million? What result was obtained from sending these raw materials from Australia to be reconstituted? Generally, what was the profit to Australia from our engagement in these activities?

On the face of it, I consider that we should look very carefully at this Australian money which is sent to South East Asia because there is a good deal of turmoil in that area. I can say from my own experience that Australia is held in very high regard by the Thais, the Malaysians and the people of the Philippines and I am not for one moment afraid that this money will be lost, but I should like the Minister to state positively what gain there is for Australia and to Australian primary industries from this expenditure of more than £1 million on foreign soil. My own information is that we should not be too critical of the results at this point of time because the whole exercise is in a very early stage but the Parliament should seek from the Minister precise information as to what is going on and the possible future value to Australia of the enterprise.

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