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Wednesday, 27 May 1987
Page: 3398

Mr BRAITHWAITE —I refer the Minister for Primary Industry to comments by the Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia, based on his recent visits to the United States of America as part of an all-party delegation, to the effect that no industry is facing greater threat in the United States market than the Australian sugar industry. I ask the Minister: What steps is he taking to ensure that the United States does not phase out the Australian sugar import quota by allocating Australia's share to so-called Third World developing countries? Will the Minister ensure that the leader of the delegation, the honourable member for McMillan, is given the opportunity to report formally to this House as soon as possible and that a full debate on the report is allowed?

Mr KERIN —As to the second part of the question, that is up to the Leader of the House. The delegation was a back bench one.

Mr Howard —I thought it was a Government one.

Mr KERIN —It was a back bench delegation. The honourable member for McMillan has reported fully, with the full co-operation of his colleagues, including members of the Opposition parties.

As to the first part of the question, we are making the strongest representations at the appropriate level. We do not control the activities of the United States Congress. All one can do, as with any other sovereign country, is to make representations to the highest possible level and put forward to as many people as possible and the decision makers in those countries the sensible views held by this country on those matters. I think that my colleague the Minister for Trade-I do not have his program in mind-is in the United States. If he is not in the United States now he soon will be, or he has just been there. Again, he would raise with Administration officials the exact situation.

Mr Howard —He must be lost.

Mr KERIN —If the honourable member wants some clarification, I can tell him that the Minister is either on the way from Ottawa to Washington or on the way from Washington to other parts of the United States. It is as simple as that. We are making the strongest representations.

What the honourable member for McMillan has said is true. The United States has so encouraged the production of sugar that alternative sweeteners have been developed. A production subsidy is paid at a rate which is the equivalent of about US18c a pound. This means that sugar substitutes or alternatives are being developed, and that includes high fructose corn syrup-another primary industry in the United States which has a very strong lobby in the United States.

In addition, President Reagan has his Caribbean policy which gives some privileged access to the Caribbean countries. The main problem with this enormous production subsidy is that the demand in the United States is going down to such an extent that if it lowers the quota evenly across the board, in terms of historical shares, the imported amount will be so little that Australia will get an increasingly smaller share. We are now down to a very small share of a declining market due to United States policies.