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Wednesday, 27 October 1971
Page: 2572

Mr BIRRELL (PORT ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it true that Australian aid to East Pakistan has been seriously depleted by substantial freight charges on aid being shipped to that country? Is the Minister aware of the offer by the South Australian Branch of the Seamen's Union of Australia to man ships without pay to transport relief aid to that country? Is the Government prepared to accept this generous humane offer, and if so, will the Government approach the Australian National Line and other Australian shipping companies to see whether they will make ships available free of charge for that purpose?

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Dealing with the first part of the honourable member's question, I think that this aspect of the payment of freight is getting somewhat out of perspective. Where allocations are made, as Australia and other countries have made them, out of funds allocated to the Food Aid Convention there is a rule that they have to be f.o.b. the country making them. We cannot, as it were, deduct the freight and give a lesser amount. A country gives its aid and it is f.o.b. It could make-

Mr Morrison - You are quite wrong.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honourable member wants to hear the answer it would be better if he remained silent. It would be possible for any country to make a cash gift in respect of freight in addition. I just say that as far as Food Aid Convention material is concerned, this was an allocation in respect of East Pakistan made by Australia where normally the country concerned would bear the freight. In this case they asked the United Nations to bear the cost of freight and the United Nations took it up. I will later be making a statement on this subject and I do not think I want to develop further that part of the honourable member's question.

As to the offer of the South Australian branch of the Seamen's Union to man ships free of charge for the carriage of supplies to the affected area, I understand that such a telegram has been sent to my colleague the Minister for Customs and Excise. I think it is a very generous offer and it reflects the humanitarian feeling that is in the Australian people, extending throughout the whole spectrum of political belief, and I welcome it. However, I would just point out that at the present time with the carriage of rice we have been endeavouring, in conjunction with the United Nations, to make the best possible financial arrangements. One ship, the 'Un.:.... Maru' has been loaded, and negotiations are in progress to obtain another ship. As honourable members can imagine, we have been looking for ways in which to effect the best possible savings so that the aid goes as far as it can possibly be made to go. In view of this offer we will have a look at the matter to see whether it is possible to accept it. It would, as it were, allow these people to give vent to their idealistic approach to this problem. But it will be a matter for those in authority who have the responsibility for getting the aid to the affected areas to weigh the expenses involved and to give me advice on the matter. But I appreciate the offer, and I will certainly give it close consideration.

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