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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3097

Dr GUN (KINGSTON, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can he state what assistance is being given by the Australian Government to the starving drought victims in Ethiopia? Will he give an assurance that Australia will give assistance to the maximum and as quickly as possible? Will special consideration be give to providing assistance in the form of animal protein and vitamin and iron supplements?

Mr WHITLAM - The drought in the Swahilian area of Africa about which Australia made a contribution some months ago has unfortunately spread in this season right across those latitudes and is now affecting Ethiopia. I think the best answer I can give to the honourable gentleman's question is to read the statement which the Foreign Minister made on the subject yesterday afternoon. The statement reads:

Australia is to give a substantial quantity of wheat to assist in relieving the drought affecting Ethiopia and other countries in northern Africa.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs announced this today after examining reports from Australia's Ambassador accredited to Ethiopia, Mr K. H. Rogers, who had been instructed to go to Addis Ababa to report first hand on the drought situation

The drought, the third in 3 years, had directly affected at least 2 million people. The effects were particularly severe in the Tigre and Wollo Provinces.

Because of poor communications in the areas hit hardest, it had been difficult to get an accurate picture of how many deaths had occurred, but the figures would be high. Distribution of relief food was also a problem because of communications difficulties. The next harvest would be cut in half because people had been forced to eat grain intended for seed purposes. Taking into account the very heavy cattle losses, Mr Rogers had assessed that acute food shortages would continue for more than 12 months.

The details of Australia's contribution would be arranged as quickly as possible. Although no official request for assistance had been made to Australia, Mr Rogers had reported that an offer of wheat would be greatly appreciated. Other forms of aid would also be welcomed.

Senator Willeseecommended the efforts in this regard of voluntary organisations in Australia, particularly Austcare, the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, the Australian Council of Churches and Australian Catholic Relief. I might add that in all these matters the Department of Foreign Affairs confers with its counterparts in other countries, and between us we do what we believe each country can do most quickly and most effectively. Wheat is one of the commodities which is in great need and with which Australia can most promptly and effectively assist.

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