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Thursday, 14 November 1974
Page: 2369

Senator WEBSTER -Has the attention of the Minister for Agriculture been drawn to a statement attributed to the new Australian High Commissioner in New Zealand, Mr Hill, that the Australian market may soon open up for New Zealand dairy products? Will the Minister check what Mr Hill said and if the statement in the New Zealand agricultural paper 'Straight Furrow' is correct will he tell the Senator who authorised the statement? Does this possible change herald a new Australian attitude to New Zealand dairy products despite a very clear statement by Dr Cairns a year ago that there would be no change in our long standing policy?

Senator WRIEDT (TASMANIA) (Minister for Agriculture) -I am not aware of the statement allegedly made by Mr Hill and, of course, that does not come within the ambit of my portfolio. However, the general question of Australia as a market for dairy products certainly has been a bone of contention for many years. Because New Zealand was able to produce its dairy products more cheaply than they could be produced in this country these products, particularly butter, could be supplied to the Austraiian market at a cheaper price than if they were produced in Australia. This Government changed the ridiculous attitude that had applied in the past in this country towards assistance for the Australian dairy industry- a policy which Senator Webster has defended in this Senate on so many occasions knowing full well that it was dragging the Australian dairy industry down over the years in most States of Australia and creating inefficiencies which made it impossible for it to compete with the New Zealand dairy industry.

The action taken by this Government to redirect the assistance to the dairy industry in this country is the greatest safeguard the industry has against competition from overseas countries. We recognise that the New Zealand dairy industry is an efficient industry. We endeavour on all occasions, as did the previous Government, to maximise our trade with New Zealand under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. I have no doubt that this will continue to be the case under this Government. In respect of the particular statement referred to, I will check to see whether it was made, but I am quite sure that Dr Cairns would not wish to add anything to what I have said.

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