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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 990

Mr GAYLER —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry-the Bob Hawke of the bush. It relates to the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign program. I ask, firstly, whether he would relate to the House the present situation in relation to that program and, secondly, what position the Government now holds in relation to that program in far north Queensland.

Mr KERIN —The Prime Minister and I-the Prime Minister is also known as the John Kerin of the metropolitan areas-both take a keen interest in the BTEC program, as does the honourable member for Leichhardt. As honourable members will realise, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on this program and now the program is moving into its most intense phase in the remote areas of Australia, that is, the Kimberleys and the Northern Territory, the Gulf and the Cape, which take up much of the honourable member's area and also the area of the honourable member for Kennedy. The Kimberleys area was recently declared brucellosis free. We are making some progress in these areas. There are many problems in the Northern Territory with respect to buffaloes, brumbies and donkeys, not including some of those species which have recently entered this House.

Mr Peacock —Do you mean the honourable member for Bendigo?

Mr KERIN —No, I am referring to donkeys from the Northern Territory. The Federal Government has virtually doubled the amount of money allocated to BTEC as it moves into these difficult areas. We are now paying 75 per cent compensation for destocking. Once the Commonwealth implemented that scheme, some Queensland officials, some of the district veterinary officers, thought that this was an easy way out and they adopted something of a gung-ho attitude. Some of the properties were virtually sent broke. As the honourable member will realise, some of the people in Coen in his electorate, and also people throughout the Gulf and Peninsula areas, have written to us in that regard.

The Queensland Government has now changed its operational procedures and a special committee was set up to look at additional measures in these remote areas. The Commonwealth cheque book, of course, is not inexhaustible, although it is always very hard to convince the Queensland Government of this. But as a result of that committee we did set up a multi-disciplinary approach, taking into account property viability and social and economic aspects of the campaign, rather than a straight veterinary or technical approach to the campaign. Following the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, I can assure the honourable member that two committees have now been set up, one to look at the remote areas and the other the ongoing committee that is concerned with the administration of the final years of the BTEC program. It has been marked by problems in the latter stages, due to the remoteness of the areas and problems with the tests which take place in conditions where cattle are stressed and do not always give the same predictable result to the test. The honourable member has taken a close interest in this matter. I believe that by taking a multi-disciplinary approach we will bring this campaign to a successful conclusion in the next few years.