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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1735

Mr LINDSAY —Is the Minister for Science able to advise the House about the prospects of collaboration between Australia and Israel in agricultural research, bearing in mind that Australia is the driest continent and that Israel is continually confronted with the problem of providing itself with an adequate water supply?

Mr BARRY JONES —I had the benefit of discussions in Israel in April with President Herzog, Prime Minister Peres, Research Minister Patt, government departments, universities and the Weizmann Institute of Science about matters of common scientific interest. Inevitably, water was the dominant subject. Israel is currently using 10 per cent more water each year than the natural replenishment rate and this raises issues of national survival for Israel. Israel is working on the use of salt water crops in agriculture-asparagus is one example-and on using biotechnology to develop mutant strains of salt resistant plants, for example tomatoes. It is also working on the use of industrial and urban waste water in farming. Miniature apple trees, growing to about a metre high, have been developed. They produce large amounts of fruit and consume relatively little water--

Mr Goodluck —Big apples?

Mr BARRY JONES —Yes, they have big apples, but the trees are discarded after two years. The process of converting sea water into fresh water now being developed in Saudi Arabia is not open to Israel because of the enormous cost. The Israelis are very anxious for Australian agricultural and water scientists to visit their country as a matter of urgency and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation would be eager to co-operate providing that appropriate sources of funding can be found-outside the Budget, I assure the Treasurer. I will be discussing this with my colleagues, the Minister for Resources and Energy and the Minister for Primary Industry, who have primary responsibility for water and farming. We will, of course, be anxious to promote technology transfer in this area of acute common interest.