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Tuesday, 27 March 1984
Page: 755

(Question No. 700)

Senator Peter Rae asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 7 March 1984:

(1) Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the Australian Wheat Board accommodation at Ceres House, Melbourne, for Head Office and Victorian Branch.

(2) Are the Australian Wheat Board's activities in relation to:

(a) operations on the domestic and international money markets to fund the crop acquired from growers and to invest temporary surplus funds; and

(b) operations on the wheat and financial futures markets, in accordance with the provisions of its statutory powers?

(3) What are the details of the accommodation requirements that 'the accommodation should be of a standard appropriate to receive, negotiate with, and provide hospitality to delegations and visitors and to reflect Australia's position as a significant wheat trading nation'.

(4) Why are 25 car parking spaces needed 'to provide discreet access for sensitive visiting delegations'.

(5) Did the Wheat Board consider restructuring its staff and functions rather than Ceres House.

Senator Walsh —The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes.

(2) (a) and (b) Yes, so far as I am aware.

(3) and (4) Details of the accommodation, including materials and finishes, were provided as Appendix 1 of the report referred to in Question (1).

The above report found that car parking within the premises was an important requirement both for AWB efficiency and for visiting delegations. In other words , the 25 spaces are required not solely for visiting delegations, but for the AWB's general needs.

I should add that I have been kept fully informed by the Australian Wheat Board of its proposal to redevelop Ceres House.

I have accepted the advice of the AWB that it requires additional and improved accommodation and that the redevelopment of Ceres House is the best of a number of options considered. I note that this view has been endorsed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works following its public enquiry into the proposal.

(5) The functions of the Australian Wheat Board are currently under complete re -examination because the wheat marketing and pricing arrangements expire on 30 September 1984. These functions were included in the open and wide ranging enquiry into the wheat industry by the Industries Assistance Commission (IAC).

The IAC's report has been considered by myself and my State counterparts at the Australian Agricultural Council (AAC). The AAC has recommended only slight variations in the AWB's marketing and pricing functions for the next five year period. The Commonwealth Government has yet to take final decisions on the IAC's report and the AAC recommendations.