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Tuesday, 5 November 1985
Page: 1521


Senator MISSEN —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of an article by David K. Willis, staff writer of the Christian Science Monitor, published on 19 October this year in which it is claimed that the military Marxist Government of Ethiopia is extracting at least $12m in foreign currency this year from the generosity of donors giving mountains of grain to feed that nation's famine victims? Secondly, has the Minister sought and obtained any evidence from Australian officials and non-government organisations in Ethiopia which confirm that relief agencies have been forced to pay, even after some reduction, an amount of $3.75 per ton to unload and store grain compared with $2 per ton in Mombassa, Kenya, and 50c per ton in Port Sudan? Thirdly, is it a fact that the average grain ship unloading at Assab, Ethiopia, is charged a fee of almost $13,000 compared with a flat fee of $2,000 at Port Sudan? Fourthly, are the grossly excessive payments being used by the Ethiopian Government as a source of hard currency to buy guns and ammunition to fight Eritreans and Tigreans struggling for independence? Finally, when will the present Australian Government and other gutless Western governments raise this matter in international forums and expose this exploitation of world generosity and this exacerbation of suffering by the Ethiopian Government?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am not sure that my brief on this matter covers all the range of concerns of Senator Missen but I will be happy to take anything I cannot answer on notice, except perhaps an acknowledgement of his reference to gutless governments if that was meant to apply to us. I am aware of Press reports critical of the Ethiopian Government for devoting more of its resources to defence and similar expenditures than to humanitarian relief and economic development. There is a continuing concern that aid may not be reaching all of those most in need. We believe the most urgent priority facing the Ethiopian Government and international donors is the provision of emergency humanitarian relief to alleviate as soon as possible the continuing suffering of millions of people still in Ethiopia. Distribution facilities in Ethiopia, both at ports and throughout the country, remain a major concern of the donor community. We hope that the Ethiopian Government will accord a priority to famine and drought relief efforts. I have some figures about Australian aid assistance. However, I am not sure that they bear specifically on the matters raised by Senator Missen. I will take that on board and give him an answer as soon as possible this week.


Senator MISSEN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The main purpose of my question was to ask when this Government and others will raise this matter in international forums and expose the exploitation of world generosity. What will the Government do about that?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I have taken on board Senator Missen's concerns.