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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1949

The following answer to a question was circulated:

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Senator Gareth Evans —I wish to provide the additional information which I promised in my reply to Senator Missen's question on Tuesday, 5 November, about charges levied by the Ethiopian Government on shipments of relief grain. I am grateful to the honourable senator for bringing to my attention the article in the Christian Science Monitor.

The structure of port charges can vary considerably from country to country. I am therefore unable to confirm the accuracy of the comparisons made by the honourable senator between Ethiopian ports and other ports in the same region. Nevertheless, I can confirm that Ethiopian charges are significantly higher than those applying in Mombasa and Port Sudan. Moreover, consignments to relief agencies other than the Government of Ethiopia's Relief and Rehabilitation Commission have attracted additional levies.

High charges are a matter of concern, not only to ourselves and other donors, but also to commercial shipping companies operating to Ethiopian ports. Australia, along with other donors, requested the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Office for Emergency Operations in Ethiopia to negotiate reduced charges with the Government of Ethiopia.

As a result of these approaches, reduced charges for all aid and relief shipments have been agreed by the Ethiopian Government. The new charges apply from 10 November and eliminate the discrimination against relief shipments not consigned to the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission. Overall, however, the charges remain higher than other comparable ports and we will seek further reductions.

As to the senator's question whether funds received as port charges are used by the Ethiopian Government to purchase military hardware, the Australian Government is not aware of any earmarking of port charges for such purposes. I am aware that the Ethiopian Government makes large expenditures on men and equipment for its military operations in Eritrea and Tigre. As I said in my answer to Senator Missen's question on Tuesday, we hope that the Ethiopian Government will accord priority to famine and drought relief efforts.

The Government shares with the international community and other major donors a concern to ensure that priority is accorded to famine relief, and that relief assistance reaches famine victims in all parts of Ethiopia. I can assure Senator Missen that the Australian Government's concerns have been made known in forthright terms to the Ethiopian Government. Most recently, during Mr Hayden's visit to the United Nations in New York in October, he met with Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Goshu Wolde. In this meeting, Mr Hayden expressed the Government's concerns about relief distribution and the priorities of the Ethiopian Government. We are confident that the Ethiopian authorities understand and accept Australia's interests and concerns in this matter.

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