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Wednesday, 20 February 1980
Page: 102

Mr John Brown (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is the Far Eastern Shipping Corporation- FESCO, as it is known- an official freight line of the Soviet Union? Does it transport primary produce exports from Australia at rates up to 20 per cent below normal shipping conference rates? Why did the punitive action taken by the Government against the Soviet Union not include FESCO 's operations from Australia? Finally, is the Government's discrimination against holiday makers and the economies of poorer Pacific island countries by banning Russian cruise ships justified when Russian merchant shipping is permitted to continue trading simply because it gives concessional rates to Australia's primary producers, including the Prime Minister?

Mr HUNT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Transport) - The Government has taken a decision in regard to the Far Eastern Shipping Corporation, but I might indicate to the House that the trading of FESCO is still under review.

Amongst strong measures that had to be taken by the Government to accord with our response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Government decided to suspend the operations of Soviet cruises from Australia as from 31 May. The reason for the advance notice was to minimise any inconvenience to those people who had made advance bookings. In regard to FESCO trading, the Government's review of Russia's shipping took into account many factors, including the undesirability of acting unilaterally in respect of Soviet trading vessels and the need fully to take into account the interests of the Australian community. There was no point in Australia's taking unilateral action on a shipping operation that served a number of ports. Our investigations to date indicate that the cessation of its operations would cause more damage to our trading partners in the area than it would to the Soviet Union, which should be condemned for its actions in Afghanistan.

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