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Tuesday, 13 May 1980
Page: 2118

Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - by leave- I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

Firstly I refer to the decision of the Australian Agricultural Council on wheat sales to the Soviet Union. The report indicates that the Agricultural Council has agreed with the Government's policy of continuing to market wheat to the Soviet Union. Page one of the report states:

The Australian Wheat Board's existing contract with the USSR is for 2.26m tonnes of wheat to be shipped by July 1 980: as at 1 9 January 1 980, 356,672 tonnes of that quantity had been shipped. This existing contract is not affected by the Government's decision.

This Government is very selective in its foreign policy. I have asked in the Senate previously what would have been the Government's action with regard to wheat sales to the Soviet Union had the Olympic Games not been set down to be held in Moscow this year. One wonders what the policy of the Government would have been then.

We all know well- it has been debated in the Parliament- that the Government has selected our athletes as the mainstay of its foreign policy. Yet it is still agreeing to sell food commodities to the Soviet Union. On page one the report further states:

Details of this review are set out in a press release by the Minister for Primary Industry, 'Grain Sales to the USSR', PI 80/21 12 February 1980.

The Government has said that all its wheat sales to the Soviet Union are to be concluded by July 1980.I am concerned about what will happen to next season's wheat crop. What will be the Government's action? My own State of South Australia has had bountiful rains. Again, we could be in for a very good wheat crop. We will be looking for a market for it. Likewise, the Wimmera wheat growing area of Victoria has had good rains. I understand that Western Australia has also had good rains. We will be faced with another very good harvest. Where will the Government market this wheat? I would not blame the Soviet Union if, because of the Government's actions, it sought to buy its grain elsewhere. This Government will not have to face up to that problem when we market our next harvest because it will not be in office. The Australian Labor Party will have to face up to actions taken by this Government. It could well be that we have lost a very good market. I think Australia markets in the vicinity of $600m worth of goods to the Soviet Union, and we buy from that country goods worth about $ 10m. So, probably we will be faced with the proposition next year of finding a market for the great amount of grain which will be produced in this country. That is why I express that view.

The other matter to which I wish to refer is the Australian Capital Territory hen quota. I congratulate the Australian Agricultural Council on its actions in the matter referred to on page 2 of its report. It was not hoodwinked into granting an increased quota for the one poultry farmer in the Australian Capital Territory, who wanted to increase his quota from 1 50,000 hens to 200,000 hens. In Resolution 2, under the heading of ACT Hen Quota ', it was stated:

Council noted that Standing Committee was unable to reach agreement to the proposed increase in the ACT hen quota, and that all States expressed concern about the ability of the ACT to effectively enforce the existing quota.

That is what I have said in this Parliament on numerous occasions. The Council went on:

Accordingly, Council agreed that the hen quota for the Australian Capital Territory should remain at 1 50,000 hens.

I concur with the Agricultural Council's sentiments. Whilst we know from reports in the daily

Press that the one egg producer in the Australian Capital Territory is marketing eggs in New South Wales and Victoria through his other outlet at Griffith, those States are not entitled to an increased quota. If all the eggs were marketed here, 150,000 hens would provide enough eggs for the people who live in the Territory. I have no quibble with the quality of eggs which Bartter produces, but I do quibble with his policy of trying to whiteant the Victorian Egg Board and the New South Wales Egg Board.

As I have said, I am very pleased that the Agricultural Council, in its wisdom, has seen fit not to increase the hen quota for the Australian Capital Territory. I hope that it continues in that vein until such time as the population of the Territory grows to the extent that it can consume all the eggs that are produced in the Territory and the producer is not running under a false flag saying that he needs an extra quota to provide the Australian Capital Territory when, at the same time, he is marketing eggs in competition with the statutory authorities in New South Wales and Victoria to the detriment of the egg producers in those States. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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