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Farmers conned by their own leaders-O'Keefe



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THE HON. NEIL O'KEEFE PA H R FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BURKE SHADOW MINISTER FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRIES

PARLIAMENT or AUSTRALIA

Farmers canned by their own leaders - O'Keefe

The Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Neil O'Keefe, said today that ordinary farmers have been badly let down by the NFF Leadership claiming to be acting in their interest on the waterfront.

"The revelation that the Webb Dock lease prevents the handling of international containers reduces the whole exercise to a sham," Mr O'Keefe said.

"A stevedoring company operating on behalf of an export industry which has given up the right to handle export containers before it even opens its doors - what a farce.

"This is the greatest hoax I have ever seen inflicted on rural Australians.

"In fact, I have been struggling from day one to find any benefit in the NFF waterfront exercise for ordinavy farmers.

"It is now clear that billions of dollars of exports are being put at risk and farm families are being used as the battering ram for a narrow political agenda that is not in the national interest, and will provide no flow-on to consumers."

Mr O'Keefe said that he has been told by a number of rural and export companies, and by a good many farmers, that they are bemused at claims that 'there would be billions of dollars of savings to farmers and thousands more jobs created'.

"They tell me there is not a cracker in this for a fanner anywhere.

"Shipping Companies and freight forwarders say it is not feasible that any saving would be passed on to farmers.

"A good example is a major exporter of processed agricultural product to Asia: • Average container transport costs $1,100 • (including stevedoring charge $71) • Benefit from 50% reduction on wharf= $36

Average value of 15 tonnes each container = $50,000 Net benefit of savings at waterfront = 0.002 cents per kilo of proc product"

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Mr O'Keefe also expressed serious concern at information that, due to the uncertainty on the waterfront, Asian customers are now looking elsewhere for backup suppliers.

"Business with Asia is going to be very tight for some time and we must go all out to keep our best customers. The NFF, Patrick's and the Howard Government have created a situation where our Asian customers are now actively tinging our competitors in New Zealand, South Africa and the US to ensure continuity of supply," Mr O'Keefe said.

"I can not emphasise too much that, once lost, these export sales are very hard to retrieve.

"I will be calling on members of the NFF to examine the situation closely.

"The ALP acknowledges the need for ongoing reform on the waterfront,but the current action is a badly timed political stunt that could do the most damage to the very people who are being told they have the most to gain.

"To keep credibility with their members, the NFF Executive should immediately identify the claimed millions of dollars in savings to the farmers as a result of their venture into stevedoring," Mr O'Keefe said.

Further enquires: Pat Giles - 0418 509 649 Jacinto Allan -0354222711 or 0419 585 286 Wednesday 11 February 1998

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