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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 195

Mr KERIN (MACARTHUR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - 6an the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry assure the House that the strictest measures will be taken with respect to the prevention of the introduction of black wart and golden nematode disease, in view of the announced importation of 800 tons of potatoes from New Zealand for processing?

Dr J F CAIRNS (LALOR, VICTORIA) (Minister for Overseas Trade) - Firstly, the Minister for Primary Industry and myself, as Minister for Overseas Trade, have agreed to allow imports from New Zealand of 800 tons of potatoes. We did this because the price of potatoes in Australia has risen from about $40 to $50 a ton to about $200 a ton in a year. That is a fantastic increase. This state of affairs is no good for producers or for consumers and it brings into very great emphasis the need for a national program of stabilising basic prices. I would think that every member of the House, particularly the representatives of primary producers, should be concerned about this. I wish we could obtain, if it were possible, the imports to Australia of other commodities such as meat, for example. I wish we could increase the supply in Australia of the food commodities that are contributing nearly 60 per cent to the increase in the cost of living which is now called inflation. Nearly 60 per cent of that cost of living comes from the sources of food supply and raw materials and not from factory products. If we are to deal with inflation that is one of the primary places at which we have to look.

The honourable member has asked me whether adequate safeguards will be taken to see that black wart and golden nematode, which are well known diseases of potatoes, will not be imported from New Zealand. The answer to that question is, yes, full and adequate care will be taken. An officer of the Victorian Plant Research Laboratory, Mr Maher, went to New Zealand and inspected the areas from where the potatoes are coming and with New Zealand officials has certified that in those areas there is not and never has been any of those diseases. That is the first point. The second point is that the imported potatoes will be used in only 2 companies in Australia both of which I think are in New South Wales. The premises of these companies have been inspected by Commonwealth and State authorities who have laid down the rules under which these potatoes will be handled in the factories. Full precautions will be taken to see that they are not distributed through retail outlets. The potatoes will be confined to these 2 factories. After they are processed the peel and other wastage will be destroyed under the supervision of the authorities. Completely adequate precautions are being taken. I think that this ought to satisfy every requirement of national policy in a matter like this.

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