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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 3363

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - On Monday of this week I attended the opening of a new bulk terminal at Werris Creek in my electorate. This terminal, which cost $2m, will have a storage capacity of 5i million bushels of wheat. At that function I met many members of the Wheat Board and the Grain Elevator Board and also farmers who are very concerned with the problem of weevils in wheat. There is an urgent need for assistance to be given to a grain disinfestation scheme. At the present time the wheat harvest is taking place in New South Wales and in other parts of Australia. We will have a very big crop this year. This crop will be required not only for home consumption purposes but also for stock feed purposes. We will have to cater for the huge export market which Australia has developed. We have established a splendid wheat trade right across the world. We have been responsible for setting a reputable standing with our clients in the supply of quality wheat.

The wheat coming off at the present time requires protection. With the heavy rains we have been experiencing in the wheat belt the quality of the wheat has deteriorated slightly. It is difficult to understand why this Government has refused assistance to State governments to combat the weevil menace which is most prevalent at the present time. Urgent remedial measures are required and this matter should be given a high priority. I know that the State governments are very concerned about this problem. They are prepared to play their part financially but this Government has not agreed to help them. Experts have informed the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture that the infestation could become acute within 12 months. This Government has refused to assist by making available $lm to protect an industry which brings in to this country some S600m a year from the export market. This is ridiculous when $lm spread amongst the States would save this $600m export industry.

I understand that one shipment from Australia has already been refused because of weevil infestation. We have Ministers coming back to this country from overseas making great statements about new orders coming in for wheat. In spite of this they apparently will do nothing about the weevil problem. We know that the Government paid over $lm for a painting called 'Blue Poles'. We see the Government spending money in other areas which are of much less value to this nation than is the production and storage of wheat. This action is another attempt by the Government to penalise primary industries and in so doing it is also penalising the economy of Australia because a big wheat crop and big wheat markets mean much to this country. They mean much to our secondary industry. Right across the board they put money into people's pockets and into many industries. Farmers should be shown how to eradicate weevils. Weevils are undoubtedly a pest that can cause millions of dollars worth of damage. When a male weevil and a female weevil get together in a silo there are millions of their progeny within a matter of weeks. They breed very freely. This is one of the problems with weevils.

I ask the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Cabinet to have another look at this serious omission to grant assistance. An amount of only $lm is needed to do the job. The States are prepared to pay their share from State funds. Surely this is not too much to ask. We believe that the protection of this very important industry is a vital matter. I repeat my suggestion that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet should reconsider this matter and make this money available to the States to enable them to do the job. I know that State Ministers for Agriculture right across Australia are very concerned about this matter. Having spoken with officials within the New South Wales Department of Agriculture on Monday and with the Minister himself I know that they arc very concerned. As a matter of fact in his remarks at the opening of the grain terminal the Minister concentrated much of his speech on this problem. I ask the Government to give full consideration to solving this problem to the benefit of this country.

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