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Thursday, 19 September 1974
Page: 1241

Senator GRIMES (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of news reports this morning indicating that again parts of the Indian subcontinent face famine in the near future? Can he advise us of any assistance Australia is giving to alleviate this situation or to prevent it arising?

Senator WILLESEE - Senator Grimeshas put his finger on probably the most continually worrying area in the world as far as aid, flood relief and that type of thing are concerned. Again India is getting its turn. In this year's Budget we have allocated $40m as a fund from which to draw over the period. Of course it will not be limited to that amount as we do not know what is going to happen in the next 12 months. I do not think anybody in this chamber would regret it if we had to go above that amount. Already under our established food aid program 20,000 tonnes of wheat, valued at about $2. 5m, is going in aid. India will be very high on the list for aid from the $40m fund. I shall give honourable senators some idea of what the floods have done only in the last few weeks. To Bangladesh we sent a chartered aircraft to deliver 15 tonnes of skim milk powder, 1,000 rolls of plastic sheeting for temporary shelters and medicine worth $135,000. It was estimated at one stage that Bangladesh was 80 per cent under water.

We have already air freighted to India 12 tonnes of skim milk powder plus vitamin tablets valued at about $25,000. We have sent to Burma anti-cholera vaccine and antibiotics valued at $25,000. They were sent through the Australian Red Cross. To the Philippines we have sent a cash grant of $10,000. I comment that this aid has been supplied in collaboration with the governments concerned. Reading through that list the question strikes me: 'Why would we be sending antibiotics to one place and not to another?' The answer is that that is what those countries want. In fact, Bangladesh is a large producer of antibotics and similar goods. We give a country what it wants if we can possibly obtain it at the time.

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