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Wednesday, 2 October 1974
Page: 1578

Senator MAUNSELL (QUEENSLAND) - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Is it a fact that Australia has failed to gain a major meat export contract with Russia because the price asked was too high? What part did the Departments of Overseas

Trade and Agriculture play in attempting to secure that contract? Is the Government actively searching for alternative markets to alleviate the desperate situation now facing the Australian meat industry?

Senator WRIEDT - I assume that Senator Maunsell's question refers to a contract with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which the Australian Meat Board had taken all reasonable steps to win but which subsequently went to the European Common Market. Is that the matter to which the question refers?

Senator Maunsell - No, it went to the Argentine.

Senator WRIEDT -I understand that in the case of the Argentine there has been a similar situation. Apparently the Russian authorities were interested in a long term contract to purchase some thousands of tonnes of meat and the Argentine authorities have been able to quote a considerably lower figure than the Australian Meat Board has been able to quote. This is very similar to the Russian purchase of meat from the European Economic Community some months back. I understand that the price differential was in the vicinity of $200 to $250 a tonne. It is quite obvious that Australia would not be in a competitive position in those circumstances. I do not think there is much that Australia can do about this. We have cost advantages insofar as our natural pasture is concerned, but there are disadvantages which bring about a higher cost factor. The cost of labour is a point that must be taken into account. I do not think there is any action that could have been taken and was not taken either by the Australian Meat Board or by any other authority acting on behalf of the industry.

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