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Thursday, 23 May 1996
Page: 1274

Mr ANDREW —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Could the Prime Minister please clarify the future of a single desk selling point for the Australian Wheat Board?

Mr HOWARD —The Australian wheat industry at present is on the verge of enjoying some very welcome improvements because of changed seasonal and trading conditions. It is a source of satisfaction to all Australians that an industry that has suffered a great deal over recent years is at last going through a very buoyant period. It is also fair to say that the industry is going through a very positive period of structural reform. That structural reform is being very strongly driven by the government and by my colleague the Deputy Leader of the National Party and Minister for Primary Industries and Energy.

Specifically in response to the question asked by the member for Wakefield, I say to the honourable gentleman that I made it clear before the election, and I make it clear again since the election, that the single desk status of the Australian Wheat Board will be retained throughout the life of this government and it will be retained thereafter as long as the net public benefits can be demonstrated.

I made this very clear before the election because in the judgment of the then coalition and in the judgment of the government there was a clear benefit in retaining the single desk. That remains our view. That will remain our view throughout the lifetime of this government. While those public benefits continue to be demonstrated thereafter, then the single desk should be retained.