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Tuesday, 6 November 1973
Page: 1516


Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -While recognising the authority of the Minister for Primary Industry under the Wheat Industry Act, I ask him: Why does he expect the Australian Wheat Board on behalf of growers to accept 25 per cent of the risk when he is exercising a judgment on behalf of the Government which overrides the commercial judgment of the Board? Why should he not accept full responsibility for any default in these circumstances? Who owns the wheat- the growers or the Government?


Senator WRIEDT - It would be incorrect to say that the Government is interfering with the commercial judgment of the Australian Wheat Board. It should be borne in mind that prior to the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East the Australian Government had indicated to the Wheat Board its desire to see credit terms extended to certain developing countries- those countries which were not in a position to pay cash. The Board accepted the request of the Government in respect of credit arrangementsthat is the period of 12 to 18 months- and also the Government's suggestion on the proportion of down payment that should be sought from the

Egyptians. There was no suggestion on the part of the Government concerning prices. The Wheat Board acceded to those requests and the Egyptian authorities were duly notified. The outbreak of hostilities occurred, I think, about two or three days later. It was then that the Wheat Board advised the Government that it wanted all sales to Egypt to be on a cash basis. That communication, which I read, was expressed in the most definite terms. For that reason I then issued the directive which I am empowered to issue under the Wheat Industry Act. Of course, as the honourable senator knows, this power was written into the Act by his own Government.

The reason the Australian Government has taken this step is that not only should we honour agreements- even through this one may not have been formalised at that stage- but also we have to look at the long term effects on our market in these other countries. It would be quite irresponsible of Australia to press for cash payments from countries which traditionally have bought from us on a credit basis and of whose markets we may well be glad in two or three years time, again on credit terms. I do not think that it is unreasonable for the Wheat Board or the industry to feel that the carrying of 25 per cent of the risk is an imposition. The Wheat Board had agreed to these conditions prior to the outbreak of fighting. We now see the return of conditions which obtained at the time the agreement was entered into. I do not really think that there is much concern. If, for example, there were to be an outbreak of fighting again, it possibly would be a matter that could be looked at. The fact is that the Board entered into an agreement and indicated to the Egyptian authorities the broad terms of that agreement. I do not believe that the Government has anything to be concerned about as a result of the action that has been taken.







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