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Prime Minister's Press Conference - Brussels 18 December 1974



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PRIME MINISTER’S PRESS CONFERENCE - BRUSSELS

18 DECEMBER 1974

The following is the text of the Prime Minister's press conference held in Brussels on 18 December 1974»

"Question: Can I take it, Mr Prime Minister, from your discussions with the community that you would regret a British decision to leave the Common Market?

"P.M.: Yes. I think it is about time that all this shilly shallying was ended. It is a decision for Britain, of course, and the community and I don't want there to be any impression that the present Australian Government sees any advantage whatever for Australia, for Europe, for the world, in Britain's withdrawing from

the community. There might have been an impression given by previous Australian Governments that they were carping and hindering, that they wanted to frustrate Britain's joining the community. This is not the attitude of my Government, it has never been the attitude of myself.

"Question: Prime Minister, can you give us any assurances as far as the import ban on beef is concerned?

"P.M.: No. We have had useful discussions concerning the problems that the members of the community feel in the importation of agricult­ ural and pastoral products which they themselves produce and beef is the principal such product which concerns Australia at the moment. There were no assurances but we do of course, have some

idea now of when, and to what extent the community might hereafter import beef among other primary products. '

"Question: The fact that your first stop on this trip is Brussels rather than London. Does this indicate a change of attitude towards the U.K.?

"P..M.: It indicates the priorities Australia sets in her relations with Europe. Until very recently it would have been unthinkable that a Prime Minister of my country would make his first call in Europe at Brussels. 1 believe it is appropriate - I have deliberately done it.

It is symbolic of the priorities we seek and the significance we attach to the whole question. '

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"Question: Prime Minister, are you looking for some kind of specific formal trade agreement between Australia and the Common Market which would at least indicate some energy and possibly agricultural products as well?

"Ρο,Μο: We aren't looking to any particular overall trade agreement. We will consider particular programs for supplying goods to the community and also to take one instance, uranium, we shall certainly consult concerning the degree to which uranium can be enriched before it is supplied to the community. We are, of course, having

the same consultations with other prospective markets for uranium in particular.

"Question: Prime Minister there has been a lot of talk quite recently about Australia's high tariff barriers. Was this brought up yesterday?

"PoM.: Not in any detail, but I take the opportunity to say that Australia's tariff barriers are lower than they have been in the memory of anyone and that Australia's previously excessive protection is no longer so excessive.

"Question: Can you comment a bit further on the ties that you are establishing between the beef ban and these exports of raw materials? In particular is that speaking of uranium or did you specifically point out coal as well?

"P»M.: I am not using the word to tie. There are, of course, more difficulties in making marketing arrangements between a country which has resources excessive to its own requirements with other countries which may or may not have such resources themselves. There is much less difficulty in making an arrangement to sell uranium in Europe^which doesn't have enoughtthan selling say beef because Europe does produce beef in considerable quantities. There

is, of course, a very considerable leef lobby in any country which produces beef. There is not the same lobby in respect of resources in countries which don't have those resources. So obviously it is more difficult for Australia to make arrangements to

sell beef to Japan or Europe which also produce beef although in our view in too small a quantity and too high a price. It is much more difficult there than it is to make arrangements to sell uranium where, of course, Europe doesn't have enough and nobody would ever

think it would have enough.

"There is, of course, this factor which I believe countries which import resources - mineral or primary - should bear in mind. A country, or a group of countries, which shows itself to be unpredict­ able in respect to some products can't expect to have priority in respect to other products. Obviously, a country like Australia must give greatest weight to those markets which are most commendable. H

is discouraging for us to invest in the production say of beef when the market can be cut off from season to season. We have to bear in mind how secure is the return on our investment and there are investments in primary products as well as mineral products. .

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1 1 Quest ion: What in your view would he the effect on Anglo-Australian relations if the British renegotiation led to a withdrawal of the British from the community? .

"PoM».: The relations between Britain and Australia would be very close as they always have been. But I would not believe that there would be any significant economic difference to Australia if Britain were to withdraw from the community. The days when Australian

Governments or Australian producers thought that it would be to their advantage to have some special economic relationship with Britain are long since past.

"Question:' As a result of your discussions with the community on beef, do you think the community might give a warmer reception in ' GATT as a result of your meeting?

"PJVL: I hope so. I believe that there are many people in the Commission who are embarrassed at the bad example that has been set by cutting off beef imports. '

"Question: Prime Minister can you now give us a clearer idea of . when and to what extent the community will be ready to import beef?

"PoM.: I would believe that there will be more imports of beef in 1976 than in 1975» and I would imagine that the total imports will not be as great as they were in 1972.

"'Question: Prime Minister, have you clarified your thinking about Australia's membership in the International Energy Agency?

"P.M.: There was only passing reference to this matter in our talks with Belgium. Not with the Commission.

"Question: Prime Minister, you spoke about a redistribution of wealth between resource owning countries. Obviously Australia is a resource owning country. Will that affect Australian policy on sales of resources and does it mean in particular that we are likely to throw in our lot with the Arabs?

"P.M.: Our objective is to have marketing arrangements comprising both, consumers and producers. Most of the marketing arrangements which Australia has had hitherto have been of that'character. We have joined the International Bauxite Agreement and we have consulted

in the proposals to form a similar body for iron ore in each case with the exporters but in the former case, the I.B.A., we ensured — w of the I.B.A., acknowledged the interests of consumers

in having secure supplies and predictable prices and that would be our objective in any iron ore exporting bodies.

"Question: Is it possible to say at this stage what Australia's reaction is to the new initiatives following the meeting between Presidents Ford and Giscard at the Summit Conference?

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"P.M.: It is not only oil, and of course it suggests that producers as well as consumers should be involved» It should be energy in general, it should be producers’ as well as consumers» Now obviously, we will be following very closely the response of producers to this

suggestion that the two Presidents have made»

"Question: Prime Minister, Australia grows sugar and Britain needs it and the Commission intends to buy some for Britain in the near future. Will you be discussing this with Mr Wilson and is Australia in a position to sell sugar to Europe in the near future?

"P.M.: I don't think we could sell sugar from this year's crop because it is fully committed. Any arrangements we make about sugar will, of course, be in the context of the community. That is something which Britain and all the members would wish and it is what we

ourselves would wish. If we are to sell sugar to the community we would like to have an agreement for some years» All the agreements we hav6 made bilaterally for sugar since we came into Government two years ago have been three years as in the case of the People’s Republic of China or for five years in the other cases. So, clearly,

we would want an agreement which covered a certain number of seasons»

"Question: Prime Minister, as a result of your talks do you have any hesitation in suggesting that Australia will become"a'significant supplier of uranium to Europe in the 1980s? "

“Ρ,Μ.: I would think that if the conditions are right Australia will become a significant supplier of uranium» I would hope in the enriched form to the community in the 1980s»

"Question: Prime Minister, if you receive assurances from Europe regarding the supply, or the development of uranium enrichment in Australia, will you sell yellow cake to Europe so they can meet their understanding with the Americans? ' '

lrP.M.: We will be having discussions in the whole context and the quantities, the timetable, the proportions, will be the matters which we would discuss» You will understand, of Course, that like any country which has resources and which has, as Australia does,

literate and numerous and technical population, our aspiration must be to sell our products in as highly a processed form as possible. This is a rational aspiration, ·

"Question: How does the present economic situation in Australia effect your attitude towards your immigration policy? ■

"P»M,: We have reduced our migrant intake because of the unemployment in Australia. In addition I expect however, that the mobility of populations will be less in the 1970s and 1980s than it was in the late 1940s and through the 1950s and 1960s when most of the migrants came to us there were various post war elements in the

1940s. Cold war elements in the 1950s which attracted a very

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great number of Europeans east and north and west to Australia» In the 1960s there were a ’number of economic and social factors ' . which attracted migrants to Australia mainly from the Mediterranean countries of Europe» I believe in each case the. reduction of

tensions, the improvement of conditions means that there will be less migration from' Europe than there was and accordingly there will be less likelihood of migrants coming to Australia for those reasons,

‘ ‘Question: What are the economic advantages of selling enriched uranium? Can you give us some idea of the difference it will make in profit by; selling it in its enriched form instead of yellow cake?

"P.M*: I don't know the proportions but it is a matter for negotiation» Of course you get very much for, say, aluminium than you do for alumina and much more again than you do for bauxite, and the same applies of course to steel or to pig iron ore» It applies, I believe, to all minerals» The higher the human contribution the country makes to

products being sold, the higher the profit to that country.

"Question: You did say earlier in answer to a question that you were not making a tie between the beef ban and uranium. In your statement you seem to suggest the willingness to supply uranium in quantities would be dependent in some way on European willingness to offer access

to Australian agricultural exports.

"PoM.: Now you have repeated the term "tie". I have not used the term "tie". I am not going to use the term "tie". Clearly if '

any country is having dealings with another country it wants to know how dependable the other country1s trading record is. Australia, obviously must keep in mind that in some products such as beef recently, the community, and some other countries have had

a bad record. Investments have been misplaced. Therefore in Australia returns have been delayed or lost. So clearly if we are to make investments for processing or exporting various commodities we will bear in mind the dependability of the country to which we are

proposing to sell those products. ·

"Question: Regarding the discussions in the whole of the context with respect to· the purchase of uranium, has there been any formal initiative with respect to this and also when and where will discussions take place?

"P.M.: There have already been discussions last week in Canberra, the Australian Capital, between representatives of the community and the Australian Government on this matter. There are very likely ud ^archer discussions and they will be in the total context of uranium. '

"Question: How do you see your relations developing with the United States now in the fields of energy?

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"P.M.: I think coal is the only resource in which the U.S.. has shown direct interest itself in Australian resources. Obviously we will discuss any such matters with any country, not least with the United States. . . . . . . . . . .

"Question: You refer to the reports of free trade in the world. ■ Does this mean that despite the economic situation back in Australia the moves in Australia are towards world tariffs?

"P.M.: Australia is a very great trading country and its prosperity depends on world trade. The only countries in the world which would depend more on international trade than Australia are Belgium, and The Netherlands. Quite obviously we are interested in seeing that

there is an increase in trade between Australia and other countries in as many products as suits Australia and the countries concerned.1 1