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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7533

Senator O'BRIEN (2:01 PM) —My question is directed to Senator Hill, representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade. Can the minister confirm that the single desk for wheat exports will be a negotiable item in discussions with the United States about the proposed free trade agreement? Is the government considering the option of providing a competitive domestic supply chain behind the single desk for wheat exports as a concession to the United States in these trade negotiations? What consultations have taken place with Australian grain growers about the role the single desk might play in the negotiation of a free trade agreement with the United States?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —That question obviously calls for detail a little beyond the normal questions without notice. Particularly in view of the sensitivity of the issues, I will refer it to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and get a considered response.

Senator O'BRIEN —Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. Might I say I am surprised that Senator Hill does not have a brief on this very important matter. Whilst he is seeking additional information, perhaps the minister can inquire about and confirm whether the government has guaranteed single desk export marketing arrangements with AWB Ltd. If that guarantee has been given, what is the basis for using the export single desk arrangements as a bargaining chip in these negotiations?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —That is two further parts to the same question. I will add them to the question that I am already referring.