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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2916

Senator COOK —I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has seen the front page report in yesterday's Australian Financial Review headed: ' BHP Wins China Job'. Can the Minister verify the report? Specifically, has the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Bowen, signed a memorandum of understanding which clears the way for the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd to win a $35m contract to build a cement plant in Fujian province in southern China? How does this contract relate to the Government's China action plan? Is the Minister in a position to say anything further on that plan?

Senator BUTTON —The article has been drawn to my attention. Of course, the Government is pleased to see this development. As I understand it, the proposal is for BHP to provide the technology and other expertise to build a $35m cement plant in China. At present a number of negotiations are going on with the Chinese about matters of technology transfer and also negotiations regarding iron and steel sales. Mr Loton, the Managing Director of BHP, is currently in China leading a group from that company which is investigating the prospects of further trade developments with China.

Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese which will lead to a technical mission leaving for China in July to examine and report on ways in which the Australian industry might help in upgrading Chinese steel technology. In the article in question reference was also made to Kwinana. Both the Australian and Chinese steel industries are negotiating on the future of that plant at this time.

Senator Durack —When will it open?

Senator BUTTON —The Opposition keeps asking when it will open. If such a question had been asked in this Parliament two years ago it would have been: ' When will it close under the Fraser Government?'. The answer would have been: ' Very quickly'. It is an absurd interjection to ask when it will open because, as I said just a minute ago, the matter is being negotiated in China at present between BHP and representatives of the Chinese Government. However much Senator Durack may wish that Kwinana never opens again, that is not the wish of this Government. This Government wishes to give every support to those negotiations to ensure that Kwinana is opened. If the Jeremiahs on the other side of this House do not want that to happen, they should go back to Western Australia and say so. This Government is lending every effort to see that Kwinana is reopened. Senator Durack can, of course, take that matter up with his constituents. We are very concerned to see that it is opened as soon as possible and that these negotiations are successful.

Senator Messner —Tell us when.

Senator BUTTON —Mr President, the penetrating wit of Senator Messner breaks me up! Negotiations are also continuing on iron ore sales with a number of companies and the Chinese.

Senator Chaney —You think it is a laughing matter, don't you?

Senator BUTTON —No, I think Senator Messner is a laughing matter. I understand that the Chinese will make a decision about these matters as soon as possible. The Government welcomes these various initiatives which have been taken. They are continuing now and will be pursued in July in further negotiations between the Australian industry and the Chinese. We on this side of the House look forward to the success of those negotiations. They have already been largely successful in terms of iron ore sales to China this year.