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Wednesday, 4 March 1970

Mr McMAHON - I did read the statement said to have been made by the honourable member for St George, which he can contradict if he wishes to, in which ho attempted to ridicule the Australian aid effort in South East Asia and other ports of the world. I think the best way to resolve this problem is to quote from the Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee which is under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - the authority, and the only authority, that examines aid programmes and which makes comments upon the size, equity and justice of them. Ambassador Martin said this:

It is these days unfortunately a rare pleasure to be able to review an official aid programme which is growing steadily and substantially in volume and is also already at a high level in relation to national income by standards of international comparison. Australia's official aid programme however fits this pattern.

Therefore we have from the very highest authority commendation of the Australian aid effort and what Australia is attempting to achieve. I do not want to argue that we are not prepared to or should not do more. There are always opportunities to do more and, of course, we regard the efforts we make to aid the South East Asian countries as having the highest priority.

But as to four of the statements made by the honourable gentleman - who was quoted as being the Deputy High Commissioner but who happened to be a councillor, and I want that fact to be known - I want to show where the truth lies. In the first statement he said that we are purchasing wheat in order to get rid of a substantial surplus that has developed. In fact, the Minister for Trade and Industry negotiated the relevant Grains Arrangement and the Food Aid Convention in 1967 before the problems associated with the glut of wheat either in Australia or on the world markets appeared. So, far from trying to get rid of a surplus, it was done for humanitarian reasons. I well remember my approach to the question when the Minister for Trade and Industry first mentioned it to me.

As to the second point raised by the honourable gentleman, that is, that three countries, Pakistan, India and Indonesia, because of the green revolution that has occurred in those countries, no longer have any necessity for wheat, I point out to him that not only have they a necessity for it, but they are importing it now because they need it in order to feed their hungry millions. The number of demands that have been made upon us to supply wheat under the Grains Arrangement and the Food Aid Convention is far in excess of our commitments, that is, 225,000 tons, and as far as I can make out from the forecasts given to me for next year, the demand will be even higher.

The third statement of the honourable gentleman was that our grains assistance was of the order of 50%. It happens to be 30%. On the last point, that is, that we were supplying wheat at lower prices to Communist China, he obviously was badly misinformed here because all sales take place at current prices in the market where wheat is being sold. The differential in some cases is due to the grade of wheat and the cost of transporting wheat from Australia to the recipient country.

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