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Wednesday, 3 June 1970

Mr McEWEN - Having regard to the economic circumstances of the Australian wool industry one certainly would hope that it could be found possible to reduce overseas freights. The discussions involve the Australia-United Kingdom Europe Conference Lines and they are in hand up to a point. Certain procedures which were determined by the Australian Shippers Association have to be followed. My understanding is that the Tonnage Committee met with the Shippers Association in April and the shippers proposed that there should be a standstill of present rates because the containerisation procedures had not been long enough in operation to make final assessments. The shipowners at that time took the stand that they needed an increase in freights because of increased costs. I understand that the outcome was that, the matter should not be proceeded with until June or July by which time certain studies of voyage results would have been made. So the discussions are in hand and these studies of the actual cost experiences will be available, I believe, some time this month or next month.

The Australian Wool Growers and Graziers Council is a member of the Australia to Europe Shippers Association. It has complete right and competence to make a claim for lower freights through its own association. It will compile its case and submit it to its association. The Shippers Association will be the negotiator with the shipowners' Conference. This stage has not yet been reached so I am not in a position to say what stand the Government will take. As a matter of fact, whereas the Government used to have status in this matter until 1956, in that year all the Australian shipper bodies met the shipowners of the Conference in London and after protracted discussions decided on a formula to determine freights which excluded any Government participation in the negotiations. That was the position from 1956 until the current negotiations, where an observer is present. That was not done at the wish of the Government. Indeed, at the time that decision was taken I took the view that if the Australian shippers were to negotiate of their own right without the aid of the Government they needed to have a very competent secretariat to work for them. I persuaded the Government of the day to make substantial funds available to them for (he purpose of assembling a secretariat to aid . them in their negotiations.

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