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Monday, 15 October 1973
Page: 2056

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I address my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Was the recent agreement for the sale of wheat to the People's Republic of China negotiated by the

Australian Wheat Board or was it negotiated by the Minister independently of the Wheat Board? In relation to the term of 3 years with respect to the sale, while I understand that it is not correct and appropriate to ask the price at which the sale was made or the terms of that sale, I would like to know whether a firm price has been made for the 3-year period or whether it is to be on the market circumstances for the 3 years.

Dr J F CAIRNS - I pointed out in answering my colleague's question that the basis for the signing of the agreement for the sale of wheat was obtained by discussion between myself and the Chinese Minister for Foreign Trade. The willingness of the Chinese Government to sign a long term agreement for the first time was secured in that discussion between myself and the Chinese Minister for Foreign Trade - and nobody else. Having obtained this, it was then possible for the Wheat Board to go to China and conduct the detailed negotiations necessary to put that agreement into effect. That is precisely what has happened; the Wheat Board has done that.

Mr McVeigh - Where have you been for the last 5 years?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman will know where he is in the next 5 minutes.

Dr J F CAIRNS - I am a little unfamiliar with the sounds of the farmyard, having not been in one for some weeks, but I recognise the sound of the honourable member's voice as one that is very typical of a certain part of the farmyard.

Mr Katter - That is just your level.

Dr J F CAIRNS - The honourable member can choose his own part. Members of the Australian Country Party are just as familiar with the farmyard as I am. They can pick the part that suits them. The agreement, as the Leader of the Australian Country Party would know, is one that the Wheat Board makes in detail. Agreement has been reached for the signing of a 3-year contract. It will be at a reasonable price in the world wheat markets in the years concerned. This year's price will be agreed to in precise figures. Next year's price will be agreed to next year and the third year's price will be agreed to in the third year at a reasonable level in respect to world wheat markets at the time. That is the provision that we write into each and every one of the long term agreements. The quantity is unfortunately limited, because of the lack of wheat in Australia, to 1.5 million tonnes to 1.8 million tonnes. I think that with luck it will eventually reach the level of 1.8 million tonnes. This year's harvest seems likely to be quite a good one. If we had been able realistically to consider a figure in excess of 1.8 million tonnes we would have done so. The Chinese would have been much happier to get nearer to 3 million tonnes than 1.8 million tonnes, but we could not realistically talk about 3 million tonnes.

Mr Maisey - It is the end of 'the quota plan.

Br J. F. CAIRNS - I do not know whether it was the honourable member's interjection, but certainly a contract of this kind can bring an end to the quotas that he and his friends mismanaged into existence over a long period.

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