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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3233

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) (Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory) - As with the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), I have no disagreement with what the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has said. His comments have been constructive. I know that he has a deep interest in many of the problems of northern Australia. That interest has been achieved from a first hand investigation and study of many of the problems. The honourable member knows as well as others do of the difficulties of development of those areas and in particular of many of the projects which originated from proposals which he has advanced. I repeat that I welcome the constructive arguments that he has put up.

But I would like to comment briefly on the usual destructive arguments put up by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). I do not know what it is about me that causes him to go completely overboard - to lose his calm. As described by me and by others last week, he puts on an amazing performance. I am not concerned very much about whether he criticises me but I am concerned about the criticism of officers of the Public Service and especially officers of my own Department.

Mr Katter - He did not do that.

Dr PATTERSON - If the honourable member reads Hansard tomorrow he will find that he did.

Mr Martin - They have no opportunity to reply.

Dr PATTERSON - That is true; they have no opportunity to reply. This is something that honourable members should not do. They should not take advantage of their office deliberately to attack public servants who cannot reply. Let me say this: The head of my

Department is a man of excellent reputation. Ironically, he is the same person whom the Leader of the Australian Country Party, when he was a Minister, congratulated for his work over the years in his position as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Trade. That just shows the hypocrisy of the right honourable gentleman. I do not intend to waste time even answering his comments about the Bowen basin and the Pilbara. The objectives of these investigations are there to be read. He can read them if he wants to. It is hoped that the joint Commonwealth-Western Australia feasibility study of the development of the Pilbara will be in our hands next year.

I wish to comment again on the statements by the Leader of the Country Party about sugar. He has again mentioned China. It seems to me that he just cannot take it. Surely he must be aware that on Friday I met for 6i hours with the industry and explained in as much detail as it wanted the basis for the formulation of a long term agreement involving the sale of at least 300,000 tons of sugar over 5 years. Surely he must be aware of the fact that the industry issued an official Press statement welcoming the initiative I have taken in allowing this to be done. Surely he is aware that the industry asked me to secure permanent access for Australian sugar to China. Is he not aware that for some years the industry had been trying to do that without success? Of course he is aware of it. The same thing applies to the bulk handling of sugar.

The Leader of the Country Party made 2 statements that have to be challenged. Firsly, he said that Australia sells four times as much sugar to the United States of America as it will sell to China.

Mr Graham - Ten times.

Dr PATTERSON - No, he said four times. That is completely wrong. We sell approximately 200,000 tons or a little over 200,000 tons to the United States of America. We shall sell at least 300,000 tons to China. He then went on to say that we sell ten times as much sugar to Japan as we will sell to China. That would mean that we sell 3 million tons a year to Japan. We sell approximately 600,000 tons to Japan, which is twice as much as we will sell to China. So the Leader of the Country Party was completely and utterly wrong in those points that he made. I will say no more about him, other than that I think that if the Leader of the Country Party had offered the constructive advice - perhaps criticism in some respects - of the honourable member for Herbert and the honourable member for Mackellar, the level of this debate would have been much higher. I have no doubt that the Leader of the Country Party is aware that some of the honourable members who sit behind him are openly disgusted with his attitude towards the sale of sugar to China.

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