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Wednesday, 26 April 1972
Page: 1357

Senator WILLESEE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   Was the Minister acting on advice from the Australian Wheat Board when he stated to the Japanese press, during his recent visit to Japan, that Australia had found that the People's Republic of China does not mix politics with trade, that only good harvests had prevented China buying Australian wheat this year, and that when the Chinese needed wheat they wouldbuyit?

(2)   Were the Minister's statements completely in accord with the understandings and expectations of the Australian Wheat Board?

Senator WRIGHT - The Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   and (2) In speaking to the press in Tokyo on 12th October I recalled that during the past 10 years a pattern had developed whereby China, to supplement its domestic wheat production, purchased hard wheat from Canada and soft wheat from Australia.

I noted that in 1971 China had very good harvests and did not need any soft wheat but I expressed the expectation that when they needed our wheat again they would buy it because, in practice, we had found that they did not mix politics with trade. This view was reinforced by the fact that, at the 1971 Spring Canton Fair, Australian businessmen concluded orders valued at over$ 15m, primarily for metal exports.

I recognised that because the Chinese had not needed our wheat they might take advantage of the opportunity to suggest that purchases were being refused for political reasons. I noted that Australia had sold more wheat in 1971 than normal but we wished to maintain our customers and I expressed the hope that the Chinese would continue to buy wheat from us when they required it. In the same interview I pointed out that the 2 countries who sold the most to China - Japan and West Germany - did not have diplomatic relations with it.

The Australian Wheat Board is the sole authority for the marketing of wheat in Australia and of wheat and flour for overseas. While the Board is not empowered to advise the Government on the matter mentioned in the honourable senator's question, the Government takes a close interest in the achievements and activities of the Board.

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