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Wednesday, 18 February 1959

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade) - The Government is very conscious of the fact that the economics of flour milling depend tremendously upon the total throughput of the flour mills. Out of this consciousness, the Government has been very active in trying, first, to safeguard Australia's traditional export flour markets and, secondly, to gain new markets. The truth of the matter is that most of our markets around the Indian Ocean are in countries that have quite grievous balanceofpayment problems. Australia's difficulty is further aggravated by an incursion into these markets of heavily subsidized flour from certain European countries such as France, Germany and Italy. Occasionally, we have also been troubled by the gift of flour by the United States of America. The policy of the Government has been to maintain a proper consciousness of the needs of the recipient countries and never to try to obstruct a gift of flour or wheat to countries that could not buy it. Beyond that our policy is to act through negotiations to safeguard our markets, and we have had considerable success. As I was able to inform the honorable member for Lawson yesterday, out of some negotiations I conducted myself, we have ensured a sale of a total of 210,000 tons to Malaya and Ceylon from last July until the end of this calendar year, and a continuance at the rate of 180,000 tons in the following year. I have confidence of a continuation beyond that time at a similar rate. Let me emphasize that these quantities are being sold in such countries as Ceylon, which had previously constituted our biggest flour market, but in which we had not sold a ton of flour for sixteen months. The Australian flour-milling industry is, I am sure, most appreciative of the effectiveness of the Government's intervention. Similar remarks apply in the case of Malaya. With regard to Indonesia, we have had discussions from time to time with the Government of that country and with the Government of the United States of America. All I can say is that we will continue to watch the interests of those concerned. Where it has been possible, and desired by the respective countries, to give a gift through the Colombo Plan, that has been done, and I have no doubt that it will be done in the future.

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