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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1620

Mr O'KEEFE (PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Government or the wool selling organisations have made contact with the People's Republic of China concerning sales of Australian wool? Is there a possibility of trade in this commodity? Can the Minister inform the House of future prospects in this field?

Mr SINCLAIR - There is obviously at the moment a slackness in demand generally for wool and in fact for most textiles, attributable I would think more to the 10 per cent import surcharge applied by the United States of America than to any other factor. Without doubt currency uncertainty contributes to this slackness in demand. It was during the last wool selling season that the Australian Wool Commission first approached the Government to see whether it might enter into tentative negotiations with a number of countries in order to ascertain whether alternative markets could be found for those wools which had passed through the auction system and which were held by the Commission in its stockpile. The Australian Wool Commission at that time did, through agents, enter preliminary negotiations with a number of countries including the People's Republic of China.

At this stage the difficulty in negotiating sales whether inside or outside the auction room lies rather in the prices at which wool is available from all countries. Indeed, I am told that some private wool sellers in Communist countries have quoted prices which are at a considerable discount off the prices that are now payable at auction in Australia. For that reason I am not optimistic about our being able to secure an early contract in the manner the honourable gentleman has suggested. Nonetheless I think it is an idea that is well worth pursuing, particularly from the point of view of the purchasers who would be able to buy wool by sample, be able to get the wool core tested and be able to buy in large quantities according to specification and in that way would enjoy many of the advantages which at the moment only the synthetic competitor is able to provide. I assure the honourable gentleman I will bring his question to the notice of the Australian Wool Commission.

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