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Wednesday, 9 March 1977
Page: 17

Mr McVEIGH (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - I address a question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Is he aware of recent falling prices for wheat in world markets? Can he advise what he and his Department are doing to prevent the recurrence of a long period of low prices for wheat with consequent disruption to the wheat industry? Does the recent sale by the grower controlled Australian Wheat Board to the People 's Republic of China indicate that the Wheat Board is controlled by growers who are not only world class producers but also top class businessmen?

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Deputy Prime Minister) -I agree with the honourable member that we have a very effective selling organisation in the Australian Wheat Board. It has a great record of being able to dispose of most of Australia's wheat. There were bad periods in the 1 960s when there were huge gluts but, compared with any other country, I think we do extremely well. The honourable member is correct when he says that there has been a marked slump in the international prices of wheat. This has followed a number of years of relatively high prices. The weaker price situation has been due to increased crops in the northern hemisphere. The attitude of the Australian Government has always been to foster international marketing organisations to try to stabilise and obtain reasonable prices for our wheat. For the past 20 years Australia has been involved in international wheat agreements and international grains arrangements. These fell apart in about 1972 and all Australia obtained was a new international wheat agreement. This contained no pricing or economic provisions but it did keep the International Wheat Council going and this has been a forum for discussion. The Government has been very active in making representations to that body to try to obtain a new international wheat agreement which contains economic provisions. Unfortunately, progress has been pretty limited because of different opinions between the United States of America and the European Economic Community.

I was very heartened at lunch time today when Otto Lang, the Canadian Minister who is a representative on the International Wheat Council, rang me to tell me of his recent discussions with the new Secretary for Agriculture in the United States, who is keen that we have discussions to try to firm up the international marketing situation. As a result of that, I am sending the Secretary of my Department to Ottawa in a few weeks time to have an officials meeting. It is most heartening that the United States is interested in doing something. This, of course, can be an important part of the multilateral trade negotiations which are due to come forward perhaps this year. I think that if we can do the groundwork we have got every chance of getting a new international wheat agreement.

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