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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1878

Senator COATES —My question is directed to Senator Gareth Evans as Minister for Resources and Energy and, perhaps, also as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can the Minister confirm the report in the National Times that the Indian Government has approached Australia with an offer to market Australian diamonds currently marketed through the Central Selling Organisation? In view of the worsening racial situation in South Africa, is the Federal Government giving consideration to the proposal and when is a final decision on the Indian proposal likely to be made?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am advised that the matter which was referred to in the National Times was raised with the Minister for Trade, Mr Dawkins, on his recent visit to India and that he has asked his Department to provide some information on the arrangements in question. Essentially, it is a matter for the Minister for Trade, I guess, to be responding on. But a couple of points can be made which may set people's minds at rest on this matter. The arrangement between some of the Argyle joint venturers and the Central Selling Organisation is a purely commercial one, and the Government's policy is not to interfere with such arrangements provided that fair and reasonable prices are obtained for exports of our mineral resources. In the case of the Argyle joint venture, the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments have appointed an independent valuer to ensure that fair and reasonable prices are obtained for Argyle output. The contract with the CSO runs for the next five years and underwrites the bulk of the funds provided to finance the project. Any change to the contract would have very major implications for the project's viability. Again, the contract was an integral part of the project as approved by the Treasurer under the foreign investment guidelines in April 1983. At that time he said that Government would wish to examine any marketing arrangements proposed after the current agreement expires. As to the substance of the question as it affects the South Africa policy, the short point is this: The sales arrangements that presently exist do not come within the ambit of the sanctions on dealings with South Africa announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 9 September, or the sanctions imposed following the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.