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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 2099

Mr JARMAN (DEAKIN, VICTORIA) - Can the Minister for Trade and Industry confirm the reports in this morning's Press about a $60m sale of wheat to the People's Republic of China? Will the Minister point out to the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Dawson how wrong they were in their often repeated claims that the People's Republic of China would not buy wheat from Australia unless we established diplomatic relations with this country?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The first part of the honourable gentleman's question is in order; the second part is not.

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Deputy Prime Minister) - A statement has been put out by the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr Cass, that a contract has been negotiated with the People's Republic of China for 1 million tons of wheat to be delivered during 1973. I think all of us are delighted that the Wheat Board has been able to negotiate this contract. It is evidence of growing goodwill and the improvement in our relations with the People's Republic of China. On Tuesday last I stated in this House that we had been having remarkable success in selling a wide range of commodities to China, with the exception of wheat and zinc in relation to which sales had either gone down or we had not made sales in recent years. To have made this sale now is a continuation of the excellent performance and the relations of the Wheat Board with China during most of the decade of the 1 960s. I think this sale proves a number of points. It proves that the Government has been trying to maintain good trading relations with China. It was unfortunate that previously we did not make wheat sales to China, but this was probably for a number of reasons.

I think one of the most degrading and disgusting performances we have seen in Australian politics has been the way in which the Labor Party has continually tried to make politics out of this issue. We have made it clear that we want to continue trading. There are difficulties between the 2 countries in being able to finalise any decision on diplomatic relations because of the position of Taiwan. We have tried to maintain an honourable and respected position in relation to that country, and we will continue to do so. We have a policy of loyalty to friends and people and we will try to maintain that loyalty. But there is a real, keen desire to get into closer relationship with China. When I was asked last night how I had reacted I said that I was delighted and that it proved a number of points, but I did not go any further because 1 did not really want to make politics out of it. Having read some of the comments in the newspapers today - especially one - I think I would be negligent in my duty if I did not comment on it. That was the statement by the shadow Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Dawson, who is reported to have said that he was 'absolutely delighted'. The report states: 1 am not surprised' Dr Patterson said.

We have been expecting an announcement for several months that wheat sales would be resumed.'

Exactly 5 weeks ago the honourable member for Dawson put out a lengthy statement to the effect that no sales would be made to the People's Republic of China while the Australian Government maintained a hostile attitude towards the Government of that country. He said that, knowing that there was every likelihood of a sale. But the great sin in his statement is that he deliberately told the world that this Government had a hostile attitude towards the People's Republic of China. In other words-

Mr Scholes - Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. You ruled that part of the honourable member's question was out of order but you are allowing the Minister to answer that part of the question. In fact he has been doing so for the past 5 minutes.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member should know that when a question is asked in this House, the Minister is entitled to answer that question as he wishes provided the answer is relevant to the question.

Mr ANTHONY - The honourable member, on behalf of his Party, has deliberately tried to give to the world a distorted impression of this country's attitude to the People's Republic of China, and he did so knowing full well, or saying now that he knew, that a sale would be made. This is a very degrading performance by the alternative Minister for Primary Industry.

Mr Kirwan - Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I have delayed taking this point of order thinking that the Minister would complete his answer but he has not. 1 ask that you rule as you did when the Minister for Social Services was speaking, namely, that this is an important issue and the Minister can make a statement about it after question time.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! This is a matter which is in the Minister's hands. As I have said on previous occasions, question time is a time for seeking information. This is an extremely important issue in which the public is interested. It is open to the Minister to adopt the suggestion I made earlier. However the matter is in his hands.

Mr ANTHONY - I will conclude by saying that the wheat growers and Australia as a whole must now understand just how far the Australian Labor Party will go in playing politics at their expense.

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