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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 2101

Mr CORBETT (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - I desire to ask a question supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Deakin, and I address it to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister is no doubt pleased at yesterday's announcement by the Australian Wheat Board of a sale of 1 million tons of wheat to the People's Republic of China. However, does the Minister agree with the media comment today that this sale will prove an embarrassment in view of a likely shortage of wheat in Australia and that the Australian Wheat Board may not be able to fulfil this and other major contracts?

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) - The Wheat Board throughout the course of fulfilling its responsibilities for the marketing of Aus tralian wheat has consistently maintained contact not only with markets throughout the world but also with producers in Australia. It has done that in such a way as to make sure that whenever its representatives go out to negotiate they do so with full knowledge of the stocks that are in hand, with a projection of the harvests from which wheat will be delivered and with an understanding of the period over which delivery is to be effected. The emphasis that we on this side of the House have placed on the Wheat Board's operations has been in just that way. We regard it as a responsible commercial body which is capable of entering into contracts in such a way as to look after the interests of those whom it serves. In this instance there is little doubt that it has taken fully into account the presently available stocks and the projected volume of wheat available for harvest this year.

It is to be noted that under the contract with the People's Republic of China wheat will be delivered from January 1973. In other words, the wheat is to be delivered from next year's harvest and not this year's harvest. So I believe that in spite of the really adverse seasons that are prevailing throughout a lot of eastern Australia there is every reason to expect that the Wheat Board will be able to meet its obligations under this contract. What I have said highlights the difference between this Government's attitude towards the Wheat Board and the attitude that the Labor Party affects. We have consistently allowed the Australian Wheat Board to operate entirely in the commercial arena. The constant statements and intervention by the Australian Labor Party have demonstrated how, over the last 2 years, the disruption of sales has been consequential upon the Labor Party's endeavouring to intrude political overtones into what is the Wheat Board's responsibility. It is quite clear from yesterday's announcement that the Wheat Board has pursued its normal commercial responsibilities and, in doing so, has completely denied the statements that have been made by such Opposition members as the shadow Minister for Primary Industry. This demonstrates quite effectively that the Wheat Board and the Government have the interests of the wheat grower at heart.

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