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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1401

Mr KEOGH (BOWMAN, QUEENSLAND) - I preface my question to the Prime Minister by saying that it is prompted by the grave concern that I share with all members of the Opposition over the attitude of the Deputy Prime Minister who, as recently as yesterday during question time, showed his unwillingness to accept the true reasons for our failures to sell wheat to China. I ask: Following on the Labor Party's successful delegation to China and the Prime Minister's subsequent announcement that he would seek dialogue with Chinese leaders, is he able to tell the House how far that dialogue has advanced and whether he has sought or received an invitation to visit China? In the event of such an invitation, will he assure the House that he would welcome it and speedily arrange such a visit? Alternatively, would he seek Chinese approval for a joint parliamentary delegation to visit China during the next recess in order to prove beyond doubt his Government's genuine desire to establish full diplomatic recognition in the near future?

Mr McMAHON - The first comment I would like to make is that I am sure the Deputy Prime Minister is correct in emphasising that it is contrary to Australia's interests that this problem of wheat should be raised by the Opposition and made a political issue. I can assure the honourable member that there have been numerous cables received by us from diplomatic sources indicating clearly not only the attitude of the People's Republic of China to the statements that have been made by members of the Opposition relating to wheat but also informing us in pretty clear terms that if we want to come to some agreement with them it would be better if we stopped making a political issue of the matter. In these cases I can assure the honourable member that the People's Republic operates in not the same open and frank way as we do. It is a mighty and a great country and does not like public references to what it is doing.

I can once again assure honourable members that far from this matter of representation being allowed to be forgotten and no action taken there has been a considerable amount of activity in recent months. We are considering the matter carefully, but we will do so against a background that we want to get the best out of the situation and not try to take political points. I emphasise again that it is not in the best interests of this country for anyone in the Opposition, including those who will frequently refer to the wheat problems, to raise this matter in the House as a political issue.

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