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Wednesday, 16 May 1973
Page: 2173

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - Mr Speaker,I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr SINCLAIR - Yes, today about 5 minutes ago in question time by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister today, repeating an assertion he made yesterday, alleged that I blew the cover, to use his words, on the status and position of a man whose status and position were, revealed to this House in the question that I first put to the Prime Minister concerning that man's admission to Australia in a private and personal capacity to attend and address a Pacific Basin Economic Council meeting. I explained his position and explained that Mr K. T. Li sought to enter Australia in a personal and private capacity. The Prime Minister said as appears at page 1648 of daily Hansard:

He would undoubtedly be able to come to Australia under the same conditions as any other person comes from Taiwan, that is, in any unofficial capacity.

It is not true that the Prime Minister was unaware of the official position of Mr K. T. Li at the time he gave that reply. The specific status and position of Mr K. T. Li were included in the express question that I put to the Prime Minister and his reply designated the fact that he accepted that he held that position but, in spite of that position at that point of time, he would be admitted. Apparently it was only through subsequent representations received from the People's Republic of China that that view was changed.

I have been misrepresented also on another count during question time today by the Prime Minister. The. Prime Minister alleged that through actions of the preceding Government the Australian Wheat Board lost sales to the People's Republic of China.

Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This was not an allegation which concerned the honourable gentleman any more than it concerned the previous Government as a whole. If this is' a personal explanation then every other Minister of the previous Government could make a personal explanation upon this matter.

Mr SINCLAIR - Mr Speaker,on the point of order, as Minister for Primary Industry in the previous Government I contend that I was personally responsible for any consequences of any international trade deal whereby it was alleged that the Government's intervention caused the loss of sales. As Minister for Primary Industry at that stage I believe I was responsible. I have been unjustly and inaccurately accused on a matter where the Prime. Minister is showing gross disregard for the truth. The position was that in September 1972, while the previous Government was in office, a contract for 37 million bushels of wheat was negotiated with the People's Republic of China. Wheat in fact was delivered each year from 1961 to 1972 during the regime of the preceding Government. The sales represented 33 per cent of Australia's total wheat sales and any allegation that actions of the preceding Government or me personally caused the loss of sales is not true.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the question.

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs) - Mr Speaker, 1 wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr WHITLAM - Yes. Honourable members will judge the veracity of the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) by his purported explanation on the second matter. The facts are notorious to everybody that Australia's biggest wheat customer gave up buying Australian wheat during the previous Ministry, and the reasons why that is so are equally notorious. But I had never heard of Mr K. T. Li being the Minister for Finance for Taiwan until the honourable gentleman asked a question about him on Thursday, 3rd May. 1 had never heard and nobody in the country knew - at least very few people knew - that he was coming, and they did not realise that he held that position. The communication came from the Pacific Basin Economic Council.

Mr Sinclair - But you knew because I told you.

Mr WHITLAM - That is the first any of us heard about it. The honourable gentleman has been the effective cause for Mr Li not making the trip to Australia which he sought to make ostensibly as a director of a company. PBEC invited me to give the key note address at its meeting this week. They realised what a discourtesy would have been involved if they had asked me to speak with a Minister from a government which Australia does not recognise being in the audience. The honourable gentleman has caused embarrassment all round on this matter. I suppose at least it is better that the situation should have been blown before a visa was sought, thus saving embarrassment for the Government of this country and for the other persons whom PBEC asked here under their proper designations and in their real capacities.

Mr SINCLAIR(New England)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER - Look, this could go on indefinitely. Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr SINCLAIR - Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. I understand that an approach had been made by the Director-General of the Pacific Basin Economic Council to the Department of Foreign Affairs concerning the admission of a number of persons from Taiwan prior to my asking any question in this House. The representations made to me by Mr Li followed advice at departmental level that permission to enter Australia or a visa would not be granted.

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa- Prime Minister) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr WHITLAM - Yes. By way of explanation on this matter: The honourable gentleman had been in touch with the Department. I am not at liberty to give the communications which passed but the honourable gentleman - my memory is - was quoted as attributing to the Department a point of view, and the Department asserts that that point of view was never expressed to the honourable gentleman.

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