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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 798

Senator McMANUS (Victoria) - My remarks will be very brief; but, as the matter of our relationships with China has been related to the subject of wheat, I feel that I should say a few words on this very important matter. It has been freely said in our community, particularly in farming circles, that we will be able to sell large quantities of wheat to Communist China provided we take action which some people call 'recognition' and for which others use the nicer phrase of 'normalising relations'. I point out that it is illusory to think that wc will get back to the situation in the early 1960s when we performed wonders by increasing our wheat acreages and then found ourselves with a tremendous problem in disposing of the wheat that was being grown.

In those days we were able to sell huge quantities of wheat to Communist China because one of our biggest potential competitors was not in the field. In those days the United States had huge surpluses, was restricting production and on ideological grounds was refusing to sell wheat to Communist China. Therefore we were in the position that probably our biggest potential competitor was out of the way. 1 can remember statements appearing in the Press in the middle of 1960s to the effect that in the United States there were certain pressures to get rid of its wheat surplus by throwing wheat on the market and making it available to Communist China, if necessary. 1 read in the Press that, as one would e.xpect, strong representations were made by Sir John Mc Ewen to the United States Government not to do that on the ground that if it did that it would gravely interfere with the sales which the Australian Government felt had to be made in view of the huge increase in our wheat acreages. We have to face the situation that if we recognise Communist China the United States is about to do the same and in those circumstances is a potential competitor. In those circumstances I hope that the Australian farmer, whatever he thinks about Communist China, will not fall for the joke that we only have to perform the 3 ceremonial kow-tows in Peking and China will write out a cheque for millions of dollars for our wheat.

I believe that there is now a much healthier situation in this country as regards sales of our wheat. We have spread our sales. We have established markets all over the world. 1 am glad that the Australian Wheat Board has shown that that can be clone. Whilst the position is not perfect by any means, it must have improved because 1 am now receiving from wheat farmers in Victoria representations to the effect that things on the wheat front are so good now that they think quotas should be abolished. If that is the case, it looks as though they think things are not too bad. But, whatever the situation is, just as in the past I strongly criticised the Government because it devoted so much attention to the Chinese market, now I praise the Wheat Board - after all, the Government says, when it suits it, that the Wheat Board is an independent body - and say that the Board is on the right track in trying to sell wheat all over the world. I approve entirely what Senator Young said on that point.

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