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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 799

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Health) (5.13) - in reply - This is really a machinery Bill for which there is formal approval from all sides of the Senate. With the indulgence of the Chair, honourable senators have made some references which perhaps do not have a direct relationship to the Bill. Senator Young, who sits behind me, dealt with the argument, if it was an argument - 1 do not think it was intended to be an argument; it was just a general observation - that we in Australia have been able, through the Australian Wheat Board, to spread the sales of our wheat to many countries. This is a good situation in which to be, whether one is talking about wheat or any other commodity.

If a person is in business and has only one or two clients he is in a much more critical position than if he has many clients. I think that is axiomatic. In the field we are discussing - in fact, in any business or industry - the order book is the critical thing. A business is always in a happy situation if its order book is spread over a very wide range. But that does not mean that, when other circumstances arise, when one can find another client or when things may not be going too well on the face value of sales, one does not have regard to big clients, too. It is nice to have big clients as well as little clients. I feel that the political implications which have been transposed into the debate are ones which could have been debated at a different level. I think Senator Young was able to demonstrate that there has been a significant and a dramatic fall in the carryover of our wheat surplus since 1970. As Senator McManus said, the wheat industry is expressing the point of view that quotas should be abolished.

Senator Little asked about the interest rate. I have some information on that. The reason why there was no change in the rate of interest relative to the 1971 loan, notwithstanding the recent reduction in interest rates, lies in the fact that the interest rates applicable to borrowings by the Board were not increased last time interest rates were increased. In any case, the Si per cent proposed is well below that which the Board obtains on credit sales. It was because of those credit sales that it was necessary for the extra i per cent to be added. The bank charges 5 per cent for loans up to 12 months. The 5i per cent charged to the Board reflects the Board's inability to repay its borrowings by 31st March and is due in the main to sales on extended credit for which the Board charges its customers well over the Si per cent that it pays to the Commonwealth. That is a simple and understandable explanation of the question that was raised during the debate. I thank the Senate for the speedy passage of the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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