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Wednesday, 7 November 1973
Page: 1566

Senator PRIMMER (VICTORIA) -Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to a Press statement by the Opposition spokesman for primary industry, Mr Street, claiming that the Government is selling large quantities of food products at cut-rate prices? Is it true that the Government has arranged sales at cheap rates? Would not recent agreements made with China, Japan, East Germany and other countries indicate that Australian primary producers are assured of long term sales at beneficial rates?

The PRESIDENT - Order! When honourable senators base their questions on newspaper reports the custom of the Senate is that they must vouch for the accuracy of those reports. Giving that warning signal to honourable senators I pass this question to the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt, to answer.

Senator WRIEDT - I did see the report referred to. I would say that there was an apparent contradiction in the statement inasmuch as Mr Street claimed that the Government was, in fact, negotiating contracts for primary products with other countries at cut-throat rates- I think that was the term which he used. But later on in that statement he said that nobody seemed to know precisely what those rates were. His second statement is actually correct because prices are negotiated by the statutory bodies- such as the Australian Wheat Board- and they are of a commercial nature. They are not in any way interfered with by the Government. I am quite sure that when those rates are negotiated they will be in the best interests of the various primary producers of Australia. It should also be mentioned that the Government's intention is not to dictate the price at which these sales will be made but to secure the markets for our primary products over a longer term.

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