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Monday, 22 September 1997
Page: 7980


Ms HANSON(12.58 p.m.) —I move:

That this House:

(1)   condemns the Government for committing $1.3 billion to the International Monetary Fund rescue of the Thai economy without recourse to the Australian Parliament;

(2)   calls on the Government to publish immediately all the details of the currency swap undertaken by the Reserve Bank; and

(3)   calls on the Government to freeze its undertaking pending a full parliamentary inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Australia's participation in the IMF rescue.

Australia's contribution to the Thai currency swap was decided with undue haste and without consultation. The contribution which this government decided to make without consultation was also disproportionately large. Australia's $US1 billion contribution is overly generous when you consider it in context with Japan's contribution of $US4 billion.

The Japanese economy is much bigger and much healthier than ours and Japan is purported to own over 40 per cent of Thailand's $US73 billion commercial foreign debt. Yet while the Japanese have so much at stake with their substantial involvement in the Thai economy, the very wealthy Japanese were only forthcoming with $US4 billion—almost nothing to them.

The Australian parliament and the Australian people should have been consulted. However, now that this government has forced this decision on us all, it is incumbent on the Treasurer (Mr Costello) to make the terms and conditions of the swap clear and open to the scrutiny of the Australian people. Presumably, if the risk is carried by the Thai government and not by Australia, then Mr Costello will be pleased to tell us this. The fact that the terms and conditions are secret cannot help but make Australians suspicious of the implications this deal poses for our country. The Australian people can only view this as either potential exposure to a large financial loss should the Thai currency suffer further devaluation, or, worse, the total write-off of $1 billion should Thailand experience complete economic collapse.

The more you consider the lack of information and consultation relating to this matter, the more apparent it becomes that this is but another example of the complete lack of concern the Howard government has for the thoughts and wellbeing of the Australian people. As a matter of interest, Thailand will also be one of the countries seeking to export cooked chicken meat to Australia. Will we consider further job losses and the threat of disease for our own poultry industry as a little `thank you' for this loan?

In the event of the Australian dollar collapsing—always a possibility, given this country's mismanagement—will the Thai government bail us out? You are now calling Australia's lemming-like leap into the cell `the Thai bail-out', but it is nothing but a pandering to the international elite. It accelerates the rush—so eagerly and deliriously pursued by politicians in successive Liberal and Labor governments over at least the last 25 years—to globalisation. What have you done to evaluate the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the Thai economy? Do you even pretend to care about this issue?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —Order! You will address your remarks through the chair, please.


Ms HANSON —Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. Our involvement in this IMF bail-out has set a dangerous precedent for the Australian people to be further exposed to the risk of international instability. Beyond this, let us not forget that this government has openly shown that it views itself as above the people and their good sense. You should not have made a commitment of this magnitude without consulting the parliament and without taking the Australian people into your confidence. You, the members of the so-called coalition government, have failed to trust the Australian people yet again. You, the members of this government gang, however unwilling some of you might have been in your participation, have acted irresponsibly and autocratically, and you cannot expect a shameful episode such as this—


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I am loath to interrupt the member for Oxley yet again, but you must not say `you'—the chair has done none of these things.


Ms HANSON —Right. Sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker. This government cannot expect a shameful episode such as this to cause the Australian people to renew the licence of your misused authority through re-election.


Mr Filing —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.