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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 4596

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Wannon will cease interjecting.

Dr Forbes - Why does the Prime Minister not -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Barker will cease interjecting.

Mr WHITLAM - Let me deal with one component of the Opposition at a time. It is obvious to everybody, Australians and people overseas, that all countries like Australia are suffering from inflation and unemployment and they affect each other. It is more than usually difficult for Australia to insulate herself because proportionately we would be the largest trading country in the world and even in absolute terms we would be the twelfth largest trading country in the world. We cannot insulate ourselves. It is far too glibly asserted that because we have not been as seriously affected by the oil crisis as some other countries therefore we are not affected by international inflation. There are other components of international inflation in addition to the oil crisis. The oil crisis has, in fact hit Australia quite seriously as well. The right honourable gentleman askes me whether inflation is the worst problem facing Australia. I would not believe that it is a worse problem than unemployment. However, unemployment is not so serious a problem in Australia as it is in comparable countries, for example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, the countries of Western Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia. Unemployment is not so bad in Australia as it is in those other countries, but it is very high by Australian precedents. Inflation in Australia is much more comparable with inflation in those other countries.

The right honourable gentleman asks me what can be done by a united appeal. I have been very disappointed by the lethargy of the Premiers in this respect. It will be remembered that last August the 6 Premiers and I agreed that our officials should get together to produce working papers on those matters of government policy, procurement and employment which would affect inflation and in relation to which by combined action we could mitigate inflation. The officials, Federal and State, prepared those half dozen working papers very promptly and competently. I dispatched them to the Premiers. Some Premiers, including the Premier of Queensland, have not yet responded to that work which all our officials did expeditiously two or three months ago.

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