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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 877

Mr HICKS(10.41) —During the Whitlam era I was involved in local government. I remember well how one day we received a message from the Government telling us to go down to Melbourne because there was to be a big handout of money there. Together with a friend of mine, a colleague who had been in local government for some time, I travelled to Melbourne. When we got there, imagine our surprise when we saw these people who had been termed `flower people' or `hippies'-they had long hair, beads, jeans and thongs-handing out money as if it were going out of fashion. My friend who was a returned serviceman who had been in local government for many years, said: `Noel, there is something terribly wrong here. No government can give out that much money in a free handout and enable this nation to maintain its position.' He then said to me: `You are a young man with a young family. If I were you I would get some chooks, put them in the backyard, grow a vegetable garden and wait to see what happens.' I did not do that because the Khemlani affair came about, and then, thank God, 11 November 1975 came along and we were spared the fate of having to get the chooks and grow the vegetable garden.

Unfortunately Mr Fraser only lasted seven years. He stemmed the tide of socialism, but then in 1983 Mr Hawke got elected. What did Mr Whitlam say then? He said that the Hawke Government would be a continuation of the Whitlam years of government. Of course we all trembled, but how right he was. Today we have more than a $100 billion deficit, the highest inflation ever, high interest rates and a low dollar. The one thing about the low dollar which originally pleased me was that I thought it would help our trade position. The Treasurer (Mr Keating) said that the famous J curve would help us out. But what happened? The J curve has become an L curve and we are further down the drain.

Then the Prime Minister told the nation that his Government would place this country on a war footing. It would make sure that things would be all right and it would tackle the problems. He said that the Government would tackle the problems as if Australia were at war. I must say that I agree with the Prime Minister. This country is in dire circumstances and the nation must be placed on a war footing. This is particularly so with our trade balance. If we look at the January trade figures we find that in the balance of goods and services we have a minus $287m figure. This is disastrous. We must look at the direction we intend to take from here, particularly in relation to our exports. We must try hard to overcome this problem, as many other speakers have said tonight.

The average annual growth for world exports is 4.2 per cent by volume and 6.9 per cent by value each year.

Mr Slipper —What is ours?

Mr HICKS —Australia's is only 3.1 per cent by volume and 4 per cent by value. Since 1970 it has taken on average 3 per cent more exports each year to pay for the same volume of imports. It is easy to see the position in which that puts this country. Primary products and minerals are still our main exports, but we should be exporting 25 to 30 per cent of manufactured output rather than our present 14 per cent. In New Zealand they export 25 per cent of manufactured goods, in Canada 32 per cent, Korea and West Germany 30 per cent, the Netherlands 48 per cent and so it goes on. They are all doing much better than Australia.

What should we be doing? Obviously we should be competitive in cost and quality. We should do away with uneconomic practices and outdated work restrictions. I believe that the Government has made some noises in that direction but we cannot see anything happening yet. For example, I went to a winery the other day and the owners told me that they had ordered some tankers to take the wine away but the tankers had got lost somewhere in the train system. We must overcome these problems. Any strikes and industrial disputes that occur must be settled as quickly as possible. The other day I was talking to a man in a plane and he told me that he had an $80m deal to supply timber to France. I asked him where he was getting the timber from and he told me it was coming from all over the world. I asked him why he did not get most of it from Australia and he told me that he was worried about strikes. That is not good at all.

We need good management, we need initiative, we need good marketing intelligence, we need effective agents and we need to study the cultural and political life of the countries to which we are going to export. The export market is highly competitive-one delegate goes in the door and when he comes out a delegate from another country goes in. We cannot sell these countries our old technology or surplus requirements because we have the best technology in the world going to those countries. When we are overseas, instead of promoting New South Wales or Queensland-these could be islands of the Pacific-we have to keep talking about Australia, Australia, Australia. Australia is highly regarded overseas and we must promote Australia at all times.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.