Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 1871


Senator VIGOR(3.15) —I commend the report to the Senate. Unfortunately, Australia is slipping further and further into debt. Tax deductible overseas borrowing to finance unproductive takeovers and property speculation continues to increase our loan repayments, tax and interest burden. Our foreign debt burden relative to our gross domestic product now exceeds that of Brazil and the Philippines. Investment in productive manufacturing is now at an all time low. Our terms of trade continue to deteriorate. Our devaluation with respect to countries supplying our imports makes imports expensive. On the other hand, our dollar remains strong compared with the currencies of our competitors on export markets, which cuts our export markets to shreds and makes it very difficult for our exporters to compete. In addition, world trade is in turmoil. Trade wars between the United States of America and Japan and between the United States and the European Economic Community threaten to destabilise completely our export markets. The huge debt burden of developing nations such as Mexico, Peru, Brazil and the Philippines threatens the imminent breakdown of our current banking system.

In Australia, our exporters, and in particular our agricultural producers, almost alone carry the burden of the collapse in world commodity trade. Farmers are being forced off their land with huge debt burdens looming over them. They are unable to meet the high interest payments as their incomes slump further and further. The Government, the Public Service and urban Australia stand by while rural people suffer for the Government's failure to take control of our economic situation.

Last October in this place I once again brought this situation to the Government's attention, and once again pointed out the need for action. In particular, I pointed out that Australia would have much more influence and strength if we joined the developing countries in world trade negotiations. I said that the time was, and is, ripe as never before to pressure for a new world economic order, for reform of the international currency market, and for reform of standards for international justice, particularly in corporate accounting and trade. Within a few days, the Government took up my proposal-I commend it for that-and announced the meeting in Cairns of the developing trading nations which is mentioned in the paper. I commend the Government for at last responding to the need for realistic trade negotiations rather than hanging on the coat tails of the previous and present colonial powers such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America which are bent on exploiting their former colonies to the bitter end.

In the meantime I urge the Government to take action domestically to manage the crisis. Interest rates must come down. Exporters, and particularly farmers, need support to maintain our export industries until world trade can be stabilised. Australia must take steps to isolate our internal economy from the exploitative and destabilising world trade situation. We have opened up our markets to chaos by having a free for all, and that is not acceptable. Foreign capital inflows and outflows must not be allowed to destabilise our exchange rate, nor to buy our resources on the cheap. Australia must face the realities of the world financial market and introduce sensible measures to protect and encourage investment in our productive industries. That is just not happening.

It is quite unacceptable that we should have a free for all currently for bankers and foreign financial institutions when that is being paid for by the farmers of our country. Although the Minister for Trade (Mr Dawkins) states in the paper that Australia is doing something about it, it is not doing enough. It is doing too little, too late. We must get on with the task of solving our own economic problems and also making certain that we face our bicentennial year with a determination to try to introduce a new world economic order.