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Tuesday, 23 October 1956

Mr PETERS (Scullin) .- I agree entirely with the statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that loans from overseas, particularly at the present time, should be obtained only in order to enable this country to purchase equipment essential to development. Government supporters talk about securing loans in the currency of different countries, but what do we secure when we raise these loans? We secure, not the currencies of the various countries, but their goods. It is the goods that come into the country. If the loan is made in Switzerland, then we receive it in the form of Tobler's chocolates, or in the form of Swiss watches and jewellery. If we raise a loan in Japan, we receive manufactured goods from that country. If we raise loans in other countries, we receive the goods of those countries. We do not receive American dollars, or Canadian dollars, or Italian lire or Swiss francs.

This Government is continually imposing most savage import restrictions for the purpose of keeping the goods of other countries out of Australia, in order to preserve our overseas balances, but with this measure it will enable other countries to send their goods to Australia. The position, of course, is utterly absurd. I remember when the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) embarked upon his historic overseas tour, during which he climbed the Swiss Alps in order to secure a loan for the purpose, as he alleged, of aiding the development of Australia. After that loan of 60,000,000 Swiss francs was obtained by the Treasurer, there was not a confectionery shop from one end of the country to the other that did not have Tobler's chocolates and other Swiss confectionery upon its shelves. Swiss watches, pendants and other jewellery were brought here as a result of that endeavour of the Treasurer to help the development of Australia! Such loans do not help the development of Australia in any way, and if, by the passage of this legislation, we make it easier for governments to secure money overseas, and, without the consent of this Parliament or the knowledge of the nation, to secure loans in the currencies of Asian and other countries, then we will do it to the disadvantage of Australian industry and to the disadvantage of our oversesas trade balances, which are so necessary for the purchase of such goods as rubber, oil, machinery and other goods that we need for the development of our economy.

It is all very well for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) to talk about the legal aspect of the question, and what is meant by regulation by the Governor in Council, and how Sir Percy Spender pointed out in a historic address that the country would not be detrimentally affected. In reality, the issue is whether we. as a nation, should make it easier to create credits overseas that result in the importation into Australia of the goods of other countries, to the detriment of Australian manufacturers of those goods, and to the detriment of our oversreas balances, which are already sorely pressed because of the policies of this Government.

We do not want to give the Australian people the impression that overseas loans can come to this country in any form other than that of the goods of those countries. There was a time, of course, when a loan raised overseas would come to Australia in the form of gold, but that time has long since passed. Loans now come to Australia in the form of manufactured goods or raw materials. If we require raw materials, then I agree that we should endeavour to borrow overseas, on certain conditions, so that we may procure those raw materials or certain equipment that is necessary for the development of Australia. By giving power to this Government to go to any other nation and secure a loan, we do not thereby assist in obtaining the materials or goods that are necessary for Australia's development. The result is merely to secure goods that are already being manufactured in this country, and so worsen the position of Australian manufacturers and employees, and destroy our overseas trade balances.

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