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Thursday, 16 March 1961

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE (Maranoa) . - I was quite interested in the remarks of my friend, the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), a fellow Queenslander, regarding the north. First, I would like to deal with the credit squeeze which he said is affecting particular primary industries in the north. I suggest to the honorable member that, if he can, he should get something in writing regarding the credit squeeze on these industries and bring it here. As I go through my electorate I throw out that challenge to businessmen and primary producers, of whom I am one. Any one who has a reasonable proposition and who is credit-worthy has no trouble whatsoever in getting financial assistance.

My area is one of the biggest tobaccogrowing districts in Australia. Our difficulty there is to get labour to harvest the crop. The tobacco-growers are not asking for credit to pay the men. They are advertising over the radio and through the press to get labour to harvest their crop. They have the money to pay the men but they cannot get them. Why? They are offering good wages. They are compelled to pay above the basic wage in order to keep their men. Of course, all these things add to our cost.

Mr Duthie - For how long do you want men?

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE - For three months. I appreciate the position in the timber industry in north Queensland as mentioned by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton). I think that he put the case fairly well. However, at one point of his speech he complained about import restrictions while, at another point, he said that the trouble was the credit squeeze. After the lifting of import restrictions, the plywood industry in north

Queensland was in trouble because of importations into this country. Last session, an emergency measure was introduced to permit the imposition of a temporary tariff to protect any industry that could put a reasonable case to the Tariff Board for relief. The Opposition voted against that measure. I should like the honorable member for Leichhardt to inform me whether the industry to which he referred asked the Tariff Board for a temporary increase in the tariff until its case for permanent protection was heard.

Mr Bryant - It is too late now.

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE - This was long before credit restrictions were brought in. lt was six or eight months ago. It will be interesting to know whether the industry took advantage of that avenue to try to protect itself.

I listened with very great interest to the want of confidence motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I read his speech and then I went into the party room and read similar addresses that have been delivered by the honorable gentleman very year since 1951 when I first came here. The speech which he made on this occasion was practically the same as those he made in 1951, 1952, 1953 and so on. But he left out one thing this time: He did not tell the people of Australia to spend all the money that they had in the savings bank because we were going bankrupt. He did say that we were bankrupt but he omitted his earlier advice. The worst panic merchant that we have is the Leader of the Opposition. He did not put forward one alternative proposal for rectifying the position. I think that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) put the position plainly. He said that if you present a charge against anybody you should be able to prove it. So far no member of the Opposition has bolstered his argument with any constructive proposal except the reintroduction of import licensing. It is very interesting to note the muddled thinking of the Opposition. Not very long ago, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) when we were discussing import licensing, said -

The most hideous control ever introduced into any country is the restriction of trade.

A few months later, on 12th May, I960, he proposed the discussion of a matter of urgency, using the following words: -

The damage likely to be caused to the Australian economy by the Government's decision to lift restrictions on imported goods.

In a few weeks, he had changed his mind. This is interesting, too: Referring to the Government, one member of Parliament has said -

Now it states that it is determined not to re-introduce import licensing. In that regard, 1 stand beside the Government. I hope import licensing is never re-introduced.

What can we expect from this muddled sort of thinking?

Mr Duthie - Who said that?

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE - A Labour senator - Senator Benn. These are the kinds of arguments that the Opposition puts forward out of its muddled thinking. Yet members of the Opposition ask the people to believe that they are sincere in proposing this motion of censure. I think the people have enough intelligence to realize, after all the years that we have been in office, that we are quite prepared to take drastic steps when necessary to ensure that Australia's economy is kept on an even keel.

What suggestions do we hear from honorable members opposite? They say that it is not their job to tell us what we should do. They say, simply, " You are wrong ". But they do not try to tell us why we are wrong. They say that we should not do this and we should not do that, but they do not tell us why. To my way of thinking, they have put up a very poor argument.

Let me say a few words about the credit squeeze. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) showed what the Government was prepared to do when the economy of the country was getting into a position of imbalance. As the honorable member said, we were prepared, as we are at all times, to take the necessary action to remedy the situation. We have taken action that we have considered necessary throughout all the years that we have been in office, and we have kept the economic position reasonably sound.

I say again that this Government did noi introduce its economic measures for the purpose of reducing the volume of money available. One of the main purposes of these measures is to order the flow of money so that the greatest benefit will go to those industries that are making a contribution towards increasing our export income. I think it was timely for the Government to take such action. I believe that what we have done represents no departure from the policies that the Government has followed since it came to office in 1949. I was reading the other night in " Hansard " speeches made by Ministers of this Government, particularly the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), at the time when import restrictions were introduced in 1952. He set out the policy of the Government, and he said that we were prepared to deal with a position as it arose. He said that the Government's policy was a flexible one. Well, it is still a flexible one and we will meet problems as they arise.

I have little more to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that the people are beginning to understand that the Government has done the right thing. There was some confusion when these measures were first introduced. That confusion was increased by people who had vested interests, and who thought their profits might be interfered with. It was aggravated also by the press throughout the Commonwealth. I contend that the press misled the people with regard to the reasons for the introduction of these measures. I believe that the press is now beginning to realize that the action we have taken has been in the best interests of the country.

I want to refer to one other matter before 1 conclude. The Acting Prime Minister, in a speech a few nights ago, told us what this Government is prepared to do to ensure a continuance of our national development. I ask the Government to urge the conference of State and Commonwealth representatives on developmental projects to try to speed up certain projects, and to give priority to those that will show the quickest returns. I agree with the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) that one of the projects that should be given top priority is the development of our transportation system, particularly for the benefit of the beef industry. There is no necessity for me to go over this ground again. I have mentioned the matter in the

House time and time again. It is absolutely necessary for us to encourage and assist the beef industry. I support the honorable member in his remarks, and I add this: The Government must look closely at proposals for the development of this industry, and they should treat the matter as urgent. We cannot afford to wait for adverse seasonal conditions to overtake, as they have from time to time throughout our history, particularly as this is an industry that is making a valuable contribution towards increasing our export earnings. I therefore ask that priority be given to developmental projects to assist the cattle industry.

I feel sure that the people of Australia will not be misled by the-

Mr Bowden - Ranting?

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE - We could use that word - they will not be misled by the ranting and muddled thinking that has been displayed by honorable members of the Opposition during this debate. The people have had experience of their radical socialistic approaches to our economic problems, and they will never forget those experiences. As time goes on I am sure that the people will realize that our approach is the right one, and that it will be in the best interests of everybody. True it is that some people will be adversely affected. Whatever measures are introduced, somebody must be adversely affected. We believe, however, that the overall objectives of these measures will be achieved, and that they will be in the interests of Australia and all of its people.

I leave it st that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask the people who have listened to this debate to try to analyse the situation. In fact, I think they have already done so. I have directed attention to the hazy thinking that is indulged in by the Opposition, the alternative government - and I have demonstrated that it does not know where it is going. Its members have not a common approach to the matter. I feel sure that the average person who has listened to the debate will agree that the Opposition has merely drawn a smoke screen over its own internal troubles, and that it is merely seeking to divert attention from them to the economic situation and to make whatever party political capital it can out of that situation.

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