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Wednesday, 12 April 1961

Mr HAROLD HOLT -Th.e question raised by the. honorable gentleman covers some important tass of policy. The Government, as is known, pays a- subsidy on gold production. The purpose of that subsidy is not to increase our export earnings but to sustain activity in gold production, particularly among producers who do not operate on a highly profitable basis. The aim is to enable the carrying on of community life in the areas where the subsidy principally applies. The honorable gentleman appears to be suggesting that some policy line might be worked out whereby, as a result of a process of subsidizing gold for the earning of export income, we would be able to reduce the volume of loan moneys raised overseas, with the equivalent of interest payable on the loan moneys which would otherwise be raised overseas being considered as available for payment as a subsidy on gold production. Whilst I admire the honorable gentleman's ingenuity and his devotion to the electorate which he represents so faithfully in this Parliament, there is a very important issue of principle involved. My colleague, the Minister for Trade, would be more sensitive and perhaps better informed than I am on how far Australia could subsidize an item for export purposes without committing a breach of our international obligations. However, I undertake to give some study to the suggestion made by the honorable gentleman.I am unable at this point, however, to raise his hopes very high in regard to it.

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