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Wednesday, 16 March 1966

Mr IAN ALLAN (Gwydir) .- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) represents an electorate in the State of New South Wales. It is a fact that Sydney, in New South Wales, has the worst housing record in Australia. The main reason is that until last year New South Wales suffered under the rule of a Labour Government. That is the plain reason why the housing position in New South Wales is in its present difficult position. I repeat that New South Wales is the worst State and it is because a Labour administration in that State was in office for a period of some 20 years. The honorable member, like most honorable members on the Opposition side, devoted much of his time to speaking about the troops in Vietnam. The Australian troops in Vietnam have a saying " I'm all right Jack " and they apply it to the Australian Labour Party. They say that the Australian Labour Parry's slogan is " I'm all right Jack " because the Labour Party does not believe in fulfilling the obligations which Australia has entered into and which are its duty to fulfil as a great and powerful and wealthy nation in the Asian sphere. Australia is a very lucky country. It is a fortunate country. It has never been invaded and has never suffered a civil war. Spokesmen for the Opposition continue to refuse to recognise that other countries which do suffer vicissitudes of this nature need our help, our guidance and, at times, our military strength in order to put the situation right.

I was impressed by the speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) last Tuesday night. It was his first speech to this House as Prime Minister. I was especially impressed by the final words of his speech, which were -

We commit ourselves to the tasks ahead with enthusiasm, with our hard work and our devotion.

The Prime Minister is aided in this sincere statement by being the leader of a loyal band of supporters on this side of the House. He is aided by the goodwill of (he majority of the Australian people, by a highly efficient public administration and, not the least, by the fact that only recently the Vernon Committee has furnished a report to the Government on the economic state of the nation. The Vernon Committee's report was debated earlier in this session and I do not intend to devote much attention to it at the present time. I want to say simply that the importance of the Vernon Committee's report will be brought out when the Committee's findings are evaluated and criticised by the best academic brains in Australia. When we have a proper critical appraisal from these qualified people of the recommendations of the Vernon Committee, then we will have the best guidance possible for future courses of action in the direction of government policy in Australia.

It is quite obvious that certain sensitive matters do require close consideration and analysis. I refer particularly to the tariff and to our migration programme. One has a very strong and close bearing upon the other for this reason. In 1929 we had another committee which looked into a particular aspect of the Australian economy. That was the Brigden Committee which looked into the operation of the Australian tariff. It stated that the main advantage of a tariff in Australia was that it permitted the wealth earned by our exports of wool, wheat, meat and mineral products to be spread more widely through the community to allow us to diversify our industries and to build up a larger population. In recent times, as everyone knows, our terms of trade have gone against us and we have been able to maintain a favourable balance of trade only by importing capital from overseas.

It is my belief that we need far more overseas capital from countries which are exporters of capital than we have received so far. Last year we exported a certain number of goods and imported a certain number of goods and our deficit on current account was $784 million. Our capital inflow for the year was $490 million. That left us with a total deficit on current account of $294 million. That means that we are supporting our migration programme by the importation of capital from overseas. Unfortunately, owing to the operation of the tariff and its relationship with the migration programme, a great deal of that investment has gone into industries which do not add to the wealth of Australia. They in fact add to the number of houses that have been produced, the number of domestic appliances that have been produced and the number of goods that are used for domestic consumption, but they do not add to the productive wealth of Australia. What are we to do about this? Are we in fact to cut back our migration intake in order that we may devote more of our finances and more of our capital resources to the development of our productive resources in Australia, more to our defence effort and more to maintaining our standard of living? Or are we to invite more foreign capital to come into this country so that we can maintain our standard of living, so that we may maintain our importation of people with skills to build up our numbers and so that we may maintain our rate of development and our defence effort? I believe that that is our only course. Any other course of action would be disastrous to Australia because I have firm faith that Australia has resources which can be tapped only by a rapidly increasing population and a rapid increase in our wealth.

If we are compelled to import more capital, how do we go about getting it? We have double taxation agreements with the United Kingdom and the United States of America. We give investors from those countries the same privileges that accrue to our own domestic investors here in Australia, yet we need more capital than they are prepared to supply. I suggest that it is time we had a close look at arranging a double taxation agreement with Japan, our great trading partner, in order that that nation, which is a capital exporter at the present time, should be able to enter into joint ventures with Australian concerns and should be attracted towards Australia to help to develop some of the great natural resources of this country.

I suggest also that the States be advised of the value of inviting private financial institutions in other countries, particularly the United States of America and the United Kingdom, to embark upon the construction of public utilities in Australia. This is primarily a matter for the States. Each State has the opportunity to invite foreign capital to build toll roads, bridges and dams and to generate electricity on a franchise basis, as is done now in the United States. The private concerns would make a profit and after a due term would pass the asset to the State for the general use of the public free of cost. We have already done this in a very small way in Australia. The Hornibrook Highway in Brisbane was constructed in much the same manner. It is now a public undertaking; originally it belonged to a private concern. There is no reason at all to my mind why we should not augment our available capital, especially for this type of spending, by inviting private concerns, banking institutions and the like in other countries to come into Australia to help us to construct better communications, to help us to generate power and to help us to build dams and bridges on a franchise basis. We could then devote the resources that we have and that we can attract in other ways to more productive uses, and we would be able to maintain our high rate of immigration and our high rate of growth.

I urge the Prime Minister to bring this suggestion to the notice of the State Premiers when he meets them at the end of this session. I believe that only by bringing more capital into Australia can we guarantee to continue the rapid rate of growth that we have been able to sustain up to the present time. We must develop Australia fast. We must develop it in terms of quality. We must make Australia a strong and powerful nation. The populations of other countries are growing at a rate equal to or even faster than Australia's is. In relation to them, we will always be a small country. It is up to us here and now to develop Australia as quickly as possible and to make it strong so that it can stand on its own feet in the future, despite whatever threats may face it. I was impressed by the Prime Minister's expression of his confidence that our greatest years have yet to be. Those are my own sentiments.

Opposition members are interjecting. They criticise the Prime Minister's belief that our greatest years are yet to be. This is the attitude that is always adopted by the Opposition. It looks back and has always looked back to the depression years, to the old conscription years of 1916 and even further back. In the whole of its history, the Australian Labour Party has never looked forward. I am at this time attempting to look forward. I have made a suggestion which could be constructive and which could help us to make Australia a great and powerful nation, the greatest and the most powerful nation in the Asian sector. I put this suggestion sincerely, Mr. Speaker, through you to the House and to the Prime Minister. I suggest that the Prime Minister ask the Australian Loan Council at its next meeting to seek the introduction of private capital into Australia for the construction of public utilities on a franchise basis. This is a way of bringing capital into Australia that will not destroy Australian enterprise but will contribute to the wealth and power of Australia.

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