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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2095

Mr UREN (Reid) - The estimates before the Committee are probably among the most important we have to discuss. They are important because they control our balance of payments and if one examines the deficit on the balance of the current account during the period 1950-51, when this Government first took office, to 1969-70 one will note that the deficit in the balance of the current account is some $9,078m. There has been a further deficit in the past financial year of $ 1,000m. In other words, we have had a deficit in the balance of the current account in the last 21 years of over $ 10,000m. The reason for this, of course, is that we have imported more goods than we have exported and a good deal of those goods we have imported have been paid for in uncontrolled and unplanned foreign investment. We have had to pay for a great deal of our invisibles and the invisibles have covered such things as insurance owned by overseas monopolies, which the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) pointed out, the overseas shipping companies, the shipping freights and, of course, the great outflow of dividends on foreign investment in this country as well as the imbalance of tourism.

We have a young and energetic Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), the Leader of the Australian Country Party, whose predecessor, Sir John McEwen, said in April 1963 - I do not know whether it is a famous or infamous statement - 'that we are selling a bit of the farm every year'. At that stage we had something like a $5,000m-odd deficit in the balance of payments. Now, of course, it is more than double that. In other words, the deficit has actually been accentuated. In the last 5 years we have had a deficit in the balance on current account with the United Kingdom of $2,892m and with the United States of more than $3,000m. In other words, instead of the problem being solved it is becoming greater every year. The overall position of the deficit in the balance on the current account with the United Kingdom during the period 1950-51 to 1969-70 was more than $7,000m and with the United States during this period it was more than $6,500m - a combined total of more than $ 13,500m and yet during this period our overall deficit was only S9,000m. In other words, we have had credits of more than $4,500m with countries such as Japan, the People's Republic of China, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and East European countries.

Be that as it may, this debt has to be paid and it has been paid for with the loss of our national heritage. Some of those who have invested in this country have received up to 600 per cent return on their original investment. In order to make my case clear to honourable members and those people who may care to examine these astronomical figures, with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following table:


Anybody looking at that table will be able to see the growth pattern and the cost to Australia of this uncontrolled and unplanned foreign investment which is eating the heart and soul out of this country. I want to turn quickly to the aspect of tourism. Tourism is a growing industry and is the direct responsibility of the Minister for Trade and Industry. It has been under his control for many years. We in the Labor Party feel that it should be taken out of the area of trade and related to decentralisation because while most rural industries are failing tourism is one industry which could possibly create regional growth. I was recently at the Gold Coast with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) looking at tourism and I have no doubt that many people in that area with initiative are capable of earning a good deal of foreign exchange. It is something of which Australia should be proud. But the Gold Coast does have problems and one of these relates to the lack of tax concessions for depreciation on buildings. We know that this would probably be a difficult question for the taxation people to assess but I consider that this could be overcome with the institution of a zone allowance. The Gold Coast could be dealt with as a zone for purposes of a depreciation allowance. If we are to maintain and increase the high standard of hotels and motels on the Gold Coast and in other parts of Australia in order to keep up with the standards required not only by tourists from within Australia but also by international visitors this question of depreciation must be considered. To give honourable members some idea of the magnitude of the tourist trade, since 1960 we have been on the wrong side of the budget to the tune of $565m, and this despite the United States rest and recuperation visitors coming to this country from Vietnam. Yet, according to the figures made available to me by the Legislative Research Section of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, without these rest and recuperation visitors we would have had a tourist deficit of something like $665m. We know that with the cessation of the Vietnam war rest and recuperation leave will end and this will probably make our deficit on the balance of current account even worse than it is now. So I ask that some immediate consideration be given to areas such as the Gold Coast: so they can maintain their standards and be encouraged to raise their standards in order to increase the number of international visitors. Again so that I may be able to show the magnitude of this deficit regarding tourism, with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate a further table in Hansard.


To return to the question of the Gold Coast, the ratepayers of that area face the responsibility of creating facilities and services on something like 20-odd miles of beaches from Coolangatta to Southport. I feel that if the Commonwealth Grants Commission could look into the problems of the smaller States it could examine the problems of some of our tourist areas. The Labor Party believes that the Grants Commission should make money available for the building of facilities on these beaches because every Australian and even international visitors use these beaches and it should not be the ratepayers of the Gold Coast who have to meet the expense of building and servicing the facilities. We in the Labor Party believe that there has to be a radical change in financing not only the Gold Coast but many other tourist areas throughout Australia. The Commonwealth Government should assist these people to raise the standard of those facilities which have to be made available and also maintain essential services so that the problems facing the local ratepayers will be eased.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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