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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 2041


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I was glad to hear the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) raise the question of religious persecution because very serious religious persecution is occurring in the world. Now that an Australian delegation has gone to Communist China perhaps we could ask the members of that delegation to look at what happened in Tibet where religious persecution was accompanied by wholesale genocide, where the Dalai Lama, the religious leader of the country, is in exile and where that country is still being closed by its Chinese overlords to any visit by observers from democratic nations. I hope that the fine sentiments expressed by the honourable member in regard to an African country will find more coherent and cogent expression in regard to Communist China. Now that an Australian delegation is to visit that country, surely we can ask members of the delegation - 1 am sure that the honourable member for Hunter will be writing to his friends in that delegation; the air mail is available to him - to make inquiries about religious persecution in Communist China and particularly religious persecution of the Tibetan people.

I would like to raise a matter which deals with the same kind of subject; although it is more on the economics side it is more related to Australia. 1 see in today's Press that the Chinese communists are putting up the prices of their exports. In a way this is perhaps a good thing because it will mean that the products of sweated labour will not have the same capacity to throw Australian workers out of their jobs and ruin Australian industry. On the other hand, when wages are low and the extra super profits are being used, the workers are being exploited by the Chinese state. When wages are low, as a consequence one of 2 things must be true. Either products of sweated labour will be dumped here and elsewhere throughout the world at cheap prices or e'se the Chinese state, exploiting its own workers as so many communist states do - this is a matter of express and general communist policy - will be taking what I think Lenin called super profits from these unhappy factors of production.

The Australian delegation to China will be led by the trusted friend of everybody in this House - the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns). He is particularly concerned with these economic matters and this is one of the prime things at which he should be looking. I feel that we should be asking him and his delegation specifically to bring us back a factual report about communist Chinese wages. How much is paid to the people who are making the articles which we are to import from Communist China? What is their wage level? I am not suggesting that we should get from him anything more than a factual report. When we have an economic delegation going to Communist China, surely the most important thing that it should bring back to us is the facts.

Surely the most important fact which every Australian worker will want to know from the delegation is what is the Communist Chinese wage level, because the products made by cheap sweated labour are in competition with him, his products and his wage level. What is being paid to these people who are making goods which will be imported into Australia? Are they being exploited? Should we be living on the products of sweated labour, or if the goods are to be increased in price - apparently, if the newspaper report is to be trusted, the Communist Chinese State now proposes to make J 00 per cent superprofit out of the sweated labour of its workers - surely we should know something about it.

I put this up to the Government. The Government says it represents the Australian workers. Therefore., the Government should be specifically interested in those things which might tend to depress, through its cheap imports, the standard of living of the Australian working man. I put this suggestion to the Government constructively. I ask the Government now to send instructions to the economic delegation that we now have in Communist China to find out what the wage levels are and to bring back a factual report. Do not let us try to prejudge the issue. Let us just see what the wages are and get a factual report. When we have the facts we can consider what policy we should undertake in regard to them. I believe that in the past it has been difficult to find out what has been going on in Communist China, which does not have quite an open Government, if I may use that phrase. But now that we. have a delegation going there, this information is something from which we can learn and which the Chinese can give us. 1 know the Government will feel that this is something that should be done. I make the suggestion to the Government now. However, I ask honourable members opposite whether they would prefer me, perhaps next week, to move a motion in the House so this could come as an instruction to the delegation from this whole House and not just from the Government. The Government might well feel embarrassed in relation to its new Chinese communist friends if it had to take on its own single initiative something like this. But the Government's position perhaps would be stronger if it had an instruction from this House. So I ask the Government which course it would prefer. Would it prefer now to send its own governmental instructions to the deputation or would it prefer to have the House debate this matter next week so that the House could give the Government instructions to see that the requisite factual information was obtained, brought back to Australia and made available to us in our consideration of policy?







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