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Friday, 15 November 1935

Senator COLLINGS - This article deals with poultry and pigs, which are meat. I am pointing out that GreatBritain gives Australia nothing for nothing. Australia has granted to Great Britain a substantial measure of preference for a, quarter of a century, and is still giving that preference. As Britain's third best customer Australia has a right to demand a full share of Empire trade.

Senator Hardy - The honorable senator said that it is a cold matter-of-fact bargain.

Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator reminds me of a bad boy at school who does not intend to be satisfied. My enthusiasm is wasted on him. On the 3rd and 4th December, 1934, a conference convened by the present Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) was held in Canberra, and was attended by a number of distinguished representatives from the several States. Addressing the conference, Dr. Earle Page said -

The policy of Great Britain in regard to. the restoration of British agriculture and the protection of British farmers ought not of itself prevent the expansion of Australian agriculture and pastoral development because of the enormous consuming capacity of the British people, which has made the English market the greatest agricultural market in the world. Unfortunately, however, Britain has entered into commitments with foreign countries which have limited her immediate capacity to absorb the whole of out production, notably meat because of her commitments with Argentine, and butter because of her commitments with Denmark and other European countries. We feel, however, that we must resist with all our strength the restriction of our exports' into the markets of the British Empire and the English market in particular. If we cannot sell freely in the English market, we shall not bo able to pay interest on the money which has been lent to us for developing and expanding agriculture; nor win we bo able to buy in the world's best market for such commodities the machinery and equipment necessary to enable us to carry on the policy for which the money was lent.

As I have already said, for the next eighteen months Britain is bound to a- large degree to suit her policy to the fact that she is tied up with a number of international agreements which involve the marketing by foreign countries in Britain of various products similar to those in which Australia specializes. If Britain had freedom of action to-day and was insisting on restricting our exports, there i; no doubt that we would have seriously to consider whether we would not have to abandon our natural and proper policy of progressive development of our own resources, and provide employment for our own people by following out at home the same policies that were being imposed on us from abroad.

There is no equivocation in that statement, which was made by the leader of the party to which Senator Hardy belongs. Yet Senator Hardy tries to discredit my statement that, while recognizing Britain's right to develop its home market, Australia must demand an everincreasing share of the British import trade.

Senator Hardy - That is what tha Country party stands for and what the bill provides.

Senator COLLINGS - Dr. EarlePage went on to say -

Were we forced by British restriction to this point, it would involve the abandonment by Australia of her .efforts to establish a sane policy of encouragement of economic industries and, by means of prohibitions and other restrictions, however uneconomic the policy or means, to provide for our total requirements internally.

Such a policy I believe no Australian government has any desire to follow, but there are only two alternatives before us - either to expand by developing progressively our natural and economic industries, or to set about developing our unnatural and uneconomic industries. If Ave are forced by world policies to abandon the first, that we shall bo obliged, willy-nilly, to consider adopting the second.

Yet if I say the same things, my remarks, if not received with ribald laughter, are subjected to criticism, by way of interjection, by honorable senators, who should be better equipped mentally than to be guilty of such offences. In quoting the following extracts from a reputable Melbourne journal - one of the greatest daily newspapers in Australia - I do not tear sentences from their context or draw deductions : -

The annual conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce was opened to the accompaniment of the always lofty and sagacious eloquence of the Governor-General. Subsequent speeches relating more specifically co conference business were, however, in certain instances somewhat disfigured by statements which challenge analysis. The main thesis was expressed in such phrases as " The tremendous assistance that Britain gave to Australia in her time of crisis", and "the part Great Britain had played iu helping to bring us safely through the depression ".

Senator Payne - Prom what newspaper is the honorable -senator quoting?

Senator COLLINGS - I have quoted from the Melbourne Age, of the 23rd January, 1935, a newspaper for which, I am sure, Senator Payne has profound respect. The Age continued -

In the interests of truth, it is desirable to review such assertions. There is, of course, a type of spurious Australian whose" patriotism consists solely of a spirit of subordination to everything British. The validity of any argument, the accuracy of any statement, is discounted if it seems to fall short of blind approval of every phase of British policy.

I have not said anything so strong as that this morning. I have merely said that we must understand that Australia's relations with Great Britain are on a business basis, and that Australia has the right to demand a quid pro quo from the Mother Country.

Senator Hardy - Such a policy would bring disaster to Australia.

Senator COLLINGS - I continue my quotation from the Agc -

For 25 years she granted Britain preferences amounting at times to £10,000,000 annually without receiving or seeing any reciprocity. . . . During the ten-year period 1922-32, Britain bought from us £472,000,000: we bought from her £537,000,000 . . . Since the Ottawa agreement was signed, Britain has made repeated attempts to have some of our staple exports restricted . . . Britain's annual food bill is approximately £510,000,000. Of that amount, Britain herself provides -some £220,000,000, the dominions supply £120;000,000, and the foreigner £170,000,000. And yet, during the above mentioned decennium, Britain bought from Argentina £434,000,000 more than she sold her; with Denmark, she had an adverse trade balance of £410,000,000; with Australia, she -had a favourable balance of £05,000,000 . . Britain does not buy one pound of Austraiian butter, one pound of Australian meat, beyond what she finds she needs, and, as the foregoing figures prove, she prefers the imports of the .foreigner.

This is not the statement of a wild-eyed Labour supporter or of any member of this Opposition, but of a reputable antiLabour journal which is one of the biggest newspapers in Australia.

Senator Sampson - It is as near to Labour as it can go.

Senator COLLINGS - At any rate the Labour party has a lot of grievances against it. I have endeavoured to emphasize that I "believe in trade within the Empire, that' we must develop that policy, and that we must recognize the tremendous difficulties under which Great Britain laboured during the last war when it learned for the first time in its history that it was utterly dependent for food supplies on countries situated a long distance away. Because of this, Britain proceeded to put its own house in order, and all it has done in this respect since the Great "War has been to that end. We should always try to understand the other fellow's point of view. That is my attitude in this chamber; I would be much more severe in my criticism of honorable senators opposite if I did not try to put myself in their place, realizing that they have -a case although it may be only a case of sorts. Whilst we admit that Britain must increase -its capacity to produce its own food requirements, but when it is still unable to supply all its own needs, we have a right to demand .that, because of our loyalty to the Mother Country and the preference we give it over foreign countries, we should receive an ever expanding share of British trade.

This bill is mainly a machinery measure to give effect to the need, which the Government recognizes, for the control of .the meat export trade of this country. It embodies the general principle of collective action as applied to the control of primary production and export. The Opposition will support the bill, which, of course, will he carried. We may Iki ve something to say on different clauses in committee in an endeavour to improve the hill, hut we agree with its general principle.

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