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Thursday, 19 November 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) - "We have, at last, some evidence of the fact that a Minister of State has been doing something to arrange trade treaties. For that we are glad. We are not sure that the value of the treaty achieved is commensurate with the expenditure incurred by the honorable gentleman during his travels abroad on this job. 1 noticed in a report published in a trade newspaper that it was expected that this treaty would have been concluded and in operation by the 1st January of this year - not next year. J have not had an opportunity to peruse this treaty in detail, but I understand that we cannot amend it; we must either accept it or reject it; and, as is usual in matters of this kind, it would be wiser to accept it than to attempt to reject it. I should like to point out, however, that despite the trade treaties and bilateral agreements, and all the rest of the jargon that is in popular use to-day, absolutely no attempt whatever has been made by this Government to face fundamental facts. Earlier this evening, with some other honorable senators, I listened to an account of a congress which took place in Europe, at which, in one committee room, representatives of agricultural countries were trying to make arrangements to market their products in industrial countries, each, however, being determined to foster its own industries, so that it might not require anything from industrial countries, whilst in another committee room representatives of industrial countries were deciding to sell their goods to agricultural countries, although determined, all the time, to grow all the agricultural products they could. There is an utter failure on the part of the Government to recognize that it cannot continue to carry on with its present entirely unscientific attempts to regulate trade. We hear much talk of favorable and unfavorable trade balances. This is more or less a fallacy; we may have an unfavorable trade balance with one country and a favorable balance with another, and the net result is a complete balance. Thus, after all is said and done, there is nothing much in the argument that we have a favorable, or unfavorable, trade balance with a particular country. Imperialism demands the exploitation of the natural products of Cbe weaker countries for the benefit of the stronger countries. That process is going on to-day, and will continue so long as the present order of society lasts with its industrial exploitation of weaker individuals by stronger individuals and of weaker countries by stronger countries. For instance, we have had legislation brought down to enforce trade sanctions against a country but we found that those sanctions were being only partially enforced, or enforced to a very minor degree, except in respect of the things that did not matter ; despite our legislation and administration the offending country was -still receiving the commodities that mattered to it, and was not worrying about the things which did not count to any great extent in its national economy.

This bill is largely one for consideration in committee. The Opposition does not intend to oppose it. It is the responsibility of the Government which has made the treaty. However, I stress this note of warning : Whatever the tariff concessions that are being given to Czechoslovakia under this bill, whatever the advantages we hope to get in return - they will be, to a large extent, imaginary - because that country takes some of our products, as it must, in payment for what it sends to us, the fact must not be forgotte'n that such an arrangement must result in displacing workmen in Australian secondary industries. Imports, which destroy the market for similar goods locally produced, must inevitably damage our manufacturers, and eventually we have to resort to reprisals, as has been done against one country recently.

Senator Hardy - Does the honorable senator believe in one-way traffic?

Senator COLLINGS - Senator Hardy, with his capacity for throwing spanners into the works, thinks he makes many brilliant suggestions, but that interjection was so fatuous that I am perhaps dignifying it unduly by taking notice of it. However, I reply to him by saying that eventually, as the result of trade policies of this kind, a certain condition of affairs will be forced upon the world - and it will not be while the present Government is in control of this country - under which there will be international freetrade ; each country will produce only the things it is best able to produce, and in friendly 'barter will exchange them for goods which other countries are best able to produce. Until that ideal state of affairs is brought nearer - and it can only happen when this Government is displaced by a government of a different political colour - it is the duty of this Opposition, representing, as we do, both the workers and the working primary producers of this country - not those engaged in farming the farmers, the Sussex-street primary producers - to protect the people of Australia while this Government continues its unscientific and piecemeal attempts to regulate trade. I am certain that it is not possible to solve our economic problems by proceeding on the lines followed by the present Government. No doubt we shall go on muddling through in the manner characteristic of the British race until eventually we encounter an economic depression so severe that we shall fail to emerge from it, a depression in comparison with which the one just past will seem a mere circumstance. We shall go on from boom to depression for a certain time, but we must, on each occasion, inevitably descend to increasing depths of depression. Therefore, the people should make up their minds to change the present

Government, and the present economic system, so that a better order of affairs may be brought about.

Senator Dein - The honorable senator is an optimist.

Senator COLLINGS - I would rather be an optimist than a pessimist like Senator Dein. The honorable senator's interjection reminds me of the definitions of pessimist and optimist, to the effect that the pessimist - like Senator Dein - is a man who sees difficulty in every opportunity, whereas the optimist - like myself - sees opportunity in every difficulty. We recognize that the Government sees the difficulties in the way of international trade; but, instead of seeking a scientific remedy for them, it is prepared to accept a partial solution on the principle that it will probably see its turn out, anyway. The Opposition does not believe in that. I understand that it is not competent for this Parliament to amend the agreement now before us; that we may merely accept it or reject it as a whole. At least, however, we can criticize it, even though we do not go so far as to vote against it.

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