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Tuesday, 9 May 1972
Page: 1443

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - Mr President, any doubts that I might have had about the ambit of the matter proposed for discussion today were dispelled by the definition of it submitted by Senator Jessop. He spoke about what I would call a feasibility study by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) or the Cabinet. Such a feasibility study would be one of many, many projects, even Senate select committee investigations, which have resulted in most effective reports being brought down about which nothing happens. On the other extreme, Senator Kane in advancing his case delved into Latin American politics. In fact, I thought that it was most courageous of him to deal with Chile. As a matter of fact, he could even have gone back to the previous government in Chile which was more of a Christian Democrat character as distinct from a socialist government, although I know that there are degrees of socialism.

The fact of the matter is that we can read interesting studies of the previous government of Chile led by Frei. Those studies point out that, when he took office, various American oil companies anticipated that they probably would need to make a gesture because of the greater nationalism that follows the advent of a new government that is more to the left, whether it be in Australia or Latin America, and re-negotiate all their agreements. While most of the discussions here have been on share transfers, I believe that the core of the situation concerns the operations of the big ventures, the big international capitalist enterprises, which have their tentacles in Australia. I do not object to them being here, but I say that we should dictate to them as to the ramifications of their activities here.

South America may be an indication of the situation because many countries of South America were subject to uncontrolled British or United States capital investment. Honourable senators may say: Well, the people have an opportunity to exercise, their right at the ballot box'. To take it a little further, we could say that in Australia, through the avenue of the Statute of Westminster, we certainly did achieve political democracy. But I question whether we still have not a form of economic serfdom. In fact, there is no question about that because how often do we find that even companies that are predominantly Australian spurn government policy. Honourable senators must have short memories if they do not recall that, in spite of the cajoling of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd told them to go jump in the lake. Yet, to be quite honest, I must say that the Government can get even with that company and any other big company if its operations are based in Australia. But the fact of the matter is that the Government does not have the same control over the big operators which have their main offices in London or Washington. It is on that point that I am not one who is prepared to accept the views of Senator Cotton and to a lesser degree, Senator Jessop on this idea of a feasibility study and the Government indicating to big business that it must adopt a different attitude.

We cannot get away from the situation that exists today. I believe that it is this situation that inhibits Government thinking. The Government does not believe that it should turn the screws or argue with overseas investors to obtain better deals. I believe that State Premiers, no matter to what party they belong, and also the Commonwealth Government, could obtain better terms. It does not matter whether it is Bass Strait oil specifically or royalties overall that are being dealt with.

We differ from the Government in this respect: The Government says that a Labor government would frighten capital away. I say that we would welcome it on our terms. What do we find invariably when we talk to United States businessmen? Recently, I spoke to representatives of the Nabalco company. I do not believe that they think that the Australian Labor Party is a party characterised by something with horns and a tail. One has only to talk to such businessmen to see that if they were required to negotiate across the table with tougher negotiators Australia would achieve better terms in respect of their investments. But the Government is inhibited because it believes that such action will jeopardise our stature, our treaties or defence commitments. That is absolute rubbish.

In his thesis, Senator Kane spoke about Chile. I invite honourable senators to look at the situation with respect to Bolivia. I see Senator Laucke looking appreciatively at me across the chamber because he knows of the recent talks that I had with the representatives of the Nabalco company. I questioned them very closely on Bolivia. I said: 'In Bolivia there are revolutions. There have been various governments well to the left of the types of governments found in Australia. But you still have your investments in Bolivia'. Their reply is: 'Of course. Tin mining is pretty profitable'. I put it to the Government that it need not have any fears about turning the screws on these overseas enterprises operating in Australia. They would come to the party. They would still be with us.

The danger in this respect - again, Senator Kane hinted at this - is: How far will such a company interfere in a country's Internal operations at election time? One of the ironical features of this situation is that overseas companies did sabotage the Frei Government in Chile and the government that followed it was further to the left. I do not know what analogy can be drawn between what happened in Chile and what might happen in Australia. It may be a warning to big business. I hope that it will be. Usually in such a situation we find that if reforms are not accepted the pendulum swings out of alignment completely. That is the basis on which I approach this matter.

Whilst it is true that America and Britain have been our allies in conflicts of war, when it comes to peacetime activities those countries are rightly concerned with their own affairs. In considering the history of relations between Australia and the United States, I think of the ultramilitancy adopted by Senator Lillico and Senator Lawrie in relation to American trade policies which affected sections of our rural industries. Those honourable senators had every right to adopt that stand. There is no question but that I applaud them for it. But they do not seem to be able to rationalise that approach with what is proposed when we seek a little more uniform policy regarding the overall situation. Honourable senators opposite want to deal with these matters on a sectional basis. We will not have that.

The more one moves around, and the more one talks to people overseas about such controversies, the more one appreciates what does happen. I spoke to people at the headquarters of the European Common Market organisation in Brussels. On the subject of the Common Market debate, they blandly told me that it was only by an amalgamation of European nations that they were able to stand against the huge economic strength nor merely of the

United State, for that matter, of the Soviet Union and some of the other Eastern bloc countries. If we do not accept that argument, we are beholden to the attitude that if we speak up too loudly we will be victimised.

Probably most honourable senators received recently in the mail some material submitted by the Maltese High Commission. If ever the actions of a country should teach lesson to Australia, the actions of the little island of Malta should. Malta played what we might call a game cf brinkmanship. It flirted with one Middle Eastern country and then a very heated scene took place across the negotiating table with British Prime Minister Edward Heath and Lord Carrington, who is known to many people in Australia. Malta also had discussions with China. What was the outcome? Malta obtained a better deal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation powers and, on top of that, gained a bonus from continental China. This is what that small country was able to achieve. I have not seen the day in recent years when Australia has been able to do anything worth while in this respect.

One of the classic commercial ventures on which I indict this Government - it is one of the reasons why I have little confidence in it - was initiated in 1963 when the then Minister for Defence, at. the behest of Prime Minister Menzies, signed an agreement for Australia to purchase the Fill. When we contrast the lack of escape clauses in that agreement with what Malta negotiated with Britain, we see that it was a pretty sorry day for Australia when the Fill contract was signed. When we go overseas on trade missions, somewhere along the line Foreign Ministers of recent governments say: 'This is the line that you must follow and away from which you must not step'. One more of less feels that Australia will be left defence naked if that line is not followed.

Whatever criticism I make of the United States or the United Kingdom governments on economic grounds - these remarks apply to any other group - should be kept separate from other matters. I instance discussions that I have had with various European diplomats who have been here. Mark you, I applaud this Government for the series of trade agreements that it has entered into with Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania and other Eastern bloc countries. Talking to those people on their trade expeditions when they are trying to deal with Britain on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other, one finds that they seem to be able to walk an economic tightrope. That is one of the reasons why I support this proposal. I have no confidence in feasibility studies unless some positive action is taken. I repeat that international capitalism looks at economic matters very cold-bloodedly. If it must deal with governments to the far left or to the far right, it accommodates its attitudes accordingly.

It is probably equally true that honourable members opposite try to identify propositions that are radical and progressive - I think that this is always in the back of Senator Jessop's mind - with some leftist plot that they believe exists. When Senator Kane almost equated a country being in economic serfdom with the results of the activities of big business, I agreed with him. But the whole situation seems to be that the Government is afraid that if it goes too far it will be left out in the economic wilderness. We know that undoubtedly there is a place for foreign capital in many fields.

I give notice - the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) is aware of this - that during the, adjournment debate tonight I shall be dealing with a matter involving the Northern Territory. I shall give a classic illustration of an overseas boardroom which seems to know more about Australian policy in a particular field than we do in this Senate. I pass on from that matter. I believe that if this motion does nothing for the various agreements which may be negotiated at a private or government level it is indicative of the fears of the people as a whole. I do not regard it as being concerned with any gigantic takeovers or nationalisation. It reflects a resurgence of genuine Australian nationalism. Nobody likes to be sold short. The fact of the matter is that our chickens are coming home to roost. I have been waiting about 6 weeks for the. Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) to make up his mind about the stupid policy which has resulted because we are exporting wool to Japan. We have become involved in the construction of ore wagons for northern Australia when people here ii the rolling stock and metal trades section have been dismissed.

Then we went to the other extreme. ! know that our balance of trade with Canada does not mean very much but we have more or less mortgaged our rolling stock industry to Canada. These are basic things. I repeat that this is a situation in which we should not have inhibitions. It is not going to rupture our relations with some of the countries which we term om powerful friends. I say to honourable senators opposite: Your powerful friends - rightly - are not overly concerned when their own economic interests are involved. This is on all fours with the observation which I made about the hard line attitude of the United States of America in regard to our meat trade. Senator Lawrie has taken a very militant attitude - for which I applaud him - on this matter. But on the other hand look at the disenchantment which permeated the higher echelons of the Australian Country Party when it was found that if the European Common Market was good for Britain she was going in. I do not quarrel with the Government in Westminster for making this decision. But I say to honourable senators opposite that I can remember when Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister of Great Britain. A lot of members of the Country Party would go to their electorates and say: 'Look, if we get a non-

We say that we cannot separate our foreign policy from trade. Whatever plans the Government tries to evolve for the wheat growers, honourable senators know as well as I do that Canada got the inside running as far as trade with China in wheat is concerned. In effect we have the worst of 2 worlds. The Government has bandied around its foreign policy. It let Canada outwit it as far as wheat was concerned. On the other hand honourable senators opposite seem to feel that in a commercial world the text of this motion means that if the Government shows a little bit of muscle these people are going to be frightened. There is nothing like that at all in this motion. Let us be real about the. situation, lt may be that sometimes Australians are too apathetic. But. after all. governments change. It is not a matter of battles in the streets and machine guns. If American and British capitalists can live with all the revolution that goes on in Latin American countries 1 am sure that despite any action which is visualised here overseas investors will come back and we will receive far better terms in many commercial takeovers or even partnerships than we have in the last 5 years.

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