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Wednesday, 1 May 1957

Mr WILSON (STURT, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, I do not think it is chronic, but } think that the Opposition's attitude' is completely defeatist and pessmistic. It shows a complete lack of faith in the people of Australia and in Australia's outlook for the future to say that we cannot produce and export enough of our products to enable us to pay for all the imports we reasonably require. The facts are that in the last seven months, while the Minister for Trade has been devoting his energies to increasing our exports, we have proved that an active trade policy can improve our trade tremendously - in those seven months by an increase of £107,000,000 in value. I venture to forecast that, by the end of June this year, our export trade will have improved in value by £250,000,000 in comparison with the value of exports for the year ended 30th June, 1956. It is said to be dangerous to make forecasts. Last December I made a forecast, based on reasonable inquiries, as to what our trade would be up to the present time. My estimates have proved to be correct.

We can produce goods. We can sell them. But one of the reasons why, in the past, our export trade has lagged is that we have had no need to export secondary goods. Our manufacturers have been able to sell all their production within Australia and, from the point of view of ease and comfort, who worries about an export market when he has a market at his doorstep willing to absorb all that he can produce? So, during the last few years, there has never been the stir and the impetus for our manufacturers to produce for export. Since the Minister for Trade and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have pointed out to manufacturers that unless they export they will not be able to import their requirements, the manufacturers and the businessmen of Australia have turned their minds to exports.' For example, there is not the slightest doubt that General MotorsHolden's Limited could export millions of pounds worth of Holdens in excess of its present exports. That company has proved that its product is of a high quality and that its price is such that it can be sold in many other countries. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has proved that it can produce better and cheaper steel than any other country. Would any one suggest that Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited could not export more steel if the whole of its production, or substantially the whole of its production, were not absorbed "by the Australian market? Would anybody suggest that Imperial Chemical Industries

Limited could not export more drugs and other products of that nature? Of course we can export a substantially increased volume of goods compared with our present exports! Now that the need to export exists, we are turning to it and doing the job.

I commend the Minister for Trade for the work he has done generally in promoting our trade throughout the world. He has had a particularly difficult job to do in relation to the trade agreement with the United Kingdom. Those of us who know the British businessman know that he is probably the most efficient businessman in the world. In other respects he is the toughest. It would be wishful thinking for us to imagine that all that is necessary is to get on a ship or an aeroplane and go to Britain and be able to enter into an agreement with Great Britain to promote trade with us, unless that agreement also will assist Great Britain. The Minister has done an excellent job.

I believe that the greatest gain in this agreement is that our hands are now freer for negotiations with countries other than Great Britain. I think that, generally, Great Britain will buy our primary products if we can sell them as cheaply as any other country in the world sells them. If we cannot produce them and sell them cheaply, then I do not think that, in general, the people of Great Britain will be prepared to pay for such products from Australia a substantially higher price than they would have to pay for similar products from any other country. In that respect I am not referring to countries that subsidize their exports, because the British businessman is shrewd enough to know that a temporary advantage might prove to be a long-term disadvantage. Our primary industries must be able to sell their goods in competition with any other country and I believe that, in the main, they are able to do that. We can produce wool, and are producing wool, as cheaply as, or cheaper than, any other country in the world. That also applies to many other products, and I have no fear about the outlook for our .primary exports.

Now that the necessity exists, and now that the Australian market is about satisfied, Australian manufacturers have to look for fresh markets in order to be able to dispose of their production. The trend of the last nine months shows that our exports of manufactured goods have been increasing month by month. I know of many industries which have never before given a thought to exports because they had no need to do so but which are now turning their minds to export markets. For example, at the present time we are exporting large quantities of leather and we could export much more if only we could get sufficient hides. The quality of our leather has been proved to be equal to that of any other country. I could mention one industry after another and point out the possibilities that exist for overseas markets.

I suggest to all honorable members that we should have faith in our country. Let us have faith in our ability to meet these problems as they arise. Merely because we get a temporary unbalance or, at a certain time, we import more than we export and our London funds fall to a low level, do not let us hold up our hands in desperation and say that there is no future, that we must impose import controls and reduce the standard of living of the people and the quality of goods available to them. Let us go forward with confidence and point out to the people that we need a certain volume of exports and, therefore, that we must produce a like volume of goods for export. I am certain that if an appeal is made to the people in the right way, the people will respond to it as they have done since the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade made an appeal twelve months ago.

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