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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr PETERS (Scullin) .- The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to-day made a statement that would startle every adult Australian if its implications were fully understood by them. He said that arrangements had been made to draw £78,000,000 from the International Monetary Fund and that other arrangements had been made for a stand-by credit of £45,000,000, to remain in operation for a year. He said that we could then, if necessary, apply for a further credit of £88,000,000. At no place in his statement did he mention that these are loans that will have to be repaid with interest. That, of course, is the startling thing in connexion with the amounts of £78,000,000, £45.000,000 and £88,000,000.

This year, the Government has borrowed £25,000,000 in London, £6,100,000 in Switzerland and £11,900,000 in Canada. Its total borrowings overseas during the last few months, inclusive of the last £78,000,000, are £121,000,000. Interest and repayments will amount to several million pounds annually. What are these loans for? I have asked the Treasurer whether they are for the purpose of purchasing specific goods with the object of developing Australia and, if so, what those goods are. I have asked also whether the loans are for the purpose of helping to restore our overseas funds. The Treasurer has said that the loans are for general purposes. Of course, they are intended to provide overseas funds in place of those which the economic policy of the Government has failed to safeguard.

The Government is putting back the day of reckoning, but that day of reckoning, owing to the means by which it is being delayed, will be much worse in its effect on Australia when it inevitably arrives. The Government has reached the position that all spendthrifts reach. It is borowing to pay its debts. That is exactly what is involved in borrowing to replace our overseas funds. On 12th April the Treasurer told me that our annual payments on loans amounted to about £48,000,000. He had already told me that our obligations in respect of investments from overseas amounted to £58,000,000 a year. Together with the additional amounts that will be payable overseas as a result of these further loans, we will have to send overseas over £100,000.000 annually. Unless our imports are rapidly and immensely reduced, further loans will be required.

The arrangements for what the Treasurer has called a " stand-by credit " of £45,000,000, made by one of our officers with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, is in reality an arrangement to borrow another £45,000,000. Why have we made that arrangement, and why have we arranged to have another £88,000,000 available to draw on? These amounts will be drawn because nothing has been done to remedy the position of our overseas funds, which are not mounting. They should be increasing, but they are not. They are being recouped by moneys coming into this country in the form of investment from overseas.

Mr Aston - I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in anticipating discussion of a matter which is the subject of an item on the notice-paper?

Mr SPEAKER - The .honorable member is in order.

Mr PETERS - We are suffering from grave disabilities, but the Government, instead of taking action to get rid of them, is increasing them. A person who goes to a usurer in order to get money to meet his current commitments because his income is insufficient to meet them is putting himself into greater difficulties. That is the position, of course, with this Government. It is faced with the task of reducing imports into this country. It has to do that if it is to safeguard our overseas funds and get rid of the necessity for continued borrowing and for inducing at all costs overseas investment, not in industries that will develop this country, but in undertakings that will bring immense profits to overseas exploiters. Those are the things that face the Government at the present time.

The Government, of course, is always only too willing to give opportunities for lengthy discussion of conditions in Indonesia or of the bringing of liberty to the people of the Congo. It believes in freedom in places as far away as Paris, but in Australia itself when an opportunity is sought to discuss economic conditions that . have been created by this Government and will enslave our children's children, not only is discussion stifled but the Government deliberately introduces propositions in such a way that the people of this country cannot thoroughly understand them. If this Government were acting in the interests of our country it would specify the purpose for which it proposed to raise loans. It would ensure that the moneys coming into this country were used, as the Japanese ensure that moneys coming into their country are used, for the development of the country and the improvement of the standards of living and conditions of the people, and not merely to provide huge profits from local industries to be expended in other countries.

So, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the Government should set aside at least one day, before the end of the present sessional period, for a discussion of overseas loans, their purpose, and their effect upon our economy.

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