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Tuesday, 8 March 1966

Australia has an expanding role to play in South East Asia and, indeed, in the world at large consistent with its growth in economic strength and the development of its natural resources. The growing influx of immigration, investment capital and official visitors, the substantial increase in tourism, all signify an increasing world interest in Australia and its growing stature.

Growing responsibilities carry with them enlarged obligations. Our three-year defence programme now in its first year of duration is one measure of our response to our obligations. In the four years between 1962 and 1966, the defence vote has doubled, from approximately $400 million to $800 million. Large forward commitments have been undertaken for new and improved equipment, for which substantial payments must be made as the Services arm themselves to meet the defence requirements of the future. But even a rapidly growing bill for defence expenditure is not the only way in which Australia's general external policy should find material expression.

Aid appropriations from our Budget totalled $114 million this year. This is more than nine times the amount given in the year before we took office. This is practical recognition of the needs of other countries for our assistance. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea, for which we have special responsibilities, remains the major recipient of our aid. Indeed, this is a commitment which Australia has been carrying alone. Australia played a pioneering role in the evolution of the Colombo Plan. Through this instrument we channel the largest component of Australian aid to Commonwealth and foreign countries, the amount this year being $12 million. Although we are a capital importing country our programmes of aid for overseas compare well in scale with those of other major donors of aid. We are currently spending about 0.6 per cent, of our gross national product on external aid. There are few donor countries which can match this record. We have joined the Asian Development Bank, on the basis of an Australian subscription of $US85 million. This is a substantial contribution quite disproportionate to our population and national wealth, even when compared with the subscriptions of major donors such 'is the United States and Japan. Our contribution reflects our willingness to play a significant part in promoting greater prosperity and security throughout the South East Asian area and our hope that this new instrument will play an increasingly significant part in that process.

We recently offered aid to India to a value of $8 million, principally in the form of food, as a contribution towards meeting the critical shortages occurring there. We believe that much remains to be done by the international community to alleviate hunger problems of this kind, and we are doing what we can to stimulate a willingness on the part of industrialised as well as other food producing countries to join in helping the less favoured and less developed countries of the world. Our capacity to increase expenditure on defence and foreign aid will depend on the success of our efforts to ensure that our own economy is soundly based and continues to develop rapidly in stable conditions.

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