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Thursday, 10 March 1966

At this point I should mention one other important decision in the field of aid - the decision to make a special contribution to the value of SA8 million to India for the relief of what is expected to be a critical shortage of food in that country in 1966. This gift is additional to the contribution which Australia makes to the long term economic development of India from our regular annual aid appropriations. The Government has gladly made this emergency contribution, which follows a similar emergency contribution last year, and I am pleased that it is being supplemented so substantially by the voluntary efforts of Australian churches and private organisations.

At the same time I am bound to observe that the responsibility for assisting the people of India in their hour of need must necessarily rest with the international community as a whole. Too often those countries, such as Australia, which produce the commodities which India requires are regarded as bearing the main responsibility by reason of that fact alone. This is not, I may say, a view which is prevalent in India itself. But I have found it expressed in surprising quarters elsewhere. In the view of the Government, there is no less a responsibility on the great industrial countries than on the food producing countries. Because they do not have food to offer, their contribution can and should take other forms, including assistance with foreign exchange to enable India to buy food on the world market. If other countries were to contribute in the same proportion as Australia - over and above their normal aid expenditure - then the international effort to aid India would look much better than it now does.

Apart from special non-recurring contributions of this kind, Australia's regular aid programmes are continuing on a scale which is comparable to that of most other aid donors. As to their effectiveness, I would say that it is my constant aim to improve our performance; in other words, to get full value in aid for the money that is so generously provided. During my recent visit to South East Asia I saw in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam unmistakable evidence of the importance with which our aid is regarded and of the successful completion of several big projects, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

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