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Tuesday, 15 March 1966

Mr PETERS (Scullin) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,as an amendment to the motion that the House take note of the paper, I move -

That the following words be added to the motion: - " but is of opinion that the Agreement will be detrimental to the interests of Australian primary producers ".

The Australian Labour Party intends to divide the House on this amendment. The honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson) said that the admission of New Zealand pig meats, peas and cheese into this country in quantities greater than before would help to promote Australia's primary industries. That proposition appears to me to be an absurdity. The honorable member seems to suggest that the importing of those commodities from New Zealand in moderate quantities to a certain extent promotes the pig meat, dairying and pea growing industries in this country and that therefore the wholesale importing of those commodities should immensely improve the conditions of Australian primary producers. That proposition is an utter absurdity.

What is the general principle or objective of this Government's trade policies? Does the Government, by its trade policies, endeavour year by year to increase the balance of payment difficulties of this country? It might be said that it does not and that that is not the objective, but that is the result of this Government's trading operations. Every year, with few exceptions, since 1949 there have been balance of payment deficits in our trade with other nations until now we have accumulated over £2,000 million worth of deficits. What should a government do when it is drawing up a trade policy, irrespective of with what nation the policy is concerned? It should endeavour to reduce the trade deficit. It should endeavour to export more or to import less. This Government's policy should be designed to increase exports by increasing production or to reduce our reliance upon imports by creating import replacement industries within Australia.

Mr Giles - What about softwoods? Does the Government not do this with them?

Mr PETERS - We should certainly purchase from New Zealand softwoods and other forest products that are not produced within Australia. We should purchase from New Zealand goods that we are unable to produce.

Mr Giles - Do we not have to balance them?

Mr PETERS - That is the position. We do have to balance them. If necessary we should cease to secure such goods from other countries. This Government introduced a trade treaty with Japan. Members of the Australian Country Party now claim that that was one of the greatest achievements in Australia's history. They say that that treaty assured for us the sale of our primary products overseas.

Mr Nixon - So it did.

Mr PETERS - It secured our market for primary products overseas by increasing the inflow of manufactured goods from Japan. In effect Country Party members said: " So vital to our economy are our primary producing industries that we will allow greater competition from Japan with our secondary industries by reducing tariffs to allow the inflow of manufactured goods from Japan in order to secure and stabilise our Japanese market for primary industries". Now, do honorable members opposite say: ' We are going to safeguard our primary industries by allowing manufactured goods to come from New Zealand "? No. New Zealand does not have manufactured goods so these members say: " We are going to allow primary products to come to Australia in competition with our primary products in order that we can sell some manufactured goods to New Zealand." In other words, we get from Japan manufactured goods that we can produce here and we send manufactured goods to New Zealand in order to destroy or restrict some of our primary industries. The process is an utter absurdity. The whole question of our overseas trade should be viewed as one big operation. We should say: " We are going to balance our trading operations as far as possible. We are not going to be the dumping ground for goods from other countries."

In days to come the accumulated deficit will have to be paid by generations of Australians not yet bom. What has this Government done? In a period of about 15 years it has created £2,000 million worth of trade deficits. In another 5 to 10 years it will create, not another £2,000 million worth of deficits but £4,000 million or £5,000 million worth of deficits. That is what Australia has to look forward to with the trading operations of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable members who sit behind him. In effect the Minister says: " We will increase our trading operations by having a trade agreement with New Zealand." What is the object of this Agreement? Is it to diminish our balance of payments difficulties and to reduce the deficits that are building up annually? If that is the objective, what we should be doing is buying less from the United States of America, from the United Kingdom, and from all those countries that are buying from us smaller quantities than we are buying from them. Obviously this should be the Government's attitude if it is to balance its trading operations.

Members opposite who have spoken have said that this Agreement is in the interests both of the people of Australia and of the people of New Zealand. I was recently in New Zealand. As a member of the Country Party said a short time ago, the Opposition in the New Zealand Parliament is strongly opposed to this trade treaty because it believes that the inflow of manufactured goods from Australia will restrict the operations of existing New Zealand manufacturers and will prevent the promotion and development of new secondary industries there. Of course, the position is that the New Zealand Opposition will soon be the New Zealand Government. The Opposition there is as sure to be the Government after the next election as the Wilson Government is sure to be returned in Great Britain. When the Opposition becomes the Government in New Zealand, what will happen to this Agreement? It will not permit the inflow of manufactured goods to New Zealand to destroy its industries or to prevent the promotion and development of new secondary industries. It will so modify this Agreement that its contents will not be as desirable as members opposite are trying to suggest. After all, a lot of humbug is talked in this House.

Mr Bridges-Maxwell - Hear, hear!

Mr PETERS - The honorable member exclaims: " Hear, hear!" It is from his side of the House that the humbug comes in relation to trading operations. Australia's trading operations should be such that we should be exporting more or importing less. This, of course, is not my statement alone - it is the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister. During the last recess the Deputy Prime Minister made a pronouncement outside this House, as he often does, in relation to the economy of this country. He said: "We must produce more. We depend upon our primary products overseas to meet our obligations." That statement was made, as generally happens, after similar statements had been made by quite a number of other authorities in Australia including the authorities who sit on the Opposition benches. A similar statement has been made by Sir John Crawford, who was an experienced officer of the Department of Trade and Industry and is an expert on trading operations and economic issues generally. He was appointed to the Vernon Committee by the present Government and has been appointed to several other positions by the Government in recognition of his outstanding capacity. That gentleman has said that we must increase our rural production. The honorable member for Cowper says that the way to increase rural production is to import packaged peas from wherever you can get them, cheese, pig meats and other kinds of foodstuffs.

Mr Robinson - I did not say that at all.

Mr PETERS - The honorable member, who with his colleagues masquerades under the name of the Australian Country Party, pretends that he is serving the interests of the country man in this Parliament. He is no more serving the interests of the country man in this Parliament than he is serving the interests of the general community.

Mr Turnbull - The honorable member is serving the city.

Mr PETERS - Yes, I am serving the city. No man really serves the interests of the city dweller in this Parliament unless he simultaneously serves the interests of the country dwellers. By promoting the purchasing power of the vast numbers who live in city areas one promotes a home market - the best type of market - for the produce of the land. Those people who sit on the Country Party benches in this Parliament seek to divide this nation into country and urban sectors by pretending that there are special country interests to be protected; that the seller of peas has an interest in keeping poor the person who produces peas, and that the seller of meat has an interest in maintaining conditions in the metropolitan area that make it impossible for metropolitan dwellers to buy what the farmer produces. Country Party members say: "That being so, we who stand for the specialised interests of the country man are the people who serve Australia." The interests of the city and of the country areas are interdependent. Everybody in Australia should realise that.

As I have said before, the people of Australia should realise that we must produce an increasing quantity of primary products and send those products to other countries, and must not destroy our primary producers. The people of this nation must not take up the absurd attitude that this Government has adopted and say that, in order to promote the sale of primary products, we must permit opposition to our secondary industries by importing secondary products from Japan, mainland China, Czechoslovakia and other places, and that then, in order to promote our secondary industries, we should allow competition on the home market by importing cheese, peas and pig meats. The honorable member for Cowper said that we should not allow competition with our butler. The treaty that we are debating, of which the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) was the designer, permits the importation of the first three commodities that I have just mentioned. At present New Zealand has an over production of 70,000 tons of butter. Why not help New Zealand with her butter? Why help her with pig meats, peas and cheese but not with butter? We are prepared to help her with the first three. Why should we not help her with all four?

Our friend, the honorable member for Cowper, says that we have helped the pig meat industry, our cheese production and the growing of peas in this country by implementing this Agreement with New Zealand. Let me quote the honorable member's exact words. He said: "The manner in which these goods are imported into Australia has helped the development of these industries within Australia." If that is so, why not let butter come in? Why not allow in 70,000 tons of butter to promote the interests of the dairy industry in the same way as we are promoting 'the secondary industries of this country? In promoting this Agreement with New Zealand, the Minister for Trade and Industry, who has failed Australia for 15 years and has been responsible for a greater accumulation of trading deficit than any other person who has administered a similar portfolio in this or any other country, has failed us once again.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - ls the amendment seconded?

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