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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Dr J F CAIRNS (LALOR, VICTORIA) - That is right. So the matter is not to be understated. I think the position is one that need not just now lead to any pessimism, but it is a position that ought to lead to some preparation for an attempt to reduce our dependence upon these variables which are not under our control. ^

I see this Bill as an attempt - not a revolutionary attempt - to reduce our dependence upon variables that are not under our control. Should there be for some reason or other an unusual withdrawal rather than a reinvestment of dividends - about half of them are reinvested; it is a very high proportion - should there be a reduction of capital inflow because of the economic conditions in some other country that are not the same as they are here; and should there be a capital withdrawal, Australia would face a crisis greater and more serious than any crisis it has faced in its history. I think it is true to say that full employment and whatever our growth is in terms of the gross national product - and I noticed recently that Professor Dowling said it is much lower than it ought to be - over a period are averaging only about 3%. We ought to be able to achieve double that amount, or near enough to it, if we had the more sophisticated economic techniques and institutions that other countries a little more advanced in this field than we are, have already. This is one of the institutions that is being introduced in this Bill and it is a little more sophisticated than we have had before. We could increase that rate of economic growth. But apart from any increase and apart from any improvement, full employment in Australia and our growth rate in terms of gross national product are in the hands of foreign investors.

We live at the grace of foreign investors. Let none of us forget that. What has been done to anticipate this situation? I have been quoting the right honourable gentleman, perhaps to his annoyance, for a long time by saying things that looked like anticipating this kind of problem. I have been saying that because it was our political advantage to do so. I felt that if we were in office those were some of the things we would do, although perhaps not in the same way. But it seems to me that a good many of the right honourable gentleman's supporters are more inclined to rely on traditional methods of dealing with any possible difficulty. I do not want to be unfair to the Treasurer, to his immediate predecessor or to the one before that. However I think as this Government has changed Treasurers they have become more conservative; they have become more conventional. I do not say that it has a Treasurer now who is more capable of sustaining this more traditional and conservative argument in the Cabinet than it had before. Perhaps he is less capable of doing it.

Mr Robinson - What about the Bill?

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