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Wednesday, 16 September 1936

Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - I agree with Senator Hardy and Senator Collings that considerable improvement could be effected in the method of compiling statistics. In this respect Australia lags behind countries such as the United States of America and Germany, in which very elaborate statistics of all their activities are kept. Senator Collings has referred to breadwinners. Great difficulty is experienced by reason of the varying definitions of breadwinner used in the various States and by the Commonwealth. In one State, breadwinner is deemed to be a person, either male or female', who earns money for his sustenance; in another case the breadwinner is the head of the family. The result of this confusion in the definition of breadwinners is to destroy to a great extent the value of the statistics relating to them. To give another illustration of the defects of our statistical records, I point out that recently I endeavoured in vain to ascertain figures relating to the manufacture and consumption of bread' and certain other goods, in New South Wales. There are no statistics showing the number of men and women employed, their occupations, or their earnings, which would serve as reliable data for economic planning.' The same state of affairs exists in connexion with statistics relating to foreign and empire trade with Australia. It is true that statistics are compiled relating to our trade with Great Britain, and they are both informative and useful, but when we leave unilateral trade and turn to bilateral trade with countries like Japan, we can get no reliable statistics at all. Any attempt to ascertain the facts regarding bilateral trade results in only problematical figures being supplied, and in regard to multilateral trade, in which several different countries are involved, no figures whatsoever are kept. The time is not far distant when a complete and compact record must be kept of the trade between the various nations. It is imperative that there should be accurate figures showing the balance of trade. Accurate figures relating to trade balances and rates of exchange are very necessary in any system of planned economy. Owing to the vast complexity of international trade it is very difficult to obtain accurate information on these matters. It is time that the nations of the world began a complete compilation of statistics covering international trade, and Australia should adopt this practice, in relation to its trade not only with Great Britain, but also with other countries. International trade is becoming largely a form of barter. Some countries, including Germany, say frankly that that is the only basis upon which they will trade with others, and it behoves Australia to know, by the aid of scientificallydissected statistics, just how it stands in relation to international trade.

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