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Tuesday, 30 May 1989
Page: 2991

Senator STONE (Leader of the National Party of Australia) —by leave-I claim to have been misrepresented. Yesterday the Australian Associated Press (AAP) issued a release headed:

Stone predicts sharp rise in Australian foreign debt levels.

I hasten to add that there is nothing incorrect in that. The article said:

Opposition Finance spokesman John Stone today warned Australia's foreign debt escalated sharply in the March quarter due to the falling exchange rate and the disastrous run of bad trade figures.

Again, that is a perfectly accurate depiction of what I said in a speech at the Gold Coast yesterday morning. But the report goes on to say-and this is what I want to correct:

He predicted official March quarter figures due out Wednesday-

that is, tomorrow-

would show gross foreign debt had risen to around $140 billion from $121.17 billion at the end of 1988, while net foreign debt would probably top the $100 billion mark . . .

The reference to net foreign debt is accurate, but I want to correct the reference to gross foreign debt. I quote now from the text of my speech yesterday morning at the Gold Coast:

As to gross debt, if you take account of the fall in the Australian dollar between December and the present time-

those are the key words, `the present time'-

the figure for gross foreign debt probably stands today-

that is, also a key word, `today'-

closer to $140 billion.

It is obvious that, as of the end of March, gross debt would not have reached $140 billion. The point I was making was that there had been a very big fall in the Australian dollar in addition to that which occurred in the March quarter, and that would have brought the figure, as at the time I was speaking, closer to $140 billion. I am not blaming the AAP reporter. In the haste of preparation of such things, it was a perfectly natural mistake, but it should be corrected.

Personal Explanation