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Tuesday, 5 July 1949

Mr CHIFLEY - I indicated to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) last week that matters related to international economy might be discussed during the debate that is to take place on international affairs. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to make a statement in the House of Commons to-morrow. I do not know how far that statement will go. I have been kept very fully informed concerning the position, which can be expressed in a few words. Expenditure on imports for the United Kingdom and the rest of the sterling area has not increased because of the severe restrictions on their earning power. For example, we shall not be able to sell to the dollar area more than half the quantity of wool that we anticipated selling to it. That also applies to a large number of commodities which the British Commonwealth sells for dollars. We are not getting the prices or selling the quantities desired, with the result that our dollar earnings have been reduced very considerably. At the same time the cost of imports has not been reduced proportionately. That is the crux of the situation that must be confronted at the forthcoming conference. It is hoped to evolve a policy to restrict our dollar imports to the minimum, and also some positive policy for the future. I should be glad to afford the House an opportunity to discuss the matter, but, quite frankly. I could not, without placing myself in a most invidious position, place before it all the information that has been given to me in complete confidence by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has to deal with the financial authorities of other nations. He has given me a very close confidential view of the whole position, and I believe that if I were to make that information the subject of public discussion I should not be kept well informed of Empire developments in the future. Since I desire to obtain the maximum information concerning such matters, I think that the debate on international affairs would be the appropriate occasion to discuss the matter mentioned by the honorable member.

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