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Wednesday, 14 September 1949

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Clark (DARLING, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Order! There are too many interjections. The Prime Minister must be heard in silence.

Mr CHIFLEY - On the authority of the administrator of the European recovery programme, Mr. Paul Hoffman, of the adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of America, Mr. Williams, of the American ambassador-at-large in Europe, Mr. Averil Harriman, and of the Economist, one of the most reliable papers in the world and certainly not a partisan publication, Britain has done better than any other country in Western Europe under Marshall aid in respect of total production and production per man-hour worked. Let any honorable member try to refute those facts!

Mr McBride - No one denies that.

Mr White - Everybody knows it.

Mr CHIFLEY - The Leader of the Opposition has said that the air should be cleared. Before I conclude my speech, I shall refer . to some of the misstatements that have been made about the petrol situation. The right honorable gentleman has said that, because Australia- has large overseas balances, we should be able to get from abroad any goods that we require. The position is that, no matter what overseas balances we have in the sterling area, we cannot obtain the goods that we desire to purchase from the hard currency area unless we can buy dollars. I return to the primary reason for restricting the importation of petrol into Australia. I make it clear that I am speaking of refined petrol. I do not want any confusion to arise about petroleum products and " crudes ", because the subject of this debate is refined petrol, and, to some degree, aviation spirit of 100, 91 or 73 octane. We ourselves are not able to earn sufficient dollars to enable us to buy all the goods that we want from the dollar area. Those goods include petrol. The only way that we can get additional dollars is to buy them from the British Treasury. Last year we bought 164,000,000 dollars, and despite our efforts to reduce the drain on the dollar pool, we have had to buy 72,000,000 dollars this year. It has been contended that as Great Britain is the banker for the sterling area, and as there would be a very serious economic crisis if that country collapsed, there should be maintained in the United Kingdom a reserve equivalent to at least £500,000,000 sterling in dollars and gold. A few weeks ago the reserve was far below what the Federal Reserve Bank of America and the Bank of England regarded as a safe minimum. That was due to the fact that the demands of the British Commonwealth had been great and that the members of that Commonwealth had not been able to earn as much as previously. Although it is not for me to say how low that reserve has dropped, it was announced recently that it had fallen to below £400,000,000 sterling in gold and dollars.

Mr Spender - Was there a change of mind during last week-end ?

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