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Friday, 16 September 1949

Mr ABBOTT (New England) . - If ad it not been for the extraordinary speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) I should not have spoken to this motion. The Minister has told us that it is perfectly simple to understand why Australia cannot obtain a sufficiently large allotment of dollars to permit, this country to obtain adequate petrol and other fuel requirements in order to carry on its work and produce food to enable the starving people of Great Britain to be sustained at a reasonable standard of living. Through its blind folly this Government has failed to understand Australian requirements. It has failed almost continuously to realize that it should be watching the interests of the people of this country, not preaching the doctrinaire socialism that it has constantly advocated. The Minister referred to the direct exports of gold from Australia to the United States of America, for which we receive dollar credits, based on a guaranteed purchasing price of 35 dollars per oz. That is one grip over credits for exports from. Australia given us in dollars by Great Britain and the sterling areas. The Minister went on to point out that before the war there was no difficulty regarding the convertibility of currencies. He said that if we accumulated sterling balances in London we could, if we so desired, convert them into dollars and buy what we needed from the United States of America. Under the existing system, our sterling balances in London are, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has pointed out, frozen. In those circumstances, one would think that this Government would at least have preserved for us the raw material content in the exports of manufactured goods from the United Kingdom to the United States of America to which we are obviously entitled. A duty has always been levied upon imports of wool textiles and manufactured goods into the United States of America. At one time the duty upon imported textiles was based upon a charge of 35 cents per lb. in respect of the clean, scoured content of the wool. There was also an ad valorem duty upon the manufactured content of the cloth. Surely Australia is entitled to be credited with the dollars representing the raw content of textiles that are manufactured in Britain from Australian wool and exported to the United States of America. I remind the House that on the Minister's own admis-' sion the dollar requirements of Australia amount to £70,000,000 a year. Our direct exports to the United States of America earn for us £50,000,000 a year. Therefore, our dollar deficit is £20,000,000 a year. If we were given the credit to which we are justly and legitimately entitled for the raw content of the goods manufactured from Australian raw materials that are exported from Britain to the dollar area, we should go a long way towards bridging the gap of £20,000,000 between our dollar requirements and our dollar earning. Wool and metals are exported from Australia to the sterling area, made into manufactured goods and re-exported to the dollar areas. If we were given credit for the raw content of those manufactured goods there would be no need for a huge staff of petrol ration officials in Australia because we should not be starved of petrol and oil.

The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has suggested two means by which our dollar difficulties can be overcome. I remind the House that the dollar problem is not a problem with which we shall be faced decades ahead. It is with us now, and will cause stagnation and suffering in this country. The first " Dedmanic " suggestion is that there should be a reduction of American tariffs. Having said that, in the next breath the honorable gentleman contradicted what he had said at Havana and stated that other countries should not be required to make reciprocal tariff reductions. There will be a great chance of persuading the American Congress to agree to a reduction of American tariffs if other countries do not offer to reciprocate ! The Minister has suggested that there should be a departure from the terms of the charter of the International Trade Organization, which he praised so lavishly in this House upon his return from one of his Cook's tours to Havana. The second solution of the problem that has been suggested by the Minister is that American private investors should be induced to invest their savings in sterling area countries, especially Australia and New Zealand. I advise the honorable gentleman to read a book written by Hazlitt, the American economist, entitled Will Dollars Save the World f I also urge him to read the reports of some of the conferences that took place at Bermuda between members of the United States of America Congress and members of Empire parliaments. It has been stated frankly that American private investors have no intention whatever to invest in socialistrun countries unless they are assured' that they will derive a reasonable return from their investments and that the industries in which they wish to invest will not he nationalized or treated in the same way as many industries have been treated in Australia and the United Kingdom. When the socialist governments of Australia and Great Britain are prepared' to play clean cricket with American private investors, no doubt those investors will do what the private investors of Britain - the capitalists whom this socialistic Minister now praises - did in the past, that is, invest in countries overseas. The British investors did that because they knew that their capital was secure. American investors will not lend their money to bushrangers, robbers, thieves and " socializers ". I remind the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction that, for example, the loss of £25,000,000 in respect of the ground nuts scheme in Tanganyika is not the kind of socialistic experiment that will encourage private investors to invest in countries with socialist governments. Our troubles cannot be cured in the ways that have been suggested by the Minister. It would take years to persuade the Americans to reduce their tariffs or to induce American private investors to repose confidence in this Socialist Government. The remedy is for our Ministers, especially the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and the Prime Minister, when they go overseas, to forget their foreign descent or their international outlook and to remember what many of those whose forebears have lived in Australia for many years remember, that is, that with Australians Australia must come first and other nations of the world afterwards. When the Ministers of this Government attend conferences they must fight for the interests of Australia and forget their socialist doctrines and internationalism. The interests of Australia should be their first consideration.

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