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Tuesday, 30 September 1958

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- Ten minutes does not allow much time for discussion of what is, after all, a matter of paramount importance to the people of Australia. Lest it be thought by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and members of the Government parties that this debate has been initiated for the purpose of attacking American policy regarding the importation of zinc and lead, I hasten to say that this matter has been brought to a head only because the American restriction on the importation of Australian lead and zinc is part of a situation that has been agitating the minds of Australians for a long time. Ever since it took office this Government has proceeded to do serious injury to the Australian economy. The plain truth is that if the Prime Minister had honoured his 1 949 election promise to put value back into the £1 - in other words, to stabilize costs in this country - the problems of international trade would not be as serious for us as they now are.

There can be no doubt that cartels operate to keep down the price of Australian wool. The Government's friends in other countries are indulging in all sorts of skulduggery. Because of the stupid international policy pursued by this Government, we find ourselves priced out of world markets because of high costs. Australia has been priced out of the wool market because of the operations of a few buyers who control it. Australia is so unpopular in many countries that they prefer to trade with other nations and people of other religious beliefs. That is the crux of the situation. To cap it all, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), undoubtedly a man of boundless energy and plenty of competence, is repeatedly touring the world breathing threats to people in other countries. He has done this ever since he took over his portfolio. He has been breathing threats to the United Kingdom. He has made threats to the United States in an endeavour to ease trade restrictions. In this matter of trade restrictions Australia herself has not been entirely guiltless. Indeed, she is guilty of indulging in the same practices for which she blames other countries. It is all very well for the Government to tell other countries that it does not approve of their actions, but when Ministers and responsible governments get the idea that they can threaten and bluff other countries, they have another think coming.

Let us look at the situation that confronted the Minister for Trade when he arrived at the recent Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference at Montreal. First he was confronted with a statement by Sir David Eccles that the United Kingdom would eliminate dollar restrictions against America on the importation of agricultural, industrial and office equipment. It was further stated that the United Kingdom would extend that policy to cover the supply of food and other commodities. Just imagine the Minister's reactions! He said that if the United Kingdom did that, Australia would get busy and enlist the cooperation of Russia, red China, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland in an endeavour to stabilize world prices and make a new arrangement amongst the peoples of the world about commodities. That is not a policy with which I disagree. In fact, it is a policy that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) enunciated in his 1955 policy speech. No country can afford to continue a policy of barring from trade people of other philosophies and religious beliefs. The Labour party does not stand for that. The outcome of the Minister's attitude was that the press and various organizations - people of the most reactionary and conservative views - came out of their hiding places and said that they wanted to trade with red China. Those same people had been associated with the Government in its condemnation of the Labour party over unity tickets. They were the same people who, like the Prime Minister, have been accusing the Labour party over the last ten years of defending Communists. The president of the dairymen's organization in Victoria said, " We want to trade with red China. We want markets for our primary products ". When lt came to a question of a few pence in their pockets those people forgot all about unity tickets. They lined themselves up with the Government and the Minister at Montreal, who said, " Let us get together with the Communists. Let us trade as much as possible so that money will flow into Australia ".

Do I disagree with that policy? Certainly not. But this position highlights the hypocrisy of the people opposed to Labour in this country. The president of the Victorian Wheat and Woolgrowers Association revealed in Melbourne last week that in June last year the Australian Wheat Board, consisting of representatives of Australian wheat-growers, the people who produce the major part of our export income, had exported to red China - politely called mainland China- a £220,000 cargo of wheat for the Communist Chinese to fatten on. Recently, when it was revealed in the House that Australian wool and other goods to the value of £10,000,000 had gone to China in the last twelve months, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said that every pound of wool and every pound of butter sent to mainland China was a silver bullet to be fired back at our own people. He was voicing the attitude and philosophy that has been repeatedly expressed by Government supporters over the last ten years. But now, for the sake of pelf, the great industrial magnates of this country who, to give them their due, want to keep men in employment, realize, all too late as far as the people of this country are concerned, that the right thing for the Government to do is to endeavour to make profitable trade arrangements with other countries. The primary producers, because of the inevitability of the evolutionary process that is going on in the world to-day, have also realized this fact. Last week, I heard from a traveller who had been through a woollen mill in Peking. He told me that 75 per cent, of the wool used in that mill was Australian wool, the major portion of which was labelled " Product of Australia " and came from Bradford, England. It was wool exported to England, spun into wool tops there and then exported to red China. The British are realists in this sort of thing, and when the Prime Minister taunts the Leader of the Opposition with being unrealistic and suggests that he does not realize that imports must follow exports, let me tell him that to-day the British are standing behind the policy of exporting to red China. Over the last few years they also have been receiving imports from red China directly, and. indirectly, through Hong Kong and Japan.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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