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Thursday, 12 May 1960


Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Treasurer) - I did hear over the national news this morning a statement that was attributed to the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford. But I have suffered too often from abbreviated accounts of what I have said to accept that as necessarily a faithful version of what Sir Thomas Playford was trying to convey. I say that in no spirit of questioning the accuracy of that highly commendable organization, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its news service. But I think we would all agree that there are sensible limits to the overseas borrowing which the Government should undertake.

However, if one examines the circumstances of recent Australian overseas borrowings we get a very different picture from the version which Sir Thomas Playford was seeking to correct. It is true, as the honorable gentleman points out, that the Australian Government acts in these matters on behalf of the Australian Loan Council. A loan can only be raised - so far as loans for the works and housing programmes are concerned - with the approval of a majority of the Loan Council. If the loan is for purposes outside the works and housing programmes, then the purpose of the loan must secure the unanimous approval of members of the Loan Council. It is a matter of common knowledge that each time the Loan Council has met in recent years the Premiers have urged upon the Commonwealth Government the raising of a greater volume of loans than the Commonwealth has felt able to support.


Mr Calwell - Including overseas loans?


Mr HAROLD HOLT - Including overseas loans. Whilst I cannot recall off-hand any precise views of Sir Thomas Playford on this matter, it is undoubtedly true that the majority of members of the Loan Council have not only pressed the Commonwealth Government to raise more by way of loans overseas, but have also been somewhat critical that we have not been able to get more overseas.

I said there was a sensible limit. In the disastrous 1930's, it took the equivalent of 30 per cent, of Australia's export income to finance interest payments on its overseas borrowing. In 1939, the last year before the war, it took the equivalent of 18 per cent, of our export income to finance those interest payments. When honorable gentlemen opposite had their last full year of office in 1949, it took 3.4 per cent.; and in 1958-59, the percentage was 3.1, one of the lowest figures, I believe, in the history of this country. So, Sir, at a time when it represents such a fractional proportion of cur total export effort to import these funds, which are of immense benefit to the State Governments in the works and housing programmes upon which they have agreed with the Commonwealth Government, the States have sought the assistance of the Commonwealth Government to obtain the moneys they require.







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