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Thursday, 28 March 1968


Mr CREAN (Melbourne forts) - I would suggest that the whole policy of this Government has been caution rather than haste, and most often there has been inactivity when there ought to have been action. However, 1 do not want to follow the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) in the interesting prospects of China becoming a member of the United Nations. I believe that China should be a member of the United Nations because 1 do not think the United Nations can in any sense be regarded as a universal body if there is excluded from its membership more than one-quarter of the world's population. The debate to a great extent so far has centred on the war in Vietnam, a war that nobody is winning. This afternoon I should like to explore some aspects of some battles for survival which are still capable of being won if sensible applications of economic assistance are given. I am at least fortified by the suggestion made on Tuesday evening by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) that we in Australia want to see the great powers cooperating together to the greatest extent possible to prevent major wars, to ease tensions and to help the economic development of the whole world. He went on further to give a catalogue of six objectives. He said:

Sixth, as a part of all the foregoing, Australia gives special weight to the economic element in international affairs.

A little later he said:

We believe that continued international action in the economic field is essential in tackling world problems.

Although he said that, there is very little evidence to suggest that the Australian Government is doing anything much, other than to exercise caution in the face of what are rather urgent circumstances. I suppose there is not much doubt in most people's minds that Australia can be classified as an affluent society. Having recently had the opportunity to visit Indonesia, India and parts of Africa, I want to draw one or two comparisons between economic situations. But first I should like to put on record the very great courtesy that was extended to me wherever I went by officers of the Department of External Affairs. I believe that Australia is very well served in the Department of External Affairs, not only at the top ranks of its diplomats and high commissioners but also right through the whole structure of our representation.

I have suggested that Australia might be classified as an affluent society. Perhaps some comparison can be gleaned from the fact that our gross national product, as we describe it, in rounded figures is $25,000m per annum. Almost the same figure represents the gross national product of India. Of course the big difference between India and Australia, which both have gross national products in the region of $25,000m, is that Australia's is shared among Hi million people whereas India's has to provide the economic survival for 520 million people. That gives at least some comparator of the difference between affluence on the one hand and what might be thought to be survival on the other at something like one-fortieth or one-fiftieth of that amount per capita. But the other sort of parameter or regulator as to how money can be spent and as to how, in my view, money ought not to be spent, is that that same sum of $25,000m, which is close to $US30,00Om, is the annual expenditure by America alone in the Vietnam episode. There, at least, we see some kind of regulator or perspective. There is the same sum in Australia to support Iti million people as there is in India to support 520 million people, and one country alone is prepared to spend that amount each year to save 15 million people from the consequences of another 15 million people. Whether that can be regarded as a rational sort of expenditure I leave for the consideration of honourable members.

I want to go on to suggest that if the Minister and the Government - he speaks for his Government - believe in continued international action in the economic field, because it is essential to the tackling of world problems, their performance so far has been lamentable. I suppose that everybody was appalled in the last few weeks to see the battle that was going on over the price of gold and the buying and selling of gold. It was something that could only bc called money manipulation. Yet this is at a time when what the world wants is the sensible application of economic resources from those who have some abundance to those places where they perhaps can be properly used. I hope that the adoption of a two-tier gold price will lead to some abatement of this silly manipulation. I hope, too, that the solution that ultimately is found is not the restoration of the gold standard but the realisation that just as in our own banking system we can, by the proper application of credit, bring about economic development, so with a realistic policy can there be a better distribution of credit throughout the world, and in particular from the wealthier countries to the less fortunate countries. It is in that kind of context that 1 want to speak of the existing situation in Indonesia. 1 should think that honourable members on both sides of the House feel that Indonesia is a better prospect politically because Suharto and not Sukarno is in control. Wherever I have made this proposition, I have found general agreement with it. After all, one does not have to justify the governments that one finds in other countries, but one has to make reasonable arrangements with them. I draw to the attention of the House a rather interesting observation made by Professor C. E. Black of Princeton University in his book 'The Dynamics of Modernisation'. Referring to international relations between developed and undeveloped countries, he writes:

The task of policy makers in the more advanced countries-

I suggest that Australia would like to be classed as a more advanced country - is not to prevent revolutions. This is no more possible than it is desirable. Their task is to guide these revolutions in a manner conducive both to successful development at a relatively modest human cost and to the maintenance of international order.

He also notes:

The central concern of policy is not to score a success in imposing institutions on new societies. It is rather to establish reasonable functional standards and maintain workable forms of encouragement and restraint that will serve to influence leadership in the direction of political, economic, and social development at an acceptable human cost.

I hope that when a solution is reached in Vietnam - and the sooner the better - some consideration will be given to trying to get social improvement at what is called reasonable human cost. In Indonesia at present, because of the inheritance over the last 10 or 12 years of its government, the absorptive capacity for economic assistance is, unfortunately, relatively limited. If, for argument's sake, the horrible holocaust in Vietnam were suddenly stopped, the $25 billion of expenditure that America is incurring in Vietnam could not be transferred immediately into viable economic assistance in other parts. Countries have to be conditioned to receive economic aid with just the same sort of dedication and system as one undertakes military operations. What these countries lack, and what they need in order to improve their lot, is the development of natural resources. In my view Indonesia has natural resources in great abundance. A particular quality of government is needed, but 1 suggest that in Indonesia this aspect leaves a lot to be desired. There must be efficient public administration, and this is one of the greatest weaknesses in Indonesia at present, particularly outside the central city of Djakarta. There must be good means of transport. Indonesia lacks these facilities. Above all, there must be a high level of education and not only at the university level. Consideration must be given to technical education and, in the South East Asian countries, to what might be called agricultural extension. In ali these fields Australia is very well placed to give assistance of a significant kind.

In Indonesia, and to a similar extent in India and in the non-European parts of Africa, there is a great need for those within a country who know what the deficiencies of that country are somehow to be brought into relationship with those outside the country who are able to help. As I see it, this is one of the weakest links at present. There is too much of a tendency to say that we are doing well because we are giving away a certain proportion of our gross national product. I read a statement the other day attributed to Barbara Ward, who is known to most members. She posed the hypothetical situation of someone arriving at the gates of Heaven and on being asked by St Peter, before gaining admission: 'Did you succour the needy, clothe the naked and feed the hungry?' replies: 'No, I did not, but I gave 3% of our gross national product'. I think that this is how some people salve their consciences. They think that if Sim is given away, it is a lot of money and will do a lot of good. It may do so if the Sim is followed by people of technical capacity and by resources that can be applied to the problems.

A social revolution could be wrought in Indonesia if a few people, with the same capacity as those in the ordnance section of the Australian Army were sent to Djakarta to look after the municipal transport system of Indonesia. This would not cost much and it would do a lot of good. Equally, if several countries combined to staff a technological institute at a fairly practical level in some part of Indonesia, a slow revolution could be wrought. The Americans have been criticised for mistakes that they have made in various parts of the world, but I pay a tribute to them for what they are doing in Indonesia. They could quite easily have got out of Indonesia because of their past treatment there, but the Americans have been prepared to stay and to try to provide technical knowhow and capital for certain purposes. They are attempting to increase the capacity of the fertiliser factory from 100,000 tons to 400,000 tons per annum. The amount of rooney required to achieve this increased production is $3m to $4m. Here again is a contrast in magnitude between expenditures for peaceful purposes and expenditures for warlike purposes - S25,000m a year in Vietnam, but difficulty in finding $3 to S4m for a project in Indonesia.

We could be more realistic in Australia. I applaud the Government for its recent decision to increase the amount of immediate short term assistance to be given to Indonesia, because the first problem that Indonesia must grapple with is feeding its population with sufficient rice. That is a short term proposition involving a considerable sum of money. Indonesia was importing 80,000 tons of rice a month which costs from $160m to $200m a year in foreign exchange. Indonesia has very little foreign exchange. Perhaps the increased production from the proposed fertiliser factory could be applied on the rice fields of Sumatra. Perhaps, if the fertiliser were used on different strains of rice the increased production could overcome the food problems of Indonesia in 2 or 3 years. The import savings would be of untold benefit to Indonesia's economy. But it is the longer term propositions that have to be looked at. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) was prepared to look ahead for the next 15 to 20 years in regard to the nonproliferation treaty on nuclear weapons. I think it is more important to look ahead in the next 15 to 20 years to what the world's population is likely to be and where the great pressures are going to be. One of the great pressures will be in Indonesia which we ought to regard as our nearest and, in time, our friendliest neighbour. The difficulty in Indonesia at the moment is one of population. The central island of Java is geographically an area half the size of Victoria. It covers 40,000 square miles and contains 75m people. There are too many people in Java at the moment and, comparatively, not enough in Sumatra. But the tendency is still for the population not to flow from Java to Sumatra because of the way economic development is taking place. These are the sort of changes that have to be wrought in the next 15 to 20 years.

The prospect of increased population in Indonesia ought to delight the Australian Country Party because on a long term basis, if that development takes place, they will have no problem whatever about the future of those in the dairy industry, whether or not they continue to produce butter. These are the sorts of perspectives that ought to be looked at in terms of the year 2000 or even in terms of the year 1980 when the population of Indonesia will be 150m. If we are successful in the next few years in keeping Indonesia politically viable - and we will be able to do this only if we assist it to develop economically - Indonesia may become as great a nation in that part of the world as Japan is in its area.


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







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