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Thursday, 22 October 1970

Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) (1:19 AM) - I do not intend to keep the House very long, but I make some protest at the bringing on of legislature like this at this time. We are to spend $10m in this project, and I think it is perfunctory to expect it to be disposed of in less than half an hour as it will be. One of the reasons I do not intend to take the time that I might otherwise take is that one or two of my colleagues want to speak on the motion for the adjournment. Adequate time has not been allowed to them to speak this week and I hope that the Government does not intend to deny them that right this evening. The Bill before us increases Australia's contribution to the Asian Development Bank. According to the information supplied by the Treasurer (Mr Bury), this Bank has an authorised capital of about $US 1,000m, approximately half of which has been paid up. Australia's present contribution is $US85m. It is proposed that a further $US 10m be contributed by Australia. The Opposition supports this measure because we believe that only by systematic economic development will some of- the great disparities that exist in the world be removed. The part of the world in which we are situated - Asia - is the area where the disparities are greatest.

I commend to the House the publication Partners in Development' to which I have referred before. It is a study commissioned by the World Bank. The chairman of the Commission was Mr Lester Pearson, a former Prime Minister of Canada. This document was produced towards the end of last year. It states at page 11:

We live at a time when the ability to transform the world is only limited by faintness of heart or narrowness of vision.

I submit that we still seem to show both faintness of heart and narrowness of vision in dealing with our problems. In order to illustrate the difference that exists between the achievement of the ideal I have quoted and the realities I shall now quote from the most recent report of the World Bank, which was circulated to honourable members only a few days ago. I turn to the section of the report which deals with external debt of the developing countries. Reference is made to the very real difficulties that face this part of the world. At page 50 the report states:

Over the past decade the rate of growth of both debt outstanding and debt service payments has been about twice the rate of growth of export earnings of the developing countries, and almost three times that of their combined gross domestic product.

The report goes on at page 53:

Moreover, the analysis-

That is a reference to an analysis conducted by the Bank - provides a measure of the magnitude of the international effort which would be needed simply to maintain the present level of net resource transfer to the developing countries, much less to increase it as their trade and investment requirements grow over the next decade. In addition, it suggests that the debt service problems facing a number of developing countries are likely to grow more difficult during the next few years if recent trends in capital flows, aid policies and development performance remain unchanged.

The measure before us will at least provide additional capital assistance to the parts of the world that so much need it. The Treasurer was good enough to supply me with a copy of the latest annual report of me Asian Development Bank, lt contains plenty of examples of the good work that the Bank is doing. The Bank was established only in 1966. It has not been in operation for very long but nevertheless in its annual report for 1.969 it stated:

The Bank's record of performance in the first 3 years clearly reflects its mounting impact on the region. There is a growing appreciation of the fact that the Bank has a substantial and distinctive role to fulfil in the economic development of Asia. The needs, the problems, the objectives - and above all the hopes- of the Asian region may not differ materially in the long term from those elsewhere: but at any given time, the techniques and processes needed may be quite different from those fashioned for use in other areas. Details of some of the projects that have been undertaken by the Bank are contained in the report. I am interested to see recorded in the report the fact that the Bank held its annual meeting in Australia last year and that coincidental with that meeting was a seminar on agricultural research held in Sydney. I am glad to see from the speech of the Treasurer that it is proposed, in addition to capital subscriptions I take it, that Australia should take part in some of the special projects that will be sponsored by the Asian Development Bank in the course of the next couple of years. The Treasurer lists some of the categories in which that assistance will be given. He referred to an agricultural special fund, a multi-purpose special fund, a technical assistance special fund and so on.

I am convinced by what I have had the opportunity to see of co-operation and aid between Australia and some other parts of the world that one of the big problems that still faces us is in the techniques of aid administration. 1 have said this in the House before. Indeed, I said it a week or so ago when | spoke during the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. I made the point that one of the difficulties we face is the fact that while so many needs exist in various parts of the world, the ability to fulfil those needs exists somewhere else. Those who have the needs are not always brought into proper contact with those who may have the ability to fulfil those needs. These are some of the things which some of the special assistance agencies attached to bodies such as the Asian Development Bank could help to promote. I am a little disappointed that the Treasurer still seems to find virtue in the fact that much of the assistance that Australia gives will return a benefit to us because of the sort of trade that we will supply. He seems to think that because we are supplying aid to these countries it is likely that they will use Australian equipment. I hope that may be the case but I hope also that it is not necessarily implied that it should be the case. I believe in these sort of transactions we should move a little more towards multi-lateral arrangements rather than bi-lateral arrangements.

The Opposition commends the Bill. I am sorry that a greater opportunity is not given to honourable members to debate these matters because I think they are just as fundamental to Australia's welfare as are questions such as defence. I think that these matters ought to be given much more time for debate than has been given on this occasion.

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