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Thursday, 22 October 1970

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) (1:29 AM) - In speaking on this Bill I want to emphasise the importance of Australia's developing and growing ties and trade relations with the Asian region. Before developing this argument I would like to say how pleased I was that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) indicated his support for this Bill. It is of immense importance to Australia that the Asian Development Bank succeeds in its efforts to help developing countries in Asia to achieve faster rates of economic growth and so raise the living standards through the area in which the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East operates. Economic solidarity must surely lead to political stability in this region which will be of increasing importance to Australia.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide the equivalent of $US10m to the special funds of the Asian Development Bank. It is well to remind the House that Australia is a foundation member of the Asian Development Bank which has a membership of 35 countries, 21 of them in the Asian region and 14 outside it. Australia's subscription of $US85m to the capital stock of the Bank is exceeded only by those of the United States, Japan and India. In recognition of a need to promote economic development in the general region and the need for additional special loan funds, the Government has agreed to make a further $US10m available to special funds over the next 3 financial years subject, of course, to the approval of the Parliament. The Treasurer (Mr Bury) has indicated that $US9.75m are allocated to the multi-purpose special fund and $US250,000 are to be allocated to the technical assistance special fund. The multi-purpose special funds will be tied to the procurement of goods produced in, or services supplied from, Australia. The technical assistance special fund will be used only to pay for the services of Australian consultants and experts hired by the Bank in connection with its technical assistance.

In the past, consultant engineers and consultants generally from Japan and other countries have had a favoured situation because of their contributions to the special funds. This Japanese provision and access to funds has enabled economic penetration into the recipient countries. The special funds, earmarked for technical assistance. have been popular with both the recipient and contributor countries because, so far as recipient countries are concerned, these funds 'are available as soft loans or grants. In the case of the contributor countries, employment opportunities are created for consultants and ultimately for its manufacturing and constructing industries after cost benefit analyses have been conducted by these firms in these countries.

I should like to quote from a United Nations publication titled 'A Guide for Firms and Organisations Desiring to Participate in the Activities of the United Nations Development Programme' where it points to the fact that the initial pre* investment studies, that is, those studies where consultant skills can be applied, may well lead to a further export of construction skills and the export of heavy engineering, civil and other equipment. The United Nations document quotes, inter alia, that in its programme 31 pre-investment studies carried out at a cost of $38. 5m thus far have led to an investment of $ 1,640m for hydro power works and multi-purpose river basin schemes, forest and mining industries, irrigation, drainage and related reclamation works, water supply, sewerage facilities and roads, railways, ports and channels.

Honourable members will see from that list that Australia does have the ability to provide some of the development that is so necessary in those countries, but Australian firms must be given the same kind of competitive position as have countries such as Japan. It appears that Japan and other countries which have been contributing to the special fund have been able to walk into the Department of Works and select attractive projects knowing that their government will foot the bill to the Indonesian Government from Asian Development Bank funds.

Mr Grassby - And through direct aid.

Mr HUNT - Yes. This has placed Australian consultants in a much less competitive position. I believe that this Bill will make a valuable contribution to strengthening our association with South East Asian countries. The Indonesian 5-year plan of development should provide an avenue for the outlet of some of the funds provided for in this Bill. Whilst we should not restrict ourselves to Indonesia, it is logical that we give special attention to Indonesia as that is our closest neighbour. Also, I think it is most important that we set out to try to improve our general relationships with Indonesia. A prosperous and friendly Indonesia will provide an enormous market for Australian export industries and I am sure that it will provide a good 2-way trade between both countries in the future. I believe that this Bill will assist in providing the right climate for active participation by Australia in overseas development programmes, enabling an export, not only of goods and services, but also of skills.

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