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Thursday, 22 October 1970

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (1:37 AM) - I rise in the first instance to echo the sentiments of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) that the Parliament should spend far more time than it does on measures such as this which are connected directly with the development of the Australo-Asian region. Surely this is the first region in the world in which we should be interested. It should receive our first call for action and certainly should have the first claim on our attention. I think that our attitude in this matter was summed up rather well in the 'Financial Review' just recently. After having disagreed with the leader writer of that publication on so many other occasions, on this occasion I agree with him most enthusiastically. He said:

Now is the time to begin considering how Indonesia's developing economy and the expanding Australian economy can be more usefully integrated - rather than at some future date when strident domestic pressures on both sides will make rational planning difficult or impossible.

Since I have been in this place I have made this a theme. I was delighted to hear the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) join me in this plea to the House tonight. In relation to the Asian Development Bank, the annual report for 1969 states:

The Bank's record of performance in the first three 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.

While a knowledge of the skills and techniques developed elsewhere is important and essential, the know-how' of regional development must have an indigenous basis.

This is the point that ] wish to take up. I recommend most strongly that the

Government apply itself to an examination of the techniques of aid, which again were referred to by my distinguished colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. This is a most important matter. We have made some very serious errors in the past, not only in Indonesia but also in the Australo-Asian region. I think it is important to use the expertise which has been developed in the region in expanding our commitment. I should like to add one other thing in relation to this commitment. I do not regard it as terribly impressive. In an answer given to me just the other day the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) said:

I am informed that at least 12 countries are contributing aid to Indonesia within the context of the Inter-Governmental Group for Indonesia. He was not able to give me figures for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or for a number of other countries, but he did provide me with sufficient data to indicate that Australia is not really playing by any means the major role with our nearest neighbour. In fact the United States of America - I grant it may be the power base of the Western world - contributes an estimated $202.7m. Japan follows with $126.1m. Then we have the Netherlands with $31m and France at almost $14m. The Federal Republic of Germany contributes $24.5m. Then we come to Australia, whose contribution is $17m. This is our major interest. This is our major involvement. This should be our major interest. This should be our major involvement. I correct myself, because obviously it is not at this time.

I make a plea that we reshape the emphasis of our aid and the emphasis of our thinking in the debates in this House to take into account the things that we need to do in the Australo-Asian region. We have a particular responsibility to our nearest neighbour, not only from our own point of view but because the destiny of Australia is bound up with the part that we play in our own region of the world. If we turn our backs on our own region or if we are inadequate in our performance in it, then we restrict our own destiny; we limit it in the future. I make these comments in relation to the measure which is before us this evening.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

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