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Wednesday, 23 August 1972
Page: 627


Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) - I do not very often speak on the motion for the adjournment of this House. In something like 20 years I think that I have spoken on it on about 3 occasions. But I feel impelled to speak tonight because of the systematic attempt that seems to be made for what I could not call anything else but grandstanding on the part of the Australian Country Party in order to raise what must be at any stage a very significant matter, and that is the exchange rate of one's own country or, if you like, the purchasing power of one's own currency relative to that of other countries.

Of course, this all began with the presentation of the report of the Resereve Bank and, after all, the Reserve Bank is either the left hand or the right hand of the Government. If any rebuke for starting speculation as to what might happen about the exchange rate is justified it ought to be laid at the door of the Reserve Bank. I am one who believes that there ought to be intelligent discussion about matters of this kind, but people on either side of politics should not make statements which might provoke a situation over which often we do not have a great deal of control.

It is a bit like the question of the 35- hour week. Whatever is wrong with the canned fruit industry or with the apple and pear industry exists whatever the exchange rate is, and clearly the present exchange rate can be varied by this Government if it wants to do so. Whether currencies should be slightly appreciated or slightly depreciated is a matter that involves a considerable number of factors, and I think that members of the Country Party are doing no service to this very central problem by handling it in the way they did this evening. I can see a subtle attempt being made to try to take the mind of the public off sins that have been committed for a long time now by talking about some matters which have not happened yet but which might happen. People may differ on this question, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is as entitled to his opinion about what might happen as is anybody else. What does the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) think about the present value?


Mr Lloyd - ft is too high.


Mr CREAN - There you are. Is the honourable member prepared now to have an argument about devaluation? Is he prepared to have a debate about devaluation and revaluation or does he want just to stay put? If members of the Country Party are not prepared to come out and say what they think ought to be done, I think they are just humbugs. This evening they have certainly attempted to take out of context something that was said last evening. As the Leader of the Country Party. (Mr Anthony) read out today, the Leader of my Party was asked to comment on something that had been said by the Reserve Bank. Why do not members of the Country Party level some criticism at the Resereve Bank? Fortunately, they have more control over the Reserve Bank than they have over the Leader of the Opposition. The Reserve Bank is an instrument of the Australian Government. The fact that monetary matters perhaps have not been managed very satisfatorily in Australia is probably the seat of many of the difficulties that have been raised tonight.

I am surprised at the honourable member for Murray, who is a new member, because f know that he is just on a band wagon tonight. I can almost see the instructions that apparently go out to the Parties. I have heard tonight what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said about something at an address somewhere or other. I am a little bit flattered to learn that what I apparently say casually or to provoke discussion is somehow regarded as holy writ, while something that the Treasurer says one night may be accepted as writ although on the following day it may be looked on as un-writ. I have been very careful about what I have said on this question of the interest rates on a good number of times when the matter has been delicate. I have not jumped in to say that I disagreed with the Treasurer or with the Government about certain things.

I hope there will be less of the kind of talk we have heard tonight, because if anything helps to precipitate a rush on or a crisis about a currency it is people beginning to talk about whether it may go up or it may go down. Nobody in Australia knows at the moment whether the high level of reserves we have is influenced by speculative capital coming into the country. I would hope that when better international monetary arrangements are evolved the speculators will be cut out. I do not think there is anything worse as a social phenomenon than people speculating about the future of international exchanges. International exchanges should primarily be concerned with trade. If the honourable members of the Country Party had devoted their attention to what are the fundamental things wrong with the canned fruits industry in terms of trade they would have known that the position of the industry will not be varied much if there is a minor adjustment of the exchange rate.

I would say that the industries they are talking about have been more influenced in the last 3 or 4 years by the fact that inflation last year was running at the rate of 6 per cent and the year before 5 per cent. Inflation influences costs of production and narrows the margin between whatever price the producer finally gets and what he calls income. To wrap it around words upon which you can put different interpretations is a very poor exercise on the part of both the Liberal Party and the Country Party members here. I hope they have a little bit more respect for the importance of the integrity of the currency of one's country.


Mr Jeff Bate - Like Gough?


Mr CREAN - He was merely saying that, taking into account the views that he had been able to discuss, he thought that the likelihood was that there would be appreciation rather than depreciation.


Mr Katter - Be consistent.


Mr CREAN - The Minister for the Army says that there should be a depreciation. Do all members of the Country Party support that point of view? If they do let us have a full scale debate in this House about whether or not the Australian currency should be depreciated. But if someone says that it might be appreciated and members of the Country Party try to make capital out of that I think it shows how poverty-stricken their record in the past has been.







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