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Thursday, 31 August 1972
Page: 995

Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) - Did the Deputy Prime Minister tell the National Press Club on 1st November last year, at a time when he was Acting Prime Minister, that the Australian Country Party favoured devaluation of the Australian dollar? On the following day, in answer to a question from the honourable member for Chifley, did he say that farming interests would like to see a depreciation of the Australian dollar because they would get an advantage from it? Were these statements made in the context of intensive reassessment of international currency values at a time of rapid velocity of international currency movements? Does the Deputy Prime Minister not agree that these 2 rash statements by an acting head of government in such a delicate economic climate could have exposed the Australian Government to attack by the international monetary bandits? Further, does the right honourable gentleman not agree that it must be a cardinal rule that any person holding a responsible position in a government that can influence the value of the Australian dollar should not speculate on anything that might alter the value of the currency?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should complete his question.

Mr BARNARD - Finally- and this is a very important question-

Mr Hunt - Why did not the Leader of the Opposition ask it?

Mr BARNARD - I can understand the Minister being upset, with his Leader being so embarrassed.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should ask his question. Order! The honourable members in the corner will cease interjecting - all of them.

Mr BARNARD - I will be delighted to answer the interjections if I am allowed to do so.

Mr SPEAKER -The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will not be allowed to do so. This is question time, and I think that we should get in as many questions as possible.

Mr BARNARD - Finally, I ask the Deputy Prime Minister: In view of what I have put to him, how does he justify his conduct, and why is he so intent on applying a double political standard?

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Deputy Prime Minister) - The Australian Labor Party has certainly been trying to do some research work; it has been trying to drag up some skeletons from somewhere in order to justify the unforgiveable actions of its Leader.

Mr Barnard - Which is the unforgiveable one?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked his question. Members of the Country Party will cease interjecting. That also applies to honourable members sitting on my left.

Mr Whitlam - You produced the great coalition.

Mr SPEAKER -I would hope that the Leader of the Opposition would endeavour to maintain order at question time instead of encouraging disorderly conduct.

Mr Uren - Mr Speaker, are you a city slicker?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Often when the honourable member for Reid is sitting on the front bench he makes snide remarks about certain people in this Parliament. I want to inform him that I am not a city slicker. Secondly, if he continues to interject in this House he will see himself outside and he will be able to visit the city slicker than I can get there.

Mr ANTHONY - It is interesting to note that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition feels that this matter needs to be raised.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Will you speak up a little?

Mr ANTHONY - Well, I will bark in a minute.

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - It will not be the first dme.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Lalor walks into the House, does not even sit in his seat and makes an interjection. The next moment we will have Opposition members complaining that questions and Ministers' answers are too long. Opposition members are not assisting in the running of the House by interjecting. I am glad to have the co-operation of the honourable member for Hindmarsh in this respect. Question time, as I have said a dozen times, is a period which honourable members on both the Government and Opposition sides of the House should be able to use satisfactorily. I am afraid it is not being used in that way at the moment.

Mr ANTHONY - Apparently some 12 months ago I made some comments about devaluation of the currency or adjustments to the parity of the Australian dollar. I would like to look up those comments to see just what I did say and I am glad that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has drawn my attention to them. Apparently what I said was not very startling because it did not produce any comment or reaction from the Labor Party. What has brought this matter into the public arena now is a statement by the Leader of the Opposition immediately after he made his speech on the Budget. It was a statement dealing with an economic matter and the most profound statement that we have heard from the Labor Party in 1972. It has tremendous significance for industries in Australia; it is so significant that there has been a reaction from the honourable member for Riverina and the honourable member for Dawson who have both disowned their Leader and said that they are against revaluation. Quite obviously within the Labor Party there are marked divisions. While watching a television programme last night I was most interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that members of the Labor Party were free to make their own independent decisions on matters of social interest and matters of conscience. Apparently members of the Labor Party also can make their own statements regarding matters of tremendous national importance, in this case in relation to the currency. The sad part about the statement of the Leader of the Opposition is that he made it immediately after his speech on the Budget and neglected to make those remarks at that time although that was the right and proper time to make them. Having made his statement in an interview outside this House he then came into the House and tried to justify what he had said. He went on television and said that he believed in the appreciation of the Australian dollar.

So it is quite clear that the policy of the Australian Labor Party if it gets into office is to change the value of the Australian dollar immediately. Unless the Labor Party decides to change this policy the Australian people will have to accept that it will have serious effects on employment in secondary industries which already are feeling the cold winds of imports from cheap labour countries. The Labor Party's policy will have a serious effect on the canned fruits industry which knows what these effects can be like following devaluation of sterling and an appreciation against the United States dollar. Who knows what the effect will be on the rice industry? The Queensland sugar industry, which is a substantial export industry, knows only too well what the effects will be on it. This is the reason why 2 members of the Labor Party have deserted their Leader and have publicly come out and stated in their own electorates that they would not have anything to do with revaluation. It is up to the Australian Labor Party to say where it stands. The biggest tragedy of all this is that the Leader of the Opposition -really does not understand the error that he has made and continues to try to justify his position. The longer he continues to do this the more serious will be the position in which he puts the Australian currency. He puts it into the ring for international speculation and he demonstrates to the Australian people that he is not a fit and proper person to be the alternative Prime Minister of Australia.

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