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Wednesday, 21 September 1983
Page: 1055

Mr KENT(11.25) —We have just listened to a Goebbelsian speech delivered by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). It was not unlike speeches delivered in the Reichstag in the 1930s. He has just as much respect for the courts as any Brownshirt.

Mr Hodgman —I raise a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek the withdrawal of that remark made by the honourable member, on the same basis as the Minister sought a withdrawal of my remark in relation to him.

Mr Holding —I wish to speak to the point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The statement made in relation to speeches made in the Reichstag carries no sort of inference. All sorts of speeches could be made in the Reichstag. There was a clear breach of the Standing Orders by the honourable member for Denison, which you upheld.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. There is no need for the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Kent) to withdraw. He will please proceed. There was no personal attack made. It was likened to a speech in the--

Mr Hodgman —With respect, Madam Deputy Speaker, I greatly admire your impartiality, but I put it to you that what the Minister has just said is deliberately and blatantly misleading. He has said that all sorts of speeches were made in the Reichstag, but the inference is obvious. If the honourable member is permitted to get away with that, I shall ask him to stop bringing into this Parliament speeches direct from the Soviet Embassy in Canberra.

Mr Holding —What absolute rubbish. You are a fool.

Mr KENT —It sounded like a Reichstag statement to me, too.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will please resume his seat.

Mr Groom —I raise a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. A reference was made by the honourable member for Hotham to Brownshirts. Obviously, that has certain inferences.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The Chair did not hear the reference to Brownshirts.

Mr Groom —The rest of the chamber heard it, Madam Deputy Speaker. It was made. I suggest that it is most unparliamentary--

Government members interjecting-

Mr Groom —If you do not know what is wrong with it, you do not know anything about it. The honourable member knows what is wrong with it, too. It is most offensive and should be withdrawn.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —If the honourable member made such a reference to Brownshirts, will he please withdraw the remark?

Mr KENT —On the point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Denison called me and my party socialists. I have the same right to call his party and him fascists.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —If the honourable member referred to Brownshirts, will he please withdraw the remark?

Mr KENT —I withdraw it, Madam Deputy Speaker, in deference to you. As I was saying, the honourable member has just as much respect for the courts as anyone wearing a shirt of the colour that I am wearing now. The speech was full of propaganda but was light on facts and substance. The word 'socialist' was repeated a hundred times. If by 'socialists' the honourable member for Denison means people such as myself, who are for the underdog and who fight for the rights of ordinary Australian wage and salary earners, I do not mind being called a socialist, not even by a Tasmanian fascist.

Mr Steele Hall —I raise a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The honourable gentleman has used an unparliamentary term in referring to my colleague. I ask that he withdraw it.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —I am sorry; the Chair was speaking to the Clerk. If the honourable member for Hotham has used an unparliamentary term, will he please withdraw?

Mr KENT —On the point of order--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —I am asking the honourable member to withdraw.

Mr KENT —In deference to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I withdraw. Unlike the honourable member for Denison, I welcome the 1983-84 Budget as the best possible compromise under the disastrous economic conditions inherited from the conservative Liberal-National Party Government. It took Mr Fraser, Mr Howard and Mr Anthony seven years to ruin our economy, and of course, no one can expect the Labor Government to rectify the situation in the few months that we have been in office. However, the first Labor Budget after seven years of conservative mismanagement lays the foundation and creates the climate for a slow, sustained economic recovery. I especially welcome the provisions of this Budget which are geared to assist our manufacturing industry. In welcoming these provisions, I want to point out that it takes more than a budget, indeed, more than the Budget , to defend Australia's manufacturing industry, which is under attack by the world transnational corporations. Only by defending our industries from the foreign onslaught can we defend our living standards, our skills, our jobs, and our economic and, ultimately, our national independence.

There is no doubt that we are witnessing today the biggest economic dislocation since the big depression of the 1930s. Emerging from that depression the world, and Australia with it, plunged into the Second World War, which highlighted clearly the lack of our industrial development. While we busily industrialised in the period after the war, creating full employment and general prosperity, foreign capital was also busy in securing for itself the cream of our industry. Many of them, such as our automobile, chemical, pharmaceutical and oil industries, came under complete or substantial foreign ownership and control. Our national resources today are owned and controlled by foreign transnational companies. Even a substantial part of our advertising industry is American controlled, so transnational giants are able to brainwash the public, the economists and the politicians according to their needs.

The best example of their ability to promote ideas that suit the profitability of the transnational companies is demonstrated by their manipulation of opinion to support lowering the trade and tariff barriers which hitherto protected our manufacturing industry. The power of transnationals through their ownership of the advertising industry and their influence on our media is such that they can talk us into committing economic hara-kiri. Our dependence on foreign capital troubled greatly some thinking Australians like a former Deputy Prime Minister, Jack McEwen, who was talking about buying back the farm. It is also highlighted by Bruce Grant who recently wrote:

Australia resembles many Third World countries in that it continues to rely on foreign capital, research and, in some instances, skills from abroad, while offering its natural resources and primary commodities in return.

Australia's reliance of foreign capital for development has kept alive, as has its dependence on foreign military protectors, the unhealthy tension between the value of what Australians do and what is done overseas.

A deliberate effort is required to ration foreign capital inflow and to raise Australian capital, so that the economy is no longer so vulnerable to outside forces and events.

I cannot agree more. The outside forces Bruce Grant mentions but does not spell out are the transnational corporations which, through accumulation of capital to an unprecedented scale and their control of the world banking system, have developed the ability to manipulate investment to the extent of being able to dictate economic developments world wide. I quote Professor E. L. Wheelwright who said:

They can pull financial resources out of industries and countries, and switch them to the other side of the world. They can decide where and how capital is to be accumulated, and where in the world it is to be used. They can close down industries in certain countries and relocate them in others, as has been done with automobiles, electronics and textiles. Mineral investments can be denied to governments who are looked on with disfavour, and offered to those who carry favour.

Industries are articulated on a world basis in the most carefully planned way; but the economics of nations states are disarticulated in the process, making it impossible to plan them for the benefits of the inhabitants. Economic power is challenging political power-and winning in a way never before seen in history.

The high concentration of capital into fewer and fewer hands enabled the transnationals to adopt long term planning and increased the mobility of capital . Large corporations operating with capital larger than the Budgets of a country were in a position to transfer investment into cheap labour countries or move production behind trade barriers. Of course, such movement of investment and production disregards completely the economic or the social needs of the host country. By agreement between transnational corporations and the corrupt elite in Third World countries, free trade zones are set up where workers toil long hours for a couple of dollars a day. There are no environmental requirements, unions or labour laws in such zones, but only one interest-the profits of the corporations.

The argument that the underdeveloped countries profit from transnational investment is fallacious. Only the transnationals reap the profits and, to some extent, let the ruling elite benefit. The people of such countries will be impoverished more than before and suffer the social dislocation of being uprooted from their land and drawn into shanty towns around the industries where they hope to be employed for a pittance. The transnationals' operations in the Third World countries are the worst form of colonial exploitation and oppression . Whilst there is no benefit to the underdeveloped world from the transfer of production into free trade zones, there is certainly a net loss to developed countries as they are forced to compete on their domestic as well as international markets with cheaply produced goods of transnationals. Even the conservative honourable members opposite will understand that lowering trade barriers in these circumstances will mean committing an economic hara-kiri, as I said before.

The debate over protection and free trade must be assessed in the light of full knowledge that only the transnationals will benefit from the latter. The Industries Assistance Commission should be made fully aware that lowering barriers will lead to deindustrialisation of Australia and, as a consequence, instead of the temporary unemployment of some 800,000 workers as at present, we will have 1 1/2 million permanently unemployed in future. If one looks at the past recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission-recommendations that were, in the main, detrimental to our manufacturing industry-one would wonder whether the Commission was picked and appointed in Australia by the Australian Government or set up in New York and Tokyo to serve the foreign transnationals. The name itself is the biggest misnomer, if there ever was one. Unfortunately, the same can be said for some of our officials in the Department of Trade. They differ from the Japanese only in their features. No wonder our industries are going down the drain.

The dismantling of Australia's manufacturing industry has already begun and it is proceeding according to the wishes of the transnationals. American and Japanese capital, concentrated in fewer and fewer hands with the assistance of the international banking system, has been used to devise a plan to control an integrated global world economy, not in the interest of the people on this planet, but in the interest of high profits to transnationals and their shareholders. The most vivid example of this plan is the so-called world car. The idea is to make cars to a common design everywhere so that capital intensive parts of production can be organised in technologically advanced countries such as West Germany, the United States of America and Japan, while labour intensive parts would be manufactured in cheap labour countries, thus maximising the profits of transnational manufacturers.

We in Australia are already feeling the effect of this plan. Our car industry is under attack and we are losing jobs by the thousands. We are also losing skills and our ability to maintain a viable industry. The loss of skills in the car industry will be greatly missed in our defence industry, especially during an emergency or war. The recent sacking of 633 workers by General Motors-Holden' s Ltd is not an isolated case. It comes as a consequence of the growing number of imports of foreign made cars. While the Government restricted imports under the motor vehicle manufacturing plan, Japanese transnationals found a way to circumvent the plan. They are taking over a growing slice of our domestic market by importing so-called light commercial vehicles which are, in fact, used as substitutes for passengers cars. While the total motor vehicle market has remained static and actually declined this year, sale of light commercial vehicles, including four wheel drive vehicles, has increased by more than 40 per cent.

Unless the Government acts quickly to bring LCVs under the motor vehicle manufacturing plan, employment in the industry will decline further as imported vehicles will take an even larger share of our market. For instance, local share of the total market of all vehicles under 2.72 tonnes in 1980 was 65.3 per cent. That share declined to 53.5 per cent in 1983, while the number of imports increased from 34.7 per cent in 1980 to 46.5 per cent in 1983. We have to keep in mind the fact that when we are talking of light commercial vehicles, which are really not sold, nor intended to be used, as light commercial vehicles, 60 per cent of them are registered as private vehicles and are used as passenger cars. I wonder how long the Government and the Department will allow this blatant circumvention of the motor vehicle manufacturing plan.

Not only the light commercial vehicles are threatening our motor industry. Foreign imports also completely dominate our heavy commercial motor vehicle market and this foreign dominance is squeezing out of business our heavy commerical motor vehicle component industry. Over the last 12 months employment in this sector has gone down by 70 per cent. If one adds to all this the export facilitation scheme which allows motor car assemblers to reduce drastically the local content of vehicles made in Australia, with the consequence of further job losses, one will understand why protection of our industries is so important.

It is interesting to note that the conservatives opposite who argue for free trade today were quite happy to advocate the protection of our industries when it suited capital. Industrial development in the Western world would have been impossible without protection. The same protection that helped capital in the past is in the way of transnational capital today. This fact clearly explains why the conservatives opposite so strongly espouse the idea of the lowering of trade barriers and the abandonment of national control over our trade and resources. I am disgusted to see them running around and preaching a free go for transnationals to plunder Australia's assets, to mine and export our minerals at bargain basement prices, to take over and dismantle our industries. They became the compradors, the agents of foreign interests, under the guise of efficiency, free market economy and rationalisation. They want to narrow down our industrial base, not to suit our national interest but to suit the global plan of foreign transnational companies. I quote Professor Wheelwright again:

The reduction of protection in the developed countries enables the transnational corporations to integrate more fully their world-wide production processes and to shift these products about the world without trade restrictions . The inevitable result is the industrialisation of the developed countries, unemployment and increased repression of labour there; and, on the other hand, an expansion of capitalist relations of production in the Third World countries, and their tighter integration into the international division of labour, controlled and directed by the transnationals of the developed countries, involving repression of labour in the Third World also.

Mr Hodgman —Did Bill Hartley write this?

Mr KENT —I can give the honourable member the manuscript. It is beyond doubt that the lowering of trade barriers and a reduction in the level of protection of our manufacturing industry will not help the underdeveloped world. Its only effect will be to force our industry out of business by competition with cheaply produced imports. In fact, together with Toyotas, Diahatsus and Datsuns, we are also importing unemployment from Japan.

I, like other honourable members, receive many letters from industries seeking assistance so that they can employ our people. Unfortunately, we do not act quickly on those letters and do not afford to industry enough assistance because of pressures from members opposite, who are the compradors, the agents, of foreign interests and who advocate free trade. It is a paradox that while this Budget introduces much needed provisions to create jobs, mostly temporary ones from six to 12 months duration, at the same time we are losing real and permanent jobs because of the Government's failure to assist adequately our manufacturing industry.