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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1619

Mr CONNOR (CUNNINGHAM, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him that Australia is the largest market trading nation outside the Group of Ten and our foreign exchange holdings exceed individually those of 3 members of that group, including France. What action has he taken to ensure Australia's admission to the Group? What further action, if any, does he propose? Is the impact of the present world currency crisis operating most severely in this Group, which must be responsible for an ultimate solution which will in turn, affect our economy? Why is Australia to be further disadvantaged by non-membership of this key world organisation?

Mr McMAHON - I thank the honourable gentleman for giving me the opportunity to answer this question. As Treasurer, I personally took up with the governments of Britain, America and Japan and with other governments the question whether Australia would be admitted to the Group of Ten and also whether we could become a member of the Bank of International Settlement. In fact, I went to the Bank of International Settlement in order to achieve this object. I found, at the beginning, that while the British and the Japanese were quite forthcoming about agreeing to our admission to the Group of Ten, initially we could not get the approval of the United States Administration. I took the matter up again and I was able to obtain the consent of the United States Government. However, we then found that the Group of Ten was not willing that Australia should be admitted unless other countries that the Group regarded as of equivalent status to Australia were admitted at the same time.

We want to be admitted to the Group just as, over the years, we were willing, when I was Treasurer to become a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. We have achieved membership of the OECD. We will continue our efforts to become a member of the Group of Ten, but I doubt very much whether, in present circumstances, that will be agreed to. In other words, it is not within Australia's capacity to force entry into the Group of Ten: It is up to those in the Group of Ten nations to accept our admission, if they are willing to do so.

As to the second part of the honourable gentleman's question, I accept what he said about the difficult position which now exists as to the currency difficulties and the import surcharge which has been imposed by the United States. It is my belief that we should do all in our power, in cooperation with other nations, to ensure that the import surcharge is taken off as quickly as possible. We will co-operate with all other countries, particularly through the International Monetary Fund, to see what we can do in order to get a re-alignment of parities that is satisfactory to all nations and not to only one. The sooner we can get an answer to these problems, particularly the ones relating to changes in parities, the removal of the import charge and some better arrangement for freedom of trade, the better it will be for Australia and, I believe, for all underdeveloped countries.

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