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Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 78

Mr HALLETT (Canning) - Firstly I request you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to convey to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his attaining the high office of Speaker of this House. It is not an easy position. It is a difficult position, and this is known only by those who have occupied the chair from time to time. I wish him well in the future. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), seemed to spend half his speech referring to the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. I do not intend to reply to that part of his speech because I am positive that Mr Bjelke-Petersen is quite capable of looking after the honourable member for Bowman and himself in relation to anything that might be occurring in Queensland. He is looked upon as a very fine Premier, not only in Queensland but across Australia. I have no doubt whatsoever that Mr BjelkePetersen is quite capable of looking after that situation.

It is surprising to hear a Labor member, and a Queensland Labor member of all Labor members in this House or any other House of Parliament in Australia, standing in this place and talking about gerrymandering electorates. I am sure that Labor members' memories are not so short that they forget what happened in Queensland many years ago in relation to the gerrymandering of electorates. What was it? It was only because of the action of the Australian Labor Party itself that the people were able to put it out of office in that State. In the latter part of his speech he referred to the Democratic Labor Party. True enough, he would like to see it go because the crux of the whole situation in Queensland was related to the DLP. If any member of this or any other House in Australia is interested in gerrymandering I suggest he examine the situation that applied in Queensland many years ago when a Labor government was in office. No doubt we will be having more to say about this particular subject at some future date.

This Government, which has been democratically elected by the people of Australia, has come into office at a time when Australian finances are better than they have been for many years. Would honourable members opposite dispute the position with respect to our balance of payments? They can obtain the documents and they will see that in the final half of last year-

Mr Armitage - It was hot money.

Mr HALLETT - I suggest that the honourable member for Chifley listen. In the final half of last year, for the first time for many years Australia had a credit in its current account - a credit gained through trade. This was not brought about by accident. For the first time, because of our export trade, we have been paying for our imports. The coalition parties, when in government, had been trying to reach that point for many years. We were trying to get the position straight because as everybody knows we were living on borrowed money. Our goal was achieved but what will be the position in future? Will the Labor Government hold the position? That is the crux of the matter.

For many years Australia has been building up its trade and its industry. It has built up its factories and its farms in no uncertain fashion. What has happened? We have come to this point and the figures prove that through its export trade Australia is now paying for its imports. In other words this nation at this point is balancing its books for the first time for many years. It has not been easy to reach this position but the former government achieved it over the years. I only hope that the Labor Party, in its lifetime in government, can hold that position. It is a challenge to the Labor Party. The only way the Government can hold the position is to inspire the industries - private enterprise - in Australia to develop, grow and manufacture goods that can be exported. This must be done if the balance of payments position is to be retained.

Foreign capital was mentioned earlier. Such capital is moving out of this country very rapidly. Government supporters say that they do not want any of this money. They regard it as hot money which was brought into Australia. Reference was made, to our balance of payments in a statement by the present Prime Minister following the last Budget. Honourable members are free to refer to that statement. We have been through a very difficult time with many of our exports. This situation was not unique to Australia but applied to many other countries. There were great difficulties in the primary industries but Australia is now out of that situation but we did not get out of it by sitting down and doing nothing about it. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) said that the present Government is making decisions because the people want decisions.

Australia's greatest 2 industries are the wool and wheat industries. If the Government makes decisions in line with statements made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in this House during the last couple of years I fear for those industries. It will be the end. His statements are recorded in Hansard. Only by sticking to our guns when we were in government and by providing financial assistance of hundreds of millions of dollars were these industries brought to their current position. This action was condemned by the then Opposition Labor Party. So when decisions are made let them be sound decisions because these are important to the very things I have been talking about and to our balance of payments. I have great faith in the industries of this country as I have indicated that since I have been in this House. One can only have that faith if one is prepared to stand behind them, and this is the point I am making.

In the last couple of months, in its decision-making the Government has revalued our Australian currency. The appreciation of the currency, if I remember correctly, was 7.05 per cent. This was a decision taken not by Cabinet but by two or three men within the Government. No doubt I will be corrected by Government members if I am not correct. But that was the decision that was taken at the time. If that decision were, correct for our currency, at the time, which undoubtedly the Government thought it was, following the crisis with respect to the strong currencies, notably the United States devaluation which had an appreciating effect of about 11.01 per cent on Australian currency, how could it possibly be right to do nothing then? If it were right in December to revalue our currency by 7.05 per cent how could it be right a few weeks later to have a situation were our currency appreciated by almost 19 per cent with United States currency? Perhaps honourable members opposite will answer this question at some time.

The decision to revalue our currency has created great difficulties for some of our major exports. These are the points to which I was referring when I spoke about our balance of payments position. What will happen now to these great industries, including mining, many of which are in my own State of Western Australia? Some of these export industries are in trouble and do not know their position. They are still trying to ascertain the effect of revaluation on their contracts. On several occasions since the United States devalued its currency the question has been asked: Why were not our mining contracts written in Australian dollars? How naive can a person be? These are some of the biggest contracts ever written anywhere in the world. They were written some years ago. Honourable members opposite may smile. The contracts were written in United States dollars because that was the recognised currency. Had they not been written in United States dollars they Would not have been written at all at that time. It is no use honourable members opposite complaining. They must show responsibility and should know precisely what they are saying. If these contracts had not been written in United States dollars they would not have been written.

If the Labor Government does not believe me I suggest it speak to the big financiers to discover the position for itself. Members opposite should find: out what the people who wrote the contracts think of the situation. These people are in business and know that these sort of contracts could not have been written in any currency other than American currency at that time. I hope that the Government recognises the position in which some of our export industries are now placed. I hope it studies the position because it is serious. We do not want to see confidence destroyed in Australian export industries. We do not want a situation where new industries will not be attracted to Australia. All I ask is that the Government .negotiate with these people, that the Government recognise the position and act accordingly. The whole situation is extremely serious.

The Government has stated in recent times that it intends to build a gas grid from west to east and from north to south. It sounds a very fine project, in words. I understand that the project was to be carried but by private enterprise, but I believe that the Government has decided to build the gas grid itself. I hope that the Government does not lose sight of many of the essential things which we need to help industry in this country. One of the things which this country - the driest continent in the world - must continue to do is build up its water resources. If that is not done gas will be of no use whatsoever because water is the basis of industry. I point out to the Government, if it wishes, to build a pipeline, that one is needed in Western Australia from north to south to ensure the future of industry in that State. In many other areas of Australia substantial pipelines carrying water are needed. I hope the Government does not lose sight of that situation.

I have mentioned one or two things concerning primary industries, but I wish to mention particularly that Australia has come out of a very difficult period. Honourable members who have been in this House during the last 3 years know full well what has been said on this subject. The wool industry has come out of that difficult period for many reasons which I shall not relate to the House tonight. Wool, as a fibre, has never failed. It has been dealt some blows but the market for it has never fallen down and will not do so in the future. This natural fibre is required in many parts of the world. We have now to recover from the damage done to the wool industry over the last 2 or 3 years by certain interests whose aim has been to deplete its supply. Wool will become readily available only if the world is prepared to pay for it - and the world is now prepared to do that.

The textile industry in the northern hemisphere has realised that it cannot carry on without wool. It has realised the damage which has been done to the wool industry, to the studs and to quality because of the drop in production. Wool is needed, as has been demonstrated on the auction floors. As I have stated in this House many times, many countries for a variety of reasons feel that wool is a must. In this field the Australian Wool Corporation came into existence after the amalgamation of 2 authorities on 1st January this year. The Corporation is looking at the recommendations of the wool industry and will eventually report back to the Government. The decision made by the Corporation will be extremely important and will have to be considered by the industry itself and, naturally, by the States. The future price of wool will rely to a large extent on the final document that is presented to this House after consideration by the States. Regardless of the clauses which may be contained in the document, there must be a floor price, cut off point, in relation to world wool prices. Whatever else is contained in the document, that ingredient is a must.

I certainly hope that the Government takes the decision, of the Corporation seriously because in the last few years we have seen what can happen to the tremendous wool industry of Australia. The wool industry, in the main, has been reponsible for better employment opportunities being available to the people of this country. As I said in this House some months ago, particularly in reference to Australia, when wool prices recover and primary industries get hack on their feet the people of this country and many others will be employed to the full,. Those industries are now getting back on their feet.

I was disturbed today when the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) referred to the wheat industry and mentioned that wheat sales had been made by the previous Government in recent times. I did not follow the rest of his speech, but I sincerely hope that he and the Government do not believe that the previous Government made wheat sales. The previous Government did not make wheat sales. The Australian Wheat Board was set up to do that. When the Labor Party was previously in government it sold wheat to New Zealand over the heads of the wheat growers. I certainly hope that the remarks of the honourable, member for Blaxland in relation to wheat sales by the previous Government are not taken aboard by the present Government. The Australian Wheat Board has had the responsibility for seeing us through our difficult times over the years and has brought about a successful conclusion. There is one other point that I wish to make. The Government has announced that there will be a first payment advance on $1.20 a bushel. It is a small increase, but is not in keeping with present circumstances. The Australian f.a.q. wheat quoted c.i.f. London rose from £Stg29.80 in August to £Stg49 in December. That is a tremendous lift in the world market. There is a shortage of grain and many other things. The wheat growers are certainly entitled to receive the 10c increase in the first payment. In my book they are entitled to more than the first payment I have cited because wheat and other grains are readily saleable overseas.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes}Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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