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Tuesday, 13 March 1973
Page: 523

Mr HALLETT (Canning) - The Exports Insurance Corporation Bill 1973, which is before the House, is a further step to assist exports from Australia. It is a necessary part of establishing trade relations and trade with overseas countries to have measures such as this. Similar measures were introduced by the previous Government over many years. Until recently Australia relied almost entirely for its exports on its primary industries and although it still does rely very largely on them, secondary industries have been playing an ever-increasing role in helping meet our balance of payments. If I remember correctly, 20 per cent of our exports in recent times have been from secondary industry.

The legislation that is before the House this evening is a means of encouraging secondary industry, as well as other industries, to make contacts and sales overseas. I am sure that without it people involved in secondary industry would find life very difficult at times. If my memory serves me correctly, when such legislation was first introduced in this House it was indicated by many in the business world that it was not necessary. Time has proved that to be incorrect. The amendment that we are dealing with this evening indicates that more assistance is required and that secondary industry is growing.

Many factors are necessary in the promotion of export trade. Three of these are confidence on the part of the people engaged in trade, incentives by governments and others to exercise their ability to capture markets overseas, and exchange reality. Incentives is one matter we are dealing with tonight. Other measures can be taken. If confidence in industry is destroyed Australia will be in trouble. Some of that confidence has already been destroyed in the last few months, because exporters do not quite know where they stand in relation to Australian currency exchange. This is very disturbing and there is plenty of evidence coming from industry to support that statement. As I said a fortnight ago in this House, it is necessary as I see it, and I am sure as industry sees it, for the Government to look very closely at what is happening to industries which have been exporting and making a worthwhile contribution to Australia's trading position over recent years.

It is extremely difficult, as no doubt the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) realises, to capture markets overseas. Australia has certain disadvantages, one being its remoteness from many world markets. Having captured those markets we should do nothing to upset the situation. It is important that the present relationship should continue and that no confidence is lost. There should be no monetary problems which would hinder in any way exports from this country. These are vital matters. The Bill will assist in the preservation of our trade. But the other points that I have raised are equally important to the successful continuation of exports from our secondary and other industries. If these other points are not watched very closely, confidence will be lost and industry will not be able to continue as it has in recent years. If it loses markets, it will be doubly difficult to recapture some of them because we are living in a very competitive world.

The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), quoted the 1972 report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation which clearly indicates the business being undertaken by that body. What is interesting is the spread of business over various commodities. This highlights what I have been saying about the type of industries that have been developing as export industries. We have amongst these, of course, some of our traditional industries. Our traditional primary industries are involved but a few years ago one would not have thought of many of the industries which have been seeking assistance from EPIC as becoming exporting industries. We have been exporting plastics, paper and paper products and household appliances. These sorts of industries undoubtedly have to face very severe competition overseas and would be in trouble if we did anything to upset their routine.

It is interesting to note from the EPIC report that Australia is finding export markets in Europe, South East Asia, the Middle East, the Near East, North America, Central America, South America, Africa and many other countries. Of course, there is no better market than the home market for any product that is manufactured or grown in Australia. But having built up trade around the world in the last few years through the various incentives that have been given by the previous Government and having, as I mentioned a fortnight ago, balanced our current account, including the invisibles, it is most important that not only should legislation such as this be extended but also that every aspect of our export trade, whether primary or secondary, should be watched closely. Exporters should be encouraged, and we should try to ensure that they have a fair opportunity to succeed on the very competitive world markets.

With Australian currency as it is at the moment I feel that, regardless of what he said, if the member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) looks closely at the position he will find that business is in trouble, especially in the mining areas. It is quite obvious from the evidence that I have been able to gather - obviously as a Western Australian I am able to gather quite a deal of information - that these particular industries are in very serious trouble. The point is where do we go from here? In these circumstances will industry continue to develop? Will it continue to put capital into new operations? Will mining in Australia ever reach the complete stage that is being spoken of at present? I refer to the development of another steel mill, whether small or large. Obviously a large steel works is out. But will development proceed under these conditions? From the evidence I have I believe that such development could be seriously retarded. The situation should be closely examined by the Government. Nothing should be done to stall or hinder the progress that has been made in recent years with Australia's exports.

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