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Wednesday, 25 September 1974
Page: 1382

Senator CARRICK (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. It refers to the announced devaluation of the Australian currency and to its prospective effect upon the cost and volume of future imports. Is the Government aware that the volume of goods, including textiles, footwear and electronics, on firm order throughout the world by Australian importers, is of record size, capable of meeting at least 6 months of domestic demands? Is the Government aware, therefore, that devaluation will do little or nothing in the short term at least and, for many small industries in the long term, to re-create employment in Australia? Does the Government realise that it cannot turn industries on and off at will? Has the Government any measures in contemplation to ensure that the imported goods which were paid for overseas at pre-devaluation currency levels are not sold in Australia at post-devaluation mark-ups? If so, what are those measures?

Senator WRIEDT -The second part of the question highlights much the same sort of problems that obtained when we revalued the dollar and many of the benefits which would normally have accrued to the Australian community were not passed on because of the very high demand situation. The Government sought those powers, of course, during the prices and incomes referendum, but the Government recognised that it was powerless to force importers to pass those benefits on to the consumer. Much the same situation obtains now. It is quite true, as Senator Carrick has pointed out, that similar abuses- I think that is a fair word to use- can occur again. I would assume that the only machinery that would be available would be the Prices Justification Tribunal. I would assume that would apply under those conditions.

Senator Carrick - What about your corporation power?

Senator WRIEDT -That may be too. In view of the second part of your question particularly, I think it would be as well if I were to refer it to the Treasurer for a detailed answer. So far as the earlier part of the question is concerned, it is quite wrong to suggest that the Government is simply turning things on and off. Naturally, we have always maintained after revaluation of the currency on 2 occasions that the Government would continue to look at the need for possible further variations in the Australian dollar. We have never closed our options; it would be foolish for any government to close its options.

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