PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 4623

PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER, MR FRASER, AND THE SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN THE JULIANA ROOM, HILTON HOTEL, ON 12 FEBRUARY 1978

Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/02/1978

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 4623

Cornmonwealth Heads of Government
Regional Meeting
Ausral; a 9-78 12 February 1978
PREIIMINARY TRANSCRIPT
PRESS CONFERENCE
by the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Fraser,
and the Secretary-General,
in the . Jli. Jna Room, Hilton Hotel, on 12 February
Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen, I would lik-to
elcome you all here and especially the Secretary-General, who
has worked for quite some time and so enthusiastically and constructively
for the particular purposes of the Commonwealth and
through the Commonwealth for the wider purposes of trying to
create a better and a more peaceful world. So, Secretary-General,
welcome. I hope that this conference is as useful and constructive
as other ones that you have attended.
I would particularly like to welcome media from overseas as
well as the Australian media. I recognise one or two familiar
faces. I hope that they will find their time in Australia useful
and maybe also that they will have some time to enjoy themselves.
I am pleased that this meeting which is, I think, the
largest meeting of Heads of Goverrnment to be held here, is being
held in the Commonwealth context I have always believed that the
modern Commonwealth, with its great diversity of nations and
people within it, has the possibility and tne reality of playing
a very useful role in the world where there are often difficult
and, seemingly in the short term sometimes intractable problems
that defy solution. I do believe that the modernCommonwealth
plays a useful and constructive role in world affairs.
I have also believed that Australia has not always been as
constructive and as enthusiastic a member of the Commonwealth as
she ought to. Over the last little while we have tried to redress
that, at least so far as Australia is concerned.
The Commonwealth of Nations does link a cross-section of
the world and it can and is, I believe, making a significant
contribution. What is happening in this conference is in many senses a
new experiment for the Commonwealth. It came out of discussions
at the last meeting in London in which the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting endorsed the concept of regional meetings from
time to time, where regional countries felt and believed that / 2

2
they had common purposes that they wanted to discuss and
regional problems that they would like to tackle, but within
a Commonwealth context, I believe also that this is a particularly
useful part of the world to begin that experiment.
Eepresented here this week there are a number of small states,
very small by world standards, as well as states that are very
large by world standards.
In a full Common wealth meeting or in the United Nations
or in other major international organisations, it is sometimes
difficult for small states, I believe, and I think they believe,
to get the representation and the hearing which is their due
and which is necessary if their particular problems are to be
overcome. So one of the significant matters for discussion at this
meeting are the problems of small states and the Commonwealth's
role in helping to seek ways a: nd means of achieving solutions
to the. ir very real but sometiimes unique problems.
It would be wrong if anyone expected great and dramatic
results from this conference. Major problems in the world are
not generally capable of solution in one step or at one meeting.
They are not of that kind. What they do need, however, is a
commitment by a number of countries, by a number of Heads of
Government to work for a reasonable and proper solution of the
problems. It is a step-by-step process. If this conference can
take some useful steps in helping to overcome regional questions
and at the same time if it can take one or two steps in advancing
matters, such as the differences between countries of the world
in relation to the Common Fund, then this conference itself will
have played a useful role.
In addition to that, of course, there is the intangible,
immeasurable benefit of Heads of Government being able to meet
together, and their officials to meet together, to discuss
problems and to get to know each other that does lead to a very
much better understanding of problems, of attitudes and where
there are, as inevitably there will be differences, does lead to
a much better understanding of each other's point of view. That
is one of the great and intangible benefits of the Commonwealth,
and one of the reasons why the Commonwealth has endured. I have
said on a number of occasions that I believe the modernCommonwealth
is much, much more influential than the old Commonwealth
ever was, the old, somewhat narrow, Commonwealth of five countries.
Certainly if, as I do not think could have happened, that old
Commonwealth of five countries had survived to 1978, it would
not have influence, it would not have impact, it would not be
able to play the constructive role and the useful role that the
modern Commonwealth does at the present time.
On the basis of this meeting I think as you know there are
two days of conference in Sydney; there will be some informal
discussions when'Heads of Government go to Bowral and then the
final meeting will be held towards the end of the week again in
Sydney; the emphasis is on economic and regional issues. There 0./ 3

is a particularly useful proposal from India for a consultative
group on energy one that is very much welcomed and
supported by Australia an examination of alternative energy
sources. In another way, this is also one of the most interesting
proposals because, as I understand it, one of India's problems
is the question of energy and alternative energy sources for
domestic or industry purposes at the village level. Sources
of energy at that level might well have a very real link with
the energy problems of rsall states, and that could lead to
identi. fication of intere . ts in relation to energy between one
of the largest nations in the world and between a number of the
smallest nations of the world.
There are clearly other econc.: ic issues, the questions of
trade and the questions of access not only within the region
but also countries within the region to countries outside the
region. I mentioned the question of the Common Fund and how I
hope that the discussion during the course of this week of
matters in that area can be advanced. Australia has taken
decisions which certainly gives her own position a new lock and
I think will take a view somewhat closer to that of the Group
of 77. I think it opens up possibilities for a general advance
in t! e long-standing discussion about the Common Fund. As a
commodity exporter Australia does have a number of common interests
with the developing countries. To this extent I thUin we
stand apart from a number of the other so-called developed
countries which do not have that same interest. We therefore
perhaps have a better understanding and concern of the very real
problems that developing countries face that are dependent so
largely on trade and commodities, a trade that is often uncertain
and often unstable as to quantity and to price. The need for
stable and reasonable arrangements at a proper price level is
of enormous imDortance to the developing world.
I believe, Mr. Secretary-General, that this meeting will
contribute to even better regional understanding. I think it
is going to be a constructive meeting. I have already had
discussions with a number of Heads of Government this morning
and yesterday and I think they, too, are looking forward to the
week's discussions.
Before throwing this particular press conference open to
questions, I would like to ask the Secretary-General to address
the gathering in any way you would like to.
SECRETARY-GENERAL:
Thank you, Prime Minister. You have covered the ground
so adequately that there is not too much more that I would
like to add.
I would like to say at what is my first meeting with the
press in Australia in a formal way how very pleased I have been
to note the kind of interest you have taken in the meeting and
the kind of background writing that has occurred in the

4-
Australian media, in radio and television. It has all been
done with deep interest and great understanding and sympathy.
There has been a tendency from time to time in some capitals
where Commonwealth meetings are held for the media to indulge
in a kind of Commonwealth bashing. We have been altogether
free from that approach. There are, of course, many issues
of immense concern and some controversy within the Commonwealth.
It is not free from contrariety within its membership but we
rely very greatly upon an informed public opinion to sustain
the kind of confidence that the leadership of the Commonwealth
now has in it, in its potential and in its works and your own
undersanding is a very important element in building that
infor-n ation and contact with the public. So I look forward as
the conference unfolds to ;-inuing close relationship with
the media and to your continuinb to serve the causes of the
Commonwealth in the many years ah-ad.
I think, Prime Minister, there w-ill be many occasions in.
the next few days when your own quite bold initiatives that
have led to this meeting will be the occasion for justified
praise. I would like on this very first occasion to place that
on record. The Commonwealth owes a great deal all the time to
initiatives of this kind that strike out in new directions and
it is its capacity to respond to them, to absorb them, to mould
them in ways that are relevant to the needs of a very new kind
of Commonwealth that helps to make it continue to be relevant
to its very varigated membership.
I can confirm what you said that there is abroad, beyond
the Commonwealth, a mood which takes it with seriousness. I
think our last meeting in London substantially advanced the
standing and the respect in which we are held in international
circles and I am certain that this new endeavour, for it is a
new endeavour, is bound to lead to similar responses.
The very fact that 12 Heads of Government from countries
as varied in so many ways as those who are here, is
an indication of how seriously they take Australia's comitment,
your own personal commitment, Prime iMinister, to the causes of
the Commonwealth and to the concerns which they at the level of
national leadership feel and articulate within a Commonwealth
forum. I am sure, therefore, that the auguries are good for a
successful meeting.
It is a very wide region and in many ways the enormous
value of this meeting lies in the fact that it brings together
people who have not been together in an intimate way before.
A meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government now seats around
the table some 36 presidents and prime ministers. We will have
seated around the table here just 12. There will be somewhat
more informality and a good deal more intimacy, perhaps for
that reason, a good deal more frankness and straight talking,
but all the better for it. It is out of that kind of exchange
of views that understandings develop and that a convergence of
opinions emerge which sustains Commonwealth relationships.

I would like, Prime Minister, to join you in indicating
for the press our willingness to be as responsive as we
possibly can to your questions.
MR. FRASER: It is over to you.
Q. Mr. Fraser, what is the Australian Government's attitude
to the Common Fund? I gather that it was discussed in
Cabinet last Thursday but there has not been
IMR. FRkASER: No, there has not been anything said yet. The
Common Fund is in som y a complex proposal that will
just be basically about thrue issues. At the last June
meeting a working group was e.: tablished within the Commonwealth
which did prepare a \ ery useful report in
relation to the Common Fund and it was not the sort of
report that was in any way committing on governments but
in helping to define issues that in itself can help to
resolve differences between countries. It was a usef. ul
document. I think the Commonwealth Secretariat believes that
ministers should meet a little later to discuss that
report I do not mean during this meeting, a full
Comonwealth ministerial meeting and Australia certainly
supports that view.
There have been many arguments between the Group of 77 and
Group B countries about how a Common Fund should operate
and how it should be financed, and the decisions Australia
took last week in a sense take it, I think, a considerable
way ahead of the general Group B countries, developed
countries, in its attitude to the Common Fund.
We had earlier stated a view that indicated we would
support the fund being funded by the producers and consumers
of commodities, that comes from the individual
commodity arrangements, and also maybe by governments and
were prepared to consider " other measures" which many
developing countries believed ought also to be financed
through the fund.
We have made the firm decision that the fund should be
funded not only by contributions from producers and
consumers but also direct contributions by governments and
also that it would be proper and I think this is the
more significant change in Australia's attitude that
it would be proper for the Common Fund to fund other
measures which could be involved with transport, distribution,
a number of other matters which are related to
some aspects of commodity trade.
There is a degree of imprecision in relation to the views
people have of other measures and I think we will be
suggesting for consideration that it might be worthwhile / 6

-6-
for the Commonwealth to establish a working group to
study the nature of other measures and the terms and
conditions that should apply to enable funding to take
place. The vic., s that Australia has taken, take us a step or
two closer to the attitude of the Group of 77 but nobody
is going to get everything they want out of the Common
Fund. There is going to be a process of compromise in
getting the fund operating, but I hope that the attitude
that we are taking will contribute to the debate and
contribute to the debate in a way which will enable a
resolution of the issues. I think the discussion has
gone on too long. We are o. of the significant world
commodity traders and therefore we do understand what
happens when demand changes dramatically or when price
changes dramatically. it can upset the whole internal
economies of a particular country. I believe that the
developed countries need to approach any forthcoming
discussions in relation to the Common Fund with a greater
degree of commitment than they have so far shown.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, in your private discussions with the
prime ministers of Fiji and New Zealand, did you find
that they were enthusiastic and strong supporters of the
aims and the holding of this conference?
Secondly, we were told earlier that in the discussion you
had with the PNG prime minister you both agreed that this
conference should look closely at the problem of drug
trafficking in this region and that perhaps some solutions
or measures for better enforcement might come up. Could
you tell us a little more on that?
MR. FRASER: Part of your question I cannot answer at the moment
because Mr. Muldoon is not yet here. He is coming in a
little later so I have not yet had a bilateral discussion
with him. I will be seeing him. I am going from this
conference almost directly to meet him.
I have not noticed any reluctance on the part of other
Heads of Government in relation to this particular meeting
and in one sense at not a great deal of notice I think it
remarkable that 11 of our guests have been able to come
here at one time because Heads of State and Heads of Government
do get booked up sometimes quite a considerable period
ahead and I know for a fact that more than one of our
guests has made up his mind to come here, despite a
considerable degree of personal inconvenience in relation
to other arrangements that have been made concerning their
own programmes.
I think that the countries of the Pacific are looking forward
to a forum where they believe, and I make that in
broad terms and as far as I know without exception,
looking forward in broad terms to a forum where their own ./ 7

7
problems can be discussed in a useful and constructive
way where they do not get overshadowed by problems that
loom larger on the world stage when you get into the
major Commonwealth conference or in the United Nations.
I would hope that one of the lasting results of this
kind of meeting might well be the situation in which
the problems of small states and of areas such as the
Pacific that have very real problems which are not
causing trouble really to anyone get proper attention.
W\ hen I say not causing trouble, are not a cause of concern
for world peace or matters of that kind, and can
get proper attention and a proper focus put upon them.
I hope that one of th. ' i. ings we can explore is the ways
and means by which the Com. on,, ealth might be able to
contribute to that particular objective.
Australia, as you know, is very much concerned about
drugs and the attack that seems to be being made on the
Australian consumer market from people outside. There
have been some very large hauls of drugs in Australia
in recent times and while it has not formally been part
of the agenda it has been informally canvassed as a
nmatter that might well be discussed. There are world
arranrgemenits in relation to drugs as you know, but when
the minister concerned in Australia, 1Mr. Fife, was
recently overseas it was certainly his impression that
some additional measures of international co-operation
could be pursued to make our general attack on the drug
position more effective. When I say our general attack
I mean the total attack of nations because it is not
just an individual national problem. It is a problem
that transcends national boundaries to a very great
extent. Personally I would hope that even though it is
not formally on the agenda something might come of this.
SECRET ARY-GENERAL: Prime Minister, before the next question,
perhaps I ought to say in respect of the first part of
the last question, that it is something of a record in
Commonwealth meetings for us to have the kind of hundred
per cent attendance that we have achieved on this occasion.
To my own knowledge Heads of Government meetings
over the last 15 years have never been without some one
or more, usually three or four, prime ministers or
presidents who could not find it possible to come. That
we have achieved this on this occasion is, I think, a
fair indicator of the positive character of the response
to the proposals of the meeting.
Q. Prime Minister, will you be taking up the drug problem,
the drug situation, in your bilateral discussions with
the Malaysian and Singaporean delegations, and also can
you give us an idea as to how much the hosting of this
conference is costing?
MR. FRASER: I cannot give a precise figure. I have seen a
particular figure mentioned, I think, of a million dollars.
I think that is somewhat overstating it and it may be

8
nearer half that figure but I do not want to be held
to that in any sense, shape or form at this stage
because the Australian Government has been concerned
to make sure that our guests are as comfortable as
they can be. There is a fairly busy work schedule
and we want them to be comfortable and well looked
after for the week they are going to be in Australia.
Let me only say that whether my estimate is nearer the
actual figure or whether the estimate that I have seen
printed is nearer the actual figure, in terms of the
broader Commonwealth and for Australia I believe every
cent is very well worth while being spent.
Q. As far as the drug situation in bilateral discussions
with Singapore
MR. FRASER: I have not had bilateral discussions with
Singapore to this point. I welcomed the Prime Minister
obviously this morning and the discussions with Malaysia,
the plane was a little bit late and to avoid keeping all
of you waiting they were suspended and will be resumed
at a later point but I have been mentioning that particular
matter with most of the bilateral discussion that
I have been holding.
Q. Prime Minister, has the refugee question come up in your
discussions so far with Malaysia?
MR.. FRASER: No, it has not been raised. Australia stands
ready to speak to it if it is raised but it has not been
raised yet.
Q. Does Australia have any proposals to put on refugees to
Singapore and Malaysia, Mr. Prime Minister?
MR. FRASER: I do not think in that sense. We do believe it
is very important that the arrangements for handling
refugees that have been established be maintained. The
work of the United Nations is of enormous importance but
we all know there is a very acute problem that is likely
to remain while the problems between Cambodia and Vietnam
remain.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, will this be seen as a good opportunity
for considering a common approach to the next
conference of the law of the sea?
MR. FRASER: I would have thought that the law of the sea
matters will certainly be introduced and I know my Foreign
Minister, Andrew Peacock, has been very concerned that
more progress has not been made in relation to that, but
when you say common approach the purpose of these discussions,
I think, is to discuss, to explore and I certainly
hope that there are some things as a result that we can do
together certainly on a regional basis. One of the things / 9

-9-
that was indicated last June and which I support very
strongly is that regional meetings of the Commonwealth
ou: ht not in any sense lead to a situation in which
tl:' re is a caucussing or a ganging up on other world
forums, or on the Commonwealth as a whole so if there
is discussion and further exploration of particular
matters, that is one thing. Countries will come to
their own decisions about attitudes they will take and
express in other forums, Commonwealth or otherwise, but
I would hate to see and I am sure everyone here would
hate to see anything that could be construed as caucussing
by countries outside those who are represented,
whether they are within our region or in the wider world
forum. That would be bad and I am sure we would all be
opposed to it.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, does not this conference to a certain
extent overlap with the South Pacific Forum?
MR. FRASER: No, I do not really think it does, in its purpose,
I mean. Countries are obviously represented very often
in rmore than one international organisation. You might
very easily say, does not the Commonwealth itself overlap
with the United Nations. I have said on many occasions
that the Commonwealth is a microcosm of the United Nations
but I also believe that on many occasions, because the
number of tensions that are so often evident at the United
Nations are largely absent from the Commonwealth discussions,
that it is possible for the Commonwealth to make
progress on a particular issue in a way which maybe the
United Nations cannot achieve or cannot achieve so readily.
So, just to suggest that there is more than one organisation
discussing a matter is not to make it as a point of criticism.
Th. South Pacific Forum has a very important regional role
looking purely and simply, really, at the regional problems
of the member countries. This is a larger meeting. I think
it can complement the work of the Pacific Forum because I
believe it can assist the countries of the Pacific in
different ways, perhaps in ways that the Forum itself would
not be able to achieve. The Forum can work for areas and
avenues of co-operation that this larger meeting could not
achieve, again because there is some difference in the
totality of interests. If it is possible in a subject I
mentioned before, for example, to define very real areas of
common concern, how best you supply energy sources at the
village level in India. If that is applicable to the
countries in the Pacific that is a common interest that
would not emerge from Forum discussions. In addition, the
attitudes that are expressed here can by individual countries
be taken into wider forums and if they believe in a certain
matter, they will work for it in that wider forum, whether
it is the Commonwealth or the United Nations. There are two
members of ASEAN here, who might equally say: does it not
cut across the work of ASEAN? Again, I would say very firmly,
no, it does not. ASEAN has a very specific and very important
regional role which from the outside Australia supports.

10
You need to look at the purposes of meetings and their
function. I do very strongly believe that the more
international communication on a personal basis, the
better it is. ' hnen the Head of a Government tells you
somthing and he is sitting next to you, you get quite a
different view of it, very often, than from reading some
words that somebody has sent in a cable. It might even
be saying almost the same thing. It might be using
almost the same words, but you can see his face and look
at hi: expression and it is obviously much better. It
is not often that Heads of Governmient can get together
in this way. Quite specifically in relation to the Forum,
it has got its own very particular and important role
which Australia supports strongly and seeks to encourage.
The matters that will be discussed this week, if anything,
will only strengthen the capacity of Forum countries to
support their own purposes : from within the Forum.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, do you expect there to be questions
about increased aid for the South Pacific nations?
MtR. FRSER: Nobody has raised that and-we have made certain
decisions which individual member countries will be advised
of at the present time in relation to aid but these are
matters that were on the not to a total extent but in
part were on the aid programme. For example, we will be
providing $ 10 million to a very important hydro-electric
project in Fiji, the Development Bank will be providing
the inm: jor part of the funds. I think the total project is
about '$ 75 million and discussions will take place between
Australian and Fiji officials about the manner and distribution
of Australian aid for that particular purpose.
Andrew Peacock will be ready to announce the form and
distribution of the special aid from the C. I. E. C. meeting
and our share of that I think the total contribution
of $ 18 million has already been announced, but its actual
distribution you might remember that at the Paris conference
it was decided that this aid should be in a form that is
quickly distributed to meet particular purposes. The
countries that are represented here that are to be recipients
of part of that amount will be advised. We will be providing
a loan to the Forum shipping line of $ 180,000 which is necessary
so that it can commence operations. There are matters
of this kind in many senses they are not part of the
mainstream of the conference. I think Australia is rather
taking the opportunity to mention these things to the
countries concerned at this particular time. I think it
is on wider issues that the real use of this particular
conference will demonstrate itself.
Q. Mr. Fraser, will you be arguing at the conference that the
unemployment figures for Australia released last Friday
which the acting minister said were higher than expected
will make it harder still for Australia to let in more
imports from the region? / 11

11
MR. FRASER: To put that question into context, obviously it
does not make it easier when there is unemployment but I
am glad that question was asked because over recent times
Australia's trade position has not been adequately understood.
When you look at Australia's imports of industrial
products from developing countries, Australia . stands at
145 a head of our population, the United States at 40 a
head but then you fall to the European Community at 827 a
head and Japan at only 1$ 17 a head. If you look at the per
capita import-of textiles, clothing and footwear which
a-re particularly sensitive items, Australia stands at
from the ASEAN countries for example ' 2.14 a head, the
United States 630, the European Community 510, Japan 250.
On both those bases Australia is importing much more per
capita than three large trading blocs which house very
close to 600 million people. I think countries do understand
that an Australian market of 14 million people
obviously cannot solve the trading problems of our own
region much less the trading problems of the world
espOecially when 25 per cent of our total export, about
nearly $ 5,000 million worth, are subject to import quotas,
bans-prohibitions and all the rest, Non-tariff barriers
in other words, which often destroy any possibility of
trade. Even despite that, from all developing countries
in the five years up to the last statistics we have, 1976/
1977, trade has increased by 40 per cent per annum, from
the developing Commonwealth regional countries represented
here by 32 per cent per annum, from ASEAN countries by 41
per cent per annum, even if trade began on a relatively low
base, a relatively low base soon grows into a very large
sum indeed, at that rate of increase, and I believe that is
recognised. Let me give another comparison. If the ASEAN countries had
the same access to Europe, to North America and to Japan in
textiles, clothing and footwear, as they do to Australia,
they would be exporting an additional : 1,000 million worth
of textiles, clothing and footwear and that, I think, tends
to put Australia's position, which has not always been
adequately understood, into perspective.
Q. Is that the line you have been putting to the Malaysian
Prime Minister?
MR. FRASER: I think this is consistent with views I have been
expressing publicly and privately for nearly a year now,
certainly for the last eight or nine months.
Q. Sir, a general question. IWhy did you decide to initiate,
push and host this meeting? What is in it for Australia?
Is it the start of an attempt by Australia to play a more
influential role in the region, and generally on the world
stage?
MR. FRASER: I do not think in the context of that question. I
happen to believe in the Commonwealth, and I had stated
views directed to that end long before the Commonwealth
conference in London last June. I believe there are many / 12

12
differe'tl ways in which the Commonwealth's purposes can
be advantaged. I had indicated before it might have
been at a speech in New Guinea at their own independence
celebrations, which was quite a long while ago, in
political terms that therCe was room for a more vigorous
and wholehearted com! mitment on the part of Australia to
the Comomonwealth. I believe that is so. Believing that,
it is obvious that it be the purpose of any government
that I lead to give effect to it. It is not a question
of individual countries exerting a leadership role within
the Commonwealth. It is a question of consensus, of
having common views. If Australia or India or Fiji
express views that are generally accepted, then the
Commonwealth will pursue those views. But if a particular
country expresses views that are not going to have a general
consensus amongst other members of the Commonwealth
then the Commonwealth will not go down that particular
path. So it is a consensus organisation and I think it
ought to be. That is not to say that countries should
not try to put forward constructive ideas. I think we
all ought to, all individual members of the Commonwealth,
and I believe all members of the Commonwealth seek to play
that role. What we are doing in relation to the Commonwealth
is not just directed only at that because right from the
earliest times the Foreign Minister was seeking to do more
in relati on to the Pacific. Our aid had been very much
orientated purely to South-East Asia, Papua New Guinea, a
bit further afield but very much South-East Asia and Papua
New Guinea and in terms of the problems they face. Until
Andrew Peacock became Foreign Minister, I believe that
Australia had not given adequate attention in aid terms to
the problems of Pacific countries. We have sought to
redress that in terms of increase so I think you have got
to look at all of this as part of a pattern, part of a
purpose, but I certainly hope it is not looked at as any
attempt of Australia to stand on a pedestal or anything of
that kind because that would be very far from the truth.
It is being in one sense a member of a team, the team being
the Commonwealth, and lending what weight Australia can to
Commonwealth purposes.
Q. Prime Minister, the Common Fund will require uncommonly
large funding if it is to operate effectively. Are the
decisions your Cabinet has taken, presumably in principle,
to support the Common Fund, firm enough for you to now
make a firm commitment that Australia would be a major
contributor to the Common Fund and if so by how much, in
round figures?
MR. FRASER: No, it is not possible to put a figure on it. It
is possible to say, certainly, that Australia would be a
contributor to the Common Fund.
Q. A major contributor, sir?
MR. FRASER: In relation to our population. We need always to
have that in mind because let us not forget that 600 million
people in Europe, North America and Japan and they are fairly
powerful, influential trading groups and Australia's 14 m.
is relatively small by comparison with their approaching .0/ 15 3

13
600 million. I quite deliberately made the point that
producers and consumers need to be involved in any
funding for a Common Fund. The obligations of getting
stability and trade do not only fall on producers, they
fall on consumers and it has been recognised from time
to time in international wheat agreements, international.
sugar agreements, but I believe also, and I think this
is unfortunate, that very often the greatest progress
towards agreement so far as European countries is concerned
is made at times when there are low commodity prices-because
then it is obviously in their interests to push fo.-: ard
for agreement on the basis of a fairly low base and there is
a tendency to lose interest if prices go in another direc-ion.
But I hope that transitory matters can be put aside and that
everyone can approach the question of a Common Fund with a
very real sense of cosit-ment because without that commitment
it will not be reached, it will not be evolved and from our
own experience in trade, we are looking now, and this a
domestic matter, to try and get a more even balance in meat
prices in Australia and Australians will know what the lack
of that has meant to many people in this country. We are
also operating a commodity arrangement which Australians
alone this is producers and governments or by loans have
funded to try and get more stable prices for wool on the
world market and in many senses what we do does set a stability
in wool prices right around the world. So these things
can be done and it is out of that experience, I think, that
our conviction that arrangements can be made to work is
found, but they will not work unless there is a coemitment.
There needs to be a commitment not only by the developing
countries, as there certainly is, but also by developed
countries who have obligations to help establish stable trade
arrangenents at reasonable nrice levels for commodities. So
who is going to find how much finance there is in this, I do
not know.
Our coi-mmitment to provide funds is there. That is unequivocal.
But you need to look at the totality of funds required
and Australia would certainly be prepared to pay its own
fair and reasonable part in this arrangement as we have in
other international arrangements.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, one follow-up question on trade. The
arguments that you put about Australia's trading position
as it is to the rest of the world, you put them before, as
you said, and Malaysia and Singapore have continued in their
criticism. I am wondering what you are going to be saying
to the Datuk and to Mr. Lee to make them see the error of
their ways. Are you going to be putting any new arguments
to them?
MR. FRASER: I think it would be presumptuous indeed, of me, to
suggest that anyone should see the error of their ways,
certainly anyone anyone at all. There is one point that
I would like to add just before we close. I have not said
it here, but I have said it in Kuala Lumpur and on other
occasions. What Australia can do in terms of trade and 14

14
access to Australia's market's depends not insignificantly
on the kind of access that we can get to other
ma~ rkets, and the-fact that we are denied access to
many markQ-' ts in Europe, Japan and also in the Unite~ d
State, where wre face non-tLariff barriers which means
absolut'-e barriers, covering matters that could! be worth
up to million on an annual basis, cl early has an
imp1. ic. 1t'ion for tbe Australian economy. It males the
Austr.-, ian econony weaker -than it would otherwise be and
has a seriour; impact on the kind of access that we caii
allowa on, an increasing basis to ohrcountries. I
th1*-, 1l,. this is stlarting to be understood. I was delighI-ted
to -that a Secretariat paper,-prepared as a backgr-ou-d
paper ivthscnerence, while very justifl. iably exiro-s*-
ing thr,. views that other people have about access to
Australia's marke. et, also paid recognition to the di-Eficulty
that Av. tralia is faced withr by -the non-tariff barriers
that th-e Euronean Co!: w. nunit-1y in particular plza-ces on exports
firom Aic1,-tra. ia. There is a very real itrvltosi
In the; 7:. e th-ings. If we can understand that better wewil
1 thn-, start -to under-stand our co-mmon purposes better
and ther,: eby get tco a oositic where vre can perh-aps do more
abut overco-ming w. hatever difficul-ties there may be-.
00 * a

Transcript 4623