24 Meeting of Interdepartmental Dollar Policy Committee

Extract [CANBERRA], 31 August 1948


Notes of Meeting held on 31st August, 1948


Dr. Coombs (Chairman) ) Mr. Brown ) Mr. Bunting ) Department of Post-war Reconstruction Mr. Fethers Mr. McCarthy ) Mr. Day ) Department of Commerce and Mr. Carney ) Agriculture Mr. Meere : Department of Trade and Customs Mr. McFadyen ) Division of Industrial Development Mr. Knott ) Mr. Wheeler ) Department of the Treasury Mr. Nette ) Dr. Burton ) Department of External Affairs Mr. Ward ) Professor Melville : Commonwealth Bank

REPORT TO PRIME MINISTER The draft report to the Prime Minister prepared by the Department of Postwar Reconstruction was considered. The report deals with the nature of the dollar problem and the methods of approach to its solution which Australia might adopt, and recommends the formation of a policy committee both at Ministerial and departmental level. The draft report was approved with amendment of the section headed 'Forms of Action' to include a further item as follows:

(f)Further processing of goods now exported to dollar areas as raw materials, e.g. wool, metals.

OBJECTS OF POLICY AND FUNCTIONS OF COMMITTEE General discussion followed regarding the precise objects of the policy to be adopted and of the functions of the Interdepartmental Committee. The first question which arose was whether the prime object should be to improve Australia's individual dollar balance or to assist the total sterling position. The place of expansion of exports to non-dollar areas was also discussed. It was agreed generally that the broad object would be to assist the whole sterling area but that particular attention should be given to our own bilateral dollar balance. Some development of non-dollar exports would be incidental to the policy. However, it was felt that it was impracticable to lay firm general principles, as the emphasis between assistance to Australia itself and to the sterling area pool would vary from project to project. The only satisfactory method of operating would be by individual projects and before any project was launched a number of questions including benefit to be derived, the alternative use of resources, and costs of production would have to be examined.

After discussion on the functions of the Committee the general feeling was that the Committee should confine its direct interest to major projects and be concerned in the consideration of other projects only when the Department normally responsible desired it.

Nevertheless, it would be useful for the Committee to be kept informed of the various types of action which individual Departments are undertaking and to be able to suggest additional action to the Department concerned if it thought fit.

UNITED KINGDOM LONG TERM PROGRAMMING Consideration was next given to the cables H.343 [1], 220 and 221 from the Secretary of State regarding the United Kingdom four-year programme and the information which Australia has been asked to supply in connection with it. Customs and Commerce representatives stated that they were having difficulty in providing the estimates called for under (a) and (b) in Cable 221. It was suggested a suitable reply on the export side would be information mainly in narrative form, though with some figures regarding the development of the main Australian export industries and especially of goods which European countries are at present buying for dollars. On the import side it was felt that the only reply could be a list showing possible quantities of short supply goods and traditional goods which Europe may be able to export. It was agreed that Commerce and Customs should proceed with their draft replies and make available a copy to Treasury and Post-war Reconstruction.

1 Document 23.

[AA: A9790, 533, i]