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More than 35 years have elapsed since John Curtin died with victory not yet won, but the safety of Australia, for which he had given his life, assured.

Yet there is no Australian Prime Minister whose life and character have greater relevance to the challenges which the people of Australia face today and to the choice they will have to make about the future of our country next Saturday.


Much has been said in recent times about the question of leadership. In the greatest crisis in our nation's history John Curtin brought to the leadership of this nation the supreme qualities of a genuine Australian leader.

There was about Curtin none of this studied image of simulated toughness, so-called. His real strength came from his deep inner resources of compassion, integrity and self-understanding.

He knew the real meaning of patriotism and love of country; and Curtin, the architect of the American alliance, never thought that loyalty to Australia first required loyalty to the government of another nation. Above all, John Curtin had the supreme quality of a national leader--the ability to unite.

In the aftermath of the Great Depression, Curtin was called to the leadership of this nation after a period of profound social, economic and political division. He never sought power by feeding division. He united his party; he united his cabinet; he united his nation.

In the 1980s, as much as the 1940s, Australia needs leadership, at all levels, which can unify rather than divide. In 1941, R G Menzies himself had been forced out by his own party because he had become a force for division at a time when the Australian people desperately wanted a sense of national unity and a sense of national purpose. And that is what John Curtin gave them.

I will not push the historical analogy further, but I do suggest that it is the qualities of a Curtin--the real strength, the real courage, the real integrity and compassion, which the people of Australia need in their leaders today.

In the context of this lecture, with its theme of The course of reform in the 1980s, there is another reason why the example and record of John Curtin are so relevant to the challenges Australia faces today.


John Curtin led Australia at a time of unparalleled difficulty; yet he never lost sight of the need for reform; and his Government undertook major social and economic reforms hand-in-hand with the successful conduct of the war effort.

Curtin would never have wished for himself the title of Australia's greatest war-time leader. That he had to assume that mantle is part of the tragic grandeur of his career. Yet he never lost sight of his great vision for Australia under Labor. And, despite the war, the Curtin Government was able to implement a tremendous number of far-reaching reforms. They included:

Curtin showed that a Prime Minister and a Government which is committed to reform and committed to the welfare of all Australians can achieve reform, notwithstanding the magnitude of the challenges confronting the nation. The appropriateness of joining the name of Curtin with the theme of reform at the current time is obvious. As a nation, we currently face considerable challenge. Some of the difficulties are international in origin, some home-grown. Yet the need for reform is urgent and reform must occur, in some cases despite and, in other cases, precisely in order to meet the challenges now facing us.

There is nothing so defeatist--and self-defeating--as the conservative dogma that there can be no reform until every other problem has been solved. It is that sort of attitude in regard to the fight against inflation that threatens to doom half a generation of young Australians to the unemployment scrap heap.

Reform is essentially aimed at finding a better way of doing things and creating a better life for all Australians. The current Government's approach is based on the premise that all is well, that there is no need for a better way, that there is no need for a better life for all Australians and that there is no need for reform. The Fraser Government denies the need for reform and rejects change because those to whom it is responsible, a small number of privileged Australians, are content with their position of privilege and threatened by change.

It is, of course, an utterly selfish and self-serving dogma. The dogma which uses the Western recession and inflation as an excuse, an alibi against reform is the creed of those who fear that reform may reduce their privileges--not in any absolute way, but relatively as against the less privileged in the community. The dogma has its extreme expression in Friedmanism, Thatcherism and Fraserism; and the results are there for all to see in the hardship and human waste and growing inequalities in the United States, Britain and Australia.

The attitude of the Fraser Government ignores the real problems facing all Australians, problems requiring urgent reform. The Fraser approach ignores the fact that around three-quarters of a million Australians who want jobs are currently denied the right to work.

It ignores the persistence of widespread poverty in Australia. It ignores the sorry fact that, in the words of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, "for all our illusions of general affluence and equality, about two and a half million Australians live in poverty or on the brink of it."

The Fraser approach ignores the fact that taxation has become optional for a large number of wealthy Australians, to the great cost of those in need.

It ignores the consequences of technological change and Labor's responsibility to ensure that both the costs and benefits of change are shared equally. In summary, the Fraser Government ignores the obvious need for reform and thus tries to establish a false but comfortable premise on which it can reject reform.

The Australian Labor Party recognises the problems and recognises the need for reform. We are a reformist party and as such we are committed to identifying the problems facing Australia, identifying the need for change and bringing about appropriate solutions, appropriate reforms, in the interests of the Australian community as a whole.

The problems facing Australia and the clear need for reformist policies is evident from an examination of all aspects of Australian life. I propose to now examine four such aspects in order to demonstrate the need for reform. These areas are, in turn:

1.The economy

2. Energy problems

3. Industrial Relations

4. Technological change


Australia's current economic performance quite dramatically demonstrates the need for change and the need for new policy approaches. Unemployment is at its highest postwar level, economic growth in the last five years has been at a postwar low, pressures are mounting as a result of structural and technological change, the rate of inflation is accelerating under the impetus of Fraser's economic policies, and control of economic resources is being increasingly concentrated in foreign hands.

Quite obviously there exists a need for new approaches and new policies. Policies which promote growth, policies which recreate the right to work, policies to cope with change, policies which have genuine price stability and policies which reclaim the power to determine our own economic destiny. It is these policies to which a reformist Labor Government is committed and which the conservative forces reject.

The rejection of appropriate responses by the Fraser Government, and its natural constituency, very much demonstrates that its policies are premised on the false basis that the problems I have outlined do not exist and do not, therefore, require reform. This approach is quite damnably illustrated by the Fraser Government's approach to unemployment. It has ignored the problem and thereby ignored the need to effectively respond to the problem.


If you ignore the fact that around 400,000 Australians are officially recorded as unemployed, on average for a period exceeding half a year, and if you ignore the fact that the real level of unemployment is twice that level, it is possible, as Malcolm Fraser did in his policy speech, to avoid any policy aimed at solving the problems. Fraser's claim that "Australia is the best place in the world to bring up a family" could only be uttered by callously ignoring the fact that one in five Australians between the ages of 15 and 19 is unable to find a job, and that in many cases their unemployment leads to family breakdown, crime, drug usage and alcoholism.

The fact that an Australian Prime Minister could make an election speech without once mentioning unemployment, thus ignoring the most pressing social and economic problem facing Australia at the current time, illustrates perfectly the fact that non-reformist government operates on the self-satisfied, but blatantly false, premise that there exists no problems requiring reform.

To meet the problems which do exist, it is necessary to recognise their existence and to devise appropriate policies. It is necessary to seek new solutions and new policies and to reject the outdated, inappropriate and clearly failed policies of the conservative elements in our society.

The Labor Party does offer a new approach to economic management, an approach tailored to meeting the challenges confronting all Australians.

Economic Mangement

We do not say that economic management will be easy-to do so would be to ignore the real problems. We do say that we are aware of the problems and we are aware of the significance of sound economic performance to the well-being of Australians. From the base of recognising and understanding the economic problems we have devised a range of appropriate economic policies. Those policies have three aims. First, to increase Australia's total wealth; second, to distribute our wealth more equitably to all Australians; and third, to increase our capacity to make a more substantial contribution to the welfare of people in countries less privileged than ours.

In the area of employment we are committed to restoring the right to work and our policies are directed to that end. Our policies to restore full employment are on two levels: immediate measures and ultimately planning to avoid the incredible waste of human resources we currently suffer.

The immediate measures are aimed at moving toward reducing the unemployment which has resulted from ad hoc and inappropriate Government measures in the past. In pursuing the inalienable principle of the Labor Party that every Australian must have the right to a job, we recognise that the restoration of full employment won't be easy and it won't be quick. However, we are motivated by the certain knowledge that, in the interests of all Australians, that task must be attempted.

As a first step, we announced in March we would create 100,000 new jobs in our first full year of office, substituting real jobs for welfare payments.

Labor's job creation scheme will therefore achieve much more than providing the opportunity to work. It will also increase Australia's total wealth and allow us to bring about reforms aimed at assisting those in need.

I cannot emphasize too much that this is not just a question of the cost of creating jobs; a much more serious question is the cost of not creating them. Nor is it only a matter of the economic cost of unemployment. The most serious question is the human cost, and the cost to society, the wasted, broken, alienated human lives.

Economic Growth

Unlike the current Government, the Labor Party recognises the value of socially responsible economic growth and our policies are aimed at increased growth. The contractionary policies of the Fraser Government have restricted growth to the lowest postwar level on record. Under the previous Labor administration, Australia's growth was 60 per cent above that recorded in the OECD average. Growth in the Fraser years was 23 per cent below that recorded under the last Labor administration and 70 per cent below the level of growth Fraser indicated as "quite feasible" in his 1975 election speech.

The Labor Party rejects the anti-growth emphasis of the Fraser Government, and for good reasons:

1. Higher growth means more employment;

2. Higher growth means higher national income, higher per capita income and higher living standards for all;

3. Higher growth, by increasing total national income, allows reformist policies to assist those in need in our community.

The cost--$180 million--in our first year is not only necessary but it represents a net benefit to all Australians. With average output per employed person around $18,000 per annum, the expenditure of $180 million will increase the net wealth of Australia by around $1800 million, and reduce the social costs which accompany unemployment to the obvious benefit of all Australians. The $180 million expenditure should be seen as an investment from which all Australians will reap significant returns.

I commend to your attention the Penguin book just published by Dr Peter Sheehan of the Melbourne Institute. It is called Crisis in Abundance, an apt description of the Australian economy today.

Dr Peter Sheehan estimated that the total cost of unemployment to the Australian community in terms of lost production of goods and services is around $16,000 million. The restoration of full employment and the creation of the consequent additional goods and services is of obvious benefit to the whole community. These additional goods and services could be used to better meet the needs of the two million Australians currently in poverty and provide additional necessary goods and services to Australians in areas of need such as housing and public transport. As noted by Sheehan:

The opportunity to improve the quality of life in many areas of Australian society has been lost as a direct result of the current unemployment.

4. Higher growth reduces the pressure for an increased share of national income, which has possible inflationary implications, because a higher aggregate wealth allows higher living standards for all.

One significant reason for the growing attack on the size of Government's welfare commitment is that lower economic growth has reduced the capacity for increased assistance to the needy. When ordinary Australians are suffering losses in their living standards as a result of Fraserism they are less willing to assist the needy. Our commitment to reform and our commitment to those in need underlines our commitment to growth.

Labour Market Mangement

Whilst the Labor Party does commit itself to tackling the problem of unemployment through immediate measures, our ultimate objective must be to reform the whole management of the labour market. The inadequacy of current methods is evident by the shortage of a certain type of worker in the midst of record unemployment levels. There exists a clear need to reject current ad hoc methods of labour market management and to move towards the planning of labour market developments.

That need goes beyond the labour market. The Labor Party is committed to a total reorientation of economic management to better cope with the current economic realities. To this end Labor will develop the concept of economic planning on a coordinated, cooperative and participatory basis, utilizing an Advisory Council comprising representatives of all sectors of the community. We consider that the magnitude of the economic challenges before us and their impact on all sectors of the community necessitates an end to current unilateral and ad hoc decision-making.

Our objective to encourage constructive consultation between Government, employers and the trade union movement within the framework of the ultimate responsibility of Government for the economic management will be consultative rather than confrontationist. To achieve this we will, prior to constructing formal planning mechanisms, hold a national conference involving representatives of unions, Government and employers to discuss in an open and honest way the economic and social problems of our society in the early stages of an ALP Government. Such a conference will signal the beginnings of a new consultative approach to economic management.

There are, of course, many other economic problems currently facing us. In all areas we will adopt new, appropriate strategies and reject the tired, failed policies currently being pursued. Such an approach is essential because the problems demand new answers.

Tax Avoidance

For example, in the field of tax avoidance, the present Government has refused to tackle the problem, going to the extraordinary lengths of actually allowing, in its recent Budget, for tax avoidance to the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The ALP is committed to end tax avoidance because:

1. It is, in itself, unacceptable that the wealthy in our community avoid their share of the tax burden and the provision of public goods and services, and
2. The cost to the community in excess of one billion dollars, reduces the capacity of Government to provide goods and services to the Australian community and to better provide for the needy.

Putting an end to the repugnant practice of tax avoidance will allow a Labor Government better to implement reform, thus benefitting the two million Australians currently living in poverty, without increasing the level of taxation of those other Australians who currently meet their share of taxation. Given this, the elimination of tax avoidance is a critical policy for a Government seeking to undertake reform.

Quite obviously, it is not possible to canvass the whole of the economy in this lecture. It is possible to conclude, however, that new approaches are required and reforms in economic management and economic objectives must be pursued.


The second area of reform with which I wish to deal is that of energy. The total question of energy is extremely important at the current time and pressures on energy users are growing. As a nation we need to reassess our attitude to, and management of, energy and to develop a total coherent energy policy.

The current Government simply does not have a total energy policy. The Government has an oil pricing policy but it is plainly inadequate to have an energy policy only focussed on one area.

What Australia really needs is a total energy policy. The energy market is a complex interrelated market and it is simply not possible to isolate one aspect--oil. As noted by the Chairman of the SECV, Mr J C Trethowan in his address to the Australian Institute of Energy:

The world is not facing an 'energy crisis', at least it is not facing a 'crisis' in terms of running out of energy. Known available world energy resources are greater today than at any time in history. The challenge, though, lies in getting time to switch some energy demand to alternative energy resources.

Further, Australia is extremely well placed in terms of energy. The Prime Minister confirmed this in March of this year by saying:

What we are facing is not a catastrophe but opportunity. And it is an opportunity which Australia is uniquely placed to meet. Already we are one of the few net energy exporters amongst the OECD countries. We possess substantial reserves of uranium and black and brown coal. We have significant reserves of liquid petroleum gas and natural gas. And the possibilities for alternative sources of oil from shale and coal liquefaction demonstrate that, in the world increasingly short of energy supplies, Australia occupies a privileged position.

Yet the Government tells us we must all suffer because of shortages of oil and that we must all suffer reduced living standards. We are suffering reduced living standards only because of the partial and shortsighted energy policies of the Fraser Government. Their only response to the challenge of the changing energy scenario is to extort $3,200 million from the Australian motorist each year; pushing up inflation and reducing the motorists' living standards.

What is really needed is a total, coherent energy policy rationalising demand and supply of all energy resources to the benefit of Australia as a whole. What we face under Fraser is a massive petrol tax rip-off, the expenditure of less than 1 per cent of those revenues into research on alternative energy a confusion of pricing structures for alternative energy including the selling off of Australian energy resources at cut rates to foreign customers and the selling of energy to business enterprises at below cost by some State Governments.

The current energy position is one of absolute confusion. Currently energy policy is the preserve of five different departments and total energy management is impossible. Australia needs a coherent energy policy for the 1980s. To this end a Labor Government will undertake urgent reform and rationalisation of energy management.

Energy Policy

A Labor administration will implement a rational and sensible energy conservation program. It is necessary to reject the Fraser approach--which amounts to nothing more than a massive rip-off of the motorist--and concentrate upon measures aimed directly at decreasing energy wastage and providing alternatives such as public transport.

The major initiatives will include:


I turn now to the area of industrial relations, a further area in need of significant reform.

There are many of us in the Labor Party who do have experience in the industrial relations field and who understand the realities of industrial relations. With this knowledge we recognise the need to change the Government's role from one of confrontation, as currently practised, to one of encouraging consultation and conciliation amongst all parties concerned.

Industrial relations concerns the relationship between employers and workers and the resolution of the differences occurring between them. It is inevitable there will be conflict between employers and workers arising out of their competing demands on limited economic resources. And at times that conflict will manifest itself in the form of industrial action-strikes, bans, etc.

When conflict arises, it is in the interests of all concerned--employers, workers and the community--that it be resolved with a minimum of disruption. And by 'resolved', I mean that a genuine settlement of the particular dispute be found. Further, I might add, the only guarantee that the settlement of a dispute will be of any value lies in the process of settlement. The key factors in the process leading to workable and acceptable solutions to industrial problems are discussion and negotiation.

Conciliation and Confrontation

The Labor Party recognises the necessity to genuinely resolve industrial conflict and the consequent need for real negotiation. Accordingly, we will place emphasis on the conciliation role of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and in Government we will concentrate on consultation with both unions and employers.

Over the last three years, the Labor Party has practised this philosophy in Opposition, through the regular meetings of ALAC comprising the Parliamentary Party and the Peak Councils. As a result of this consultation we have now reached an understanding between the Labor Party and the union movement which marks a significant step forward in the relationship between a future Labor Government and the trade union movement. The development of effective consultation, the recognition of areas of common concern, including the need to lower unemployment and inflation simultaneously, and the reaching of a real understanding between the trade union movement and a future Labor Government, is in stark contrast to the industrially disruptive confrontationist approach of the Fraser Government.

The history of the Fraser Government is a history of confrontation in industrial relations. The most significant features of its policies have been:

1. The concentration on the provision of sanctions for use against the activities of unions, and

2. The assertion that the Government has a greater role to play in industrial relations-always of a negative type.


In relation to sanctions, it should be noted that the effect of the new sanctions has not been to destroy the union movement, and further, the effect of the new array of sanctions has not been to change the balance of power in industrial relations or to emasculate the trade union movement or to prevent unions from rigorously pursuing claims on behalf of their members. If this was the purpose for the introduction of the sanctions, then the sanctions have been a dismal failure. Further, the effect of the introduction of the new sanctions has not been to encourage their widespread use by employers. Most employers recognise the harmful industrial relations consequences of attempting to use such sanctions and have refrained from using them.

The effect of the new sanctions has been two-fold. First, the introduction of new sanctions has given the appearance of the Government doing something to deal with the industrial problems it has done so much to create. In reality, of course, the Government makes no positive contribution to good industrial relations by introducing tough new sanctions.

The second effect of the new sanctions is perhaps more serious than the Government's attempts at gaining political mileage through their introduction. The availability of the sanctions provides scope for 'maverick' employers to cause massive industrial disruption by attempting to use the sanctions.

This is clearly illustrated in cases brought against unions under S.45D of the Trade Practices Act, and I would refer you in particular to the dispute in New South Wales involving Leon Laidely Pty Ltd and the use of S.45D by that company, which resulted in petrol shortages in several States. I should add that in no way could it be said that S.45D assisted in the settlement of the Laidely dispute or even strengthened Laidely's position in the dispute. Indeed, the presence of S.45D in the Act misled Laidely into thinking that he had a potent weapon to be used in the dispute. The lesson for employers from the Laidely dispute should be clear-those employers who place their trust in the new sanctions will find that the sanctions are like the general performance of the Fraser Government-long on promises but short on achievements.

The implications of the new sanctions, in summary form, are these:

Legislation having these implications can hardly be said to be the product of a responsible Government concerned with the promotion of good industrial relations.

The effect of Federal Government interference in industrial disputes, by launching or threatening to launch, prosecution against unions, has not been to assist in the settlement of those disputes.

The effect of Government involvement has rather been, in some cases, by virtue of injecting a political element into a dispute, to exacerbate and prolong the dispute. In other cases it has been to re-open disputes which the parties had already resolved to their satisfaction.

The implication of the new role for the Federal Government with respect to invoking sanctions against unions is to open the door for much greater political interference in industrial relations. This means that the Government and its agencies will be able to activate sanctions against unions for political purposes and without regard to the industrial relations consequences.

The disastrous industrial relations performance of the Fraser Government reflects its total lack of understanding of industrial relations realities and its consequent inability to distinguish what does and what does not improve industrial relations.

The absolute inappropriateness of the Government's industrial relations policy-its reliance on confrontation rather than consultation-is not hard to comprehend when one considers the primary role played by Malcolm Fraser in the development of those policies.

A measure of Fraser's total lack of understanding of industrial relations is found in his personal creation--the Industrial Relations Bureau--which has been roundly condemned by employers and unions alike as having no positive effect whatever on industrial relations. Yet the Industrial Relations Bureau (IRB) is the showpiece of the Government's industrial relations policy.

The Government has attempted to denigrate the understanding reached between the ALP and the trade union movement. However, in my experience I know that industrial disputes are avoided or ended only through consultation and negotiation. Understanding, not threats, ensure good industrial relations and I can assure the Australian public that our understanding with the trade union movement and our understanding of industrial relations will guarantee better industrial relations and less disruption for the general public than will Malcolm Fraser's white elephant--the IRB.

Our approach to industrial relations, one of understanding and one of discussing problems to achieve genuine resolution will prove to be one of the most beneficial reforms of the Hayden Labor administration. Our reforms in this area will replace white elephants with reality.


The final challenge I wish to deal with is technological change. There can be no doubt that changes are required in attitude and policies to cope with the real problems which can accompany the introduction of new technology. I am not suggesting that all technology or technology in general is bad, however, there are social costs involved even in those cases where there are net benefits and an appropriate response to those problems must be developed.

The current Government, despite the findings of the Myer Enquiry, has adopted the view that there are no problems whatever, and that no policies are necessary. It is the typical response of an anti-reform Government to ignore real problems in order to avoid the need for appropriate and necessary policy responses.

The advance of technological change does have unfavourable implications for Australia and for all Australians. In particular, it threatens jobs in certain areas, thus requiring alternate employment and income security and it threatens a massive redistribution of income and power, in favour of the owners of capital and at the expense of the mass of the Australian population. The Australian people deserve consideration of these problems by Government; they are betrayed by the 'forget the problems' approach of the Fraser Government.

In order to cope with the increased introduction of technology new attitudes and reforms in policy will be necessary. The Labor Party is willing, indeed committed, to meet the challenge of maximising the net social benefits of technology. We recognise that new technology results in costs as well as benefits for the community and has implications for the whole of Australian society. Our policy therefore, seeks to have new technology carefully assessed to maximise the welfare of the whole Australian community and to involved interests other than the relevant enterprise, motivated solely by narrow financial interest, in decision-making in regard to the introduction of new technology.

To meet this end, Labor will establish an independent, widely representative Technology Planning Council to evaluate the socio-economic effects of new technology and advise Government in the formation of plans to cope with the inevitable social and economic readjustments. Hence we recognise that social costs, affecting all sectors of the community will be involved in technological change. Accordingly we will ensure a role for all elements of society in shaping the future course of the technological development which will touch all sectors of the Australian community.


Drawing together the three main threads I want to make a general observation rising out of the specific areas I have briefly surveyed.

First, reform, new attitudes and new approaches are clearly necessary in Australian society at the current time.

Second, reform, necessary reform, requires a willingness to confront the challenges facing us and an ability to devise appropriate policies, even if those policies depart from the current norm, as they must in many cases.

Third, and above all, reform requires a commitment to the well-being of all Australians.

Those features--the recognition of the need for reform, the knowledge that new approaches are necessary and the commitment to the welfare of all Australians--are what distinguishes the Australian Labor Party from the conservative forces.

And those features are what distinguish great Australians--and John Curtin was one of the greatest--from people like Malcolm Fraser (I hesitate in joining the two men in one breath but do so in the knowledge that the contrast is absolute).

John Curtin had the capacity to recognise the need for reform, and to bring about reform despite the awesome difficulties of his time. Notwithstanding the difficulties, Curtin was able to implement significant reforms, the impact of which have been felt since the early 1940s and will continue to be felt throughout Australia's future.

Curtin was committed to reform and committed to the Australian people. If he was alive today he would be appalled and sickened by the failure of this Government to face honestly the challenges confronting us and its determination to hide or ignore areas in need of reform.

The 1970s have been epitomised, more than any other decade, by investigation and enquiry into many significant aspects of Australian life. I myself participated in two of these enquiries. We have before us a great body of research, most of it pointing to the need for significant reform of institutions, of attitudes and of policies.

Yet the Fraser Government has ignored the evidence and sought to deny the need for reform. I have no doubt that John Curtin would endorse the observations of Dr Peter Sheehan who said of the task for reform in the 1980s :

In large measures the task of the 1980s will be to harvest the fruits of this research, in terms of innovative but practical policies. This will require both a willingness to see the economic and social issues as a whole and, above all, the political will to carry through radical and sustained initiatives.

John Curtin would agree with those sentiments as we enter the 1980s. John Curtin met the requirements noted by Sheehan-a capacity to see the economic and social issues as a whole and the political will to carry through radical and sustained initiatives.

May I return to my original theme--the need for national unity. Reform is itself a path to national cohesion and unity. Failure to reform could bring the inevitable consequences of growing bitterness and alienation in the community; it must lead ultimately to instability and disruption. It may be that the greatly privileged members of our society are not impressed by appeals to altruism. But in terms of sheer self-interest, the very real interest they have in a stable and unified society, they should see that they share common ground with the reformers. On that level--the high ground of national unity--the cause of reform is the cause of all.

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