12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Industry aware of a rumour that the silver lead mines at Broken Hill are to close in the near future? If so, does he realize how serious the consequences of such a step will be to Broken Hill, Port Pirie, and other places? Will he consult with the New South “Wales Minister for Mines with a view to intervening to bring about an amicable settlement between the mine-owners and the employees, and thus prevent an industrial calamity?
– From time to time during the last few months I have represented the Government in consultations with Mr. Gepp and others, and I have heard of the possibility of the mines at Broken Hill closing down. I was not aware that the closing was imminent, as the honorable member has suggested, but I shall be pleased to discuss the matter with the Minister for Mines in New South Wales, and I shall also ask my colleague, Senator Daly, to confer with the Minister for Mines in South Australia. The consequences of the closing of the mines would he so serious that I shall be pleased to do anything within my power to prevent such a catastrophe.
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one ‘ week be given to the right honorable member . for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) on the ground of ill health.
– Having regard to the probability that the present sittings will terminate this week, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the advisability of asking the House to meet to-morrow morning’- in order to avoid ‘the possibility ‘ of an allnight sitting?
– The hour of meeting to-morrow will be governed largely by the progress made with business to-day. I hope shortly to be able to announce to the House the date on which the sittings will terminate.
– Is the Government bound by the caucus decision that the House shall not adjourn until something has been done to alleviate unemployment, or will the House adjourn as soon as the business on the notice-paper is completed ?
– I have said on previous occasions that while there is business to be transacted the House will continue to sit. There is no escape from that. But the duration of the sittings is largely dependent on the action of another place in regard to a Government measure that is now before it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the great inconvenience caused to many settlers in the outlying districts by the closing of a large number of small post offices? Does he consider that the comparatively small savings effected justify the inconvenience ?
– I am quite aware of the inconvenience caused by the curtailment of services in country districts, and I regretas much as any honorable member that thisstep has been necessary ; but I have explained previously that economy has been forced upon the department by the financial circumstances of the Commonwealth.’ Whilst the saving effected in respect of each service that is discontinued may be small, the aggregate sum involved is considerable.’ A large proportion of the expenditure of the department is upon country mail services, and they had to be reviewed when economies became necessary. Each service has been considered on its merits, and the department will, as far as possible, avoid causing unnecessary inconvenience to country districts.
– Has the Minister for Home Affairs received any representations, oral or by cablegram, from the Government of Italy regarding the action of the Government in preventing certain nationals of that country from landing in Australia?
– Signor Grossardi, the Italian Consul-General, has paid two visits to Canberra in regard to the migration of Italian nationals to Australia. His first visit was made at my request, and I then intimated to him thatwhilst the Commonwealth’ Government could overlook the irregular entry of some Italian migrants into the Commonwealth, it could not. consent to the landing of 16.2 Italians who were due to arrive in Australia. Considerable discussion on the subject has taken place, and Signor Grossardi interviewed the Acting Prime Minister and myself yesterday. I had a further interview with him this morning
– Can the Minister inform the House whether, at the interview yesterday with Signor Grossardi,the. Consul-General for Italy, an official pro test was entered by him, and, if so, what’ was the nature of his representations, and the reply given to him on behalf of the Government by both the Minister’ and the Acting Prime Minister?
– The ConsulGeiferal for Italy, Signor Grossardi, made certain representations, both to the Acting Prime Minister and myself yesterday in respect of allowing 162 Italians, who arrived by the Otranto and the Orford, to remain in Australia. The ConsulGeneral saw me again this morning, and I informed him, as I did yesterday, that I regretted being unable to agree to his request that the Italian migrants in question be allowed to land. Unfortunately, we cannot admit them.
Report (No. 5) brought up by Mr.
Tullt, read by the clerk, and adopted. ,
– Has the Minister for Markets and Transport read the report in the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day that the Canadian Wheat Pool is reversing the policy of selling through itsown agencies in Paris, London, and other European centres, and that it anticipates that a greater demand for Canadian wheat will arise , from the change?Is his department doing anything to secure the removal of the obstacles in various European countries to the importation of Australian wheat?
– I have not read the statement to which the honorable member has referred, but the wheat position generally is under the consideration of the Government. The Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) is on his way to Canada and the United States of America, and will confer with the Governments of those countries with a view to adopting uniform action that will be of benefit to the wheat-growers. In regard to the European markets for Australian wheat, inquiries are being made, and I shall let the honorable member have a reply as soon as possible.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister ascertain the number of members of the Waterside Workers Union unemployed on the waterfronts of Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, and, in addition, how many of them are returned soldiers?
– I shall obtain the figures for the honorable member.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make similar inquiries and present similar figures with respect to the three States not mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo - Ntw South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia ?
– I shall comply with the request of the honorable member.
– Will the honorable gentleman also ascertain how many returned soldiers there are in the ranks of the volunteers who have replaced these waterside workers?
– If it is possible to obtain the information I shall endeavour to do so.
– On Monday night last I attended a meeting of the unemployed committee, and I was absolutely horrified to learn of the insanitary con dition of the shelters provided for the homeless. The fear of the spread of disease and vermin is so great that I ask the Minister for Defence -
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Malouey), referred to the use of drill halls, and particularly, the Engineers’ Depot, Alexandra-avenue, Melbourne, for the accommodation of the unemployed. I am now able to inform those honorable members that the question of making available the Engineers’ Depot to accommodate the unemployed has been given very careful and sympathetic consideration, but it has not been found practicable to permit its use for this purpose. The sanitary and ablutionary facilities are totally inadequate to the requirements of a large number of men. Large quantities of valuable technical and other military equipment are stored there, all of which would require to be removed before the place could be handed over. As there is no other departmental storage room available, this is impracticable. The fire risk of using these old wooden buildings as living accommodation for a large number of men is obvious. The buildings at the depot are fully occupied by military engineers’ units, and training is being carried out every night and. on Saturdays. As there are no other drill halls available in which engineers’ units could carry on their training, such training would have to cease whilst the depot was occupied as a shelter. I understand that the State Government, in conjunction with the Returned Soldiers League, contemplated the establishment of a camp for unemployed returned soldiers in the Domain, and my department was prepared to co-operate in the establishment of such a camp by providing tentage and other necessary facilities. It is now reported in the press that the Victorian Government has decided to establish a camp for single unemployed men, including returned soldiers, at Broadmeadows. With regard to the general question of making drill halls available for the use of the unemployed - as I pointed out to honorable members last week - it is not practicable to make drill halls available for this purpose, particularly in cases in which they are in use for training purposes, and contain valuable military stores, equipment and weapons. However, any application which is received from the State authorities for the use of any particular drill hall will be given consideration. I might add that, from the experience of a few years ago, the opinion of the health authorities was that the concentration of large numbers of men in small drill halls was definitely dangerous to public health, in- view of the possibilities of the rapid spread of contagious diseases.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware of the report of the closing of Nestles’ milk factory at Maffra and Jaeger’s clothing factory at Melbourne, this being attributable to the high tariff, and will the Government during the recess take into consideration a general review of the tariff schedule?
– I have read something to the effect that Nestles’ milk factory at Maffra is closing, but I have no knowledge of any such action on the part of the other firm mentioned. With regard to the tariff, it is hoped that at an early date the House will have an opportunity to deal with the whole of the tariff schedules.
– As Jaeger’s clothing factory has closed, because of the ineffectiveness of the so-, called preference to Great Britain under the tariff, will the Acting Prime Minister at an early stage reconsider- the tariff so as to make that preference really effective?
– I can only repeat that we shall soon have an opportunity to discuss the tariff schedules, and that all aspects of the tariff -will then be discussed.
– While in Sydney during the week-end I noticed an enormous increase in the price of tobacco, particularly Capstan tobacco, the price of which has been increased by as much as 2d. an ounce. Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs made any inquiry into this increase in price, and if so, what action does he propose to take?
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) raised this question on two occasions within the last fortnight, and I promised him that a full investigation would be made. I make a similar promise to the honorable member. An officer of the department is already investigating the matter, and when his report is to hand, I shall make a statement to Parliament, and, if necessary, expose any profiteering rhat has taken place in regard to tobacco, because the recent action of the Government justifies not an increase, but a decrease in tobacco prices.
– Is it a fact that all men over the age of 60 years, now employed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, are being dismissed?
– I am unaware of such a happening, but I shall make inquiries of the board, and inform the honorable member accordingly.
Report by Rear Admiral Sydenham.
– Has the Minister for Defence yet received a report from Rear Admiral Sydenham with respect to the suitability for naval purposes of oil obtained at Lakes Entrance?
– I have not yet received .this report, but I shall have inquiries made to ascertain the stage that has been reached in connexion with it, and if it does not reach me before the; termination of the present sittings, I shall ; forward the information to the honorable member by letter at a later date.
High Commissioner in Australia.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any information to give to the House about the reported intention of Great Britain to appoint a High Commissioner in Australia in consequence of the change made recently in the method of appointing a Governor-General for the Commonwealth ?
– I have not received an official intimation that it is proposed to appoint a High Commissioner for Great Britain in Australia; nor am I aware of any connexion between such a proposal and the procedure adopted for the appointment of the Governor-General.
Revenue and Expenditure - Imposts and Exports
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount of revenue received by the Commonwealth from Western Australia for the year 1929-30, in - (a) customs and excise; (b) income tax; (c) land tax;
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Information ‘in respect of 1929-30 is not yet available, but will be obtained. In the meantime, attention is invited to certain information relating to 1928-29 which is set out in appendix “ A “ of the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the general question of Tasmania’s disabilities.
The answers to questions 3 and 4 are taken from the Quarterly Statistical Abstract published by the State.
Acquisition by the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for
Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Special Advisory Committee
asked the Acting Trea surer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
System of Payment by Cheque.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether hewill indicate to what extent the innovation of ‘ paying invalid and old-age pensions by cheque has been availed of?
– Of 228,000 pensions in force at the present time, approximately 4,500 (2 per cent.) are being paid by cheque.
qualifications of members.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What actual banking experience had each member of the Commonwealth Bank Board prior to his appointment to the board?
- Mr. Riddle has held high office in the Commonwealth Bank since its establishment. Prior to that he had long experience in one of the trading banks. Mr. McKenzie Lees was general manager of the Bank of Queensland. I am not in a position to state what actual experience any other member of the Bank Board had. prior to his appointment.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, uponniotice -
Whether, in view of the fact that , the position of the country demands the presence in Australia of every member of the Cabinet, he will consider the advisability of selecting some prominent Australian, such as General Sir Harry Chauvel, to represent this country at the Delhi celebrations?
– I would refer the honorable member to the statement on the subject of representation at the New Delhi celebrations which I made on the motion for adjournment last night. . I am unable to add to that statement at present.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What are the amounts of each of the loans maturing next year, and what are the dates on which each falls due?
-The totals of the Commonwealth and State loans maturing in 1931 are as under -
Full details of the amount of each loan and the date of maturity are set out in a table on pages 39-43 of Hansard of the 5th November, 1930. The statement referred to also contains details of the loans maturing in November and December of the present year.
Regulations Governing Clubs and Hotels
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 4th December the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) asked me a question, without notice, as to whether the savings of approximately £7,000 per annum effected in connexion with Australia House were calculated after deducting the repatriation expenses of officers to be returned to Australia. I am now in receipt of advice which enables me to furnish the following particulars of the economies effected to date and the annual savings they represent: -
Abolition of position of Chief Clerk. - Saving (including average cost of transfers of officers), £832.”
Abolition of position of Private Secretary and Assistant Chief Clerk. - Saving, £554.
Abolition of position of Supervisor Staff Clerk and substitution of new position. - Net saving, £147.
Abolition of position of Hospitality Officer. -Saving. £708.
Re-arrangement of duties of Economic Adviser (Mr. V. L. McDougall). - Saving, £1,000.
Abolition of position of Technical Adviser (Mr. McDougall’s branch ) . -Saving, £500.
Re-arrangement of duties of another officer. - Saving, £44.
Abolition of positions of Typists (2) and Clerks (2).- Saving, £660.
Discontinuance of one motor car. - Saving, £500.
Transfer to High Commissioner of liability for wages of servants at his residence. - Saving, £225.
Discontinuance of regular cinema shows in basement of Australia House. - Saving, £376.
Reduction in purchase of publications. - Saving, £100.
Reduction in number of telephones to private residences of officers. - Saving, £120.
Value of additional space available for letting, as a result of re-arrangements. - Saving, £1,600.
In addition to the foregoing savings, which total £7,366. a further saving of £1,100 will be effected by the utilization of the services of a. Commonwealth public servant in London tofill temporarily the position of Liaison Officer, about to be vacated by Mr. R. G. Casey.
The resignation of Mr. Casey is entirely voluntary, being due to reasons of a private nature, which have nothing whatever to do with the re-organization of the activities of Australia House.
Only one officer is to be repatriated to Australia as a result of the re-organization. The cost of his repatriation will be “about £630.
This officer was due to return to Australia, owing to the expiry of the period for which he had been transferred temporarily to London, and would have been returned even if the position he has been occupying had not been abolished.
Proposals for additional economies are now being investigated.
– On the 26th November the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) asked the following question, upon notice -
What wens the quantities of Australiangrown leaf used in the manufacture of (a) tobacco, and (b) cigarettes, for the year 1929-30?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following paper was presented: -
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1930, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Anstey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for on act to repeal sections 45n and 45p of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1929, and to enact other sections in lieu thereof.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Mr. ANSTEY (Bourke- Minister for
Health and Repatriation) [8.1]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Repatriation Act of 1929 established appeal courts, to which ex-soldiers who had grievances might go for the settlement of their claims. For the most part this has worked well, and, in 98 per cent. of the cases, satisfaction has been obtained by those with grievances. The object ofthis small bill is to remove any cause for grievances in the remaining cases. An ex-soldier makes application for a pension in the first case to the Repatriation Commission, and if his application is rejected, he may appeal to the No. 1 tribunal. If that body grants him a pension which he considers inadequate, he may then appeal to No. 2 tribunal, and have the matter reconsidered ; but there are certain “ twilight “ cases. If an ex-soldier applies for a pension, and the commission holds that he suffers from a war disability, but one so negligible that, in the opinion of the commission, he is not entitled to a pension, the ex-soldier is out of court. He cannot appeal to the No. 1 - the entitlement - tribunal because the commission has conceded everything that that tribunal could grant him, and since he has not been given a pension, he is not entitled to appeal to the No. 2 - the assessment - tribunal on the ground . of the inadequacy of his pension. I have been trying for some months to bring the commission and the members of the two . tribunals together, so that by mutual arrangement they might overcome this difficulty in administration. If the commission decided that an applicant was worth a pension of even 6d. a week, he would have the right of appeal. All the Government wishes to do by this hill is to give every ex-soldier the right to appeal if the decision of the commission is against him. He should have the same right to appeal against a decision by which he is given nothing as he would have against a decision by which he was awarded a pension of 6d. a week.
The second class of case provided for under this bill is that in which an exsoldier applies to the commission, and on his application being refused goes to the No. 1 tribunal, which decides that he has a war disability. In that case, the claim goes back to the commission, which to a large extent adheres to its original decision. The appeal tribunal has decided that the man is suffering from a war disability, but that it is so negligible that he cannot be granted a pension. Again the applicant is out of court. In order to get over this difficulty, the bill provides that, if the No. 1 tribunal determines that the applicant has a war disability, he shall be allowed to put the case before the assessment tribunal, which shall decide whether the disability is negligible or whether the applicant is entitled to a pension, and, in the latter case, the amount of any pension to he granted. In this way we hope to dispose of all grievances, and give satisfaction to the returned soldiers. This course, I think, will, prove advantageous to the members of the Parliament, because it will eliminate all complaints and perfect the repatriation machinery.
.- It appears to me -that the object sought to be attained by the measure is quite reasonable, and that the Blouse should accept the bill. At the same time, as honorable members have had the bill in their hands for only a few moments, and I think- that they should have an opportunity to consider it, I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate ( adjourned.
– I have much pleasure in moving -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is to provide a scheme for the payment of a gold bounty in order to give a stimulus to one of Australia’s most important industries. Apart from the urgent national necessity for increasing the production of our most stable exportable commodity, it is also essential to relieve the serious position that has arisen in regard to unemployment.
It is believed that this measure will play an important part in inducing people to invest their money in mining operations. This should result in the resumption of work on some of the mines that have been temporarily abandoned; it should make others more efficient, and it should put new fields into operation. Briefly, the bill provides for the payment of a bounty of £1, Australian currency, for each fine ounce of gold produced in excess of the average number of fine ounces of gold produced annually during the years 1928, 1929, and 1930. The bounty will be payable for a period of ten years as from the 1st January, 1931. The administration of the act will be carried out by the Trade and Customs Department, which administers other bounty acts, and no extra staff will be required in connexion with this work. . The depart-, ment will keep in close touch with the
State Departments of Mines,- which, I believe, will be able to supply, any technical advice desired. It is confidently thought that the measure will not only increase the production of gold in Australia, but also give considerable employment to our people. It should be explained that an ounce of fine gold is equivalent to 24 carats, and a standard ounce equivalent to 22 carats, the values respectively being £4 4s. 11.45d. and £3 17s. 10.5d.
The bill has been introduced in pursuance of the policy of the Labour movement throughout Australia. This course was decided upon at a Federal Labour conference held at Canberra a couple of years ago.
For many years the production of gold in Australia has shown a serious fallingoff as the following table indicates: -
One of the most significant features of the gold production of” 1929, was that it took considerably more miner’s to mine a less amount of gold than was produced in the previous year. That was due to decreased ore values and increased operation costs. That state of affairs is not confined to the gold industry, but is a feature of our national economic life. But, unfortunately for the gold industry, the increase in the cost of production does not result in an increased return for the gold won, because the price of gold is determined by a balanced standard fixed by the Bank of England. For this reason also, the gold industry enjoys no benefit whatever from, but has imposed upon it a certain extra burden, by,- our national policy of tariff protection.
The discovery of gold in payable quantities “ precipitated Australia into nationhood “. It was an epoch-making event that caused Terra Australis, which to most countries had been Terra Icognita, to become known far and wide. The lure of gold led many adventurous, men and women of the British race to flock to Australia when gold was first discovered in large quantities in the Eastern States; and later when further valuable discoveries were made in Western Australia that State obtained a ,good proportion of her population from among the courageous souls who years before migrated here from overseas in search of gold.
– These people were the cream of the earth.
– That is so. Australia’s gold production has exceeded £600,000,000 in value.
If we go back to the ‘fifties and to the great Western Australian gold rush which followed the grave economic depression of 1893, we find that gold, undoubtedly, focussed attention on Australia and brought her population, with the result that, ultimately, a great development occurred in her primary industries. Some of the best wheatfarmers in Western Australia, and some of the best dairy-farmers round Gympie were formerly gold-miners. , In other parts of Australia the spent gold-mining fields of other days are now settled by primary producers who have given perhaps half their lifetime to gold-mining. The romance of gold is thus indelibly written across the pages of Australia’s history. It is not too much to say that it is to the discovery of gold that Australia1 owes- her birth as. a nation. But for the gold that attracted people to these shores - the finds at Ballarat and Bendigo, Gympie, Mount Morgan, and Charters Towers, and the Golden Mile, at Kalgoorlie-it is probable that Australian development would not have reached its present state for many years to come. Mining gave development in this country a tremendous- fillip.
As a “Queenslander, it is only proper drat I should mention the very important part which ‘gold production has played in the ‘development of that State. The total value of the gold won from the three principal fields in Queensland is as follows : -
These are truly amazing figures.
To-day Australia is in a position unparalleled in her history. In past crises gold has proved our salvation, and to-day we again look to it to extricate us from our economic troubles. The value of our great staples, wool and wheat, has shrunk. These commodities must .continue to face, a fluctuating market. But the position in regard to gold is different. Gold is the only commodity with a static price level. A sub-committee of the League of Nations recently reported that the contraction of world production of gold is likely to have an acute effect by 1934. It added that the present world production of gold was valued at £80,000,000 per annum. More than half of the present production comes from South African mines. This volume of production is* 3 per cent, below the world’s requirements. The cumulative world economic effect of this under-production must be increasingly grave. Professor Copland recently said” that -
The surplus in the United States- of America and in France at present represents so much gold sterilized; that is to say, it is not available for central banks of other countries, and, therefore, cannot be used by them as a basis for a greater supply of credit. This means that the world’s gold supply is not being put to its best ,use, and that an actual scarcity of gold is causing a’ contraction of credit and a fall in prices.
Credit is our life-blood, and while gold remains the basis of it, the urge to increase our gold production must be dominant in our national policy.. The Government believes that the passage of this bill will not only lead to an increase in the ‘production of gold, but will also provide more work for our people in the secondary industries which manufacture machinery necessary for the” extraction of gold, and will generally improve’ the whole position of the country.
It may be argued with some truth that a gold bounty is an artificial stimulant, and therefore an economic fallacy. On the other hand, as a simple profit- and loss . transaction, a ‘bounty will pay its way’ ^ inasmuch as it will wipe-out the dead loss of the enormous sums of money now being spent on sustenance. Large sums of money are at present being spent in the several States for the relief of unemployment, and this expenditure, we hope, will be reduced when, as a. result of this bounty, additional employment is provided in the gold-mining industry. It will be said that this bounty proposal is not good economics, and I have no doubt that we shall1 have economic diatribes from various honorable members, but their academic contributions cannot be regarded as of any value when we are confronted with the problem of feeding the starving thousands who are out of work.
To increase gold production is the surest and quickest way to provide credits to meet our liabilities in London. We can increase the production of wool and wheat, but we have no guarantee - and, in fact, it is extremely unlikely - that the sale of those commodities, even allowing for a tremendous increase in production, will sufficiently increase our national income. It has been estimated that if this bounty be granted, direct employment will be found within twelve months for 10,000 people. This will mean indirect employment for manythousands more. There are some enthusiastic advocates of the proposal who even go so far as to say that £10,000,000 of fresh capital will be invested in mining, and employment provided for 50,000 more persons. I do not go so far as that, but it is certain that the granting of a bounty will stimulate the industry to greatly increased activity. It has been estimated that directly and indirectly a livelihood will be provided for 70,000 people. If the gold-mining industry is restored to its former prosperity, or anything approaching it, employment will be provided, not only for thousands of miners, but also for many engineers, ironworkers, carpenters, forestry workers, carters, and hosts of others, directly .or indirectly. Australia’s urgent need at the moment is an inflow of outside capital. If we have not the natural ‘economic attraction for capital, we must create it. The gold bounty will achieve this purpose, and will stimulate the flow of money for development from overseas. I go so far- as to say that there is no other industry in Australia which would so quickly respond to government help as gold-ruining, and none requires such a comparative minimum of assistance.
In the past gold-mining has been a very unhealthy occupation. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia are to be found men W 110 have been stricken down by that dread disease, miners’ phthisis, as a result of which their working life was shortened, and they have been thrown on the industrial scrap-heap. However, with the developing of mining hygiene, and the use of water in rock boring, the risk of contracting this complaint has been greatly reduced. It is a fact that, notwithstanding the risks attendant upon mining, thousands of nien prefer this occupation to any other. No other industry has suffered so acutely from the effects of the war as the goldmining industry. During the war our gold production was commandeered by the Commonwealth Government to meet the needs of the allies. The producer was unable to dispose of his product in the markets of the world at the most favorable prices. It has been estimated that the industry suffered to the extent of over £3,000,000 through the war. Moreover, companies cut from the rich faces, thereby reducing the capacity of their mines to be worked profitably for an extended period of years.
The decline of the industry is strikingly reflected in the following figures : -
The value of production was: -
When the industry is made sufficiently attractive by the payment of this bounty, I am confident that overseas investors, and particularly English investors, will again be induced to put capital into Australian mining ventures. It has been shown that the element of gambling associated with such ventures appeals to them as nothing else does. It is not proposed to pay a bounty of fi on every ounce of gold produced, but only upon every fine ounce over and above the average production for the years, 1928, 1929, and 1930. No bounty will be paid at all, unless the production exceeds approximately 486,000 ounces. The production for the year 1928 was 499,000 ounces ; for 1929 it was 465,000 ounces; and it is estimated that the 1930 production will be 499,000 ounces, making an average for the three years of 4S6,000 ounces. In 1931, the industry will get no bounty unless the production is above the average of 486,000 OZ. for the preceding three years.
– No bounty will be paid until the end of each year!
– Not until the production for the year is known. If it should decrease from year to year, as it has been doing recently, this legislation will not cost the taxpayer one penny. But those who have asked for the bounty believe that it will give such a stimulus to the industry that fresh capital will be invested and new mines will be developed. At any rate, it is worth a trial. The first application made to this Government and to its predecessor was for a bounty of £1 on every ounce produced. But the Prime Minister told a deputation that the Government could not grant a bounty to a steadily declining industry.
– The argument was also used that the Government should not pay a bounty, for what would be produced without it.
– That is so. The representatives of the industry thereupon said that they would be satisfied with a bounty on all gold produced in excess of the production for 1929, when the yield was the lowest since the boom days. As the production in 1930 is estimated to be 28,000 oz. more than -in 1929, the Government considers it wise that the average for the last three years should be the datum line.
No other industry possesses such an inherent absorptive capacity as does goldmining; in no other is man-power so great a factor in production. In 1901, the gold-mining industry employed 70,972 men. In 1929, only 6,000 were employed, a reduction of 64,000. Even since 1920 the decline has been marked. In that year, 13,320 men were employed, or almost double the number employed today. The Development and Migration Commission, which inquired exhaustively into the gold-mining industry, stated in its report -
Gold Deposits. There is a consensus of expert opinion that the gold deposits of the Commonwealth are neither exhausted, nor, as yet, fully explored. A study of the statements from the Departments of Mines of the various States, and of the reports relating to the gold-mining industry of Western Australia, namely, that by Royal Commissioner C. Kingley Thomas, of 1025, and also that of the Technical Committee of the Development and Migration Commission, of May, 1927, dealing with the Kalgoorlie and Gwalia gold-fields, indicates that large tonnages of gold ores are already known to exist, and the possibilities of discovering new and hidden deposits’ are attractive. In the report of May, 1927, this commission expressed its opinion definitely as favorable towards the discovery of further valuable ore bodies at Kalgoorlie, and recent developments have supported that opinion. The commission is of the opinion that a further reduction in the output of gold must be anticipated unless steps are promptly taken to stimulate the industry, and that, in view of the large known and potential tonnage of gold ores, and the Importance of the industry in the national life, every reasonable aid should be given for a period to test the possibilities of continuance and expansion. The rich, easily discovered, more readily worked deposits of gold have, for the most part, been exploited. The commission believes that the future of the industry depends more on the utilization of the larger tonnages of lower grade ores, the mining of which becomes possible only if the costs of production are materially reduced, lt does not, however, discount probabilities of further discoveries of rich deposits.
– If a man is working a low-grade mine that does not pay working expenses, will he receive no bounty?
– If the production in any one year increases above the average of 486,000 ounces for the years 1928- 29-30, sufficiently to warrant the payment of the full £100,000, the amount will be distributed on a pro rata basis “over all gold producers, including the most humble. Attached to the bill is a schedule which provides for the registration of every gold producer, and in that way track can be kept of those who are entitled to participate in the bounty. It has been stated that the quantity of gold unwon from known deposits of what we call lowgrade ores, but which are of higher grade than ores which are being profitably worked in South Africa, totals over £600,000,000.
– Why are they being profitably worked in South Africa?
– Doubtless because of the employment of black labour. The Government believes that no other industry can so quickly respond to stimulation, or has such important reactions. We might double the production of wheat without benefiting in the slightest degree the market for wool, butter, or base metals. On the other hand, every addition to the output of gold strengthens the markets for all other. commodities.No other industry holds out such high hopes for the adventurous, or so promotes the pioneering spirit, of which Australia so badly needs a revival. This bounty will offer encouragement to men to leave the ranks of the unemployed and go into the interior in search of gold. The gold-mining industry is not seasonal, it is not influenced by the vagaries of climate, but provides full time employment for twelve months of the year.
Under this bill the Government will not recognize any liability until the average annual production for the three years ending the 31st December, 1930, has been exceeded. Therein lies the incentive to those engaged in the industry to increase production.
– Is there any provision in the bill to control the operationsof company promoters and exploiters?
– There are the usual provisions to safeguard the workers in the industry. Exploiters and promoters are not peculiar to. gold-mining; in every sphere of industry and commerce are to be found promoters of wild-cat schemes. Keen men are abroad every day in the week trying to sell properties or shares to the public. And, after all, though we deride the promoter, without his intervention few companies would be formed’. I hold no brief for companies or the promoters of them, but somebody must organize’ the investment of ‘capital, whether it be in city property, pastoral estates, or mines, and the investment of more capital in industry would certainly be of advantage to Australia.
– I want capital to come to Australia, but we must be careful that the promoter does not get away with the bounty.
– The Government does not stand for the public being taken down by false pretences.
– In respect of either perpetual forests or oil wells.
– Throughout Australia men are engaged in selling shares in perpetual forests, oil wells, and coal-mines on the northern fields. Exploitation occurs in all industries, but there are State laws to deal with any improper practices. The contention has been raised that if the exchange rate increases the rate of bounty should be reduced. The representatives of the industry hold the view that, because of the resultant increase in the cost of living, wages, and other charges, an advance in the exchange rate would not improve their position appreciably, but the Government reserves the right to reconsider the matter in the event of an abnormal rise in the exchange rate. I may add that the Wine Export Bounty Bill makes no provision for a reduction of the rate of bounty following a decrease in . the exchange rate, and it would be unfair to ‘single out the mining, industry for a variation of the bounty in accordance with exchange fluctuations.
If this legislation results in the development that is anticipated, mining companies will have to expend considerable sums on the installation of expensive machinery. And because of the developmental work that will have to be done, the Government proposes that the bounty shall operate for a period of ten years. Orders ‘for- new machinery will give a stimulus to the engineering workshops throughout Australia.
– There is plenty of machinery lying idle in’ mines that could be used’ for starting any number of other mines in the future.
– Let me tell the honorable member that we are likely to resuscitate the gold-mining industry only by the adoption ofup-to-date methods and the use of efficient machinery and plant. I believe that, in connexion with the Wiluna gold-field, in the electorate of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), if the process which is being tried there for the treatment of low-grade ore is successful, it will revolutionize the gold-mining industry in Australia. In the bill, provision has been made for the payment, subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions, of a bounty on the gold content of other metals.. This will serve as a stimulus to the production of copper, silver, and other metals in which gold content is a factor, and will benefit some mines in Queensland, such as Mount Morgan, where about 6 dwts. of gold are obtained from a ton. of ore. It has been said that the hand of man has never been responsible for the extrication of Australia from the’ several crises which it has faced in the past. The hand of God, evidenced by the discovery of gold, has been the prime agent in helping Australia out of its past difficulties, and I believe that it will be a potent factor in helping this country out of its present doldrums. The spirit of speculation which will induce people, not only across the seas, but in this country, to invest money in gold-mining in Australia, is inherent in the British race. That is one reason why the colonization of the British Empire has been so successful. Who can say that this bill will not prove historic in that its passage may be the precursor of a gold boom in this country? From one end of this country to the other people are to-day engaged in gold prospecting. Practically every newspaper contains a report of a gold rush. Gold has been found in my own electorate near Rockhampton. Prospectors are trying to find new gold mines. It may be that one of these men will discover another Golden Mile or Mount Morgan. But the success of a prospector depends largely upon his ability to sell the mine that he discovers to a company with resources sufficient to enable it to develop the mine properly- I am optimistic enough to say that the way out of Australia’s difficulties of the moment is to stimulate gold production ‘ by the payment of ari effective bounty. In commending this bill to honorable members, I wish to stress the fact that it is designed to achieve two objects: first, to increase the output of gold ; and, secondly, to open up immediately, .wide opportunities for employment. It will be said that gold- mining is an unhealthy employment; but there are many other avenues of employment in Australia that are, indeed, unhealthy, and in which men, working under unhygienic conditions, contract all kinds of diseases. Many men prefer employment in gold-mining to any other employment. It must also be remembered that the- bounty will not be payable until twelve months have elapsed. During this period extra miners will be employed, and the companies engaged in the industry will immediately relieve the burden of unemployment, and receive the benefits of the bounty only when the desired results have been achieved. Steps will be taken immediately to extend operations at the great Mount Morgan field. Bendigo, Chillagoe, Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Ballarat, and many other rich propositions, not now being fully developed, will become productive. In the Bendigo district alone employment will be given to about 1,000 men. Probably the honorable member for Bendigo can corroborate that statement.
– That is so.
– Other metallic deposits with a gold content will also be developed. The immense assets in all mining areas, in the form of public utilities such as post offices, public works, &c, will benefit. Even the Taxation Department will benefit, because the earnings of the people will increase and more money will be placed in circulation. Those public utilities will be brought into full economic use, and the waste which they now represent will to some extent be redeemed. This bill represents the greatest step taken by any Commonwealth Government in the direction of stimulating gold production on a nation-wide scale. Other measures, such as the Precious Metals Prospecting Act. and assistance given through the States, have failed to produce the full desired effect, and the industry has dwindled to its present proportions. Other governments have turned a deaf ear to all requests for assistance. The last Government did institute some scheme to assist the industry, and for four or five years it gave to gold-mining companies certain remissions of duty on machinery. That concession was infinitesimal and did not in any way stimulate the industry. The fact that it has actually dwindled, despite that assistance, goes to show that the effort of the previous Government to resuscitate gold-mining absolutely failed. This bounty is in no way a free gift to gold producers. They must deliver the goods. Effective control will be exercised by the Government, and a watchful eye will always be kept on the efficiency of the industry. In the schedule to the bill, provision is made for the registration of the gold-producer, and he has to give a number of undertakings. He has to undertake that during the currency of the Gold Bounty Act he will - a extract to the satisfaction of the Minister of State for Trade and Customs all gold-bearing ore in his mine, the value of which, when worked independently and with the aid of efficient machinery and suitable equipment, will meet working expenses;b supply to the Minister, if, and when required, an estimate of the anticipated output both in tonnage and grade of ore for any period he may desire, and plans showing the ore reserves, their value, and the slopes to be worked in the next ensuing six months; c allow the mine to be inspected by a representative of the Minister at any time, and to provide every facility for the purpose of the inspection; d supply any further information in relation to the mine, or anticipated or actual production that the Minister may require; andc comply with any other condition laid down by the Minister. .
No assistance or encouragement will be given to inefficient mines, and power is given under the bill to ensure the production of any information which the Government or Parliament might desire. The lure of gold in the ‘fifties gave the greatest stimulus to the populating of Australia, and produced much wealth, whereby this country established its nationhood. It is confidently expected that under the operations of this bill some of the glory of the past will be recovered. Even if we only partially succeed in this aim, unemployed men will be drawn from already overcrowded cities and distributed throughout the Commonwealth, and this will assist to solve the acute problem of centralization. The Government, in introducing this measure, is making an earnest attempt to revive the gold-mining industry, which is of importance to every State of the Commonwealth, and more particularly Western Australia. I believe that the bill will pass both Houses of Parliament and that, in time to come, we shall look back upon it as something achieved, something done - something that gave employment to our people at a time when so many of them were, unfortunately, out of work.
.- In speaking to the second reading of this measure, I wish it to be clearly understood that I am expressing my personal views, as, indeed, on most tariff and bounty subjects honorable members on this side do. I do not intend to follow the Acting Minister (Mr. Forde) through his glamorous retrospect of this great industry ; I propose to deal with the realities of the situation. I am opposed to the bill on several grounds. I regard this bounty on the production of gold as being thoroughly unsound in principle. I fail to see where the money for the bounty is to be found, and I do not think that the Government can finance the scheme. I disagree with the Acting Minister entirely when he claims that this bounty is likely to attract capital from overseas for investment in the gold-mining industry of Australia. I also disagree with him when he claims that it is likely to be a substantial factor in bringing about, at an early date, increased employment in this country. I dislike the measure, because I believe that it is calculated to retard rather than to assist the development of the industry, and because I doubt very much whether the Government is really in earnest in introducing it. This proposal, like the proposal to construct a railway from Red Hill to Port Augusta, is a vote-catching proposition. It is a deliberate pandering to voters in the various parts of Australia. Further, I dislike this legislation because it is merely an attempt on the part of the supporters of the Government to live up to their caucus resolution that this session would not close until something had been done to relieve unemployment.
– Is not that a laudable desire ?
– Yes, if honorable members on that side were genuine; but knowing that they can do nothing immediately for the relief of unemployment, this is merely an attempt by them to give, the impression that they would have taken action had the Commonwealth. Bank extended credits, or had money been made available in some other way. I dislike the bill, because I do not think it is what it is represented to be.
The proposal is that £1 an ounce shall be paid upon all gold produced in Australia in excess of the average production of the last three years - 486,000 ounces per annum. I should like the House to reflect upon the possible worth of the proposed bounty. If, within the first year, an additional 20,000 ounces are produced, the bounty will amount to about lOd. per ounce. The proportion of an ‘ additional 50,000 ounces will represent a bounty of about ls. 9d. per ounce, and an additional 100,000 ounces of only 3s. 6d. per ounce. Therefore, the earnestness of the Government in this matter is open to suspicion.
I have said that I dislike the bill because I believe it to be unsound in principle. To me, and I think to all disinterested minds, this is a straight-out proposal that the Commonwealth Government shall pay out of the public treasury the sum of £5 for every £4 worth of gold produced in excess of the average annual production of 486,000 ounces. For the life of me, I cannot see that that is good business for any one, particularly the unfortunate taxpayer in the country. In the granting of bounties the aim of this Parliament has always been to assist, in their early or difficult years, industries that offer a wide field of potential expansion. The gold-mining industry, however, is an old one, and on the Minister’s own admission,’ it is waning. The honorable gentleman spoke of further discoveries of gold in large quantities. I am not so bold as to suggest that there are not great gold deposits awaiting exploitation within Australia; but I say that for a very long time this continent has been combed, and that year by year our leads are getting deeper and becoming lighter.
– If that is so, the taxpayer need have nothing to fear, because no bounty will have to be paid.
– If the honorable gentleman admits that the bounty will not increase production, why waste the time of the House upon it?
– I do not admit it; but the honorable gentleman cannot argue that this proposal will mulct the tax payers in a large expenditure, and at the same time that the production of gold will decrease.
– At the present time any bounty proposal should be subjected by this House to a far closer scrutiny than has been-given in the past. Bounty after bounty has been brought forward by the honorable gentleman. I have opposed every one, and I intend to continue that opposition so long as. the finances of this country remain in their present, embarrassed position. Where is the money to bc found for the payment of this bounty? The honorable gentleman has said that no money will have to be found during this financial year. It is conceivable, however, that some may have to bo found during next financial year.
– The honorable gentleman says that this is a declining industry; therefore, on his argument, “the bounty will not have to be paid.
– I say that there is no money in sight to finance this proposal. What is the. position at the present time? We are heading for a deficit of between £5,000,000 and £8,000,000 during this financial year; and it is practically certain that, unless the Government completely alters its behaviour, the deficit next year will be any sum up to £20,000,000. Yet the Minister brings down this wonderful proposal for the payment of £5 for every £4 worth of gold produced in excess of the average production of the last three years! The scheme should be condemned ; and it will be condemned by every mining investor in the world, because of our present financial condition. The money for the payment of this bounty is not in sight; just as there is not in sight, at the moment, the sum that the Government will require in the future to pay for the various services of this country.
Although the honorable gentleman displayed his customary optimism, he was a little more doubtful on this than on previous occasions in regard to the immediate results of the payment of the bounty; but he went so far as to say that he had been informed that it would lead to the investment of an additional £10,000,000 in this industry. Although he felt somewhat doubtful, he could.- not resist the temptation to deal in grand round figures. 1 have no wish to embarrass the honorable gentleman, and I hope that he will pardon my saying that his promises and prophecies, with respect to the beneficial effects of his bounty and tariff proposals upon employment and industry generally, have become slightly suspect in this House. I do him the credit of. saying that he appeared to be conscious of that in his introduction of this measure. He commenced very diffidently with the statement that it was believed that this proposal would lead to the employment of an additional 10,000 miners within Australia; but a little later he raised the figure to 50,000, and before he concluded his speech, it had grown to 70,000.
– I said that that is the prediction of those who know the industry.
– The honorable gentleman could not resist the temptation to deal in grand round figures. Apparently, nothing can dampen his ardour, not even the addition of hundreds of thousands of persons to the ranks of the unemployed since he embarked upon his series of prophecies.
I have no hesitation in asserting that the payment of this bounty will not attract any additional capital to Australia; and even if it should lead to a greater output, I challenge the ability of the Government to find the necessary money to pay it. But there is grave doubt as to whether the result will be an increased output of gold within Australia. Before that can take place, the present downward tendency must be checked. The Minister pointed out that between 1919 and 1929 the production fell from 1,068,000 oz. to 427,000 oz. That was an extraordinary drop, which must first be corrected. Then, the production must be so increased that it will exceed 48 6,000 oz. annually. If it is not raised to about double that figure, the bounty will be worth little. In other words, the production must be lifted to something like 1,000,000 oz. a year before the bounty will be worth 10s. an oz. to the mining industry. Therefore, I cannot but challenge the earnestness of the Minister in bringing this measure forward. It is. thoroughly bad in principle, and has notthe ghost of a chance of achieving its avowed object. I condemn it, not only on those grounds, but also because it is calculated grossly to mislead those who are engaged in the gold-mining industry, to whom it is not worth a snap of. the fingers.
– They appear to want it.
– An attempt is being made to give the impression that all the mining interests, and the best mining opinion in Australia, are in favour of this measure. To my certain. knowledge, that is not the case. The most powerful and influential financial interests, both within Australia and abroad, as well as the most efficient mining engineers in Australia, are opposed to this principle.
– Who are they?
– I shall not mention who they are. I speak of those who are interested partially, not solely, in the gold-mining industry. The greatest mining interests, and the best mining brains in this country, are banking on efficiency and reduced costs to keep this industry going. I have no hesitation in asserting that, because of its tendency to bolster up costs and inefficiency, this measure will do more harm than good to the industry. The only sound, businesslike way to rehabilitate, not only the goldmining industry, but the mining industry as a whole, is to reduce the cost of production by every practicable means.
– By cutting down wages.
– In the opinion of those who know, there is considerable scope for the reduction of mining costs without imposing hardship upon those who are dependent on the industry for a livelihood. One has only to compare Australian mining costs with those of the United States of America and Canada, whose standards are equal to ours, to realize that Australia is right out of step with those countries. If honorable members will turn to the interim and final reports of the Development and Migration Commission, and also to the report of the royal commission that was appointed to inquire intothe mining industry of Queensland, they will see what is considered by the. experts to be the cause of the relative decadence of gold-mining in Australia. Until we can reduce costs, and obtain higher ‘efficiency, this diminutionsof output will continue. I do not say , that wages in the industry, are too high ; but increased wages are- mainly responsible for its relative failure. In 1912 the gold-mining wage in Victoria ranged from 48s. to 54s. a week of 48 hours. The higher rate of 54s. was equal to ls. l1/2d. an hour. The price of gold at that time was probably 85s. an ounce; hence hours of work were given by the miner in the production of an ounce of fine gold. The miners’ wages in Victoria in 1929 had risen from 90s. 9d. to 108s. 6d. a week of 44 hours. Again, taking the higher figure, that* wage was equivalent to 2s. 51/2d. an hour. In other words, wages had risen between 1912 and 1929 from1s.11/2d. to 2s. 51/2d. an hour. The value of fine gold, including the bounty, is now about 92s. an ounce. There: fore, miners now give only 371/3 hours’ work for one ounce of gold, or less than half what they were giving in 1912. I am not urging the payment of a lower wage in the industry; but there lies the explanation of the slump in gold-mining. As the deeper levels and the lower grades of ore are reached, the industry cannot carry on at the present wage costs. A famous judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court laid down the principle that if an industry cannot pay a prescribed wage, Australia is better without it. I do not necessarily subscribe to that view; but I point out that honorable members opposite are going even further than that by saying that if the wage paid is killing an industry, the general taxpayer must be called upon to buttress up that industry.
I now come to the factor of gold in connexion with the overseas trade balance. I agree with the Minister that Australia can produce nothing nearly so good as gold as a means of balancing its overseas trade. But how small a factor is gold in connexion with our overseas indebtedness, and how small it will still be, even if the proposed bounty proved a wonderful success! We have an overseas liability to-day, in the form of government indebtedness and dividends on British money invested privately in this country, of not less than £45,000,000 a year. The value of the gold produced this year is, roughly, £2,000,000, and if that were doubled under the Government’s scheme, the sum of £4,000,000 would be negligible for the purpose of adjusting our overseas trade. To me it is extraordinary and most unfortunate that this proposal is all that the Government can think of in the way of unemployment relief.
– It is one of the means to be adopted.
– As I have said two or three times already, the Government has at its hand the means of giving immediate relief to the unemployed. It has power to do something, even this week or next, which would work almost a miracle in the industrial and financial life of Australia, and yet it asks the House to waste its time on a bill of this kind. If the Government would reduce the cost of government by even £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 per annum, if it would make one demonstration of its determination and capacity to pay it way, instead of leading us into bankruptcy, as it is doing now, the restoration of our credit would be immediate. Then, as an alternative to this bill the Government could at once raise a few million pounds, and secure the funding of the debf of £40,000,000 in London. If the Government would take a step such as that, it could transfer from London £23,000,000 of credits of Australian banks, and make them available in this country for every class of private enterprise, and even for government financial needs up to a certain point. If the Government would do that, it could obtain complete relief up to the extent of £10,000,000 a year for five years in connexion with our interest . payments.
– Why did not the honorable member do that when he was in office?
– Because there was no necessity for such action at that time. Ministers could promptly obtain money for expenditure in Australia upon approved works. They could do it this side of Christmas. But honorable members opposite have resolved in . caucus that they will not adjourn the Parliament until they have done something to relieve unemployment, and this bill represents the old and easy way of pulling Australia out of the morass in which itfinds itself.
Instead of taking, practical steps in the direction of economy,the Government proposes that £4 worth oi gold shall be purchased with£5 of the taxpayers’ money. Hereis another fantastic scheme of visionary employment. As a result of this bounty the Minister promises us £10,000,000 of, capital from overseas. The easy-going British and American investor, entirely unsuspecting, is supposed to advance this money on the strength of the speech that the Minister has just made !
– I did not say that.
– The Minister remarked that those who knew had told him that. It is not remarkable that those who are interested in the passage of this measure should say that to the honorable gentleman ; but it is rather extraordinary that the Minister should repeat such a yarn to this House. To show the hurried preparation of the Minister’s speech, and to indicate what his assurances are worth, I may mention that when he was enumerating the benefits to be conferred by this bounty, he even spoke of the advantage which was to be derived by the Treasury from the taxation of the proceeds of Australian gold-mining, entirely overlooking the fact that no tax is obtainable from that source.
– I know that the mining companies are exempt from taxation. I was referring to the persons who will be employed in the mines.
– I shall have much satisfaction in voting against the bill.
– I am deeply disappointed with the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and the gesture of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) last evening, taken together with the remarks this afternoon of the Deputy Leader, make one wonder whether the latter intends to participate in the “ get together “ movement to help Australia out of its difficulties. His attack upon the Government in its attempt to relieve unemployment suggests that he is merely playing the party game. He finds fault with the Minister for taking a retrospective view of the mining industry. One can best show its importance by indicating the immense strides that Australia has made owing to the discovery of gold in this country. If gold had not been found in Victoria in 1851, who is to say in what poor straits Australia would.be to-day? It is doubtful whether thi $) country .would have passed far beyond the stage now reached by the southern portion of South Africa. The honorable member for Henty said that the bounty was unsound in principle. I point out that if this bounty is deserving of that criticism, no bounty can be justified. If there were no need for the policy of protection, there would be no occasion for bounties ; but protection is the avowed policy of Australia, and, whether we like it or not, it is here to stay. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition attempted to show how little this proposal could do for the industry, and said that it was unsound in every respect. If the proposal will not result in the employment of more men it will not cost the country anything. But, while in one breath the honorable gentleman said that the scheme was unsound, because it would not employ additional men, in the next breath he said that it was impracticable, because we could not get the money required to pay the bounty. He cannot have it both ways. He also said that the proposal would not attract capital from overseas. That, of course, is mere speculation on his part. Surely he cannot fail to have observed that, when the announcement was made that the Government intended to introduce a bill for the payment of a bounty on gold, Mr. Hamilton, one of the greatest mining authorities in London, stated in an interview in the press that such a scheme would do a great deal for gold-mining in this country, and would attract to Australia the capital of both British and French mining investors.
– He thought the Government intended to pay a bounty of £1 an ounce.
– He thought nothing of the kind. Mr. Hamilton is too astute a gentleman . not to ascertain what if intended before making any statemenin regard to it. When he said that the proposal of the Government would help to attract British and French capital to Australia, he knew what he was talking about. He added that, hitherto, the goldmining industry had been altogether neglected by the Commonwealth Government, and that statement was quite true. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Trade and Customs, I, with others, requested him on several occasions to. make provision for the payment of a bounty of fi an ounce, on gold produced in Australia. The subject has been frequently discussed in this House since 1924.
– It was that proposal that Mr. Hamilton referred to.
– Nothing of the kind. Mr. Hamilton keeps himself well informed on all matters connected with gold-mining, and he undoubtedly knew, in a general way, what the Government had in mind.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said that this was a vote-catching scheme. Such a statement was entirely unworthy of him. If it were a vote.catching proposition, the last Government, which was supported by most honorable members opposite, would have introduced it. Gold-mining men have come from the remote parts of “Western Australia, Northern Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and elsewhere to Melbourne and Canberra, at different times, to urge the Government to assist this industry; but until now their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
I very much doubt whether the authority quoted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition can be regarded as an authority on gold-mining, although I do n01 say that the honorable gentleman desired to mislead the House.
– My authority is the most efficient mining group in Australia.
– I suspect that the honorable member obtained hi3 inspiration and knowledge from a base metal group; I am positive that he is not relying upon a gold-mining group. The following is a list of the principal companies engaged in gold production in Western Australia to-day: -
Associated, Boulder .Perseverance, Golden Horse Shoe, Groat Boulder, Lake View and Star, North Kalgurli, Sons of Gwalia, South Kalgurli.
These are the only companies doing effective work. How arc they faring financially?
– They are pretty sick.
– That is quite true. The! honorable member has given the reason why a bounty has been requested, and incidentally, has controverted the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that this is a vote-catching proposition.
– The companies want to increase their profits.
– Only three of them - The Associated, the Great Boulder, and the South Kalgurli - showed a surplus; which amounted to f 64,779, on last year’s operations; the other five showed a loss on their operations of £182,919.
– Are these mines in the honorable member’s electorate?
– They are; but there is nothing wrong in that. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is again attempting to find something sinister in this proposal. I should be unworthy of the trust reposed in me by my constituents if I failed to do the very best I could to assist this industry.
How will this proposal assist the industry? Is it merely a matter of the 3s. 4d. per oz. mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition? Of course it is not. The honorable member must know that a great deal of the gold-mining machinery scattered about- Australia is not worth 2s. to present-day gold-mining companies. “When gold was discovered in “Western Australia in the early nineties the great Victorian mines had been operating for 30 years, and their machinery was out of date. The Western Australian companies adopted the up-to-date methods which were at that time in vogue in America and elsewhere. But to-day that machinery is 30 years behind the time. “With the single exception of the Wiluna Consolidated Company, not a gold mine in Australia is equipped with up-to-date machinery. In view of the fact that £300,000,000 worth of gold has been produced by the machinery installed in the mines in Victoria, and £150,000,000 worth by that installed in the mines in Western Australia, it is not surprising that methods have advanced considerably, and that the companies should be looking for some asistance to bring their plants up to date. The protective policy of Australia has made it extremely difficult for these companies to obtain modern machinery at a reasonable price. While we recognize that protection is a good policy, from the point of view of Australia as a whole, it has certainly placed upon the gold-mining industry a burden almost too heavy for it to bear. Consequently, this industry, like other primary . producing, industries, requires some assistance. The wine industry in South Australia has had a large measure of assistance from the Commonwealth, and so have other primary industries. I recognize, of course, that the wheat industry, like the gold-mining industry, is in a difficult position. Unless some assistance is given to the primary producers engaged in these undertakings, disaster must overtake them. If the goldmining industry is not assisted, it will soon be impossible to produce even 560,000 oz. of gold per annum. These companies require new capital in ord:r to install up-to-date machinery. Let me remind honorable members that although the “Wiluna Company has been operating for about three years, it has not yet produced an ounce of gold. Its capital has been expended in installing up-to-date plant. Gold-mining must be conducted to-day on the grand plan scale. Would it not be a great thing for Australia if the Wiluna field, which is situated in probably the most sterile part of Australia, 720 miles from Perth, could be made a hive of industry? At present the company is giving employment to upwards of 1,000 men. It anticipates producing its first gold in May next. But long before any bounty becomes payable on gold the engineering firms in the eastern States will be engaged in manufacturing the machinery required by the companies which, in consequence of this promised assistance, will be engaged in gold production. Seventy per cent, of the machinery will be manufactured in the eastern States. All mining must be conducted on a big scale to-day. Some honorable members know that Mount Isa has been developing for eight years, although, so far, not an ounce of silverlead has been produced there. Hundreds of men have been engaged on this fardistant mining field in building up +he necessary plant to enable the ore to be mined profitably.
The Government is of the opinion that if this bill is passed, capital will be attracted to Australia, which will make possible the development of other goldmining fields. Gold has always been o magnet which has attracted people and capital alike. When the magic word “ Eureka was first ‘uttered at Ballarat years ago, v. people flocked to that .centre from Great Britain, America and- else where. When Klondyke was discovered, crowds of men left the tropical parts of Australia to go to work within the polar circle. Nothing attracts people or capital like gold. It is true that many goldmining ventures have been a gamble, but 1 wish that those who talk about the gambling elements in gold-mining would recognize that for a good many years pas carpet-baggers have been travelling round Australia selling shares in so-called f forestation schemes, telling the people that they must not expect any return from their investment for 30 years. It is amazing that the people have invested their hardearned money in such propositions. There has been more swindling - I shall not say in regard to perpetual forest schemes, because that may be the name of a particular company - but in regard to so-called reafforestation on land where there is no chance of ever growing forests, than has taken place in connexion will all the other stocks listed on the market. Who will say that we should stop prospecting for oil . iri Australia because oil stocks lend themselves to exploitation by “ go-getters “ ? Our very hope of economic salvation .lies in our inducing capital to come to Australia, and people overseas will not invest their money here unless we make it sufficiently attractive for them to do so. The granting of this bounty will be a step in this direction. Those concerned with goldmining have pointed out that the Government has granted assistance by way of bounties to other industries, and ask why no assistance has been given’ to them. When it was objected that the granting of a bounty on all gold might not result in the production of a single extra ounce of gold, they took us at our word, and said that they would be satisfied if the bounty were paid only on gold produced in excess of the average yield. That was a big concession, because gold production has been dwindling very rapidly during the last few years. In this industry not very long ago 70,000 persons were employed, but that number has now been reduced to 6,000. If the granting of a, bounty will do nothing more than .arrest . the declin’e in the industry,- it will be well worth while’: It will at least ensure for the Commonwealth an annual gold production of about 560,000 ounces.
Some honorable members have contended that there is no prospect of our discovering another Golden Mile in Australia. I can imagine people in the early nineties, when things looked so black for Australia, saying that there was no possibility of further gold finds such as had been made in Victoria in the ‘fifties. Nevertheless, at that time, rich finds were madein Western Australia, and the gold yield, which had declined from £105,000,000 in ten years during the roaring days of the ‘fifties and ‘sixties to £80,000,000, for the ten years 1878-88 leapt up to £142,000,000. He would be an extreme pessimist who would assert that there is no prospect of benefit accruing from this effort to resuscitate the gold-mining industry, and to solve, in part at least, our unemployment problem.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gregory) adjourned:
Debate resumed from page 1234.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 5th December (vide page 1061), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) has explained that this, and the other sales tax bills which will be dealt with later, are designed to make certain amendments in the -Sales Tax Assessment Act, and, I think, in one Sales Tax Act, to meet difficulties . which have been discovered during the administration of that legislation. Some alterations involvingsmall matters of principle are being made, but I agree that the proposals are reasonable in themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
(Nos. 2a, 3b and 4a).
Bills (on motions by Mr. Lyons) read a second time, and - by leave - passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Lyons) read a second time, and reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Attention cannot be called to the state of the House when the Speaker is putting the question. The Speaker cannot be interrupted at any time.
.- I take it that these bills are important, yet four of them have already been dealt with while less than the required number of members have been in the chamber. At present there are not more than twenty members here, if there are as many. I ask that the remaining bills be dealt with in the manner required by the Constitution. [Quorum formed.]
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
(Nos. 6a to9a).
Bills (on motions by Mr; Lyons) read a second time and - by leave - passed’ through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the bill is to revise the fees payable inconnexion with the granting of patents. These haveremained unaltered since the first Patents Act was passed in 1903. Since that date the work of the office has grown considerably, and the cost of administration has increased; therefore, the scale of charges that was reasonable in 1903 is insufficient to-day. The two main items of expenditure are examination and printing. The cost of printing is £14,000 a year, more than double the cost, in pre-war days. In 1904 four examiners were employed; to-day 36 are required. This, however,, is not an index to the increase in the number of applications for patents. The number of applications received annually is only a little more than double the number received 20 years ago, but the necessity to employ so large a staff to deal with only double the number of applications is attributable to the increased scope of the searches to be made, a factor which will continue until the provision in section 60 of the act, under which specifications more than 50 years old are, in certain circumstances, not a bar to a patent, comes into full play as applied to specifications filed under the Commonwealth act. While it is not desired to impose any unnecessary tax on inventions, it is considered that the grantee of a patent should, in the present time of financial stress, bear some small share of the burden. The immediate increases for which the bill provides will be payable by persons who apply for patents after the date of commencement of the act; but the increase in renewal fees will not take place for five years, as the first increase has to be paid after the expiration of the fifth year of the period of the patent. The fees which may be expected to produce some additional revenue within the next five years are -
The present scale of fees is defective in that it provides for a fee of £1 only on any application up to but not including the stage of the acceptance of the complete specification, when the scale provides for a fee of £2. If, however, the office on examination of the specification as to prior patenting or as to novelty, rejects the application, no additional fee is payable. In such cases the fee of £1 is quite inadequate. The principal cost to the office in connexion with dealing with applications for patents is the cost of examination, and a complicated invention may quite conceivably occupy the attention of an examiner for a long period. It is, therefore, proposed that, in addition to the acceptance-fee now payable, a fee shall be payable on lodgment of the complete specification. It is considered that, as the first of the renewal fees will not be payable until five years from the date of the patent, it is reasonable that additional revenue should be derived from this source. Presumably, a patentee will in the ordinary course have had a reasonable time in which to exploit his invention, and the fee then to be paid would presumably be from receipts from the monopoly which he enjoys. It seems reasonable that in such cases the patentee should be asked to make an” additional contribution to the Consolidated Revenue. The only other alterations for which this bill provides are in the form of Letters Patent. The first is to substitute the Commonwealth Arms for the Royal Arms, and the second to substitute the present for the old form of the King’s title.
As to the details of the bill, clause 1 sets out the short title and citation. Clause 2 prescribes that the act shall commence to operate from a date to be fixed by proclamation. Clause 3 provides that the amendments shall have no retrospective effect or application. Clause 4 is consequential upon the amendments in regard to renewal fees dealt with in the amending first and second schedules. The existing act provides for one renewal fee of £5 in the seventh year of the currency of the patent. The amendments in the schedule provide for a renewal fee after the fifth year, increasing annually by 10s. until the fifteenth year. . The total fees on application, excluding renewal fees, will be £5, instead of £3 as at present, and the fee for the preparation of a patent for sealing will remain at £5 as at present. The fee on the filing of notice, of opposition remains unaltered at £2. The renewal fees from the expiration of the fifth year to the fifteenth year will be much heavier than at present. Instead of one fee of £5 after the seventh year, .the annual renewal fee from the fifth to the fifteenth year would bring the total “payment up to £38 10s. The measure has been dealt with in another place, where the Leader of the Opposition stated that legislation on these lines had been contemplated by the last Government, which had been convinced that the time had arrived to increase the charges made by the Patents Office for the services it rendered to the community.
– I have not been able to analyse, in detail, the provisions of the bill, but, generally speaking, they are substantially the same as the last Government intended to propose. At that time, a consultation was held between the officers of the Crown Law Department and the patent attorneys, who offered certain objections to the proposed amendments. In my view, however, this legislation is fair, particularly at the present time. The fees have remained unchanged since the passing of the original act in 1903, notwithstanding that the expenses of the office have grown continually. As specifications have become more complex, requiring more diagrams and illustrations, the cost of printing them has increased considerably. The extent of the search necessary in order to have a proper and effective examination of applications for patents has also increased. It appears to be that, as a patent is a grant of a monopoly in the Commonwealth, it is proper that a charge should be made to cover all the expense of conducting and maintaining the department, and even in the case of successful patents, which are maintained throughout the full term granted by law, there is justification for making a charge for that monopoly. The increased fees and charges apply only to patents to be granted after the act comes into operation, so there is to be no breach of contract with respect to the terms of existing patents, and there can be no complaint, therefore, from the holders of any existing Commonwealth patent. At the present time there is a single renewal fee to be paid after the seventh year. The change made by this legislation is to provide for a series of renewal fees beginning in the fifth year. In the great majority of cases it is known within the.,first five years whether a patent, will be successful or not, and the charges which are made range from £1 in the fifth year to £6 in the final year of the patent. These charges do not appear to be unreasonable, and if there is any value in the patent at all, I can see no substantial grounds for objecting to them. The other alterations that are being made, relating to the fees charged in the initial stages, are also proper. The existing fees are quite inadequate to compensate the Commonwealth for the work of the department in respect of patents, and. accordingly, I support the bill.
– Patents are granted in all countries to give protection to inventors and to reward the inventive genius of mankind. Frequently in the past inventors have received no share of the profits of their inventions. I need only mention Mergenthaler, who was perhaps the greatest mechanical genius in the world. He invented the linotype, yet he died in dreadful poverty in Chicago. The combine which handled his invention even attempted to take his name off the machine, but, to the credit of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, it insisted that the name should remain. Any one who has studied the history of mechanical invention, must know that machinery is gradually but surely eliminating man-power. Let me give one example, and I am sorry that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is not present, because he could verify my statement. . At present a man on a harvesting machine can accomplish more work in one day than 100 men did with their hands 100 years ago. I refer to the time when the ears of corn were garnered by hand and threshed with a flail - sometimes cattle and horses were used to trample the corn - and strong winds blew away the husks, leaving the winnowed grain. In those days 100 men could not do what one man on an uptodate machine can do at present. Plato, the Greek philosopher, once said that a proper civilization could not exist without slavery or until machines could do the work of slaves. We are rapidly approaching the age of machinery, and I think that at this stage- it is only right that the Commonwealth Government should, in the interests of its citizens, have some con-, trol of the profits made through the invention of new machines. I shall, therefore, move, in the committee stage, the following amendment: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any other act it shall be mandatory that any patent taken out for any improvement or invention in machinery from the 1st January, 1931, the Commonwealth Government shall be registered as owning one-half the rights of such patent or improvement of patent and that any profits arising therefrom shall be earmarked for the payment of the national debt.
This is the psychological moment - while we are amending the Patent Act - to try to obtain control, either partially or wholly, of the machinery of the future. I hope that the House will give my suggestions consideration. It is not designed to injure patentees, because I have learnt, during my 41 years of parliamentary experience, of the difficulties that confront inventors in taking out patents. Although a comparatively small fee is charged for registering patents, it often happens that inventors cannot afford to patent their inventions. In the past successful inventors have frequently been robbed of a fair share of the profits made from their inventions. If this amendment is carried, I shall look forward to the time when the government of the day will reduce patent fees, in the knowledge that it will receive half of the profits made from any patents that are taken out. [Quorum formed.]
.- I regard this bill as one of a series of miserable taxation measures which the Government has brought down during this and the last session. We have had too much time wasted on this class of legislation. A number . of income tax bills have been introduced. A measure was brought down to increase the charge to persons who wish to become naturalized. This legislation is, perhaps, the meanest of the 3mall expedients which have been adopted to levy taxation upon an already over-taxed people. If the Government finds that the cost of the Patents Office is excessive, it should reduce the staff. When the department was established in 1904, the work, we are told, was carried on by four officers. At .that time the department was being inaugurated, and naturally there was a good deal of difficulty experienced in organizing the work. But now everything should be straightforward. No doubt the Patents Office, like most commercial houses, is suffering a decrease in business. The Government, instead of getting rid of a number of surplus officers, is now proposing to increase the patent fees. If there is any person in the community who needs encouragement, it is the inventor, because he devotes practically the whole of his time and his intelligence to the making of discoveries for the ultimate benefit of the general community. It is unfair to increase the patent fees; in fact, they should be reduced. Most inventions are unsuccessful, and it is unjust to increase the burdens of inventors. The amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) would, if carried, make the position worse, because it would mean that, in the few cases in which patents were successful, the Government would seize half th, profits. That would be altogether b mean act. .1 oppose the bill.
.- 1 quite agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that, if anything, the fees for patents should be reduced. Inventive genius is not a monopoly of the rich.
– Have the rich any genius at all?
– I take that interjection at its worth. As a matter of fact, an inventor usually spends his substance in working out his problem, which, unfortunately for him, frequently bears little fruit. About 98 per cent, of the patents taken out are failures. Therefore, the inventors who are responsible for the 2 per cent, of successes should be encouraged instead of penalized, as .is proposed under the bill. A. little while ago the Government proposed to transfer the Patents Office to Canberra. That proposal raised such an outcry in Melbourne and Sydney that the Government backed down. It would have cost something like £40,000 to effect that transfer, and, had it taken place, inventors would have been caused further embarrassment.” If the office were transferred to Canberra, prospective patentees would have to come here. Having backed down on that proposal, the Government now proposes to raise the fees.
Australia is a very poor field indeed for an inventor. In a great country like the United States of America, inventions can be placed before corporations, which judge their worth and either take them up or reject them. An Australian who invents anything worth while, is often obliged to take it to the United States of America to derive any benefit from it. The raising of the fees will merely drive out of Australia those who are anxious to patent their inventions here. There are outstanding examples of Australians, notably, Mr. Brennan, the inventor of the Brennan torpedo and mono-rail, who have taken their inventions abroad, to obtain recognition. If the Government wishes to assist Australian inventors, as well as industry and employment, it should keep the fees as low as possible; certainly they should not be more than is necessary for the administration of the department in the most economical way.
– That is all that it is designed to do.
– I believe it will be found that the Government is desirous of making a profit. The present offices of the department in Melbourne have proved suitable for many years, and the lease has still a long period to run. The prices of all our commodities are dropping, and wages are likely to be forced down instead of raised; therefore, there is no reason why these fees should be increased. I am opposed to the measure.
.- A matter that should be given the serious consideration of the Government is the infringement of patents that have been granted by the department. Many cases of this nature have been brought under my notice, but that which I have particularly in mind was mentioned to me by a boot manufacturer named Baxter, in my electorate, who claims to have had bitter experience of the pirating of inventions that he has patented. Whenever he has annealed to the Commissioner of Patents the decision has been that the article complained of was a distinct infringement of his invention.
– Questions in regard to the infringement of patents are decided by the courts, not by the Commissioner.
– This man has informed me that if he wishes to maintain his claim he must have recourse to a court of law. It is well known that many of the greatest inventions have been the product of the minds of. very poor men, who cannot fight their way from court to court. Where there is a declaration by the department that there is an infringement of a patent it has granted, it should be the duty of the department to fight the case in the courts, with a view to preventing the infringement from continuing. Mr. Baxter has assured me that ideas which have been pirated from him have been commercialized in the United States of America and other countries; and, as he has not been in a position to fight the matter, he has been without a remedy. We should encourage the inventive genius of our people. Where would Great Britain be to-day but for the inventive genius of those Englishmen who invented steam and other machinery ; she would be undeveloped and possibly only semicivilized. The advances made possible by invention have enabled her to build up her civilization. This matter reaches deep down into the fundamentals of our civilization. Why should we allow commercial buccaneers in this or any other country to suck the brains of our people, and to benefit from the inventive minds of those who cannot fight them? This measure should be considered seriously by the Government in conjunction with the reconstruction of the economics of the nation, because it must play a very important part in the future of this country. I agree that it is a crime against .our nation that the possessors of inventive brains which are equal to the best .in the world are compelled to seek their reward in other countries. There is, of course, greater scope for them in countries that are more highly developed industrially; but quite irrespective of that fact they will continue to go abroad so long as we allow them to remain at the mercy of those whose means enable them to pirate their ideas with impunity.
– I remember quite well the introduction by the last Government of a measure similar to this, designed to obtain sufficient revenue to meet the outgoings of the Patents office. On that ground I have no objection to the bill. The fees do not appear to me to be in auy way exorbitant, and it is only reasonable to expect that they should defray the costs of the office. The Minister has pointed out that the cost of printing has increased by £14,000, and that the expenditure has been further raised by the appointment of 30 additional examiners.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has raised the question of Australian inventors being obliged to go abroad. The reason for the patenting of their inventions in other countries is, not that the fees in Australia are too high, or that the law imposes too onerous restrictions, but that they are better suited by patenting their inventions in other countries, where there is a greater demand for them.
– Some of them will not go on with their inventions on account of the cost of patenting them.
– I cannot understand how that can be, seeing that the cost amounts to only £2 or £3?
– There are other charges which increase the outlay to as much as £37.
– If an invention is any good it is bound to return much more than the outlay upon it; otherwise, what would be the good of patenting it?
– That might be said of some of Edison’s earlier inventions.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The suggestion of the honorable member bears no analogy to the case under consideration. Edison had an invention which immediately commanded the attention of the world, and he showed that it would instantly be revenueproducing. He did not stop at an expenditure of £3 or £30. As to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), I point out that it is not the duty of the Patents office to police patents after they have been issueditis the business of a patentee to look after his own interests. In numerous instances, traders have to compete with firmsthat have adopted similar trade names. It is not uncommon to read of applications in the law courts for injunctions to restrain firms from trading under names which bear a close resemblance to other names, so it appears to me to be reasonable to expect patentees to protect their own interests. I see little to object to in the bill, and I propose to support it.
. I hold a different view from that expressed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill). We should encourage the development of new ideas, and the Government should not expect the fees paid by the patentees to meet the cost of the department. I realize, of course, that the object of the bill is principally to raise extra revenue; but the time has come, in my opinion, when all patentees should be well compensated, and their inventions should become the property of the Government. The fact that every year new ideas are being introduced for the displacement of labour, constitutes one of the great social problems that we have to face. The only method available is the regulation of the output of labour-saving machinery.
– The Government finds that the work of the Patents Department has grown considerably since the passage of the principal act. Applications for patents involve many inquiries, and, in order to safeguard ‘ the interests of patentees, a larger number of examiners than were formerly employed are now engaged, since obviously the examinations are of a more extensive character than when the act was passed. Apart from the renewal fees, the first increase in the charges is that from £3 to £5 for the preparation of a patent for sealing. The charge for lodging an objection to an application remains the same as before. Under the present law, a renewal fee of £5 is charged at the expiration of seven years; but under the present bill it is proposed . to demand renewal fees of varying amounts from the fifth to the fifteenth years. When an application is made for the renewal of a patent it is logical to assume that the patentee is enjoying the protection of the law, and has been given a monopoly over his invention from which he is deriving a benefit. The Government feels that it is entitled to share in that advantage. Owing to the present financial conditions, all government activities should be made self-supporting, so far as possible.
I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) as to the part that, new inventions are playing in the modern world. They are resulting in the displacement of man-power to such an extent that much unemployment is attributable to this factor, and any scheme that can be devised to meet the new situation must be adopted. On the point raised by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), I assure him that all possible protection will be given to patentees. I can assure the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that the department will do all in its power to prevent the stealing of other men’s brains.
– At whose expense should that be done?
– I am considering whether it is possible to frame regulations dealing with that aspect of the matter. It is necessary to make sure that an invention to be patented is a new invention. I am unable to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). This bill deals only with the fees charged. He has raised a matter of international interest, and the regulation of patents is, to some extent, covered by international law. I am willing, however, to pass the honorable member’s suggestion on for consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- It seems to be assumed by the Government that a person desirous of taking out a patent has no other expense than the payment of the rather heavy patent fees. On the contrary, he has to bear the cost of experiments and models, as well as the fees of patent attorneys, who have been urging that the government fees should not be raised. These attorneys are surely the persons who are qualified to say what the fees should be. Some of the biggest problems confronting this country may be solved by a mechanic in the humblest workshop or by chemists in the smallest laboratory in the Commonwealth, and it would be regrettable if useful experiments and inventions were discouraged because of government fees. The Government should give every assistance to inventors. Australians, as a race, have initiative, and patent fees should not be imposed for the purpose of producing revenue. The proposed increase in the renewal fee from £7 to £35 is much too great. It is said by some speakers that after five years an inventor will know whether his patent is of any great value; but I can call to mind inventions that have been on the market for years, and much expense has been incurred in endeavouring to popularize them. It might he years before a patent wins public favour or catches the eye of a capitalist who will market it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any other Act, it shall be mandatory that in connexion with any patent taken out for any improvement or invention in machinery from the 1st January, 1931, the Commonwealth Government shall be registered as owning onehalf the rights of such patent or improvement of a patent, and that any profits arising therefrom shall be ear-marked for the payment of the National Debt.
I realize that the Government cannot be expected to accept this new clause at a moment’s notice. I have moved for the insertion of it principally with the object of bringing the proposal under the notice of honorable members. If the principle involved in it were, accepted, no fees would be payable in connexion with patents, and no injustice would be done to any inventor. The clause meets, at least to some extent, the objection of the’ honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). I understand that the Leader of the Opposition intends to speak on the clause. I hope that on some future occasion, while he and I are still members of the House, the whole subject may be properly debated. To-day machinery nearly owns the workers, if I may put it that way; I hope to see the time when it will serve them and not be their master, though I realize the truth of the old adage, “ While the young may live, the old must die “.
.- The proposal of the honorable member that in future the Commonwealth should, by law, be declared to be half-owner of all machinery patents, and, therefore, receive half the profits which flow from them would, if adopted, have far-reaching consequences. The word “ machinery “ is rather a vague term. There is a fairly well recognized distinction between machinery and tools, but it is possible that some difficulty might be experienced in determining the full scope of this proposal. Many of the most valuable patents relate to processes. Why does the honorable member wish to distinguish between machinery and processes? If the principle is sound it surely should apply to all patents. If the Commonwealth were declared to be half-owner of all machinery patents, inventors would experience a great deal more difficulty than they do to-day in marketing their inventions. It has not been proposed that the Commonwealth should bear half the expense of financing and developing inventions that may be patented. If. it did so, an entirely new industry would be developed. It would be quite impossible to draw a line between one invention and another, and any inventor who conceived a bright idea might call upon the Commonwealth to finance him to the extent of 50 per cent. In such a case would the Commonwealth have some share in the management of the undertaking? If it were obliged to accept half the risk it should also be given some part in the management. There are, of course, many inventions of which nothing is ever heard. I know that a number’ of ingenious inventors would be greatly shocked if they were informed that their inventions were old or impracticable. Of course, there are many persons in the community like the “ projectors “ of Gulliver’s Travels, Undoubtedly, far more inventions fail than succeed. If the Commonwealth accepted half the responsibility in respect of all the inventions that are patented, I doubt very much whether, on a balance of accounts, there would be any profit to devote to the extinction of the national debt. Apart from any consideration of the advisability of the Commonwealth Government becoming a party to the exploitation of a new style of playing card or an improved lip stick, there is another objection which, in my ‘ opinion, quite rules this proposal out of the bounds of practicability While patents are granted in one country and apply to that country only, a very substantial degree of international reciprocity is enjoyed in respect to them under an international convention which provides that the patents of Australia shall be protected in other countries, and those of other countries protected here. Many patent applications are known as “Section 121 applications”, and come under the provisions of the International Convention. Naturally, every Australian inventor desires to enjoy the fruits of his ingenuity, not onlyin Australia but in other countries; but. if we included a provision of this kind in our patents law, inevitably our patentees would lose the protection that they now enjoy overseas, for we could not expect other countries to follow our lead in a matter of this kind. Many important and valuable inventions have been made in Australia. I suppose that the most important group are those connected with the treatment of metals. The inventions made at Broken Hill and Port Pirie, for instance, have placed Australian metallurgists among the foremost of the world. These inventions have been used in all parts of the world, and it is essential, therefore, that we should do nothing to take away from our own patenteesthe international protection that they now enjoy.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without “amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate . with an amendment.
Debate resumed from page 1247.
.- I was surprised that this bill was introduced by the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), instead of by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), and I was at a loss to discover the reason for it.
– All bounty legislation is administered by the Customs Department.
– I understand that, but the question arises in this instance, where is the money to come from for the payment of the bounty? Had the bill been introduced by the Acting Treasurer he would have been able to enlighten us on that point.
– By that process of reasoning, the Acting Treasurer should have introduced the bill dealing with the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway.
– The two cases are not similar. The Acting Minister for Transport may reasonably be expected to know something about railways, but the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs can surely claim to have no greater knowledge of mining than has the Acting Treasurer. When this bill was introduced, we expected, with some justification I -think, to be told how the Government proposed to find the money to pay a bounty on gold. We realize, of course, that no payments will be made for at least a year after the act comes into force, but, assuming that the production of gold increases money will then have to be found. When legislation of this kind comes before the House, one is driven to wonder why no assistance has been forthcoming for the wheat industry, which has been even more severely injured by the policy of the Commonwealth Government than the goldmining industry. No one knows better than I do how it will relieve unemployment, and assist in: correcting our adverse trade balance if we can put the metal industries once more upon a sound paying basis. I recognize that if capital is to be attracted to mining ventures in Australia, security of tenure must be given, but this is a matter for State Governments, rather than for the Federal Government. Mining investors do not ask for the fee-simple of mining land, but they object to there being a condition, in their leases that if the areas are left unoccupied or unworked for a single day they are liable to forfeiture. Some years ago, I read a brochure on mining, in Mexico -in which it was stated that 150 years ago the mining legislation of that country was very similar to ours. There was a school of mines, and bounties were paid on the production of metals. In spite of this, however, production decreased. About the year 1880, there was a Minister of Mines who said that he could not understand why mining, which was one of the most speculative industries, should be subjected to the greatest restrictions. Under his regime, the restrictions were removed, with the result that within a short period production increased, and there were 137,000 persons employed in and about the mines. We must realize that capital is a very shy bird. It can shift itself from one country to another very quickly, a fact which should be taken into consideration by the Government in framing its mining policy.
Another important factor which affects the mining industry is the cost of production. This does not apply only to gold-mining, of course, but to other forms of mining as well. We should recognize that we have in Australia wonderful metalliferous, as well as auriferous, resources. I do not think there is any other country in the world which has been endowed with such a variety of metals as Australia. Our deposits are not so defined as those of The Rand, in South Africa, but they are more varied. About 1906 I travelled through the Pilbarra district, in northwestern Australia, charged with the responsibility of preparing for the Government a report on the mining resource’s of that area. In the course of my report I was able to point out that from one area 120,000 ounces of gold had been obtained from 60,000 tons of ore. In the Nullagine district, 12,000, tons of ore had yielded 8 dwt. of gold’ to the ton. A geological report advised that there were in Australia thousands of square miles of stanniferous country, many containing rich deposits of copper, lead, molybdenite, and the finest deposits of crysotile asbestos that can be found in any part of the world, but it is not now payable to work the deposits owing to the high cost of production. In the Northern Territory we have the Bullion Mine in the vicinity of Alice Springs, and I have been furnished with particulars of lead, copper and zinc discoveries about 200 miles further east. Experts have said that the deposits there are richer than those at Broken Hill were on -the surface. In Queensland there are further rich deposits of the same metals, but there, as elsewhere, the cost of production is so great that it does not pay to work them. A mine like Mount Morgan should never have been closed down. In other countries, such as Canada and the United States, mines which do not yield anything like 50s. to the ton, as Mount Morgan was doing, have been able to work at a profit. Yet, Mount Morgan has been closed down at great loss, not only to the company concerned, but to the State as well. The importance of mining to Australia may be gauged from the fact that, apart from coal Australia has produced up to the present, £950,000,000 worth of gold, silver, lead and other metals. This country still possesses much latent mineral wealth of which we should be making better use.
I agree with the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green), that the pursuit of gold possess a wonderful attraction for men. I was one of those who went from Victoria in 1893 to Coolgardie when gold was discovered there. That discovery was of great value, not only to “Western Australia, but to Victoria as well. It was made just after the great economic depression which struck victoria so severely. Every week thousands of pounds were remitted by miners in Western Australia to their families in Victoria, and, besides that, every ironmonger’s shop in Victoria sent over to the west its old stock of mining tools, which had accumulated since the decline of mining in the eastern States. Apart from the value of the actual gold produced in Western Australia, that State benefited also by having . its lands opened up as a result of the gold rush. Before the discovery of gold in the West no one ever expected that there would he any agricultural settlement more than 150 miles east of Perth. The dis- covery of gold was responsible for the settlement of large areas of land, and for the development of the wheat industry in Western Australia.
– Before then they had never seen a sovereign in the West, had they?
– I would not go so far as to say that, but. I recall the story of a man who refused to take a Sydney minted sovereign. He had previously seen the ordinary sovereign bearing the impression of Saint George and the Dragon, and when declining the other variety, he said that he wanted one of those sovereigns with the picture on it of “ John Forrest killing the alligator “.
– Will this bill be of any assistance to the metal industries other than gold?
– No, it is only a gold bounty bill. I regard this bounty as uneconomic; but, under certain conditions, I propose to accept it.
– As in the case of the wheat pool.
– I want a little fair play for Western Australia. The Com-, monwealth has provided by way of bounty no less than £1,500,000 for the iron and steel industry of New South Wales. Bounties have been given for the production of cotton and other articles. Now, at last, we have here an opportunity whereby Western Australia, which has been legally robbed in the past, may get back some of the spoils which have been taken from her.
– Is this a case of dividing the spoils?
– Of course it is. Western Australia has already produced £152,000,000 worth of gold. The industry used to employ a large number of men ; but that number has now fallen to 3,800. The following is an extract taken from a report of the Western Australian Chamber of Mines: -
The declining output is very largely due to increased cost of production, and any fair means of reducing that cost is worthy of support, in order to permanently increase the production of gold, and extend the life of goldmining. In 1914 the average working cost on the Kalgoorlie mines was about 20s. per short ton. This compares very favorably with that of South Africa, which was generally adopted as a standard for comparison. In 1926, before tributing had obscured the working costs on the Kalgoorlie mines, they had risen to a general average of 32s. per ton, a rise of 60 per cent. During these years the basic wage rose 33 per cent., and remains so to-day, while materials used in mining rose 47 per cent. Hie working cost has risen since 1026, but to what extent cannot be clearly shown, owing to nearly every important mine being partly worked on the tributing system. To the increased cost of production, due to the rise in wages and materials, must be added the cost due to the introduction of the 44-hour week, the paid holidays, and the increased premiums, which have added about 10 per cent, to the labour bill for mining.
At the outbreak of war a large number of miners from Western Australia enlisted ; in fact, the mining corps sent from Australia was almost entirely recruited in that State. Many of the best miners left Kalgoorlie, and the labour remaining was less efficient, probably owing to lack of knowledge and experience. In consequence, working costs increased to over 30s. per ton. In the mines on the Golden Mile are enormous bodies of low-grade ore, averaging about 6 dwt. to 7 dwt. to the ton. Millions of tons of ore, which formerly could have been profitably worked, were left in the mines, attention being confined to the richer values, which, in ordinary circumstances, would be used merely to sweeten the monthly returns in order to maintain a profitable average production. Rarely is a mine, which has been closed down because the richer values have been extracted, reopened. The report of the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Mines states -
In the year 1928, 645,842 tons were treated and the gold yield was worth £1,665,446, an average of 51s. 6d. per ton. In 1929, 628,400 tons were treated, yielding £1,580,427 worth of gold, an average of 50.3s. per ton.
The Acting Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde), when moving the. second reading of the bill, emphasized the fact that in addition to providing an incentive to the winning of more wealth from the bowels of the earth, the bounty would largely increase the number of persons employed in mining. Any measure that will contribute to the re-employment of 3,000 or 4,000 men on the Kalgoorlie belt will have a most important influence on the general prosperity of Western Australia. The Minister for Defence, who represents that district, knows that the high cost of production has been compelling the com panies to deplete the mines of their rich values, and to leave untouched millions of tons of low-grade ore, which, in ordinary circumstances, could be profitably mined. The low-grade propositions are all important, and the proposed bounty, restricted in its incidence as it is, will mean probably more to Western Australia than to any other. State. No country in the world has done more to foster mining than that State has done. As soon as gold was discovered at Southern Cross and Coolgardie, the then Premier of Western Australia, the late Lord Forrest, sent out parties to make tracks through the wilderness, excavate dams, and extend the telegraph lines. Railway construction followed immediately afterwards by the great Coolgardie water scheme.. I can truthfully claim that no other country supported its prospectors so readily and generously as did the State of Western Australia. When the population of the State was a little more than 150,000 a water scheme for impounding water in the ranges near Perth, and pumping it over 300 miles to the gold-fields in the interior, was carried out at a cost of over £3,000,000. At that time, Coolgardie was the magnet, and the riches of the Golden Mile- were then undreamt of. The discoveries at Kalgoorlie followed. Successive governments spent enormous sums to promote the development of mining, and, later, when the gold output declined and the number of men employed on the Golden Mile decreased, losses were incurred in the operation of the water scheme, railways, and other State enterprises. Nobody appreciates more than I do the value of mining to other industries. I have often pointed out that every man employed in mining supports five or six other persons. The benefits yielded by gold production ramify throughout the community in an extraordinary manner. The large population extending from the port of Fremantle, through to the capital city of Perth and the eastern agricultural districts, was maintained in prosperity by the gold-mining industry. It is safe to estimate that, if 1,000 men be found employment in mining, work will be found for 5,000 or 6,000 workers in other industries. A bounty for the production of gold should have an important influence in stimulating prospecting; if mining is made profitable more capital will be forthcoming for investment, and an incentive will be given to the prospector to explore the interior for new fields. The auriferous belt in Western Australia is the most extensive in the Commonwealth, and I have not the slightest doubt that vigorous prospecting will disclose other large and rich gold-bearing lodes. The oxidization that has proceeded through the ages has probably covered many large bodies of ore. The Comet Vale lode was discovered accidently by a prospector named MacDonald. He had no thought of finding gold on a sand plain ; but his eye was attracted by a piece of quartz, and on sinking through two feet of sand he came upon a large body of rock, out of which developed a mine that has produced probably £500,000 worth of gold. Only by prospecting will the hidden riches of the earth be revealed.
I admit that a bounty on gold production is uneconomic, but this Parliament has been doing many uneconomic things; bounties have been given to other industries whose importance is not nearly equal to that of gold-mining. The machinery and implements required for mining have been made more costly by heavy customs duties, and burdens have been loaded on to the industry in other ways until the cost of production has become almost prohibitive. Whilst gold commands a market all over the world, its price is fixed; therefore if any industry has a claim to special consideration, it is gold-mining. The Government, having given bounties to other industries less deserving, and having by its fiscal legislation penalized mining, is not doing wrong in now proposing to pay a bounty on gold production. A feature of the proposal that should commend it to honorable members is that the Government will not have to find one sixpence for the payment of bounty in the current financial year. Certainly the bill commits the Commonwealth for a period of ten years, but the extent of the liability will depend entirely upon the production. . Not a penny of bounty will be paid, unless the gold output exceeds the annual average for the last three years.
– To no other bounty is such a condition attached.
– That is so. The proposal looks much better at first sight than when fully examined. In the whole period of ten years the Government may not be called upon to pay £1. There is, however, in the schedule a provision which stultifies the measure to some extent. The “ gold producer “ must extract to the satisfaction of the Minister for Trade and Customs ore “ the value of which when worked independently, and with the aid of efficient machinery and suitable equipment, will meet working expenses.” I hope that the words “ suitable equipment “ will not exclude from the benefits of the bounty a prospector who takes his ore to a State or private battery. Unfortunately, the prospector who blazes the track and makes new discoveries very often does not reap the reward of his enterprise. The Government of Western Australia established a State battery system which has won for small companies and prospectors £6,000,000 worth of gold. Those batteries are still operating, tout not to the same extent as formerly. I want to place it beyond doubt that the man who is working his own small show, and taking his ore to a battery for treatment, will be able to participate in the bounty in the same way as the big companies.
– That is assured by the definition of “ gold producer “.
– In my opinion it is not sufficiently clear. In regard to the requirement that the gold won shall meet working expenses, we want to encourage men who are courageous enough to persevere with their mine, even when it is not paying working expenses, in the hope that some day it will develop into something very much better.
– That is all right.
– I am not sure that it, is, because if the mine is not paying working expenses the owner will not be entitled to be registered as a gold producer.
– Yes, he will.
– The Minister does does not understand his own bill; but that can ‘be placed beyond doubt by .a very slight amendment. [ wish, first, to assist the prospector who sends his gold to the State mill or anywhere else. So long as he registers under the act, he should share in any allocation of bounty, no matter how small his proportion may be. I wish, also, to assist the man who is working a low-grade ore proposition, and perhaps losing money every week in the hope of striking a rich patch. He also should share in the bounty; in fact, he is more worthy of assistance in that way than is a man who is treating rich ores and making huge profits. Any interference by the department in the method of treatment should not be allowed ; the mining people can best manage their own business. A new process is being installed in the Wiluna mine. In the laboratory the oil process has turned out satisfactorily, and I hope that when work is commenced on a large scale the process will be found to be as cheap and successful as is anticipated. I remember that at the same mine difficulties were experienced when the sulphide zone was reached. The management was unable to treat the ore, and a mining engineer evolved a new process of winning gold by evaporation. The ore was’ roasted, and the fumes went through a water jacket , and the gold was subsequently extracted. The process acted magnificently in the laboratory, and the management was able to extract 90 per cent, of gold; but in the mine itself, after an expenditure of £10,000 on new plant, not more than 35 per cent, of gold was able to be extracted. It was an awful failure. I hope that the oil process will meet with every success. I have had many chats with the head of the School of Mines at Kalgoorlie, and he has informed me that the experiments made on the Kalgoorlie belt have shown that the oil process is likely to be a wonderful factor in reducing production costs and in extracting gold, especially when the treatment of ore is difficult. The bill will not meet with much opposition, though its liberality cannot be commended. The Western Australian representatives in this House were fully justified in urging that assistance should be given to goldmining, particulary as that industry has felt the full effect of the economic laws of the Commonwealth. Our high protective policy has, year after year, been keenly felt in the industry. As the cost of production increased so the difficulty of successfully working the mines became more and more apparent. People invest money in mines, not to employ labour, but to win a profit, and often a good profit. In a speculative industry of this sort, few investors win a profit; but when they do, they look for a large profit. Commonwealth legislation generally- has placed a heavy impost upon the mining industry, and although I should prefer a change in the policy of this Government, and a reduction in production costs rather than fictitious aid of this description, yet the fact of a bounty being given will encourage capital to Australia with a view to exploiting our well-known auriferous areas. That, in turn, will tend to the employment of labour. On those grounds I am prepared to support the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Keane) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Semite’s amendment. - Insert the following new clause: - “1a. Section sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in the first proviso to paragraph (d) after the word “ licence “ (first occurring ) the words “ or if that lease is a lease of land, in effecting any improvements on the leased land “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The effect of the amendment which has been inserted in the bill in another place is this: Under the existing law, in the case of taxation of profits from the sale of a leasehold, no allowance whatever is made for any improvements effected by the owner. For instance, if’ a lease is purchased for £3,000 and is sold for £6,000, taxation is imposed upon a profit of £3,000, in spite of the fact that the owner of the leasehold before selling may have expended £3,000 on improvements. The effect of the Senate’s amendment is in respect of income taxation to allow for such improvements.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from page 1259.
.- In supporting the bill, it is unnecessary for me to traverse the ground covered by previous speakers. I content myself by stating that the payment of a gold bounty, as proposed under this measure, will give relief to a large number of unemployed - whether 6,000 or 80,000 remains to he seen. The employment of men in the gold-mining industry is not altogther desirable from the standpoint of hygiene. My conversations with the leaders of various union organizations lead me to believe that because of the decline in goldmining, and consequent unemployment in the industry, very few men who were previously engaged in that vocation have remained in Australia. But I believe that there are sufficient to train other men to do this work. Gold-mining appears to me, at all events, to be the only source of immediate employment for skilled and semi-skilled men. This bill will provide a means of employing a number of men by attracting capital to the gold-mining industry, both from abroad and from within Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) doubts whether capital will come here; but I suggest to him that at recent conferences held at three or four centres, and attended by the representatives of employers and employees in the mining industry, it was admitted frankly that, provided a certain output of gold - 486,000 ounces - was reached during next year, and provided a bonus of £1 an ounce was paid by this Government, capital would be forthcoming and men would be absorbed iti the” industry, although there was tobe no immediate expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth. As a result of even the half-promise made by this Government some months ago, numerous mining shows are being worked throughout Victoria, although six months ago they were lying dormant. Men are getting gold, and when the full extent of this legislation is realized, capital will be forthcoming. No other industry is so likely to attract capital to Australia. Wheat, wool and coal we cannot sell. All metals, with the exception of gold, are practically unsaleable. Gold is saleable at a stabilized price in any part of the world. Its production will add to our wealth as a nation. It was stressed throughout the agitation at the conferences
– What agitation ?
– The agitation that something should be done to relieve unemployment. We were faced with the position that the decline in industry generally had thrown thousands of men out of work, that the financial policy of this, and the previous governments had restricted governmental works, thus reducing the avenues of employment. The stimulus that will be given to the gold-mining industry by the passage of this bill will offer some employment, and men who are to-day employed on charitable work or receiving the dole - a most objectionable practice - will at least be given an opportunity to get a regular job at a reasonable rate of pay.
– What about giving prospecting a bit of a lift along?
– Assistance will continue to be given to prospecting by the State Governments. This proposal cannot have very much effect in the direction of opening up small shows. We have indisputable evidence from mining and geological experts that there is gold to be won in nearly every State in. Australia. Certain companies that have ceased operations will recommence with the introduction of new capital, and 60 per cent, of their expenditure will be upon wages. For obvious reasons, certain machinery will have to be imported; but 80 per cent, of the requirements will be made by our own iron-workers ‘and erected by our own engineers and builders. The- bounty will thus provide some work for the enormous army of unemployed. In Bendigo, alone, there are 1,600 men out of work. If they were employed at a wage of £4 a week, the sum of £6,400 would circulate weekly in that city, with advantage to the grocer, the butcher, and other tradesmen. That applies also to every other part of Australia in which the scheme will operate. It is unquestionable that some lure is required to attract money from overseas. This scheme is by no means a liberal one; the average production of the last three years - 486,000 ounces - must be exceeded before any payment is made. Boiled down, the proposal is “ No gold, no bounty “. The number of men employed in the goldmining industry dropped from 60,000 to under 6,000 in a period of only nineteen years. I believe that under this proposal there will be an increase in the number of employees in the industry as well as in the yield of gold.
Since I have been a member of this House, I have not, until the present occasion, been in accord with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). To-night. for the first time, I heard him support a measure * brought forward by the present Government. He is a zealous supporter of the gold bounty; upon which I compliment him.
Acting on the instructions of the last Government, the Development and Migration Commission conducted a close inquiry into this industry, and recommended the expenditure upon it of £300,000. The present proposal will not cost anything like that sum, nor will it be handicapped by government interference. The business methods of some of the companies that will operate under the scheme may he objectionable, but we need not concern ourselves about that aspect of the matter, because it will be within the province of the Crown Law Department of each State to see that “ crooks “ are not allowed to carry on their nefarious operations.
A revival of the mining industry, in my opinion, will draw from the big cities many of those for whom, at present, there is no physical, mental, or financial outlook in life, and place them where they will at least have a decent life, a reasonable job, and some hope that one day they will be considered a factor in the affairs’ of the nation. The bill makes provision for the individual, the syndicate, the single company, and the group of companies. The amount that will be paid in the first year is not large. Some honorable members have asked where the money to finance the scheme is to be obtained. I hope that the Government will be involved to the extent of £500,000; if it is, there will be some hope of a return to prosperity, because we shall have obtained from the earth a great deal of wealth, in the winning of which employment will have been given to a big army of people. In addition, rail and road transport will have obtained additional freight, and other industries interwoven with the mining industry will be benefited. This is an honest attempt to remove, from a section of the people, the necessity of looking for eleemosynary aid. I have not the slightest doubt that Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania will benefit, and that Australia, as a whole, will receive money that it could not hope to obtain for any other commodity. If gold had not been found in Australia, many of us would not have been born in this country. A return of prosperity to the mining industry will remove any need for a policy of assisted migration, because the right people will come here of their own accord. This is a sound proposal, and not a costly one. It is the most conservative bounty that has been granted by either this or the previous Government. Had I my way, I would make it far more liberal. The fact remains, however, that the working miners and the mining industry regard it as worth while. It will be the means of employing people and of winning from the earth a commodity that can be sold in any part of the world - a commodity in the sale of which there is no competition, and the price of which does not vary.
Since the agitation for a gold bounty commenced about twelve months ago. mining propositions have been exploited in 80 odd places throughout Australia. Men with the gold-mining instinct have sought and found gold in half of those places, among which are Malmsbury, Chewton, Maldon, Inglewood, Daylesford, Avoca, and Clunes. Those are new, not old, shows, and they are employing an army of people’. ‘
I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (;Mr. Gullett!) of some gold that I showed him recently in Melbourne, which had been won from a place called Spring Gully, in my electorate, by a man who had been out of work for eighteen months. His return after thirteen months’ labour was gold valued at some thousands. He informed me that there is still gold to be found. I received yesterday a communication from a man in Sydney, whom I had never met and of whom I had– never heard. He stated that even the most ardent advocates of a gold bounty do not realize what a tremendous impetus it will give to Australia, if granted. From inquiries that I have since made, 1 understand that he has been engaged in the industry all his life. I have never had any interest in mining, although I. was born on a gold- field. I could show honorable members hundreds of communications that I have received from men in various parts of the world, all of whom’ say that this scheme is the only one that will bring about a revival in the gold-mining industry. I believe that it will at least enable us to make a commencement with the colossal task that confronts Australia.
I am prepared to advocate and support in this House any scheme, either allegedly economic or uneconomic, that will get us out of the fearful mess in which we find ourselves. But this proposal is not uneconomic. I should support anything that would give employment to our people, because I believe that only by that means shall we be able toregain the prosperity that we all so ardently desire.
.- It was very interesting to hear the honorable member for Bendigo declarethat, whether schemes are economic or uneconomic, so long as they provide employment they will have his support. It is easy, indeed, to suggest many uneconomic schemes that willprovide employment; but even though there be an enthusiasm to provide employment at allcosts, some degree of discrimination should be exercised betweenthose that are economic and those that are uneconomic.
The history ofthe proposal for the payment of a gold bounty is decidedly interesting. There has been an intensive agitation in favour of it for practically the whole of this year. Early in the year’ the Prime Minister informed a deputation that waited upon him that it was quite impossible toaccede to its request for a bounty of£ 1 per oz. on gold production, and he gave reasons for the inability of the Government to accept that proposal. At a later stage, however, the Acting Prime Minister announced in clear and unambiguous language, that the Government had determined to accede to the suggestion that a bounty be granted upon gold. The following day the Acting Prime Minister said that he had been misunderstood, and that the Government had decided not to grant a bounty on gold ; but now the Government advocates a bounty on the lines of this measure. His conduct reminds one of the behaviour of Mrs. ‘Enery ‘Awkins. When approached in an affectionate manner by her suitor -
First she said she wouldn’t,
Then she said she couldn’t,
Then she said, “ Oh, well, I’ll see “.
Yet in the long run the lady yielded to the representations that were unremittingly made to her. Similarly, the Government has yielded to the solicitations which were made to it for so many months without avail. But it has clone so with prudence, and it is not overdoing the meek submission to the bold proposal,because no money can be paid under the bill until 1932, when everybody knows that this Government will be out of office. Accordingly, it regards itself as “ on velvet “. It does not have to pay one penny; but it will get all the credit for this bounty. It hopes that it will land its successors with whatever may be the result of this legislation. It is reasonably clear that this Government will not be in power in 1932; if it were in office in that year it would be presiding over a ruined and chaotic community.
In my individual capacity as the member for Kooyong, and not as the Leader of the Opposition-
Mr.Curtin. - Have honorable members opposite no party, so far as thisbill is concerned ?
Mr.LATHAM. - In this, as in many measures, the Opposition allows its members to exercise freedom of judgment, and follows principles which are distinct from those by which the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) is so often bound. Again and again, I have seen him struggling in the toils, defending a bad case to the best of his ability, because he feels compelled to say something for the decision of the majority of his party, although he does not believe in it. I am glad to say that that is not the principle on which members on this side of. the House proceed.
On all proposals for tariffs and bounties there is a good deal of room for differences of individual opinion. I say at the outset that I do not object on principle to a bounty!’ In every case where a bounty is paid it may be fairly said that the’ significance of the payment is that it is intended to subsidize an uneconomic enterprise. If it were possible to make an enterprise pay, apart from a bounty, obviously, the granting of a bounty would be indefensible, and, therefore, any bounty is, in the narrow sense, uneconomic. “When we are concerned with the initial stages of the development of an industry, it is recognized that it may be subject in its early years to particularly intense competition; but if it is capable of becoming permanent after initial assistance there is a prima facie case for special support. It must be always remembered, however, that whenever a bounty is given other industries pay for it. The money does not come out of the upper ether, or even out of the lower atmosphere; it is provided by the other industries of the Commonwealth, and, accordingly, it is necessary to consider each case on its merits. I do not set up any general principle that it is always wrong to subsidize an industry because the people are paying more for an article than it- is worth. I have endeavoured to outline the considerations which I regard as material and relevant, namely, the prospects of an industry in relation to its permanence and ultimate contribution to_ the economic welfare of the community.
For years we have heard that goldmining, because its product has a fixed price, would go ahead, if it were not for two things. Those interested in gold production say that mining could still succeed in Australia, were it not, first for the tariff, which greatly increases capital costs by putting up the price of machinery, and, secondly, industrial conditions dependent upon awards of various courts and tribunals. There is a federal award for gold-miners in Victoria and Tasmania; but in the other States, and particularly Western Australia, which is the leading goldproducing State, industrial conditions are entirely controlled by State authorities. This proposal for a bounty does not involve dealing with these alleged uneconomic conditions. It- is intended to provide a subsidy to the industry to enable it, not only to maintain itself, but also, to increase the area of its operations and to develop, notwithstanding- the alleged uneconomic conditions. The Minister who introduced the bill did not refer to these aspects of the subject, which, during past years, have been considered important by, at least, a large number of those engaged in the industry. In fact, the Minister’s speech satisfied me that he ought to engage in the work of preparing mining prospectuses. His anticipations are so glowing, and his vision is so rosy, that I wonder, indeed, that he is wasting his gifts in this more or. less arid arena, when he would be able to make the desert blossom as the rose if .he would turn his attention to writing prospectuses.
The gold-mining industry is ^-largely responsible for the development* -and settlement of. Australia. It is- quite natural, particularly in a time of stress, for Australians to recall the golden days, and wonder whether it is not possible to restore the atmosphere of prosperity which was then characteristic of this country. Gold-mining is not a business undertaking; it is a speculative proposition: It appeals to those who have speculative minds. A safe proposition from the commercial point of view will be developed by commercial men. Any gold-mining venture which is not being developed in Australia at the moment is not, under existing conditions, a commercial proposition ; it can be only speculative. Therefore, we have to consider whether the proposal made by the Government is sufficient to convert a speculative proposal into a- reasonably commercial one. It appears to me that the main object of any legislation to assist goldmining ought to be to encourage the spirit of adventure which has led to gold, discoveries in the past. - We should .desire, to encourage the prospector rather than attempt to subsidize a commercial or manufacturing undertaking which,, at the present time, may be described as below par. This bill, however, does nothing for the prospector who goes out and fails.
-That is not so.
– It is so. There is nothing in this’ legislation to benefit the prospector who ‘ sallies forth in an. adventurous spirit, and gets nothing*
– He receives the prospector’s allowance from a State Government.
– I am dealing with this bill. The prospector who succeeds, or the mining company which is lucky, obtains a dividend, receives so many shillings per ounce on the gold produced, the payment ‘being determined by the excess gold production in the current year over the average production for the period of three years fixed by the bill.
– Would the honorable member pay a bounty if there were no production of gold?
– I am pointing out that this bill awards an uncertain premium in the case of success, but offers no encouragement to speculation and the spirit of adventure, on which new developments in gold-mining really depend. Other industries, as I have said, must pay for this bounty, and where is the money to come from ? Of course, the payment is postponed until 1932. That is the essence of the proposal. No money will have to be found in the lifetime of the present Parliament. I urge honorable members to pause before attempting to mortgage the future, because, as we all know, this Parliament cannot bind its successors.
– But the Commonwealth Government makes a grant to the States to assist prospectors. Last year £70,000 was spent in that direction.
– I am discussing this bill. I have seen a number of persons with respect to the proposal, and, like other honorable members, I have been interviewed by a gentleman who has been very prominently associated with what the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) referred to as “ the agitation for a gold bounty “. I speak of Mr. C. de Bern ales, from whom I have obtained a great deal of information. I have followed with great interest what he has said on this subject, as I understand that he is a recognized authority on goldmining. In order to appreciate the nature of this proposal, I have refreshed my memory by referring to information which I have received from various sources upon this subject. In May last Mr. de Bernales delivered an address in support of the appeal for a bold bounty. A pamphlet, from which I propose to quote, was issued in that month by the Mining Association of Western Australia Incorporated.
I have tried to work out the amount of money that may be involved in this proposal. If it is very great, the Commonwealth may have difficulty in finding it, having regard to the present and probable future condition of its finances. If, on the other hand, only a small amount of money is involved, it can hardly be said that any inducement will be given to overseas investors to send capital here. I find it difficult to believe that any investors could be found who would spend £10,000,000 in Australia - that amount was mentioned by the Acting Minister - simply upon the strength of this proposal. An increase of 100,000 oz. upon, the present production which is 468,000 oz. would be a substantial increase, but it would involve the payment of only £100,000 in bounty at £1 per oz., which surely could not be regarded as a sufficient attraction for £10,000,000 of capital. But some people believe that the provision of a bounty may result in a very large increase in gold production. In this connexion, Mr. de Bernales, in the speech to which I have already referred, stated, that -
For the year 1929, Western Australia produced 377,170 oz. of gold valued at £1,602,142. It has been calculated, if allowing three years for the formation of companies, development of new properties and their machinery equipment, that in four years from the date of the gold bonus being granted by the Federal Government, the Western Australian gold output would have been increased to 1,500.000 or. per annum with further annual increases of 200,000 oz. until the maximum is reached. The possibilities in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia are also most promising and substantial gold outputs from these States can be expected.
I will use this statement as the basis of my argument. Taking the case of Western Australia, but for simplicity of calculation, assuming that its present gold production is 400,000 oz. per annum instead of 377,17 6 oz., Mr. de Bernales anticipates that in four years the production might increase to 1,500,000 oz. Payment of bounty at the rate of £1 per oz., which was the .basis upon which Mr. de Bernales worked, would involve an expenditure of £1,500,000. Mr. de Bernales anticipated that the output could be increased at the rate of 200,000 oz. per annum until the maximum was reached. Consequently, at the end of the ten-year period, Western Australia, alone, would be producing 2,300,000 oz. of gold in excess of the present production, which would involve the payment of £2,300,000 in bounty at the rate of £1 per standard oz. This calculation does not take into account the “ most promising and substantial “ possibilities of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia to which Mr. de Bernales referred. Surely honorable members will admit that it would be quite beyond reasonable financial possibilities to provide for a bounty of such huge dimensions. I realize, of course, that Mr. de Bernales has merely stated the possibilities, but I take it that he has made an honest and bona fide speculation. It may be said that, if less gold is produced, less money will be paid; but the one thing obvious is that if but little is produced then the bounty would not be likely to encourage production -and the amount of increased production is really quite uncertain.
I am bearing in mind that the provisions of the bill differ from the scheme which Mr. de Bernales had in mind when he made this, in some respects, persuasive speech. At that time, the proposal was first that the bounty should bc paid on the total production, whereas the bill provides that- it shall be paid on only the excess production, and, secondly, that it shall be paid on the standard ounce, whereas the bill provides that it shall be paid on fine gold. In concluding his speech, Mr. de Bernales said -
It is to bo hoped the Federal Government will grant the appeal for assistance of the Australian gold-mining industry for a gold bonus of £1 per oz. of standard gold produced over a period of ten years No less or other form of assistance could achieve the results desired by the Government, nor with justice and in equity protect the industry, the investors, labour, and the trading community.
I do not pretend to be an expert or. gold. Possibly because of the Scottish strain in my ancestry, I have always lived carefully, and have never had the pleasure of owning any gold-mining shares. I may lack what has been called “ the spirit of adventure “ ; in pecuniary affairs at least. But I have endeavoured to obtain all the information possible on this subject. I have no prejudice against the payment of bounties. I admit that in an unduly limited sense bounties are uneconomic, though on a longer view they may, in particular cases, be justified even on economic grounds. Mr. de Bernales said quite definitely in May last that nothing less than the degree of assistance for which he then asked would be of any use to the industry. In my opinion his estimates of increased production are optimistic. I can hardly believe that such increases are likely to occur by reason of the provision of this bounty. I have little confidence in the proposal, because I recognize that the policing of the scheme would be very difficult for many reasons, among which may be mentioned the practical one of identifying gold. One searches through the bill in vain for any provision to prevent the same gold being “ rung in “ several times. I also find it difficult to accept the scheme because of the extraordinary schedule at the end of the bill. Clause 6 of the measure provides that - (1.) Every gold producer who is a claimant for bounty under this act shall apply in accordance with the form in the schedule to the Collector of Customs of the State for registration as a gold producer and shall give the undertaking contained in that form. The Collector of Customs shall register such gold producer who shall thereupon become a registered gold producer for the purposes of this act. (2.) If the undertaking contained in the schedule is not complied with to the satisfaction of the Minister he may at his discretion withhold the whole or any portion of the bounty which would otherwise have been payable to such claimant.
Turning to the schedule, I find that the applicants for registration must undertake to do several things “during, the currency” of the act - a period of ten years. In my opinion it is impossible for a Minister to satisfy himself that these extraordinary undertakings have been really carried out. No Minister could satisfy himself in, say, June of each year that a ten-year undertaking has been complied with. The undertaking is to do something within ten years. How is it possible to enforce annually an undertaking to do something within ten years ? That is the first foolish provision in this schedule.
– That is only a lawyer’s quibble.
– The language of the schedule is incoherent and unintelligible.
What, for instance, is the meaning of paragraph a, which states that the applicant undertakes to - extract to the satisfaction of the Minister of State for Trade and Customs all goldbearing ore in my mine, the value of which, when worked independently and with the aid of efficient machinery and suitable equipment, will meet working expenses.
On the face of it, this paragraph must mean that the applicants undertake, within ten years, to extract all payable gold-bearing ore. Of course that is not what the Government really intends. The wording of the paragraph is ridiculous. I do not credit even this Government with the intention that an applicant shall, as a condition of receiving the bounty, be required to extract from his mine all gold-bearing ore within ten years. I ask the Minister to be good enough to explain, for the benefit of persons who are not gold-mining experts as he is, just what is meant by the word “independently” as used in this paragraph. The word may have some special meaning in relation to gold-mining, but it is not apparent to the layman.
Again, what is meant by the words “with the aid of efficient machinery and suitable equipment,” &c. If this is meant, as I believe it vaguely is, to give the Commonwealth Government, through its goldmining expert, the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, control over mining operations as a condition of paying the bounty, let that be clearly stated in the bill. Honorable members should be informed if it is the intention of the Government that officers are to travel about the country directing capable mine managers bow the ore is to be taken out of their mines.
– The State Mining Departments will be glad -to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the mines are not gutted.
– I have no doubt that they will. I am merely pointing outthat these matters are not clear either from the bill or from the explanations of Ministers.
– It may be unintelligible to a layman, but it is quite clear to anyone possessing a knowledge- ‘ of mining.
– The Minister should have been good enough to explain these things to us when he was speaking.
– I thought that they would be obvious to anyone coming from Victoria.
– The intention of the Government ought to be expressed in the body of the bill. Everybody knows that in gold-mining there have been at all times two divergent interests - the farseeing policy of mining development over a long period of years in order to obtain the maximum result, and, opposed to this, the urge to secure immediate dividends. It is the duty of a competent board of directors, and of a skilled mine manager, to preserve a just balance between these two motives.
– It is evident that the meaning of paragraph a of the schedule has been, clear to the Leader of the Opposition all along.
– It is evidently the intention of the Government to introduce a new principle into mining legislation. We are accustomed to the inclusion in such legislation of safety provisions and labour requirements; but actual mining methods have not in the past been the subject of legislative control. I recognize how important the gold-mining industry has been to Australia in the past, and hope that it will be able to make a real contribution to the nation’s prosperity and progress in the future. It appears to me, however, that this bounty provision is so speculative in character, and uncertain of result, that it cannot possibly provide a stimulus to the industry. No investor would be justified in making any substantial new investment on the strength of the assistance which the Government proposes to afford the industry. In my opinion, the bill will completely fail to achieve the object which the Government has set itself to attain. Therefore, as an individual “member, I feel compelled to cast my vote against it.
.- The criticism directed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) against the schedule to this bill is deserving of attention. I agree that it is very difficult to know just what the schedule means,- and I can see no reason for its retention. I support the bill, because it is in keeping with the policy of the Government in regard to the industries of the country. This Parliament has, over a long period of years, and in a variety of ways, attempted to foster industries calculated to be of advantage to the country economically and nationally. Parliament has, from time to time, departed from purely economic principles, and has, at some immediate cost, followed a policy designed to achieve greater ultimate gain for the nation. This is true of many of the tariff duties imposed for the protection of secondary industries. They are justified on the ground that the economic and defensive security of the nation make it necessary that certain industries be located within Australia. I regard this proposed bounty as compensation for certain disabilities which the fiscal policy of Australia has imposed on an important ir dustry. Section 99 of the Commonwealth Constitution states -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any partthereof over another State or any part thereof.
We know that while, technically, that section of the Constitution is complied with in framing the legislation passed by this Parliament, actually it may be regarded as a pious resolution which i3 frequently broken under the stress of economic necessity.- Any bounty given to one industry alters its relation to other industries. If it happens that most of the firms engaged in a particular industry are grouped in one State, and that industry is given special protection, by legislation, the State in which it is chiefly concentrated benefits, as a result of that legislation, at the expense of the other States. This, of course, is not the actual intention of Parliament, but follows as a result of the tendency noticeable in Australia for firms engaged in particular industries to group themselves “in ‘ particular States. For instance, the bootmaking industry is located, for the most part, in the suburbs of Melbourne. The iron and steel industry is centered chiefly, as is only natural, in the great coalproducing areas of New South Wales. Those States which are without secondary industries, and which, by reason of their physical characteristics, are devoted chiefly to primary industries, have had to bear additional burdens in the way of increased costs because of the efforts of the Government to foster secondary industries, inquiry after inquiry has demonstrated conclusively that if the sound way to assist the secondary industries is the imposition of protective duties, the only available method by which this Parliament can assist the primary industries is the payment of bounties. We cannot, for example, protect the wheat industry by prohibiting the importation of -wheat as we prohibit the importation of galvanized iron and other articles. Neither the wheat industry nor the gold-mining industry can be assisted by tariffs or embargoes. As a matter of fact, the protection given to the manufacturers of machinery prejudices gold-mining by increasing the cost of production. Naturally, the decline in gold production figured prominently before the royal commission appointed by the Commonwealth in 1925 to inquire into the disabilities of Western Australia. That State, more than any other, is concerned in this bill, because for some years it has contribute;! 70 per cent, of the annual gold production of the Commonwealth. The advisory committee appointed by the State Government to prepare a case for presentation to the royal commission emphasized that the decline in goldmining had been hastened by the increased costs caused as a result of the policy adopted by this Parliament to cope with the increased national burden created by the war. That is to say, every increase of revenue which this Parliament derived as a result of its fiscal policy, became an additional element in increasing the cost of gold production, and such increase had to be borrie within the limits of the industry’s incapacity ‘to advance the price of its product. Gold is unlike any other commodity, in that its price is without flexibility, and in an era of ever increasing costs, this industry is handicapped by a static market. I admit that a gold premium was’ paid for a period during the war, and more recently the exchange rate has given some alleviation, but these have been merely incidental and, to some extent, extraneous, factors. The chairman of the royal commission, the Honorable W. G. . Higgs, a former Treasurer of the Commonwealth, in his report recommended that, “ during a period of ten years,- and thereafter until
Parliament otherwise provides, a bonus or bounty of 10s. per ounce be paid on all gold produced in the Commonwealth.” Even in 1925 he realized, because of the testimony which had been adduced before the commission, that the Commonwealth might reasonably offer that aid. The advisory committee, over which the present Chief Secretary of Western Australia, the Honorable Norbert Keenan, M.L.A., presided, estimated the loss to that State, through .the decline of the mining industry, at £2,600,000 per annum. That was largely due to the fact that railways had been constructed long distances into the interior to provide transportation exclusively to and from the gold-fields. In addition, the wonderful water scheme described by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), ceased to be drawn upon by the mines to the extent necessary to ensure an adequate return on the capital invested, and school buildings and other services, which had been provided by the State out of revenue or loan funds, had not that period of usefulness which they would have had if the lower costs of production had continued. The advisory committee estimated the loss of the gold producers at £3,000,000- being the amount of the premium distributed during the years 1019-1023. (In those years the export of gold being freely permitted and gold being at a premium in several countries, the Gold Producers Association was enabled to obtain a premium to the extent of the figure cited.)
In 1901 the output of gold in Western Australia was £7,250,000. In 1925 it had fallen to a little over £2,000,000, and the consequent decline in the population of many areas distant from the capital city, not only meant a reduction of the taxable, capacity of those communities, but also obliged the State to pay out of taxation the entire interest bill in respect of gold-field railways. The fourteen points advanced by the Advisory Committee, and afterwards endorsed by Mr. Higgs, contain general principles that are relevant to this bill. They may be summarized as follows: -
I remind the Leader of the Opposition, in answer to his criticism, that the major purpose of the bounty is not so much to encourage the prospecting of new fields, as it is to ensure the commercial utilization of low-grade ore bodies that are already visible, and only await proper assistance to be brought within the ambit of profitable production. The main advantage of the bounty, for the first few years, at any rate, will be the encouragement it offers to the installation of the most modern treatment plants, so that the enormous visible low-grade bodies that abound throughout Australia - the residue of the rich lodes that were exploited for dividend-earning purposes in the first years of mining company promotion - may be profitably developed. They represent a tremendous part of the remaining natural wealth of this country, and a stimulus to their profitable exploitation is one of the greatest services this Parliament can render for the encouragement of industry generally. The treatment of these low-grade ore bodies will revive a network of auxiliary industries. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has said that, foundries and engineering work-shops will revive through the demand for more up-to-date and efficient machinery. In addition, many townships which have lost population in recent years will be given a fresh lease of life, and be comparatively reconstructed. Houses and business premises will have to be erected. The almost continual exodus ‘ from the inland area’s to the cities will be arrested, and an inducement will be offered to men who cannot find employment in the urban’ areas to go to the mining fields, which generally are hundreds of miles away from the large centres of population. This redistribution of population will be to the national benefit. Moreover, history may repeat itself. Gold-mining has been not only the pioneer of exploration in many parts of the continent, but also the precursor of permanent agricultural and pastoral settlement. If the- expectations of the propounders of this policy are only partly realized, the national 4ife of the Commonwealth will take a definite step forward. My anticipations of the result of the bounty are not nearly so exuberant as those expressed in the speech quoted by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not believe that the number of men employed in the goldmining industry will be more than doubled, and the output of gold quadrupled, within the next five years; but I confidently believe that the first and the essential fruit of this policy will be the arresting of the decline in the production of gold.
– The’ gold bounty will not be payable to that extent. This is a confidence trick.
– If the honorable member will study the history of the agitation for the bounty, and the names of the statesmen and representative citizens who have supported it, he will retract his statement that this is a confidence trick. Amongst ‘ those who have espoused the scheme arc the present Premier of Western Australia (Sir James Mitchell) aud his predecessor (Mr. Collier).
– Do they support the present proposal?
– The Advisory Committee’s summary continued -
It cannot be denied that the world looks principally to South Africa to replenish the supply of gold. The industry in the Union is carried on with cheap coloured labour. . The principal source of gold production to-day - and it is admitted by economists, no matter what school they may recognize, that the gold supply is insufficient for the credit and currency requirements of this civilization - is a country in which coloured labour, for the most part, is used. If Australia is to resume its former position as an important contributor, not so much to the gold supplies of civilization, but to the ;gold requirements of the Empire, and more particularly to our own requirements, a bounty at this stage is essential. This country must continue to produce gold so long as it remains a debtor nation and has annual overseas interest obligations approximating to the present dimensions. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), in. his speech the other night, suggested that he is anxious that, in the near future, we shall increase our annual interest obligations overseas.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member suggested that, if we funded our interest debt overseas, reduced taxation, and Public Service salaries, and adopted a policy of drastic governmental economy, we could raise money on the London market. We cannot borrow money externally without increasing our annual interest obligation.
– I ask the honorable member not to misrepresent me.
– If I have misrepresented the honorable member it is because his tongue has misrepresented hia mind. I have quoted exactly what the honorable member said the other night.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The report continues^ -
In Western Australia, the people on the gold-fields either purchase their requirements from the Eastern
States, thus expanding the Australian market for Australian manufacturers, and carrying out one of the purposes of the general fiscal policy of this Commonwealth, or import from overseas, thus making as a result of the incidence of our fiscal policy, a direct personal contribution to the Federal Treasury. In either event, an increase in the population on the gold-fields is of distinct advantage to the finances of the Commonwealth. The report continues -
Those points - the same in number as an earlier and more historic fourteen points - are at least definite reasons for granting a bounty to assist the goldmining industry.
– What is the date of that report?
– It was submitted to Parliament in 1925 and was printed on the 23rd of September of that year “ by command “. Certain of the States have arelationship to the Commonwealth distinct from, that of others. Our economic life is diversified. At no other places, in the Commonwealth is there the enormous massing ‘ of secondary industries which characterizes the capitals of Victoria and New South Wales. For example, our principal coal-fields are in New South Wales. Victoria is comparatively densely populated, and has a great variety of secondary industries. Queensland differs from all other States in that its population/is distributed in groups, which is a more satisfactory position than .that of the other States, Western Australia has ari area of 1,000,000 square miles - practically one-third of the continent - and its population, spread over that immense territory is about one-third of that of the city of Sydney. That community of 400,000 people, “or thereabouts, is faced with the task of holding and developing one-third of the total area of Australia, and because of the incidence of our fiscal policy, as certified to by the committee appointed by the previous Prime Minister to review tariff incidence, we find that, in respect of the payment of bounties, the people of Western Australia have to contribute £2 a head to the protected industries, which are mostly located in the eastern States. For that there is no requital. Furthermore, the advantage given to these protected industries in the eastern States is made manifest by an examination of the trade returns of Western Australia. For every £1,000,000 worth of Western Australian products consumed in the other States, Western Australia consumes from £9,000,000 to £10,000,000 worth of the products of the eastern States. That is to say, we have to purchase our requirements in the highpriced Australian markets, and pay for them with the money that we receive from the sale of our products in the cheappriced markets of the world. Thus, Western Australia has to sell outside Australia wheat and wool at low prices, and gold at a permanently fixed price in order to pay for jam, butter, fruits, clothing, machinery and other commodities produced in the eastern States under conditions much more satisfactory, in a human and economic sense, than those under which Western Australia produces the products that it exports. This bill, to some extent, affects the principle of equation as between the various States and this National Parliament, and so soon as we overcome our economic difficulties, we should grapple with the problem of adjusting the equilibrium as between one State and another, and as between each State and the Commonwealth. In the report submitted to this Parliament in 1925, and in the later reports submitted on behalf of Tasmania and South Australia, proposals were made for the constitution of a body, somewhat identical to the now defunct interstate commission, which would exercise some sort of balancing authority, at least in a recommendatory sense, in respect of the claims of the various States upon this National Parliament. The obligation’ of this Commonwealth to keep alive existent industries in a period of special difficulty appears to me to be beyond question.
Gold-mining is an industry which, in its employment capabilities, is not to be measured by the number of men who are actually engaged or potentially capable of engagement in mining operations, because in Australia this industry has contributed powerfully towards the stimulation of a hundred and one other industries.’ I know that there are those who take the view that gold-mining is an industry in which there are hazards in regard to life, limb and disease, and that this Parliament should pause before adopting deliberately a policy that is likely to encourage men to work under hazardous conditions in ‘the bowels of the earth. In meeting that point I feel it is only just that I should pay a tribute to the work which the Government headed by Mr. Collier, in Western Australia, did to ensure that no person should work in a mine in that State under conditions that were prejudicial to his health. I quote from- a publication that states the position succinctly: -
The ‘Labour Government, seized of the inadequacy and unfairness of the 1922 act, amended it to provide a scale of compensation which is the best in the world. The amending act was made retrospective, and provides that all miners employed in the industry three months prior to the proclamation of the act of 1022, are entitled to the benefits of the amending act. It also provides a continuing obligation on the part of the Government to provide work or compensation at full rates of pay to the T. B. miner who can work so long as he is capable of following any occupation. To the miner who cannot work compensation is payable at’ half rates of pay, plus £1 per week for his wife, £1 each for a mother or other dependant upon him, and 8s. Cd. per week for each dependant underthe age of ten years. The maximum rate paid is the’basie wage, and a Miners’ Phthisis Board has been appointed with power to increase the payments, if circumstances warrant. Many affected miners and their families have been drafted to healthier surroundings in the eastern agricultural areas, under a scheme which is regarded as a very beneficial one, and which will not only confer benefit upon the health of the miners but also upon their fortunes. There are 92 of such on the land at Yilgarn, a sum of £120,025 being authorized for this policy.
In addition to putting the Miners’ Phthisis Act into operation the Government also, by regulation, made provision that no person should enter a mine for the purpose of working who was affected with a transmissible disease, and that no manager or owner should employ any person without having seen the medical certificate declaring that such person was free from disease. Prior to the Govern ment taking office any man could apply for, and obtain, work on a mine without a certificate.
My principal reasons for supporting this measure may be briefly summarized. It represents an attempt to assist a State that has. had very little help from this Parliament in the development of its industries. Broadly, over the whole field of the Commonwealth, it seeks to make to an industry whose costs have risen, some compensation for the charges that national policy has imposed upon it. It oilers immediate encouragement to men to leave the cities and go out into the country, where, in all probability, work will be available for them.
In rebuttal of the contention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) that in its present form the hil) will not attract capital, nor ensure an increased volume of employment, I quote the testimony of Mr. P. H. Hamilton, chairman of the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited, and of other companies, at a meeting held in London on the 27th November last.
– But he is an interested party!
– Of course he is ! How could one expect a man to have anything in the way of an exact knowledge of this industry had he not been associated with it?
– Would not the honorable member expect him to applaud it?
– I would, if he feels that the bill is worth anything. The contention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that it is of no use to the industry; but the chairman of this company, interested- as he is in the welfare of the gold-mining industry in Australia, and particularly of his own company, gives conclusively contradictory testimony.
– Was he not under the impression that the bounty was to be paid on all production?
– I do not think so.I quote from that most reliable supporter of the honorable gentleman’s policy, the Sydney Morning Herald, as follows: -
London, November 27.
News of the Commonwealth Government’s decision regarding the gold bonus was received with gratification in gold-mining circles.
A statement summarizing the provisions of this bill was handed to the press of Australia some days ago, and I have not the slightest doubt that it was cabled to London and was the foundation upon which this criticism was based. Mr. Hamilton is reported as follows: -
Mr. F. H. Hamilton expressed the opinion that the bonus would greatly stimulate interest in the industry, which had been languishing for the past twenty years, and would, probably, lead to the introduction of fresh capital by investors iti Britain and France.
He went on to say -
Investors of the latter country formerly put a large amount of money into Australian gold mines. Investors, for a long time, had imagined that the Commonwealth Government took no interest in the gold-mining industry, hut a gesture of this sort was likely to have a very marked effect, both on mining and prospecting, and also in keeping in existence mines which, without the bonus, would have had no option but to close down. Mr. Hamilton estimates that Australia’s gold production this year will be slightly under 400,000 ox.
That can be regarded as practically an exact figure. He continued -
The increase will be gradual, but production should be approximately 600,000 oz. a year by 1932.
I subscribe to that, and entirely disagree with the testimony from which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted. The city editor of the London Daily Telegraph said, “ The advantage of a gold bonus to mining companies is obvious “.
– Of course it is, if they ever get it.
– I understand the honorable gentleman’s philosophy in this Parliament to be a deification of private enterprise; he does not desire the. State to do other than assist private interests to develop and carry on industry.
– The honorable gentleman is a very late convert to private enterprise.
– I am not a convert to it; I accept the existing situation because I cannot alter it. If I believed that it was possible for the nation, as such, to provide employment for all of those who are workless in Australia to-day, I would not approach private enterprise to do what I contend it is the duty of the nation to undertake; but, as matters stand at present, this Parliament and the executive of the-nation have not available the necessary machinery to provide work for those who need it.
– The majority of the Government is sufficient to enable it to make a change.
– The friends of the honorable member are in a majority in another place.
– The proposal has not been “ put up “ to them.
– We have “put up” quite a lot of things to them, and I have cause to wonder when I * notice how annoyed honorable members opposite become.
The bill represents one of the few efforts that this Parliament has made to’ assist the gold-mining industry. The time is overdue for Western Australia to. participate in the benefits of the policy of protection to secondary industries which, in the past, have largely been confined to the eastern States. I hope, therefore, that the bill will pass; with, however, an amendment of the schedule as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham).
Mention has ‘been made of the bounty on galvanized iron.. For that bounty honorable members opposite were responsible, as they were also responsible for granting assistance to the iron and steel industry. I see no essential difference between the sugar industry, which has received protection, and this industry which has not been so assisted. From time to time assistance has been granted by Parliament to various industries, in the ‘belief that ultimately the nation will benefit. Proposals have not been. rejected merely ‘because, at the time, they would not stand a cold economic analysis. Parliament has taken a longer view than that. The same thing can be said of many customs duties and of the Paterson butter scheme. Honorable members who support some .bounties, and disapprove of others, lay themselves open to the suspicion that they are actuated, not by a regard for the success of an industry which will benefit the nation, but by political considerations.
– That is the last thing the honorable gentleman should say in view of” the recent embargo on the importation of galvanized iron.
– A government which was supported by the honorable member, first introduced a proposal to assist the galvanized iron industry by means of a bounty.
– But it did not give to one firm a monopoly of the market.
– The previous Government* started a snowball which has since grown larger. The gold-mining industry is the one industry in Australia which has had to face continuously rising costs without having any chance to increase the price of its product. It is a national industry which, during recent years has consistently declined, because it could not pass on the increasing costs of production. If this legislation will do only one-half what is expected of it, then Australia will benefit, not only in the economic sense, but also by reason of a wider distribution of its population. I support the bill.
.- I agree with the reasons advanced by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) in support of this bill, and also that there should be an amendment of the schedule. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) says that every bounty should be considered on its merits. If we had realized earlier that all bounties are uneconomical we should not have agreed to a bounty on the production of iron and steel. In that case more was paid by way of bounty than was paid in wages to those employed in the. industry. On the same reasoning there would have been no wine bounty. A return recently prepared shows that it cost the country 9s. 7d. in respect of every twenty shillings’ worth of wine which we exported. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said that the payment under this scheme would be so small as to be of no practical advantage to the gold-mining industry. He quoted, from a circular, figures which he said were too optimistic. Yet he based his argument on those figures. That is scarcely a fair way to treat a subject. Quoting from the same circular, the honorable gentleman said that a bounty of less than £1 an ounce would not he of any value to the goldmining industry. The honorable member knows that it is not unusual for persons to make claims which they do not expect to be met in full. I have seen claims for damages amounting to £10,000 made by persons who knew that they had little chance of getting £1,000. That a claim is made for a greater bounty than Parliament is prepared to concede is not a sufficient ground for granting no bounty at all. The bounty on gold must be either a success or a failure. If it fails to stimulate gold production, then there will be no payments under this legislation, and, consequently, no loss. If, on the other hand, it does increase the production of gold, the country will benefit. There has recently been an increase in the quantity of gold produced in Australia, due largely to the prospect of a bounty. I believe that the granting of a bounty will stimulate the gold-mining industry, and cause a number of men who are now in receipt of the dole in the cities, to take up the work of prospecting in the outside country. But if the bounty is to be really effective in stimulating gold production, companies will have to be formed to treat low-grade ores which arc known to exist in different parts of Australia, During recent years, the gold-mining industry has declined owing to the rising costs of winning the gold. There is, however, a tendency towards a reduction of costs. If production costs get back to the prewar level, gold-mining in Australia will again come into its own. It will then become one of the few profitable large industries in this country. That prospect is of itself sufficient justification for keeping the industry going. I am not so optimistic about the result of the bounty as the Minister appears to be; but if there is only a reasonable development of the industry under this scheme, the Government will have the security which accompanies the possession of a substantial gold reserve. Gold is a product which can always find a market. It would be a great thing for Australia if our gold wealth equalled our wealth in wool and wheat, for if we had more gold we could buy our own securities in the world’s market at 7.5 per cent, of their face value. I claim that the gold-mining industry is entitled to the proposed bounty, considering that other industries have received special treatment at its expense. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has pointed out that, in 1910, the gold-miner gave 75 hours– of labour for every ounce of gold won, while at the present time he gives only 37 hours of work for each ounce produced. Meanwhile, the value of gold-has. remained stationary, so it is plain that the position of the industry is now 100 per cent, worse than it was twenty years ago. This is due to the generally accepted policy of bounties and tariffs, and the fixation of high wages, which has almost destroyed the gold-mining industry. Since the bill provides, in some degree, the compensation to which the industry is entitled, I am prepared to support the measure. I am not much concerned with the abstract question of whether bounties ‘ are uneconomic; I believe that our whole economic system is wrong. It is idle to attempt to enforce the principle laid down some years ago in the Arbitration Court that, if an industry cannot pay a certain wage, it must be allowed to go to the wall. If we put that policy into effect, what would become of the w7heat and wool industries? These, and the mining industry, provide our principal exports. The secondary industries export goods to the value of only about £2,000,000 annually. Australia must export to meet oversea interest, and procure from abroad materials required for many of our secondary industries. It is essential tq maintain the exporting industries, including gold production.
– I do not intend to support the bill. I see no reason why a bounty should be given on gold any more than on many other commodities. No facts have been placed before the House by speakers on the Government side to show that special consideration should be given to this industry. The Minister in charge has given the House a long exhortation on the merits of gold-mining, with the usual exuberant speculation as to the number of men who would be provided with employment as a result of the passage of the bill. We had a similar speculation by him in regard to recent tariff imposts. He claimed that the new duties would ensure the employment of at least 50,000 additional workers. To-day he makes a similar statement with respect to the present proposal, and even goes to the extent of saying that a gold bounty would probably provide work for an additional 70,000 men. This is clearly a matter of conjecture, and I have no hesitation in characterizing his latest estimate as just as unreliable as his opinion of the effect of the Government’s tariff proposals has proved to be. He has submitted no details in regard to the bill. It contains numerous involved clauses which, I venture to think, nobody in the House, including himself, understands. He has made no effort to clarify the contents of the bill; but probably in committee he may obtain additional information, and vouchsafe it to honorable, members. [Quorum formed.] The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has shown how unworkable is the schedule to the bill’. Clause 8 provides that the bounty payable shall be dealt with in the following manner : -
From the- total amount of the bounty there shall be deducted and paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund -
the sum which bears to the total amount of the bounty in that year the same proportion as the amount of gold produced during that year by any gold producer, who was not at the time of the production a registered gold producer, bears to the total amount of gold produced during that year;
If the Minister had explained that provision and others which are similar, he would have conferred a greater benefit upon honorable members than they received from his lecturette on goldmining generally. He also told us that it had been the policy of the Labour party for a great numbe’r of year’s that a bounty should be paid on gold production, yet when a deputation met the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) in April last, its request for a bounty was incontinentally turned down.
In addition to the Acting Minister for
Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde), the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green), who, apparently, represents an electorate in which most of the unsuccessful gold mines are situated, has spoken. He waved his hands a great deal and made a loud noise. He twitted the Deputy Leader of the. Opposition (Mr. Gullett) with having taken up a party attitude upon this question, and said, that, in view of the offer made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) of non-party cooperation, he should have adopted the attitude of saying, “Yes, Mr. Minister,” to everything the Government brought forward. In passing, I may remark that the definite offer made by the Leader of the Opposition was of such paramount importance to the people of Australia, that it was entitled to an equally definite response from the Acting Prime Minister. I consider that junior Ministers are displaying execrable taste, and are talking out of their turn. The Minister for Defence said a lot about this bill being a political gesture, and, as he made use of the word “ gesture “ so often, I paid a visit to the library and, on consulting Webster, ascertained that it is defined as “ a motion of the body, or limbs, intended to express an idea or a passion “. That is a definition that exactly fitted what the Minister was doing. He made all sorts of gestures, alternately waving his hands and thrusting them into his pockets; but he gave no explanation of the provisions of thebill.
The first sentence of a reportby the Development and Migration Commission reads as follows: -
Gold as a commodity is no more valuable than any other other commodity; it has value only in that it presents no marketing problems.
Why does the Labour party propose to subsidize gold-mining alone of the primary industries? Surely the wheat and wool industries are of infinitely more importance to Australia than gold-mining has been, is, or ever will be. And why should- the Labour party go out of its way to subsidize the most unhealthy occupation which, through the exigencies of their positions, men are forced to follow? Mining has sent to their death more men than war. The country is spending thousands and thousands of pounds on sufferers from miners’ phthisis, silicosis and various other forms of occupational disease to which miners are subject. One would naturally suppose that a party which claims to have intense sympathy for, and interest in, the workers, which is always advocating the payment of workers’ compensation on a generous scale, and which pretends that it is anxious to conserve the well-being of the workers generally, would find some other industry to subsidize than one which has had the effect of adding to the death roll the names of thousands and thousands of men in Labour constituencies. The cost of mining operations at Broken Hill is added to tremendously because of the numberof cases of miners’ phthisis, for which compensation has to be paid. To-day, before men can be engaged as miners at Broken Hill, they must be X-rayed, and if the plates show that they have the least sign of tuberculosis they are not engaged.
– That is quite right.
– Dr. George, a leading authority on miners’ diseases, is at present abroad at the nation’s expense. I believe that this very day he is attending a conference at which these complaints are being considered. Yet this Government and its supporters pretend that the helping of this industry, which is not by any means one of our major industries, will restore prosperity to the whole community. I have no hesitation whatever in declaring that this measure is, as the Minister for Defence has said, a political gesture. Its purpose is to obtain support for the Labour party in the States where gold-mining is chiefly carried on. As the debate has progressed, it has become more and more apparent that the bill is being supported on geographical rather than other grounds. Generally speaking, I prefer to encourage industries by the payment of bounties than by the imposition of heavy tariff duties, because the people know, under the bounty system, what taxation they will have to pay, whereas they do not know, underthe indirect customs taxation policy, what imposts are being placed upon them. I have been amazed during this debate at the volte face of certain honorable members. For years past they have inveighed against the payment of bounties ; but, apparently, because this bounty might be beneficial to certain interests in their own States, they are prepared, for political reasons, to support it. Such motives of political expediency are totally unworthy of honorable members who, in their hearts, are utterly opposed to the bounty system, and lecture the electors year after year against it.
The Acting Minister has been most reticent in regard to the financing of this scheme. When he was asked where the money is to come from, he merely said: “ Nothing will have to be paid this year, and we shall be able to get the money”. He said the same thing yesterday in regard to the proposal to construct the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway, except that on that occasion he made a promise, which he did not fulfil, to discuss the financial aspect later. Seeing that the Treasury is absolutely empty, it would be useless for us to pass this bill, even if it had substance and merit in it.
I believe in the recuperative powers of Australia.. All that the country requires is a certain amount of statesmanship. If the Government would show a little courage and fearlessness, it could lead the way to renewed prosperity; but it has not a vestige of courage. The proposal to pay a bounty on the production of gold is not likely to achieve much. The Government is only tinkering with the situation which faces it. Instead of reducing its expenditure by a few million pounds per annum it is merely loading taxation on the backs of the people. If the payment of this bounty is agreed to, the people will have to provide the money, and I do hot know where they will get it.
In April of this year a deputation representative of the gold-mining industry, which waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), made a much more extravagant proposal than that which we are now considering, and the right honorable gentleman refused to accept it. Since then the persons interested in the payment of this bounty have considerably whittled down their request. At first they wished to dip their hands deeply into the people’s pockets. They required a bounty of’ nothing less than £1 per ounce of gold produced; but now they will be satisfied with a bounty of 2s. per ounce. Where is the money to pay this bounty to come from?
– Prom heaven!
– The money will not fall overnight, like manna, from heaven; the people will have to provide it by paying extra taxation. I am appalled that the Government should even consider imposing extra burdens on the taxpayers simply to provide this miserable bounty. Although the Prime Minister would not agree to the payment of a bounty on gold, the Ministry has, in his absence, reversed his decision. “ When the cat’s away the mice will play.” I do not believe that the Prime Minister would have agreed to the introduction of this bill had he been here. In discussing this subject with the deputation last April, the right honorable gentleman said that the payment of a bounty would merely ensure extra profits to established mining companies, and would not stimulate gold production. That statement was very true. This proposal will not result in a single additional gold-mine being discovered. It will only lead to the manipulation, on the stock exchanges, of the shares in the existing gold-mining companies, and enable honorable members to do a little useful electioneering. The Prime Minister also said -
We should prefer to grant financial assistance for the carrying out of experiments in regard to cheaper methods of treating the large deposits of low-grade ore which are known -to exist in all States.
That was the considered opinion of the Scullin Cabinet prior to the departure of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General (Mr Brennan), and that great statesman, the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney). In their absence the policy of the Government is reversed by the neophytes in the Cabinet, by the embryonic Scullins, Brennans and Parker Moloneys; by these children of the night, these Johnnies-come-lately, who have recently been admitted to the Ministry, and who now control the ship. They have reversed the policy of the Government, as. laid down by its experienced leaders. What does leadership demand, if not adherence to the policy laid down by those in command. If, upon mature consideration, the leader of a party lays down the broad lines of policy to be followed by Cabinet, he expects that they will be adhered to in his absence, and that his undertakings will be honoured. It is Very clear that the present Prime Minister will be the last Labour leader who will leave ‘Australia without making sure that he has closed Parliament and taken the key away with him, and thus curb the over-exuberance of the rump in his Cabinet. The Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) laughs. We well remember how the honorable gentleman went throughout his electorate and addressed his constituents in anguished tones, somewhat akin to those which he used to the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) when he besought him, “For God’s sake, Joe, come back.” He told them, “I have fought for you through thick and thin, in season and out of season, in an endeavour to get this gold bonus. But I am only one of twelve ; what can I do “ ? As soon as the party leader and his lieutenants left the country the dirty work at the cross roads began, and everything was upset by the machinations of the caucus agitators. The shame-faced attitude of certain honorable members opposite affords me the consolation that some, at least, of the Government supporters are not devoid of all sense of decency.
No one can say with any accuracy how many men will be employed as a result of this proposal. I contend that the number will be very few indeed. The bill will merely be used by country promoters to manipulate the stock market, and to increase the profits of some of the established mining companies. If the Government really desires to assist the gold-mining industry it should begin by bringing down the cost of production. I have been asked to what extent I will support our primary industries, wheat, wool and gold-mining. I will support them if an effort is made to reduce the cost of production. I have never voted for a bounty in this chamber, and I do not intend to vote for this.
– What about the duties on iron and steel?
– I did not support them.
– Will the honorable member support their remission?
– I may, but I reserve to myself the right to stipulate the details. I am prepared to vote for any scheme that will reduce the cost of production in our primary and secondary industries so that they will beenabled to compete on the markets of the world at’ world’s parity.
– Does that mean a reduction of wages?
– It does not. When I address street-corner meetings I hear that kind of interjection, but I did not expect to hear it in a deliberative assembly such as the Federal Parliament. We should obtain full efficiency for the wages that are paid. We should do as was suggested by the Minister, give the farmers their petrol free from the tax that is applied to ordinary road-users. I would remove all these special impositions on the primary producers. Sooner or later we must get down to a sound economic basis, and by doing so now we shoulddo something for the country of which we might justly be proud. The gold bounty, if granted, will not be of any real assistance to the goldmining industry. The present proposal is one of which not even the Government itself is proud, and it will not be regarded by the people generally as a helpful contribution towards solving any of our economic difficulties. I have frequently heard the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) inveighing against the high cost of protection as it affects Western Australia. To-night, so far as I could follow him, he argued that this measure represented an attempt to equate the economic position as between the various States, and particularly to make some reparation to Western Australia for disabilities under which she has been suffering. . He said . that the Eastern States had benefited as the result of federation, and he supported the present proposal because it would enable Western Australia to have a dip into the public purse, and, in effect, get some of the loot. He can hardly claim that he has considered the matter from a national point of view, nor do I think he can feel proud of his attitude. The granting of this bounty will do no real good, and I regard it as a paltry and mean way of dealing with unemployment, and the other tremendous difficulties with which we are faced.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jones) adjourned.
The Industrial, Financial and Economic Position - Metal Production at Port Kembla.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) moved the adjournment- of the House for the purpose of discussing the present industrial, financial, and economic position of Australia, and the desirability of taking special measures upon a non-party basis to meet the situation. The Leader of the Opposition suggested a council to consist of representatives of the Commonwealth Government, representatives of the States on the Loan Council, representatives of the Commonwealth Bank and other banks, and political leaders. We think we have these various sections already in cooperation. We intend to call the Loan Council - or a meeting of the State Premiers - to meet the Commonwealth Government at an early date. We are in continuous consultation with the board of the Commonwealth Bank and other financial institutions, and we have been in conference and collaboration with economists, commercial and business men. Finally, within the Parliament, we always have the benefit of the criticism and advice of the members of the Opposition. We intend to make an announcement in regard to the wheat industry in a day or so, and will do all possible in conjunction with the State Governments and private employers to set the wheels of industry in motion.
Therefore, we are of opinion that we have movements in train that will effect the same purpose more expeditiously than the method suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. An early announcement of a comprehensive, continuous policy will be made. In these circumstances, while appreciating the suggestion of the Loader of the Opposition, we intend to proceed on the lines indicated.
.- I express my regret at the reply of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) to the suggestion I made yesterday afternoon. I do not propose to indulge in any criticism of the reply, except to say that it appears to me to be upon rather stereotyped lines, and I had hoped that this was an opportunity for making a new departure. The Government prefers to accept the sole responsibility for the conduct of its policy, and I cannot object to its decision. The Government is undoubtedly entitled to adopt that attitude; . but I think it will eventually be necessary to do in Australia some very unpopular and. unpleasant things. It appeared to me, when I spoke yesterday, that we had got beyond the stage of asking the people of Australia to vote for anything under the conviction that they would get it if they did. I made an offer to join with the Government in accepting the responsibility of doing unpopular things. I feel convinced that, if the Government is going to do only those things which it thinks the majority of voters will approve, there is a poor prospect before the country. It was because I was willing, as was the party I led, to accept the responsibility for doing things of which, perhaps, the majority of voters would disapprove, that I made my offer yesterday afternoon. As a party leader, I think I have gone as far as any leader- can be expected to go. The Government has seen fit to refuse my offer, and it must, therefore, accept responsibility for any consequences of its action or inaction. The Opposition is still prepared to assist the Government in regard to any proposals which it thinks will be for the benefit of the community.
– Last night I mentioned, in passing, the claims of the metal manufacturersat Port Kembla to increased tariff protection; but I said quite definitely that the grievance of the unions at Port Kembla had to do, for the most part, with something altogether distinct from increases in tariff duties - the imposition of new duties on goods now admitted free. The Minister made a lengthy reply to my representations; but his reply, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, had nothing to do with the case. He referred to the request for increased duties, and then went on to speak of the profits which had been earned by the company. I remind him that, if the Government is to take into’ consideration the history of a company likely to benefit from increased duties, and give protection only to those which have not watered their stock or piled up’ profits, there will be very little protection at all afforded to industry.
– That is a serious condemnation of the whole system of protection.
– I hold no brief for protection economically. My. complaint against our present system is that we are protecting -machines, . and not’ the workers. That is “by the’ way, however, and’ I recognize’’ that, things being as they are, we must have some protection against goods made by cheap labour in other countries. My present complaint, as I pointed’ out last night, is that the policy of the Government is being directed by the Postal Department, which desires to import cheap articles made in other countries. It does not want to buy the product of Australian labour. One of the points raised by the British company concerned was that the company at Port Kembla should have sought to reduce wages, instead of applying for increased duties. I wish to pin the Minister down to the definite requests which have been made for the protection of those commodities. If these new duties are imposed, the wheels of industry will, be set in motion, and employment will be provided for a considerable number of men. If this undertaking by the company is not observed within a fortnight from the imposition of the duties, I shall be prepared to advocate their repeal on the floor of this’ House. It cannot be urged that the company is making excess profits, because, up to the present, it has not manufactured this class of goods.
– The honorable member wants a definite answer from the Minister ?
– I wish the Minister to deal definitely with the questions which I raised last night, and not with points which were mentioned only incidentally.
– I’ express regret, on behalf of the Country party, at the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Penton) a few minutes ago, that the Government cannot accept the offer made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) for closer co-operation on the part of members representing all parties in this House. Members of the Country party, together with members of the Nationalist party, are prepared to disregard party differences andi to accept, with the Government, full responsibility for any legislative proposals, however unpopular they may be, which may be deemed necessary in the interests of Australia. I agree with the Leader of the
Opposition that, before long, some such action will have to be taken. Members of the party to which I belong are willing to assist the Government in any proposal that may be made to help Australia out of its present difficulties. I, therefore, hope that the Government will see fit, at a later stage, to reconsider its decision.
’. - In regard to the points raised by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) - he- made a special appeal for protective duties on lines which are now admitted free. Of these the principal is weatherproof braided wire and cable, which is classified under item 181 (a) (1), free, United Kingdom, 15 per cent, general tariff. The duties asked for were 45 per. cent, and 60 per cent. This class of wire and cable is used chiefly by the Postal Department and electricity supply companies. In connexion with Commonwealth Government contracts, it is the practice, when tenders are submitted by Australian manufacturers, to take into consideration the duty, if any, imposed by the tariff, and to add that to the overseas tender before comparing it with the Australian tender. A certain amount of preference is also given to the Australian tenderer, and if the Australian price, after such a comparison, is not greater than the overseas tender, it is usually accepted. In the case of this weather-proof braided wire and cable, a comparison made by the Tariff Board between the proposed selling price of Metal Manufactures Proprietary Limited and the price at which imported braided wire and cable is being purchased, showed that the difference was so great that the requested duties of 45 per cent. British preference, and 60 per cent, general tariff would not afford adequate protection. The board stated that the imposition of the requested duty would not raise the cost of the imported material to the estimated price of Australian goods even if the price of the local raw material were reduced. Although the Postal Department is entitled by law to import goods free of duty, it follows the practice I have referred to.
The board also pointed out that the applicant company stated that .it expected to employ twenty additional operatives on this work. The wages of these employees would not exceed £5,000 per annum, but the imposition of the duty asked for, of which the company would have to take full advantage, would raise the cost to. users by more than £20,000 per annum. Another line at present free of duty is aluminium tubes. The board has recommended, in respect of this, that the duties be increased to 15 per cent., British preference, and 25 per cent, general tariff, as it is considered only reasonable that the duty on these goods should be the same as that at present obtaining in respect of aluminium wire, bars, rods, strips, and sections. A further item is copper-clad steel tubes which are admitted free, British preference, under item 151, if plain. In regard to these, no evidence was available as to whether the tubes made by the applicant company had proved to be satisfactory, nor was there any definite information available as to what the additional cost to consumers would be if the duty sought were granted. The Tariff Board, therefore, suggested that when the local manufacturers were in a position to demonstrate that their product was satisfactory, and also to indicate what the additional cost to consumers was likely to be, they might renew their application insofar as those goods were concerned. The goods mentioned represent only a small portion of the huge number of items in respect of which the company asked for protective duties. It’ asked for protection, among other items, on copper wire, copper pipes and tubes, brass wire, brass tubes, aluminium wire, bars, rods, strips and sections, aluminium tubes, copperclad steel tubes, copper telegraph and telephone cables, weather-proof braided wire and cable, cotton-covered wire, and aluminium cord. The Tariff Board stated that it could not recommend the high duties requested, and expressed the opinion that the company should, by managing its business better, be able to compete against the imported articles. The board pointed out, further, that the company was buying, through other companies holding shares in Metal Manufactures Limited, raw materials at excessive prices, and that it had issued bonus shares upon which it was paying dividends. The Government has no in- tention of setting aside, without the fullest consideration, the application made by this company; but the Tariff Board’s report was received only a fortnight ago, and, up to the present; it has been impossible to give it full consideration. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has been most persistent iD asking for these duties, and, as member for the district in which the industry principally concerned is located, he if entitled to express the views of his constituents.
– Twenty times members of the Opposition have been stopped when attempting to discuss the tariff.
– Order ! The remark of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggests that the Chair has shown partiality. I cannot permit discussion on any item in the schedules now before the House, but discussion on any other item is in- order.
– On a point of order Repeatedly during this session member.’ of the Opposition have been restricted ici regard to the discussion of the tariff, and I submit that many of the items to which the Minister is referring are included in the schedules now before the House.
– The speech of the Minister indicates that complaint has been made because those items are not included in the schedules. If, however, they are so included, I ask the Minister not to make further reference to them.
– Because these items art not included in the schedules the honorable member for Werriwa has been making representations to the Government. He suggested that the refusal to gram certain duties was due to the Postal Department’s desire to import certain commodities from abroad. I hold no brief for the administration of that department, but I assure the honorable member that on the 3rd February last the Government decided that, in respect of goods which enjoy no tariff protection, a preference of 50 per cent, should be given by the Postal Department to Australian tenderers. Prior to that date there was no definite rule on this point, although it was the policy of the department to give sympathetic consideration to Australian firms.
– Surely this is a refer ence to the tariff.
– The Minister must not attempt to evade my ruling. Iask him to assist the Chair.
– The representations by the honorable member forWerriwa will receive consideration when another tariff schedule is being framed.
– I desire to refer to a deputation that waited upon theMinister in regard to the duties on glass.
– Order ! I understand that glass is one of the itemsin the schedules now before theHouse. Therefore it may not be debated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 December 1930, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19301210_reps_12_127/>.