15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime
Minister state whether the Government is prepared to consider the introduction in Australia of a. system of daylight saving?
– I cannot encourage the honorable member to hope for an affirmative reply, but if be will place his question on the notice-paper the matter will he considered.
– For the guidance of honorable members, will the Prime Minister indicate the specific duties with which the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for External Affairs are to be entrusted following the changes that have been, made in the Ministry? What duties have been taken away from each of those Ministers, and to whom have they been given:?
– As I have already pointed out, duties relating to external territories and associated with the Prime Minister’s Department, which had been delegated by me to the Minister for External Affairs, have now been delegated to the Minister without portfolio (Mr. Harrison). The other matter referred to by the honorable member has yet to be decided. A plan is being prepared for the subdivision of the work of the Department of the Interior, and as soon as possible I shall make to the House a statement in regard to it.
– I have in my hand a small registering instrument which is already being supplied to the Postal Department for use in recording the number of telephone calls made by each subscriber attached to an automatic telephone exchange. I am informed that it costs the . department approximately Vis., and that it is manufactured by a number of firms in Australia. In view of the widespread dissatisfaction among subscribers at their inability to check up on the number of calls for which they are charged, and as the suppliers of gas, electricity, and water make this facility available, will the Postmaster-General consider the possibility of having this instrument installed in the home of every telephone subscriber? If in the initial stage that is not found financially practicable, will hp consider enabling subscribers who elect to do so, to have it installed at a little extra cost?
– I have not until now seen the instrument which the honorable gentleman has produced, and would know nothing about it even if I had. I assure him that I have in view only two objects, namely, to give satisfaction to telephone subscribers and to secure revenue for the Treasury. Consequently, I shall take the matter into early and very serious consideration.
– For the purpose of celebrating his well-merited promotion to the portfolio of Postmaster-General, will the new occupant of that office give immediate consideration to the abolition of the surcharge on border telegrams, so that there may be a uniform charge for telegrams within the Commonwealth, similar to that obtaining in connexion with letters?
– I realize that this is a matter of very great moment to the honorable member, as it is to me, because we represent border electorates. I shall take it into consideration.
Capital Site - Salamaua to Wau Road
– Will the Prime Minis.tor state whether a decision has been made by the Government in reference to the capital of New Guinea and to the route of the proposed road from Salamaua to Wau?
– When pointing out curlier that matters affecting external territories had been transferred to the Minister without portfolio (Mr. Harrison), I omitted, to mention that the specific matters to which the honorable member has referred are matters to which the Minister for External Affairs has given long and careful attention, and that it is intended that he shall complete his investigations and make recommendations in regard to both of them.
– by leave - On the notice-paper a question appears in the name of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in regard to the occupancy hy Ministers of the Crown of positions on directorates of public companies.
As honorable members arc aware, this matter was referred to on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday last by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). In the course of my reply, I then stated that the Government was giving consideration to the setting up of a definite precedent for future guidance.
The circumstances attending the resignation of the former Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) have given rise to general discussion as to the position which should be taken up by Ministers in relation to the holding of seats on boards of directors. As the matter is of great public importance, I think it proper that 1 should state my own view in genera] terms. Honorable members will understand that I am dealing not with the problems of actual constitutional disqualification which arise under section 44 of the Constitution, but with cases not covered by that section which are of such a nature as to give rise to problems of propriety and not of legality.
Having regard to the enormous development during the present century of the joint stock company idea in relation to both public and private companies, it does not seem to me to be practicable or dcs i ruble to lay down a general rule that no Cabinet Minister shall be a di runtor of any company. It would be plainly anomalous if one Minister could retain the whole of the proprietorship of some business or enterprise, while another Minister was debarred from being one of several directors conducting an exactly similar business or enterprise. Thus it has never been .suggested that a Cabinet Minister may not continue to be, for can triple, a grazier. Could it be reasonably suggested that, should he decide to incorporate his business as a grazier, he him self being the principal shareholder and director, there would be some impropriety on his part in remaining in the Cabinet? I make these observations in order to show that in my opinion the important criterion is. not the fact that a Minister is n director, but the nature of the company of which he is n director and the business which it does.
Applying this test, it seems to me that there are. broadly speaking, two classes of company to be considered. The first is the company which has, in fact, direct dealings with the Government, whether those dealings are by way of the sale ot goods or the provision of services.
– Or the loaning of money.
– In view of what I have previously stated as to the importance of the rule that public men should avoid being placed in a position in which their personal interests may conflict with their public duty, it would appear that, prima facie, no Minister should be a director of such a company; but this, too, requires some qualification. If the contract which the Government makes with such a company is one which results from the exercise of individual judgment or selection, as in the case of the supply of goods of some special kind, it seems clear that a directorship of the company concerned would be inconsistent with the discharge of ministerial duty. But some arrangements which are technically contracts are made on a non-selective or nondiscriminating basis. For example, at election time routine electoral advertisements are inserted in every newspaper, great and small, in Australia. It would he difficult to suggest that some Minister, who was associated with a newspaper, would be put into an invidious position simply because that journal accepted, in common with every other newspaper, advertisements of this kind. This consideration leads to the conclusion that, if there is the slightest element of judgment or choice involved in the placing of government business, no Minister should be a director of a company which is the recipient of that business.
The second class of company consists of ‘ those which have no business dealings with the Government at all. Unless we . are to lay down a rule that no Cabinet Minister is to have any business or financial interests outside the administration of his own department, it seems impossible to decide that the holding of a directorship of this class of company is inconsistent with membership of Cabinet. A Minister’s paramount duty is, of course,the discharge of his public responsibilities, and he should not allow any private interest to interfere with that duty. But, subject to that limitation, I am not prepared to lay down a sweeping rule, the effect of which would be to exclude from the public life and service of the country, men who are available for that service.
However, I have excluded from what I have said any consideration of the position which arises in relation to the occupancy by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, of a seat on the board of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. As honorable members know, difficulties arose in 1922 as to the appointment of the seventh director to the board of that company, the controlling share interest in which is held by the Commonwealth. Mr. Hughes, who was then. Prime Minister, was induced, with the consent of all parties, to resolve the impasse that had arisen by himself becoming the seventh di rector. That position he has since continued to occupy, to the knowledge of the Parliament,’ and with, I believe, its approval during the whole period. He has been re-appointed with the approval of the Government, as expressed through its directors, under successive governments.
– Does the Prime Minis- ter consider it proper and conducive to the continuance of confidence in our parliamentary institutions for financial assistance to be granted to companies in which the wives of Cabinet Ministers are large shareholders?
– I have no knowledge regarding that matter. I should he glad if the honorable member would place his question on the notice-paper, and mention instances which he has in mind, so that they may be investigated.
– In view of the attitude of the Government, as expressed by the Prime Minister, that no member of the Cabinet should continue to allow to exist a set of circumstances in which his public duty conflicts with, his private interests, I ask the Attorney-General if he is able to advise the House as to the directorates which he held previously and subsequently relinquished, and those which he atp resent retains?
– I should like to inform the honorable member not only that I concur with every word of the statement of the Prime Minister but also that no action of mine is in any way in conflict with it.
– In response to repeated requests by agricultural bodies in the various (States, will theMinister for the Interior have an investigation made, with a view to having the services of the Queensland astronomer, Mr.Inigo
Jones, utilized, so that his long-range weather forecasts may be made available for the benefit of primary producers throughout the Commonwealth?
– This is a. matter which has caused me some concern, as I am aware of the widespread confidence in the system which Mr. Inigo Jones adopts in forecasting the weather. As a layman, J. am unable to form any conclusion as to the merits of his process; and as . 1 did not consider that a satisfactory solution of the problem could be obtained by referring the matter to the Commonwealth meteorological authorities for their comment, I have arranged for the Vice-Chancellor of the Melbourne University, that university having been selected by the Commonwealth Government for endowment for the establishment of an associate professorship or lectureship in meteorology, to submit to me the names of the members of a committee which is prepared to undertake an inquiry into the meteorological methods of Mr. Inigo Jones.
– Is the Minister in charge of Civil Aviation in a position to inform the House when the trans-Tasman air-mail service is likely to be inaugurated? What is thepresent position in regard to the matter?
– It is impossible to say exactly when the service will be commenced, as there are many factors to be taken into consideration. The preparation of the draft agreement is completed, on all the major points agreement has been reached by the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and New Zealand, and further negotiations are being carried on at the present time in connexion with certain matters of detail. The companies nominated by the respective governments have entered into an agreement among themselves to conduct the service. The necessary flying boats are being built and tested - I understand that one has already been tested - and, as far as I can judge, the -service should be in operation by about Easter next.
– Will the Treasurer state what sum, if any, has been set aside from the amount of £250,000 granted to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to enable it to establish its own research laboratories for the investigation of the technical problems of secondary industry? How has the money been allocated for capital expenditure ?
– The sum of £250,000 was put into a trust fund for the purchase of capital equipment for research in relation to the problems of secondary industries. The two major items of capital expenditure debited to the fund are the erection and equipment of the National Standards Laboratory in Sydney and the setting-up of the Air Research Laboratory near Melbourne. In several minor matters, work is either projected or has been commenced. I shall get a list of them, and let the honorable memberhave the information.
– Then this sum was not granted for research work?
– Not directly. The fund was established to provide capital expenditure for the purchase of equipment in order to enable research work to be carried on.
– When can the House expect an authoritative statement from the Minister for the Interior regarding the all-important subject, of the iron ore deposits of Australia?
– I think that, normally, the honorable member may expectto receive such a statement this afternoon.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House in what way the Commonwealth Government shares in the distribution of profits of, or dividends, if any, by the two companies in which it is supposed to be a shareholder. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– The Government receives its dividends in the same way as other shareholders. Ifthe honorable member wishes to have the actual figures I shall be glad to obtain them for him.
– Is the Minister aware that there is considerable apprehension in the public mind regarding the influx of alien migrants? Does the Government consider that its existing immigration law provides sufficient supervision over the entry of aliens, and their activities in the Commonwealth?
– I think that I can say that I am aware that there is some apprehension in the minds of certain people with regard to the migration of aliens to Australia. It is with a knowledge that that apprehension exists that the Government has framed and administered its policy with regard to alien migration. I should be able to set at rest any apprehension that exists when I inform the honorable member that no alien may land in Australia without first securing, for himself as an individual, a permit to land in this country. Such permit is not issued until he has supplied many particulars with regard to himself, as to his character, health, financial standing, the amount of money he is able to bring with him, and the employment he proposes to engage in, or the avocation he proposes to follow, after his arrival in Australia. If the Minister is satisfied that his arrival in Australia will not be derogatory to the employment of any Australians and, after a very careful scrutiny of the particulars which I have briefly indicated, is convinced that the applicant is of a. desirable type, a permit to land is issued. As the responsible Minister administering Government policy in this respect, I am satisfied that there is no need for alarm as to the number of aliens coming into Australia at p resent, and that those granted permits are individuals of a desirable type.
– Is it proposed to introduce legislation to provide for the registration of aliens this session?
– It has been announced on behalf of the Government that it is proposed to introduce a system of alien registration.
– Can the Treasurer state the amount that has been paid, or will be paid up to the end of this year, by the Commonwealth Government for farmers’ debt adjustment, and the number of farmers who have been placed upon a solvent basis as the result of the provision of that money?
– I can readily obtain the figures in respect of the first part of the honorable member’s question, but to obtain the information in regard to the second part would involve inquiries from the State governments. If the honorable member wishes me to pursue the matter I shall endeavour to get those figures for him.
– Does the Minister for Defence intend to adopt the proposal of the former Minister for Defence to use women’s organizations for defence purposes ?
– No promise was made by the former Minister for Defence to that effect. The honorable gentleman said that it might be possible to use women’s organizations for auxiliary purposes, but not for defence purposes. That aspect of the matter is being examined.
– In the course of a week or so will the Minister without portfolio assisting the Prime Minister receive a deputation in Sydney from Labour men with a view to increasing the old-age pension by giving the pensioners extra sustenance during the Christmas period?
– I am sure that if the honorable member makes the necessary approach through the right channels the deputation will be received.
– With reference to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems that arrangements should be made for the provision of small loans to people in necessitous circumstances, and the fact that the issue of these loans is now restricted to advances by the Bank of
Australasia to persons resident in Melbourne and Canberra, will the Treasurer see if it is not now possible to extend the scope of the scheme to include advances in other States?
– The Government is still in communication with more than, one organization in States other than Victoria, and there is still hope that the system inaugurated by the Bank of Australasia may be extended to other States.
Removal of Station 2BL.
– In connexion with the decision to remove Station 2BL from Coogee, and, in view of the fact that I have received complaints from local residents of interference with reception in receiving sets in the Coogee district, will the Postmaster-General say when this removal will be carried out?
-I shall make inquiries and advise the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Is iron ore being exported from Australia at present; if so, how long is such export likely to continue, and what companies are engaged in exporting?
– Only a small quantity of iron ore is being exported at present, and any contracts not fulfilled by the 31st December next will be cancelled. I am not aware of the names of the companies concerned, but the honorable member may rest assured that only a small quantity is being exported.
– Can the Treasurer state when the measure to provide for the establishment of a mortgage bank is likely to be introduced?
– At a relatively early date, I hope.
– Has the attention of the
Minister for Commerce been directed to the fact that large quantities of wheat have been purchased by the British Government from Roumania and Russia? Will the Minister inform the British
Government that large supplies of Australian wheat are available at a low price, and in that way endeavour to effect sales in order to improve the present unfortunate position of many Australian wheatgrowers ?
– Every effort is being made to ensure that a maximum quantity of Australian wheat is sold to Great Britain.
– In view of the shortage of skilled labour in Australia, due to a lack of apprenticeship facilities during the depression, will the Government consider the advisability of subsidizing the wages of trainees on the same basis as the wages of vocational trainee returned soldiers were subsidized, so that persons who are over the age of 21 when their apprenticeship expired can continue their apprenticeship ?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will be examined.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The perilous condition of the wheat industry and of the wheat-growers, and the consequent imminent danger to all sections of the Australian community, and the necessity for a vigorous, well-directed and immediate governmental policy of relief”.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I do so for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The perilous condition of the wheat industry and of the wheatgrowers, and of the consequent imminent danger to all sections of the Australian community, and the necessity for a vigorous, well-directed and immediate governmental policy of relief”. In availing myself of this democratic privilege I should like to assure honorable members that I have no desire to delay the ordinary business of the House; but I am impelled to do so owing to the tragic position which has developed throughout a great portion of the wheat-growing areas of the Commonwealth owing to the failure of seasonal rains. The position calls for the active interest of this Parliament and of this Government, because it has been authoritatively stated in the last few days that the total Australian yield of wheat is likely to be 40,000,000 bushels less than last year. The greater portion of that decrease will be in Victoria. Notwithstanding optimistic estimates I believe that the yield in that State is more likely to be 10 million bushels than 20 million bushels as has been stated in some quarters. I suggest to the Government that the position can be met by the payment of an acreage bounty to those growers who will get little or no return, and that the money should be made available by the Treasury. The wheat-growers have had to contend not only with drought conditions but also with low prices: and the conditions this year are similar to those which obtained when the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry conducted its investigations. Owing to the policy of procrastination adopted by the Government rural rehabilitation has been unduly delayed, and debt adjustment payments which were promised have not yet been fully made. This has necessitated State governments having to hold up this important work. I believe that the debt position of the Australian wheat-growers is not much better, if it has improved at all, than it was when the investigation was conducted by the royal commission. The position is serious in the States most affected, and the ability of the State governments to deal with the situation is limited. In my opinion and in the opinion of many others it is imperative that the Commonwealth Government should offer co-operation and financial assistance. Honorable members generally should give serious consideration to the gravity of the situation which I believe is not fully appreciated. Recently I visited wheat-growing areas in my electorate where I saw a state of affairs which can scarcely be envisaged by honorable members who have not had actual experience of the ravages of drought. I saw miles and. miles of wheat lands that have been sown from which not a grain of wheat will be harvested. In some instances a small return will bo obtained, but probably only sufficient to provide seed wheat for next season. These unfortunate growers will not have any grain to sell, and consequently will not have any income to enable them to carry on next season. Owing to the scarcity of feed, stock is being sacrificed, and as time goes on there will be further heavy losses. Barren pastures are expressive of the struggle which stock will have to survive in the grim fight with nature. Men who have painstakingly given their labour in the hope of securing some return for their work will receive little or nothing. A great majority of the settlers have just secured a final adjustment of the contracts entered into with the States closer settlement authorities. They have been given what would be considered a small equity in their properties if the conditions were normal. Many of them, believing that it might enable them to raise small loans to tide them over, have been forced to realize that there is little that is tangible in the assets which they have created. Consultation with the executives of wheat-growers’ organizations have revealed that they do not desire in any way to interfere, with the proposal to establish a homeconsumption price for wheat. What is needed is a Treasury grant in the form of a bounty to be paid to those who will not have one bag of wheat to sell. Many men with wives and families to support are in need. Many of these men, with their wives and families, are in need of the barest necessaries of life. Thousands do not know how they are going to live until they may receive some return from the land, perhaps a year hence. There is another large section of wheat-growers who, normally, would be able to finance themselves over a difficult period, but now find it well-nigh impossible to finance themselves because the trading banks so seriously view the position that they are applying the most stringent financial restrictions upon their operations. In some cases, these men, fearing such a contingency, last year contemplated making use of the debt-adjustment scheme; but, heeding the counsel of the financial institutions and their other creditors and on their promise that they would be carried in the event of an emergency, they ignored the opportunity provided by the scheme to safeguard their interests. I am sorry to have to say that the promises given to them are not being honoured and that their future and, to a considerable degree, that of this valuable exporting primary industry is in jeopardy.
I do not desire to paint too gloomy a picture of the conditions that I have seen and of the difficulties which beset the farm population in my electorate, but I do wish to give honorable members some idea of the seriousness of the position. My electorate, although probably the worst sufferer, is, unfortunately, for Australia, not an isolated example. Recent information received from Western Australia indicates that an equally distressing position exists in the north-eastern wheat belt of that State. According to a statement issued by Mr. G. L. Warner, a member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, anything from 20,000 to 30,000 acres of crops will not be harvested at all-, and, unless assistance is rendered, there must be a further exodus from that portion of the State. Reports received from the wheat areas of Kew South Wales suggest that the position is almost as desperate there as it is in Western Australia. In parts of the Riverina, of course, drought has already levied its toll upon stock, and in some districts sheep have long ago been transferred to better pasture areas. I understand wheat crops have completely failed in many Riverina districts. I am, however, not entirely cognizant of the position in the Riverina, and, probably, some other honorable gentleman will be able to supplement my remarks.
A duty devolves upon this Parliament to take full cognizance of the position and to render effective aid to tide farm people over their difficulties. During the last two years, wheatgrowers, as the result of improved prices for their product and also, in my opinion, as the result of the frequent optimistic statements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and other responsible Ministers to the effect that the depression was past and that the future could be looked to with confidence, launched out in increased areas and bought new modern equipment. The position of these people is indeed desperate.
First and foremost, let me say that there should be an immediate stock-taking of the farmers’ debt adjustment. The Government cannot be admired for the manner in which it has handled this matter. Many warnings have been issued in this chamber regarding the Government’s evasion and procrastination in dealing with debt adjustment, but those warnings have not been heeded, with the result that there has been most unfortunate delay.
I am not concerned with the arguments that have been adduced in an attempt to shift the blame from the shoulders of the Government and of this Parliament, however ludicrous they may be. What I am concerned with is an immediate acceleration of the process which creditors and debtors thought would be adopted. The failure to honour obligations in regard to debt adjustment moneys has caused many cases to be held in a state of suspense and, at the same time, caused the present position to be aggravated. I urge, therefore, that the Government take immediate steps to provide the necessary moneys to the States for the completion of the work. Even now, if the ‘Government would make the promised amounts available to the .States, the State governments, possibly, could again, for a limited period; make available to embarrassed farmers the benefits of the debt adjustment legislation. I suggest that this be done.
I would remind the Prime Minister in dealing with the subject of rural difficulties of a statement which he was recently reported, to have made. If correctly reported, he said : “ We as a people now have a lasting peace “. If these words can be accepted as an indication of the Government’s genuine belief, it is its duty to divert some of the £43,000.000 which is thought necessary for defence, into channels which will prevent primary and secondary industry from receiving the full impact of the blow which threatens to fall because of drought conditions. Otherwise there will be recession in business with resultant unemployment. There is a disposition on the part of some honorable members to suggest that the present position should “be exclusively handled by the States. That that outlook is incongruous must be realized when it is recalled that the welfare of primary industry affects our whole national structure. lt is not a problem which should be dealt with in piece-meal fashion; otherwise, the more impoverished is a State, the greater will be its difficulty in sotting affairs right. Furthermore, there are no existing State institutions adequately equipped to deal with the situation, whereas the Commonwealth has an authority which it can use with good effect - the Commonwealth Bank. I understand that proposals are being considered at the moment for the establishment of a mortgage bank, and I suggest to the Government and the House that legislation should also be introduced for the broadening of the powers of the rural credits branch of the Commonwealth Bank. At the moment its operations are confined to the provision of moneys for collective marketing. If the powers of that branch were increased, it would be enabled to ease the pressure upon those who have reasonably good security, but who are unable to borrow. It would, by that very operation, check the disastrous policy of deflation which financial institutions are at present introducing. We are told that there are at the moment influences at work which object to the use of free money for the purpose of the establishment of a mortgage bank. It is evident that those influences are concerned not with the greater national aspects, but with the protection of the interests of the private money changers and lending institutions.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the terms of his motion.
– I was endeavouring to keep within its limits. May I say that I have purposely mentioned the question of deflationary policy, because its operation in country areas bears a real relationship to its possible effect on secondary industry and upon those who are dependent for employment upon secondary production.
– There is no mention in the motion of secondary industry.
– Deflation of farm values, which at best prevents the normal money functions from being observed, is merely the beginning of the cycle. At the end of it are the industrial workers; therefore, any action which the Government may take to permit of the farmer borrower being able to obtain his needs, in the end enables the industrial worker to be given greater security. All sections of the community will suffer as the result of the drought.
-Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the terms of his motion. The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member may move the adjournment of the House to discuss “ a definite matter of urgent public importance “. Such a motion does not provide opportunities for a wide discussion on various subjects.
– I shall endeavour to keep within your ruling, Mr. Speaker. In order to alleviate the existing situation. I believe that the time is opportune for the Government to embark on a largescale works programme. In almost every State there is urgent need to extend water conservation schemes, thereby providing remunerative employment for many agriculturists.
– Order ! Evidently the honorable member does not understand my ruling. He is not confining his remarks to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the position of the wheat-growers.
– If that is your ruling, Mr. Speaker, then I must curtail my remarks. I was about to urge that public works be undertaken in order to assist wheat-growers - a policy which has frequently been adopted in similar circumstances. I appeal to honorable members of the Opposition to support the motion, thereby indicating to the toilers on the land that they appreciate the difficulties and struggles of that section of the community in their fight with nature, as well as with unjust economic and financial conditions which are well within the power of this Parliament to ameliorate. I appeal to honorable members on the Government side of the House to consider the repercussions on secondary industries and the recession in business circles which must follow the failure of the men on the land. Finally, I appeal to members of the Country party to use the great power which recent events have shown that party to possess in order to assist that section of the community which they more particularly <:laim to represent.
– I thank the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) for raising this subject, which is both urgent and important at the present time, for it gives to the Government an opportunity to reveiw the position of the wheat industry, and enables members of this Parliament to consider its more important phases before the Government actually introduces legislation on the subject. The problem is so difficult as to require the combined wisdom of all political parties to find a satisfactory solution. Moreover, the assistance of all the Governments of Australia, irrespective of their political outlook in other directions, will be necessary. A review of the subject reveals that this Parliament has always been interested in, and sympathetic towards, this industry. As the honorable member for Wimmera has said, Parliament has recognized that wheat-growing is one of the great basic industries of the Commonwealth; it employs large numbers of workers, and its prosperity or adversity is reflected throughout the whole community. At the present time every wheat-growing country is facing a most serious problem. The difficulties are accentuated in Australia by the federal system of government, under which the Commonwealth Government and Parliament merely control the export marketing side of the industry, whilst the State governments and parliaments control production. Those difficulties have been enormously increased by the interpretation of section 92 of the Constitution by the Privy Council in 1936. The constitutional position is that neither the Commonwealth Government and Parliament nor the State governments and parliaments can control adequately the marketing of wheat. The story of the last few years in regard to the wheat industry is a sorry one, indeed. At the beginning of 1930 wheat was 5s. a bushel f.o.b. Australian ports, but by December of that year the price had fallen to 2s. 6d. a bushel. In 1931 the price reached the low level of 2s. Id. a bushel, and for the next four years it remained low. In 1936 there was an improvement, and wheat realized more than 4s. a bushel; in 1937 the price further increased to more than 5s. a bushel. That rise was the result of drought conditions in the northern hemisphere, which affected both the American and European crops. At the present time the price of wheat in Australia is below 3s. a bushel f.o.b. Australian ports. To-day’s quotation is 2s. 9d. or 2s. 9jd. a bushel for bagged wheat, whilst the price quoted for January deliveries ex silos and for new wheat is 2s. 7½d. a bushel. Present-day prices reflect the world position in regard to wheat supplies.
– What is the price free on rail at country sidings?
– The price varies, but generally 6d. or 7d. a bushel must be allowed for freight to Australian ports. The supplies of wheat available for export this year by all exporting countries are estimated at 925,000,000 bushels, but the world import demand is estimated at only 550,000,000 ‘bushels. That means that this year there will be a world surplus of approximately 375,000,000 bushels, and consequently it is not difficult to see the reason for the present low prices. The excess of production over demand has caused a relapse of prices, following a temporary recovery. I emphasize that the present prices for wheat are due not merely to Australian conditions, but to world factors. A world surplus of wheat is forcing down prices. One explanation of the over-production of wheat is that many European countries, in an attempt to become self-contained, are growing wheat on an uneconomic basis. Instead of importing hundreds of millions of bushels of wheat, as they did in the past, they are supplying their own requirements. Again, newer wheat countries, which during the war increased their production of wheat enormously, continued that production after the war, and, in some instances, actually increased it. Obviously, if the present world volume of production be maintained and there be no increased consumption, there will be a continuance of low prices. The only permanent remedy is either an increased consumption of wheat, which does not appear to be likely, or a reduction of production. If a reduction of production in European countries which are now producing wheat uneconomically cannot be brought about, we in Australia will have to face the possibility of persons who are now attempting to grow wheat in marginal areas directing their energies to more profitable undertakings.
– Will the wheat-growers of the Wimmera, in Victoria, be considered to be on marginal land?
– That will have to be considered in a proper and systematic way. The Commonwealth Government has been fully alive to the difficulties of the wheat-growers, for. during the last eight years, it has distributed £14,000,000 throughout Australia for the assistance of the industry. Amounts of £3,250,000, £4,000,000 and £1,878,000 were made available in 1031-33, 1934-35 and 1935-30 respectively. These bounties have undoubtedly been merely palliatives. Some permanent remedy -is needed. To provide this, the Commonwealth Government has done several constructive things. It appointed the royal commission, presided over by Sir Herbert Gepp, to inquire into the industry. The commission, after taking evidence throughout Australia, made many recommendations, some of them of a major character. Of these manor recommendations, sixteen have been implemented by the Government. The Government also established the Australian Agricultural Council, in an effort to secure complete co-operation between the State governments, which control production, and the Commonwealth Government, which controls export marketing. One of the first subjects dealt with by the council, in December, 1934, was the re-organization of the wheat industry, and the adjustment of farmers’ debts. In this respect, an amount of £6,317,000 has been made available to the State governments in the last four years, which is more than half of the £12,000,000 arranged to be provided for this purpose. The reason why a larger sum has not been provided is easily explained. The Commonwealth Government, which has not borrowed any money for its own purposes in the last four years, informed the State governments that if they would agree to the Commonwealth borrowing certain moneys for public works, the Commonwealth would make available an equivalent amount for farmers’ debt adjustment. The rate at which money may be made available is, therefore, controlled by the State governments. The only limit is the limit determined by the Loan Council, on which the State governments have six representatives. A contribution of £6,317,000 for the purpose of farmers’ debt adjustment must be regarded as substantial. Personally, I regret that a larger proportion of this money has not been used to try to divert more wheat-growers to other lines of production which offer a prospect of permanent profit. This would help to solve the main problem. The greater part of the money has been used, however, to pay current debts. I admit that the State governments have a difficult problem to deal with in this connexion.
In 1935, a conference held under the auspices of the Australian Agricultural Council of all the wheat interests of Australia discussed in great detail the principle of fixing a price for wheat for home consumption. Subsequently, legislation embodying the decisions of the conference was passed by this Parliament, and by three State parliaments. Unfortunately, this whole plan was rendered abortive by a decision of the Privy Council. The attempt made, by referendum, to amend the Constitution to permit that plan to be carried into effect failed. During the referendum campaign the whole of the members of the United Australia party and the Country party, and also a considerable number of members of the Labour party in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia cooperated in an endeavour to obtain an affirmative vote by the people, so that the Commonwealth Parliament could make effective arrangements for both the domestic and overseas marketing of our wheat. The Government was grateful for this co-operation. Many of the members of the Labour party in New South Wales, however, refused to co-operate, and so it has not been possible, so far, to deal with the subject in a national way. After the defeat of the referendum proposals, the whole position was very carefully examined in the light of the decision of the Privy Council, and it was found that that decision undoubtedly revealed that the States had greater powers than was previously thought to be the case to fix the price of their products. In August, 1937, the Agricultural Council, at its meeting in Brisbane, found a. means by which the States could, by fixing the’ price of flour, indirectly secure a home-consumption price for wheat. On the 26th August of this year, the Council again considered the whole subject and the State Premiers said to the Commonwealth Government, in effect, “We will fix the price of flour within the States if the Commonwealth Government will take complementary action to make available from the proceeds of the fixed price a levy to permit the payment of a fixed price for wheat-growers for home consumption “. The Prime Minister gave an assurance that the Commonwealth Government would co-operate in bringing the scheme into operation, seeing that it had the unanimous support of the State governments. On the 29th August last, at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Canberra, the general principles, and the greater part of the detail of the whole scheme, were agreed to, and since then, bills dealing with the subject have been passed by both Houses of the Parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia. The necessary legislation has been introduced in the Parliaments of Western Australia and Tasmania, and notice of its introduction was given in the Parliament of Queensland on the 4th November. The Victorian bill has been drafted and submitted to the Commonwealth Government for approval, though it has not yet been actually introduced. But the States have now suggested a variation of the agreed method of dealing with the position. In short, their new proposal is that the pro ceeds of the levy should be distributed on a different basis from that already approved. Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria, was the first one to make this suggestion, when, a few days ago, he telephoned me. Mr. Reid. the Minister for Agriculture of New South Wales, communicated with mc last Friday, and Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, telegraphed me yesterday on the matter. As the result of the telephone conversations that have ensued, which suggest that some variation of the scheme already agreed to is desired, I have informed the State representatives that [ shall bc available in Canberra next week-end to discuss the whole subject with them, and also to endeavour to find some means by which a measure of relief may be accorded to farmers in wheatgrowing areas where the seasonal conditions have proved to be extremely bad. Strange to say, such areas are to be found in every State, and are widely scattered throughout the Commonwealth. Within the same State conditions in some areas have been exceptionally good, and farmers will have excellent crops, whereas in certain other areas extremely difficult conditions prevail. The following table sets out some interesting details : -
Because of the diversity of the problem within the States themselves, quite apart from the difficulties arising as between the States, it is very difficult to devise any uniform scheme to deal with the position. Consequently, we are discussing the matter with all of the State governments, which are representative of all political parties, in an endeavour to arrive at some solution of not only the problem of providing a homeconsumption price for wheat, but also the general question of relief in stricken areas. We desire to bring down legislation not merely to deal with the present crisis, but also to establish co-operative action as between the Commonwealth and the State Governments in the industry itself, and to secure not only organized marketing, but also systematic control of the industry in order to prevent the growing of wheat in areas in which farmers will obviously have a rough time. We hope to devise means to transplant farmers who already find themselves in such a position, to callings in which they will find a job of work to do and have a decent chance of making a success of it.
.- On general principles, I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), although I do not agree with the basis on which he suggests relief should be given to wheatgrowers in distress. I agree with the principle of a home-consumption price for wheat. Furthermore, it is the duty of this Government to make special grants to the respective States for the relief of farmers who find themselves in distress as the result of bad seasons. I cannot quite follow the reasoning of the honorable member for Wimmera that such relief should be distributed on an acreage basis. In every case the financial position of applicants for relief should be taken into consideration. In some districts, wealthy corporations and individuals own areas up to 10,000 acres. Despite seasonal adversity, these remain in a strong financial position and, because they do not need assistance, they are not entitled to any. If relief were granted on the basis of 5s. an acre, for instance, the owner of a 10,000 acre farm would receive £2,500. However, in many wheat-growing centres, the average cropping area owned by the small farmer is only from 300 to 400 acres, and on that basis, most farmers, despite the fact that they and their families depend on the industry for their livelihood, would receive only £75 or £100. The inequity of such a basis of relief is obvious. In respect to bounties also, I have always contended that payments should be made only to those who are in desperate financial straits. The honorable member for Wimmera has pointed out that distress is most acute at the present time among wheat farmers in his electorate, but I venture to suggest that extensive tracts in that district are controlled by wealthy corporations which do not need assistance from the Government. Assistance should, therefore, be distributed on the basis of need.
The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) mentioned the sums which had been voted, and actually paid, in respect of farmers’ debt adjustment. We know that the present trouble would have been obviated but for the tardiness of this Government in making that money available. Yet, in spite of the fact that the sum which it was originally proposed to vote for purpose of rural rehabilitation was £20,000,000, and only £12,000,000 has been actually voted, whilst only £6,000,000 of this amount has actually been made available to date, we are now informed by the Minister for Commerce that the State governments have been given the option of saying how they will use the balance of this money. They have been given the choice of using it for the construction of public works. As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has interjected, this departure from the original promise of the Government constitutes a grave betrayal of the trust reposed in it by the wheat-growers. Throughout New South Wales, under the operations of the Farmers’ Relief Act, during the last three or four years, hundreds of farmers, because of financial difficulty have had their holdings placed under the control of receivers. This position has been brought about, purely because the money promised for rural rehabilitation has not been made available as expeditiously as it might be. Every honorable member who represents a country district is aware that during the last three or four years many farmers have lost their holdings through their’ inability to meet their financial obligations. I suggest that this would not have happened had the money voted for rural rehabilitation been made available more expeditiously.
– The Government of New South Wales has not used all of the money which has been made available to it for this purpose.
– I understand that that is so; yet, when I made representations to that government on this point, I was informed that the money was not forthcoming from the ‘Commonwealth Govern- ment. I am very pleased to hear the interjection just made by the Assistant Minister. The information will better enable us to get some satisfaction on this matter from the Government of New South Wales.
– No complaint has been received by the Commonwealth Government from the Government of New South Wales, that it lacks money for the purpose of rural rehabilitation.
– Nevertheless, I have beard members of that government publicly declare that it would provide more financial assistance to distressed wheatgrowers if money voted for that purpose were made available to it by the Commonwealth Government. And now we are informed by the Minister for Commerce that the State governments have been given the option of expending even the money which has been made available to them on public works or for the relief of distressed farmers.
– That alternative has never been offered by the Commonwealth Government to the States.
– The Minister for Commerce just said that the States have been given that choice.
– The honorable member is a little confused as to what the Minister said.
– I know that it is largely as the result of the position which has arisen in consequence of that fact that the honorable member for Wimmera has found it necessary to move his motion, [t has been stated by the Government, and by members of the Country party, that the Labour party has not consistently advocated the granting of assistance to wheat-growers. I know, as one who has been engaged in wheat-growing all my life in the north-west of New South Wales, that the only assistance of any real value ever received by the wheat-growers was given by a Labour government. Years ago, when the Labour party was in power in New South Wales, and Mr. J. T. Lang was Treasurer, the Government made an advance of 2s. 6d. a bushel which, in addition to the price of 5s. a bushel guaranteed by the Commonwealth, made a total price of 7s. 6d. a bushel, the highest ever received by the growers in Australia. The effect of this was to rescue many wheat-growers in northern New South Wales from their difficulties, and place them in a sound financial position, thanks to a Labour government. Labour governments hav0 always done everything possible to assist those engaged in the key industries of wheat-growing and wool-raising. [Leave to continue given.] In 1930, when the Scullin Government was in power, a bill was passed to provide for a compulsory wheat pool with a guaranteed price to the growers of 4s. a bushel. Arrangements were made with the Commonwealth Bank for it to finance the pool, and make advances to growers on delivery of wheat it railway sidings. This bill was rejected by the Senate - some of the Country party senators voting against it. In December, 1930, another bill was passed to provide a guarantee of 3s. a bushel, without a pool, but, on the Commonwealth Bank Board receiving a legal opinion that it was not constitutional, it declined to make the money available.
Later in that year, a bill providing for a fiduciary note issue was passed through the House of Representatives. It was proposed to find £3,500,000 for a wheat bounty and £2,500,000 for distressed wheat-growers, making in all £6,000,000 for wheat-growers. That bill vas rejected in the Senate by the antiLabour senators. In spite of these setbacks, the Labour Government still persisted, and in 1931, made available £3,296,000 with which to pay a bounty of 4£d. a bushel to wheat-growers, on all wheat marketed. Yet, in face of these determined attempts to help the wheatgrowers, and of the practical assistance given to them, some members of the Country party persist in saying that the Labour Government did nothing for the wheat-growers. I hope that a bill will be introduced immediately for the fixing of a home-consumption price for wheat.
.- I am very sorry that the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr! Scully) should have endeavoured to make of this more of a party question than one of assistance to the farmers. He has indulged in exaggerations, and has made statements that are far from correct regarding the record of the Labour party in its dealings with the wheat-farmers. I endorse the statement of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) regarding the serious position of many of the agriculturists throughout the greater part of Australia. In South Australia, Victoria, in many parts of New South Wales, and in Western Australia, the drought has been very severe, and this, combined with the very low price of wheat, has placed the growers in a position of extraordinary difficulty. Something drastic must be done to meet the position. Recently, it was decided, after much argument, to introduce legislation to provide a homeconsumption price for wheat. As was pointed out by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) just now, wo are awaiting the passing of legislation by the State parliaments before complementary legislation is introduced into this Parliament to give effect to that decision, that is the fixing of a homeconsumption price of wheat. It would be a great pity if the scheme had to be dropped. In Western Australia, the wheat pool has decided to make a first advance of only ls. 3d. or ls. 4d. a bushel at sidings. When we realize how high is the cost of production, and the many difficulties which the farmers have to face, it is evident that this is an unpayable price, even for the man who gets 20 bushels an acre. Only a few days ago I gave notice to the secretary of our party that I proposed to call a meeting to discuss this matter. The meeting was held this morning, and it was decided to bring the matter before the Government with a view to having the scheme gone on with as soon as possible, and to urge that some relief be granted to growers, not on an acreage basis, .but in accordance with their needs.
– Was the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) invited to the meeting?
– He could have attended if he thought fit. I should like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to give an assurance that, if the States pass the necessary acts, the Opposition in this House will support legislation providing for a homeconsumption price for wheat. It may be true that some wheat farmers on big areas of 10,000 or 15,000 acres are in a sound financial position, but I am not asking for assistance on their behalf. I am asking for assistance for those who are in actual need. In my own electorate there are more than 1,000 farmers, many of whom have been growing wheat for only the last seven or eight years. They were not able to take advantage of the good prices which ruled up to 1929. In 1930 and 1931 they had magnificent crops, but prices were ruinously low. Since then they have had drought after drought. lt is true that many of the farmers are operating in marginal areas, but I do not want to see them forced off the land. After all, they are the cream of our population, and they are battling along, year after year, under the most adverse conditions. The Commonwealth Government should do something to help them. It should at least lend money to the State governments without interest for a number of years to enable production to be carried on. Honorable members must realize the enormous value to Australia of the wheat industry. In my opinion the economic collapse in 1930 was due entirely to the catastrophic decline of export values, which was the direct cause of all the misery suffered by the people during the depression years. It would be ruinous from a national viewpoint not to continue the development of a comprehensive production programme in order to increase our population and ensure the safety of the nation. There can be no doubt about the necessity for Commonwealth assistance to our primary producers. I have in my hand a graph which includes data taken from Table 13 of the memorandum on the international wheat situation, prepared by the secretariat of the Wheat Advisory Committee in London. This data has been checked carefully. It shows that over a long period of years, from 1922-23 to 1937-38, the purchasing power of a bushel of wheat in Argentina, Canada and the United States of America, in every year, and in some years to a very great extent, was much higher than in Australia. This, I contend, has been due entirely to Commonwealth policy. I pointed out some time ago that a return, prepared by a qualified accountant, showed that the cost of the development of a thousand-acre farm in Western Australia in 1913, was £2,600, and in 1931 was £4,400, an increase of nearly 100 per cent. In these circumstances there is a definite obligation on the Commonwealth Government to do something to assist the establishment of a home-consumption price should be utilized to keep these men on the land.” I am not now speaking only for farmers in my own State, but for wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth. Enormous losses have been
industry. This could be done by agreeing to the proposal for a homeconsumption price for wheat and making available a sum of, say, £500,000, to assist farmers who are in financial difficulties. If this cannot be done, some portion at least of the money derived from the suffered by many wheat-growers in other States. Some farmers may not be In urgent need, but I know that a great many wheat-growers are, year after year, finding it most difficult to carry on. Rather than allow these people to go off the land and increase unemployment in the cities, assistance should be given by the Commonwealth Government, not only in the interests of the farmers themselves, but also in the interests of the nation. In reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully), I point out that the Loan Council is not controlled by the Commonwealth Government. Each State has one vote on the council and the Commonwealth has only two, so that the States have full control, if they desire to utilize it. I am, however, more concerned with the present condition of the wheat-farmers than with political considerations. I hope that all parties will unite in an appeal to State governments and to the Commonwealth Government to fix a home-consumption price for wheat and also to provide the very necessary assistance to those farmers who are in dire need of it.
.- I welcome the motion because it gives honorable members an opportunity to impress upon the Government the necessity for steps being taken to deal with the effect upon the nation generally of the desperate condition of the wheat industry. In my opinion, this problem ranks only second in importance to that of unemployment. The present situation has arisen during the last twelve months and has been accentuated from day to day by a continuous fall of the price of wheat as well as by the neglect of the Commonwealth to deal with it. Whenever the subject has been raised in this House, it has been the practice of the present Government, since I have come into this Parliament at all events, to throw responsibility on to State governments.
– What about the £14,000,000 which has been paid to wheat-farmers by the Lyons Government and for much of which I was personally responsible?
– The first step in that direction was taken by the Scullin Government. The present Government merely implemented the policy instituted by that Administration.
– The Seullin Government promised ; we. paid.
– The Lyons Government merely honoured the statutory obligations of its predecessors.
– Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the motion before the Chair.
– The present Government has consistently shirked its obligations by endeavouring to place on State governments responsibility for action to assist our wheat-growers. The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) this afternoon made an interesting statement, which contained a mass of historical data. He told us that there had been an inquiry by a royal commission into the condition of the wheat industry and that the previous Lyons Government had given effect to sixteen of the recommendations made by that body which cost this country £29,000. I ask the right honorable gentleman to name one recommendation that has been of substantial help to the wheat-farmer.
– As the result of the commission’s recommendations, the Commonwealth Government immediately made available £4,000,000 for the payment of a bounty on wheat production, and £6,317,000 for farmers’ debt adjustment.
– It was stated originally that £12,000,000 would be made available for assistance to wheatgrowers. According to the Minister’s statement to-day, the money allocated by the Loan Council could be expended by the States on either public works or the provision of assistance to necessitous wheat-farmers in whatever proportion the State governments thought fit.
– State governments, apparently, put public works before the farmers.
– They chose to expend some of the money oh necessary public works.
– That is not so.
– To the extent which the State governments expend the money on public works, they cannot expend it on the adjustment of farmers’ debts.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– Everybody who has read the speech of the Minister for Commerce knows that, in respect of debt adjustment, the right honorable gentleman made the plain statement that £12,000,000 would be made available by the Commonwealth to assist the States over a period of three years. Now the right honorable gentleman tells us that, under the arrangements of the Loan Council, a certain amount of loan money is allocated to the States to assist them in carrying on their ordinary public works’ programme; therefore, the wheatfarmers and other farmers must suffer.
– The Commonwealth Government finds the money for farmers’ debt adjustment, and the States find the money for works.
– That does not square with the promise made by the right honorable gentleman when the farmers’ debt adjustment legislation was introduced in this House. I do not wish to indulge in recrimination, but I think it is high time that this National Parliament faced up to its obligation in respect of this problem. It should not await the passing of uniform legislation by the different States, nor should it be necessary to call a meeting of representatives of the States and insist on unanimity among them when a new problem arises such as is confronting us to-day by reason of drought. This Parliament has all the financial and other powers necessary to give effective relief to wheat-growers and to distressed farmers generally.
– When the honorable gentleman has been here a little longer he will know that that is not so.
– . The right honorable gentleman will not deny that it is within the power of the Commonwealth to grant a bounty on wheat grown, to make an acreage payment or to provide any other form of assistance. I am prepared to admit that the decision given in the James case placed certain restrictions on Commonwealth activity; but, in the final analysis, it does not prevent the Commonwealth Parliament from taking the initiative and providing bounties or other forms of assistance.
– The honorable gentleman assisted the Commonwealth with its referendum proposals.
-I did, and I am proud of the fact. It ill becomes this Parliament, when confronted with certain obstacles by virtue of a decision of the High Court, to unload its obligation, to decline to explore new methods which undoubtedly exist, and to thrust back on the States the initiative in the matter. While conferences are being held by State governments, whose capacity to raise money is limited, the Commonwealth Parliament being all-powerful in the financial sphere, the wheat-growers lose their means of livelihood and the unemployment problem is intensified. I am not very much concerned as to whether the assistance takes the form of a homeconsumption price, a bounty, or an acreage payment ; but, generally speaking, I have a decided preference for a bounty, according to the factors that operate in any particular area; because I have always felt- and still feel - that, under the home-consumption price proposition, particularly in relation to wheat, flour and the by-products of wheat, the undoubted effect is that the greatest burden is borne by the weakest and poorest section of the community, who are the greatest bread-eaters. I do not think that that can be successfully contested. In these circumstances, I, and I hope other members of my party, definitely favour a bounty of a given amount a bushel, or a payment based on an acreage calculation. I know that there are many objections to the payment on an acreage basis ; but I suggest that, because of the factors which operate in Victoria to-day, that basis might be favorably considered. One objection to it is that, as occurs in every walk of life, there are among wheat-growers dishonest people who, if they knew they were to receive an acreage payment yearly, would simply scratch the surface of their land instead of manuring and cultivating it properly. But that could not occur this year, when such persons could not realize that, owing to drought, an acreage basis of payment might be necessary. I put that view even at this late stage - and it is becoming late. The position in Victoria is desperate, and the Government should be courageous. I am not suggesting- - I never have - that the Minister for Commerce and his colleagues are unsympathetically disposed towards this problem, but I do contend that they lack initiative and courage.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– Different honorable members who have addressed themselves to this matter have criticized the Government on the score, first that it has failed to provide for a home-consumption price for wheat produced within the Commonwealth, and secondly, that it has failed to make available a Treasury advance to distressed wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth who are suffering greatly ab the result of drought losses.
In the brief time at my disposal I propose to discuss first the second criticism. 1. combat unequivocally and very strongly the principle enunciated in the proposal that the Commonwealth should accept any responsibility in respect of drought losses incurred by wheat-farmers, or any other farmers, or by graziers, wherever they may operate in this country. I suggest that there is considerable support for my attitude in the fact that no Commonwealth Government of any political complexion has ever accepted such responsibility.
– That is not quite correct.
– I make that statement subject to correction, but I believe that generally speaking it is substantially correct. In the first place, it is argued that the Commonwealth should accept responsibility in respect of drought losses incurred by wheat-farmers. The acceptance of that proposition would inevitably involve the more general acceptance of responsibility for drought losses incurred not only by wheat-farmers but also by other farmers and graziers.
– Even by bus proprietors.
– One could continue ad libitum. One cannot enunciate a principle, and claim its acceptance, in respect of the wheat industry, unless one is also prepared to advocate its acceptance in respect of the grazing industry, the fruit-growing industry, or any other industry. The Commonwealth Government dare not put itself in that position. Every practical farmer knows that drought losses are among the inevitable contingencies associated with the conduct of agriculture or grazing. In every part of Australia, those who buy or lease land for the purpose of carrying on agriculture or stock-raising, know perfectly well that they have to consider the possibility, indeed the inevitability, of drought and its resultant losses, when deciding what price they shall pay for the land. Possible drought losses ars always reflected in the price payable for land. Again, this Government could nol put itself in the position of accepting responsibility for losses attributable more or less directly to drought, which would involve it in treating the man who cultivates his soil well in exactly the same manner as the man who cultivates it badly. As every honorable member knows, in almost every district in a fairly dry year will be found one man who has cultivated wisely, carefully and well, with the result that he has raised quite a good crop, while his next-door neighbour, who has neglected to cultivate his land, has perhaps failed to harvest any sort of a crop.
– Supposing there is no vain ?
– The Government cannot treat those two men on an equal basis. It should not encourage - as it would if it accepted responsibility for losses incurred by drought in respect of wheat-growing - the production of wheat on land which, because of climatic conditions or other causes, is unsuited to its production. It is generally recognized that to-day many persons are growing wheat under unsuitable conditions, climatic and other, which make its production unprofitable. If the Government accepts responsibility for drought losses in such circumstances, it will encourage a class of agriculture and a type of settler which should not be encouraged. I there- fore submit that it cannot accept responsibility for losses incurred by wheatgrowers by reason of drought. It has a certain responsibility towards wheatgrowers and has observed that responsibility in recent years. Year by year, it Lias made grants to the weaker States,’ which very largely engage in the cultivation of wheat; it is probably their main agricultural industry. It accepts certain responsibility for the effect of drought on the revenues of those States. Consequent upon the recent calamitous depression, provision was made in respect of farmers of all classes in the different States. As the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) has stated, up to date the Commonwealth Government has made available to the various State governments for the assistance of those farmers no less a sum than £6,317,000, and for this year it proposes to make available for debt adjustment the sum of £2,000,000. Whilst it may be possible to criticize with some modicum of justification what the Government has done in that respect, there is no denying the fact that it has made available a larger sum for debt adjustment than any other Ministry has done at any time in the history of the Commonwealth. That is something for which this Government can take considerable credit.
The Government, finally, takes responsibility in respect of a home-consumption price for wheat, because it accepts the principle that the man who grows wheat, as rauch as the man who conducts a dairy farm, or makes boots, or engages in any other form of secondary industry, is entitled to a price for his commodity that is in keeping with Australian standards of living. The Government accepts responsibility in respect of the price of wheat, because it realizes, also, that it cannot afford to let the wheat industry languish entirely, on account of the fact that it makes a substantial contribution each year to the overseas funds which this country, through its exports, is able to accumulate.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Mr. FORDE (Capricornia) [4.26”.The object of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr.
Wilson) is to enable him to discuss a very important subject, and I compliment him upon his speech. H° has formally moved for the adjournment of the House to enable him to refer to the perilous condition of the wheat industry and of wheat-growers, and the consequent imminent danger to all sections of the Australian community, aud the necessity for a vigorous well-directed and immediate government policy of relief. The reasons (advanced for the motion are sound, and the Opposition can wholeheartedly support it. It is gravely concerned regarding the distress amongst workers through unemployment, and it is equally concerned about the distress amongst struggling primary producers throughout Australia, resulting from droughts and low prices of their commodities. The proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera is in accordance with the platform of the Australian Labour party, which provides for -
The extension of the function of the Commonwealth Bank to provide for a Rural Credit Branch for the purpose of assisting land settlement and development; the granting of relief to necessitous primary producers against the ravages of drought, fire, flood, and pests, and the establishment of a grain and fodden reserve against periods of drought.
The honorable member for Wimmera and the wheat-growers of Australia have some good ground, I think, for complaint that the present Commonwealth Government has failed to bring to fruition any concrete .plan to place the wheat industry on a sound economic basis. At the elections in 1931 and 1934, both the Country party and the United Australia party assured the farmers that they would be able to effect the desired economic stability by legislation, if returned to office; but it is quite clear from the speeches delivered this afternoon that the Government has failed to bring about these reforms, as it has failed in other instances.
We have heard from the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) about the debt adjustment scheme, which, he said, was a great boon to the primary producers. At the 1934 elections, the Lyons-Page Government promised £20,000,000 to assist distressed farmers. After the elections, that sum waa reduced to £12,000,000, and, in introducing the bill in March, 1935, the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), who was Acting Prime Minister, said -
It is anticipated that the total amount of £12,000,000 will be disbursed within three or four years. … It is estimated that the disbursement will amount to from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 in the first year and probably £4,000,000 in the second year.
What has happened with regard to that money? Up to the 20th June, 1938, which is over three years since the bill was passed, only £4,000,000 had been made available to assist distressed farmers. When the wheat problem was being discussed in the House on the 21st June, 1938, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to these promises, and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) interjected and asked “ Is the Leader of the Country .party the Leader of the Government?”; but I emphasize the point that the Minister for Commerce was Acting Prime Minister when he introduced the bil], and was, undoubtedly, speaking on behalf of the Government. He set out to convince us of that fact. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) also interjected with the remark “ The farmers could have had £3,S00,000 last year, but preferred only £2,000,000.” I found, on investigation, that that statement was not only absurd, but also incorrect. Communications were sent to the Premiers of Victoria and Western Australia drawing attention to the statement, and I now quote extracts from the replies which have been received from them. The Premier of Victoria, who is associated with the Country party, wrote as follows: -
I cannot understand the statement of Mr. Nock that “ the farmers could have had £3,800.000 last year but preferred only £2,000,000.” As a matter of fact, Victoria at the last meeting of the Loan Council applied to the Commonwealth Government for £1,200,000 and only received £500,000. The settlement of a large number of cases is being held up on account of the Commonwealth Government not meeting its obligations and creditors’ and farmers’ interests are both being adversely affected. So far as Victoria is concerned, it has always been understood that an allocation of £3,000*000 over a period of three years was to be made. The amounts subse quently applied for by Victoria and those granted are shown hereunder: -
That, I think, clearly shows the position as far as Victoria is concerned. The responsibility must rest with the Commonwealth Government for not carrying out its pledges in regard to finding £12,000,000 under the debt adjustment scheme within the period of three or four years. The Premier of Western Australia was also asked for his comment on the statement of the honorable member for Riverina, and he replied as follows: -
I received your letter of the 22nd June regarding the farmers’ debt adjustment scheme. The interjection that “ the farmers could have had £3,800,000 last year but preferred only £2,000,000” ls very far from correct. The position for the last three years is as follows: -
This indicates that each year the States have desired to employ a far greater sum for this purpose than has been available.
He pointed out the difficulties that confronted him and the other State Premiers in giving the relief which they would like to give. I thought it wise to put these facts on record.
– But they are not facts.
– Yes, they are irrefutable facts. Honorable gentlemen opposite exclaim “ Look what we have done for the wheat industry and the distressed farmers of Australia “ !
One of the greatest burdens of the wheat-farmers is the high interest charges, and there is not one word from honorable members opposite against it. This matter was referred to in the report of the very costly royal commission which inquired into the circumstances of the wheat industry. Instances were given of the heavy burden imposed by these charges, which greatly add to the distress of the wheat-growers at times when prices are low. An instance of this was given in an address by Sir Herbert Gepp at the annual conference of the Victorian Wheat Growers’ Association in 1936, when he said -
In our first report, wo showed that the interest on £1,000 at 7 per cent, represented 310 bushels of wheat when wheat was 4s. Cd. a bushel. Let the price of wheat fall to 2s. a bushel, and, even though the interest were reduced to 5 per cent., 500 bushels of wheat would be required to pay the bill.
I point out that the financial policy of the Australian Labour party includes the control of interest charges to reduce the burden upon public and private undertakings.
-The honorable member is not in order in discussing the general policy of the Labour party. He must confine his remarks to the definite matter to which the motion refers.
– The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) was correct in referring to the misrepresentation sometimes indulged in by certain honorable gentlemen regarding the Labour party’s action in assisting the wheat-growing industry. He was wise in pointing to the bill passed in 1930 to provide for a compulsory wheat pool, with a guaranteed price to the growers of 4s. a bushel, and to the £3,296,000 that was later granted by the Scullin Government; also to the action of certain senators of the United Australia and Country parties in defeating the measure.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I listened with interest to the remark of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that he and his party cordially approve of the terms of the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). 1 take it that that honorable member asks the Government to expedite the proposals made by the States to bring about a home-consumption price for Australian wheat.
– He wants an acreage bounty as well.
– I know what he wants. He is dissatisfied with the delay that has taken place. He would be quite content if the matter were before the Parliament at the present time, and were likely to be implemented, say, this week.
– I ask for a grant of money to assist the farmers.
– But I understand that the honorable member is quite satisfied with the proposals submitted originally by the States, which are now under consideration by the parliaments of the various States and are likely to be presented to this Parliament soon. Supplementary to these, he also wants an additional sum made available from some source, preferably the Commonwealth Bank, if I correctly interpreted his suggestion, as a sort of relief bounty to meet the special circumstances of farmers affected by drought conditions, particularly in Victoria. I am pleased, indeed, to know from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is, I suppose, the highest authority on the Opposition side present in the chamber at the moment, and who was speaking for his party, that the Government is bound to have the support of the Labour party when these proposals come before the House. I had no doubt that the Labour party, with its well-known anxiety for the welfare of the wheat-growers, would support the Government up to the hilt.
– That will look well in print, because the Minister’s sarcasm will not be apparent.
– No sarcasm is intended. I have taken part in many proposals for the benefit of the wheatgrowers, some of them having been initiated by the Scullin Government. I believe that I supported practically all proposals by that Government for the assistance of the growers.
– The Country party repudiated them.
– That is not a fact. The honorable member has not been here long enough to know what actually happened. The Labour Government enjoyed a very large majority in this House, and proposals submitted by it for the benefit of the primary producers were supported by members of the Country party. The proposal referred to was defeated in another place by certain Western Australian gentlemen, who acted on instructions from the Western Australian wheat-growers’ organizations.
– Members of the United Australia party and of the Country party in another place voted against it.
– I take this opportunity to tender my thanks to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for making Lt quite clear that when the legislation for the establishment of a home-consumption price for wheat comes before this chamber it will receive the support of the members of his party. If that is so, the Government will have no difficulty in having it passed by Parliament as quickly as possible, thus enabling much-needed relief to be afforded very rapidly to the necessitous farmers of Australia.
The question of the provision of an extra amount for the relief of necessitous farmers was raised by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). In respect of that, I can only repeat what my colleague the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) has already pointed out, that the States have been asked to formulate proposals for the consideration of the Commonwealth Government. The States know well that the Commonwealth Government is sympathetic to the claims of the wheat-growers, and if it is practicable to do what the States want, and if they display the same unanimity as they have already done in regard to the original proposal for a home-consumption price, there will be not the slightest difficulty, as far as this Government is con corned, in giving their proposals effect, It is not known yet what method for the assistance of the wheat industry will be adopted; the Commonwealth is waiting to hear what the States have to say in regard to it; but I assure the honorable member that he need have no doubt whatever that when the States, which are at present holding up their legislation, have agreed upon the necessary details, no time will be lost by this Government ii» passing the necessary implementing legislation, so that distressed farmers, irrespective of whether their difficulties have been brought about because of low prices or drought conditions, shall receive their just due.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition repeated the misleading statement so often tittered, that the States are being deprived by the Commonwealth of money that should be devoted to debt relief. While the honorable gentleman was speaking, I endeavoured to answer his point by way of interjection; bat he refused to listen. He always seems afraid that his arguments, so carefully prepared, might be destroyed by a simple interjection.
– The Assistant Minister heard what the leader of the Country party in Victoria had to say.
– Honorable members know that the allocation of money for debt relief is determined, not by this Government or this Parliament, but by the Loan Council, on which the States have a majority of the votes. The States, through their votes on the council, can decide not only the amount of loan money to be made available each year but also the proportion to be allocated to farmers’ debt relief. What Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria, and Mr. Willcock, the Premier of Western Australia, have done is only what one would expect. Those gentlemen asked for two or three times the amount allocated by the Loan Council last year for farmers’ debt relief. Before the meeting of the Loan Council Victoria made a demand for £1,500,000 for that purpose. It is significant that the request was made, not to the Loan Council, but to the Commonwealth Government, which has no power to deal with the matter. The Loan Council may decide, for instance, that out of the total loan moneys available two-thirds shall be appropriated for distribution to the States for public works and the balance for farmers’ debt relief and other purposes. “When a decision is reached by the Council the State Premiers know how much money will be provided for their works programmes and for debt relief.
– That is not the case.
– It is. The money is then passed over to the States and the States themselves determine the amount of money which is to be distributed by them for farmers’ debt relief. If Mr. Dunstan received only £500,000 last year it was because that was all his State was entitled to receive after the Loan Council, of which he is a member, had decided how much would be made available in that particular year. The same remarks apply to Western Australia. Although that State might require £3,000,000 for farmers’ debt relief, after the States have decided on the allocation of moneys for their public works programmes it might be found that only £500,000 could be made available for Western Australia for farmers’ debt relief. The Treasurer has promised that money shall be made available by the Commonwealth to the States as they require it. Thus, the onus is upon th« States to distribute it as they think best. The reason why the States have not received sufficient money for farmers’ debt relief is because they have absorbed relatively too much money in financing public works.
– When the Farmers* Debt Adjustment Bill was before this House no such tag was placed on the provision, of money for the States foi farmers’ debt relief.
– Once money is made available to the States for this purpose it can be used only for farmers’ debt relief. The question of the eventual destination of the money is decided before the actual amount to be utilized for farmers’ debt relief is settled by the Loan Council. When the States demand a certain amount for public works the fate of the provision for fanners’ debt relief ifc settled.
– The States could have had £3,800,000 last year if they had cared to take it.
– Yes ; but as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said they had only about £4,000,000 up to the 30th June last. The reason for that is simply because they have required a certain amount for public works and have deliberately cut down their requirements for farmers’ debt adjustment.
-The Assistant Minister has exhausted his time.
.- I think that the members of this House who are seised of the position of the wheatgrowers do give them their sympathy; but I think that this Parliament has not only to consider the position as it affects the wheat-growers themselves but also to recognize how seriously their position reacts on the national position. The figures published in the press a few days ago with regard to the prospects of the wheat crop in the various States were -
It will be seen that the total is approximately 132,000,000 bushels, compared with 186,000,000 bushels last year. When we take the relative price of last year’s crop, after having kept out seed, and compare it with this year’s prospective crop, after having kept out seed, it will be found that the farmers this year will receive about £11,500,000 for their crop, whereas last year it was worth £34,000,000. It represents a reduction of £22,500,000. When people are fully aware of these figures they will see how serious the position is both to the wheat-grower and to the economic welfare of Australia. It has been admitted by the Federal Government that it is prepared to co-operate with the States in order to bring in a scheme to provide a home-consumption price for wheat. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) say very definitely that he did not desire any interference with the basis and the principles of that proposed scheme, but that he advocated that there should be some extra assistance for those necessitous farmers who have been affected by drought and who will harvest little or no crop in respect of which they could participate in the distribution of money from that source. The position of the Government, as I see it, was outlined fairly clearly by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). There must be a line of demarcation as to what its responsibility is, what is the responsibility of the State governments, and what is the responsibility of the individual wheat-grower, and nobody else’s but his own. We know that neither the Federal nor any State government has any say in regard to the locality in which a wheatgrower decides to farm or as to the methods adopted by an individual farmer in growing his crop, the acreage or seed he plants, or whether or not he uses superphosphate. Consequently I say that many of the disabilities of the man on the land are not the responsibility of the Federal Government. But the tariff effect on his costs is a responsibility of the Federal Government, and the burden of arbitration, which is national policy, cannot be borne by anybody else but the Commonwealth Government. It should not be put on the exporting industry. The primary producer has also to pay for workmen’s compensation and will soon be burdened by contributions to the national insurance fund. Unlike those engaged in secondary industries he is unable to pass those costs on.
– Why should not the primary producer pay for workmen’s compensation ?
– Because he is m a different position from those in secondary industries, and cannot pass on these special burdens imposed upon the producers of wheat by national policy. They are anomalies that should be compensated for by the National Government.
-Order ! That matter cannot be debated upon this motion.
– I submit that there is an obligation on the Commonwealth Government to compensate wheat-growers for the cost of these burdens. But compensation for drought is not a federal responsibility. If there is necessity for particular assistance because of this or any other cause, it is for the State governments to take whatever action they consider necessary. It may apply only to a part of a particular State or to the whole of a particular State, but to one State only, and, in. these circumstances, it is not a federal responsibility. Men are established on the land in certain areas of various States which are quite unsuitable for wheat-growing, and governments w hich encouraged them to go there should have to shoulder the burden of any assistance necessary to aid them to carry on. This point should be considered. The proposed home-consumption price scheme will assist the industry, but not discriminate in favour of any particular farmers in the industry. Those farmers in the industry whose successful operations have been prejudiced by drought conditions and other unfortunate circumstances should make an appeal to the State governments, but if the State governments cannot provide the necessary finance for relief, I would take no exception to the Federal Government providing money on. loan to the State governments, possibly free of interest, so that they could have no ground upon which they could refuse assistance where it was justified. The £12,000,000 being provided by the Commonwealth Government for rehabilitation is surely all for which it should be asked. It would be a great mistake to mix necessitous cases with the proposal for a home-consumption price, the principle of which has been agreed upon by six State governments and the Federal Government. It would be a catastrophe to break down that principle. I may add that I have received advice from the leading farmers’ organizations in Western Australia in support of this view.
Some incorrect statements have been made during the course of this, debate. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) referred to assistance provided by the New South Wales Labour Government in 1920 as being the greatest measure of assistance which the wheat industry has ever received from any government. The fact is that the New South “Wales growers received a. guaranteed price of 7s. 6d. a bushel, 5s. guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government a.nd 2s. fid. by the State
Government; but 1 would remind the honorable member that the world’s price for wheat at that time, and paid to growers in States where no guaranteed price applied, averaged 7s. 4½d. a bushel. The Victorian farmers received 7s. 4½d. a bushel. The extra advantage received by the New South Wales wheat-growers, as the result of the guarantee, was only 1½d. a bushel on a crop of 53,000,000 bushels, less seed. The burden imposed upon the taxpayer to provide the extra. l½d. a bushel was 3d. a bushel. Thus, the taxpayers had to find a -total of £600,000, of which the wheat-growers received only £300,000. The honorable member compares that advantage of £300,000 with the £14,000,000 which this Government has provided by way of assistance to wheat-growers, and then claims that the New South Wales Labour Government did more in 1920 to assist the wheat-growers than has ever been done by any other government in Australia. Surely the fallacy is obvious. The honorable member’s statements are not in accordance with facts nor are those of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) in regard to rural rehabilitation. They show that he has not a clear conception of the manner in which the Loan Council operates, because he contended that some of the money allocated for rural rehabilitation purposes has been used for public works. That is not so. The Loan Council has the power to allocate a certain proportion of the money raised by loan for specific purposes, and the State Ministers, having a majority on the Loan Council, have the power to determine the purposes for which such amounts are made available. The Commonwealth Government does not intend to default in its promise that £12,000,000 shall he made available.
– It was earmarked for that special purpose.
– The money was not in hand but was to be provided as required. The sum of £6,000,000 has already been paid and the remainder will be provided from time to time, as the States are able to use it satisfactorily in carrying out their schemes. The accusation that there has been delay in regard to rural rehabilitation cannot be sustained. No State government has complained that delay has been caused owing to finance. The arranging of compositions with the creditors has been found to be a most intricate problem.
– That is not the case in Victoria.
– The Victorian Government is getting the money. Any delay in the States is not because of the shortage of funds, and the Commonwealth Government is carrying out its obligation. Let the States do their part of the job.
Motion (by Mr. Clark) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) proposed -
That the intervening business be postponed until after Notice of Motion No. 2, General Business.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [5.6].- The Opposition intends to oppose the motion because it considers that the Government should have permitted the Apple and Pear Organization Bill to be disposed of before the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is allowed to move his motion. The discussion on that measure would occupy only an hour or two, and when it has been passed, the motion of the honorable member for Swan could be proceeded with.
– The Government would have proceeded with the Apple and Pear Organization Bill, but, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is aware, a motion for the disallowance of a Statutory Rule must be moved within fifteen sitting days of notice having been given, otherwise the regulations must lapse. As that period expires to-morrow, the Government wishes to provide sufficient time for the motion to be moved and debated. When it has been disposed of, the Apple and Pear Organization Bill will be proceeded with.
Question put. The House divided. (Ms. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That StatutoryRules Nos.65 and 80 of 1938, amending the Customs Regulations, be disallowed.
The purpose of my motion is to . upset the arbitrary action of the Government in making regulations under the Customs Act in order to prohibit the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound. I thank honorable members opposite for their vote against the motion of- the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) for the postponement of all intervening business on the notice-paper until after my motion had been disposed of, because it showed that they have sympathy with my motion. They know that, if my motion were not discussed and disposed of, either to-day or to-morrow, the regulations, for the disallowance of which I have moved, would become void. That would have achieved my objective. But it was because of that fact that the Minister for the Interior moved his motion. The attitude taken by honorable members opposite assures me that I shall have their support when a vote is taken. I ask honorable members to realize the significance and importance of the regulations which I seek to have disallowed. The Ministry, without consulting Parliament, and without endeavouring to bring down legislation to deal with the subject, gazetted customs regulations of vital concern to the policy of this country. Similar methods wore adopted with the trade diversion policy, which caused immense losses to graziers and wheat-growers, and honorable members should resent such important decisions being applied without the approval of Parliament. There is too much apathy among honorable members of Parliament towards Executive action without the authority of Parliament. A long period has elapsed since I placed my motion on the notice-paper, but, until to-day, when it was realized by the Government that it would have to be disposed of, I have not had the opportunity to move it. Members of this Parliament are losing that control of Parliament and of legislation which is essential to the best interests of parliamentary government, and it behoves them to enforce their rights.
It is worth while to recall the events which led up to the imposition of the embargo on the export of iron ore from this country. It was imposed simply as the result of the report of a departmental officer to the Ministry. It was the most drastic action that it was possible for the Government to take, and its results have been detrimental to the interests not only of the State of Western Australia, but also, I venture to suggest, of the Commonwealth as a whole. The embargo could quite possibly have become a major issue resulting in hostility to Australia on the part of other nations. When a government does something that is likely to cause serious trouble, it is the duty of this Parliament to decide immediately whether or not its action is justified. For a long time prior to the imposition of the embargo all of the actions of the Government in respect of the export of iron ore, showed that it had no objection to it; but there was a sudden change of policy, and an embargo was enforced. In substantiation of my claim that the Government made a volte face, I shall, at a later stage, quote from Hansard and various documents. There would have been extreme antagonism towards an embargo had it been imposed even early in the history of the development of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound, when comparatively little expenditure had been outlayed; that antagonism must be intensified now when tens of thousands of pounds of expenditure has gone for nothing, because of the Government’s change of policy. It is in the interests of Western Australia that I have moved this motion, because that State will undoubtedly suffer a great financial penalty as the result of the Government’s action. Another motive that actuates me is the fact that for more than 20 years I have advocated greater freedom of trade between nations of the world. That I am not alone in that attitude is amply shown in the annual report of the Department of External Affairs for the year ended, the 31st December. 1937, page 65 of which contains the following passage : -
The Economic Committee (of the League of Nations) has also formulated a number of principles which in its opinion governments should adopt, viz.: -
On the one hand, we have the Minister for External Affairs advising the people of Australia and members of this Parliament as to suggestions that have been made by the Economic Committee of the League of Nations on the need for breaking down international trade barriers, and on the other, the Commonwealth Ministry, including the Minister for External Affairs, agreeing to do the very thing which it was counselled not to do in these suggestions. It was as the result of a somewhat similar policy in Europe that this country, along with other countries of the world, a few weeks ago was confronted with the likelihood of a repetition of the horrors of 1914-18. The situation was engendered by Germany, like Italy, previously, and Japan, even now, demanding expansion. In Australia we have an area, almost the size of the United States of America, supporting a population of about 7,000,000 people, which, in itself, presents a grave menace to this country’s safety. Yet, when there is more than a possibility of the develop- ment of a sparsely-settled part of this. great nation by the development of the iron ore deposits on the north-west coast of Western Australia, the Government prevents that development by prohibiting the export of that ore.
Only a few weeks ago we were oppressed by the fear of war, with a renewal of all the horrors of 1914-18. The League of Nations has proved to be a complete failure in its efforts to preserve peace. Pacts of non-aggression and of mutual assistance have been found wanting. Not only have they not prevented war, but also they have not solved the primary essential of the cause, of war. We ought to do more than spend millions of pounds to protect ourselves; we must go to the people and tell them the fundamental causes of war. And restraint of trade, excessively high tariff restrictions, embargoes on imports and exports, are undoubtedly those fundamental causes. They breed discord, antipathy and a sense of injustice. When we extend the policy to the application of an embargo on raw materials in the manner that we have done, we flaunt a policy of “what we have we hold “, irrespective of the needs of the nations of the world.
The embargo applies only to iron ore, but honorable members know that for years past hundreds of thousands of tons of iron ore have been exported from Australia, by, not an outside organization, but the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the only great smelting company that we have in Australia. At the present moment, the Government, by licensing exports, is allowing that company to meet contracts which had been made for the delivery of iron ore overseas, up to the end of 1938. I cannot imagine that it was the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited that informed the Government there was likely to be a shortage of iron ore in Australia, because it would be a strange thing, if it had that information, for it to be exporting vast quantities of iron ore for many years to japan and the United States of America. It has been said in support of the embargo that iron ore is an essential to the manufacture of munitions for war purposes, but I remind the Government that there are other materials equally essential for that purpose, the export of which from Australia remains unchecked - pig iron, iron and steel, copper, spelter, wolfram, tantalite, and scrap iron.
At least three years ago the Government was aware of the development that was taking place at Yampi Sound, because certain questions about the project were asked and answered in this Parliament by the then Acting Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page). About a year later another question was asked as to whether certain Japanese assayers were to be allowed to enter the country in order to watch the operations of the company. I am constrained at this point to emphasize to honorable members that the laws of Western Australia do not permit Asiatics to work on mining projects in that State. I also emphasize that the company which was set up to exploit the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound was an English company which had financial assistance from Japan. Only people of our own nationality could be employed at Yampi Sound. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), three years ago, asked a number of questions relating to the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound and in doing so explained the position from his viewpoint. The right honorable member for Cowper, in his capacity as Acting Prime Minister, answered the questions thus : -
At the end of 1935. when this project first came under notice, the United Kingdom authorities were consulted through the High Commissioner in regard to the desirability of reserving these deposits for Empire purposes, and advice was furnished to the effect that -
I emphasize the paragraph -
Some months ago, I pointed out to the Government that the great deposits of iron ore at Yampi Sound would be useless unless some developmental work in connexion with them were undertaken. The original contract was for 25,000,000 tons, but, later, the quantity was reduced to 15,000,000 tons. If an emergency arose, how different the position would be if development had proceeded to that stage ! A syndicate in Western Australia expended over £8,000 in 1922 in an attempt to get British people interested in these deposits, but the people in England pointed out that the distance from that country was so great that they could not associate themselves with the enterprise. Yet there are people in Australia who tell us that the decision of the Commonwealth Government was made at the request of the British Government. There has been no request by the British Government for such action. The answer of the Minister continued -
That was the opinion of the Government at that time. On the 22nd May, 1937, Sir George Pearce, who was then Leader of the Government in the Senate, said-
The Commonwealth Government considers that any effort to restrict Japan’s access to the iron deposits at Yampi would be dangerous. It would strengthen Germany in her claim for the restoration of colonies by enabling her to demonstrate that the Empire was restricting access to the natural resources of the dominions.
The annual report of the Department of External Affairs pointed out the same thing. Sir George Pearce’s statement continued -
Moreover, since one of Japan’s chief sources of iron at present is British Malaya, and since the British Colonial Office has made no effort to restrict purchases for Japan in that colony, it is evident that the British Government is in agreement with the policy of the Commonwealth that restrictions should not be imposed on foreign customers.
On the 31st August, 1937, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -
I wish to dispel any misapprehension that may exist in regard to the attitude of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound. A preliminary survey of the potential supplies of iron ore has revealed the existence of very considerable deposits, sufficient for all our requirements for a great many years ahead.
The exports of iron ore from Malaya amount to about 1,000,000 tons a year. The deposits at Yampi Sound have remained untouched for thousands of years, and although efforts were made to obtain British capital to develop them, it was only when Japanese capital was made available that their exploitation was undertaken. I emphasize that, although Japanese capital would have been expended to develop the deposits, no Japanese labour could have been employed. The arrangement between H. A. Brassert and Company Limited and the Nippon Mining Company to provide £300,000 was somewhat similar to an agreement entered into for the development of some deposits of crystollite asbestos in Western Australia. This material, which is difficult to mine, is useful for making clothes for firemen, drop scenes for theatres, and other purposes where a fire-resisting material is required. Mr. Fenton, a manufacturer of asbestos clothing in England, visited Western Australia where he found a man trying to develop a small asbestos deposit. Mr. Fenton told him that without machinery success was impossible, and offered to supply a plant from England. An arrangement that half the value of the . product of the mine from time to time should be applied to meet the cost of the plant was entered into. The arrangement entered into for the development of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound was similar, although on a larger scale. I cannot understand the Government’s sudden change of attitude.
Its decision will seriously affect the development of the north-west portion -of the continent. All honorable members will agree that the peopling of that part of Australia is of vital importance. Here was an opportunity for the employment of 200 or 300 Australian workmen directly in the production of iron ore, but no one could say what other developments might have taken place had the work been proceeded with. I have been to Yampi Sound, and I realize something of its possibilities. In addition to great deposits of iron ore, there is a magnificent harbour. Moreover, it is claimed that in the vicinity there is not only copper, but also coal and gold. The Government’s decision was made despite the fact that it did not know of any other company willing to undertake the development of these deposits. It arbitrarily decided that the works should be closed down, regardless of the consequences to Western Australia. The Premier of Western* Australia, speaking in the State legislature, recently said -
The figures I shall quote are based on the export of only 1,000,000 tons of iron ore per annum for fifteen years, which was the latest proposition submitted by the company, supported by the State Government, but rejected by tho Commonwealth Government. The amount of royalty lost will be £250,000. Wages lost, which would .have been paid to Western Australian workers, reckoning 200 men at an average of £6 10s. a week, approximate £1.000,000.
The decision of the Commonwealth Government will result in heavy losses to Western Australia. I should like to know what induced the Government to take this action, and, particularly, the reason for keeping secret the reports of the Government Geologist. Why were not his reports tabled in Parliament, as I repeatedly requested? It is true that some short reports, dealing, for the most part, with generalities, have been made available, but no full report has been released. Dr. Woolnough may be a good lecturer on geology, but I do not regard him as an authority on mining engineering. His report contradicted a report by Mr. Montgomery, one of Australia’s most eminent rnining engineers.
– Dr. Woolnough has a wonderful reputation among geologists.
– Yes, as a geologist, but not as a mining engineer. Moreover,
Mr. Montgomery’s report on Yampi Sound was made only after a personal investigation on the site, whereas Dr. Woolnough’s report was made before he had visited the islands. In a full report Mr. Montgomery estimated the quantity of iron ore above high-water level in the two islands at 97-,300,000 tons, whereas Dr. Woolnough reported -
The Yampi Sound deposits have been variously estimated to contain from 63,000,000 to about 00,000,000 tons of ore. These estimates, however, assume a depth of profitable mining which is almost certainly excessive in existing economic conditions in Australia. 1 do not know whether Dr. Woolnough was responsible for the statement that the ore “below high-water level could not be economically worked. Whoever made it, the statement is preposterous. At Bell Island, in Newfoundland, mining operations are carried out below the sea for 2 miles. There has been no estimate of the quantity of iron ore below high-water level at Yampi Sound. In any case, Dr. Woolnough’* report is> vague. He stated -
In South Australia, the only major accessible deposits arc those of the Iron Knob group. Official estimates of tonnages available lie between 150,000,000 and 200,000,000 tons. These deposits do and must unquestionably constitute the backbone of the Australian iron industry for a long time to come. Unfortunately, the largest deposits of the group show an increasing percentage of manganese, to more than the admissible limit, with increasing depth of exploitation. This must be’ counteracted by dilution of the ore with other, iron ore low in manganese, since the manganese cannot effectively be removed in smelting.
I understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has exported iron ore of low manganese content to Japan, and iron ore of high manganese content to America.
My chief purpose at the moment is to ascertain, if possible, the reason for the sudden change of Government policy. Dr. Woolnough based his report on the reports of various State geologists, and he furnished it in very quick time, without having made any personal examination of the areas to which he referred.
– Perhaps Hitler had something to do with it!
– If we approve of regulations of this description, Hitler may later have a good deal more to do with such things. A report from the
League of Nations, which Sir George Pearce referred to in the Senate some time ago, mentioned the extreme danger of action such as the Government took on this occasion. At present these islands are useless to Australia. Had they been developed they might, in certain circumstances, have become a very valuable asset. It was proposed that 15,000,000 tons of ore should be taken from the islands. The first suggestion was that 25,000,000 tons should be mined. But I remind the House that an arrangement had been made that if Australia desired to smelt any of the ore it could be supplied with such quantities as it requested. It has been said that the ore cannot be mined below high water level. I entirely disagree with that view. Mr. Montgomery has declared that iron ore exists at Yampi for a great depth below high water level and that it could be mined.
I now direct the attention of honorable members to an article which appears in the Chemical Engineering and Mining Review of the 14th April, 1938, under the heading “ Australia’s Iron Ore Deposits”. The whole article is interesting, but I ask honorable members to give special consideration to the following summary which it gives of the iron ore reserves of the various States: -
– On what information was that report based?
– The article contains the following paragraph: -
The most recent comprehensive statement of the iron ore supplies in the Commonwealth appears in the bulletin “Iron Ore”, published in 1022 by the Imperial Mineral Resources Bureau. This statement, which appears below, is based on information obtained from geological reports and from other official sources. In some cases it will he noticed that deposits of uneconomic size have been ineluded in the estimates.
– It appears that the estimate is sixteen years old.
– That may be so, but as against that I ask honorable members to consider the following statement which is also contained in the article: -
Since the estimate for South Australia was prepared boring and exploration have shown the existence of very much larger tonnages : just recently Dr. L. Keith Ward, government geologist, stated that the supplies of iron ore at Iron Knob were estimated at 200,000,000 tons.
I admit that some of the deposits to which reference is made in the article are not accessible and might be very costly to develop; but some of them are quite accessible. As to the economic handling of the ore, I do not know whether the Government has given any consideration to the probable cost of shipping ore from Yampi Sound to Newcastle under Australian conditions. That would be a costly operation. At present, the freight charge between Sydney and Darwin is £3 a ton, though no doubt if large parcels of iron ore were shipped that rate would be reduced, but freight costs around the tropical north of “Western Australia would be very high. There were good, economic reasons for continuing to develop the deposit at Yampi. I am not very greatly impressed by the statement that Australia could not afford to allow additional quantities of ore to be exported. Statements of that kind are frequently made in respect of various commodities obtainable in different countries. Not so long ago a report was issued to the effect that the export of petrol and crude oils from the United States of America would be prohibited; that was due to the fear that the oil wells would, become exhausted. But nothing has been done in that regard. The limitation of our iron ore deposits is not nearly so serious as some honorable gentlemen have stated.
– ‘What is the quality of the iron ore deposits of Tasmania?
– I do not know. I know the deposits at Yampi Sound and also those at Iron Knob. I know, also, that an iron ore deposit at Wilga, in Western Australia, is so rich that the blacks used to trade the ore for red ochre.
– But that deposit is in- accessible
– I daresay it is at present. It is some distance north-west of Meekatharra.
If the Government wished to obtain authentic information concerning the value and extent of our deposits, why did it not agree to my suggestion that -a geophysical survey should he made of them? It should also have obtained expert opinion as to the probability of working the ore at Yampi Sound below high-water level. 1 do not know whether Dr. Woolnough was responsible for the statement that the ore could not be mined under high-water level, but it was an absurd and monstrous statement foi any one to make.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Dr. Woolnough is not a capable officer?
– In certain respects he is a very capable officer; but I do not think highly of his capacity as a mining engineer, and I do not speak without knowledge, for I had a great deal to do with mining engineers in years gone by, having been for over nine years Minister for Mines in Western Australia. I have already reminded honorable members that, at Bell Island, Newfoundland, iron ore is mined for 2 miles under the sea. The iron made from it is sold for a. much lower price than iron is sold for in Australia, to-day.
– It might be possible to tunnel the ore as coal is tunnelled.
– I am afraid I cannot deal with that intricate subject in reply to questions. As far back as 1926-27, the Bruce-Page Government brought British specialists to Australia to make geophysical surveys in various parts of the country. At that time, an amount of £32,000 was expended in such work. One result of it is the development of the Captain’s Flat mine, not far from Canberra. The present Treasurer (Mr. Casey) introduced a bill into this Parliament not very long ago which provided for the making of geological and geophysical surveys of certain parts of North Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Parliament passed the bill, and an amount of £180,000 was expended under its pro visions, but, so far as I know, there is very little to show for it. [Quorum formed.] The introduction and passing of that bill showed that the Government and the Parliament had considerable confidence in geophysical survey work.
I ask now that arrangements be made for a thorough geophysical examination of the iron ore deposits of Australia to ascertain their probable extent and quality, so that 1,Ve may have reliable and up-to-date information on the real position of Australia in respect of iron ore reserves. If a geophysical survey had been made we should have been enabled, within a couple of months, to ascertain the extent and tonnage of these deposits. Some honorable members seem to be inclined to treat this matter lightly, but developments in geophysics during the last century in Sweden, and Germany,’ and more recently in Russia and the United States of America, prove that geophysical surveys offer a means of estimating fairly accurately the tonnage of dense bodies of ore. When I advocated the adoption of this method the Treasurer replied to me by letter stating that geophysical methods would not enable us to arrive at the value of the ore. The value of the ore was beside the point. The Government’s advisers estimate the quantity of ore available at Koolan Island and Cockatoo Island at from 60,000,000 to 90,000,000 tons. That is the available ore above high water level, but it is quite possible that treble that tonnage could be profitably won below high water level.
– How much ore is there is what we want to know.
– I submit that we could have got that information fairly accurately through geophysical survey. However, the Government intends to survey the deposits at Yampi Sound by tunnelling, and it will bear the whole of that expenditure, which, it is estimated, will be between £30,000 and E40,000. That estimate was supplied to me by Major Vail when I was last in Western Australia. [Leave to continue given.”] I repeat that if the results obtained from the geophysical method in other countries are of- any value at all, we could get a fairly accurate idea of the tonnage of these deposits. It is ridiculous to accept the report that ore below the high-water level at Yampi Sound cannot be mined. We shall not get anywhere if we accept advice of that kind.
.- I second the motion. In view of the excellent case made out by the honorable mem ber for Swan (Mr. Gregory) for the lifting of this embargo I do not find it necessary to address myself to the subject.
– I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words “the ban on the export of iron ore from Australia imposes on the Commonwealth Government the obligation to ascertain definitely the amount of iron ore resources available within the Commonwealth with a view to their early development in the interests of Australia “.
I listened very carefully to the speech of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). In moving my amendment, I do not want honorable members to assume that I am in favour of allowing the export of iron ore from Australia if it can be shown that we have not more than sufficient reserves to meet the requirements of our great key industries. Our first duty should be to Australia, and we should not approach this subject from a purely State viewpoint but from the viewpoint of the interests of Australia as a whole. As a protectionist and a strong advocate for the development of Australia’s primary and secondary industries, I emphasize that we must give first consideration to our own requirements. I have a right to ask, however, what are our resources of iron ore ? Is the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) yet iu a. position to make any definite statement in that respect in addition to that made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) when he announced the imposition of this embargo? Parliament has a right to the very latest information from the Government on this point. “We also have a right to call upon the Government to do something towards developing these valuable iron ore resources at Yampi Sound.
– And other places.
– Whilst this prohibition, of course, affects the development of other deposits, it more directly concerns those at Yampi Sound. It is not just for the Commonwealth Government merely to impose this embargo and then do nothing about the development of these resources. We must bear in mind the disabilities of Western Australia, which is one of the smaller States. I understand that from 80 to 100 men were already employed at
Yampi Sound when the Government imposed this embargo.
– And probably from 200 to 250 would have been employed there in the future.
– Yes, but as the result of the imposition of this embargo, the men already employed there will lose .their jobs. Consequently the concern exhibited by the Western Australian Government is more than justified. This Government cannot allow the matter merely to rest where it is. Searching investigations should be made to ascertain just what are the iron, ore resources of Australia. We should be told what steps are proposed by the Government to have those resources developed, in co-operation with the State governments of Australia. Has it any scheme for the exploitation of those resources? Has it approached the Government of Western Australia, or of any other State in which there are rich deposits? It is not justified in adopting a “ dog-in-the-manger “ attitude, or the policy of vacillation which has characterized its administration during the last three or four years. The statement by the honorable member for Swan, that in the opinion of the British Government, to be of use in an emergency any iron ore deposits must first be developed, is worthy of attention. In time of emergency, it would be of no use merely to point to iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound or other remote parts of Australia, and say, “ Look at the raw material we have for our iron and steel works “ ; they must be developed.
– It would take a year or a year and a half to get Yampi Sound ready.
-/That statement furnishes ample justification for the amendment I have moved. The obligation is on the Commonwealth to ascertain definitely the resources available in Australia, with a view to their early development and exploitation in co-operation with the States, so that they may not remain in their present undeveloped condition. The honorable member for Swan is reasonable when he says he is much concerned about the future development of the north-west of Australia. He knows the north-west of Australia very well. My only regret is that he does not always take a deep interest in industries which affect the north-eastern portion of the continent. He is very sound on the development of the iron ore deposits of the north-west, but evinces little interest in the fostering of the great sugar-growing industry in the vulnerable north-east, preferring the importation of sugar from Java or other coloured-labour countries. On that matter, he and I do not see eye to eye. If he were as sound in regard to the north-east as he is in regard to the north-west he would be a thoroughly good Australian.
The iron ore deposits of Australia have been the subject of a great deal of controversy for some considerable time, but it was not until May of this year that the Commonwealth Government decided to impose an embargo on export. We were then informed that it intended to make a comprehensive survey. I want to know just what has been done. The Government’s attitude has been characterized by hesitancy, uncertainty, and contradictory statements. I was amazed at some of the statements quoted by the honorable member for Swan, particularly the statement of Sir George Pearce, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, that to take steps to prevent the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound would be playing into the hands of Germany, and that the Commonwealth Government had no intention of prohibiting such exports.
– He said that it would be dangerous.
– I can quite understand the annoyance and keen disappointment of the Government of Western Australia, and of those interests who were allowed to proceed with developmental operations with the knowledge and, indeed, the tacit support for a couple of years of the present Federal Government. When the stage was reached at which something might be done in a big way, the prohibition of exports was like “ a bolt from the blue “. It would seem that the Government more or less went to sleep, as the honorable member for Wimmera (“Mr. Wilson) this afternoon accused it of having done in regard to affording relief to wheat-growers. It has been repeatedly accused of being lethargic, and extremely difficult to move, in regard to a number of other big matters. Indeed, but for the pertinacity of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), in raising this subject on numerous occasions by means of questions, the position in regard to the export of iron ore “would have been completely overlooked.
I find that the Government earlier opposed the placing of a ban on the export of iron ore. In the beginning of last year the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) said that the Federal Government had no intention whatever to prohibit the export of scrap iron or other metals, even if they were to be used for war purposes by a foreign country. That bore out what had been said by Sir George Pearce, who for several years had been Minister for Defence. Yet twelve months later the Government decided to impose a ban on exports ! In my opinion, it is largely to blame for the position that has arisen, and from which it is to-day endeavouring to extricate itself.
There is no doubt that Yampi Sound has very valuable iron ore deposits, which are a great asset to Australia and should not be sacrificed if they are likely to be required by our secondary industries. Various estimates have been made of their extent. We have been told by one geologist and engineer that there is 63,000,000 tons at Koolan Island and 90,000,000 tons at Cockatoo Island - the two islands in Yampi Sound where these great deposits lie. We must not forget, however, that at the present time Australia uses 2,000,000 tons of iron ore per annum.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the estimate of the deposits at Cockatoo Island is 90,000,000 tons?
– That is what I have read in one of the reports. If it is not right, the Minister may be able to correct me.
– Above high water level.
– I point out to the honorable member for Swan that iron ore can be mined above high water level for about 2s. 6d. a ton, under the open cut system, whereas mining underground costs about 15s. a ton, which is an uneconomic proposition.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong in the second figure he has given.
– In regard to that, I do not wish to appear dogmatic. But the most valuable deposits are above high water level, and we should not lightly sacrifice them by allowing them to be exported if in a couple of decades there is likely to be an acute shortage of iron ore to supply the requirements of our great key industries.
– Our demands will become greater.
– The demand to-day is 2,000,000 tons per annum for the Australian iron and steel works. Quite possibly it may be 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 tons per annum ten or fifteen years hence. I should like Australia to be able to export some of the finished products.
– We are doing so to-day.
– We should not be content with exporting only the raw material, but should try to develop those secondary industries which utilize it so that iron and steel products may be exported. That “is done to-day to a limited degree, and there is no reason why it should not be done on a much larger scale.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– This is a difficult and delicate problem for any government to deal with. Whilst I stand for the placing of Australia’s requirements first, I appreciate the difficulties confronting the State of Western Australia, which contemplated the development of the rich resources at Yampi Sound with imported capital, and consequent increase of employment in the north-west provinces. However, the interests of the whole of Australia must be paramount. That is why I approve of the imposition of an embargo on’ the export of iron ore. It is, however, the duty of the Commonwealth to ascertain, at the earliest possible moment, the true iron ore resources of Australia, and, in cooperation with the State governments concerned, take whatever steps may be necessary to develop them. The Commonwealth should not wait until a state of emer- gency has arisen, because it would take probably twelve or eighteen months to install the machinery necessary to bring the deposits to the point of production.
Prior to the dinner suspension, I mentioned Koolan Island and Cockatoo Island, and apparently gave the impression that they contain 63,000,000 and 90,000,000 tons of iron ore respectively. That, of course, is wrong. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) asked me where I obtained my information. My answer is that Dr. Woolnough, the Commonwealth Geological Adviser, stated in one of his reports that the Yampi Sound deposits had been variously estimated to contain from 63,000,000 tons to about 90,000,000 tons of iron ore. Dr. Woolnough also said -
At present we are using over 2.000,000 tons of ore a year. In view of the expansion of the iron and steel industries of Australia which has taken place during the last few years and the practical certainty of further large expansions within the next few years, it is certain that if the known supplies of high grade ore are not conserved, Australia will, in a little more than a generation, become an importer rather than a producer of iron ore.
We may take it that Dr. Woolnough had no axe to grind, and that his sole purpose was to safeguard the interests of Australia. Therefore, we cannot lightly brush aside his opinion in the absence of more authentic advice as to our resources of iron ore. Indeed we have reason to complain that the Government allowed the negotiations for the development of Yampi Sound to proceed for a lengthy period and actually encouraged certain companies to invest a considerable amount of money in the enterprise before it suddenly imposed the embargo. That action was characteristic of the Government. It never knows where it is going. I read recently, in Current Notes on International Affairs, published on the 1st March, 1937, that in October, 1934, permission was given to a group of five Japanese experts to inspect the Yampi Sound deposits. It was known to the Government then, and has been known ever since, that the development of the Koolan Island deposit was under consideration by Brasserts Limited, an English company, with, I understand, Japanese financial backing.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and other representatives in this Parliament from Western Australia, have good reason to complain about the manner in which the Government misled that company. It even went to the extent of announcing, through the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Sir George Pearce, that it would be most unwise to prohibit the export of iron ore from Australia. I think Sir George Pearce added that to prohibit the export of iron ore would be to play into the hands of Germany.
In view of the definite statement by Dr. Woolnough it would be foolish foi us as a nation, in the process of development, having great secondary industries, which in the future will require much more than 2,000,000 tons a year - in the next ten or twelve years the demand will probably be trebled if not quadrupled - to deplete our iron ore resources by allowing unrestricted export. I have in mind the experience of the United States of America. At one time it was thought that that country had an unlimited suPply of iron’ ore, but the demand is now so great that importation is necessary. A similar situation may arise in Australia unless adequate precautions be taken to husband our resources in the interests of Australia’s industries. Realizing that the Government had not done the right thing, the Prime Minister in an announcement on the 19th May, 1938, said, probably as a sop to the companies affected and to the States involved -
The Government will be prepared to examine and consider equitable claims for the reimbursement of expenditure which, up to this date, has actually taken place in connexion with developmental operations directed toward the exploitation of our iron ore resources for export.
I should like to know whether any claims for compensation have been received from the companies concerned, and if so, how they have been dealt with. I should also like to know whether the Prime Minister has received claims from the governments of Western Australia and South Australia, because there is no doubt that, as a result of Commonwealth action in imposing the embargo, unemployment difficulties in those States will be increased. In the circumstances I can quite understand the Leader of the Opposition making the following comment -
As the result of the withdrawal of labour from this industry, the States of South Australia and Western Australia will, I think, be faced with a certain degree of difficulty which otherwise they would not experience, lt is not sufficient to say that the Commonwealth Government will be able to ensure that the iron ore which is not exported will ultimately be usable in Australia itself- The present economic position of South Australia and Western Australia is such that those States are without that great variety of industries which it would be to their advantage to possess. Consequently the Government of Western Australia was quite justified in looking forward hopefully to the development of, for example, Yampi Sound.
My point is that since the Government has received authentic and up-to-date information regarding Australia’s iron ore resources, and is convinced that it would be .against the best interests of Australia to export iron ore, it should immediately take steps in co-operation with the governments of the States concerned, to develop those resources. It has been said that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is largely interested in this matter. Indeed, the honorable member for Swan insinuated, although he did not say so in so many words, that that company largely influenced the Government in imposing the embargo. I should like to know whether the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has given an undertaking that it will work its lease at Yampi Sound. Has the Government discussed this matter with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which, we are told, has been exporting iron ore from Australia for some time in small quantities? It exported 437,000 tons in 1935-36, and 267,000 tons in 1936-37. No doubt this export trade is still being carried on. The Minister for the Interior has said that exports would cease in December next. Practically every country in the world is demanding increased supplies of iron ore. That is not due solely to re-armament programmes ; it is due in some measure to the fact that nations are becoming increasingly industrialized and therefore require greater supplies of this commodity. Large quantities will bc required for Australia in the near future - very much larger quantities will be needed ten or fifteen years hence than are required to-day. We do not want to find ourselves short of this essential raw material. In the United States of America the shortage is so acute that the construction of six warships has been delayed. Reserve stocks in France have been exhausted, and the Government of that country has proposed a prohibitive export tax on iron ore. In Italy steel has been rationed, and in Germany military demands have monopolized practically all available supplies. The position is so acute in Italy that limitations have been placed on the use of metal in buildings. It is strictly forbidden to use iron bars on railings, gateways, parapets, balconies, floors, &c. The Japanese government has suspended the import duty on pig iron and steel. Several reports have been issued in connexion with Australia’s iron ore resources, and, as Dr. Woolnough has said, only two ore bodies of large extent, high grade, and easy access, are known iu Australia, namely, Yampi Sound in Western Australia and Iron Knob in South Australia. No one will deny that the conservation of our iron ore resources is a national necessity. Australia must look to its own supplies for its future requirements, and not to overseas countries.
Iron ore is an irreplaceable asset, and a great obligation is placed upon the Commonwealth Government to look, not to the immediate future, but to the far distant future. An adequate supply of iron ore is of paramount importance to Australia. There is an obligation upon this Government to ascertain definitely and without delay the extent of these resources. The Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr. Foley, last year stated that Queensland was complying with the Commonwealth Government’s request to defer the granting of mining leases or rights for the working and export of iron ore.
– For what interests is the Acting Leader of the Opposition holding a brief?
– I arn not here representing any overseas company with Japanese capital such as the honorable member for Perth might represent as a lawyer. I am speaking as an Australian. I have gone to the trouble of looking up the information. I have spoken, not as one holding a brief for overseas companies with foreign capital, as is the honorable member, but as one desirous of conserving the interests of Australia generally.
The Queensland Cabinet realizes that the mineral deposits of the State cannot be replaced. It was thought advisable to refrain from granting any iron ore leases in Queensland until there was definite information regarding the accessibility of supplies. Recently, I read a report by Sir Herbert Gepp on this subject. Honorable members opposite will not quibble at anything which Sir Herbert Gepp may have to say, because he has been the spoiled darling of the present Commonwealth Government for some years. It utilizes him on nil kinds of jobs. Sir Herbert Gepp, who had been visiting the gold-fields at Claudia River, in northern Queensland, said that there was considerable evidence of the presence of millions of tons of commercially valuable iron ore which could be easily won. He said -
This deposit requires careful, detailed examination .and estimation, as it is possible that it will add materially to Australia’s reserves of iron ore.
There are also known iron ore deposits in Tasmania and New South Wales, but the exact extent of them we do not know. This Government has been shilly-shallying regarding this matter for three years, and it cannot give us any authentic information even to-day. We have been told that at Blythe River, Tasmania, 30,000,000 tons of ore is in sight, whilst in New South Wales 65,000,000 tons is in sight. Those, however, are merely guesses. What i3 being done by the Government to ascertain beyond doubt the extent of the iron ore resources of the country? The Government is blameworthy for having fooled the company in Western Australia by tacitly agreeing to the investment of a large sum of money. It allowed the company to develop the enterprise to the point of production. It has fooled 250 men who were offered employment, and has done serious injury to 80 men who are actually employed at the workings, and who are now to be put off.
– Only 50 men.
– I was told 80 men, but L shall accept the Minister’s correction. Those engaged in the cattle-raising industry in the north-west of Western Australia, were led to believe that a settlement of 1,000 persons was to be established on the island, or in its vicinity, and they proceeded on the assumption that this settlement would constitute a market for beef. Various commercial enterprises have been committed to the expenditure of substantial sums of money because the Government was not able to make up its mind; because, in fact, it went to sleep on the job, and was as apathetic in dealing with this matter as it has been in its approach to other important national issues. Its failure in this regard was very similar to its failure to formulate a truly national policy to be considered by the Premiers Conference held recently at Canberra. The Premiers came to the conference with all kinds of schemes for the development of Australia. The Government of Western Australia had in mind the development of the iron ore resources in that State. The visiting Premiers received an unsympathetic reception because the Com. monwealth Government was too busy trying to patch up its internal quarrels, and in trying to establish an inner Cabinet group to determine national policy. It is no wonder that there - was keen disappointment among the representatives of the States, which have the responsibility of caring for upwards of 150,000 unemployed persons throughout Australia, in regard to whom the Commonwealth Government has disclaimed all responsibility.
– G. J. Bell).-
The honorable member’ is not now discussing either the motion or the proposed amendment.
– I sincerely hope that the House will carry the amendment which I have moved. If it does, it will indicate to the Government that, in the opinion of this House, an obligation rests upon it to take steps definitely to ascertain the extent of the iron ore deposits in Australia, and to co-operate with the State governments in their development. A plan could be formulated at a Premiers Conference, or at a special conference representing the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania, to decide on methods for the development of deposits at Yampi Sound and other places in order to create the maximum amount of employment. This is especially necessary, in view of the fact that there are 150,000 persons unemployed in Australia at the present time. It cannot be said that they are unemployable. In fact, the vast majority of them could be employed on developmental works of this kind. The difficulties of the Government of Western Australia have been greatly accentuated by the backing and filling and general indifference of the Commonwealth Government. Ministers of the Government gave misleading answers to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) and other honorable members who made inquiries on this subject. Then, like a bolt from the blue, came the action of the Government in imposing a total prohibition upon the export of iron ore at a time when the Government of Western Australia, and the. company concerned, had every reason to believe that nothing would bc done to prevent the development of the industry.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– The arguments used by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in support of his motion show that he is not fully acquainted with all the circumstances of the case. As for the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), it is only necessary to point out that what he proposes has, in fact, already been done by the Government. His amendment is to the effect that the Government should undertake a comprehensive survey of Australia’s iron ore resources. It is within the knowledge of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as of other honorable members, that many months ago the Government arrived at that conclusion and acted upon it. It initiated a survey of the iron ore resources of Australia, and I shall give details of that survey a little later.
I should like to set out clearly the history of events which led up to the imposition of the export embargo by the Government, and to the decision to embark upon a survey of the iron ore resources of the country. It was stated by the honorable member for Swan, and reiterated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and the Leader of the Government in the Senate at that time, had stated that there existed no reasons for preventing the export of iron ore from Australia. That is true: those statements were made, but, unfortunately, it transpired that the statements had been made without such knowledge as later came into the possession of the Government. Very briefly, the history of that phase of the matter is as follows : On the 16th November, 1935, the Premier of Western Australia advised the Prime Minister of a proposal to develop the iron ore leases at Yampi Sound, and to export the ore to Japan. At that stage, the Commonwealth Government and its officers believed - and their belief was in accord with the general impression of most Australians - that the iron ore resources of this country were very substantial ; in fact, so substantial ns to be practically unlimited. Acting on that belief, the Prime Minister advised the Premier of Western Australia that he saw no reason why the leases should not be developed for export purposes. It is the attitude of the Government to-day, as it was then, that if there is more than sufficient iron ore in Australia to provide for our requirements now ami in the future, there exists no reason why the surplus should not be exported to foreign countries. Shortly after rJ-nt expression of opinion by the Prime Minister, doubts were raised regarding the extent of our iron ore resources. On the 9th March, 1937, Cabinet decided that an investigation should bc made, and all the States were approached in an effort to obtain information on the subject. It may be noted here that the Constitution leaves all matters pertaining to raining within the control of the State parliaments. It is another unfortunate aspect of Australia’s federal system of government that the governments which were constitutionally hi control of mining had not, in the exercise of their powers, conducted a survey of the iron ore resources of tho various States. No doubt they desired to make the survey, but the fact remains that they did not do so, probably because of shortage of funds. In reply to the inquiries addressed by the Commonwealth Government to the State governments, information was furnished on the 18th June, 1937, and was submitted to Mr. Nye, the chief executive officer of the North Australian survey, for comment. On the 22nd June, J 937, Mr. Nye furnished a report in which he said, among other things, that there was. evidence in the information supplied by the States that iron ore deposits were adequate for the immediate heeds of Australian industry.’ but that there was considerable reason to doubt the adequacy of those resources to meet the needs of the more distant future. Acting on that report, Cabinet decided, on the 5 th August, 1937, that Dr.’ Woolnough, the Commonwealth Geological Adviser, should make an investigation. On the 11th August, 1937, the States were asked to grant no further leases where there was any prospect of the Ore obtained- on those leases being exported. They were told that the preliminary investigation had raised a doubt fis to the adequacy of Australia’s total resources. On the 31st August, 1937, the Prime Minister announced that, in view of the definite information then in his possession, he saw no justifiable reason immediately to interfere with the development of the Yampi Sound leases. Further inquiries proceeded, and, on the 14th April last, Dr. Woolnough submitted a report in which he stated that, unless our known resources of accessible iron nr« were conserved, Australia, in a little more than a generation, would become an importer rather than an exporter of iron ore. On the 19th May, 193S, the Prime Minister announced that the exportation of iron ore would he prohibited as from the 1st July last. That action was not claimed to have been taken by reason of final and sufficient information as to the total resources in Australia. The prohibition was imposed rather because serious doubt had been thrown upon the previous estimates, and consequently most serious apprehension had arisen as to the adequacy of the resources for the future development of Australia’s iron and steel industry.
– What were the previous estimates?
– I shall say something on that point later. Throughout the history of the investigation of these resources, we have experienced, without a single exception, successive and serious diminutions of the estimates, not only of the total resources of Australia, but also of each individual group.
– The officials Atop pen counting the offal, and only took into consideration the rich ore.
– There is much to bo taid in support of the honorable member’s statement.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr, Gregory) based his case on a series of contentions from separate aspects of this matter. He introduced, with very great force, the international implications of the embargo. We must all agree that it is undesirable to deny to any foreign country access to raw materials; but I am sure that the honorable member recognizes that this objection to the prohibition could be upheld only if conclusive evidence were available that the supply of raw material was adequate for the nation’s own use. He also referred, as did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition CMv. Forde), to the economic aspects of the embargo. He told us, with considerable force, of its economic effect upon Western Australia, and also upon individual miners and mining interests. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’ dealt more particularly with, the economic effect of the embargo on the national development of Australia’s steel industry. The honorable member for Swan further mentioned that the projected development at Yampi Sound has been prevented.
– He was quite right in that regard.
– It would be futile to deny that the imposition of the embargo has had an immediate effect upon development at Yampi Sound; but I hope to satisfy honorable members that, although Western Australia has suffered temporary loss, inevitably the resources at Yampi Sound will be fully exploited later.
The general right of every nation to make a preferential reservation of its raw materials and natural resources for its own use will not be disputed by any honorable member. The honorable member for Swan quoted a statement by Sir George Pearce during the time when he was Leader of the Government in the Senate, that to deny access to these resources by, for instance, Germany, would be to strengthen the claims of that country for colonies. It has been pointed out, and none of us wish to dispute the fact, that to deny to any foreign country access to raw materials is to engender at least an unfriendly attitude to the country imposing the embargo; but it is conceded by every civilized nation that any country has a right to reserve for its own people first use of its natural resources. Not only has this principle been generally conceded, but the Raw Materials Committee of the League of Nations, during the time when Japan was a member of the League, declared, on behalf of all the member nations, that, whilst it was desirable that access to raw materials should not be denied to foreign countries, it was the belief of all members of the League that each country should have the first right to its own raw materials, and that only when there was a reasonable surplus of those materials should there be an expectation that they would be made available to other countries. Only because serious doubt has arisen in the mind of the Government as to the adequacy of Australia’s resources of iron ore has it imposed the present prohibition.
Every one of us hopes that it will not be necessary to maintain the embargo permanently. The Government has made it clear that if the investigations demonstrate that sufficient reserves of iron ore are available in Australia for our own immediate and future requirements, it will lift the embargo, and make available to foreign countries any surplus which Australia can afford to export. The embargo has not been aimed at any particular country. The Government’s action has been taken for one reason only, namely, the need for conserving for our own people the resources which we are fortunate enough to find in Australia, and which are certainly necessary for the development of our industries.
– Without any suggestion from anywhere else?
– I am happy to bo able to reply that this action has most definitely been taken without any outside suggestion.
The point on which the honorable member for Swanhas dwelt most fully is his doubt that there is a fear in the mind of the Government regarding the adequacy of Australia’s resources of iron ore. He has referred to the opinions of various authorities, and has quoted some who have said that the resources are adequate. He remarked that one authority estimated sixteen years ago that’ Australia had’ visible and potential resources of iron ore totalling800,000,000 tons. I believe that that estimate was made by a committee from Great Britain, which visited this country for only a few weeks. It made no personal investigation, but, collating the estimates in certain old reports, merely ventured that opinion. It certainly had no information available to it which is not equally available to the present Government.
– The Government imposed the embargo after a very short examination.
– But after an examination sufficient, to leave grave doubt as to the adequacy of the supply. The Government does not claim to have acted on definite and conclusive information. It took what it believed to be the proper course, when a sufficient degree of doubt was raised regarding the adequacy of our resources.
– Would it be a difficult or long task to ascertain how many tons of iron ore we have in Australia?
– I believe that the investigation will not be unduly long. It is not sufficient to know the dimensions of the beds of iron ore; it is also necessary to find out their assay value and their mineralogical characteristics. It is important to know whether the ore is suitable for smelting, or whether it is of a refractory kind. It is certainly necessary to consider the resources from economic aspects. It is of not the slightest use to say that there is 5,000,000 or 7,000,000 tons of iron ore at Tennant Creek, and to include that in the iron ore resources of Australia. Such resources have been taken into account in the total figures which the honorable member for Swan has mentioned, but they are of value only if they are economically available, and it is possible to exploit them profitably in the interests of Australian industry. Therefore, the Government proposes to conduct an exhaustive and detailed examination of all the iron ore resources of this country. In this regard, the Commonwealth Government has called to its assistance the Mines Departments of the various States and their respective experts, and has asked every State government whether it would choose with its own Mines Department and its own officers to conduct a survey of its own ore, or whether it would prefer that the Commonwealth Government should do so. With this inquiry has gone the offer of the Commonwealth to bear the cost of the survey, irrespective of whether a State elects to conduct the survey itself or asks that the Commonwealth should do so. The States have elected in different ways.
I propose briefly to refer to a few of the known deposits in Australia, and to give a short history of them, so far as the claimed knowledge of their magnitude is concerned. We have heard much, for instance, of the Portland Roads deposit in Queensland. An investigation has lately been made of that deposit by Dr. Woolnough in company with the Queensland State Geologist, and the conclusion which they arrived at- and in this they are in agreement - is that this deposit is much too highly contaminated with silica and rock material, and is too scattered for economic working. The ore is too friable to stand transport without high loss, and therefore the deposit must be regarded as of no value when assessing the iron ore resources of the Commonwealth. The deposits at Mount Lucy, in Queensland, aro regarded - and in each instance I am stating the joint opinion of Dr. Woolnough and the ‘State “Geologist - as too small and too impure in the bulk. Then there is the deposit at Iron Island, off the Queensland coast. A preliminary reconnaissance indicated that that deposit rep- resented a bulk of iron ore of some 2,500,000 tons. A more close examination has disclosed that it is merely a sheeting of iron ore over a core of diorite, and it has been necessary to reduce the initial estimate from 2,500,000 tons to 500,000 tons. The ore has also been disclosed to be of the magnetite variety which is refractory and not amenable to smelting. At Biggenden, Queensland, there is a deposit which was estimated at 600,000 tons, a very small quantity in considering the iron ore resources of the Commonwealth. This earlier estimate still stands, but considerations of quality eliminate the deposit from consideration. It contains impurities of various kinds, including bismuth, and the ore itself is of the magnetite variety. At Mount Philp and Mount Leviathan, in the Cloncurry district, there are undoubtedly large deposits but these are 400 miles from the coast and very much further from airy potential smelting centre. The cost of transport would put these deposits quite outside the range of economic consideration.
– For the present.
– For so far into the future as it is possible for us to look. At Cadia and Carcoar, in New South Wales, there are deposits originally estimated by the State Geologist at 39,000,000 tons. They would be included at that figure in the total cited by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). This is one deposit which has been actually worked. Exploitation has proved that there are very substantial quantities of enclosed rock, and very great impurities in the ore. There is conclusive evidence that the total volume of usable ore in those deposits is 2,000,000 tons as against an original estimate of 39,000,000 tons. Certain other deposits in New South Wales disclose similar features.
In the opinion of the State Geologist in Victoria, there are no deposits in that State of any consequence which could possibly be taken into consideration.
Turning to Tasmania, there is a deposit at Beaconsfield which was originally estimated by people who were regarded as competent investigators at 35,000,000 tons. It is obvious that they did not make a very comprehensive investigation because drillinghas proved that the deposit is entirely superficial where it was first regarded as being deep-seated, with the result that the original estimate has to be entirely eliminated. In respect of Blythe River, Tasmania, the original estimate was 24,000,000 tons; but there have been progressive investigations and diminutions of the estimate until to-day the most comprehensive and the most authoritative survey may reduce the original estimate of 24,000,000 tons to 12,000 tons - not one shipload !
– Who made the estimate?
– Certain geological experts whose names I cannot furnish offhand. There are certain other possible deposits -in Tasmania, but preliminary investigations fail to disclose them as being of any consequence. In the west coast area of Tasmania, where the greatest hope was held out, there is evidence that any iron ore that exists is of a refractory nature, that is, of the magnetite variety.
– That is only guess work.
– That is the pronouncement of competent investigators. What I have said goes to show that in the eastern States of Australia, with the exception of the Cloncurry district, there is not one iron ore deposit of any consequence. I invite any honorable member of this House who doubts that statement to mention the name of any one deposit in the eastern portion of Australia which is of economic consequence. The deposit in the Cloncurry district is more than 400 miles from the seaboard and the cost of transport eliminates it from economic consideration.
Two States only. South Australia and Western Australia, are of consequence so far as the known and available deposits of ore are concerned. Investigations up to the present disclose that in South Australia there are only two known deposits, one at Iron Knob in the Middleback Range, and the other near Broken Hill, a small deposit and so far inland that it must be eliminated. The initial estimate of the Iron Knob group of deposits was that it contained iron ore practically without limit; but, on more close investigation,a limit was placed on the amount of ore available by the State Geologist, Dr. Ward, at 200,000,000 tons. Dr. Ward, however, has said quite recently that the original estimate of 200,000,000 tons will have to be most seriously reviewed.
– That discounts the quotation of Dr. Ward in 1922 cited by the honorable member for Swan.
– That is so. Dr. Ward is at present engaged on behalf of his State in conducting a survey of the iron ore resources of South Australia. Turning to Western Australia, and excluding for the moment the Yampi Sound deposits, there is a known deposit at Wilgie Mia in the Weld Range, which is estimated at 26,500.000 tons. There has never been a detailed survey, and it is certain from investigations that have been made that this ore contains very much barren material. The deposit is situated 305 miles distant from Geraldton, the nearest port, and is, therefore, also necessarily eliminated from economic consideration. Then there is the Peak Hill field, which is situated at a distance of 70 miles from the nearest railway, and then 335 miles by rail from Geraldton, a total of 405 miles of land transport to the coast. No estimate has been made of the resources of this field. At Tallering Peak there has been no estimate. The deposit has been seen by Dr. Woolnough, but not closely examined by him. He reports, however, that this deposit is not of major dimension and there are indications of considerable contamination by silica. Here again land transport costs are a factor in any assessment of this deposit as being economically valuable. Then there is the Koolyanobbing deposit, situated near Southern Cross, which is being surveyed by the Government Geologist of Western Australia at the present time. It is 30 miles from the railway and a total of 268 miles from Fremantle, and therefore, also has to be eliminated from economic consideration.
Turning to the most controversial deposit, that at Yampi Sound, here again the history has been one of diminishing estimates. In the years gone by, there, was an opinion widely held that the amount of iron ore at Yampi Sound could be regarded almost as illimitable; but in 1920 an investigation was made as to its magnitude by the then State Mining Engineer of Western Australia, Mr. Montgomery. [Leave to continue given.] In 1919, Mr. Montgomery, then State Mining Engineer in Western Australia, proceeded to Yampi Sound to make an investigation and assessment of the quantity of iron ore at Cockatoo Island and Koolan Island. He spent six days at Yampi Sound and estimated that the total quantity of iron ore available at that centre is approximately 97,000,000 tons.
– That is above high water level.
– Yes. Subsequent assessments made by various persons - investigations have been made by private mining interests as well as by Government authorities - have agreed in certain respects, in that they have shown that of the two deposits those on the northern ends of the two islands must be eliminated from consideration because their siliceous nature renders them unsuitable for smelting purposes. The southern ore body on Koolan Island, leased by Brasserts Limited, of London, tapers from a thin deposit at each end to a thicker deposit in the centre. The whole of the deposit was taken into consideration by Mr. Montgomery, but later investigations tend to show that the tapering ends are highly siliceous and will have to he eliminated. Only the middle portion can be considered. Even acting upon Mr. Montgomery’s estimate, the centre portion of the southern deposit of Koolan Island will not give a total of more than 40,000,000 tons of iron ore. At present the usable deposit at Cockatoo Island is being investigated by Australian Iron and Steel Limited, a company which has been merged with tlie Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Later this deposit will he investigated by Western Australian mining authorities at the request and at the expense, of the Commonwealth Government. The result of the investigation to date compels us to reduce the expectation from the Iron Knob and the Yampi groups very materially - to what extent, I am unable to indicate. However, it is the considered opinion of the Commonwealth Geological Adviser,
Dr. Woolnough, that the total usable iron ore available in these two deposits is not less than 150,000,000 tons, and that it is not likely to exceed 200,000,000 tons. This has to be considered against the knowledge that Australia is at present using 2,000,000 tons a year, that two new large blast furnaces just completed will raise this amount to about 3,000,000 tons, and that our iron and steel industry is sure to expand and demand a constantly increasing amount of ore. I have given to the House the history of the successive investigations of individual deposits, showing a progressive diminution of the estimates of iron ore available. Deposits may be eliminated for various reasons - high land transport costs, their siliceous nature, or the fact that the ore is refractory. In the light of this information, I -suggest that every honorable member should concur in the action which the Government has taken in imposing an embargo upon the export of iron ore from Australia. If further investigations should disclose that there is more than an adequate supply available foi Australia’s immediate and future requirements, the embargo will be lifted and the export ro foreign countries permitted. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) quoted the following remarks of the Prime Minister: -
The Government “‘ill bo prepared to examine and to consider equitable claims for reimbursement of expenditure up to this date which has actually taken place in connexion with developmental operations directed towards the exploitation (>T our iron ore resources for export.
– Has the Government received any claims?
– Yos, four claim* have been received. I can include the claim made broadly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on behalf of workmen who were employed, or who might have been employed at Yampi Sound. It would appear that 52 or 57 workmen, I am not sure of the number, were engaged. The company had given these workmen notice of dismissal, but I was able to arrange with the Western Australian Mines Department, which had undertaken’ to conduct a survey, that every one would be employed at the then rates of wages which have since been increased. Those men are to continue in useful work associated with investigations on the island, such as tunnelling and assisting in the transport of supplies. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that tunnelling involves unnecessary expenditure, and that the investigations could have been carried out more cheaply by geophysical methods. In reply to that contention I may say that the exact methods to be employed in conducting a survey at Koolan Island have been decided upon by Mr. Forman, the Government Geologist of Western Australia, and Dr. Woolnough. They visited the island together and after an inspection decided that tunnelling and certain other measures would be the most effective. We shall know not only the exact dimensions of the deposit, but also its assay value. 1 have been informed by Dr. Woolnough that he is very familiar with geophysical methods. The honorable member for Swan referred to the geophysical methods practised in Sweden. Dr. Woolnough has informed me that he has studied in the original language the full reports upon which action was taken in Sweden, and bc points out that whereas geophysical investigation discloses, not the certainty, but the probability of a deposit, it is not possible by that method to disclose the type of ore, its usefulness or its smelting properties. Moreover it is impossible to determine whether it is associated with impurities or is of a refractory nature. That can be determined only by the actual excavation of the iron ore itself. The honorable member for Swan also referred to the possibility if working the iron ore deposits at Yampi rsl and below high water level. He has informed us that similar deposits in Newfoundland are worked below the high water level, but he does not know that the geological natures of the two ores are dissimilar. He does not know that there are great cavities or voids iu the ore at Yampi Sound. At least three private companies have attempted to investigate, by diamond drilling, the magnitude of the deposits in the Yampi group, and in not one instance has it been possible to reach the footwall because of the cavities which exist. These have been set down Ivy one competent authority as embracing 10 per cent, of the volume of the deposits. With such cavities it would be quite impossible to work below high water level. 1 am informed that the deposit in Newfoundland extends below sea level on an almost horizontal slant, and is covered by a capping of rock which is impervious to water. In these circumstances it is possible for the deposit to be worked below the sea level without being interfered with by seepage of sea water. Thu deposit at Yampi Sound enters the sea at a steep slope, has no capping, and as it is full of cavities or voids, it can never to worked below high water level. None of these opinions need be accepted as conclusive or final, but we must ask ourselves whether we can permit our iron ore resources so to diminish that we shall be forced to import supplies. I believe that the Government, has taken the action which any responsible Australian Government would have taken in the light of the information and advice furnished by experts. I trust that, final investigations will prove that it will yet be possible to lift the embargo, and thus make some of our iron ore. available to foreign countries. But that will not be done by the Government until it is convinced that there is ample iron ore available for our own present and future requirements. We not wish to be compelled, a few years hence, to import iron ore in order to meet the requirements of our key industries, or have men thrown out of employment because the cost of- raw material would be prohibitive to our iron and steel industries. In the circumstances, I ask the House to oppose the motion of the honorable member for Swan.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), in opposing the motion moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has in his usual eloquent and persuasive maimer endeavoured to convince the House that the Government has acted in the right way. Whilst I support the action of the Government in imposing the embargo, I blame it for the difficulties which have been created. The Minister succeeded in showing again what is known to every independent thinking man, namely, that the Government has been, as it usually is, asleep and neglectful of Australian interests. The whole of the information which the Minister has given to us to-night, except for the detailed investigations which have been made by the Commonwealth Geological Advisor, Dr. Woolnough, since the embargo -was imposed, was available for anybody to study calmly if he thought fit to do so. The State of Western Australia undoubtedly has a grievance because of the delay which took place before the Government awoke to its responsibilities. The Minister has given honorable members particulars as to the dates when the extent of the Australian resources of iron ore was brought under its notice, but it is quite evident that ample information was available on which it should have acted when the position was brought to the notice of this Government as early as 1935. It was then apparent that foreign interests were seeking a foothold in Australia, and the information that the Government had available did not make it necessary for an investigation to determine the extent of the Commonwealth’s resources of iron ore. I claim that had the Government, or those responsible within the Government, taken the trouble to look up information then available, the fact would have been discovered that the utmost limit which could have been given reasonably to the quantity of iron ore available in Aus-, tralia - that is ore which could be economically worked - was 313,000,000 tons. That quantity was fixed upon by an authority who probably knows as much as, if not more than, any other authority in the world about iron ore. He is Mr. P. Clements, M.I.C.E., M.I.M.E., M.I.E.E., general manager and director of the Park Gate Iron and Steel Company, Rotherham, England. Mr, Clements was the Bessemer Gold Medallist for 1936 of the journal of the Iron and Steel Institute of Great Britain and he is eminently qualified to express an opinion on the subject. I know that he could not have made a personal thorough survey as is being done by Dr. Woolnough, but he probably thoroughly examined and applied all the reliable information that was then available. From the lengthy and detailed statement which the Minister for the Interior has furnished to the House, it seems that the estimate of Mr. Clements must be reduced and that our iron ore resources amount practically to nothing. Indeed, if the Minister had spoken for another quarter of an hour in the same strain I think the House would have had to draw the inference that there is no iron ore left in Australia at all.
I agree with the “Minister that then, was need for the consideration of our present position in respect of iron ore, and 1 regret to learn from his speech that the quantity of iron ore estimated to be available is considerably below the provisional estimate that was made eighteen months ago. That makes me all the more surprised that the Government was not alert to the rights of Australia and did not begin early enough to take the necessary action to protect them.
– The Government had ro be flogged into action.
– Yes, it. had to be flogged. J. venture to suggest thai composite governments such as this one have always to be flogged in the direction of progress. Because of the incompatible elements of which they are composed, they, naturally, cannot make progress unless they are forced to do so by members of this Parliament or by public opinion.
I maintain that the Minister in dealing with this matter ignored one phase of the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The Minister suggested that the words conrained in the amendment -
The ban on the export of iron ore from Australia imposes upon the Commonwealth Government the obligation to ascertain definitely the amount of iron ore resource:! available within the Commonwealth- could not apply to the Government because that obligation was already being met. T am glad to have that assurance, but the amendment continues - with a view to their early development in the interests of Australia.
Something more than a mere examination of the resources available in Australia is needed. There is an obligation upon the Government to develop our iron ore resources in our interests.
A great injustice is being done to Western Australia, because the Commonwealth Government, after encouraging it to believe that something could be done ro develop the Yampi Sound resources, gave no indication that steps in that direction would be blocked suddenly, when it became alive to the situation and imposed the embargo. Something should he done by this Parliament to compel the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, that great organization which appears to have a monopoly in Australia, to develop its lease at Yampi Sound, or to encourage some other local company to do the work which is waiting to be clone, but the Government has done nothing in either direction. As the result, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has moved -
That Statutory Rules ‘is on. Oft and 80 of 1938, amending the Customs Regulations, he disallowed.
The honorable member’s action is understandable in view of the delay which took place in prohibiting the export of iron ore from Australia, delay for which this Government was entirely responsible. 1 do not think that it can shift its responsibilities, no matter how hard it tries to Jo so, on to the shoulders of any other authority. The Government’s inaction has -justifiably given rise to a spirit of disappointment and resentment in Western Australia. As far back as September, 1936, the Government encouraged those interested and the general public to believe that there was little, if any, chance of a restriction being placed on the export of iron ore. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that the control of the development of the deposits in Western Australia was a matter for the Government of that State. He indicated that the Commonwealth Government had power to prohibit or to refuse a permit for export, but said that the Government felt no more justified in prohibiting the export of iron ore to Japan than in prohibiting the export of wool! The ridiculousness of that statement is shown by the fact that, whilst we can produce large quantities of wool every year, we know that, if we export our iron ore, we can never replace it. That is just an example of how this Government looks at things until it is startled into life again by the Opposition. When attention was drawn to the matter in. August, 1937, the then
Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Pearce, expressed the view of the Government in a way which would encourage the interested parties and the public to take the view that the Commonwealth Government had no fixed opinion on the matter, because he -said -
The Commonwealth Government is aware of no reason w.hy it should interfere.
The excuse made by the Minister for the Interior to-night was that the Government was not at that time in possession of information which would have justified it in taking action; yet we know that the Government could have been in possession of authoritative estimates which showed that the supplies of iron ore were limited. If the Government were assured that there was only 313,000,000 tons of iron ore available, would it in 1936 have permitted export to take place? That question demands an answer.
When I raised this matter in 1937 it was received with incredulity by members of the Country party. They ridiculed my estimate that Australia would soon be absorbing 2,000,000 tons of ore a year as not being worth considering, but we have since learned that the amount of iron ore which Australia uses annually has increased much above 2,000,000 tons, and it is possible that, before long, we shall be needing 5,000,000 tons per annum. If it be true, as was suggested by the Minister, that iron ore resources in Australia do not exceed 200,000,000 tons, they will not have a very long life on an annual local use of 5,000,000 tons of iron ore. The Government has fallen down on this job as it has fallen down on other jobs. There was plenty of information available at each of the dates mentioned by the Minister on which the Government could have acted, but it failed to obtain it, and it caused the belief to develop that the deposits at Yampi Sound could be exploited, and the ore extracted and exported without damage to our position. lt neglected its duty, and that neglect, in the first instance, has given rise to an expression of sentiment, both in this Parliament 1111(1] in ihe Parliament of Western Australia, which indicates - I am sorry to find that it is so - an extension of the feeling against the Commonwealth at a time when everything possible should be done to allay such hostility. How can we make progress towards a more united Commonwealth when these things are done?
There is at least one newspaper in Australia, the Melbourne Age, which did not hesitate to point out the danger of allowing the export of iron ore to proceed. It gave particulars and information based on an interview with or an article by Dr. G. B. Pritchard, a wellknown authority, who was lecturer in geology and metallurgy at the Melbourne University and head of the School of Mines at the Melbourne Technical School. The estimates by Dr. Pritchard were, as a matter of fact, more conservative in regard to Yampi Sound than those of Mr. Clements, and they seem to have been based on good grounds. The Government, as the result, of questions and criticisms, awoke from its sleep and decided that it was time to do something. The article and the publicity helped to concentrate attention on the position. It was followed up in Victoria by another person - a layman, but one who is wellinformed on the question. I refer to Mr. J. Bell, a constituent of mine. He is a blast furnace man, but he spends hours in seeking information as to Australian resources, not only of iron ore but also of other raw materials.
– A practical man?
– Yes, one who has rendered valuable service and whose opinions are backed up by those of experts who have technical knowledge.
One of the aspects of this matter that warrants consideration is the claim made by Western Australia.I think that we have to take a. broad national outlook and not just a State view, but I realize that the Government of Western Australia has grounds for complaint, because it was encouraged in the belief that it could continue to make arrangements with a foreign company to come to Australia, and then, after a large amount of capital had been invested in the project, found that an embargo was to be placed on the export of iron ore.
– The whole business was mis-handled.
– Yes. I impress upon honorable members for Western
Australia, however, that we could reap no real gain from foreign nations exploiting our iron ore. In what way would the Western Australian Government or the Commonwealth Government gain any advantage by permitting foreign nations to exploit the best iron ore resources in Australia ? In what way would the export of iron ore to foreign countries mean the development of agricultural or pastoral industries in the north-western area of Western Australia? It seems to have been claimed by the State Premier and other members of the Western Australian Parliament that as iron ore would occupy only a small space on vessels carrying it to Japan, the remainder of the space could he filled with cattle from the north-western districts. It seems to me that there is very little in that claim. Even store-bred cattle cannot be exported from Canada to England, so what chance would there be of exporting wild cattle from Western Australia to Japan?
– -We take cattle from Derby to Fremantle; there would be no difference in sending cattle to Japan.
– That trade would not be economical. My statement is made on views expressed by such an authority as Mr. Cramsie, who said that the transport of stall-fed cattle between Canada and England was unprofitable because of the wastage of condition on the voyage. If that wastage took place on the voyage between Canada and England, it is ridiculous to suggest that wild station-bred cattle could be carried satisfactorily from Australia to Japan. The Minister has indicated that something will be done by way of compensation. There may be some justification for compensation being paid to the State of Western Australia, but before any payment is made to the company or other private interests concerned, the nature and extent of the work carried out by it at Yampi Sound should be ascertained.
– Only preliminary work was carried out.
– If,on the other hand, it is claimed that a great deal of work has been done there, why did the warden at Broomerecommend twelve months ago the cancellation of the leases for non-compliance with labour conditions? I hope that any claim by the company for compensation will be investigated carefully before public money is paid out, but I also hope that the claims of the State of Western Australia will receive sympathetic consideration. The idea of sending cattle to Japan in the vessels conveying the ore, as a means of developing trade between these two countries, however, is impracticable.
– I did not suggestit.
– I realize that. The statement was contained in a pamphlet which has been circulated to honorable members; it was also made in the Parliament of Western Australia. I do not suggest that Japan would use wastefully the iron ore from Yampi Sound; 1 am inclined to think that, that ore is required because of its free-smelting qualities. I have some data here which indicate that Japan’s iron ore resources are less than ours. It is wellknown that if a country while conserving its own resources can get other countries, which may be possible enemies, to deplete theirs, it gains a practical and lasting advantage over them. According to Mr. Clements, the iron ore resources of Japan total about80,000,000 tons. In addition, Japan is supposed to have in Manchuria further reserves totalling 500,000,000 tons, but that ore is of poorer quality. Naturally, Japan does not want to use any of those deposits if it can get the free-smelting haematite ore from Australia. Twenty years ago, the iron ore deposits in the United States of America were estimated to total approximately 4,824,000,000 tons. For the year 1917, that country produced 75,288,851 tons of iron ore’, and in 1910 it produced : 39,434,797 tons of pig iron. Notwithstanding that production, the United States imports iron ore from other countries to mix with its own ores. That country, which is the world’s greatest producer of iron and steel, finds it advisable to import iron ore for mixing purposes from Chile, Brazil, Newfoundland and Spain. Australia has so little iron ore that it would be calamitous to allow its first-quality ore to be shipped to Japan. The iron ore at Yampi Sound contains 68 per cent, iron free of melting difficulties and is therefore of such good quality that most countries would be glad to have it.
Should iron ore from Yampi Sound be exported to Japan the ships used to carry it would probably bring to Australia goods which would compete with Australian products, thereby reducing employment in this country. That would certainly be the result if manufactured goods were brought here in such vessels. That is a. point which the Government should not overlook. We should not encourage other nations to bring to this country goods which can be made here. On the other hand, if iron ore from Yampi Sound were taken to the eastern States for smelting purposes - and there is no coal close to Yampi Sound to enable smelters to be set up there - the ships used to transport the ore could take Australian goods to Western Australia on the return journey. Moreover, in such circumstances, both the ore and the manufactured goods would he carried in Australian, not foreign vessels. There would be loading both ways. I am convinced that the export of iron ore to Japan would be detrimental to the best interests of Australia. The production of pig iron in the Commonwealth for manufacturing purposes in this country would give employment to many factory workers, in addition to those ‘who would be employed in the transport vessels, and on the waterfront, whilst in producing coal and fluxing materials work would be provided for many others. Should the iron ore pass through the various processes until it reaches the manufactured stage, work for many skilled artisans would be afforded. If we do anything toprevent employment in Australia we shall render a distinct disservice to this country.
The remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) regarding the mining of iron ore under the sea, have been dealt with by the Minister, who set out clearly the difference between the conditions prevailing in Newfoundland and at Yampi Sound. At the latter place, the porous nature of the country might enable the sea to get into the workings. Experience has shown that cementing has sometimes to be resorted to. It would appea r that the idea of mining below , sea level at Yampi Sound is impracticable. In this matter I would be guided by the advice of experts.
If the Government were honest, it would admit that it did not realize the possible effects of its inaction. But instead of admitting the error, which arose from its delay, it now claims to have done the right thing. These mineral deposits are a heritage for the present and future generations of Australians which we, as representatives of the people, are bound to protect. We cannot allow people who belong to the getrichquick fraternity and are backed by foreign interests, to exploit these irreplaceable assets, and thus establish in Australia a field of influence which later may become a source of international complications. We must safeguard our own interests. Japan has control of vast quantities of iron ore in China. Why does Japan not exploit those deposits, instead of endeavouring to secure a footing on the coast of Australia? The probabilities are that Japan’s mineral experts know that the haematite ores of Yampi Sound are the richest available, and are much more easily worked than are supplies nearer to hand. Apart from the sphere of influence which it is recognized a nation acquires by investing its capital in other countries to obtain essential raw materials, under the existing capitalistic system an imperialistic nation which can induce possible enemies, or even trade competitors, to use their essential raw materials, while conserving its own, gains a tremendous advantage. That appears to be the aim of Japan. In a book entitled Political and Commercial Geology and the World’s Mineral Resources, Mr. G. E. Spurr, an authority on this subject, referred to the Japanese position. In a chapter dealing with political and commercial geology, he said -
Japan lias an iron and steel industry which, although small as compared with the United States of America, Germany or Great Britain and the other leading manufacturing countries, is rapidly expanding. Blast furnaces, steel-making furnaces, and steel mills are being erected in Japan, Korea, Manchuria, and China by Japanese interests. Japan is still far from supplying her own consumption of iron and steel, which is 1,500,000 tons annually
Probably the position has developed greatly since that was written in 1920. I suggest that Japan was about to pursue a policy of peaceful penetration by obtaining the right to take iron ore from Australia. On this point I again quote from an article by Mr. Spurr in his book, Who Owns the Earth? Dealing with mineral or raw material, he said -
It remained for Germany, pressing impudently towards the conquest of the world, to see the advantage of combining the powers of the state with those of business monopolies as a means of . regulating industry at home and overpowering other nations.
The success of the plan of German penetration was most disagreeably brought home to the British mind, as well as to the French and the American perception, by the war, and during the war England took under government control her mineral industries more definitely and systematically than did we. Moreover, perceiving the success of the German system as a means of penetration, and as a method against competitors, she has adopted it, there being a striking tendency to put her key industries under syndicates, unions, cartels or trusts controlled directly by the state.
A system, of State Socialism thus takes the place of the freedom of individual competition. As regards the mineral industries, much of the same action has been taken by France. But in America, dropping all the problems and half-learnt lessons of the war we return to the status quo ante. If this indifference continues, it is certain that British control of the earth, whereby we mean minerals, will eventually preponderate. As far as we are concerned, we should rather see it in the hands of Britain than any other power.
Our statesmen, newspapers, and financiers proclaim that we intend te take the lion’s share of the world’s shipping and commerce. England says- nothing, but puts her Government directly behind her own industries, while the American government still holds aloof from them. Nationalism has been revived in Europe, and especially in England and France, as a result of the’ struggle to prevail against the intense German nationalistic spirit, which all hut subjugated a world drifting comfortably into internationalism.
I do not want, to do anything which may be construed as being provocative to Japan, but we would be unworthy of our trust if we failed to safeguard the interests of Australia by permitting Japan to get too strong a footing in Australia, and we would he laughed at as neophytes in statecraft if we permitted any foreign nation to do so, particularly one which prevents such a course in its own country. Mr. Spurr went on to say-
It is conceivably a step backward, a reversion, but what attitude shall America take? The British and French nationalism need not disquiet us so much as that of the Japanese, still more intense and purposeful and working with the same German tools (not made in Germany, but in America, but like most German arts successfully copied and utilized) now adopted by England and France in selfdefence. America also has had a re-birth of nationalism quite necessary in the existing state of affairs.
Later he observed -
As the case now stands, (1) The United States of America holds 71 per cent, of the world’s petroleum in 1917. (2) Great Britain far behind, but in a way to overtake us under her new system.
Dealing with iron and coal he said -
In iron and coal, United States leads. The second place in the steel, held by Germany, was lost during the war, and now goes to Great Britain, already second in coal and with her iron industries in charge of a government controlled syndicate for the purpose of protection and expansion.
Mr. Spurr included in his review a long list of minerals of one kind and another and the position, in order of importance, of the nations in respect of each mineral. The list is interesting, but time will not permit me to give it in detail. Mr. Spurr emphasized the important place that the United States of America holds in respect of petroleum which is, of course, the source of power and light and is the key to the mastery of the air. Next in order is fuel coal and its ally, the great metallic mineral, iron, which must go together for the manufacture of iron and steel, the backbone of . all our mechanical achievements. Why should we permit this essential mineral to go away to other countries?
Australia has certain mineral resources which should be used to the best advantage. I have no desire to say anything that could be justly interpreted as expressing a wish to prevent another country from obtaining minerals from Australia which are available in this country to. an almost unlimited extent. All I say is that iron ore does not fall into that class. We have not an unlimited supply of iron ore. In these circumstances Western Australia has no real grievance; in regard to the embargo itself, it should look at the subject in the light of the national requirements of Australia.
Undoubtedly when the Lyons Government first considered this subject it showed that, like practically all composite and compromise governments, it lacked vision. Otherwise it would not have permitted, without protest, foreign interests in the guise of a company with a British name, to acquire a footing at Yampi Sound. When it came to understand the real position it also showed that it lacked the power, as do all governments comprised of opposing interests, to deal with the situation effectively. If the Government yields to the pressure now being brought to bear upon it to withdraw or slacken the regulations now in force, or if it does anything to weaken the effectiveness of this too-long-delayed embargo on the export of iron ore, it will undoubtedly deserve the derision of the Australian people.
However, the claim by the Western Australian Government, and the representatives of Western Australia in this chamber, that the Commonwealth Government should take steps at once to develop the iron ore deposits of Yampi Sound and utilize them for the benefit of the Australian people has merit in it. A government which is not deprived, by its very composition, of the capacity to put into operation progressive ideas would find no insuperable difficulty in developing this deposit, and, by pursuing such a course, it would win the admiration of Australia, generally, and of Western Australia in particular.
The amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition should commend itself to every member of the House who has a true Australian outlook, whereas the proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), being of a retrograde nature, should be resisted. The carrying of the motion for the disallowance of the regulation would lay Australia open to present and future danger. The amendment provides the opportunity for honorable members to indicate, on a non-party subject, that the Parliament believes it to be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the resources of this country, in whatever State they exist, are not allowed to remain undeveloped so long as any
Australian citizen is looking for an avenue in which his brains and energy may be advantageously employed.
. -I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) upon his excellent defence of the Government’s policy. The House has undoubtedly given the honorable gentleman a most sympathetic hearing, and it appears to be convinced by his statements. I also might be convinced if L could feel satisfied with the authority upon which the Minister based his defence. As I understand it, the honorable gentleman relied almost entirely upon the reports of the Commonwealth Government Geological Adviser, Dr. Woolnough.
– That is not so.
– Well, that is whatI have gathered from the Minister’s speech.
– The State Geologist of Queensland concurs in every opinion expressed by Dr. Woolnough. .
– I might feel more convinced, too, if it were not for the remarkable fact that Dr. Woolnough’s opinions are extraordinarily different from those expressed by Australian geologists and mining men over a long period of years, and, particularly, if they were not in such direct conflict with the opinionof such an eminent authority on iron as Mr. Essington Lewis, general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. It appears to me that Dr. Woolnough set out with the intention to arrive at a certain result. His opinions on this subject might be classed with the opinions of many experts on different subjects with whom I have come into contact in the course of the years. When an expert’s opinion is challenged, and he is asked to review it, it is an extraordinary fact that he generally sets out with the definite purpose of obtaining every possible scrap of evidence that will reinforce the views which he originally expressed. Moreover, Dr. Woolnough’s opinions as to the extent of our iron ore deposits have been progressively reduced. His first report on the subject was comparatively mild ; but his latest report practically pulverizes the ideas of other Australian geolo- gists and mining men concerning our iron ore resources, for in setting down our usable and readily available resources at 150,000,000 tons he has plumbed the depths.
– Dr. Woolnough said that the quantity might be as low as 150,000,000 tons, but was quite likely under 200,000,000 tons.
– That opinion is in direct conflict with the opinion of Mr. Essington Lewis, who, to me, is a much more acceptable authority than Dr. Woolnough. Mr. Essington Lewis’ opinion is the result of long experience, and not of merely casual observation.
– Is Mr. Essington Lewis a geologist?
– No; he is more than a geologist. As general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, he has had a. great deal to do with the development of the iron ore deposits at Iron Knob. When he expresses an opinion on the subject, he is speaking about something of which he has direct personal knowledge. The annual report of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for 1935 stated -
The Iron Monarch is640 feet abovethe plain, its base being-1½ miles in diameter. The bulk of the ore above plain level is estimated at more than one hundred million tons. The estimate for Iron Duke, 18 miles south, is equally as great. The estimate of the period likely to elapse before underground mining will be necessary is given as being beyond this century, based upon the present rate of consumption. [ Quorum formed.]
Surely that statement ought to be thoroughly reliable. I have: heard it mooted lately that another company proposes to develop other iron ore deposits on the Middleback Ranges, and intends to provide £1,000,000 for the purpose. We must also remember that Australia possesses the acknowledged valuable iron ore deposit at Yampi Sound. I much prefer the opinion of Mr. Montgomery, formerly State Mining Engineer of Western Australia, to that of Dr. Woolnough, on this subject. The honorable member for Swan referred in some detail to Mr. Montgomery’s estimates. I feel that we are justified in asserting that, having in mind the deposits at Iron Knob, and Yampi Sound, we have probably 300,000,000 tons of first class iron ore available for immediate development above ground and high-water level. Of course, we must bear in mind that, so far, there has been no real exploration of the iron ore occurrences of the Commonwealth, the reason being that hitherto iron ore has been too cheap for us to devote much time to it.
The proposal made to the Commonwealth Government in respect of Yampi Sound was that the export of 15,000,000 tons of iron ore, at the rate of 1,000,000 tons a year, should be permitted. Even if Dr. Woolnough’s figures were accepted, the iron ore at Yampi Sound would not be exhausted for over 50 years. Of the acknowledged resources of first class iron ore in Australia, an export of 15,000,000 tons would represent only about 5 per cent. I invite honorable members to contrast our attitude in respect of iron with that adopted by America with respect to oil.- At one stage alarming reports were circulated that the oil wells in the United States of America were rapidly becoming exhausted, but, in spite of such fears, the people of that country realized that the export of oil was a profitable trade and refused to curtail it in any way. I fail to see any reason why we should expect a shortage of iron for our requirements, Iron has been used for thousands of years - as far back as Tubal-Cain, of Genesis. It was used freely in the earliest ages, and at no time in its history has the world experienced a shortage. That probably accounts for the cheapness of iron. On the other hand, however, there is a prospect that the demand for iron will diminish, because the tendency in modern times is to rely more on the use of lighter metals, and, it may be, that iron will share the fate that has befallen coal. At one time the fear was expressed that the coal deposits of Great, Britain would soon become exhausted with the result that opposition arose to the export of coal. As the result of the discovery of other kinds of power, however, coal has become comparatively a drug on the market, and to-day England, like Australia, has more coal in reserve than it can use. In hoarding up our resources of iron, we may hoard up something for which, in the not far distant future, we shall have comparatively little use at all. The existence of the deposits at Yampi Sound has been known for half a century, and at various times efforts have been made by specu lators to induce others to exploit them. Those efforts were unsuccessful, and there was no suggestion of prohibiting the export of iron from Yampi until, at last, a company was formed which was prepared to do something, not merelyin the way of speculation, but actually to utilize the deposits. Immediately thai company showed that it meant business, and proceeded to go about its work, propaganda of the kind usually associated with commercial rivalry was disseminated in the eastern States, and, ultimately, pressure was brought to bear upon this Government to frustrate it. Although the Government had for eighteen months permitted, and, indeed, encouraged this company to go on with its proposal to work these resources, it finally yielded to that, pressure and imposed this embargo.
– The honorable member’s statement that the Government yielded to pressure is entirely wrong.
– Perhaps, I should correct that statement and say that, at any rate, the Government changed its opinion. The Government has placed itself in the humiliating position of having to meet claims for compensation amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. It was asked to permit the export of 15,000,000 tons of iron ore at the rate of 1,000,000 tons a year. It would have been eighteen months before any ore would have been exported. In any case, 15,000,000 tons is not an appreciable proportion of the total deposits of iron ore in Australia, and I am of opinion that the Government rather gave way to panic in going back on its previous decision. It has been said that this embargo has been imposed in the interests of our own iron industry which is at present controlled by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I shall not yield to the temptation to say that that company is behind this move, because [ can find no evidence to support such a statement. Indeed, I have the greatest admiration for that company. However, the result of the embargo will, in fact, be to the benefit of that company, because it has a monopoly of iron in Australia. Taking a long view of this policy, I am quite sure that, despite the fact that under the embargo that company also is prevented from exporting iron ore, it will suit the interests of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to prevent other people, who might feel inclined so to do, from developing the deposits at Yampi Sound, or elsewhere. I suggest that if this embargo is being imposed in the interests of industry in Australia, and if that company enjoys the monopoly to whichI have referred, it is the duty of the Government to sec that the company works the leases which it holds at Cockatoo Island, Yampi Sound. It is not right that any company should be permitted to hold leases unless it makes some attempt to work them. I point out that the taxpayers of Australia will have to foot the bill for compensation, and that, perhaps, is one of the most unfortunate results of the Government’s action-. The people of Western Australia are extremely disappointed that this embargo has been imposed. They had hoped that this new industry would have been established in that State, particularly in view of the fact that it will be extremely difficult to develop the north-west by any means other than mining. Western Australia does not receive assistance from the Commonwealth proportionate to that which is given to the Northern Territory. We must also bear in mind that an empty northwest is a national danger, and, consequently, there are strong national reasons for populating that part of the Commonwealth. It would be more satisfactory to have a. sturdy population of miners established at Yampi Sound. There may be room for differences of opinion as to how we can best serve national interests in this matter. Many honorable members have suggested that Japanese interests should not be permitted to secure any footing in Australia. On the other hand, purely as a matter of national expediency, it may he better to adopt the policy of trading freely with our neighbours rather than provoking them by refusing to trade with them, or by refusing to supply to them raw materials which they require and of which we have ample supplies. More than in any other way the peace of the world is endangered by the placing of restrictions upon trade between nations. The interests of peace can best be served by insisting upon the principle that there shall be no hoarding of raw materials on the part of any nation. Much has been said concerning the necessity for a policy of decentralization in Australia. Australia may very soon have to consider its position in relation to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. The adoption of this dog-in-the-manger policy in regard to raw materials will, more than anything else, provide grounds for the intervention of other countries. After all, we are only a small community. We cannot expect to hold valuable deposits like those at Yampi Sound, unless we are prepared to use them. Instead, the opinion is being put forward, I think with justification, that no nation is entitled to retain possession of large areas of land unless it can effectively occupy them, and countries like Australia will not be permitted to hold large and valuable areas unless they can defend them. If we are to defend Australia, and particularly north-western Australia, we must people that area, and the exploitation of the mineral resources there offers the best hope of establishing a population. In this regard, the Government seems to be actuated by those narrow and selfish motives which are, unfortunately, too much in evidence in Australia. I do not think that honorable members are looking at this matter from a national standpoint. It is unfortunate for those whose capital has been vested at Yampi Sound, that the deposits are not situated in New South Wales or Victoria. If they were. and the Government had proposed an embargo, honorable members representing the State affected would have combined in protest against interference with the exploitation of natural wealth.
– Not necessarily.
– I am speaking from general experience. State interests are just as strong in the eastern States as in the west. It is most unfortunate that this industry, which is the most promising development we have had in Western Australia for many years, should be squashed by the Government in the alleged interest of Australia as a whole. It does not seem to me that there was any need to impose this embargo, in view of the limited quantity of ore which was to be exported. After all the quantity involved was only 15,000,000 tons. There was no clanger of the development of interests which might cause international complications at a later stage. The Government could have made it quite clear that, in allowing that quantity of ore to he exported, it reserved the right to restrict or prohibit exports at any stage, if necessary. Fifteen million tons is a mere trifle compared with the total iron ore available, and it would have been better, in the interests of Australia as a whole, if the embargo had not been imposed.
– I do not propose to speak on this matter at any length. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has expressed the views which I hold, and the explanation of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) was 100 per cent, satisfactory to me. I believe that it would be wrong for Western Australia to insist upon the removal of the export embargo. Western Australia is not playing the Australian game on this occasion. Much has been made of this interference with the possible development of the resources of that State. I. have been over a considerable part of the territory within which the deposits lie, and while the deposits are undoubtedly large, they have never been worked by Western Australia. Only now has an attempt been made to scratch the surface, as it were, and the fact that a halt has now been called, regrettable as that may be from the point of view of Western Australia, does not justify the representatives of that State in taking up an anti-Australian attitude. The fact is that everyone in Australia, until quite recently, thought that the iron ore resources of the country were very much larger than they really are. We have been told by visiting experts that our resources are almost unlimited, just as we have been told other things by visiting experts when we should have been much better off to have found things out for ourselves. Now it appears that every time a fresh investigation is made, the extent of our resources shrinks. It is well known that all over the world to-day the better grades of iron ores have been given a scarcity value. One of the principal reasons why Spain has been torn asunder by civil war is that in that country there happens to be the kind of iron ore deposits that everybody wants. Of course, there are iron ore deposits in almost every country, but there is not much that is of great commercial value. Recently, we were told by Great Britain that we can no longer depend upon it for the implements necessary for peace or war, but the authorities in Great Britain are willing to co-operate with us in the establishment of industries in Australia to supply om needs. This is surely the time, of all others, when we should take steps to conserve our supplies of essential raw materials.
I am opposed to the proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to disallow these regulations, and I support the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). We would have frankly opposed the lifting of the embargo, but we have put forward this amendment because wo believe that the interests of Western Australia, and of Australia generally, will be best served by the development of our own iron and steel industries, rather than by the export of our iron ore to other countries. For years past I have been listening to honorable members from Western Australia condemning the exploitation of the consumers by the monopoly which controls the manufacture of iron and steel products in Australia. Over and over again, I have heard the honorable member for Swan complain of the high price of galvanized iron. Very shortly we shall be needing large quantities of steel rails; we shall be needing iron and steel for the construction of locomotives, aeroplanes and automobiles. We are only on the threshold of industrial development. Why should not Western Australia have such an iron and steel industry? I remember when a previous Commonwealth government made it possible to exploit the low-grade ores, at Wiluna in Western Australia, and what a boon such aid was to the people of that State. I cannot visualize a better method of using the free credits obtainable through the Commonwealth Bank than in the provision of funds for the establishment of the iron and steel industry in Western Australia and in other places. It is essential that we should utilize these raw materials for the development of our own iron and steel trades. Every ounce of iron ore which can bc economically mined will be needed for the production of raw materials for Australian industries. Honorable members may recall that construction work on the Sydney Harbour Bridge was delayed for some time owing to a shortage of Steel, and it is well known that the scarcity of steel girders is retarding the building boom in all States. Yet some people are inclined to encourage the export of Australian iron ore.
My principal reason for taking part in this debate was to protest against the regrettable note sounded by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who seemed to imply that there was something underhand about the method in which the more recent reports on Australian iron ore reserves were furnished to the Commonwealth. Possibly I misunderstood the honorable member for Swan, but clearly he gave me the impression that he was casting a reflection upon Dr. “Woolnough, the Commonwealth geological adviser. I regret this very much indeed, and I should not he doing my duty if I did not say that not long ago I had the pleasure, not of working with Dr. Woolnough but of accompanying him through Central and North Australia. On that occasion he was engaged in making an examination of a ridge 30 miles long at Tennant Creek, where gold had been discovered. The miners, numbering about 150, whose interests were, bound up in that venture, were very concerned about the potential value of their leases, and were waiting for some company or the Government to assist them. They were reluctant to install plants, which would cost probably .£100,000 or £1.50,000, pending a report from some recognized expert. Accordingly, Dr. Woolnough was sent to Tennant Creek to examine the area and report to the Government. I saw him carrying out his important duties there under very great difficulties, and doing work which many a younger man would not have cared to face. Later, at Darwin, I met, the Mines Director, and other mining experts at “Waverley, Pine Creek and other parts of Central Australia, all of whom expressed complete satisfaction with the work done by Dr.
Woolnough. 1 think that the Government is very fortunate to have an adviser deservedly enjoying such a high reputation inside and outside Australia. Dr. Woolnough has had 40 years’ experience in this country. He is a competent adviser in all matters relating to metals, minerals, oil or other geological features, and knowing him as I do, I resent any suggestion that he would be associated in any way with advice that was not founded upon a thorough investigation of any problem submitted to him.
I do not know whether the honorable member for Swan intended to convey that impression of Dr. Woolnough’s report, but I would say that if there was any suggestion of ulterior motives in connexion with the exploitation of the Yampi Sound deposits, it was in the method by which the original company obtained its charter. All the world knows that the promoters did not make clear that it was a purely Japanese concern. Only when those in authority became aware of this fact was action taken to put a stop to foreign exploitation. Then with the assistance of some Australian people and some English people, a company was established in London to work the deposits; but everybody knew that it was still a Japanese firm. I am not concerned whether Japan or any other country gets our raw materials if they are not necessary for Australian industries. I do not believe in favoured nation treatment. I believe that if we have an excess of raw materials they should he made available to all nations on equal terms. I cannot understand any Australian not desiring that raw materials should not bc exported until we are quite sure that our own requirements are met.
.- I do not desire, at this late hour, to debate this highly technical subject. It has been discussed exhaustively from all parts of the House, and I think that the House is agreed that the first duty of the Commonwealth Government in this matter is to ensure that we retain within Australia, an adequate supply of those raw materials which are essential for our < future development. Accordingly I believe that whilst they would be opposed to the motion of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the majority of honorable members would be prepared to support the general terms of the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). But the amendment, as it stands, might suggest that the Government has not been sufficiently active or thorough in making the necessary investigations of our iron ore resources, and further that it has not taken effective action to develop them. Consequently, in order to express what I believe to be the view of most honorable members, I propose to move at the appropriate time to add the following words to the amendment: “And this House commends the Government for having instituted a comprehensive and detailed survey of Australia’s iron ore resources”. If these words are added to the amendment, it should be supported by practically every honorable member.
– I listened with a great deal of attention to the remarks of honorable members representing Western Australia, with whom I have every sympathy. As I believe in the development of Australian industries, and as the interests of South Australia are vitally concerned in this matter, it is, I think, high time that action was taken to decentralize some of our heavier industries. The motion, however, has not my wholehearted support. The subject has been canvassed from different angles. One of the arguments advanced was that Australia should export to countries from which it imports. If our iron deposits are of such vital importance as has been suggested, we should safeguard them. When the matter was debated in this House recently,I could not understand why the Government declined to grant permission to an all-British company, or a group of men, who were prepared to invest a good deal of capital in the enterprise, to operate on the deposits at the Middleback ranges; but I was not astonished at the imposition of an embargo on exports to a country like Japan. The Minister for the Interior has referred to-night to many deposits in different parts of Australia, and has said that the best of them are to be foundin South Australia, although he admitted that those at Yampi Sound have some value. I want to know what quantity of ore is in sight in Australia?
– We are now for the first time making a comprehensive survey, which will supply the answer to the honorable member’s question.
– . I am glad to hear that. I have inspected the deposits at Middleback ranges and Iron Knob, where many hundreds of thousands of tons of ore is in sight, sufficient to last for 150 years if used at the rate of 2,000,000 tons per annum.
– More than that will very shortly be used.
-I shall welcome that development. This raw material is of inestimable value to Australia; it will aid in the development of our secondary industries. The manufacture in Australia of motor car engines is not very popular in certain quarters at the moment, but that industry must be established eventually, and the sooner the better for all concerned, because a car sold in the United States of America for £200 costs from £440 to £460 in Australia.I believe that an economic unit could be established in Australia, and a car manufactured at a cost of something like £200. We already have motor-body builders in Australia and they are doing an excellent service. I appeal to the Government to investigate very seriously the quantity of iron ore available in Australia; that would be a national service. We could then embark upon the manufacture of motor car engines and proceed with the development of our iron and steel industries generally.
– I rise in support of the idea that surplus production should be exported.
– Istherea surplus?
– I am not satisfied with the information furnished to the Minister by the Commonwealth Geological Adviser. Dr. Woolnough has not had sufficient time to gather more than meagre information as to our iron ore resources. I am fortified in my view by the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), who has thrown new light on the matter of the surplus. I am in complete agreement with him, that our resources would be so slightly depleted that the company operating in Western Australia should be given the right to continue for at least a further fifteen years. The exploitation of the deposits from Cloncurry to Yampi Sound would hare considerable effect on the development of the northern areas which are now sparsely populated ; we should thereby increase our defensive strength. The development of the last 150 years proves that the more remote an area is the more necessary is reliance upon the mining industry to provide the initial urge to the introduction of population. Surely every honorable member must realize the necessity for fostering that area and placing in it a population which will engage in economic endeavour ! I was astonished at the remarks of the Minister, who inferentially practically admitted that he has not yet sufficient information in regard to the resources of Australia, and stated that the Government will later alter its decision in regard to the export of surplus production.
– It may, if there is a surplus.
– Our economic strength would not be lowered in any degree if the company in Western Australia were permitted to operate for another fifteen or 40 years. Even during that fifteen years, however, I do not think that it should exploit the ore to the full extent. The ore should be rationed, as was suggested by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn).
A negative attitude has been adopted by the Minister to Portland Roads, regarding which only meagre information has been obtained. The Minister stated that the iron ore beds in the Cloncurry district are too far from tlie coast, but I claim that they are in an ideal position. They art near Mount Isa, where machinery to the value of £4,000,000 is available*. That plant could be converted into a little arsenal. If this Parliament is to display any vision at all, it must realize that an outlet to the Gulf of Carpentaria will be required in the near future. Portland Roads is only fifteen miles from the North Queensland coast, where deep water is available, yet the Minister is prepared to accept a tentative report from two geologists to the effect that that area is inaccessible. 1 am given to understand that the iron ore from Portland Roads could be carried on a downhill grade to the sea and thence to Bowen, where there is a deep-water harbour and ample supplies of coal and coke. Therefore, 1 am surprised that the Minister seems to show an unconscious bias against the development of known resources without accurate information regarding their value.
The honorable member for Swan referred to the geophysical survey now being undertaken in Northern Australia. It seems to rae that in the near future this Parliament will demand to know whether it is receiving full value for the money already expended in connexion with this investigation. To a certain extent, I am in. favour of this survey; in fact, my maiden speech in this chamber was delivered in support of the bill by which the money was made available for this work. Yet I fear that much money has been wasted, because advantage has not been taken of scientific information that was available to us by reason of the Canadian practice. This practice has not been followed in locating ore at depth, apart from the simple procedure of locating magnetic iron at depth. The survey committee has been guided merely by the movements of a compass on radial lines in locating anomalies at depth. In locating ore structure, geophysical instruments respond in about four general ways. In the first place, iron responds in the simple way to the compass, and this is the only method that seems to have been adopted here. Secondly, they respond to a sulphide body, but no geophysical instrument is accurate at a depth greater than about 400 feet, and attempts are being made to locate ore at greater depths than that. In Canada, where glacia’l action exposed the sulphides, it was possible to obtain information as to conditions down to 400 feet, because the sulphide bodies were either exposed or left at a lesser depth than 400 feet. Under the third method, the instruments are influenced by a shear or fault at depth, and it would be necessary to sink a. shaft to a point near or within 400 feet of the shear-zone before it would be possible to obtain a definite reaction by the instrument; even then, it would be necessary to cross-cut to the spot in order to ascertain whether the instrument had re-acted to a sulphide body, a fault, or shear-zone. Fourthly, by the sound method used in Canada, the scientist can recognize certain reactions off the dome, in contrast to the greater depth from the oil bed abutting on it; naturally, the bore is not placed above the dome.
– The honorable member should confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair, rather than discuss scientific methods of locating iron ore.
– The reason I enumerated the various methods was to point out that further immediate advantage should be taken of the one and only method that has proved of value to Australia, the location of magnetic iron ore, and that money should not be wasted in producing maps such as I have before me, unless shafting and cross-cutting are adopted to tost values at depth. We should find out as expeditiously as possible the extent of the iron resources, and then we should adopt a vigorous policy by allowing the exportation of ore not required for our own purposes. Unless we utilize the methods which I have outlined, and get down to depth by shaft and cross-cut, the greater part of the present geophysical survey will be of little value. I have for years advocated the adoption of this course, but, up to the present time, with no satisfactory result, because Dr. Woolnough determines whether a shaft shall be sunk or a cross-cut made in the Northern Territory. The State geologists determine this policy in their respective States.I appeal to the Minister to call for a report from Dr. Woolnough, now that he has changed his opinion and is utilizing both shafting and crosscutting, in order to compute the volume of the deposits at Yampi Sound. I urge that the same methods be adopted also for the development of mineral deposits in the Northern Territory, so that we shall know at the earliest possible moment what is the mineral value of its gold and other deposits at depth.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. FORDE’S amendment) stand part of the question .
The House divided. (MR. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 44
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question proposed - That the words proposed to be inserted, be so inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the words proposed to be inserted be amended by adding the words “ and this House commends the Government for having instituted a comprehensive detailed survey of Australia’s iron resources “.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon.g. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . .5
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
– I direct the attention of honorable members, to the paucity of reports received by the Government. The speedy manner in which reports were obtained rendered it impossible to determine the actual area of Australia’s iron ore deposits. Moreover, those submitted in connexion with Yampi Sound dealt only with the estimated quantity above high water level, but in a locality where there is a tidal rise and fall of 28 feet one can readily imagine that large quantities exist below high water mark. The Minister stated that reports have been received that boring has disclosed large cavities or voids which preclude the possibility of working the deposits below high water level. The extraction of 15,000,000 tons of ore for export from such a huge deposit would have had but a slight effect, upon our iron ore reserves, but it would have enabled the deposits to be fully developed and made available for our future use. In the event of a national emergency the Government has power to impose an embargo on exports and thus reserve sufficient supplies for Australia’s requirements. The Government should expend money on geophysical and other surveys in order to demonstrate, as far as is possible, the actual extent of our iron ore resources. The information before me discloses that for over 200 years Sweden has employed geophysical methods to locate iron ore.
The United States of America, Russia and Germany also adopt such methods. It has been suggested that had the embargo not been imposed Japan would have got a foothold in Australia. All that the company asked was that certain assayers and weighing clerks, about four or five people all told, should be allowed entry. The Western Australian mining legislation prohibits any but our own people from being employed in mining in the State, and there was no possibility of Japan getting a foothold in Australia through the Yampi Sound project.
I again direct the attention of honorable members to the extraordinary procedure which is developing in this country of legislation by regulation. A year or so ago, the trade diversion policy, which involved a tremendous change of policy on the part of the Commonwealth, was imposed by means of regulations. Now to-day, we have the export of iron ore from Australia prohibited in a similar manner.
Opposition Members. - What government was responsible?
– It does not matter what government was responsible for those two acts. Government by regulation is common to all governments, and it should be checked.
A grave injury will be inflicted upon Australia if the regulations are allowed to continue in force. It has been suggested that the Yampi Sound deposits should be made available for exploitation’ by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and I hope that, if that be done, the company will be compelled to pay for them, and that the Government of Western Australia will receive a royalty in order to recompense it for the financial loss and other trouble that it has sustained as the result of the unfair action by the Commonwealth Government. Time will tell whether I have been right and the big majority which rules in this House wrong in this matter.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the ban on the export of iron ore from Australia imposes upon the Commonwealth Government the obligation to ascertain definitely the amount of iron ore resources available within the Commonwealth with a view to their early development in the interests of Australia, and this House commends the Government for having instituted a comprehensive detailed survey of Australia’s iron resources.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In view of a rumour current in the lobbies that the Government has at last realized that it blundered badly in introducing a sectional instead of a national insurance scheme, can the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) say whether it is a fact that as the result of the strong criticism by the Federal Labour Opposition of the weaknesses of the so-called National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, which criticism was supported by an overwhelming majority cif the people of Australia, the Government has decided to postpone indefinitely the proclamation of the act?
.- As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has said, there are rumours that the Government, does not propose to proceed with the national insurance scheme. According to information that I have received, the Melbourne Herald, which is recognized as the Government’s mouthpiece, published to-day a statement to the effect that the Government intends indefinitely to postpone putting this legislation into operation. As similar information has been broadcast by a number of radio stations to-day, the House is entitled to a definite pronouncement on the subject. It. is stated that the main reason for the postponement is dissension among members of the Cabinet. There are reports that once again the ( ,A……… party is exercising its influence : i 11(1 embarrassing the Government. It would appear that the newly-formed grand Fascist council of seven members- the inner group of the Cabinet - has not been the success which the Prime Minister had hoped that, it would be. It is stated that even the Big Three who control the inner group - I refer to the Prime Minister ( Mr. Lyons), the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) - have been unable to reach unanimity. If rumour bo correct, the Acting Leader of the Houseis the chief cause of the trouble. I trust that the rumour is correct, and that the Government does nor intend to give effect to the national insurance legislation which recently passed through this chamber. Despite the fact that, within the last hour, members supporting the Government resolved themselves into a mutual admiration society, and carried a cheap resolution-
– I had no intention to reflect on the House, Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! The honorable member referred to a matter which has already been decided by the House.
– I trust that, in the interests of the mass of the people of this country, this legislative child, of which the Treasurer held such high hopes, will prove to have been stillborn.
[11.28 J. - I can assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) that there is no truth whatsoever in the rumour that the national health and insurance scheme will not be proceeded with, or that its operation will he i nd efi n iitely post, pol ed .
– This morning a Sydney daily newspaper set out to misrepresent me and to create in the minds of people in my electorate, and other supporters, the impression that a statement I made recently was a fabrication. As I am called upon from time to time to make statements in connexion with my parliamentary duties, I take this opportunity to give the facts to the House, and to name some of the people concerned in this matter.
On Wednesday, the 14th September, 1938, the maritime unions connected with the port of Sydney, invited the secretary of the British Transport Workers Union, Mr. Ernest Bevin, to a luncheon at Usher’s Hotel, Sydney. All the maritime unions were represented and others present included Mr. D. Clyne, M.L.A., representative for Darling Harbour, and I, as representing the ports. I was requested to propose the toast of the health of the visitor, which I did. I was supported by Mr. Clyne, and Mr. Bevin responded. At the conclusion of the luncheon, Mr. Bevin, accompanied by the secretary of the Maritime Unions’ Council. Mr. J. Tudehope, visited me at the Federal Members’ rooms on the eighth floor of the Commonwealth Bank Building, Martin-place, Sydney. A conversation took place. Mr. Bevin said he wished to discuss with me the advisability of him attending a dinner to be arranged by the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Sir Alfred Davidson, at which representatives of the Heffron Labour party would attend. These would include the general secretary of the New South “Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union, Dr. Lloyd Ross, who is also a member of the political bureau of the Communist party; the secretary of the Heffron party, Mr. W. Evans; the organizer of the Clerks Union, Mr. J. Hughes, and the president of the Heffron party, Mr. F. O’Neill.
Before asking me for a reply, Mr. Bevin related the following experiences he had had with Sir Alfred Davidson : - Arriving in New Zealand, on his way to Australia, to attend the British Relations Conference at Lapstone, New South “Wales, he was met by a gentleman who stated that he represented Sir Alfred Davidson, and had been asked to inquire if he, Mr. Bevin, would meet Sir Alfred Davidson soon after arriving in Australia. More than likely that gentleman in New Zealand was one of «the representatives of the Bank of New South Wales in that dominion. Mr. Bevin said that he remarked to that gentleman that he was at a loss to know why Sir Alfred Davidson should want to see him, but finally said that, at that, stage, he could see no harm in the meeting taking place. Mr. Bevan duly arrived in Sydney and, according to arrangements made for delegates to the conference, went to the Hotel Australia. Not very long afterwards, Sir Alfred Davidson visited the hotel, presented his card, and was duly ushered in to see Mr. Bevin. After introducing himself, Sir Alfred Davidson1 early indicated his mission. The request he made to Mr. Bevin was that he should meet the representatives of the Heffron Labour party. At that stage Mr. Bevin had no knowledge of the Heffron Labour party, so he made some inquiries from Sir Alfred Davidson, who explained that it was a party that had broken away from the official Labour party of New South “Wales and formed another organization. He added that the Heffron party was anxious to discuss its problems with Mr. Bevin. Mr. Bevin’s answer was to the effect that he had no desire to meet any breakaway organization. Such a discussion would, in his opinion, be in extremely bad taste, and con trary to the conduct which visiting labour representatives should observe. He further declared that if a representative of Labour in Australia went to London and engaged in consultations with breakaway movements in- England the action would be roundly condemned by the British Labour party. Therefore, he added : “ I am not going to consult with or meet people in Australia that I certainly would not expect an Australian Labour representative to meet in Great Britain.” So the conclusion of that interview was that Mr. Bevin refused to meet the breakaway organization. Sir Alfred Davidson apparently was not to be pushed aside by one refusal and he awaited another opportunity.
Mr. Bevin continued his conversation with me by informing me that the programme of the conference at Lapstone included a garden party at the property of the Macarthur Onslow family at Camden. Many delegates attended, including Mr. Bevin. Mr. Bevin explained to me the happenings at the garden party. He said that Sir Alfred Davidson again appeared on the scene. He managed to engage Mr. Bevin in conversation by first discussing newspapers, directing attention to Mr. Bevin’s association with the London Baily Herald. He informed Mr. Bevin that he was handling the accounts of The Labor Daily, of Sydney, and would like Mr. Bevin’s comment on the paper. Mr. Bevin’s comment was not very complimentary. However, Mr. Bevin said that he made some reference to two features appearing in the newspaper. He explained to me that his reason for that was to “ try out “ Sir Alfred. Davidson in order to ascertain what control and influence he had over the Labor Daily. This test had an effect, according to Mr. Bevin’s advice to me, in that two days later he noticed that corrections had been made in the features. That fact was sufficient for him to know who was running the Labor Daily.
The conversation between Sir Alfred Davidson and Mr. Bevin continued, and Sir Alfred Davidson again pressed Mr. Bevin to meet representatives of the Heffron Labour party. Mr. Bevin was of the same mind as at the previous interview’, but Sir Alfred Davidson continued to press his request. There the matter rested for the time being, and so concluded the talk between Mr. Bevin, Mr. Tudehope, aud myself.
Mr. Bevin returned to Lapstone. The conference later concluded, Mr. Bevin arrived hack iu Sydney, and, after meeting Sir Alfred Davidson, dined with him at the bend office of the Bank of New South Wales. The conversation that took place at that dinner was told to me by Mr. Bevin in Canberra on the 23rd September when he arrived here on his way to Melbourne, en route for England.
At the dinner, Sir Alfred Davidson put several points to Mr. Bevin. These were as follows : “ We want to alter the rules of the Labour party in New South Wales. We want to remove Mr. Lang from the leadership of the party. We want the party and not the conference to elect the leader. Generally, a new Labour organization is required in New South Wales “. In speaking of the rules of the party, Mr. Bevin said he told Sir Alfred Davidson that he thought it was a matter for the members of the party, as was the cas» elsewhere, and that if the members wished to alter the rules it was within their power to do so. Sir Alfred Davidson’s answer was to the effect that the Heffron party, lacking the numbers, was unable to do that, so another organization had been set up.
Referring to the leadership, Sir Alfred Davidson said that the Heffron party claimed that Labour could not win with Mr. Lang and that he, Sir Alfred Davidson, was in agreement with that view. Mr. Bevin inquired whether it was a fact that his, Sir Alfred Davidson’s, government was in power, and if so, why he wanted Labour to win. Sir Alfred Davidson’s reply was to the effect that Mr. Bevin did not quite understand politics in New South Wales. Sir Alfred Davidson said: “You know, Bevin, it is different here from what it is in your country. What we want here In New South Wales is a ‘ properly-led ‘ Opposition. We have not got that with Lang. I know the Government in power is to tuy liking, but I am concerned with the future, and, in fact, I feel that we want an Opposition Leader who is respected. In effect, we want a properly- led Opposition, and that is what the Heffron party is fighting for. Do you know, Bevin, that this Lang also selects his own Ministers? Now we want to change all that. Lang has raised the Communist issue against us in this fight, but I want you to disbelieve that, although I admit that Communists are in the Heffron organization. They have attached themselves to the movement.”
Air. Bevin. replied that he felt it was none of his business. While Sir Alfred Davidson’s statements were all very interesting, he, Mr. Bevin, recognized the official movement, and it was not within his province, as a visitor to Australia, to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Labour party of New South Wales.
Naturally, I inquired from Mr. Bevin what his reactions were to the whole affair. Mr. Bevin replied: “It is all very strange to me to find a leading banker so deeply interested in the domestic affairs of the Labour party as to have such a close alliance with men who claim to be militant Labour representatives. I do not know all the details, but Sir Alfred Davidson’s anxiety about Lang was most pronounced He had Lang firmly impressed in bis mind, and, it appeared to me, that he would do all in his power to remove him. It is a strange alliance. I know what I would think of such a position in England. It is natural that I must think the same of it in Australia”. Ho concluded by particularly requesting me to work for the success of the Dominions Labour Conference in New Zealand in 1940.
I have made this definite statement on the floor of this House for very specific reasons. First of all, it will explain an attempt made by a newspaper this morning to make it appear that any references which I have previously made to the subject are mere fabrications. I point out that I have corroboration for all that I have said. Mr. Tudehope will substantiate my statement of what took place at the first interview with Mr. Bevin. and corroboration of all of the other incidents which I have mentioned can be given by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). My main purpose in making this statement in this Parliament is to convey to the electors whom I represent my attitude on this matter, and to make perfectly clear my determination to disclose, so far as 1 am able, what appears to be an unholy alliance between Sir Alfred Davidson and the Heffron party, and also to warn supporters of the Labour movement of what is actually going on. I wish also to reveal to them the manner in which a leading banker is dabbling, interfering and assisting financially, and otherwise, certain people, some of whom I have named, for the purpose of gaining complete control of political affairs in the State of New South Wales. I thank honorable members for their courtesy in allowing me to make this statement.
– That explains Mr. Bevin’s statement that he had never previously come into contact with a Labour party with so many rich friends.
– That is so; the honorable member’s interjection bears out largely the truth and candour of the conversations I have just described. I feel sure that my statement will serve to clear the minds of not only people resident in my electorate, but also others who may be interested in this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Australian Wool Hoard - Second Annual Report for year 1 037-38.
House adjourned at 11.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable member to the statement made by me on this subject to-day.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
H yPowerProd uc e r Gas.
e asked the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With regard to the promise made by the then Acting Minister to representations made by the honorable member for Melbourne Porta (Mr. Holloway), that he would make inquiries and report later to honorable members on the methods used in assessing and collecting the excise and customs duties upon petrol, will the Minister he good enough to ascertain if such inquiries have been finalized?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As promised, full inquiries have been made into the matter forming the subject of the honorable member’s question, and a communication setting out the position, is being addressed to him.
Peanuts. “ Mr. .Forde asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Imports into Australia of peanuts, both shelled and unshelled, and the principal countries from which they were obtained, during the past ten years, were as follows: - 3 and 4. In April, 1927, an embargo under the Quarantine Act was imposed on peanuts. This embargo was modified in September or that year, imports being permitted for roasting and manufacturing purposes. This position obtained until April, 1929, when action was taken under the Customs Act to prohibit further imports of peanuts, excepting that prior contracts entered into by importers wore exempted from the embargo. As a result of a drought the Australian production of peanuts in 1932-33 represented only 14 per cent, of requirements, and the following year there was again a shortage due to many growers changing over to maize production on account of the high maize prices at that time. Having regard to the needs of consumers the Government removed the embargo in December, 1933. Since that time the Australian industry has been adequately protected by duties under the general tariff of4d. per lb. on unshelled peanuts and6d. per lb. on peanut kernels. The adequacy of the protection is demonstrated by the small quantities which are imported under these duties. Peanuts for oil expression purposes are, however, admitted free of duty, but only in respect of such quantities as are found necessary to meet the requirements of manufacturers after the local supplies of milling nuts have been absorbed.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
e asked the Minister for Defence Works, upon notice -
Will he supply details of the proposed expenditure of £1,000,000 for industrial organization, announced by the Prime Minister?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Details of proposed expenditure for industrial organization arc as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information desired’ by the honorable member is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Are persons appointed under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, other than commissioners, being drawn entirely from members of the Commonwealth Public Service ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The answer is yes, with the exception of one who was a State officer and was selected as the outstanding applicant after applications had been received from officers both within and without the Commonwealth service.
New Guinea: Royalty on Gold: Timber Resources.
n asked the Minister administering External Territories, upon notice -
With reference to the suggestions of the honorablemember for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) on the 23rd September regarding the imposition of a tax of 5 per cent, on all gold won in New Guinea, and the abolition of the tax in instances whore prospectors* are earning less than an appropriate wage, have the suggestions yet been investigated as promised?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Administrator of New Guinea was asked to carry out the necessary investigations and to furnish a report on the matter. A report has not yet been received from the Administrator but is being expedited.
n asked the Minister administering External Territories, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that on the12th October the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green ) asked the Minister if he would lay on the table of the House the report presented by Mr. C.E. Lane-Poole, Commonwealth Forestry Adviser, concerning his recent visit to inquire into the timber resources of the Territory of New Guinea, and that the Minister replied that he would make arrangements to have the document laid on the table of the Library ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Oil from Coal.
s.- On the 21st October, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked a question, without notice, regarding the provision of internal supplies of liquid fuels by means of the hydrogenation of coal. 1 desire to inform the honorable member that the Government has constituted a Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels comprising departmental officers and representatives of industry. The reference to the committee is to inquire into and to report, from time to time upon the possibilities of the production in Australia of liquid fuels and substitutes therefor from all sources with a view to obtaining greater national independence in this regard. Oil from coal will be one of the sources of production to be investigated by the committee. As the honorable member is aware, the question of the production of oil from coal by hydrogenation has been under the consideration of the Government for some time, and has been reported upon by Sir David Rivett and the Common wealth Hydrogenation Committee. The Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels will use these reports as a basis for further investigation.
s. - On the 4th November, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked a question, without notice, as to what progress had been made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in connexion with investigations into the use of the virus (myxomatosis) for the destruction of rabbits.
I desire to inform the honorable member that the second experiment on Wardang Island is still in progress, but itis too early yet to say whether the virus will be of use as an agent for the large-scale destruction of rabbits. The honorable member may bo assured that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will make a recommendation to the Government as soon as it is able to do so, and, if this recommendation is favorable, the necessary action will be taken without delay.
On the 4th November, the honorable member for Denison (Mr: Mahoney) askeda question, without notice, as to whether the virus used for the destruction of rabbits is harmful to homing pigeons and butcher birds, and also whether it will affect human beings, 1 desire ‘to inform the honorable member that tests which have been carried out have shown that human beings are immune from the effects of the virus. Whilst specific tests with the virus have not been made with homing pigeons and butcher birds, other birds have been tested and, us these birds arc immune from its effects, it is presumed that the birds to which the honorable member referred arcalso immune. Details of the tests which have been carried out in Australia and abroad to determine the specificity of the virus are contained in the Journal of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, volume 10, No. 4. November, 1037, a copy of which will be supplied to the honorable member.
n. - On the 26th October, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the Treasurer the following question, upon notice : -
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : - 1 and 2. The Petroleum Oil Search Trust Account of £250,000 was established under the provisions of the Petroleum Oil Search
Acts 1936. Particulars regarding the expenditure from this account were tabled on the 7th October, 1938. The money has been expended on advances to operating companies, the purchase of modern drilling equipment and administrative expenditure. An amount of £166,933 15s. 7d. remained in the account on the 30th June, 1938. The money advanced to companies has been expended on geological survey work and test drilling at Roma, Hutton Creek and Arcadia, Queensland; at Kulnura andMulgoa, New South Wales; and at Lakes Entrance and Longford, Victoria. Four drilling plants have been purchased. One is at Hutton Creek, another at Kulnura, while a third has been made available for the joint Government scout drilling campaign inGippsland. The fourth plant is stored in Sydney, but an application for its hire is under consideration. The Prospecting for Petroleum Trust Account was created under the Petroleum Prospecting Acts 1926, 1927 and 1928. Only £388 3s.11d. remained in this account at the 30th June, 1938. The expenditure of £4,010 10s. 3d. from this fund during the financial year 1937-38 comprised a contribution of £4,000 by the Commonwealth to the fund provided jointly by the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments for the scout drilling campaign in Gippsland. The balance was incurred on administrative expenses. While actually no oil in commercial quantities is being obtained, it is considered that the search for oil in Australia has progressed materially as a result of the expenditure incurred by the Government. Much additional information is available and generally improved methods are being employed by operating companies.
LOSS of AIR-LINER “ KYEEMA.’’
– Yesterday the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan),’ asked me a question, without notice, in which ho referred to a report that the committee, investigating the disaster to the airliner Kyeema, directed that evidence relating to Royal Australian Air Force Avro Anson bombers should not be published.
I desire to inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth Government directed the committee of inquiry to investigate the disaster so that it would report upon the cause or causes, with a view to obviating such accidents in the future. The committee was free to conduct its inquiry in any way that it desired, and if for certain reasons it was deemed by the committee to be inadvisable to publish certain evidence, such a decision was the responsibility of the committee. The Government does not propose to issue directions to the committee other than those given at the beginning of the investigation. The Government considered that the committee should be free to conduct its investigations in its own way. The Government has issued no instructions to the committee as to what evidence should be published or not published, nor does it propose to issue any such instruction.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381109_reps_15_157/>.