18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing inform me whether duality wa.s reached at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Melbourne, which, I understand, was called to discuss the raising of the spillway of the Hume Reservoir to ensure better control over the waters of the river Murray? If so, what are the financial implications of the undertaking, and how is the cost to be met? What will be the increase of water storage? In view of this increased storage, will it be possible to generate hydroelectric poower ?
– Unanimity was reached by the Commonwealth and State Ministers who attended the conference, and after legislation has been passed by the respective State Governments and the Commonwealth Government amending the River Murray Waters Agreement, the height of the weir will be increased. The cost of this work and incidental undertakings will be approximately £2,000,000. This will be borne equally by the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and the Commonwealth which are parties to the agreement. The work will increase water storage in the reservoir by 750,000 acre-feet, from 1,250,000 acre-feet to 2,000,000 acre-feet. The generation of hydro-electric power will be possible, and orders will be placed shortly for the necessary machinery and equipment so that the power station may operate as soon as the work on the spillway has been completed.
– I have received the following telegram from Mr. Cheesby Director of Public Relations of the Queensland League of Rights -
Re my letter Chifley dated 4th October letter was sent air mail registered AB Number 3205 ex Brisbane, 2.30 p.m. fifth instant has now been returned endorsed refused R T S kindly press matter in House why Chifley refused receive letter containing vital evidence supporting demand for Royal Commission on. communist and other subversive activities^
I ask the Prime Minister te say why, in this- democratic country, he refused to accept delivery of a registered, letter addressed to him. Have the people of thi9 country not a right to make representations to the Prime Minister,, or i3 the right honorable gentleman declining to hear them? I am sure that had the letter been from a trade union-
– Order ! The honorable member may not express opinions when asking a question.
– I have a copy of the letter and I. shall make it available to the Prime Minister. Why does the right honorable gentleman continue to refuse to receive registered letters addressed, to him on important public matters, including Communist activities in this country?
– 1 have not the sligh rest idea of what letter the honorable member- is talking about. Obviously, I cannot recall all the letters that have come to mc. There are thousands of them.. I do not know of any. reason why a particular letter should not have been accepted. Certainly, its acceptance was not refused by me, personally. If the honorable member will give me particulars of the letter-
– I shall hand the right honorable gentleman a copy of it.
– As every body knows, it is not possible for me personally to receive the thousands of letters that are addressed to me. The registering of letters addressed to me is not unusual. Very many people seem, to have money to waste on registering letters that they address to me. If the honorable member will give some particulars relating to the non-acceptance of the letter to which he has referred, I shall, if possible, ascertain what happened. I assure him that I do not refuse to receive letters, whether they are handed to me in the corridors of this building or elsewhere.
– Has the attention of the 1’rime Minister ‘been directed to the action taken bv the Canadian Government to impose a second screening of refugees, owing to the disclosure that certain subversive elements had managed to pass through the first screening in Europe? Will similar instructions he given to the Commonwealth Investigation Service regarding those proposing to enter this country? Is the right honorable gentleman satisfied that certain subversive elements have not already entered this country after securing landing permits in Shanghai? Is he aware that the Communist infiltration into Malaya, Indo-Ohina and Indonesia was organized through Shanghai?
– I do not recall having seen any statement relating to the imposition of a second screening of persons seeking to enter Canada. I know, however, that complaints were made in Canada that some of the migrants who had entered that country were undesirables. Having regard to the tens of thousands of migrants that are being brought to Australia it must be expected that some will be found unsuitable cither for physical, mental or other reasons. I am aware that the Canadian Government has ‘been pressed more thoroughly to screen prospective migrants. It is inevitable that complaints will be made against some migrants on the ground that they have Nazi or Fascist tendencies or that they have been sympathetic towards political thought of that kind. The honorable member suggests that a more thorough or more efficient examination should be made of prospective migrants to Australia. If there is a suggestion that undesirable people are gaining entry to Australia I shall certainly take steps to screen migrants more thoroughly. “With regard to the Communist infiltration into Malaya from Shanghai, a number of those who have been breaking the law of that country by engaging in terrorist activities were already residing in Malaya during World War II. While 1 was in Singapore a man who was shot as a terrorist had been sent home only six months previously to be decorated for the part, he had played in the resistance movement in Malaya. The position in that country i9 very confused. Nobody can excuse what is going on there nor condone in any way the actions of many of those responsible for the unrest in that country. Many of the people who are now regarded as terrorists took part in the resistance movement against the Japanese.
– On the 6th October the Prime Minister stated that Cabinet had that day decided to recommend to the Parliamentary Labour party that certain amendments .be made to the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. Among those recommendations was one -
To grant authority to the rural credit,!department to make advances to marketing boards constituted under Commonwealth law on the security of a Government guarantee
Can the right honorable gentleman inform me whether the Commonwealth bank is not already so empowered considering that advances are already being made to State marketing boards with or without a government guarantee, or does the recommendation foreshadow ‘ a limitation of the bank’sactivities to the extent that the bank will not be allowed to make advances except under government guarantee?
– I had hoped to be able to bring an amending bill before the Parliament this week, but due to the physical difficulties of drafting it and because of a great amount of other work it was not possible to do so. It may, however, come before the Parliament next week. The position is not as the honorable member has suggested, but at the moment, is that, the rural credits department is rather restricted in regard to that particular kind of financing, and general advances have been made more through the general trading section of the bank. The amending bill will be purely a machinery measure which will make certain activities the responsibility of the rural credits department, which seems tobe the proper department to undertake them, but it will not prevent the ordinary advances being made.
Mr. L. C. HAYLEN, M.P.
– I seek advice from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On the 2nd September, the honorable member for Parkes criticized fellow members of the Australian Journalists Association saying that newspaper correspondents in Japan were renegades to their country and were prepared to do anything for a “ couple of bob “, and that another had written a sloppy and insincere report for the Government. He has since been invited by the ethics committee of the New South Wales District of the Australian Journalists Association, of which district he is a member, to appear before it to substantiate his allegations, and has pleaded that while most anxious to attend parliamentary privilege will preclude his doing so. Do you, sir, consider that he may claim privilege in response to an invitation to attend voluntarily at this meeting? If so, do you regard it as a worthy invocation of such privilege?
– The question put to me appears to be related to privilege, and consequently should not He submitted to the House by way of a question to the Chair. There is provision in our. practice for members to raise matters of privilege, and for the House to either determine them or refer them to the Committee of Privileges. The House alone can determine matters of privilege. The only question requiring decision by the Chair is whether or not a prima facie case has been made out which would entitle the matter to take precedence over other business.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development. Owing to the expansion of the dairying industry in Tasmania, and the anxiety of other primary producers to install and improve water supplies, in addition to the needs of municipal councils for water schemes mid because of the extreme difficulty of obtaining the necessary piping, will the Minister ascertain what is the quantity of piping allocated by the manufacturers ro Tasmania, for the ensuing twelve months and make representations for an increased allocation if that is possible?
– I can well understand the honorable member’s solicitude for primary producers and others in Tasmania, who are not able to obtain sufficient supplies of piping for their requirements. The distribution of piping is carried out under an agreement on the basis of the allocation to the various States that was reached at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and, so far as I am aware, the allocation cannot be altered without the consent of all the Premiers. The Division of Industrial Development of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction puts the case to manufacturers for urgent supplies of piping and steel requirements for industry generally where the opportunity offers. When the honorable member for Wilmot or any other honorable member makes representations about a matter of this kind, the Division of Industrial Development communicates with the manufacturers for the purpose of ascertaining whether supplies for specific purposes can be expedited. I shall take that action in the matter which the honorable member has raised, and, in addition, I shall ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether he can do anything to ensure that supplies of piping for Tasmania shall be forwarded more speedily.
– Last week, when I asked a question about soil erosion, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction pointed out that the responsibility for taking combative and preventative measures rested, not on the Australian Government, but with the .State governments. As each State has appointed a soil erosion committee, and a similar authority exists in the Australian Capital Territory, will the Minister treat this problem on a national basis, and co-ordinate the activities of all those bodies under a national authority to be termed, I suggest, the National Soil Erosion Committee?
– I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory that the problem of soil erosion is so serious as to be of national importance. However, when the honorable member ‘speaks of co-ordinating the efforts of the various authorities responsible for counteracting soil erosion in the States, he is asking me to take action which I have no power to take unless the States themselves agree to the measure of co-ordination that he has suggested. The States are doing excellent work in combating soil erosion, and if I can assist them in any way, I shall be pleased to do so.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel request his colleague who, I understand, is to investigate the allocation of petrol for taxis, to approve a uniform quota for taxi proprietors throughout Australia ? Will the Minister devote particular attention to the needs of taxi proprietors in country districts, where people have not the advantage of frequent transport services by train, tram and omnibus, which are available to the residents of cities?
– 1 shall bring the honorable member’s remarks to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. 1 am sure that my colleague will consider the request when altering the allocation of petrol to taxi-cab proprietors throughout the Commonwealth.
Mi-. WHITE.- When moving the second-reading of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture did not refer to the control of flour exports, which bring considerable revenue to Australia, although, as the honorable gentleman is aware, such a provision was included in the International Wheat Agreement. Can the Minister inform me whether the control of flour exports will cease after the 31st December next? If the control is to be retained, what method will be adopted, and for how long will the control remain ? If the Minister is not able to answer my questions immediately, will he make a statement on the subject to the House as soon as possible?
– If the honorable member for Balaclava will read the provisions of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, copies of which are available in the House, he will find that under the definition of the various products to be controlled, flour will be controlled in the same way as wheat. Therefore, control of flour exports will be continued after the 31st December next.
Employment of Migrants
– For some time Baits and other migrants sponsored by the International Relief Organization have been coming to this country to be placed in industries ancillary to the building trades in order to speed up the construction of housing. Can the Minister for Immigration give any figures to indicate the real contribution which these thousands of migrants have made to the building trades generally and in the provision of- new homes in Australia?
– I cannot give offhand the information sought by the honorable member. I know that 150 of the migrants to whom he has referred have been placed in brick kilns and tile and cement works, and that the increase of production resulting from their employment has been calculated at approximately 8,500,000 bricks a year. The department sent eight migrants to a brickyard at a country town in Western Australia which had been closed because of the shortage of labour, and those men are now producing sufficient bricks to build a house a day. I shall try to obtain in detail the information sought by the honorable member and supply it to him next week. Since the period to which I have referred some hundreds more migrants have been placed in brick yards. As fast as we can get huts erected to accommodate them these migrants from Baltic, Ukranian and Polish territories will be placed in employment in the production of bricks, tiles and cement. By that means such production has been accelerated in the capital cities and in large country towns. In some instances, we have been able to help small towns as well. It can be truthfully, if somewhat boastfully, claimed that production in every State has been helped and that it will be helped to an ever-increasing degree as more and more ships arrive with migrants.
– A film entitled The Iron Curtain is currently advertised in the press to be screened in Canberra in the near future. It is said to depict how Russia’s spies can operate in a democracy, and in that respect the picture is said to be highly educational. As the film will be screened while the Parliament is in session, will the Minister for Information consider making arrangements to give to both Government and Opposition members an opportunity to view it?
– I understand that the honorable gentleman asks that an opportunity be given to himself, other honorable members and honorable senators to see the film to which he has? referred.
Mr.Turnbull. - I did not mention the Senate.
– The honorable member is not worried about the Senate? No film can be shown in Parliament House without the joint consent of Mr. President and Mr. Speaker.
– I did not ask that the film be shown in Parliament House. On previous occasions honorable members have been conveyed from Parliament House to see pictures at a local theatre.
Mr. CALWELL.If the honorable gentleman wants me to try to arrange with the proprietor of a local theatre to show a film so that honorable members who wish to see it can do so I shall do my best to oblige him. However, if he wishes that all honorable members should see the film, it would be better to screen it in Parliament House because more people attend screenings here than are prepared to go from Parliament House to a theatre to do so.
– The citizens of
Quorn, South Australia, many of whom have invested their life’s savings in their homes, are disturbed by repeated rumours that, as a result of the survey now being made of a proposed diversion of the north-south railway line, Quorn is likely to be by-passed. In view of the wonderful service that has been rendered by employees of the Commonwealthrailways who reside at Quorn and other towns along the present railway line, can the Minister for Transport say whether, in the event of some of those towns being by-passed, consideration will be given to compensating the residents?
– It is to he regretted if any anxiety has been aroused in the minds of people in the Quorn district in South Australia by the survey recently undertaken. No decision has yet been made to by-pass Quorn or any other centre. It is anticipated that considerably more coal will be won from the Leigh. Creek coal-field, and the survey ‘was undertaken in conjunction with the South Australian authorities to determine the most economical route over which the coal could be transported to the south from Maree. Until the survey has been completed and all the facts have been placedbefore the Government. I shall be unable to indicate whether any change will be madein the route. Should it appear necessary or desirable to depart from the present route, I am sure that any disturbance or loss suffered by workers will be taken into account by the Australian and State governments, and that adequate compensation or assistance to establish homes elsewhere will be provided for them.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether any of the funds included in the Estimates for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, which, I understand, amount to approximately £25,000, are intended to be expended on the establishment of even one ex-serviceman in Commonwealth territory? I point out to the Minister that although three years has elapsed since the termination of the recent war not one ex-serviceman has been settled in the Northern Territory.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “.
– Has the Prime Minister seen reference in the press to the annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which is to he presented to the annual conference of that body now being held in Brisbane? The reference is as follows: -
The report describes as outstanding the action of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) in ordering a more liberal interpretation of the pensions regulations.
Does the right honorable gentleman regard that statement as a fine tribute to the Minister, particularly in view of the propagandist criticism uttered by members of the Opposition during the recent debate on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill? Does he not regard it a? substantiating the claim made by supporters of thu Government that the present Minister for Repatriation is more sympathetic to ex-servicemen than was any previous occupant of that office.
– It has been brought to my notice that an official document of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia had described as magnificent the achievements of the Minister for Repatriation in liberalizing pensions and other benefits. Since the Minister receives very few bouquets I ventured to compliment him at the breakfast table this morning. At the same time I cautioned him to bear in mind the old adage, “I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts “.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture yet able to comment en the allegation that I made in this chamber last week that inferior canned meat is being included in food parcels sent to the United Kingdom?
– Last week the honorable member for Barker brought to my notice allegations that had been made in respect of tinned meats in parcels despatched to places overseas, which, it was stated, had been packed under Commonwealth supervision. The principal allegation was that the tins contained not more nor less than mush. I have asked the officers cf my department to endeavour to find out whether or not thi allegations are well founded, and as soon as I receive the report I shall pass the information on to the honorable member. We shall endeavour to rectify the trouble wherever possible.
– During the recent severe storm in South Australia many fishing boats were wrecked or badly damaged, particularly those that wenmoored in Moonta Bay. From time to time during recent years the South Australian Government has had estimate? prepared for the building of a boat haven in that bay. However, there has been a good deal of procrastination, and the estimated cost of the project has risen in the meantime from approximately £11,500 to approximately £34,000. The fishing industry is vital to the people of Moonta. Many of the fishing boats that were badly ‘ damaged belong to exservicemen. Will the Minister for Transport inform the House whether the South Australian Government would be justified in using money granted by the Commonwealth to offset disabilities, or from other sources, in the building of h boat haven at Moonta. Bay?
– In pursuance of the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Work?Act grants are made to the State governments from the proceeds of the petrol tax. A proportion of that money could be made available by the various State governments to assist those engaged in the fishing industry. The Australian Government in no way intervenes in the matter of dealing with applications to the States. Discretion as to the proportion of that money that should be made available for any purpose rests with the State authorities. The Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Bill that I have introduced provides that an additional £1,000,000 shall be made available te- the States. That money has not yet been allocated. I suggest to the honorable member that now should be an. appropriate time to make representations to the responsible State authority in regard to this matter.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a judgment by Mr. Conciliation Commissioner G. H. Buckland granting a variation of theboot trade award to allow of the extension of incentive payment schemes? Mr. Commissioner Buckland is reported to have said that the workers should no longer fear over-production as they did during the depression, and that incentive payment schemes could be used to step up production at the present time. In view of this judgment, and of the right honorable gentleman’s recent appeal to trade unionists for higher production, will he commend to trade unionists the remarks of Mr. Commissioner Buckland and urge them to adopt incentive payment schemes as a means of achieving increased production?
– The introduction of incentive payments in industry with proper safeguards has been advocated by the Minister for Labour and National Service. That Minister agrees, of course, that the system of incentive payments could be open to grave industrial abuse. I n days gone by such schemes have been a bused. Any scheme would require to be properly policed and efficiently managed. As the result of a buses by employers in the past distrust of the incentive payments system has arisen in numerous sections of the industrial movement. It is true, however, that in many industries in Australia to-day, the system has general approval, and would be accepted if arrangements could be made for its operation to be properly policed. Unions of employees engaged in the textile trade support incentive payments, task payments, and bonus payments. There is a fair division of opinion within the industrial movement as to the wisdom of adopting such schemes. I have not seen the judgment in relation to the industry to which the honorable member has referred. I consider that if the Court would be prepared to ensure that such schemes were strictly policed, their introduction would assist materially to achieve increased production. Both the Minister and I have asked the trade union movement and representatives of the Aus tralian Council ofTrade Unions to consider carefully any proposals for achieving increased production, and at the same time properly safeguarding the interests of the workers.
– Is the Minister for Transport yet in a position to say what progress has been made with regard to the proposed ban on left-hand drive vehicles? The matter is of great concern to orchardists and farmers who use exarmy vehicles of that type on their properties.
-I am able to advise the honorable member that the Australian Advisory Transport Council will meet on the 4th and 5th November and that that matter is listed for discussion.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial Assistance to the States in connexion with the administration of prices, rents and land sales controls, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to enable reimbursement by the Commonwealth of the costs that the States will incur in the administration of prices, rents and land sales control during 1948-49. At the recent .Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers it was proposed that the Commonwealth should provide a special grant in order that the States could meet the additional administrative costs that they would have to bear upon transference of the administration of the controls to them. The Government agrees that the States should be provided with assistance to enable them to exercise the controls effectively. The continuance of the controls is regarded by the Government as a necessary part of the measures designed to preserve general economic stability and to keep “inflation in check, and it is important to ensure that their effective administration in the hands of the States shall not be hampered by financial considerations.
Under the proposal made at the conference to limit the grant to “ additional administrative “ costs, the treatment of South Australia and Western Australia would have been somewhat different from that of other States. Those two States have been exercising rent control for some years, and thus, upon the termination of Commonwealth rent control in other States, “they would not have had to meet any additional costs. Nevertheless, it is considered equitable that the grant should be extended to reimburse those two States the cost of their rent controls. A tentative figure of £750,000 was included in the Estimates for 1948-49 as representing the probable cost of the grant, but the States subsequently submitted their own estimates of expenditure on these controls up to the 30tb lune next, and these aggregate £807,000. T.t is estimated that expenditure on the respective controls will be £601,000 for prices, £.109,000 for rents, and £97,000 for land sales.
It is proposed to limit the grant to the re-imbursement of administrative costs, any capital expenditure which the States incur being on their own account. The payment of the grant by way of advances is proposed so that the States will be relieved of the necessity for financing expenditure pending reimbursement from the Commonwealth. At the end of the financial year, each State is to furnish a statement of its administrative costs, as certified by the State Auditor-General.
Ifr. Chifley and an adjustment is ‘to be effected against the advances made during the year.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison ) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Calwell, and read a first time.
– I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of die Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1047, the following proposed work btreferred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - The erection of a primary school at Darwin.
The existing accommodation for educational purposes in Darwin is wholly in adequate. The erection of a new school ha. become necessary to provide teaching facilities for children of school age and anticipated future enrolments. The building will, in the main, be a single story structure, constructed of a concrete superstructure with cement brick walling. The estimated cost of the project ia £91,000. I lay on the table drawings of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Additions, New Works, and other Services Involving Capital Expenditure.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 21st October (vide page 2033).
Part I. - Departments and Services - other than Business Undertakings and Terri tories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £27,594,000.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [11.19 J. - I direct attention to the development of the aluminium industry in Australia. The speech that was made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) last night revealed a realistic approach by the honorable gentleman to the problems cf the Inverell and other districts on the northern tablelands of Sew South Wales in relation to the development of the aluminium industry. The policy that was enunciated by the honorable gentleman is very different from that which is being implemented by the Government of which he is a member. The history of the Government’s attempts to develop the aluminium industry in this country is curious, and many Opposition members believe that there is no sincerity in its professions of support of this project. Honorable members will recall that, in 1944, when the legislation constituting the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was before this chamber, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) moved at the second reading stage for the withdrawal cf the bill and the reference of the proposal to the Tariff Board for a report. This amendment was bitterly opposed .by Government supporters who claimed that it was essential to Australia’s defence requirements, and particularly the manufacture of aircraft, that the aluminium industry should be established in this country forthwith. What happened? A tariff board inquiry was refused, and not one ton of aluminium has been produced by the commis(ion since the passage of that legislation nearly four years ago. One is inclined to wonder, therefore, whether the Government is making an earnest endeavour to establish this industry, or whether it has just been playing with the scheme with the intention ultimately of handing the entire project over to the world- aluminium cartel. It has been pointed out many times that the Australian aluminium manufacturing industry at present is tied up by a company that is associated with Alcoa, the great aluminium corporation of America. When the bill to which I have referred was being discussed, both the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and I emphasized that both Alcoa and the corresponding organization in the United Kingdom were linked through the Aluminium Corporation of Switzerland, which has its head-quarters at Geneva, with the I. G. Farben Industries of Germany, and other corporations in enemy countries. We were up against 1 world monopoly; yet the Australian
Government was prepared to hand over control of the aluminium industry in this country, beyond the ingot stage, to an organization that was tied to the great monopoly companies throughout the world. The Government went so far as to make available to the Australian company a large mechanical hammer that had been imported from the United States of America for the pressing of ingots. By so doing, the Government stultified its own industry from the very beginning. In the course of the debate on the bill, we had the greatest difficulty in obtaining from the Government a report by technical officers on the proposal to establish the aluminium industry in this country. I recall that the then Minister for Supply and Development, Mr. Beasley, who is now Australian High Commissioner in London, repatedly left his place at the table to consult his technical advisers. He refused unequivocally to make the report available until he was forced by the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. John Curtin, to do so. What did we find? By whom was the Government being advised ? It was being advised by officials of a company that was a substantial shareholder in the Australian aluminium organization, which, as [ have said, is tied to the international combine. Obviously the project was doomed to failure from the beginning, and that doom has been contributed to by the Government through the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, because we find that although bauxite is available in large quantities in this country, the commission proposes to import 50,000 tons of bauxite per annum from Malaya. That bauxite will have to be transported approximately 5,900 miles by sea from Singapore to Hobart, where the production of aluminium is to take place. The largest, deposits of bauxite in this country are in the Northern Tablelands district of Nev South Wales, near Inverell. They extend through the electorates of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and myself, and are only 1,200 miles from Hobart. Why has the Government decided to transport bauxite 5,900 miles from . Singapore to Hobart instead of only 1,200 miles from Inverell to Hobart ? I agree with the remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council about the richness of the bauxite deposits in the Inverell district. According to the second annual report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, which was ordered to be printed on the 6th October, 1947, investigations by competent officers if the New South Wales Department of Mines have disclosed that there are approximately 14,000,000 tons of bauxite in the Inverell and adjacent areas, [n Victoria, proven bauxite deposits are estimated at 800,000 tons, and in Tasmania there are 960,000 tons already proven, making a total of 15,760,000 tons. History shows that, with the development of treatment and manufacturing processes and the consequent increased demand upon the mineral resources of the nation, investigations have revealed more and more deposits of mineral wealth. Consequently I was amazed when I found that a responsible Minister of the Crown, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), who was a member of the parliamentary delegation which visited the Inverell district on the 26th and 27th of August last year, had said -
In the initial stages it was proposed to produce 10,000 tons of alumina annually but production would not always remain at that. The industry must naturally be expanded and if Australia utilized its own resources the supply of bauxite would become exhausted.
In an endeavour to explain the extraordinary policy of importing bauxite from Malaya, 5,900 miles distant from Hobart, in preference to using bauxite obtainable from local sources located only 1,200 miles away, the honorable gentleman continued -
In Malaya the supplies would be first drawn mi, keeping in reserve our own 7,000,000 tons, which was only a small reserve compared with Iiic reserves held by other countries.
It is extraordinary that a Minister of the Crown, who is supposed to be informed on these matters, should say that our resources amount to only 7,000,000 tons when it is shown in the Australian Aluminium Production Commissioner’s report that in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania there are deposits which have been proved to con- tain more than .1.5,000,000 tons and thai additional quantities are available in other fields which have not yet been tested. The Minister said that by doing what was proposed we should have our own supplies to fall hack on in the event, of war. By their policy, both the government and the Australian Aluminium Production Commission are inevitably and irrevocably damaging this industry. Their actions substantiate current reports that it is the intention of the Australian and Tasmanian Governments to abandon the aluminium industry as quickly as possible and to hand it over to the international aluminium combine. Last night, the Vice-President of the Executive Council clearly demonstrated that the bauxite deposits in the Emmaville district, and in the New England and Gwyder electorates could be used. The honorable gentleman also said that in those districts were to be found some of the richest coal deposits in the Commonwealth. He did not mention - and I agree that he did not have time to mention everything - that the Ashford deposit is the only deposit of anthracite coal in the Commonwealth that can in any way compare with smokeless coal from the Westport deposits in New Zealand which, before the days of oil-burning vessels, was used exclusively by Royal Navy vessels in these waters and by the Royal Australian Navy. The Davidson report states that the coal deposits at Ashford are regarded as excellent for the generation of electric power, which is so essential for the treatment of bauxite and the production of alumina. The Vice-President of the Executive Council also referred to the Nymboida hydro-electric undertaking and the gorge scheme which have been so consistently advocated as a part of the national development scheme by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). He also said, and I reiterate his statement, that on the mighty Clarenceriver there are ports suitable for the loading of bauxite for shipment to Tasmania, if it is not treated in the Inverell district. In paragraph. 30 of its second annual report, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission states -
Although the reduction unit is the only section of the plant which in terms of the
Aluminium Industry Act is required to be sited in Tasmania it is obviously desirable that operations should be integrated. Economic surveys carried out by the Commission have continned this view, the only circumstances that would justify the division of bauxite treatment from smelting operations being the discovery of a bauxite supply sufficient to maintain the industry wholly for a long period, at it site where coal and general manufacturing facilities would enable the ore to he treated with economic advantage.
The answer to those requirements is to be found in the tablelands area to which [ have already referred. In that area there are 14,000,000 tons of bauxite of a quality which compares not unfavorably with the rich deposits in the peninsula of Malaya. The only problem confronting the successful development of a great aluminium industry in Australia is the bringing together of the raw materials and the generation of the requisite electric energy to process them, together with adequate rail transport to enable the product to be sent to the markets of Australia and the world. On the 27th August, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in reply to the speech delivered by the President of the North West County Council at the meeting held at Inverell, said -
As you say, you have the goods. Time alone will tell when development will start, but start it will. Your products - bauxite, limestone and coal - are crying out for development but the only way to get them-
Mark these words - is through the co-operation of all local organizations and both Parliaments.
The honorable gentleman was referring to the New South Wales Parliament and this National Parliament. The communications necessary are a railway from Inverell to the Tablelands, and from the Tablelands to a port on the coast to give access to sea transport. The railway from Inverell to the coast has been the plaything of successive governments of New South Wales for many years. I do not hesitate to say that, notwithstanding that some of them have been anti-Labour governments. The construction of that railway has been held out as a bait to the people, but nothing has been done. The proposal for the development of Iluka as a port, with appropriate rail connexions, which was made by the present Governor-General, Mr. McKell, when he was Premier of New South
Wales a couple of years ago, is practically the same proposal as that advocated by Sir John Robertson the then Premier of New South Wales in the late sixties and early ‘seventies of the last century. The reason why this railway development has not proceeded, and why the bauxite deposits in northern New South Wales have been neglected, is plain to see. It is because the bulk of the politicians in the Parliament of New South Wales have followed the dictates of their masters in the cities and in that very small area of New South Wales, extending from Newcastle in the north to Port Kembla in the south, which includes two-thirds of the total population of the State. That is the reason why that railway development has not been proceeded with. The aluminium industry should be a Commonwealth project because it affects the whole of Australia. Its development should not be stultified by the representatives of the people of the city areas of Sydney and NewcastleIt is a national proposition and there are many precedents which show that the Commonwealth could adopt the suggestion of the Vice-President of the Executive Council and co-operate with the New South Wales Government in building a railway from the northern tablelands to the coast so thai alumina could be produced from the bauxite deposits in the Inverell district and taken to Tasmania for processing. I believe that with the growth of the aluminium industry the development of the proposal advocated by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) - the Clarence River Gorge Scheme - and the production of hydroelectricity, in combination with the enormous coal deposits of the Inverell district, the northern tablelands area will become a. great centre of industrial activity. All that potential power and production should not be allowed to lie idle. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that it is ridiculous for the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), who was a member of the delegation that recently visited the Inverell district, to claim that aluminium should be manufactured in only one State. He appears to believe, through some perversion of reasoning. that it would be more difficult for an enemy to destroy a concentrated industry in one area than it would be for it to make two bites at the apple and destroy it in two different States. That is a queer idea of logie which, I think, would have driven Aristotle insane and is beyond my comprehension. As precedents for Commonwealth action we have the Port Augusta to Port Pirie Railway Act No. 72 of 1935, under which the Commonwealth at its own expense built a 4-ft. Si-in. gauge railway from Port Augusta to Solomontown, which is a suburb of Port Pirie, and the State of South Australia built a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway from Port Pirie to Red Hill. The Commonwealth agreed to pay, as recompense to the State, for the cost of its portion of the railway and the loss of business to the State occasioned by the construction of the standard-gauge line from Port Augusta to Port Pirie, an annual sum of £20,000 for the next twenty years. Tn the River Murray Waters Act. No. 46 of 3915, an agreement was made for Commonwealth payment for joint schemes to be undertaken by New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. In the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act No. 54 of 1924, the works were paid for in the first instance by the Commonwealth and. then the amount of reimbursements to be made by the States of Queensland and New South Wales was arrived at according to the population of the two States in relation to the total population of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth probably paid practically half of the cost of that railway. I repeat that it is a national duty of this Government, if it sincerely desires to develop the aluminium industry, to cooperate with the New South Wales Government in constructing a railway from Inverell through the tablelands area to a coastal port. If the New South Wales Government- does not desire to co-operate or if it, as the mere agent of the Commonwealth because of the present uniform taxation system, has not sufficient funds to undertake the work, I suggest that in view of its national importance the Commonwealth should immediately discuss with the New South Wales Government the question of giving power to the North West County Coun- cil to construct the railway, and also of giving it the permission of the LoaD Council to raise a loan, to be guaranteed by the Australian Government, to finance the construction of the railway, which should be operated by the New South Wales Government as the agent for the County Council. There are a number of precedents for such raising of loans by local governing bodies, whose borrowings are usually guaranteed by the States. An example is the Sydney Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board whose loans are regarded as trustee securities for the purpose of investment because they are guaranteed by the Government of Nev South Wales. A similar system could be adopted by the Commonwealth. If the New South Wales Government does noi desire to co-operate because it is dependent for its political existence on the great concentration of population between Newcastle and Port Kembla, then in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, the Australian Government should enact legislation and, bv referendum, request the authority of the people for an alteration of the Constitution to enable the creation of new States in Australia. A new northern State would be prepared to construct this railway and develop the mineral resources of the- tablelands area.
– I desire to reply to some remarks made last night by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) in respect of certain statements that I had made during the debate on the Address-in-Reply. My remarks concerned certain works which are proceeding outside Parliament House. It will he recalled that on’ that occasion ] stated that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had no reason to go to the coalfields or the wharfs to see what was wrong with the productive effort of this country, but need only go outside Parliament House, and that he need not go. to an art gallery to see an example of still life. The Minister for Information last night replied to those remarks. My remarks had arisen out of a survey taken by myself and other members as to work proceeding outside Parliament, House. We watched the show for about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes and were joined during that period by a Minister of the Crown, whose name I shall not disclose as he did not seek to contradict the information I later gave to the House. For most of the time, that I and other honorable members watched the work, there was hardly any movement at all. Movement commenced only when the lunch ‘bell rang, and it was somewhat reminiscent of the old Mack Sennett comedies in the days of silent films. Apparently there has been some result of my remarks on that previous occasion, because the still life has become slow motion, but I would not say that the situation is yet satisfactory. As one of my colleagues asked recently, “ What exactly are those boys doing out there? Are they building something or pulling something down ?
Mr. Fuller interjecting,
– Order !
– The remarks of the Minister for Information ended with a challenge from the foreman apparently in charge of the work for me te come out and do the job myself, to see if I could do it better than the workmen were doing it. That is one of those challenges that are made from time to time. They may be amusing but they have no reality about them. They are stupid in that they prove nothing. It was rather extraordinary to have the views of that foreman conveyed to the House by a Minister of the ‘ Crown. The next thing will be that if honorable members go to the dining room and find fault with the coffee or the Irish stew we will have the chef saying to the Parliament, through the Minister, “‘Well make the blinking stuff yourself “. I. am not a bricklayer or a. carpenter, hut from time to time, I employ building tradesmen. Recently, tradesmen, who grew up with me, undertook a small repair job for me. If they saw the progress that was being made on the alterations to Parliament House they would be aghast, staggered and disgusted. Obviously, the progress which should be made is not being: made. The only real way in which to settle the argument is for the Minister to produce the architect’s plan, so that honorable members may ascertain the nature- of the work: that is contemplated.
Let him state the date on which the job began, the number of men employed, and the number of bricks laid a day. Given, that information, we shall have something to get our teeth into, and, probably, some of the taxpayers, who are continually groaning under the yoke of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), may gain an idea of how their money is spent.
.- The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), in his usual clowning manner, has added insult to injury. The extensions to Parliament House are being undertaken by one of the best contractorin Australia, John Grant and Sons. Therefore, when the honorable member insults the workers employed on the job. he is also insulting the organization of one of the leading contractors in Australia. The constructing supervisor, who is responsible to his principals, John Grant and Sons, has rightly, in my opinion, taken exception to the honorable member’s remarks. The honorable gentleman was not prepared to let the matter rest at that point. He has added insult to injury by stating that an onlooker cannot tell whether the men are “ putting something up or pulling something down “. That observation indicates the low standard of the honorable member’s mentality. Although he passes the job nearly every day, he does not know what is taking place. The honorable member’? standard of mentality is so low that he desires to advertise it not only in thi? chamber but throughout the country. The firm of John Grant and Sons is a contractor to my department, and, therefore, is ultimately responsible to me. I am extremely satisfied with the work thai the men are doing, and I am well satisfied with their achievements. I hope thai the progress will be such that the jo), will he completed within the time specified in the contract.
.- Yesterday, I was addressing the committee on the subject of aluminium, but before I had concluded my observations, my time expired. I now desire to complete my speech. The debate on th<aluminium project has produced nian interesting contributions from honorable members-, proving conclusively that it i? a live issue, and that “something is rotten in the State of Australia “. It is necessary for me to repeat two salient features of this matter. The first is that the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, in its investigation of the possibility of establishing the industry in Australia, was completely ham-strung by the clause in the agreement stating that a plant must be established in Tasmania. I also read from a booklet a report of the views of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) on the aluminium industry, and his remarks during this discussion have proved the accuracy of my remarks-. The report of his statement included the following sentence : -
The Commission, Mr. Riordan added, had also to be mindful of the agreement under which the plant for the final reduction of the alumina to aluminium was pledged to Tasmania.
The plant was pledged to Tasmania regardless of economic considerations. In my opinion, that was tantamount to pledging yourself to hang a man before a jury had pronounced him innocent or guilty.
– Incidentally, I did not use the word “pledged”. The booklet has not published a verbatim report of my views.
– The booklet has published sufficient to prove my case. The honorable gentleman quoted extracts from the booklet.
– Does not the honorable member know the provisions of the Aluminium Industry Act?
– I have stated that the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is handicapped, and I am proving my words. From the start, the commission did not have a chance. Regardless of economic considerations, it was pledged to establish the plant in Tasmania. The Minister has misrepresented me. At this point, may I say that it is tragic that Ministers, when replying to reasonable criticism, resort to misrepresenting the honorable member who has voiced it. In their opinion, that misrepresentation passes for logic. They are not able to give a reasoned answer to reasonable criticism, but must deliberately misrepresent their critics and endeavour- to belittle them in the hope of holding them up to public ridicule. The Minister misrepresented me, because he said that evidently I was fighting on behalf of the cartels which are prepared to engage in the manufacture of aluminium in Australia. Every honorable member who listened to my speech must have realized that I was chalenging the right of the Government to enter into any negotiations with a cartel. A specificprovision in the agreement relating to the aluminium industry definitely prevents the Government from doing so. In a few moments, I shall read that provision in order to emphasize again the point which I desire to make. If the Minister believes that I am opposed to the Government engaging in the manufacture of aluminium, he is right. 1 dispute the right of the Government to interfere in this matter, and to expend £3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a project which promises to he a white elephant. Private enterprise, particularly in Victoria, has been prepared to establish the aluminium industry and produce aluminium, but it has not been allowed to do so. For years, Sulphates Proprietary Limited, a Victorian company, has been producing aluminium and all the subsidiaries which are made from alumina. Therefore, the Minister was perfectly correct in stating that I object to the Government engaging in the industry. Paragraph j of Article 3 of the schedule to the bill which the Parliament of Tasmania passed relating to the aluminium industry deprives the Government of the right to enter into negotiations with a cartel. It reads as follows : -
The Commission shall not enter into or be in any way concerned in or a party to or act in concert with any commercial trust or combine but shall always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking.
I direct particular attention to the words “ shall always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking “. We have reason to believe that, despite that provision, the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong) and the chairman of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission have already conducted certain negotiations in England with the British Aluminium Company Limited. I have much more information to give to the Government. I have in my hand a report of the annua] meeting of the British Aluminium Company Limited, which was published in the Mining Magazine.
– Is that the cartel ?
– It is part of it. I am not against cartels carrying on their business, but I insist that Australia shall have the right to control its own industries, whether through private enterprise >r through governments, and that they :<hall not be handed over to the control of overseas monopolies. The report published in the Mining Magazine states -
There are no further water-power developments ill these islands suitable either in cost or magnitude for the production of aluminium ingot on thu scale required. We have accordingly examined a number of possible sites overseas. We are at present actively engaged in surveying mid examining a site within the Empire which wi» consider has very promising possibilities.
I have no doubt that that refers to the undertaking in Tasmania. The Minister implied that the cartel to which I referred has been liquidated.
– That is correct.
– The Minister was then referring to only one arm of the cartel, namely, Alcoa, and even that company is not yet completely defunct. My authority for that statement is contained in the report of the United States of America Tariff Commission.
– What is the date of the report ?
– It has been published since the end of the last waa1. That com mission, in its report, states -
Before World War XL. the entire production ut’ primary aluminium in thu United States of America was controlled by one concern, the Aluminium Company of .America, commonly referred to as Alcoa. Several individuals who held a controlling interest in Alcoa held a controlling interest also in Aluminium Limited, which in turn had affiliations with European aluminium concerns.
– I admit all that.
– Does the Minister still say that Alcoa is defunct? Does a man die simply because his toe is cut off? The report continues -
The enormous war-time increase in the productive capacity of the domestic aluminium industry has been accompanied by the introduction of one fairly substantial and one small independent, concern into the business, but the great bulk of the government owned plant> have been operated by Alcoa.
That is the company which the Minister says is defunct. If he makes many more statements of that kind he will finish up “’ punch drunk “ with his own eloquence. I am not averse to the establishment of this industry in Tasmania, but I propose to show the absurdity of the Government’s proposition on economical grounds. The Minister has reiterated that the main reason for the Government’s decision to establish the industry in Tasmania is the availability of cheap power in that State. However, the cost of power does not represent more than from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent, of the total cost of production. At the same time, it is proposed to import 62,000 tons of material to manufacture 10,000 tons of alumina.
– Forty thousand tons of material ; the honorable member’s figures are incorrect.
– Reqirements for the manufacture of 10,000 tons of aluminium include 10,000 tons of carbon for electrodes, which will have to be imported, and 2,500 tons of cryolite which is mined in Greenland under the ownership and control of the combine. Actually, the Government will pay freight on 62,000 tons of stuff, and it must offset that cost against an’ saving which it claims it will make in respect of power. I do not blame the Minister so much for the statements he has made. He is only repeating information made available to him by the commission. Possibly, if I were the Minister. I should do the same, because a Minister must depend upon his experts. He has spoken about the importation of highgrade ore from Malaya. He might be interested to learn that there is no highgrade ore in Malaya. There is B grade, or low-grade, ore in Johore,- one of the Malayan States. The Japanese used that ore; but as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) stated yesterday, the bauxite which has already been imported has been obtained from Bintan. High-grade deposits are also reported to exist in Sumatra and Java, hut the Bintan ore is the best, and 40.000 tons of that ore is sufficient to produce 10,000 tons of alumina. However, the
Bintan deposits, which are so rich, are entirely controlled by the cartel. The Government proposes to obtain its ore from its only competitor!
This project was first announced with a flourish of trumpets four years ago, and the principal act which was passed at that time was waved on high in order to influence Tasmanians to vote Labour. By those tactics the Government won the Denison electorate. The reaction of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) to party discipline since his election to the House, must raise doubts in the Government’s mind as to whether it did not make a bad bargain. The Minister for the Navy now tells us that the Government will not be able to obtain the necessary machinery for another four years. The fact is that when the Parliament was considering the principal act a full plant was available to the Government. That was the Bayer process of smelting which was said to be unsatisfactory for Australian conditions, although I believe that the commission has since discovered that that process is suitable for our purposes. Fancy the Government introducing a measure and trying s-o impress the people with the urgency of this proposition eight yea.rs before anything could be done about it, except to expend money on it! Four years ago, The Government had a complete plant at Wangaratta for the fabrication of aluminium but it sold that plant to overseas interests and now it says that it, will have to wait another “our years before it can get one. The Government sold that plant on the pretext that it does not possess constitutional power to set up a rolling mill or fabrication factory. It sold that costly plant and I have no doubt that the world cartel, which is the Government^ only competitor in the industry has got control of it. No profit is made from the smelting of ingots, as is evident from the following passage of the report of the British Aluminium Company Limited -
The entire output of ingot metal from our reduction works was sold to the Ministry of Supply at a very low price in relation to costs, and we have to look to the steadily increasing output from our rolling mills for profitable business.
The only undertaking from which we might have obtained a profit has been sold by the Government to overseas interests. I my opinion the Government should review the operation of some of the legislation concerning aluminium which it has introduced, and consider carefully the probable effects of any other schemes which it has in mind. I appreciate the arguments advanced .by honorable members representing constituencies in New South Wales; indeed, I, myself, made a strong plea that recognition should be given to the claims of Inverell. However, the last prop was kicked from underneath the Government’s case when the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) disclosed that approximately 20,000,000 tons-
– I disposed of that contention yesterday.
– The Minister did not.
– I did. 1 gave the statistics to the committee.
– The deposits amount to 14,000,000 tons, but the Minister stated that they amounted to only ^i.000,000 tons.
– The honorable member is including the deposits in the leases held by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– The fact remains that there is no necessity to import bauxite because there are abundant deposits in this country. The VicePresident of the Executive Council said that there were enough deposits in this country to supply our needs for 250 years. Yet members of the Government and their supporters speak of the necessity for “ conserving the little we have “ in the event of an emergency arising. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) was wrong, as also was the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), in asserting that bauxite deposits in Gippsland amounted to only 800,000 tons, and those in Tasmania to 750,000 tons. Whilst I do not know a great deal about the Tasmanian deposits F understand that they are of low grade. Altogether, 1,000,000” tons of ore has already been uncovered in Gippsland, .and an additional 1,000.000 tons is available to those who know where to seek it. 1 emphasize that those deposits, which are composed of an average of 50 per cent, alumina, are of the highest grade in the world, and are similar to the quality of the ore extracted from the. Britan Mine in the East Indies, from which it is proposed to import ore. The logical place in Australia in which to establish a reduction plant is Gippsland, which has an abundance of power and water is situated within easy access to ports, and has a network of good roads and railways. The deposits are located in the seclusion of the mountains, and they are of the highest grade. Forty thousand tons of such ore yields as high a return as 67,000 tons of the inferior ore deposits of Tasmania and Inverell. I commend the VicePresident of the Executive Council for having the courage to challenge the commission’s proposal to import bauxite from other countries when an abundance already exists in Australia, [n considering this matter we must have regard to the facts. The bauxite deposits in Gippsland are located underneath an overburden of brown coal, which can be exploited at virtually no cost to the process of obtaining the bauxite. Coal can now be converted from solid to gaseous form, and power obtained by that method is just as cheap as electricity. I appeal to the Government to forget that it has made pledges to Tasmania for political purposes. Let us approach the matter from an economic viewpoint, asking ourselves, what is the best thing for Australia, .not, what is the best thing for the Labour party in Tasmania? I appeal to the Government to defer the proposed expenditure of £450,000 on this project until a further examination is made of the claims of Gippsland and Inverell to have the smelting plants established in those areas. I do not mind if the Government decides to exploit the deposits at Inverell and establish a reduction plant there, because that would be more logical than to locate the industry in Tasmania. In saying that, I emphasize that I am actuated only by considerations of the welfare of Australia, and I have nothing against Tasmania. Honorable members who represent constituencies in that State have fought, to have ‘the alu minium manufacturing industry established in Tasmania, apparently in the belief that the people of that State will appreciate the establishment of the industry there, even though they will have to pay £60,000 a year in interest on the money which it is proposed to borrow to establish the industry. I repeat thai Tasmania has little to gain from the establishment of the industry in that State, because only a comparative handful of people will be employed to process the ore, which will have to be imported from other parts of Australia. I again point out to the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the mere exploitation of deposits in various parts of Australia will not greatly assist those particular areas. What is required is the establishment of reduction plants and processing works at the places where the most substantial deposits exist. If, in order to placate certain people, reduction and refining processes must be established in Tasmania, then other plants should be established at Gippsland and Inverell also. It is sheer stupidity to ship bauxide from the mainland, which has deposits aggregating 20,000,000 tons, to Tasmania which has deposits of only 1,000,000 tons, of low grade bauxite. Commonsense dictates that the smaller deposit’ should be carried to the greater. Finally in order to safeguard our future adequately and remove any cause for anxiety. I appeal to the Government to establish smelters, or at least one smelter, in Gippsland. The establishment of a plant there will ensure to Australia a continuous supply of aluminium for all time.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) quoted from a booklet which purported to contain a report of the discussions between a parliamentary delegation which recently visited Inverell and representatives of the North West County Council of New South Wales. However, the report of the discussion is not a. verbatim one-
– The Minister does not deny that it is .accurate?
– At the moment 1 am not attempting to deny anything. I am endeavouring’ to explain something.
The version of my remarks which appears in the publication includes the word “ pledged “. I did not use that word at all. What I told the gathering was r.hat the Aluminium Industry Act provides that certain plant required for the production of aluminium is to be constructed in Tasmania. The provisions of the act are well known to members if the Parliament, and ought to be known (.0 the honorable member for Gippsland. [ could not possibly pledge the Government to establish plant in Tasmania or anywhere else. The decision was made by the Parliament on the recommendation of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. I think that that should dispose of the suggestion that I “ pledged “ the Government or myself to establish the industry in Tasmania. The honorable member also said that he was opposed to the Government conducting this undertaking, and that he preferred that private enterprise should conduct it. Although we have been importing very large quantities of light metals for many years, private enterprise has not been keen to establish the light metal industry in Australia. The honorable member mentioned that one private concern was manufacturing light metals in Victoria, but I have not heard a great deal about its activities. Private enterprise has established and developed heavy industry in this country. As an example I mention the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited-
– That company is doing a good job.
– It certainly is, but the fact remains that no attempt has been made by private enterprise to establish a light metal industry on a scale which could contribute substantially to the national economy. The decision to establish an aluminium industry in this country was made during the recent war. The need to produce light metals was impressed upon us during those anxious days, because of the extreme scarcity of light metals which were desperately needed for aircraft manufacture. At that time the Labour Government decided that the part which would be played by civil aviation in the development of this country after the war required that the air- craft manufacturing industry should beestablished as soon as possible. I point, out that no attempt to do so was made by any previous government. In 1944 an act was passed by the Parliament to provide for the establishment of the industry in this country. - Yesterday, the honorable member for Gippsland alleged that theGovernment has done nothing since, and he pointed out that the industry has not yet been established. I remind him that from 1941, when Labour assumed office, until the latter part of 1945, the Government was absorbed in the prosecution of the war, and since the conclusion of hostilities it has been hampered in its efforts to establish the industry by a shortage of man-power and difficulties associated with the importation of machinery from abroad. The honorable member said that I had stated that I thought it would bc another four years before this industry could be established in Australia. ] did not say that. What I said was that the Government was endeavouring to procure plant, and that the industry should be established in Australia long before 1952.
– How does the Minister know that?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! Honorable members can assist the conduct of the debate by remaining silent while the Minister makes his speech.
– I shall refer to the cartel affiliation to which the honorable member for Gippsland has made reference. I hold no brief for the cartel. That is the reason that paragraph j of article 3 was included in the agreement. It reads -
The Commission shall not enter into or be in any way concerned in or a party to or act in concert with any commercial trust or combine but shall always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking.
If it be desired to vary the agreement as between the two Governments, and the cartel is to be associated with such variation, the proposal must be debated in the Parliament. The policy of the Government is indicated in that agreement. The honorable member for Gippsland read an extract from a report of the United States of America Tariff Commission. We were not told when chat document was published. All that that report stated was that it was admitted that prior to the outbreak of war certain affiliations existed.
– That was prior to World War II.
– lt was .admitted that the Aluminium Company of America, commonly referred to as Alcoa, had a monopoly. The firm was prosecuted by the authorities in the United States of America in accordance with the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. I point out that the report from which the honorable member quoted refers to affiliations in pre-war days. I am referring to the present position. During World War II. the Kaiser Aluminium Company and the Reynolds Tobacco Company established two new enterprises in the United States of America for certain reasons. Alcoa had no interest in those undertakings; they were formed in opposition to that company. Therefore so far as Alcoa is concerned the monopoly which it apparently enjoyed prior to being prosecuted has definitely been smashed as a result of the development of those two other undertakings.
The price of aluminium is very much lower now than it was in pre-war days. Before the Sherman Anti-Trust prosecution of Alcoa the price of aluminium was is. per lb. The cartel was smashed, and to-day the price of Canadian aluminium i.= only ls. per lb. Alcoa’s price is ls. 2d. per lb. Do honorable members consider tl sit that is an indication of a world enrri-1 fixing the price of this commodity? Those prices should be sufficient proof that the price section of the cartel control has been smashed.
The honorable member for Gippsland waxed sarcastic when he referred to Malayan bauxite. He said that it was of TJ grade quality. What I said was that the Malayan product was 50 per cent., and the Inverell bauxite 38 per cent, alumina. I did not indicate whether it was A, B, or C grade. Just before the honorable member concluded his remarks he made reference to the Gippsland deposits and said that they were 50 per cent, alumina, similar to those in Malaya. Yet, a? honorable members know, the Malayan deposit is B grade bauxite. The honorable gentleman claims that the Gippsland bauxite, because it has the same percentage, is better than the Malayan bauxite. I cannot follow his reasoning. That should give honorable members sonic indication of the inductive, or deductive powers of the honorable gentleman.
Both the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that some of the best bauxite in the world comesfrom the Dutch possessions in the Far East. I think that is true. It is significant, however, that Alcan, a Canadian company, has secured an enormous deposit of bauxite in the Pacific in order to conserve its home supplies. It may be, as 1 said yesterday afternoon, that there is sufficient bauxite in Australia to last us for 200 years, provided that we are content that only 10,000 tons shall be produced each year. Once the Tasmanian company is over its teething troubles, and is well established, the work? will be expanded in order to meet increasing requirements of industry in this country, particularly with relation to defence aspects and aircraft production.
– Of course the company would expand.
– Therefore, the est mate of how long bauxite deposits in this country will last must be considerably reduced.
– How long does the honorable member consider they will last?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member for Gippsland has had two opportunities to state his case. He c.’innot now again do so by continually interjecting. I ask him to refrain from so doing.
– This industry will not continue to produce only 10,000 tons of aluminium a year, or, at least, I hope it will not. The industry should be extended continuously until such time as it is producing sufficient to meet Australia’s requirements.
Honorable members have said that there should not be any necessity to import bauxite. As I said yesterday afternoon, men of great vision in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. which, as 1 am sure most honorable members will agree, is a most efficiently run company, are doing precisely what the commission is endeavouring to do, or is suggesting ought to be done. For instance, it bas conserved its South Australian deposits of iron ore, so that they can be drawn upon in time of war, by bringing iron ore from Koolan Island in Yampi Sound on the north-western coast of Australia, which, in the event of hostilities in the Pacific, might be cut off. Bauxite deposits cannot be developed like wheat or maize crops. They are formed by geological processes over millions of years, and when they are worked out, they are worked out for good. They cannot be replaced. Therefore, it is in the best interests of Australia that we should preserve our own resources by obtaining supplies from other parts of the world. That is why the commission has recommended the purchase of Malayan bauxite. That is generally regarded by private enterprise as a sound business policy. Alcoa, which was once a very powerful organization, and Alcan have a similar policy. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) said something about having “ two bites at the apple “. F point out to him that the establishment of the reduction plant and the aluminium plant in close proximity will eliminate the risk of contamination .between the two processes of reduction and aluminium production, and will also obviate interruption of manufacture in the event of war preventing the transport of bauxite by sea to Tasmania. The commission proposes that Tasmanian deposits shall be used to keep the plant in production if the sea lanes are blocked. Furthermore, the establishment of the plant at a port will enable bauxite to be brought to it from overseas sources by the cheapest possible means. of transport, namely, by ships. This plan has not been initiated merely as a political expedient, as honorable .members, opposite have declared.
The main reason for selecting a site in Tasmania was the availability of hydro- electric power. To hear honorable members opposite, one would be led to think that the commission had selected the site on Native Point, near Launceston, opposite the home of the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), by a haphazard process. That is not so.
– Is this like the case of the Warracknabeal distillery?
– I am not talking about distilleries. If the honorable member is thinking, of “ grog “ he knows what to do. There is a vast difference between “ grog “ an<l aluminium. The Australian Aluminium Production Commission visited Inverell and investigated the possibilities of establishing a plant there. “ It also visited Gippsland. There is a known deposit of 5,000,000 tons of bauxite at Inverell. The honorable member for New England has misrepresented the statement which I made yesterday. I said that the deposit was estimated by the commission’s officers to contain 5,000,000 tons. At the same time, there is a total of approximately 15,000,000 tons of bauxite in an area at Emmaville, in the Inverell district, over which the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited holds leases. The company, a great industrial undertaking, which is very efficiently operated, has realized the possibilities of development in the light metal industry in Australia, and is holding down those large leases. But what is it doing about them? The honorable member for New England saysthat we should leave development of the industry to private enterprise, hut private enterprise has. done nothing to establish the light metal industry on a sound footing in Australia, notwithstanding the existence of a small private undertaking in Victoria.
This Government proposes to establish a plant capable of producing initially 10,000 tons of aluminium a year. The degree to which production will be increased will depend upon the demand from the Australian market, which will be governed largely by the expansion of our aircraft industry.
– Will it be possible to build, up stock piles ?
– Certainly. The alumina content of bauxite will not deteriorate in a stock pile away from itsnatural surroundings. From, my own. observations,.! know that there is plenty of bauxite in the Inverell area. One doe.* not have to be a. geologist or an expert associated with private enterprise in order to recognize bauxite, in spite of what the honorable member for New England has said. Inverell is happily situated inasmuch as there is an enormous deposit of coal at Ashford in the same district. During my visit to the area I heard a discussion between two experts, one from the Joint Coal Board and the other from the New South Wales Department of Mines. They reported very favorably on the Ashford coal deposits and referred also to the fact that the area has great possibilities of hydro- electric power generation. The Australian Aluminium Production Commission will support the proposal to construct a railway, such as that suggested by the honorable member for New England, from Inverell to Iluka or any other convenient port on the north coast of New South Wales. Unless such a line is provided, Inverell bauxite will have to be shipped to Newcastle, which is the nearest developed port. In the event of war, Newcastle would be a primary target because of the already great concentration of industries there. Therefore, I believe that, in the interests of the development of the aluminium industry, a line should be built by the State or the Commonwealth, or by both in association, from Inverell to a convenient site for a port on the north coast of New South Wales.
. -The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) attempted to draw a “ red herring” across the trail by dealing at great length with the activities of cartels. The real issue is why the plant for the production of aluminium, a metal that is essential for the defence of Australia, is not to be established on the mainland, in close proximity to large deposits of bauxite and other facilities to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) referred. Before I deal with that aspect of the matter, I wish to correct a statement that was made by the Minister for the Navy with regard to the responsibility for the development of the aluminium industry in Australia. The Minister said that the preliminary action had been taken by this Government. It was, in fact, taken by a government in which the present member for. Wakefield (Mr. McBride) was a Minister. In its first report, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission stated -
With the passing of the Australian Aluminium Industry Act in December of 1944, parliamentary sanction was given to plans developed in the comparatively early stage? of the war for the manufacture of aluminium ingot in Australia, as a material essential to the defence services of the country. As far back as early 1941, the necessity of guarding against the possibility of the cutting off of overseas supplies had been foreseen, and on a number of occasions the matter had been referred to Cabinet. In April, 1941, the Menzies Government approved the basic plans for the establishment of the industry, but many matters remained to be settled before these plans could be far advanced, and it wa> not until 1944 that administrative arrangements and negotiations with the State Govern ment of Tasmania had reached a decisive point
Why was an active aluminium industry not established in this country before the war? The reason was that it was impossible to produce aluminium in Australia except at a cost that far exceeded the production costs of the aluminium industries of other countries. What is being done now is to develop an Australian aluminium industry purely as a defence measure. Aluminium is essential in modern warfare, and it is, therefore, imperative that we should have a source of supply in Australia. The production of the metal in Australia will be a costly process. Therefore, substantial subsidies must be paid to the industry. The question of the location of the industry should be considered, not from the standpoint of whether it would be convenient to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) if it were established at a place near to his home, but from the standpoint of what would be best for the security of Australia. Should the site be in close proximity to the places where the ore is mined? As the Vice-President of the Executive Council knows, in the Inverell district bauxite is available in such abundance that it has been used for many years to dress roads. Should it be located at a spot where all processes from the mining of the bauxite to the manufacture of aluminium products can be performed and where, as a result, other industries will be brought into- being, thus leading to the closer settlement of a part of Australia that is exposed to attack? If ever Australia is attacked, the attack will not come from the south but from the north, as happened before. We must ensure that the money that will be expended upon this project shall lie used in such a way as to attract more and more people to parts of Australia which lie to the north of Sydney and Newcastle, so that if we are attacked we shall be able properly to defend ourselves.
Let us examine the claims of the Inverell district. I propose to quote from a report that was made by the Mines Department of New South Wales. It was issued .many years ago, so the Government should be aware of its contents. The report states -
I’n the Tingha-Inverell-Emmaville district there is a total of 13 to 14 million tons of ferruginous bauxite in deposits so far surveyed by the Department of Mines, with nearly half of this tonnage contained in one deposit near Emmaville. By selective mining methods mid preliminary treatment, relatively fair tonnages of higher grade material than the average figure could be obtained.
The average figure ranges from 36.3 per -cut. to 43 per cent, of alumina. By the use of selective mining methods, it would be possible to extract from these deposits large quantities of bauxite with an alumina content in excess of 50 per cent., which is the alumina content of the bauxite that is available in Tasmania or Gippsland. Of the 20,000,000 tons which is the present estimate of the size of the deposits in this district, I venture to say that at least 5,000,000 tons has an alumina content exceeding 50 per cent. The report states that the material could nil be cheaply quarried. As I have said, it. is so easily obtained that it is now being used to put on roads. It is also stated in the report that the material is lose to road transport, and reasonably lose to rail. If the project that has been approved by the Government of Kew South Wales is undertaken, a railway will run from Inverell to Grafton, and from there to Iluka. If a port is established at Iluka, it will have a depth of water of approximately 50 feet and will lie able to accommodate the largest vessels. From it, the finished products ould be shipped to other places in Australia or overseas. The report continues - lt is, however, at a disadvantage with regard to similar deposits in the Wingello-
Sir Earle Pape.
Dundanoon District, owing to its greater distance from the industrial centres of Sydney,. Newcastle and Wollongong.
That is no disadvantage in a country such as Australia, where decentralization is a crying need. The latest census figure.show that almost the only parts of Australia in which the population has increased are the areas around Sydney and Melbourne, and, to a lesser extent, around the smaller capital cities. The report goes on -
The main coal-fields, and the developed limestone deposits.
Within 10 or 15 miles of these deposit.is the Ashford coal mine. The coal seam there is part of the Greta seam, which extends to the Hunter River Valley. At Ashford the seam is probably closer to the surface than it is in the Hunter River Valley. The coal can be mined as cheaply as at Cessnock, where the miners can earn extraordinary sums each week. There are deposits of millions of tons of limestone in the north of the Ashford district. The report states that it is considered thai the New England bauxites are suitable for treatment for the extraction of aluminium by an alkaline process. In addition, this district is situated within 40 or 50 miles of the proposed Clarence Gorge hydro-electric scheme, which i.at present being investigated by thi.Government and the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales. Only last week the Principal Engineer for Public Works of New South Wales, in a. statement made at Grafton, said that the investigations were proceeding so satisfactorily as to enable him to state that the amount of electric power that could be generated and the volume of water that could be made available was much greater than had been anticipated. The damming of the gorge would create a lake larger than the GreaLake in Tasmania. In fact, the various dams and reservoirs associated with the scheme would have more surface water than all the lakes of Tasmania. Whereas* the Great ]lake of Tasmania is fed by streams in which the flow amounts to 500 or 600 cubic feet per second, water is flowing into the sea from the Clarence River at the rate of 3,000 cubic feet per second. With the mineral resources of the Inverell district, the potential electric power and the huge volume of water available, the aluminium treatment process could be carried out by electrolysis if necessary. Not only are there large inland rivers in that area, but also there are coastal rivers that could be diverted to increase the water supply. The availability of all those resources would, I am confident, enable cheaper production of aluminium there than in any other part of the Commonwealth. This in turn, of course, would mean a reduction of the Government subsidy that would be required for this project. The annual saving would amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds. If this country is to be held by the white race, there must be in it a more equitable distribution of population. At present, twothirds of our population is to be found south of a line running from Sydney to Perth. Actually, two-thirds of our total population should be north of that line. The Inverell district is strategically situated half-way betweenWilson’s Promontory in the south and Cape York in the north. It is a huge area, calling for population. There is some substance in the point that has been made by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) with regard to the situation of the aluminium undertaking. He asked why 20,000,000 tons of ore should be taken to Tasmania, just because there are 800,000 tons of high-grade bauxite in that State. Why not bring the 800,000
Tons of high-grade ore to the 20,000,000 tons of ore on the mainland? The Minister went to great lengths to emphasize that it would be dangerous to establish the aluminium industry on the mainland. He said that in the event of war it would be an advantage to have the industry located in Tasmania where there are 300,000 tons of bauxite, instead of having to carry this bauxite to the mainland. [ remind him, however, that if submarine warfare were to prevent us from carrying bauxite to Tasmania, we would have little chance of transporting aluminium from Tasmania to the mainland. The aluminium industry is essentially a defence project, and by establishing it in Tasmania we are running an unnecessary risk. One argument that has been advanced is that aluminium will be manufactured much more cheaply in Tasmania than on the mainland, butI venture to suggest that when relative cost have been estimated, this will be found to be quite wrong. Australian development and defence requirements necessitate the location of this industry on the mainland. The Aluminium Industry Production Commission states in its report that two factors to be considered in the production of aluminium are the proportion of alumina and silica in the ore. and that the ore from British and Dutch Guiana contains between56 per cent. and 62 per cent of alumina and approximately 5 per cent. of silica. I point out that although the proportion of alumina in the Inverell bauxiteis only from 36.3 per cent. to 43 per cent. the silica content is only 1.5 per cent. I consider therefore that the disadvantage of the lower percentage of alumina i.offset by the lower percentage of silica. I ask leave to continue my remarks when the debate is resumed.
Leave granted; progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) proposed-
That the following paper, laid on the table of the House on the 14th October, be printed : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - War Pensions’ Entitlement Appeal Tri bunal No. 1 - Report for period 1st July, 1947, to 28th February, 1948.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lemmon) adjourned.
House adjourned at 12.52 p.m.
n asked the Minister representing the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The Acting Attor ney-General . has supplied the following information : - 1 to 4. lt is not in the public interest to furnish information as to any instructions that may from time to time be given to the Commonwealth Investigation Service to inquire into individual matters affecting the security of Australia or as to the result of an; inquiry arising from any such instructions. On the particular matter referred to, the honorable member may take it that the various statements made in the House in recent weeks concerning Mr. Campbell’s activities would in the ordinary course come under the notice nf officers nf the Commonwealth Investigation Service
Immigration : Landing Permits.
Air. Lang asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
l. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions, are as follows : - 1 to 5. I informed the honorable member in 12th October that a full investigation would be made by officers of- my department in regard tq the admission by Roth, in a case before the Supreme Court, Sydney, that he had received a sum of money for landing permits. The case is still before the court and it would not bc proper for the parties to bc interrogated at present. When the court case is disposed of, the- matter will be thoroughly investigated. fi. To obtain the information ‘ desired by the honorable member it would be necessary to check many thousands of files. In view nf the amount of investigation this would involve and as the officers of my department are working considerable overtime in order to cope with the ever-increasing volume of work involved in normal, immigration activities, I do not propose to. take any steps to obtain these particulars.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481022_reps_18_199/>.