15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took thechair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN (South
Australia - Postmaster-General) . - I lay on the table a copy of Convention Number 57, relating to hours of work on board ship, adopted on the 24th October, 1938, by the International Labour Conference at its 21st assembly. The convention was ratified on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia on the 24th September, 1938, and will become effective on the 24th March, 1939.
– I ask you, Mr. President, as a custodian of the rooms in Parliament House, whether you think it reasonable that ministerial senators should be relegated to a room in the basement amongst the boilers, 50 yards from their seats in this chamber; and, further, do you consider that, if the lift were not in operation, the Leader of the Senate could sprint for 50 yards and climb the stairs during the short period for which the bells are rung prior to the taking of a division?
– The only comment I have to make is that the matter was arranged by my predecessor before I was elected to the chair.
SenatorCOLLETT. - Are you prepared, Mr. President, to take steps to have the position remedied?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Leader of the Senate.
– Does the Government intend to introduce, during the present session a measure for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the method of voting for the Senate?
– A motion dealing with that matter appears on the notice-paper in the House of Representatives, and’ it will be submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) as soon as the business of the House permits.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce inform the Senate whether the Minister’s attention has been drawn to a report which appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 27th October to the effect that the secretary of the Merchant Service Guild, Captain W. G. Lawrence, had stated that one of these days a ship would meet the same fate as befell the air liner Kyeema, and then somebody would wake up to the necessity for radio beacons, as there was none on our coast? Captain Lawrence added that, although he was a member of the Lighthouse Advisory Committee, he had not been able to obtain any information regarding what was proposed in connexion with the provision of marine beacons on the coast. He concluded - “ Submerged rocks were to ships what mountains were to air liners.”
– I have seen the statement alleged to have been made, but I am at a loss to understand why it has been made. About fifteen months ago Captain Lawrence was appointed a member of the Lighthouse Advisory Committee, so that he might represent on that body the interests of, not only his own members, i.e., the Merchant Service Guild of Australasia, but also the crews of all vessels trading on the coast. Captain Lawrence was present at the meeting of the Lighthouse Advisory Committee on the 17th August, 1937, at which it was unanimously resolved that no further action be taken in the direction of providing for an additional marine radio beacon until the results of the installation of the Cape Otway radio beacon were known and considered. Honorable senators will remember that I announced the first installation of a radio beacon on the Australian coast on the 29th June, 1938, and have made several press announcements before and since. Most shipping interests are, I think, aware that we have a radio beacon on our coast, and that the installation of other beacons is under consideration, having regard, of course, to the experience which we are gaining at the Cape Otway beacon station. I can only assume that Captain Lawrence either did not make the statement attributed to him, or that what he did say has been so condensed as to give an entirely wrong impression of the matter to which reference has been made.
SenatorFOLL. - On the 20th October last, Senator Fraser asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following question, upon notice: -
In view of the international position, what co-operation has been offered or requested by the Commonwealth Government with the Government of New Zealand, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and a sister dominion, for the defence of Australia and New Zealand?
The Minister for Defence has now supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The common interest of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of New Zealand in matters of defence is constantly engaging the attention of the Government, and co-operation in various directions has already been arranged. Interchange of information and views on defence matters is an established practice. The naval squadrons of the two dominions engage in combined exercises periodically, and New Zealand cadets and naval ratings are being trained at the Royal Australian Naval College and the Flinders Naval Depot respectively. New Zealand cadets are also being trained at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Exchanges are arranged between officers of the New Zealand Staff Corps, and the. Australian Staff Corps, and, in addition, arrangements are made for the attendance of officers and noncommissioned officers at various military courses, held in Australia. The resources of the Australian munitions establishments have been investigated by visiting New Zealand officers, and a considerable amount of work has been undertaken for the New ZealandGovernment, including the supply of various types of armaments and ammunition.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the support of the people of New Zealand for the social security plan of the Labour Government, and in view of the reported protests in Australia against the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, will the Government consider re-drafting that act to make it more acceptable to the people of Australia?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The Government sought and obtained the best advice available in the preparation of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, and it was made clear during the passage of the legislation that the bill was only a commencement. In the course of time, and in the light of experience, the act will be amended and the scope of social legislation extended. The wages tax of1s. in the £1, to be paid by employees under the New Zealand plan, is on the whole considerably higher than the contributions of1s.6d. for men and1s. for women payable under the National Insurance Act in this country. Since most of the criticism that has been levelled against the National Insurance Act has been based upon the incidence of the contributions from employees, the Government does not propose to consider an increase in the contributions to therate of tax to be levied under the proposed social security plan of the Labour Government in New Zealand.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– Before the business of the day is proceeded with I wish to submit a motion.
– Does the honorable senator wish to obtain leave to move the motion ?
– What is the nature of the motion?
– The motion reads -
That the Senate do now adjourn, for the purpose of debating a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The propriety of the action of the Government in proceeding with the business of this chamber while a motion is being debated in the House of Representatives to determine whether the Government enjoys the confidence of the said House “.
– I rule that the motion should have been handed to me in writing before the Senate met. Had the Standing orders been amended as the Standing Orders Committee has recommended the motion coud not have been submitted at this juncture.
– Surely you are not going to rule, sir, that because of something which a committee proposes to do but which has not been done, my motion is not in order?
– No; but it is the almost invariable parliamentary practice that when an honorable senator wishes to move a motion for the adjournment of theSenate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, notice of such motion must behanded to the President in writing before the Senate meets. I know of only one occasion on which that has not- been done.
– If you rule against me, sir, a situation will arise which will take a long time to settle.
– I know that it has been done on one occasion before. The Standing Orders Committee has recommended that Standing Order No. 64 be amended.
– I rise to a point of order. The Leader of the
Opposition proposes to move that the Senate do now adjourn for a particular purpose.
– I rise to a point of order-
– The Leader of the Senate is entitled to be heard in support of his point of order.
– I submit that you should first hear my reasons for submitting the motion.
– It is my responsibility to protect the Government.
– I am entitled to state my point of order, and until it has been decided that my motion is not in order I have the right to speak.
– I contend that the motion is out of order, “and I am entitled to elaborate the view of the Government in the matter.
– The Minister is not entitled to do anything of the kind until I have given my reasons for submitting the motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition will have an opportunity to do so. I rule that the Leader of the Senate is in order in giving his reasons why the motion should not be proceeded with.
– The Leader of the Opposition proposes to propose a motion for the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgency, as provided in Standing Order No. 64. If the honorable senator should have a right to submit the motion at this juncture it would be tantamount to taking the business out of the hands of the Government. Standing Order No. 64 reads -
A motion without notice, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate for the purpose of debating some natter of urgency, can only be made after petitions have been presented and notices oi questions and motions given, and before the Business of the Day is proceeded with, and such motion can be made notwithstanding there be on the paper a motion for adjournment to a time other than that of the next ordinary meeting. Tlie Senator so moving must make in writing, and hand in to the President, a statement of the matter of urgency. Such motion must be supported by four senators rising in their places as indicating their approval thereof . . .
No such notice in writing has been handed to Mr. President. What is the matter of urgency? The Leader of the Opposition does not say that it is a matter of urgency. He suggests that the Senate should not proceed with its business because a motion of want of confidence is before the House of Representatives. That is not a matter of urgency. A matter of urgency must have some relation to the business of the Senate.
– It is not the responsibility of the Minister to decide what is and what is not a matter of urgency.
– I am suggesting that no matter of urgency is involved.
– I have not yet stated my case.
– I realize that.
– I am not going to allow the matter to be handled in this way.
– I take it that you, sir, will hear the Leader of the Opposition, or any other honorable senator who wishes to speak on the subject.
– I thought that you, sir, had ruled against the Leader of the Opposition.
– Not yet.
– Standing Order 64 provides that- r
The senator so moving must make in writing and hand into the President a statement of the matter of urgency. Such motion must be supported by four senators rising in their places as indicating their approval thereof. Only the matter in respect of which such motion is made can be debated. Not more than one such motion can be made during a sitting of the Senate.
The motion of the Leader of the Opposition is that the Senate do now adjourn for the purpose of debating a motion of urgency, namely, the propriety of the action of the Government in proceeding with business in the Senate.
– I have not suggested anything of the kind.
– The motion reads -
That the Senate do now adjourn for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely, the propriety of the action of the Government in proceeding with the business of this chamber while the motion is being debated in the House of Representatives to determine whether the Government enjoys the confidence of the said House.
– By no stretch of imagination can it be said that that is a matter of urgency within the meaning of the standing order which has been cited.
– Whether the Leader of the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition are of the opinion that this matter is one of urgency does not concern me at present. I have stated that it has been the invariable practice in this chamber that notice in writing must be handed in before the meeting of the Senate. For that reason I rule that the motion of the Leader of the Opposition is out of order.
– I move -
That the ruling of the President be dissented from.
I regret very much indeed that every now and again I seem obliged to fall foul of the Chair. I assure you, Mr. President, that I do not do so willingly. However, I object to the suggestion that I am such an imbecile that I cannot understand the plain English of Standing Order 64.
– On a point of order I submit, Mr. President, that the honorable senator is not entitled to proceed to debate his motion of dissent. Standing Order 429 provides that debate on a motion of objection to the ruling of the President shall be “forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.”
– -The honorable senator is in order in speaking to his motion of objection to my ruling. When he has submitted his reasons the Senate will have to decide whether the matter requires immediate determination.
SenatorCollings. - Before submitting my motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I gave the matter serious consideration, and I am not willing to be baulked by procedure which the Standing Orders Committee has recommended and which the Senate may or may not adopt. The Senate cannot anticipate a proposal of that kind which has not yet actually come before it. Standing Order 64 is very definite. I am not asking for leave to move a motion for the adjournment of the Senate in order to consider a motion which is, at the moment, being debated in the House of Representatives, but for leave to move a motion in order that the propriety of certain action taken in this chamber - not somewhere else - may be debated. Standing Order 64 provides that, in making such a motion, an honorable senator “must make in writing and hand in to the President, a statement of the matter of urgency.” I entered this chamber this afternoon with my statement written and signed, and I handed it to the President from my place on the floor of this chamber when I rose to propose the motion. That is precisely the procedure laid down by Standing Order 64. At some other time, perhaps, when the Senate decides to accept some recommendation of the Standing. Orders Committee, of which at present it knows nothing, that procedure may be varied. The view taken by the President that it has been customary to follow some procedure other than that laid down in Standing Order 64 is of no avail, because I am not relying on what has always been done, but on the plain language of that standing order with which I have fully complied. I cannot understand, Mr. President, how you can justify such a ruling as you have just given. Of course, I am aware that members of the Government would like to have been given notice of my motion beforehand, so that they could get their party rounded up and their arguments arranged in concrete shape in order to combat my submission. However, despite the fact that I am always willing to meet the Government in matters of procedure in this chamber, I am not prepared on every occasion to give away the ammunition of my party.
– In what way does the honorable senator’s action comply with the provision in Standing Order 64, “ at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate. . . ? “
– I am moving that the Senate shall adjourn now. I think, Mr. President, that you know me well enough to realize that in moving dissent from your ruling, I do not do so with any intention to show disrespect either to yourself or to the high office which you hold. I hope, however, that you will excuse me when I say that since the last skirmish in this chamber in respect of Standing Order 64, I have taken the opportunity to consult authorities, not only in the Senate but also in the House of Representatives, and every one of them, including some not of my party, after reading the report in Hansard of our previous discussion agreed that my interpretation of that Standing’ Order could not be faulted. If, after complying absolutely with every word of this Standing Order, motions proposed by me as Leader of the Opposition are ruled out of order, then the Opposition will be obliged to take measures, which we have not yet attempted to take, in order to secure fair treatment in this chamber. I ask you, sir, to indicate in what way I have failed to comply with Standing Order 64. If you can show me that I have not complied with it, I and my colleagues of the Opposition will remain silent. But, in justice to myself and the party which I have the honour to lead, I claim to have complied with that Standing Order, which, I point out, does not require an honorable senator to do certain things fifteen minutes before the Senate commences its sitting. It may be that the House of Representatives has a standing order to that effect, but at the moment I am not concerned with the procedure in that chamber. As Leader of the Opposition in the Senate I am bound by the Standing Orders of this chamber. I claim that during the seven years that I have been a member of the Senate I have not broken any of its standing orders. I submit that I am not doing so now.
– I second the motion to dissent. Having read Standing Order 64 carefully, I have concluded that you, sir, have given your ruling, not in accordance with the standing order, but in accordance with usage and custom in the Senate. Standing Order 64 reads -
G4 (1) A Motion without Notice, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate, for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency, can only be made after Petitions have been presented and Notices of Questions and Motions given, and before the Business of the Day is proceeded with, and such Motion can be made notwithstanding there be on the Paper a motion for adjournment to a time other than that of the next ordinary meeting. The Senator so moving must make in writing, and hand in to the President, a statement of the matter of urgency. . . .
I claim that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has complied with those conditions. The next portion of the standing order -
Such motion must be supported by 4 senators rising in their places as indicating their approval thereof- lias also been complied with. During the limited time at my disposal I have failed to discover any precedent for your ruling on this occasion. The Senate must decide whether its- business shall be carried on in accordance with the Standing and Sessional Orders, or whether practice and custom are to supersede them. There is no provision in Standing Order 64 that notice of intention to move such a motion as the Leader of the Opposition has moved shall be handed in prior to the meeting of the Senate. Nor does that Standing Order provide that an honorable senator shall, prior to rising in his place to move such a motion, submit ‘in writing to the President notice of his intention to do so. As it would appear that the ruling of the President is based on custom and practice rather than on the Standing Orders of the Senate, I urge honorable senators not to be influenced by their great respect for the occupant of the Chair, but to vote against his unsound ruling. The Standing Orders have been provided for the guidance of the Senate in the conduct of its business, and they should not lightly be disregarded. Failure to be guided by the Standing Orders would result in confusion and chaos; orderly business would be impossible; and in all probability a committee to advise the Senate as to the proper way in which to conduct its business would have to be appointed. I urge the Senate to support the motion of dissent.
– The motion of dissent from my ruling having been moved and seconded the matter must be adjourned until the next day of sitting unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination. . . . The debate stands adjourned until the next day of sitting.
– I suggest, that the matter be finalized now.
– I gave the honorable senator time to move to that effect.
– I moved that the matter be proceeded with now.
– I do not want to do the honorable senator an injustice, but I did not hear him. Does he assure me that he did so, and was his motion seconded ?
– I seconded it.
– I did not hear the honorable senator. Did the honorable senator rise in his place?
– I did not rise, as I was somewhat uncertain whether my motion would be in order. You, sir, will appreciate that new senators are not always sure of the correct procedure. I desired that the matter be decided immediately.
– No motion to the contrary having been made, I have decided that the matter stand over till to-morrow.’ I have no desire to be unfair to any honorable senator. I waited an appreciable time and looked around the chamber for an honorable gentleman to rise, and as no one did so, I instructed the Clerk to call on the next business.
Motion to Disallow Statutory Rules
Debate resumed from the 20th October, vide page 992 (on motion by Senator Wilson) -
That Statutory Rules, 1038, Nos. 05 and 80, amending the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations be disallowed.
– I am not satisfied with the reasons given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) in support of the Government’s action in maintaining the embargo on the export of iron ore from Australia. During the last few years many estimates have been given of the iron ore resources of Australia, and on at least two occasions the Government has stated that there would be no interference with proposals to export iron ore. On the 25th August, 1937, the attitude of the Government was outlined by the then Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir
George Pearce) in the following answer given to a question asked by Senator E. B. Johnston -
The Government is keeping under constant supervision all. the relevant factors which relate to the export of iron ore from Australia. It desires to emphasize that, having regard to the efforts which are now being made to eliminate the causes of international friction, nothing could be more unsound or unwise than for Australia unnecessarily to deny to foreign countries access to her raw materials. At the same time, the Government has in hand a survey of our iron resources, in order that it may be ascertained whether the total Australian supplies are more than adequate for the anticipated future needs of the nation. Should there be an abundance of workable ore, restriction upon reasonable export -could not be justified. On the other hand, should there be any substantial foundation for a fear of future shortage, the Government will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to conserve our national interests.
I think that doubt concerning the adequacy of Australia’s iron ore resources was first raised in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who drew the attention of the Government to the possibility of shortage, if a continuation of export to the extent contemplated, were permitted. Mr. Drakeford’s remarks and warning aroused the interest of Government supporters, and led eventually to the imposition of the embargo in July last. When a possible shortage of iron ore first came under discussion Australia’s resources were estimated at 313,900,000 tons. That estimate was made, not by some one in Australia, but by an authority in England, who apparently had access to records in thi, country. There is a great discrepancy between the estimates submitted by Dr. Woolnough, the Commonwealth Geological adviser, and those made by some other mining authorities. According to Dr. Woolnough the deposits of ore at Iron Knob total between 150,000,000 and 200,000,000 tons, and at Yampi Sound, between 63,000,000 and 90,000,000 tons. The late Mr. Montgomery, who was an acknowledged authority in Western Australia, estimated the Yampi Sound deposits at 97,000,000 tons above high water mark. I have yet to learn that during the six months which have elapsed between the time when this matter was first raised, and the imposition of the embargo, any authoritative survey was made which would warrant the Government in ordering an immediate prohibition of export, without the consent of this Parliament. In 1935 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, in a statement dealing with the company’s activities at Iron Knob in ‘South Australia, said that Iron Monarch rose to a height of 640 feet above the plain, and was 1$ miles in diameter. The quantity of iron ore above plain level was estimated at approximately 100,000,000 tons. The estimate of the deposit at Iron Duke, 18 miles south, was equally great. It, was also stated that the period likely to elapse before underground mining became necessary would carry us beyond the present century at the existing rate of consumption. That statement was issued by the company in 1935, and we should take some notice of it. Mr. P.’ Clements, M.I.C.E., M.I.E.E., general manager and a director of Park Gate Iron and Steel Company, Rotherham, England, has estimated Australia’s iron ore resources at 313,900,000 tons; but, until the last parliamentary recess, the Government took no action to restrict exportation. Within a few months the Government made up its mind that the officials had under-estimated the available resources The Imperial Mining Resources Bureau issued a statement in 1922 that the actual and known resources were 345,000,000 tons, with probable reserves of 500,000,000 tons, Western Australia having known resources of 106,000,000 tons and reserves probably amounting to 450,000,000 tons. I have yet to be convinced that the Government did right in imposing the embargo. The Government of Western Australia knew nothing of the proposal until it was published in a press report of the 19th May last. The Leader of the Senate told us that the position was even worse than if, was then understood to be, and he added that he was embarrassed to have to declare the paucity of Australia’s iron ore resources.
In view of the reports submitted by the Government Geologist, I am surprised that action has not been taken to prevent the exportation of scrap iron, pig iron, lead, zinc and other metals, which, as Senator Wilson has pointed out, are of vital importance to a nation. The trade diversion policy of the Government has been responsible to a great extent for Australia’s loss of trade, particularly with regard to wool. The accuracy of ali interjection made by me on this matter was questioned, but I consider that it was a correct and timely one. Senator .Tame* McLachlan remarked that the trade diversion policy had not affected the pastoral industry, but the figures speak for themselves. For the six months ended December, 1935, our imports from Japan were valued at £2,056>,000 and for the six months ended December, 1936, £2,504,000, but our exports to Japan for the six months ended December, 193b, were valued at only £430,000 and for the corresponding period of 1936, £6,434,000.
– 1 said that the trade diversion policy did not make much difference to the price of wool. (Senator FRASER.- What the honorable senator said was not in accordance with the facts. The Commonwealth Year-Book shows that the value of wool shipments to Japan in 1935-36 was approximately £6,000,000 greater than in the previous year, indicating that Australia had recovered about £6,000,000 which had previously been lost by reason of the trade diversion policy of this Government.
– That has nothing to do with the price of wool.
– The pastoralists throughout Australia were desirous - of an alteration of that policy on account of the loss which had been occasioned by it.
The Leader of the Senate said, in effect, that Australia was in a worse position as regards iron ore resources than it had been generally supposed to be; but why, I ask, has nothing been done to prevent the exportation of pig iron and lead ? The honorable gentleman stated that the value of our exports of that commodity would not create credits abroad to the value of more than £500,000. The following table shows the value of the exports of iron ore and of iron and steel scrap from 1931-32 to 1935-36 to eastern countries, chiefly Japan: -
Those figures show that if there is a necessity for the embargo on the exportation of iron ore, a similar prohibition is required with regard to iron and steel scrap. I am surprised at the statement of the Leader of the Senate relating to the resources of this country and our credit overseas. I point out that the value of our exports to the United Kingdom of lead and pig iron is £3,734,035; therefore, the sum of £500,000 mentioned by the Minister is a serious under-statement. Australia exports to Japan zinc bars and blocks to the value of £241,724. I ask whether any stock has been taken of these resources as well as those of iron ore. If the Government says that our iron ore resources should be preserved for future generations, surely a similar course should be adopted with regard to other essential metals. Senator Collett remarked that he would sooner be hit with a piece of wool than a piece of iron. I remind the honorable gentleman that Japan buys very little scoured wool from Australia. Most of the wool it purchases is unscoured, and, in the process of scouring it, Japan extracts glycerine, which is used in the manufacture of ‘high explosives such as C.E. powder and gun cotton. A few months ago we .had the spectacle of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) threatening to take certain action because the lumpers refused to load scrap iron and steel. In May last a deputation waited upon the” Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) requesting that an embargo be placed upon the exportation of scrap iron and scrap steel. Included in that deputation was the manager of the Iron and Steel Mills Pty. Ltd., a company which has been taking a very prominent part in the agitation for the imposition of an embargo, who said that his company could not pay more than 25s. a ton for scrap iron and scrap steel and make a profit on the finished article. I am therefore wondering whether the Government has been asked to impose an embargo on the exportation of iron ore. The Government is still allowing the export to Great Britain of scrap iron and steel, pig iron and lead valued at over £3,500,000, and to Japan of zinc blocks valued at £241,724. In these circumstances one wonders what is actually behind the embargo on iron ore - whether Australia’s resources are less than were once anticipated, or whether there is a hidden hand in the matter. My opposition to the Government’s action in this matter would not be so strong were the Government prepared to work the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound and establish smelting works at Bunbury in close proximity to the Collie coal-mines. The only reason given for the imposition of the embargo is the limited extent of our iron ore resources, but if supplies are limited the Government should establish the iron ore industry in Western Australia and assist in its development. As a representative of Western Australia, I am anxious to know whether the Government proposes to compensate the companies which have been involved in heavy capital expenditure, and also whether it intends to compensate the State Government and, in addition, the men who have lost their jobs. When the subject of unemployment is raised we are told that the provision of employment is a matter for the State governments, but in this instance the Commonwealth Government has closed down a big undertaking and thrown hundreds of men out of work. Until the Government can’ answer some of the questions which have been submitted to it by those opposed to the embargo, I intend to support the motion submitted by Senator Wilson. From time to time we are informed that the Government is acting on the advice of experts, but despite the information which it receives from geological and geophysical experts concerning the mineral resources of Australia, tens of thousands of men are out of employment and many hundreds are actually home- less. Is this so-called expert advice obtained merely to mislead the people? The Premier of Western Australia based the opinions which he expressed in submitting the motion to the House of Assembly in Western Australia on information received from State officers, and their views cannot be disregarded. Had the Commonwealth Government permitted 15,000,000 tons of iron ore to be exported the industry in Western Australia would have been established, but because that right has been denied, valuable machinery is lying idle on the Fremantle wharf, at Singapore, and at Yampi Sound. When the Commonwealth Government has to, pay compensation for the losses incurred it will find it more profitable to erect some of the machinery at a. Western Australian port such as Bunbury, near to the Collie coalmines, and develop the resources at Yampi Sound. According to the Premier of Western Australia, the losses, based on fifteen years’ operations, will be :- Royalties, £250,000; wages on a conservative estimate for 200 men at £6 10s. a week, about £1,000,000: mining stores, £50,000; arrival and departure of 120 ships a year, £90,000; and harbour and light dues, £60,000. I do not propose to discuss the statistic.” submitted by the Minister, but it is remarkable to find that he cited only a portion of Dr. Woolnough’s report. He has not commented upon the information supplied by Mr. Ashworth, Mr. Formal and others. To that extent his statement is incomplete. .It has been said that the resolution of the Western Australian House of Assembly was not endorsed by the Legislative Council in the State, but honorable senators on this side of the chamber know why. Some time ago the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) condemned the action taken in Western Australia to safeguard our White Australia policy and the attempt to ensure that the iron ore resources at Yampi Sound were properly developed. On that occasion the Assistant Minister said that the Trades Hall authorities would “ damn the venture from the start because of their fantastic claims and the conditions which would be contained in the log “. I now ask the Assistant Minister on which side of the fence he stands.
It is true that the representatives of the Western Australian Trades and Labour Council visited Yampi Sound, and, with the assistance of an arbitrator completed an agreement between the employers and the employees. Although I do not agree with the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition in this instance, I find, on referring to the speeches made in connexion with the application of sanctions, that he- is at least consistent. Notwithstanding the statements of the Assistant Minister concerning the attitude of the representatives of the Trades and Labour Council, they assisted very materially to safeguard our White Australia policy. Secondly, following constitutional methods, they asked the Arbitration Court to fix the wages and working conditions of men to be employed at Yampi Sound. In view of these facts, how does Senator Allan MacDonald justify his fears concerning the attitude of the Trades and Labour Council? If the Government intends to support the combine in this industry its policy will meet with nothing but opposition in Western Australia. On the other hand, if it is prepared to assist in the working of the deposits at Yampi Sound, it will have the support of every honorable senator on this side. We have been told that our resources of iron ore are really more limited than even the late geological reports indicate. I do not accept those estimates as accurate, and for the sake of the economic future of this country I hope that they will soon be proved to be incorrect. I appeal to the Government to assist in the establishment of smelters at Bunbury, in order that the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound may be developed, and thus enable an important part of this Commonwealth to be opened up.
Because the Government has given no indication of what it intends to do for the development of the deposits at Yampi Sound I intend to support the motion. It has put forward no constructive proposal. It could, I suggest, subsidize any concern which is prepared to work these deposits under an arrangement similar to that into which it has entered with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. In imposing this embargo it has shut out fresh capital from overseas, and in that way it has done more to damn the project than any action taken by the Trades Hall in Perth. I suspect that there is more behind the imposition of this embargo than the excuse that the latest geological estimates indicate that our iron ore resources are dangerously limited.
SenatorKeane. - I rise to a point of order, Mr. President. Is it competent for the Senate to proceed with a debate on an Order of the Day when, at the same time, a motion of want of confidence in the Government is being debated in the House of Representatives?
– As the Government wishes to proceed with this debate, and as, subject to the Standing Order, it controls the business of the Senate, I rule that the debate is in order.
– I move -
That the ruling of the President he dissented from.
In view of the fact that a motion of want of confidence in the Government is being debated in the other chamber, the Senate should not be debating this or any other business. It may be said that on this point the Standing Orders appear to be silent, but I submit, Mr. President, that you can find no precedent for your ruling in the records of any British legislature. The object of the motion of want of confidence is to draw attention to the sins of omission and commission of this Government, and the Opposition in this chamber is not prepared to allow that attack by its colleagues to be weakened in any way whatever. The Senate should not be sitting in these circumstances, and we of the Opposition intend to exercise our full rights under the Standing Orders. I repeat, Mr. President, no precedent exists for your ruling. As a branch of the federal legislature the Senate possesses powers equal to those of the House of Representatives. In the other chamber all business has been suspended in order to allow of the disposal of the motion of want of confidence in the Government, and while that motion is under consideration no Minister will answer questions or deal with any other business. If such procedure in the House of Representatives is sound, then business should be entirely suspended in this chamber.
– I second the motion. It is both inadvisable and undesirable that rulings should be based solely on precedent, irrespective of the Standing Orders; but if we are to have rulings based solely on precedent, then in respect of the procedure under consideration all the precedents are entirely opposed to the President’s ruling. No parliament in any part of the Englishspeaking world, after a motion of want of confidence in the Government has been submitted, does any further business until that motion has been disposed of. I submit that your ruling, Mr. President, gives to the Government an opportunity to which it is not entitled in any circumstances. It is enabled impudently to assume authority in more ways than one. First of all, it has no evidence that it retains the confidence of the country, or of Parliament. Realizing that fact, it is not attempting to proceed with business in the House of Representatives until that motion is out of the way. However, by your ruling, Mr. President, the Government is enabled to insult this Senate. It says, in effect, “ Oh, we are not taking any notice of the motion of no confidence. We know that we have the numbers in the lower chamber, and what does the Senate matter? We shall proceed as usual with the business in that chamber.” Such an attitude is dangerous in more ways than one. Your ruling, Mr. President, makes you an accessory after the fact in the Government’s impudent assumption of the right to carry on in these circumstances. It has no such right, and its action in this respect is in line with the continual contumely with which it treats this branch of the Parliament. The Government is not concerned as to whether the convenience of honorable senators is consulted or not. It is not concerned as to whether it suits honorable senators to be here day by day in Canberra, or in this chamber, cooling our heels merely in order to meet its convenience. I know of nothing more likely to destroy our democratic institutions. During recent months we have had evidence of the way in which the press and the radio have been used to decry those institutions and to expound the virtues and advantages of dictatorships. No valid reason can be given for going on with the busi- ness of the Government ; the excuse offered to the Senate is that there is no lack of confidence in the Government.
– The Government wants to get on with the business of the country.
SenatorCollings. - I wish that it would always evince a similar desire. The last thing in the world that the Government wants to do is to get on with the true business of the country.
– Why block business now?
– The treatment accorded to the Opposition this afternoon will influence the proceedings of the Senate in the future. The Opposition will not accept political rulings without protest. Its members are not willing to hand in notices, which are not required by . the Standing Orders, merely in order that the Government may train its dialetical guns on the Opposition more effectively. The Government thinks that it can count upon the acquiescence and docility of the Opposition ; that I, as Leader of the Opposition, will continue to be willing to assist it in the conduct of business in this chamber. The Government can count on that assistance in the future only when it will suit the Opposition to give it - when we are disposed to help the Government to get on with what it is pleased to describe as the government of the country.
– What has all this to do with the motion?
– I am pointing out that the Opposition has been forced to dissent from the ruling of the President. Earlier this afternoon the presiding officer was guided by precedent, but on this occasion he has refused to accept precedent as a guide. In no other democratic country does a government pretend to carry on other than routine business until it knows whether or not it retains the confidence of the Parliament.For the reasons that I have given, as well as those mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane), I urge the Senate to disagree with the ruling of the President.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
– I suggest, Mr. President, that there was no necessity to dividethe questions. My motion was that your ruling be disagreed with and that the matter be determined immediately.
– The correct procedure is that, only after the motion has been moved and seconded may motion be made that the matter be decided forthwith.
Motion agreed to.
– Senator Keane said that there was no previous instance of an upper chamber proceeding with the business of the country, or the business of the chamber, when a motion of no-confidence was being debated in the other branch of the legislature. With vociferation his leader thumped the table and expressed himself in similar terms. I point out that the business before the chamber is not “ Government business,” but “ business of the Senate “ ; it is so recorded on the notice-paper.
– Is not all the business done in this chamber government business ?
-No. In order that Senator Wilson’s motion may be decided within the statutory period, it has been placed in the position which it occupies on the business paper.
– In the House of Representatives also there are various motions on the notice-paper.
– The procedure is set out in Standing Order 66a which reads: -
The following business shall be placed on the notice-proper as “ Business of the Senate “ and shall take precedence of Government and general business for the day on which it is set down for consideration, viz: -
A motion for leave of absence to a senator ;
A motion touching the qualification ofa senator;
A motion for the disallowance of a regulation or ordinanceor the disapproval of an award made under the authority of any act which provides for the award being subject to disapproval by either House of the Parliament.
A order of the day for the presentation of a report from a select committee.
– It is politically indecent to proceed as the Leader of the Senate desires.
– This Senate is different from any other second legislative chamber in the world in that it is primarily representative of the various States of the Commonwealth. The point which has arisen to-day is not new, but is as old as federation itself. When it was debated in the early days of the Commonwealth, Sir Frederick Sargood pointed out that the Legislative Council of Victoria had proceeded with its ordinary business, notwithstanding that the government of the day was facing a motion of censure. I agree that at such a time a government should not do more than carry on routine business. It will be agreed that the King’s business must be carried on irrespective of which political party is in charge of the treasury bench.
– Will the Leader of the Senate be willing that the Senate shall adjourn immediately after Senator Wilson’s motion is disposed of?
– When that motion and another formal matter have been disposed of, I shall be willing for the Senate to adjourn if honorable senators generally so desire. Although the action taken to-day may be merely a bit of political sparring, a principle is involved. When the notice of motion of censure was given in the House of Representatives, I had to consider carefully whether such a routine matter as the answering of questions should be proceeded with. I concluded that the debate on the motion of Senator Wilson should continue; indeed, there is a statutory obligation resting on the Senate in regard to it. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that the procedure being followed detracts from the dignity of the Senate, but I ask him to reflect on the constitution of this chamber. I agree with him that the fate of governments is determined, not in this chamber, but in the House of Representatives, and, therefore, I see no reason why the Senate should not proceed with its ordinary routine business. The motion of Senator Wilson comes under the heading, “Business of the Senate”, and is distinct from the business covered by “ Orders of the day “.
– Notwithstanding the special pleading of the Leader of the Senate, his action is politically indecent.
– For the moment, the Leader of the Opposition is setting himself up as an authority on decency.
– It will be a long time before the Minister will be regarded as an authority on that subject.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that no parliament in any British speaking community continues to carry on the ordinary business of government while a motion of censure is being debated, but, so far from that being the case, I remind him that on at least three occasions the business of this Senate was carried on while motions of censure were debated in the House of Representatives.
– The motion now being discussed in the other chamber is not one of censure, but of no confidence. The whole of the press of Australia agrees that the Government has lost the confidence of the country.
– I am prepared to regard the motion before the other chamber as one of no confidence, but I remind the Leader of the Opposition that, although on the 6th May, 1936, Mr. Curtin, in the House of Representatives, moved a no-confidence motion, questions, both with and without notice, were answered in the Senate and government business was proceeded with. A Customs Tariff Bill was discussed. On the 11th March, 1936, when a similar motion was submitted in the House of Representatives, the Senate adjournjed, but it sat on the following day, when formal business was transacted and bills were introduced. On the 24th September, 1935, in similar circumstances, government business was proceeded with, and a debate on a ministerial statement was carried on. On that occasion the present Leader of the Opposition took such a prominent part in the debate that I remember it distinctly.
– Those were motions of censure.
– However they may be described, the effect of carrying them would have been the same as if the motion now before the other
House were carried. Exactly the same situation arose in 1901. On one occasion, the Senate was not in session. On the other, it adjourned after disposing of formal business. In May, 1936, questions on notice were answered and the Senate adjourned. My dominant reason is to allow the Senate to exercise its undoubted right to deal with the motion submitted by Senator Wilson, which seeks to disallow the statutory rules under which the embargo has been imposed on the export of iron ore.
– We have several days yet for the disposal of that motion.
– There may be some days yet, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, but I submit that this is not essentially government business. Its rejection or adoption will not affect the fate of the Ministry. If the rules be disallowed, this Government or a succeeding government will have to deal with the matter. No member of this chamber should be deprived of his right to express his opinion and give his vote on the motion. No one can say what length of time will be occupied by the motion of want of confidence now being debated in the House of Representatives, and there is no reason why the Senate should not deal with the business now before it.
– Does the Leader of the Senate say that there is no constitutional objection to the course which he is advocating?
– There is no constitutional provision against it. In the Senate on the 11th October, 1901, an issue identical in every respect with the one now under consideration was raised and debated by such well-known constitutional authorities as the late Sir Frederick Sargood, the late Sir John Downer and the late Sir Josiah Symon. The Leader of the Senate, Senator O’Connor took the view that, whilst a motion of want of confidence was being debated in the House of Representatives, government business in the Senate should notbe carried on. On that occasion, the late Sir Frederick Sargood said -
I have equally maintained that there is no law which compels the second chamber to adjourn. On two occasions, when I was a Minister in the Legislative Council, I have induced that House to go on; but I am bound to admit that the circumstances were very exceptional. In each case, there were two comparatively small but very important bills of a non-contentious nature which only wanted the finishing touches to be given to them. I think the Legislative Council was perfectly justified in completing its work on those bills, but it recognized constitutional principle by adjourning immediately afterwards.
– Was a censure motion or a no-confidence motion being debated then?
– It was a want-of-confidence motion. I urge that it is the duty of this chamber to proceed with its business other than measures of a controversial character.
– Surely Senator Wilson’s motion deals with a measure of a very contentious nature.
– It has not been brought forward by the Government.
– The Government imposed the embargo out of which the motion arises.
SenatorA. J. McLachlan. - In this matter the Government is in the hands of the Senate. I again remind honorable senators that Standing Order 66a was expressly inserted in the Senate’s standing orders in order to enable business in the nature of Senator Wilson’s motion to take precedence over government and general business.. Therefore, the duty of the Senate is to deal with that matter.
– What would have been the position if we had accepted the Minister’s first proposal to adjourn for a fortnight ?
– We should have been obliged to dispose of Senator Wilson’s motion within the fifteen sitting days specified in the Acts Interpretation Act. It would be a derogation of the rights of the Senate not to reach a decision in respect of Senator Wilson’s motion, regardless of what happens in the House of Representatives.
– Nevertheless, an adverse vote in the House of Representatives would mean a reversal of policy.
– If the motion be carried, this Government or another government will have to deal with the matter involved by some other appropriate legislative measure. There is no constitutional provision to prevent honorable senators from exercising tothe full their rights, and I appeal to the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Keane not to press their objection. To do so would be to derogate from the rights of members of the Senate.
– We shall be the judges of that.
– No doubt; but we must have some sense of responsibility. We are not here as members of a debating society, to make points at the expense of those holding opposing views. We are here to deal with the business of the Senate in a constitutional and orderly manner, as laid down by our standing orders. Senator Wilson’s motion should not be dealt with on party lines. We have ample precedent for the course I advocate. The President’s ruling is in conformity with Standing Order 66a. No one suggests that when a government is challenged in respect of its policy it should continue to make appointments or deal with major matters of policy. At this juncture the Ministry is acting in a strictly constitutional way. Decisions regarding many features of government policy are being postponed pending the result of the vote on the want of confidence motion in the House of Representatives. It is true that questions on notice were answered in the Senate to-day; but those answers were given out of courtesy to this chamber.
– I support the motion of dissent from the President’s ruling. The Leader of the Senate is not fully seised of what is happening in the House of Representatives.
– He does not believe that it is a matter of importance.
– So far from its being unimportant, the people of Australia are very much interested in it. For a considerable time leading newspapers have been stressing the urgent need for a reconstruction of the Government.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the motion of dissent from my ruling.
– It is definitely linked with the remarks of the Leader of the Senate, who contends that this chamber should go on with Government business. No one will deny that the motion submitted by Senator Wilson has a direct bearing upon the Government’s policy of imposing a ban on the export of iron ore. The motion is really a challenge to that administrative act.
– Standing Order 66a is quite clear in its terms. It specifies business which may take precedence of Government and general business.
– It would appear, from the remarks of the Leader of the Senate, that honorable senators have been called together for the express purpose of dealing with one matter only - the motion submitted by Senator Wilson.
– I made no such admission.
– The issue that is being debated in the House of Representatives is so important - the Government is definitely challenged and is charged with having forfeited the confidence of the people - that it should preclude the Senate from proceeding with Government business.
– If I knew precisely what was before the Senate I should have no doubt as to my attitude. I understand that the question under discussion is that the ruling of the President be disagreed with; but some speakers appear to be under the impression that we are considering the constitutionality or otherwise of the Senate dealing with business whilst a motion of want of confidence is being debated in the House of Representatives.
– The question before the chair is that my ruling be disagreed with.
Question put -
That the ruling of the President be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In submitting his motion, Senator Wilson rather weakened his case by concentrating on certain economic points. He based much of his argument on the denial of supplies of iron ore to parts of the British Empire. My leader pointed out that at no time has Australia exported this commodity to the United Kingdom. He said that on the only occasion when iron ore was exported to Great Britain it was sent merely as a sample, with the result that no further exportation was made. That happened long before the embargo was imposed, but it is now suggested that the prohibition prevents the exportation of iron ore to Great Britain. I had heard nothing of the need for increasing the trade in iron ore to the Old Country until Senator Wilson mentioned it in his speech. He weakened his case by concentrating on the embargo as it affected the proposed mining company at Yampi Sound. I do not know whether he obtained most of his information during his recent visit to Perth, but he seemed to lack knowledge of the prospects of that company before the embargo was imposed. I may be able to enlighten him in that regard.
I have been criticized by Senator Fraser, who desired to know on which side of the fence I sat, having regard to certain remarks by the Premier of Western Australia and observations by me in this chamberbefore I became a member of the Ministry. My remarks, as a private member, regarding development at Yampi were made in my desire to do the best I could for Western Australia, particularly the north-western portion of my State, in which I have interested myself ever since I became a member of this chamber. The information that was at my disposal as a private member, however, is totally different from that which I now have. In having, as the result of that greater knowledge, had the courage to change my views on. the whole matter, I am not inconsistent. Many of the protests made when the development of Yampi was mooted from time to time during the last two years indicated that probable results there would make it necessary to prevent the exportation of the iron ore. On several occasions last yearI asked questions as a private member with reference to the exportation of iron ore from my State. We all had hints of the possibility of something happening to retard the exportation or to prohibit it altogether. As a matter of fact, in August, 1937, the Commonwealth Government advised the governments of the States to be very careful in issuing mining leases to foreign companies.
– That is contrary to the Prime Minister’s statement.
-I repeat that in August, 1937, all the State governments were warned with regard to the issue of mining leases to either British or foreign companies, because companies might call themselves British in order to disguise their identity.
– Why was that done ?
– I understand that certain information had reached the Government that some mining companies, reputed to be British, were really not so. The first thought in the mind of the Government, in those circumstances, would be to issue that warning. Therefore, the decision to impose the embargo was not reached hurriedly, or even secretly. The Premier of Western Australia, in the speech to which several honorable senators have referred, quoted a statement of mine of the5th August, 1937, but he did not repeat all that I said on that occasion, when I was interviewed by the press on the Perth railway station upon my return from Canberra. He omitted to state, that I also said, “ Too hurried an acceptance of the report would be ill advised “. I was referring to the report that there might be a possibility of the restriction of export of iron ore from Yampi Sound. Many references have been made to the cattle export industry and to the effect that this embargo will have upon the export of live cattle from the north-western portion of Western Australia. I know that that argument has been adduced in Western Australia, and that it has been developed in an endeavour to embarrass the Federal Government. There is. no export of live cattle from the north-west portion of Western Australia to Japan, as has been suggested, and the prospects of such a trade developing are meagre, indeed. On several occasions inquiries have been made in countries north of Australia concerning the export of live animals, and reports have disclosed the great difficulty in disposing of stock in those markets owing to the competition of the local goat and the fat-tailed sheep. Our experience in Java and in other countries north of ustralia has been that it would be practically impossible for the natives in those countries to handle wild cattle from the Kimberley district, particularly as there are no abattoirs or holding or landing facilities.
– Heavy import duties are also imposed.
– I cannot speak authoritatively on the subject of duties at the moment, but certain health restrictions in the countries mentioned are aimed mostly at Australian live cattle, and especially those coming from tick-infested areas or where pleuro-pneumonia, red water and peg-leg diseases are prevalent. The arguments adduced that a ban on the export of iron ore would cripple the Western Australian cattle trade in the countries to the north of Australia are unsound.
– I do not think that Australia has ever exported cattle on the hoof to Japan.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.No; I do not think that there is very much opportunity to do so.
– We have never had the opportunity.
– If honorable senators read the speech by the Premier of Western Australia on the subject, in which he suggests that a ban on the export of iron ore will retard the export of live cattle, and study the interjections made by the Leader of the’ Opposition in the House of Assembly and by others having a knowledge of the handling of live cattle, they will realize that there is a grave doubt in the minds of many Western Australian legislators as to the possibility of profitably exporting live cattle to Japan on vessels carrying iron ore.
– In any case cattle would be exported from Queensland first.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.That is quite probable. It was suggested that live animals would be carried on. deck at a nominal rate of freight, thus reducing the landed cost. Such a trade is visionary, because it has never been exploited, although for a time a shipping service between Japan and Western Australia was in existence. ‘The statement, therefore, that the iron ore embargo is restricting the live cattle trade from Western Australia is open to question. It is doubtful whether cattle could be carried and hold their condition on such a long and arduous voyage on slow steamers through the tropics. Moreover, investigations into the meat market in Japan have revealed that it is restricted, and that the ‘ only hope of expansion lies in increasing the purchasing power of the people. In view of the economic conditions prevailing in Japan and the difficulty in negotiating business in wool, wheat and other raw materials, it is almost certain that the importation of live cattle would not be permitted by the Japanese government. I think that I have said sufficient to demonstrate that the export of live cattle to Japan is a myth. It is interesting to note what was said by one of the members of the Legislative Council of Western Australia, the Hon. J. J. Holmes, who has been a member for the northern province for nearly 30 years. He understands that province and its development much better than possibly any other man, and in referring to some of the conditions surrounding the granting of a mining lease at Koolan Island by the Western Australian Government, he stated that there are phases of the matter which, to say the very least of them, seem rather incredible.
– This is not an expression of opinion on the action of the Western Australian Government.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.No, but his remarks have some relation to the export of iron ore. In referring to the granting of these mining leases, Mr. Holmes said -
A friend .of mine told me that the exAgentGeneral informed him that his first rake-oft’ was £25,000. I know that several thousands of pounds came to this State was split up amongst co-lessees. The Premier stated that under the arrangement with the Japanese, 15,000,000 tons of iron ore would have been exported in 25 years, and that we would have received a quarter of a million of money. That means that the State would have received 4cl. per ton. I have it on fairly reliable authority that the Japanese were really to be charged 9d. a ton for the ore. They were to pay the State Government 4d. per ton; they were to pay the syndicate that engineered the job 2d. per ton, and they were to pay the dummy company in London 3d. per ton. Those figures may be resolved down to this, that the State, for parting with 15,000,000 tons of iron ore over 25 years, would have received £250,000; one combination in London would have received £125,000 and the other combination would have received £.187,500, a total, ‘oi £562,500.’ Thus, the State would have received £250,000 while the others reaped £312.500. Therefore I consider myself justified in saying that the State. Government was sold a pup.
The State Government was “ sold a pup.”
In answer to the point raised by Senator Fraser regarding the resolution in the Western Australian House of Assembly reprimanding the Federal Government for applying the embargo, I may say that this is an old custom of the Labour party in that State. It is using this weapon on the Federal Government merely to -distract attention from its own actions, and to try to place the blame at the door of the Federal Government.
– That will be answered later.
– - That is why the motion was proposed by the Premier. I remind honorable senators that a State election will be held in Western Australia early next year, and it will be very comforting to the members of the Labour party to feel that they have been able to place the responsibility in this respect on the Commonwealth Government. Senator Fraser also wants to know on which side of the fence I stand. My reply is that I stand on the Western Australian side and on the Australian side. I believe that the embargo is in the interests of Australia, and that it was imposed because of the information contained -in the report of the Commonwealth Geological Adviser, Dr. Woolnough. When as a private senator, I asked certain questions concerning the possibility of a ban being placed upon the export of iron ore, I was in the position of other honorable senators who thought that Australia had unlimited supplies of this commodity. It was not until I had had an opportunity to peruse Dr. Wool.nought report that I found that Australia does not possess the supplies of this important commodity that previously it had been thought to possess. Like Senator Fraser, I do not like embargoes placed upon the export of raw materials to other countries, but charity should begin at home and we must reserve for our own use raw materials which are so essential to our defence and development. That is the reason which actuated the Government in imposing the embargo. The figures given by Dr. Woolnough are totally different from those supplied by State geologists on which we had previously been working.
– Why did the Government impose the embargo by regulation?
– It has the power to do so.
– The manner in which the embargo was imposed is not very material. The fact remains that the Government imposed the embargo. In doing so, it acted solely on expert opinion that previous estimates of our iron ore resources had been very much exaggerated.
– Has that opinion been corroborated recently?
– I propose to deal with that point. Experience gained in recent surveys of different deposits throughout Australia leads us to believe that Dr. Woolnough’s opinion is right, whilst the estimates previously supplied to the State govern- ments are more or less misleading. I do not suggest for a moment that they were deliberately misleading. However, mining and geological science has developed rapidly in recent years, a fact of which we are well aware in Western Australia, particularly in regard to the extraction of gold from ore. Long and costly attempts have been made to determine the character and extent of the main ore body at Yampi Sound by diamond drilling. Extreme difficulty was encountered in this work owing to the presence, underground, of large cavities, the existence of which was unsuspected by Mr. Montgomery and the earlier observers. Even after large volumes of liquid cement had been pumped into these cavities, drilling operations were extremely unsatisfactory, and were abandoned after quite an insignificant footage had been drilled. These facts show that the advisers of the Government have more information than was available earlier. Much of this information has not yet been published. The presence of the cavities, on the scale encountered, must necessarily call for some reduction of earlier estimates, though the extent of this reduction cannot be determined until the driving of the tunnels now being excavated has progressed considerably. In relation to Iron Knob and Middleback Range deposits, continuity of development for a number of years has been supplying, and is still supplying, more and more information as to the underground extent of these ore bodies. Much of the information so obtained is as yet unpublished and, as regards details, confidential. It has been shown, however, that much more included barren rock material has been encountered than was anticipated as the result of early superficial investigation. This experience is not peculiar to Iron Knob, but is practically universal in the development of iron ore deposits of similar geological, age everywhere. A fantastic estimate of 1,000,000,000 tons from the Middleback Range has been supplied, for company prospectus purposes, by a visiting mining engineer. The tract referred to in this district has been visited by official and disinterested geologists, who have no hesita tion in denying the claims advanced. No scintilla of positive proof has been brought forward in substantiation of the exaggerated claims.
– All of the reports of the State geologists supported that estimate of 1,000,000,000 tons.
– The honorable senator has heard what I just said on that point. Senator Fraser suggested that the export of any commodity should not be restricted, because such action was not conducive to friendly relations with other countries. I interjected that he should give that advice to the Fremantle lumpers, because they took very decisive action in refusing to handle scrap iron, steel and other commodities for export to Japan.
– ‘The lumpers in each, of the States took similar action.
– The lumpers in the eastern States relented and agreed to handle scrap metal, tin clippings and other material for export to Japan. But, whilst that work was carried out in the eastern States without restriction, the Fremantle lumpers have never retreated from their attitude, arid still refuse to handle these commodities. It was because of this fact that I suggested that Senator Fraser should direct his advice to his friends at the Fremantle Trades Hall, if, as he suggested, it might enable us to maintain friendly relations with other nations.
– If the action of the Fremantle lumpers prejudices . our friendly relations with other countries, will not the action of this Government in imposing this embargo have a similar result?
– I merely suggested that Senator Fraser should give his advice to the Fremantle lumpers, who were much more in need of it than is this Government. I shall oppose the motion.
– In view of the reply given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan), no honorable senator should have any difficulty in deciding how he will vote on this issue. The Leader of the Senate showed clearly that expert estimates of our iron ore resources revealed a position which called- for some action on its part to conserve those resources. I assume that previously the Commonwealth Government accepted the figures supplied to the State governments by their respective geologists, and was led to believe that we had abundant supplies of iron ore in this country. The people of Australia as a whole believed that, if there was one commodity of which we had an ample supply, it was iron ore. When the proposition to develop Yampi Sound was first advanced no objection whatever was raised to the export of iron ore from Yampi. Subsequent investigation, however, revealed a position which caused the Government much concern. I have no doubt that the estimates on which the Government came to its decision, and which have been cited by the Leader of the Senate in this debate, were supplied by a responsible officer. The Government accepts full responsibility for those estimates which it has supplied, not only to honorable senators, but also to the people as a whole, in order to justify its decision on this important matter. No nation can become great unless it possesses an abundant supply of iron ore - the sinews of a country. It has been suggested that the imposition of this embargo may cause, and to some extent has already caused, unfriendly relations with other nations. However, our first duty is to our own country. We can only be guided in this matter by the information supplied to the Government by its experts. I suggest that no honorable senator would reject the reports of these experts and, at the same time, claim of his own knowledge that we have abundant supplies of iron ore to meet our own needs, both immediate and future. I can only be guided by experts in this matter, although I believe that the previously exaggerated estimates of our resources are almost inexcusable. However, should the present geological investigation, when completed - I take it that that investigation will not be hampered for want of funds - show that we have abundant supplies to meet our needs, the Government will give favorable consideration to the lifting of this embargo. In the existing. circumstances, is it not prudent to say that, first of all, we must make quite sure that we possess ample supplies for our own requirements? If we do not possess ample supplies, why should we allow this commodity to be exported? In the circumstances the Government had no option but to impose the embargo. No honorable senator favours a general policy, of imposing, by regulations only, an embargo on exports. However, Parliament, with its eyes open, gave to the Government power to take such action. After all, in certain circumstances, such power is essential to a national government. In any case, it is always open to Parliament to say whether the Government has abused that power, or whether it has accomplished by regulation something which should have been done by legislation. I repeat that in this matter we must rely entirely upon the estimates and advice of experts. The Government has adopted the only wise course by placing an embargo on the export of iron ore until the extent of the deposits in Australia is better known!
.- I shall vote against the motion of Senator Wilson. I have some knowledge of mining and of the iron ore industry and am acquainted with the extraordinary stories which have been circulated regarding the extent of the iron ore deposits in Australia. The drastic action taken by the Government in regard to the export of iron ore should not have been taken by regulation; or, if that system were found necessary at the time, the Government should have sought legislative approval of its action as early as possible. In my opinion, H. A. Brassert and Company has an unassailable claim to compensation in respect of the work already undertaken at Yampi Sound. I understand that about £500,000 was expended there in an effort to establish an industry which had every prospect of success. Twelve months ago no one could say with any degree of accuracy how great are the deposits of iron ore in Australia.
– No one can give a correct estimate now.
– It has been said that large deposits of iron ore exist in Tasmania, but I point out that the deposits at Blythe River are inaccessible> whilst the actual resources are not likely to he more than about 1 per cent, of the quantity estimated. Moreover, an analysis has shown the existence of 25 per cent, of silicate. At Lal Lal, in Victoria, valuable deposits of iron were said to exist, but Mr. Baragwanath, who, in my opinion, is without a peer in Australia as a geologist, says that not only is the quantity of ore there small, but also its quality is poor. After Sir Herbert Gepp had flown over portions of Queensland in an aeroplane, the press contained references to enormous deposits of iron at Portland Roads. His estimates have not been confirmed by subsequent examination. There are no extensive iron ore deposits in New South Wales and consequently, we are forced to rely on the few known deposits which either contain haematite or are sufficiently accessible to be commercially workable. I agree with what Senator Wilson has said regarding the extent of the deposits of iron ore in the Middleback Ranges of South Australia, but an enormous amount of work will have to be done before it can be said with any degree of accuracy that 1,100,000,000 tons of ore exists in that district outside the areas owned by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The statement that £1,500,000 of English money is available to erect smelters there may be correct, but I suggest that an appropriation of £140,000 to examine the iron ore deposits of Australia is totally inadequate. In view of the reports of Dr. Woolnough, in whom E have every confidence, I suggest that the whole of the money appropriated for this purpose be expended in obtaining reliable data as to the extent of the deposits at Yampi Sound and the Middleback Ranges. Instead of carrying out investigations throughout the Commonwealth, the survey should he confined, for the present at least, to those two places, so that in a few months, instead of years, we may have some reliable information on which to work.
– They are working at full pressure at Yampi Sound now.
– I suggest that similar action be taken in the Middleback Ranges.
– There are not more than 24 men working at Yampi Sound.
– If Senator Cunningham’s statement be correct I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of employing more men there, and at Middleback Ranges also, because this matter is of great importance to Australia.
– I canassure the honorable senator that sufficient men are employed at Yampi to make a thorough investigation.
– The company which undertook the development of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound expended a lot of money. It had a market for its product, but largely as the result of the agitation of the Labour party in the House of Representatives, the Commonwealth Government suddenly realized that the quantity of iron ore there might not be so great as had been believed. It is easy to measure the area of an outcrop of iron ore, and, from ,that data, to say that so many million tons of ore exists ; but the making of a reliable estimate is a tremendous and costly undertaking. In view of the importance of this subject, I urge the Government to concentrate its efforts on the deposits at the two places that I have mentioned.
– An examination of the iron ore deposits in the Middleback Ranges is being undertaken by the Government of South Australia. The survey has almost been completed.
– What is the honorable senator’s opinion about the export of pig iron?
– I shall come to that. Senator Wilson mentioned Mr. Ashworth, but the Postmaster-General did not make any reference to him. I* know Mr. Ashworth to be a man of irreproachable character, honest, and sincere of purpose. He would not say that there was a certain quantity of ore in any locality unless he believed that it was there. He is the authority for saying that there are large quantities of iron ore in the Middleback Ranges and I am prepared to accept his opinion. It has been suggested that undue influence is being exerted by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. That company has contracts under which it is permitted to export pig iron to certain countries. As a member of the Labour party I am not prepared to allow that company, or any other company, to send metals from Australia to one Eastern country in order that the inhabitants of another Eastern country may be slaughtered. At the moment, I am not referring to the possibility of Australian metals being used against Australians. The policy of the Labour party is that, until the position in the East has .been cleared up, the embargo on the export of iron ore should continue. I can understand the attitude of my colleagues from Western Australia. The Commonwealth Government should have acted much more promptly, it should have told the State government of its intention to impose the embargo. I repeat that, in my opinion, government by regulation is wrong, and I hope that we have seen the last of it.
The Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) said that the waterside workers of Western Australia declined to handle scrap iron intended for shipment to the East. I remind him that similar action was taken by the waterside workers throughout Australia. If I had been leading the waterside workers of Australia, they would not have handled any scrap iron until the Government had withdrawn the regulation which resulted in 7,000 of their number being thrown out of work. Scrap iron is still being exported to the East.
– Not from Western Australia.
– It is being exported from that State.
– It has been urged that if it be right to prohibit the export of iron ore, it is right to prohibit the export of pig iron also. Some Eastern nations readily huy Australian scrap iron because it can be conveyed in otherwise empty ships at remarkably low freights. The Yampi Sound deposits are situated in an ideal place for an export trade. The Government of Western Australiaanticipated big developments there and did much to develop the industry. I do not say that influences are at work to stifle opposition to the Broken Hill Proprietary
Company Limited, ‘ but such things are being said. My only interest in that company is in seeing that the door is kept open for unionists, and that the employees ,are properly treated. I am not greatly concerned as to where the money comes from. I hold no brief for the company.; I know that it is an Australian body and a masterpiece of organization. I believe that ordinarily its employees are given fair treatment. I dissociate myself from the charge that the deposits of iron ore in the Middleback Ranges are being interfered with by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. At one time, I examined the deposits there, and I know that no ban was placed on obtaining a property in the district, provided that the lessees were prepared to work it. I agree with the Minister in charge of the bill that the quantity of haematite iron ore in Australia is approximately 230,000,000 tons. I emphasize the need to employ sufficient men at Yampi Sound to make a thorough investigation of the deposits there. I again urge that no money be spent in places where there is no iron ore of consequence, and that the search be restricted, for the present, to Yampi Sound and the Middleback Ranges. Unless that be done, the time of the officers as well as the money of the Government will be wasted. In conclusion, I express the belief that an over-statement of the extent of the iron ore deposits of Australia was the primary cause of the trouble that has occurred. The procrastination of the Commonwealth Government encouraged the company operating at Yampi Sound to go ahead; later, the imposition of an embargo on the export of iron ore hit the company badly. My suggestion is that as the Government now has £40,000 for the survey, and has £100,000 in sight for next year, it should finish the job not in years but in months, and endeavour to give all worth-while areas the opportunity for development which I believe they should have. Whilst I do not claim that there is a market for the finished products in England, I believe there is a market for such exports in the East. If this market could be secured, Australia’s iron ore deposits could be fully developed and employment given to many Australian workers in the manufacture of finished articles for export. Hence my opposition to the motion moved by Senator Wilson.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [6.6 J. - I support the action of the Government in prohibiting the export of iron ore from Australia. I was, however, surprised to hear Senator Allan MacDonald inform the Senate that in August, 1937, the Government had warned certain people of the possibility of an embargo being placed on the export of iron ore, because it had been realized that some of the companies that were about to engage in this industry were not 100 per cent. British.
– That is not quite correct.
– If it is not accurate, I do not wish to misrepresent the Minister, or the Government, “by repeating the statement; but if my recollection is correct, there was a strong movement for the prohibition of the export of iron ore from Australia long before the date mentioned by the Minister.
– That is so.
– I was interested in this matter in August of last year - at that time I did not expect to become a member of this chamber in the near future - and I well remember the efforts of the Melbourne Age to impress upon the Government the importance of conserving Australia’s iron ore deposits. It published many excellent leading articles in an endeavour to induce the Government to take action, but the appeal was unheeded. I understand from statements made in this chamber that it was not until May of this year that the Government decided to impose an embargo. We know from the records of debates in the House of Representatives that when the matter was brought under the notice of the Prime Minister in 1936, he very airily dismissed a complaint made by a member of the Labour party, by saying that Australia had a large supply of iron ore and that there was no need for any curtailment of export.
– The right honorable gentleman ridiculed the suggestion.
– Absolutely. We understand, however, that Dr. Woolnough in a later report seriously disturbed the self-complacency which had hitherto characterized the Government’s attitude. I am pleased that Dr. Woolnough warned the Ministry, otherwise it might have permitted a continuance of the export of iron ore. Senator Wilson said that he disagreed with the action of the Government on two of three points. He objected, for instance, to government by regulation. With this objection all honorable senators on this side will agree. The Lyons Government has for a long time ignored the rights of Parliament, and has been governing by regulation.
– Yet the honorable senator is supporting it in this matter.
– Yes,’ because it has done the right thing. The Government, however, took a long time to make up its mind, and we, on this side, are not going to allow Ministers to persuade themselves that they are paragons of virtue simply because, after a good deal of pressure had been applied, ultimately they did the right thing by prohibiting the export of iron ore.
– That is what the honorable senator is doing.
– No. If the majority of Labour senators declared that the Government should be censured because of its vacillation in this matter, and for that reason voted against it on this occasion, we would not be doing the right thing in the interests of the nation. We must take the Australian view.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the Western Australian senators are taking the Australian view?
– I shall deal with that point later. Possibly the question of an embargo on the export of iron ore has been raised in this chamber because, theoretically, honorable senators are supposed to safeguard the rights of the various States. We may be regarded as “ State-righters “.
– Statesmen !
– We .shall leave that to posterity to say. I repeat that we must look at this matter from the Australian point of view. It provides us with a good opportunity to show that we are capable of deciding such questions in the interests of the entire nation. One Western Australian senator who is now a member of the Government has stated that, as the result of information which he has received, he is in a position to prove that it would be in the interests of “Western Australia to allow the embargo to remain.
– What is the reason for the embargo?
– The Government imposed the embargo on the export of iron ore because Dr. Woolnough reported that our resources were definitely limited-
– Australia is exporting more than £3,500,000 worth of pig iron and lead per annum. How can the honorable senator reconcile that fact with an embargo on the export of iron ore?
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– When Senator A. J. McLachlan rose in reply to the speech of Senator Wilson, he remarked that Australia had been living in a fool’s paradise. I thought that to be rather a remarkable statement from the Leader of the Senate at this late stage, because for a considerable period the position with regard to steel has been serious. As long ago as 1937, Japan was buying scrap iron and old ships, and grave fears were expressed regarding the future of the Australian iron and steel foundering business; yet the Government has not realized until now that we have been living in a fool’s paradise. Early in 1937, a summary of the cable news from the other side of the world showed that iron resources were being rationed in England and Germany, and that in the United States of America arrangements for the building of warships had been cancelled. In Germany, those firms engaged in the manufacture of munitions received preference in regard to supplies of iron ore.
– That was not because of a shortage of ore.
– It was because of the demand
– It was because the supply did not meet the demand. In
Japan the import duty on iron ore was eliminated to encourage firms to purchase it.
At Yampi Sound, a supposedly British company had a lease of the iron ore deposits, and it was known that this company had entered into an agreement with the Nippon Mining Company of Japan, which had undertaken to purchase the whole of the output. A recent statement by the Government provoked comment from this side regarding the possibility of private profiteering in the manufacture of armaments and munitions.Members of the Government were loud in their protestation that nothing of the kind was likely to happen, because our people were always prepared to place (he interests of Australia and the Empire first. Yet we know that this allegedly British company intended to sell iron ore to a foreign nation.
– The agreement was made with a Labour government, and the company obtained its leases from a Labour government.
– .The fact that the contract had been entered into by the Labour Government of Western Australia does not exonerate the Commonwealth from blame. After all it is the duty of this Government to protect the interests of Australia; but it allowed four experts from Japan to investigate the iron ore resources at Yampi Sound. Perhaps the Labour Ministry in Western Australia would contend that, if the Commonwealth Government was prepared to allow experts from Japan to make that investigation, the State Government was justified in going on with the proposal. The right to prevent the visit by the Japanese experts lay, not with the State, but with the Commonwealth authorities, who allowed the exploration to proceed without interference. Permission was granted to carry on this work for twelve months. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government cannot escape its responsibility in this matter. The people have certainly been- living in a fool’s paradise, if they have looked for protection of their interests by the Commonwealth Government. It is idle for it to try to make the people believe that it has their welfare at heart.
– The honorable senator has not proved anything to the contrary.
– It would be difficult to convince the honorable senator that the present Government had done anything wrong. Occasionally he protests, but, in the event of a “ show down “, he votes to keep the Government in office.
– What about the honorable senator’s Western Australian colleagues ?
– I understand their position thoroughly. They desire that the resources of Western Australia shall not remain idle. They hope to see those resources developed in the interests of Australia. Is progress to be denied?
Recently Senator Cameron mentioned the fact that a fight was in progress between two capitalist groups, hut ministerial supporters hotly disputed that assertion. Honorable senators opposite display a typically capitalist mind. They would allow the natural resources of Australia to be destroyed for the sake of immediate private profit. We on this side regard it as the; duty of Parliament to conserve the natural * resources of this country for the benefit of future generations. If the extent of the deposits were tested thoroughly we should know exactly where we stand in this matter. Senator Wilson said that the action of the Government is likely to cause ill feeling between nations. I disagree with him in that regard. The Government reached its decision, not out of hostility to any’ other nation, but because it considered that this country has the right to conserve its own resources. I appreciate the fact that its action was taken at a very difficult period, following closely upon the occasion when it chided the wharf labourers for refusing to load scrap iron.
– Does the honorable senator favour the export of pig iron?
– I do not advocate the export of either pig iron or scrap iron for the purpose for which it is now being used. Honorable senators who desire the ban on the exportation of iron ore to be’ lifted show a lack of regard for the interests of the country.
I should prefer to think that they were kindly disposed towards people in other parts of the world.
– Australia feeds their soldiers on wheat, and supplies them with wool for clothing.
– Even so, are we not obliged to safeguard the interests of future generations of Australians ? The Government was challenged by Senator Wilson on several grounds.
– The honorable senator is speaking in one .way but he will vote in another.
– I am directing attention to the fact that after a good deal of pressure the Government has acted in the- right way.
– Whence came the pressure?
– Not from the Broken Hill ‘ Proprietary Company Limited, as has been alleged, because that company has extensive reserves on which to draw.
– The Labour party aroused public opinion.
– The Leader of the Opposition has anticipated the reply which I proposed to make to Senator Fraser. The Government realized that it could not refrain any longer from imposing the embargo, and that upon it rests the responsibility to protect our natural resources. If we can be assured that there are huge iron ore resources in Australia, why should not the Government develop them instead of allowing the ore to be exported to the detriment of our people? Had the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition been in order, honorable senators, would have had an opportunity to debate the manner in which our ‘iron and other natural resources should be developed. Certain representatives of Western Australia have said that the imposition of this embargo has prevented the development of the pastoral industry in the north-western portion of that State, but I suggest that that industry should be developed, not through the impoverishment of our iron ore resources, but by the group of capitalists at present interested in pastoral pursuits in various parts of Australia.
– What does the honorable senator suggest that we should do with our iron ore resources?
– The people of Western Australia should realize that for years they have been controlled by a government hostile to Labour. Although a Labour government is now in office in Western Australia, and is endeavouring to develop a vast State, it is working under great difficulties in that it has only a small majority in the House of Assembly whilst the Legislative Council is hostile. The people of Western Australia have been foolish in not returning a sufficient number of Labour members to the Legislative Council to enable the Labour party to give full effect to its policy. My colleagues from Western Australia should tell the people of that” State that while they are foolish enough to return members opposed to Labour they cannot expect the State to be fully developed. Whilst present conditions obtain they are likely to experience continuance of the disabilities of which they complain.
SenatorFraser. -Such as they are experiencing in Victoria.
– I appreciate the fact that Western Australia is a big State, and that it is difficult for a Labour government, faced with a hostile Legislative Council, to develop the State as it should be developed. Honorable senators representing Western Australia should tell the people of that State that this parliament is always willing to help them to develop their natural resources. They must not be downhearted because some members of the Labour party support the imposition of the embargo on the exportation of iron ore. Whether there is or is not an abundant supply of iron ore is beside the question.
– That is the main question.
– It is beside the question. A country’s mineral wealth is part of the assets of not only present but also future generations; and I shall conclude as I began by saying that we have to study this problem from the Australian viewpoint. We have to visualize the future of Australia. We have to realize that Australia is as yet in its infancy; we hope that it will eventually be one of the greatest producing countries in the world. We have to use our natural resources in the interests of Australia, and it would ill become us, merely because there is an overseas demand for iron ore, to allow supplies to be taken indiscriminately for the benefit of other nations. Although I have criticized the policy of the Government in certain respects, I believe that the action it has taken in this instance is in the best interests of Australia. I oppose the motion.
.- This subject has been so thoroughly debated that it is not my intention to speak at length. The concluding remarks of Senator Sheehan and those of Senator Herbert Hays set out the actual position with which the Government was confronted when the embargo was imposed. Before becoming a member of the Government, I heard numerous questions on this subject submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) to the then Leader of the Senate (Sir George Pearce), and, in common with other honorable senators, I was deeply interested in the actual state of our iron ore reserves. Immediately after the formation of the present administration the Government began to receive reports from its advisers, including the Geological Adviser to the Commonwealth (Dr. Woolnough), setting out the serious shortage of Australia’s iron ore reserves. In order that there might be no misunderstanding reports were also obtained from other Commonwealth and State geologists in order to ascertain the actual position. I do not deny for a moment that there is a quantity of low grade iron ore in certain parts of Australia - Dr. Woolnough has admitted that - but the supply of iron ore that can be worked economically is limited.
– The Minister does not know that.
SenatorFOLL. - Every deposit of iron ore has been investigated by Commonwealth experts, and many have been inspected by State geologists. Senator Keane, who has extensive knowledge of mining, stated this afternoon that although surface surveys suggest that large deposits of minerals exist, further surveys and tests disclose that the quantity available is not always as large as had been at first thought.
– That does not apply only to iron ore.
– Of course not, but it is true to a greater extent in respect of iron ore. Senator Wilson by interjection said this afternoon that Dr. Woolnough had stated that the reserves of iron ore in Australia would last for 150 years.
– The Leader of the Senate said that 3.00,000,000 tons is available.
– The reports disclose that the present estimated annual consumption of iron ore is about 3,000,000 tons. A previous estimate was 2,000,000 tons, but when an additional furnace has been brought into operation the estimated annual consumption will be 3,000,000 tons. With the industrial development that can be expected it will not be many years before our annual consumption of iron ore will be 5,000,000 tons. A geological survey discloses that the workable deposits of iron ore at present available will produce approximately 150,000,000 tons, which means that the deposits, if worked on an economic basis, will meet our requirements for about 40 years. I am quoting from figures which were supplied to me by Dr. Woolnough. The Government’s experts point out that certain large deposits of iron ore cannot be worked on an economic -basis unless they can be mined by what is known as the open cut system. I am advised that the cost of mining ore by the open cut method is approximately 3s. a ton, this figure (being based on the approximate costs of the Mount Morgan Mining Company, which is operating on one of the biggest open cut undertakings in Australia, whereas the cost of mining ore underground may be as high as 15s. a ton. The latter figure is uneconomic for the mining of ore for use in our industries.
– Great Britain is importing iron ore at more than that price.
– Great Britain imports only the highest grade ore. It has natural reserves, estimated at hundreds of millions of tons, adjacent to its coal deposits, but that ore is of low grade, and is used only for ordinary requirements. It imports high grade ore required for special purposes from Sierra Leone.
The Government did not impose this embargo merely for the fun of doing so, or just for the purpose of creating hostility between ourselves and. other nations. The embargo was imposed purely for the purpose of conserving supplies of a raw material vital to our own industries. No member of the Government makes any apology whatever for this action, which was taken solely in the interests of the nation.
Much as I enjoyed the latter portion of Senator Sheehan’s remarks, .particularly that part of it which he addressed to his colleagues from Western Australia, the honorable senator, I believe, spoiled a good speech by alleging that this Government had involved itself in the early stages of negotiations for the opening up of the deposits at Yampi by allowing the entry of foreign experts. He gave only grudg-ing support to the Government in this matter, although, I believe, judging by hia concluding remarks, that he is really 100 per cent, with it in the action which it took. I remind the honorable senator, as I said by way of interjection, that the Labour Government of Western Aus tralia was responsible for the early stages of the negotiations. It was responsible for the granting of these leases, and all the protests which have arisen against the imposition of the embargo have emanated from that government. In reply to Senator Sheehan’s suggestion that the Commonwealth Government was responsible for allowing foreign experts to come into this country to do certain work in connexion with the preliminary development of Yampi, I shall read the following letter dated the 24th April, 1936, from the then Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Collier, to the Prime Minister: -
Under another cover I have forwarded to you a precis in regard to the history of the iron ore deposits in this State at Yampi Sound, and the present position covering the titles now held. Attached to such precis was a memorandum from Messrs. Brassert Limited, the holders of leases on Koolan Island, regarding their proposed future operations.
I would ask that early and favorable consideration be given to the request contained in such memorandum for Japanese experts to bc allowed to land on Koolan Island purely for purposes mentioned by Messrs. Brassert Limited.
That letter, I suggest, disposes entirely of the claim that the Government of Western Australia was not responsible for the activities which led to the formation of the Yampi Sound Mining Company.
– That Government made the following requests to the Commonwealth Government: - Permission for Messrs. Brassert Limited to acquire the leases, remission of customs duty on machinery imported from Japan valued at from £300,000 to £350,000, no new taxation, the free use of land, water and timber, the right to establish domicile and conduct business by a limited number of Japanese engineers and clerks. In view of these requests made by the Labour Government of Western Australia, it is useless for Senator Sheehan to endeavour to throw blame on this Government for having encouraged the formation of the Yampi Sound Mining Company. The whole project was promoted by action taken directly by the State Government of Western Australia, and honorable senators opposite now applaud that, Government for such action.
– We are proud of it. Senator Cunningham. - The Commonwealth Government allows Japanese wool experts to enter Australia to attend our wool sales.
– As I pointed out on many previous occasions, this embargo is nor aimed at any nation.
– Why did the honorable senator mention the entry of Japanese experts?
– Simply to answer a statement made by Senator Sheehan.
– No, the honorable senator accused the Labour Government of Western Australia of having requested permission to import Japanese experts.
– I am not accusing the Government of Western Australia of anything: I merely read a letter to the Prime Minister from the Premier of Western
Australia setting out the requests of .the State Government. This embargo was primarily imposed in order to protect our own interests. This Government considers that its first duty is to Australia. No country in the world, being warned that its reserves of a certain raw material were not more than sufficient for its own requirements, would hesitate to conserve such raw material for its own use. This Government was perfectly justified in imposing this embargo.
– Why allow pig iron to bc exported?
– I am glad that the honorable senator has raised that point. In his speech this afternoon I think he said that pig iron was still being exported to Japan.
– I did not say that.
– All. of the pig iron exported from Australia from 1935 up to the present has been consigned to New Zealand. Not one ton has been exported to Japan or any other foreign country. The total of scrap iron exported to Japan in 1932-33 was 24,667 tons, an infinitesimal amount when we consider u at honorable senators opposite are suggesting that we should allow 1,000,000 tons of iron ore to be exported annually from Yampi Sound. In 1937-38 the total amount of iron and steel scrap, including ships, exported from Australia was 41,6SS tons. The Government has made it perfectly clear that should the whole of the scrap iron available in this country be required for use in our own industries it will not hesitate to impose an embargo on the export of that material. Furthermore, I point out that this embargo on the export, of iron ore does not apply merely to one country. It applies equally to Great Britain and to our sister dominions, as to any foreign country.
– Will the Minister deny that over 3,500,000 tons of pig iron was exported in one year to the United Kingdom? I took that figure from the Commonwealth Y ear-Book.
– But the honorable senator has used that figure very cleverly. He referred to the total export of pig iron and lead, although he must have known that the proportion of pig iron was not one hundredth part of- the total-; 99 per cent, pf it was lead, of which there is no shortage in this country.
– Can the Minister give us any figures to support his statement that we have ample reserves of lead ?
– The Minister has no figures on that point.
– Of the 3,500,000 tons of pig iron and lead exported to the United Kingdom mentioned by Senator Eraser, only 24,977 tons was pig iron.
– The Minister said that we have ample reserves of lead.
– I said that there was not anything like the same shortage of lead in this country as of iron ore, because the known supplies of lead are much greater than those of iron ore.
– What are the figures ?
– I have not got the figures, but I know the position in respect of lead. However, if the .Government’s geological advisers reported so serious a shortage of lead as they estimate in respect of iron ore, this Government would not hesitate to impose an embargo on the export of lead. In similar circumstances, it would not hesitate to prohibit the export of zinc or any other metal.
– Are inquiries being made as to the quantities ? Senator FOLL - The geological advisers of the Government give advice on the subject from time to time.
– Is it a fact that zinc bars and blocks to the value of £247,000 are exported to Japan?
– Senator Fraser continues to refer to Japan. I repeat that it is not a matter of ore being sent to Japan, the United States of America, Germany or any other country, but of the danger of Australia running short of a necessary commodity. Until the position is safe, the Government intends that the embargo shall remain.
– I am pleased to have the Minister’s assurance that there is plenty of lead in Australia.
– Something should be done to develop the Western Australian deposits of iron ore.
– There are as many men employed at Yampi Sound to-day as when the embargo was imposed ; there were 50 men there then, and there are 50 there to-day. They are employed in surveying and testing the deposits. I emphasize that not a great deal of employment will be given to Australian workers merely by developing these deposits and sending the product away to other countries in foreign ships. If honorable’ senators want to provide employment for Australians, they will support the Government in reserving these deposits for manufacture in Australia. In the manufacturing of the iron and steel products, rather than in the mining of the ore, will employment for Australians be found. I am amazed at the stand taken by Western Australian senators of the Labour party, who pose as representatives of the workers. I could understand such an attitude on the part of some Western Australians with freetrade tendencies, but not by men who claim to be the friends of the workers. I hope that the advice given to them by Senator Sheehan will be borne in mind. Early estimates by the States included, for statistical purposes, all known deposits, irrespective of their size, situation or mineral composition. There is no doubt that there are large quantities of iron-bearing material in Australia, but most of it, especially that in Western Australia, is too far inland for economic transportation. Not one of the deposits in eastern Australia meets the requirements of a commercial deposit of iron ore, either as to size or mineral composition. The geological authorities of all the States have been consulted in this matter; in every State the Government geologists have accompanied the Commonwealth Geological Adviser to every probable source of iron ore, and to possible sources as well, within what has been agreed to be the economic range of transportation. These State officials agree that, with certain exceptions, their States do not provide the requirements of major iron ore deposits. One exception was mentioned by Senator Keane, who referred to two deposits of magnetite on the west coast of Tasmania. T!he Commonwealth Geological Adviser will visit them as early as possible. The other exception relates to deposits in Western Australia, most of which are more than 200 miles inland, and in regard to which there is a difference of opinion as to their accessibility. One deposit at Tallering Peak in that State has still to be considered. I emphasize that the estimate of the Geological Adviser to the Commonwealth is based on personal inspection in close consultation with the State authorities. I am advised by those who are in a position to know that, at the present cost of transportation in Australia, deposits of iron ore which are situated more than 200 miles inland cannot be regarded as economic propositions for blast furnaces. There is also a limit to the economic transfer of iron ore by sea; the present economic limit is said to he about 4,000 miles. Yampi Sound is just within the range of economic working.
– Why take iron ore from Yampi Sound to Sydney?
– Economic working necessitates taking the ore to the fuel, not the fuel to the ore.
– Is the honorable senator sure of that?
– Yes. The world-wide practice is to take the ore to the fuel; it would be uneconomic to carry fuel to Yampi Sound. Reference was made to the possibility of establishing steel works at Collie in Western Australia. My information is that Collie coal is non-coking and is, therefore, not suitable for iron smelting. Senator Wilson referred to a* company which was formed for the purpose of exporting ore from South Australia to England. Investigations have proved that that was merely a companypromoting proposition; it would not be economically sound to take iron ore to England. One reason is the existence of huge reserves of low-grade ore in England, and another is the fact that highgrade ore can be obtained from Sierra Leone, which is only 5,000 miles from England, whereas the distance between Australia and the United Kingdom is 14,000 miles. Senator Wilson was wrong in stating that officials of the Mines Department of South Australia accept the estimate of 1,000,000,000 tons of iron ore in the Middleback Ranges. The geologists of that State demonstrated to the Commonwealth Geological Adviser the impossibility of the existence of such large deposits.
– Why does not the Minister table Dr. Ward’s report?
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, having examined every foot of these areas, leased the only patch of real iron ore on the line. Is it likely that that company would leave to its competitors 800,000,000 tons of high-grade ore which it could have for itself?
Senator Keane urged the speeding up of the surveys. The investigations at Yampi Sound are being pushed on as rapidly as it is possible to set up the machinery. As I have already mentioned, there are as many men employed there now as before the embargo was imposed. When additional machinery has been installed it will be possible to carry out more rapidly the work of testing.
In the conduct of these surveys th, Commonwealth is experiencing difficulties which are beyond its control. As honorable senators know, mineral rights an vested in the States, and Commonwealth officials are not always welcomed by the States. In two States the officials are inclined to regard the Geological Adviser of the Commonwealth as somewhat of an interloper, but, generally speaking, the States are showing a readiness to co-operate with the federal authority.
– What is proposed in connexion with the Middleback Ranges deposits ?
– The Government is obtaining a report. It will not leave any possible source of supply untouched. If the State governments say that they require help from the Commonwealth, that help is provided.
– What is the nature of the survey; does it include boring and sinking?
– Yes. Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the discovery of cavities which could have been found only by boring or tunnelling. Such work is both slow and expensive, but as the Government realizes that surface surveys are not always reliable it will continue to make its investigations hy means of boring and tunnelling.
– Will the Commonwealth Government assist in working Yampi Sound?
– If the Commonwealth were to attempt to work the deposits there as a government enterprise, the honorable senator who has interjected would be one of the first to object. He asks if we intend to work the Yampi Sound iron deposits. If he moans for all time, I reply, “Of course not”. The Government is, however, prepared to keep the men previously working there in employment until a thorough survey of the iron ore resources has been made.
– Yampi Sound deposits are to be shut down for 100 years.
– That is not likely, in view of the fact that the most reliable reports received indicate that our total reserves of iron ore will last only about 40 years. In his speech two weeks ago Senator McBride fixed the amount of Australia’s iron ore reserves at an amount less than that given by the Leader of the Senate.
– That is not correct.
– That is what, I understood the honorable senator to say* He also declared himself in favour of retaining our iron ore resources, but objected to an embargo being imposed hy regulation. I admit that there is room for a difference of opinion on that point; but
I’ think the honorable gentleman admitted the difficulty which confronted thu Government in. connexion with this, matter of the embargo.
– I said that . the extent of our resources should be investigated, and I still hold that view.
– The honorable senator and Senator Fraser also referred to our reserves of lead, zinc, and other metals. An authoritative report received by the Government on these metals puts the position beyond all doubt. It states -
The extent of our deposits of lead and zim compares at least favorably with those of other countries. Developments in Australia are very extensive and the position is definitely not so acute as it appears to be in connexion with iron. We can, and do, produce these metals far in excess of our own requirements, and it would seem that there is no prospect of local shortage within any foreseeable period. The production results in the employment of large numbers of Australian skilled workmen and the exportation of the metals is very important from a national economic point of view. The value of exports last year was - Tin, £205,000; copper, £550,000; lead. £”>.!i.)3,000; and zinc, £2,190,000.
The Government has not received any expert advice, which would’ lead it to believe that there is any shortage of thea metals now or within a foreseeable period.
– How many years will, the reserves last?
– I cannot say offhand, hut on the best advice obtainable - the honorable senator will admit that the Government is in a position to secure reliable information from its own geological experts - no shortage of these metals is imminent.
Senator Wilson and other honorable senators who have spoken in support of his motion, have declared that there exist in Australia such huge reserves of iron ore as to make unnecessary an embargo on the export of this commodity. If they know of any such deposits they should disclose them to the Government, so that expert investigations may be made. If their claims are substantiated, a.nd no shortage of iron ore is likely, the Government will, I feel sure, reconsider its attitude. All they have to do is to tell the Government where these resources are.
– We have already done that.
– ‘What the honorable senator has said is not borne out by any geological expert in Australia. The Government prefers to take advice on matters of this kind from men who have, made a life-long study of geology, and know something of Australia’s mineral resources, rather than act upon hearsay information or the statements of men who, as was suggested in connexion with an English concern mentioned earlier in this debate, declared the existence of huge quantities, in the hope of being able to float a company in London. The Government makes no apology for its action in imposing this embargo. The prohibition was not ordered until . full and careful consideration had been given to the matter, and after reports from its advisers, subsequently confirmed by State geologists, bad been received. For that reason, I ask honorable senators to oppose Senator Wilson’s motion.
– Senator Wilson’s motion is, I consider, double-barrelled, and for that reason I think it must fail. In the first place, the honorable senator complained that the embargo had been imposed by regulation. In that view he will be supported by many others in this chamber. I consider that the Government did wrong in acting as it did.
– How can we impress that on the Government except by disallowing the statutory rules?
– If we disallow the regulation imposing the embargo, we also express the opinion that iron ore should be exported from Australia. That is the wish of Senator Wilson and those who support his motion. I cannot vote for a motion which, in effect, says to the Government, “You must allow this iron ore to be exported, because, in our opinion, you blundered badly by imposing the embargo by regulation instead of by act of Parliament.” If Senator Wilson’s motion were not double-barrelled and were not of such vital concern to the national life of Australia, I might he inclined to support it. When, however, we examine the matter and realize the extent to which Australian industries are involved, the iron ore position assumes a different aspect. In my view, it does not matter whether Senator Wilson is right when he says that our supply of iron ore is practically without limit or whether the Government is right in claiming that it will last for only 40 years. What really matters is that the Government has received advice from the best available experts that our resources that can be mined economically are sufficient to meet the nation’s requirements for only the next 40 or 50 years. This being the case, the Government would have been lacking in its duty if it had not taken steps to ensure that they are preserved for the nation. I was astonished at the comparison made between the export of iron ore and the export of pig iron. The difference between these two commodities is about £3 or £4 a ton, which almost entirely represents labour. It appears rather a strange attitude for Labour men to adopt.
– We are just as short of iron and steel as of iron ore.
– The news that Australia’s iron ore resources would be sufficient for only 40 or 50 years came to me and to ail industrialists as a great shock. I was previously of the opinion that Australia was so favoured in regard to supplies of this metal that in the very near future we would be able to export not only pig iron and steel to other countries, but iron ore as well. We have in the past been exporting some pig iron to New Zealand as well as to some of the various Pacific islands, and I was looking forward to the time when Australia would be one of the largest world exporters of iron and steel products. I was looking forward to the time when, instead of paying our overseas debts in primary products, we would be able to discharge them by the export of products of Australian workmen engaged in the iron and steel industry.I hope that the Government is wrong in its estimate of our iron ore resources, and that further investigations will prove that they are ten, or even 100, times greater than has been stated. But whilst its geological advisers are of the opinion that supplies are limited, the Government is doing the right thing in seeking to preserve them for the nation. It has also been argued that the Government should immediately develop Yampi Sound. If that means anything logically, it means that we must dissipate our resources as soon as we possibly can. If we develop Iron Knob, Middleback Ranges and Yampi immediately, it must necessarily follow that instead of our iron ore supplies lasting 40 or 50 years, they will last only 20 years, at the end of which time industries in this country requiring iron ore will have to import it and thousands of men will be thrown out of work.
– That is what Italy has to do now.
– That is what many countries have to do. Such a policy is illogical and unsound. First, there is a complaint about the export of pig iron and steel, and then it is suggested that Yampi Sound must be developed and our iron resources thus reduced so that they will last only 20 years. “What would be done with the iron and steel produced? I do no wish to appear unsympathetic to the people of Western Australia in this matter, for I can- see the logic of their complaint. If iron ore deposits from Western Australia are so potentially valuable that they must be conserved for the use of the nation, then, in the meantime, Western Australia should have some compensation. To develop and exhaust our iron ore resources immediately and halve the time during which they will be available to the nation would be wrong policy from an Australian point of view.
– The British Government said that the iron ore deposits will be more valuable in time of emergency if developed now.
– What is meant by “ developed “ ? Does it mean that they should be exhausted?
– No; opened up.
– If what is meant is that the deposits should be developed to an extent that they could be used immediately in time of emergency, I should be inclined to agree with the honorable senator. Development usually implies the utilization of resources until they are exhausted.
– But, accord- ing to Mr. Montgomery, a former State Mining Engineer in Western Australia, our resources of iron ore could not be exhausted in two centuries.
– I prefer to accept the opinion of Dr. Woolnough and those associated with him. Is it suggested that they have submitted a false report or that for some sinister purpose the Government has imposed the embargo?
– Conflicting opinions have been expressed by experts.
– I prefer to accept the latest expert opinion. The Government must be responsible for its action. If the reports of its experts are proved to be wrong it will deserve censure, but, until proof is available one way or the other, the Government would have been recreant to its trust as guardian of the welfare of the people of Australia if it had not pro hibited the exportation of iron ore. I agree that the Government has done this job in a clumsy manner, because it should have known two years ago what it apparently knows now. In my opinion it adopted a wrong procedure in framing regulations to deal with an important matter of national policy affecting the welfare of Australia. It should have taken its courage in its hands and submitted legislation dealing with the problem. In the circumstances, however, I am not prepared to support the motion.
A few misconceptions concerning Brassert’s have been cleared up by Senator Foll. This is anything but a British company in essence, no matter where it may be registered. Knowing something of the genesis of that company, I should have been careful about giving it any advantage unless on a fiftyfifty basis. Senator Sheehan referred to the rationing of steel overseas. The reason for that was that steel was required for war purposes. It seems to me that the Government has done the right thing in a rather clumsy way; hut, believing the information before it to be true, it had no alternative but to do what vt has done.
– I support the motion. Senator Foll has discussed this matter in a jovial way, and Senator Sheehan might well be described as a “ yes-no “ man. I am rather surprised at some of the remarks of honorable senators on this side, irrespective of the States from which they come. I claim to be a true Australian, and I consider that every effort should be made to establish industries in States like Western Australia and South Australia. I know my State well, and I am confident that if the exploitation of Yampi Sound had been proceeded with the north-western portion of Western Australia would have had a wonderful chance to develop. The pastoral industry would have been encouraged, the State of Western Australia would have received great benefit in the form of harbour and light dues, and much employment would have been provided. Western Australia, which is starving for industries, has been used as a good dumping ground for manufacturers in the eastern States. When the embargo was imposed I was helping to load minerals for shipment to Japan. If it was desirable to prohibit the exportation of iron ore to Japan, it should have been necessary to prevent the shipment overseas of other minerals. Are the deposits at Yampi Sound to be allowed to lie idle for the next 100 years ? I intend, before I resume my seat, to read the speech made by the Premier of Western Australia on the subject of this embargo. In tire parliament of that State, members of all parties voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the imposition of the embargo.
– By 49 to 1.
– What a remarkable majority! Yet some honorable senators are prepared to support the embargo. The iron ore resources at Yampi Sound are supposed to amount to 97,000,000 tons. The agreement entered into by the State Government and the company was for the exportation of 1,5,000,000 tons over a period of 15 years. That is a mere drop in a bucket, because the estimate of 97,000,000 tons relates only to the ore above high water mark.
– That is the payable part.
– It is not known how much is available at lower levels because no boring has been carried out. I know of other islands off the coast of Western Australia where iron ore is to be found. Western Australia has an area” of 973,000 square miles, and it is impossible without a thorough investigation to estimate the quantity of iron ore available. Hitherto Western Australia has never had justice, but senators from that State are determined that it shall in future. I have no quarrel with Senators Collett, Johnston, and Allan MacDonald, but I am certainly determined to fight in the interests of the people of Western Australia.
– Did not ex-Senator Needham look after Western Australia when he was a member of this chamber?
– -He was a good man. It is time the smaller States pulled together and let the larger States know about their claims. It is not surprising that the people of Western Australia endeavoured to secede from the federation. I am not a secessionist, but the fact remains that Western Australia suffers serious disabilities under federation and has been a dumping ground for manufacturers in the eastern States. Senator Sheehan remarked that the pastoralists in Western Australia should build jetties for themselves. If the pastoralists do that in Victoria they must be well off, but in my State -they are not sufficiently prosperous. Their financial position would have been improved if the development of the north-western portion of Western Australia had not been retarded by the embargo. Why cannot the Commonwealth Government offer to assist the Western Australian Government, particularly in the matter of compensation? Should heavy claims for compensation be made upon the government of that State, it will have to pay for consequences for which the Commonwealth authorities are responsible. I should like to ask the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald), who endeavoured to show what is being done in Western Australia, how long the Yampi Sound deposit is to remain dormant? If it is to remain in its present virgin state., indefinitely, it cannot be regarded as an asset. Has the Commonwealth Government realized the loss of wages involved and the extent to which development is being retarded ? The iron ore is there, and should be worked in order to provide additional employment, and to assist a State which is experiencing many disabilities. It is easy for honorable senators representing the more populous States to oppose this motion and to say what Western Australian people should do. They should realize that the Commonwealth Government adequately protects the production of sugar and cotton in Queensland. Although the Western Australian people are compelled to purchase large quantities of Queensland sugar at an unnecessarily high price, they are not allowed to develop their iron ore resources. Tasmanian producers are assisted by way of a bounty on the production of paper pulp, the butter producers benefit under, the Paterson equalization scheme, and ships) including Japanese vessels, are allowed to load bunker coal at Newcastle, hut the develop.ment of a potentially important. Western
Australian industry is being retarded by the action of this Government.
– We have adequate supplies of coal, but supplies of iron ore are limited.
– Our supplies of iron ore are not so limited as the Minister suggests. When this subject was under consideration in the Western Australian Parliament, the Premier said -
The prohibition on the export of iron ore from Australia has struck a terrible blow at the welfare of this State. I believe that members of the Federal Government, and many people in the Eastern States, do not appre- ciate just how serious this blow really is to Western Australia, and it is hoped that the motion, and the discussion upon it, will assist to engender a better understanding of the issues involved and their effects. The embargo arose directly as the result of the development of the iron ore deposits at Koolan Island. It is undeniable that, had the Yampi Sound deposits remained unexploited, the question of the curtailment of the export of iron ore from Australia would not have arisen at this stage. I am quite confident that the terms of the motion will commend themselves to members of both branches of the Legislature. The Government invites members to express their opinions, and to demonstrate the views of all sections of the people of the State regarding what I may term the wholly unwarranted interference with the development of Western Australia by the Federal Government through placing an embargo on the export of the iron ore. The Government invites members to urge, even at this late stage, that that decree be rescinded.
I propose to show some of the farreaching effects the action of the Federal Government has had on this State. The most important, to my mind, is the death-blow that has been delivered to the hopes of an immediate and extensive development of the northwest. Ever since Western Australia has been occupied the north-west has presented one of our most difficult problems. The pastoral industry, which has undertaken the development of that portion of the State, has been hampered by the difficulties of distance and isolation. Pastoral pursuits in that area necessarily involve very large holdings settled by a small number of people. I do not think it is quite realized how sparsely settled is that part of the State. There is only one white person to every62 square miles of the Kimberleys. That fact will help towards a realization of the necessity for closer settlement in that part of the State if we are to do something towards its development. In this instance, with the development of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound, we had an opportunity to establish an industry that would have had a tremendous economic effect on the lives of the people of Western Australia. And when that industry is in the process of being established, with one fell swoop and one savage blow, our hopes of development are dashed to the ground. We have always felt the necessity for the establishment of some large-scale industry in the north-west to provide the nucleus of a larger population. By the extent of its ramifications, the effects of such an industry would be felt throughout that part of the State. The Wyndham Meat Works were established over twenty years ago, and to some extent have removed the element of isolation in the north, and have been responsible for the successful exploitation of the cattle industry in that part of the State. That is a comparatively small factor in developmentwhen considered in relation to the production of iron ore from the huge deposits at Yampi Sound. The State lacks the necessary financial resources with which to develop the north-west, and the Commonwealth Government not only refuses assistance to develop industries but, in this particular instance, it has strangled the proposal to establish an industry within the State borders.
I have endeavoured to arrive at figures showing the actual losses the State will suffer following upon the loss of the iron industry. The figures I shall quote are based on the export of only 1,000,000 tons of iron ore per annum for fifteen years, which was the latest proposition submitted by the company, supported by the State Government but rejected by the Commonwealth Government.
The amount of royalty lost will be £250,000.
Wages lost, which would have been paid to Western Australian workers, reckoning 200 men at an average of £6 10s. per week, approximately £1,000,000.
Purchase of mining stores, &c., would have meant at least £50,000 to the State.
The arrival and departure of 120 ships a year would have involved the spending of, say, £90,000.
Harbour and light dues payable would have amounted to £60,000.
In addition dividend duty would have been payable on the profits of the company. All this, together with the indirect results of a large industry, represents a great loss to the State. This shows the benefits that the State would have received by its establishment and the advantages to be derived from the circulation ofso much money are obvious to every one. It is unnecessary for me to amplify the position at this stage from that particular standpoint.
However, this is far from being the whole story. The north-west would undoubtedly have developed other industries because of the increased facilities and amenities that would have been available. There was every indication that a valuable trade would have been developed in the export of cattle. Iron ore is a very heavy product and ships could not be loaded to full capacity, with the result that each ship would have had ample space for the export of cattle on the hoof. Probably 500 or 600 cattle could have been shipped away at a time. There would have been a big demand for the cattle and that in itself would have constituted an important phase of industrial development in the north-west.
We have it on the authority of the Japanese people that they arc now importing chilled beef from South America and that it would be, competitively speaking, a much better proposition to import live cattle from the north-west from which there would be a direct sea trip of ten or twelve days to Japan, compared with a much longer journey for the chilled beef from the other side of South America.
-i rise to a point of order. Standing Order 406 is quite clear - “No Senator shall read his speech “. The honorable senator may be quite in order in reading a portion of a speech made in a State Parliament, but if it is permissible for him to read the whole of such speech he would also be in order in reading the whole of a speech delivered in this chamber.
– It is contrary to the Standing Orders for an honorable senator to read his speech, but Standing Order 406 has not been strictly enforced. I do not know that Senator Clothier is in order in reading the whole of a speech delivered by another person, although he is entitled to quote extensively from it.
– I should like this point to be clarified. I have a decided objection to the Standing Orders being enforced against a member of the Opposition when they have no application whatever. Standing Order No. 406 provides that “no senator shall read his speech “. Senator Clothier is not reading his speech, but a speech delivered by a member of another Parliament. If time permits, he is entitled to read the whole of that speech.
– I am reading only the main portions of a speech on the subject under discussion. It continues -
Scrap iron is sometimes necessary so that iron ore might be effectively smelted. Let me quote from the article to which I referred a few moments ago.
The fundamental criticism of all conservation policies, however, is that there are too many unknowns in the equation -
In the present case, the Commonwealth Government has announced that a detailed survey of Australian iron ore reserves will be made, and the embargo may be reconsidered if additional reserves are discovered. But the future course of demand can never be predicted, as the recent history of the British coal industry shows. The fall in the demand for coal has falsified all predictions of the future trend of output and exports, hence of the probable length of life of the coalfields. It is not unlikely that in the future the demand for iron may suffer from the competition of light alloys in the same way as the demand for coal has suffered from the competition of oil and water power.
Industry Strangled to Save Two Years’ Supplies
Let us consider the most pessimistic contention advanced by the Federal Government, that about 250,000,000 tons of iron ore are available. All the company wanted to do - and it was backed by the State Government - was to be allowed to export 15,000,000 tons. The argument is that in 100 years’ time we will be using 6,000,000 tons of iron ore a year, but all we wanted to export at this stage was 15,000,000 tons, which is roughly a little over two years’ supply. But we have to suffer all the disabilities of strangling a new industry, which promised to have an important effect on the economic development of the State, and particularly that part of it where the deposits exist, because in 100 years’ time somebody might be short of two years’ supplies. That is surely illogical and absurd.No country that refused to permit the export of valuable commodities because those commodities might be needed at some distant date would make any progress. Suppose somebody had prevented Carnegie from establishing his steel works at Bethlehem, or wherever it was; or that some one had prevented Ford and the other motor car manufacturers from producing cars, what would have been the effect on the economic development of the United States? The development of that country would have been retarded by 50 years. But for the industrial development that has taken place, the United States would not be anything like the country it is.
Previous Views of Commonwealth Government
The Prime Minister and several of his senior Ministers expressed themselves on the subject not long ago. There must have been some extensive propaganda going on to induce the Commonwealth Government to impose the embargo, because when Western Australia attempted to develop the iron deposits there was no hole-and-corner business about it. The then Minister for Mines, Mr. Munsie, communicated immediately with the Commonwealth Government, giving all details of the proposal. This is not something that the Commonwealth Government subsequently discovered we were keeping back from it. All information bearing on the matter was sent to the Federal Government, and no objection reached us from that quarter. In point of fact, the Commonwealth agreed to the proposal. Let me inform the House what has been said by members of the Federal Government. On the 10th September, 1936, in reply to a question asked in the House of Representatives, Mr. Lyons said -
The control of the development of the deposits was a matter for the Western Australian Government. The only power the Commonwealth Government had was to refuse a permit for the export of the ore, but the Commonwealth Government felt no more justified in prohibiting the export of iron ore to Japan than in prohibiting the export of wool.
That is in the FederalHansard. But propaganda was at work. Next, a press message from Canberra, dated the 3rd March, 1937 - sixteen or seventeen months ago - stated the following: - it is considered in official quarters in Canberra that supplies of iron and iron ore for all Imperial purposes from the existing sources are more than adequate. No fears are held that the shortage inBritain will continue, as the supplies in Australia and elsewhere in the Empire are more than adequate for any possible demand, and the adjustment of any shortage in Britain can easily be effected through the ordinary channels of trade.
They want the Federal Government to be imbued with a sense of justice. They want the Federal Government to act fairly in the interests of Western Australia, even if in the dimand distant future it may work out a little to the disadvantage of Australia as a whole.
I do not wish to touch on the subject of compensation to the State or to the company. I prefer to leave such matters for future discussion should it become necessary. I hope it will not be. It will not be necessary if the Commonwealth Government decides to recede from the most untenable attitude to which it is adhering at present. This was Western Australia’s big chance to develop the north-west. When we have an excellent chance for industrial development, we do not wish to be told, in effect, that industrial development is not for Western Australia, that it is for the Eastern States. The development of this particular industry in the Eastern States will proceed and increase, but for Western Australia there is an absolute blank. The company will have to abandon the developmental work upon which it has been engaged, and Yampi will sink into the oblivion of the past 100 years. Western Australia may, perhaps, have to wait another 100 years to pass before again getting an opportunity to establish the industry at Yampi. The people of Western Australia, however, have no wish to wait 100 years to develop Yampi, because it is a source of groat potential wealth. The ore is there, the industry can be developed, and should be developed. People are showing great anxiety to develop the industry; and yet, because some other people are of the opinion that in the dim, distant future, the iron ore at Yampi will be required for our own purposes, we are debarred from establishing an industry so important to the northern part of our State.
Appeal for Removal
I understand the embargo is being enforced by the Customs Department and that the matter has not yet come before the Federal Parliament. I hope this appeal will be successful. I hope the motion will have the support of all members of this House and another place. I hope also it will not be necessary for the Federal Government even to place the regulation before its Parliament for approval. Being a regulation, it must be approved by the Federal Parliament. I would much prefer that the Federal Government, of its own volition, should remove the embargo than allow a hostile majority to defeat the Government in what it might deem to be its policy. I am sure a mistake has been made. 1 am certain that the Federal Government, in a year or two, will agree, after it is in possession of full information, to give us an opportunity to establish this industry. I cannot believe that the iron ore which has been discovered in Australia in the last few years is all the ore that will be found in Australia. When additional discoveries are made, the Federal Government will be convinced of the mistake it has made now.
I do not desire to debate the motion any further. The Government has taken every passible action that it can take. On every occasion it has protested, advised and requested. It has done everything possible to conserve the interests of the State. Every step taken in the development of Yampi Sound was taken with the concurrence, or at least without the opposition, of the Federal Government. The Federal Government adopted the same attitude that we did, until suddenly a few months back this bombshell was exploded, and with it all hope of our development of the north. I trust that members will give consideration to all I have said on this matter, and will bear in mind, irrespective of what the Government has done, the disastrous effect of this embargo on the development of Western Australia. I hope the motion will commend itself to members of both Houses, and that we shall be able to send it to the Federal Government with the assurance that our protest will result in the removal of the embargo.
The people of Western Australia wholeheartedly support the State Government in this matter. I intend to vote for the motion.
– in reply - In my opening address I said that I objected to the method by which this matter of high policy had been introduced. Practically every honorable senator, including Ministers, who has spoken has admitted that this is a matter of high policy. Almost every honorable senator, with the exception of Ministers, has objected to government by regulation, and yet, apparently, some honorable senators are prepared to talk one way but vote another. The privilege of the Senate is to review regulations. If it thinks that a matter should have been introduced by Act of Parliament, it is perfectly at liberty to vote against a regulation so as to exert the democratic right of parliamentary government. Such a procedure leaves the Government perfectly free to introduce a bill, even though a regulation has been defeated, to carry out the object which it has in mind. It is certainly talking both ways for honorable senators to say in effect, “ We object to government by regulation or “ We object to the method which this Government has adopted in this instance, but we are going to support it “. Such inconsistency is mere humbug. Honorable senators either believe in government by regulation or they do not. There can be no question that this is a matter of high policy, and if honorable senators believe that matters of this kind should be dealt with by legislation and not by regulation, then it is their bounden duty to vote against this regulation and leave the Government free, should it think fit, to introduce a bill to achieve its objective. Government by regulation has been far too frequent. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has called the attention of the Senate to that fact on previous occasions, and has made a very strong recommendation with regard to the danger of government by regulation. Some honorable senators on both sides, who say meekly that they are opposed to government by regulation, are prepared, apparently, to support a regulation of this kind. I have submitted this motion in order to object to the method by which this matter of high policy has been introduced.
– Is that the honorable senator’s reason for proposing his motion?
– That is one reason, and I stressed it in my opening remarks.
– We shall test the honorable senator on that point later.
– Honorable senators will always findme consistent in objecting to government by regulation in matters of high policy. The Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said that he offered no apology whatever for the exercise of the power to prohibit exports which has been conferred upon the Executive by the legislature, particularly in this instance in which immediate action was thought to be necessary. He declared, in effect, that in spite of the fact that the Senate objects to government by regulation, and in spite of the protests from all quartersof this chamber over quite a considerable period against such action, this Government makes no apology whatever for this regulation, and intends, apparently, toact similarly in the future. I, personally, do not believe in government by regulation and I shall not support such action in any circumstances.
– The Customs Act provides for the making of regulations of this kind.
– No one will deny that certain routine minor matters must be dealt with by regulation. Parliament could not possibly deal with all matters, but I feel sure that neither Senator Herbert Hays nor any other honorable senator would suggest that this is a matter of detail. It is a matter of high policy and one which should never have been dealt with toy regulation.
– The power to make regulations is not restricted to minor matters. That power, I admit, is often abused.
– And when the Government abuses that privilege, it is the duty of every honorable senator to vote against the offending regulation. I repeat that the Government would still be free to achieve its objective by introducing legislation.
I now propose to deal with the conflicting statements made by Ministers in this debate concerningour iron ore resources. Quoting from figures supplied by the Government Geological Adviser, Dr. Woolnough, the Leader of the Senate stated that we have, at most, approximately 300,000,000 tons of iron ore in reserve. He also cited figures from Dr. Woolnough’s report, showing that there is approximately 90,000,000 tons of iron ore at Koolan Island, Yampi Sound, and other parts of Western Australia. The Minister further quoted a statement by Dr. Woolnough in which he estimated at 300,000,000 tons the quantity of iron ore above the surface level in the Middleback, Iron Duke, Iron Knob and Iron Monarch occurrences. Although that was the total of the reserves as indicated by the Government’s own geological adviser the Minister immediately discounted that estimate by 33^ per cent., for he said that the Goverment regarded the reserves as being only 200,000,000 tons. There is no evidence on which to base that reduced estimate, and, despite repeated requests that other reports which the Government has received should be laid on the. table, the Minister has not made them available. The Minister quoted from the report of Dr. Ward. The quotation which be read related, not to the quantity of iron ore in Australia, but to Dr. Ward’s opinion that i he embargo was justified. We all respect Dr. Ward as a geologist, but we ace not concerned with his political views. Where is Dr. Ward’s report? Senator Keane spoke highly of Mr. Ashworth, whose report is in the hands of the Government. We have ascertained that Mr. Ashworth reported that there is 1,000,000,000 tons of iron ore in reserve, but his report has not been tabled. What is the reason for this secrecy? Why are these important reports withheld from us? We have been told of the existence in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria of resources of iron ore which never previously had been cited. The reserves of iron ore in Australia have, been .referred to from time to time in various mining journals. Senator McBride quoted from one journal which gave the quantity as 08.1,000,000 tons.
– Those experts were never here.
– When Dr. W 001.nough submitted his report he had not been to the Middleback Ranges, Iron Knob, Iron Duke, Iron Monarch or Yampi Sound.
– But he has been there since.
– Is the honorable? senator accusing the Government of faking reports?
– I am not making any charge, but I say that the Government acted unwisely in prohibiting the export of iron ore.
– Is the honorable senator saying that the Government based its estimates on faked reports?
– 1 do not say for a moment that the reports were faked. On the contrary, I believe them to have been made honestly/ But they do not give an estimate of the quantity of iron ore in Australia, except thai Dr. Woolnough reported that, in his opinion, the quantity was not more than 300,000,000 tons.
– The honorable senator mentioned one report which gave the quantity as 1,000,000,000 tons.
– In my opening remarks I said that Mr, Ashworth had given an estimate of 1,000,000,000 tons, but Mr. Ashworth’s report has not yet been tabled. I do not question the Government’s belief that there may be a shortage or iron ore in Australia, but I submit that it should not have taken such drastic action on the advice of one man. lt should first have had a competent survey made of the iron ore reserves in Australia. What possible danger could have arisen in the meantime? The Minister said that, iron ore to the value of £500,000 is exported annually. On the basis of 10s. a ton, that represents 1,000,000 tons per annum. The survey would have taken about two years, so that if the embargo had been deferred pending the completion of the survey, Australia would have lost not. more than 2,000,000 tons of iron ore. Why could not the Government have waited for two years, by which time it would have known more accurately the extent of these deposits?
– By that time the company would have become firmly established.
– That would not have made any difference. The Government could take over its business and pay compensation then as well as now. Moreover, in the two years the company would have been established as a going concern. The figures of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll) arc entirely different from those given by the Leader of the Senate. Although Dr. Woolnough had reported that there was 300,000,000 tons of iron ore in Australia, the Leader of the Senate said tb at the Government regarded the quantity as being only 200.000,000 tons. The Minister for
Repatriation gave an estimate of 150,000,000 tons. Which Minister is right? The discrepancy between their estimates suggests that action has been taken too hastily. No great harm would be done if, during the two years necessary for the examination, 2,000,000 tons of iron ore were exported. That would have been better than risking the goodwill of other nations and wrecking an industry in both Western Australia and South Australia. I do not think that any one denies the right of every government to protect its industries and conserve its raw materials, but I submit that the placing of an embargo on the export of raw materials is action which should be taken only after the ‘ Government has satisfied itself that its resources are so limited as to justify such a drastic measure. No evidence of the danger of a shortage of iron ore supply has been placed before the Senate. The Leader of the Senate gave Australia’s consumption of iron ore a t 2,000,000 tons a year, whilst the Minisler for Repatriation said that it was 3,000,000 tons. Actually, a little over 1.500,000 tons is consumed each year. Mr. Essington Lewis, the managing director of. the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which uses the whole of the iron ore produced in Australia, said on the 27th May, 1938, that the average number of employees of his company engaged in the production of iron ore in ] 937 was 721, and that £191,000 was paid each year to them as wages. During that year, 1,550,148 tons of ore was consumed by the industry in Australia. Since 1937, the consumption of iron ore in this country has increased, but the quantity is still below 2,000,000 tons per annum.
– Does Mr. Essington Lewis’s figure relate only to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited ?
– That is the total for the iron industry. In one of his optimistic moments, the Minister said that, before long, Australia will use 5,000,000 tons of iron ore each year, although the quantity now used is only 2,000.000 tons. But the Minister for Repatriation says that Australia now consumes 3,000,000 tons of iron ore each year. I suggest that the shortage of iron ore in Australia has been exaggerated and that, in fact, there is no shortage. But, even taking the most conservative basis - allowing that the iron ore reserves of Australia total 300,000,000 tons and that the rate of consumption is 2,000,000 tons a year - we have a supply sufficient for the next 150 years. I suggest that the action taken by the Government was premature and that its effect on the industries of South Australia and Western Australia will be harmful.
– If Australia keeps on importing goods to the value of £30,000,000 each year, it will not need iron ore at all-.
– I am afraid that the iron ore at Yampi Sound which has been lying idle for 25 years will remain idle for a further 25 years.
– According to thb Minister, Australia has iron ore sufficient only for 40 years ahead.
– In my opening remarks, I said ‘ that an embargo on the export of any raw material was likely to endanger the goodwill of other nations. The Minister impliedly admitted that, and suggested that the necessity to provide for our own safety overrides every other consideration. I ask whether we are providing for our own safety by falling foul of a more powerful nation, especially by an act which has not yet been proved to be necessary. He cannot have it both ways. In making that statement, he admits that the action taken by the Government is likely to have a similar effect. I further point out that the persistence of the Government in its refusal to supply iron ore to Great Britain is hardly conducive to effective Empire defence. The Leader of the Senate has told us that he does not know of a better way in which Australia could contribute.to Empire security than by conserving its iron ore resources for use in this country. I suggest that our defence is wrapped up in the defence of the Empire, and that, if Great Britain needs our iron ore, Great. Britain must have it for Empire defence, which means our defence.
– Is Great Britain asking for our iron ore?
– A request has been, made for a British company to export
Australian iron ore to Great Britain during the first two years of its operations at Yampi Sound.
– But has Great Britain asked for it?
– Industrialistsin Great Britain have asked for it.
– So have the Japanese. They want it for the manufacture of weapons with which to blow up the Chinese.
– Nobody suggests that Great Britain is short of iron ore as such; but everybody knows that that country is short of high-grade iron ore, which is required to mix with the lowgrade product.
– Everybody knows that Japan is more short of it.
– The Minister for Repatriation suggested that it would not be economical to transport iron ore a distance of 4,000 miles. I refer the honorable the Minister to a report submitted by Mr. Essington Lewis, chairman of directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, in which ho points out that in America, a country which can hardly be regarded as inefficient, iron ore is transported a distance of 5,000 miles - 1,000 miles more than the distance which Senator Foll has said would be the economic maximum in Australia.
– Is that by sea or by land?
– By sea. The distance by sea from Whyalla to Newcastle is 1,170 miles, and to Port Kembla 1,060 miles. These distances are quite moderate compared with the haulage of more than 1,000,000 tons of ore annually from Tofo, Chili, to the United States of America-, a distance of about 5,000 miles. The expert advice which has been given to the Government on this matter of iron ore reserves has, almost invariably, been proved to be wrong, and I submit that there was no justification for the Government’s drastic action, at least until more reliable advice has been received.
– There has been conflict of opinion in the expertadvice given to the Government on this subject.
-That is so, and no action should have been taken until some concrete evidence has been obtained.
– Would it have been fair to permit the development of this industry, and then impose the embargo at a later date?
– It would have been better to do that, because then, instead of taking over a lot of rubbish, the Government would have been able to assume control of an industry which could have been continued in production. The useless scrap which will be taken over by the Government now will still be scrap 25 years hence if the Senate decides that prohibition of the export of iron ore shall continue. Ministers have read extracts from reports by Dr. Woolnough and Mr. Montgomery, both of whom are acknowledged experts. It is interesting to note that these authorities estimate the iron ore reserves in Yampi Sound to be: Koolan. Island north, 7,700,000 tons; Koolan Island . south, 68,800,000 tons; Cockatoo Island, 13,800,000 tons in the south, and 6,900,000 tons in the north. They fix the total in Yampi Sound at 97,000,000 tons. It is admitted that at Middleback Ranges there is a minimum of 200,000,000 tons of ore above the surface level and probably many times that amount below the surface.
– Admitted by whom?
– If the honorable senator reads the statement made by his Leader he will find that government experts have given advice to that effect.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question put -
That StatutoryRules 1938, Nos. 65 and 86, amending the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations, be disallowed.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator A. J. Mclachlan) agreed to -
That the consideration, in Committee of the Whole, of the Report of the Standing Orders Committee presented to the Senate on 20th October, 1938, be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting.
Motion (by Senator A. J. Mclachlan) proposed - .
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– On the 20th October I asked a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer, relating to currency depreciation. The first part of my question was -
The reply given was -
The second portion of my question to which I particularly desire to draw attention was -
The answer which I received was -
The difference in the purchasing power of the Australian pound note as compared with gold is due to the increase in the world price of gold.
That, I submit, is not an answer to th* question. It is merely an elaboration of the answer given to the first question, the second question having been entirely ignored. I should like to know who is responsible for this, and whether the Treasurer intends to supply an answer to my second question.
, - The honorable senator drew my attention to his questions and to the answers received. If the replies are not satisfactory to him I shall be glad to bring the questions again under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I point out that the increase of the price of gold has been brought about, not by the act of any individual or group of individuals, but by certain economic circumstances.
– I bring under the notice of the Government the restricted financial policy of the Munitions Supply Board and its detrimental effect on the progress of the Small Arms Factory at ‘Lithgow, New South Wales. I am given to understand that, if money were made available, more men would be employed there, and that the wheels of idle machinery would once more be set in motion. A few clays ago, in reply to a gentleman from New South Wales who was trying to project himself into the federal political sphere, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that plenty of money was available for defence, and that, in fact, the Defence Department could “ write its own ticket”. When the Government made known its proposal to expend on defence, over a period of three years, £43,000,000, which sum is now to be increased, it was contended that such expenditure would bring about a great reduction of unemployment in the various States. Early this year, when the Loan Council met, the Commonwealth Government asked the States to reduce their loan expenditure on public works in order to provide more money for defence works. The States sought £18,000,000, but eventually got, £12,000,000. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in the course of his opening statement, remarked -
I think you are already aware of the principle that we propose to ask you to discuss - the transfer of some part of your loan works programme from the works which you already have in mind to works which have a defence significance.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), referring to benefits which he claimed would accrue to the workers, said -
The great bulk of that expenditure is to be devoted to the payment of wages in. the production of material and the manufacture of that material in the completion of the defence plan.
But the policy propounded by the Government has not been put into operation. During the world war the factory at Lithgow employed up to 1,500 men, but to-day it has only a nucleus staff consisting of fewer than 400 men. The huge sum of £644,000 is to be provided for armament annexes, plant, materials, &c., in connexion with private enterprise; but I contend that the Government should utilize its own factories to their fullest extent before building annexes or providing machinery for private establishments.
– The work to be done in the annexes will be of a different class from that carried out in the munition factories.
– That may be so, but the annexes could be used to manufacture articles -which could also be made at Lithgow where the unemployed now number over 500.
Regarding the Bren gun, which is to be manufactured at Lithgow, I am informed that the Government is placing orders in England for gauges, jigs and fixtures which, undoubtedly, could be produced in Australia. It- amazes me to find that, although the Government proposes to expend £644,000 on annexes to private establishments, a definite move has not already been made to extend the plant at Lithgow. I have received the following letter from the Lithgow district committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union -
I have by direction of my members employed at the small arms factory to lodge a protest, through you, against the action of the Federal Government in sending orders abroad for gauges, jigs, and fixtures as such action is totally unwarranted and may lead to further unemployment among engineers in Australia. further I am directed by resolution to request you to press to the utmost for a public inquiry into the administration of the Defence Department factories.
I discussed this matter with the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Defence ( Mr. Street) who remarked that possibly the order for jigs and gauges has been placed overseas because it is desired to obtain them as quickly as possible. I desire an assurance that for the future any defence materials that can be made in Australia will be manufactured here. Our own munition factories and railway workshops should be utilized to the fullest extent, and, if necessary, other government factories should be established before private factories are permitted to manufacture munitions.
In a statement to Parliament on the 19th October, referring to the Government’s industrial and defence development programme, the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page)’ said that it was necessary to plan the location of these industries, with a view to having as many vital undertakings as possible at . the least vulnerable points. Undoubtedly, the Lithgow factory is less vulnerable than many of those in the capital cities, and I strongly urge the Government immediately to increase its activities. A few weeks ago men were dismissed from this factory and boys who are still employed there are working under the shadow of dismissal. I urge that of the amount to be expended on annexes a considerable sum should be set aside for the extension of the factory at Lithgow; that this work be put in hand immediately in order to relieve unemployment, and that steps bc taken to see that all required parts are manufactured in government factories. I press for a public inquiry into the administration of the defence factory in New South Wales.
I am relieved to some extent to be assured by the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Defence that he will visit Lithgow in the next few weeks, butI hope that the Government will give this matter its immediate consideration, for I am constantly being asked in New South Wales why the factory at Ltihgow has not progressed to the same extent as similar establishments inVictoria. I recently pointed out in this chamber that rifles made at Lithgow were recognized as the best used in the Great War.
– I support the remarks of Senator Ashley concerning the treatment being meted out to the unemployed at Lithgow. It is well known to many honorable senators, particularly those on this side of the chamber, that some machines in the small arms factory at Lithgow have been idle for years, and that had they not received attention from time to time they would have become rusty and practically useless. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) stated quite recently that in the matter of defence expenditure, the Defence Department can “ write its own ticket”, and that if the Commonwealth Bank Board stood in the way it could be swept aside. Notwithstanding that definite statement, large numbers of men at Lithgow are unemployed, many of whom could be profitably engaged in the small arms factory. When I referred to the state of affairs at Lithgow, Senator Dein said, by interjection, that I was exaggerating the position, but I have since received a communication from the organization at Lithgow, dated last Monday, stating that there are 550 unemployed men on the dole, 250 men on relief work, 39 boys between the ages of sixteen and nineteen years depending on the relief earnings of their families, and therefore prevented from participating in any work, and 20 youths between the ages of sixteen and nineteen years whose fathers have to keep them by working in the mine and who are also debarred from relief work. Frequent reference has been made to the unfortunate position in which many youths are placed, and surely an opportunity is now afforded to provide them with useful employment. If the position is as stated by the Treasurer and the Bank Board can be disregarded, there is no reason why these youths should not be given work or trained as apprentices, particularly a.a the equipment is already available. I heard the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) say to-day that the construction of aircraft is proceeding in Australia; if that is so, surely some of this constructional work could be undertaken at Lithgow. Moreover, the nearest aerodrome to Lithgow is 17 or18 miles away, but at Brown’s Gap, a mile and a half from the small arms factory there is an ideal site for an aerodrome. The clearing and levelling of that area would provide reproductive employment for a large number of men. As we have the men, machines and raw material and apparently, according to the Treasurer, ample money for defence purposes, there is no reason why the Government should not alleviate the position of the unemployed at Lithgow.
– Those who have listened to Senator Ashley directing attention to the position of the unemployed in Lithgow and the surrounding district cannot doubt his sincerity. In supporting what the honorable senator has said I ask the Government to realize the utterly illogical position into which it is getting regarding the important matter of defence expenditure. My personal opinion is that it has no plan regarding anything which it is handling; obviously it has no definite defence policy. The Treasurer has told the people that in the matter of defence expenditure the department can “ write its own ticket “, and that if the Commonwealth Bank Board stands in the way it will soon be shifted. That shows that there is not the slightest need to allow any defence work to be undertaken by private enterprise, and emphasizes strongly what we have said previously that there is no excuse for the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow working short handed. It should be operating at its full capacity. If the Minister in reply to Senator Ashley should say that the factory at Lithgow is not properly equipped, that will be a reflection on the Government’s administration, and if he should declare that the men available are not competent tradesmen, he will not be stating a fact. I do not think that he will make either of those submissions. Australian engineers can do any engineering job that is required in connexion with defence or similar works. The Government can authorize the construction of a battleship in Australia if it has the courage to do so. We have a railway engineering establishment in Queensland which during a time of national emergency was converted almost immediately into a shipbuilding yard. There is no job that Australian workmen are not capable of undertaking. There is nothing that we cannot make in this country if the Government will provide the money. The Treasurer having declared that the Defence Department can “write its own ticket” in the matter of defence expenditure, there is no reason why men should be kept out of employment, particularly at Lithgow where experienced men are ready to take up work in which they have been previously engaged. I am not really concerned as to whether the work is done at Lithgow or in any other part of Australia so long as the Government sees that private enterprise does not get its sticky fingers into the business, with (the sole object of making profits. We have the machines, we have the men, we have the raw materials, and if we have not the money it can soon be provided because the Treasurer, in a moment of unwise enthusiasm, said that it can be made available. There is no reason why only 400 men should be employed at the Small Arms Factory when 1,500 were employed during a state of national emergency which, I believe, was not more acute than that through which this country has just passed. I trust that the Minister will give full consideration to the representations made by Senator Ashley and Senator Arthur.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to the unsatisfactory nature of the replies I received from him concerning the provision of money for national defence. On the 27th September I asked the following question : -
It will be noticed that the question related to defence purposes. The answer read -
The Government does not propose to instruct the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank to issue credit.
No reason is given. The next question read -
If for any reason the Prime Minister decides that this cannot be done, will he inform thu Senate as to his reason ¥
The answer read -
The main reason is that the Government is opposed to political control of banking. A further reason will be found in paragraph 50G of the royal commission’s report.
Under the Constitution we have complete control of Commonwealth finances, and the Government should be prepared to carry out the provisions of the Constitution in their entirety, especially in connexion with such an important matter as defence. I stated in my opening speech in the Senate that “ finance is government and government is finance.” If the money is available - the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking System said that it is - where does the Treasurer propose to get it ? Does he propose to f 011 mr the advice of the Prime Minister who, on more than one occasion, has said that unorthodox methods will not be employed in raising money for national defence. A paragraph appeared in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that a battleship costing between £8,000,000 and £12,000,000 is to be constructed. Is the Government going to employ orthodox methods of finance which, in the opinion of the greatest men in the Empire, are unsound? Speaking two years ago, Mr. Winston Churchill said that if something is not done to alter the present financial system, the world is going to get the biggest shock in history. Mr. Baldwin contended that if the present conditions in England. are not altered they would have what they had not had for over 300 years, and that is a civil war. Mr. Lloyd George stated that the world is heading for a disaster of the first magnitude. These men do not talk at random. They have given their considered opinions and unfortunately they are true. The answer to my questions has been evaded. Previous speakers have said that the Treasurer has stated that money is available, and that in matters of defence the Defence Department can “ write its own ticket “. I trust that the Treasurer will not give effect to the wishes of the Prime- Minister, and that he will use the national credit for national defence which is of the greatest importance. It is the responsibility of the Government to give effect to the Constitution under which it is working, particularly in the matter of defence. I also asked whether the Senate will have an opportunity to discuss the findings of the Royal Commission on the Banking and Monetary System, and if Parliament will be able to debate the long-promised banking bill. I was informed that .that opportunity will be afforded before the Christmas vacation. When that measure is before the Senate I shall ‘have something more to say on tho subject of finance.
. - in reply - The Minister representing the Treasurer, in his new-born zeal, spoke rather too soon. In doing so, he debarred himself from dealing with the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), and Senators Ashley and Arthur. As Senator Ashley has raised matters of detail on two or three points, I shall be glad if he will supply a proof nf his speech to my colleague. ‘ “We all know that the small arms factory was located at Lithgow for strategic reasons. I cannot say definitely whether all of the parts of tie Bren gun are being manufactured there, but I assure the honorable senator that all of the equipment at that factory is being utilized to the fullest possible extent. The honorable senator, X believe, is aware that the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) will shortly visit Lithgow, and on that occasion all of the matters raised with respect to Lithgow will be brought under hia notice. In reply to Senator Arthur, all [ can say is that I can scarcely imagine that machines at Lithgow are being allowed to rust, because most of the machines are suitable for use on thevarious jobs which are ‘being urgently undertaken by the Department of Defence. I do not propose to deal with his suggestion that an aerodrome should be established at Brown’s Gap. I do not know whether it would be justified. 1 shall be glad if Senator Arthur also will give to my colleague a proof of his speech.
The Leader of the Opposition seems to think that the Government is in a “ mighty maze “ ; but, in tho language of Pope, it is “ A mighty maze ! but not without a plan “. Probably to-morrow’s press will enlighten the honorable senator concerning the Government’s plan, which was fully debated in the House of Representatives to-day.
– We have ‘been waiting for its plan for seven years.
– The honorable senator is well aware that the Government has a plan, and, apparently, he would like to purloin it, because neither he nor his party has a plan. Senator Darcey, apparently, was prepared to give honorable senators a feast of Douglas credit.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. President. I have never used that term in this chamber.
– I withdraw the “Douglas”; like many other experts, Douglas has withdraw, from the financial field. I have already indicated to the honorable senator, whose geniality we all appreciate, that I shall deal with the matter of the creation of credit when I resume the debate on the budget papers. I have studied the theory which he advocates - a theory which civilization as a whole would be glad to adopt were it practicable - and I shall trace its history from before the coming of Christ and show how it has failed. I was not present the other evening when the honorable senator addressed himself to the subject, but the method, which I understand he advocates, Was (recently described by Professor Mills as “getting something for nothing “. As the professor remarked; “ it cannot be done “. I assure the honorable senator that I shall not overlook his observations, but shall deal with them at length when I resume the debate on the budget papers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Twenty-first Session, 6th to 24th October, 1936 - Draft Conventions and Recommendations.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of the Interior - N. Cook, D. G. Edward, F. Hartley, H. A. Jones, and L. A. Perry.
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board - Balance sheet, as at 28th February, 1938, and Liquidation Account for the year ended 28th February, 1938, of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard: certified to by the Auditor-General.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statement re Pensions for the year ended 30th June, 1938.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Darwin, Northern Territory - For Administration purposes.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Ordinance No. . 14 of 1938-Jury.
Aboriginals Ordinance - Regulations amended.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1937-38.
Senate adjourned at 11.6p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381102_senate_15_157/>.