17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Mr.FRASER. - I ask the Acting
Prime Minister, as Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, to state whether or not, as the result of a High Court judgment given earlier this year, there is doubt as to the legal power to enforce on hotelkeepers the obligation to sell beer by schooner measure during prescribed hours? If so, will the right honorable gentleman examine the position with a view to Amending the law so as to ensure that the Commonwealth price fixing authority shall have the legal power to prosecute successfully for breaches of this requirement? Further, is it a fact that country hotelkeepers in New South Wales who overcharge for liquor cannot bo successfully prosecuted unless the prosecution can establish what were the actual prices charged by the hotelkeeper concerned on the 12th April, 1943? In view of the practical impossibility of doing this, will the Government fix, by order, specific prices for liquor in country areas of New SouthWales, as, I understand, already has been done in Queensland ?
– The position will be examined, and the honorable gentleman will be advised of the result.
– Did. the Minister for Information read the leading article published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 25th November on the subject of censorship, in which the honorable gentleman was described as “maliciously and corruptly dishonest “ and as “ a dishonest, calculating liar”, and in which also he was invited to take legal action against that newspaper? Does the honorable gentleman, as a Minister of the Crown who thus has been branded publicly as a liar, propose to take any action in the courts against thenewspaper concerned? Did the honorable gentleman also read the statement published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph that that newspaper had not published anything which the censor had asked it not to publish, but had submitted its copy in the ordinary way and had completely obeyed the instructions of the censor? Does the honorable gentleman agree that the newspaper in question did act in such a way?
– The subject-matter of the leading article in the SydneyDaily Telegraph of Friday last is in the hands of my legal advisers. The other matters mentioned by the honorable; member were the subject of a debate on Friday afternoon last, during which I said all that I have to say regarding the allegations of the honorable member for Barker and others on the exercise of censorship powers. It needs no reiteration now.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister able to make a statement clarifying the position regarding the release of prisoners of war from overseas and internees in this country?
– I shall be pleased to make a statement on the subject during the week.
– As a result of the Go vernment’s statement last week that it proposed to take over the interstateairlines of Australia, the public mind is very anxious regarding the future of the banks. During the week-end this matter was brought to my notice by numerous questions addressed to me, one being whether, in my opinion, it would be wise for depositors to withdraw their funds from the banks. Has the Acting Prime Minister considered the request made by me and other honorable members that he should make a statement of Government policy on this matter so that the people might know the best or the worst?
– The Government has expended over £4,000,000 on aerodromes and navigational aids and now proposes to take over the existing interstate airlines of Australia. As has already been pointed out it is true that the air companies own some twenty odd aeroplanes, that they collect the fares, and have administrative offices and workshops, but the great bulk of the expenditure has been incurred by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the public. The airlines represent a great public utility, which is interwoven with defence and other national activities, and it should, therefore, be owned and controlled by the Commonwealth Government. As for the other matter raised by the honorable member, I remind him that it is not usual to announce Government policy in reply to questions, but I can say this : When the Government does make a decision in regard to the amendment of the banking law, the public will find that there is absolutely no ground whatever for the wild and frenzied propaganda disseminated by the private banking institutions in their efforts to induce the public to withdraw their support from this Government, which has a very creditable record.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware of the statement made at a meeting during the week-end by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), that it is the intention of the Government to nationalize the banks, and any other industry that may compete with the Government? Was the Minister authoritatively voicing the policy of the Government, or can the people assume that he was merely reliably informed ?
– The Minister for Information declares that he did not make any such statement. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is descending to petty personalities against a member of the Government. Evidently he believes everything that he reads in a section of the press.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister prepare and lay on the table of the House a statement showing how much of the amounts mentioned by him last week as payments to the air line companies was, in fact, payment for services, including the carriage of mails.
– Yes : the information will be furnished.
– In view of the rapidly increasing menace to the fertile mallee lands, and other light soil lands of Australia from wind and other forms of erosion, is the Acting Prime Minister prepared to take immediate steps to appoint a commision of inquiry and to provide a substantial sum of money to deal effectively with this rapidly developing national tragedy?
– The honorable member’s suggestion is sound. The subject of his question was discussed at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and it will be discussed by the Australian Agricultural Council early in January. The Commonwealth Government will fully co-operate with the State Governments in the appointment of any committee necessary to carry out any further research work in connexion with this most important matter.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that, since the recent dispute in the newspaper industry in Sydney, three journalists have been dismissed by the Daily Telegraph, two others have been continually provoked, and one has been transferred suddenly and without warning from his usual employment? Can this be regarded as a breach of the employer’s pledge that there would be no victimization ?
– I am not aware of the facts to which the honorable member refers. If there has been any breach of the terms of settlement, I suppose the remedy will lie with the organization of the men concerned. It can take the matter to court. If the honorable member will supply me with the particulars. I shall look into the matter.
Prosecution of Dairymen
– Last week I complained that a young dairyman had been fined for having used some of the petrol for his cream separator in his truck in order to take his pigs to market. He had not had an opportunity to draw the ration coupons for petrol for his truck. Will the Attorney-General sympathetically consider action to quash the conviction and remit the fines and <-<> amounting to £3 Ss., imposed on this young man? Frequently dairymen and others- away from the city are compelled to adopt similar measures. As the regulations under which this man was prosecuted are ridiculous, I ask that the Attorney-General take action to have them amended so that they shall be more practical.
– I heard the honorable member mention this case last week. If an application is made in connexion with the matter, I shall have inquiries made and give sympathetic consideration to his request.
University Students: Transport to Western Australia - Junior Swimming Championships
– Honorable members from Western Australian constituencies have been approached by the parents of students studying at universities in eastern States subjects not taught at the University of Western Australia, in the hope that they will be able to assist them to get transport to their homes in Western Australia for the ‘Christmas vacation. It was reported that they would be provided with the necessary transport, but now the Western Australian daily newspapers point out that the priority they have been given is so low that they will not be able to obtain seats. Will the Minister for Transport take steps to ensure the provision of the necessary transport?
– The difficulty regarding rail transport to Western Australia is the limited capacity of the service. It is true that permits to travel are issued to the students mentioned hy the honorable member, but whether the priority is sufficiently high to ensure them travel in a particular period is a matter which we have no power to guarantee. The latest report which I have received regarding the position indicates that sufficient accommodation will be available on the trains to carry all those who, to date, have applied for permits to travel.
– Will the Minister for Transport give favorable consideration to the granting of priorities to competitors in the Australian junior swimming championships?
– All applications are determined on their merits. The Government is sympathetically disposed toward? all such activities, and, if it is possible to meet the honorable member’s wishes, it will be done.
Shortage of Stocks - High Court Proceedings: Payment of Costs - “ Sydney Morning Herald “ Article
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the reserves of coal held by the New South Wales railways are sufficient to meet requirements for less than three weeks, that those held by the Australian Gaslight Company will Inst for less than two weeks, and that those of the Sydney County Council in connexion with its electricity undertaking have reached the lowest ebb in the history of the council? In view of the estimated loss of 3,300,000 tons of coal this year, will the right honorable gentleman now consider honouring the statement made by the Prime Minister in this House that no further concessions would be granted to the coal-miners until the requisite quantity of coal had been won?
Will the right honorable gentleman also consider the cancellation of the holidays already agreed to on behalf of those miners?
– The reserve stocks of coal are not so high as I should like them to be. We all deplore the fact that they are not greater.
– What does the right honorable gentleman intend to do?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has asked a question, and it is now being answered.
– I do not want platitudes.
– The present Government has secureda greater production of coal in the last three years than its predecessors secured in a similar period.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is a. fact, as reported in. the Sydney press, that the Commonwealth Government has agreed to pay the legal costs incurred by the miners’ federation in litigation in which it was recently involved in the High Court of Australia against the colliery proprietors? If the right honorable gentleman’s answer is in the affirmative, will he indicate the a mount that will bo involved?
– As the honorable gentleman knows, the proceedings in the High Court took place because of an order made by a Commonwealth Industrial Officer, Mr. Connell. I do not know the actual amount of the costs; but the Government is now considering the matter, and in the next couple of days I may be able to give to the honorable member a full answer to his question.
-I direct the attention of the Minister for Information to an article which appeared in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “ Coal Crisis - The Call for Popular Action “. That article states, inter alia -
It is the duty of every Australian to write or telegraph to his member, care of Parliament House, Canberra, urging him to bring the strongest pressure upon the Government before it is too late.It is the duty of persons with the welfare of their country at heart to organize themselves into groups, to hold meetings - to do everything in their power to show the Government that the conscience of the nation is roused.
– Hear, hear ! What is the honorable member frightened of?
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Wentworth to refrain from interjecting.
– Will the Minister for Information inform mo whether journalism of this type indicates “ New Guard.” tendency, a policy with which the honorable member for Wentworth was so strongly associated in the past? Does it not show a Fascist tendency, and does not the Minister consider that action should be taken to prevent a repetition of such an article, because it may destroy national unity?
– That is right, stifle the press!
– Order ! If the honorable member does not refrain from interjecting, I shall be obliged to stifle him.
– This is a newspaper “ stunt “ for the purpose of trying to discredit this Government, but it is more likely to provoke industrial trouble on the coal-fields than to assist coal production. I have made inquiries regarding the effect of this newspaper article. Over 300,000 copies of the Sydney MorningHerald were sold to-day, and the newspaper was read by probably 500,000 people in New South Wales. To this moment - 3.18 p.m. - in spite of the high-powered propaganda and wide dissemination of that view among so many people, only five telegrams have been received by the whole of the members on the Government side of this chamber.
-I ask the Attorney-General whether, in the event of the Government deciding to pay the costs of the miners’ federation in the recent proceedings before the High Court, it. will also meet the costs of other litigants who may appeal successfully against the operation of Commonwealth regulations? Alternatively, would the Government regard such a decision as an open invitation to the trade unions to fight the Government in the High Court free of expense?
– I cannot have made the position clear to the honorable member. The High Court proceedings took place solely in consequence of an order made by a Commonwealth official. I believe that in some analogous cases the costs of persons involved have been met by the Commonwealth. I am looking into the matter and shall give fuller information later. In this case there are circumstances which would justify the Commonwealth in meeting the costs incurred by the miners’ federation. The costs of the owners will, of course, be met for the court ordered that they be paid.
Building Programme - Military Hutments, Newcastle
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will indicate any action which the Government proposes to take, either by itself or in cooperation with State governments, to relieve the acute shortage of housing in Australia? Has any proposal been considered with the object of making materials available for home bulding?
– The subject of housing has been considered at recent conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers. Unfortunately the war is still proceeding. Because of the all-in war effort in which Australia is engaged, and of the need for building materials for war purposes, it is not practicable to divert large quantities of building materials to private uses at present. The Government is watching the situation closely, and, as soon as possible, materials for home construction will be released. The paramount consideration however, is the defeat of the enemy. Unless that can be achieved we shall not be able to provide homes.
– Some days ago, I asked the Acting Prime Minister to inquire as to the possibility of making available for civil occupation by people who cannot obtain homes, hutments on a military establishment in the Newcastle district which arc not at present being used by the military authorities. Although I advised the right honorable gentleman that the matter was urgent,I have not since received any advice from him. The matter is still urgent. Will he state when I am likely to receive notification of a decision?
– I hope to be able to announce a definite decision within the next couple of days.
Mr.CONELAN- I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether the War Disposals Commission has yet made any recommendation to the Government regarding the disposal of cars and trucks in Australia? I should like to know how many are to be disposed of, where they are, and whether they will be dealt with in the States where they are located. Will they be disposed of through ordinary business channels, and will unserviceable vehicles be made available to dealers in second hand vehicles and spare parts? I also desire to know the commission basis on which these transactions will be undertaken.
– I shall make inquiries and give to the honorable member the information that he is seeking.
– Will the Minister for External Territories state the terms of reference to Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C., who is to make an inquiry in connexion with the suspension of civil administration in Papua ?
– I shall make the information available to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Transport seen the challenge issued by the Airlines Secretariat to the statement made in this Parliament bythe honorable gentleman that certain aircraft have crashed, causing casualties, because they were overloaded in some instances and were short of petrol in other instances? Has the honorable gentleman had an opportunity to check the accuracy of his statement, by reference to the reports in connexion with every accident that has occurred in Australia since 1920, with a view to determining whether he had stated facts or only that he had been credibly informed? Does he intend to accept the challenge to repeat his statement outside this Parliament, and thus give to the airline companies concerned an opportunity to take legal action against him?
– I have not seen this challenge. I receive many challenges from all sorts of queer people who are associated with the Opposition parties, and I do not regard them seriously.I have made a definite statement in this House. Since the publication of the challenge, which I have not seen but which has been brought to my notice, I have received from men who arc actively associated with flying operations in the various services, communications which substantiate what I said. At the appropriate time, after I have had an opportunity to examine the records, I shall probably have a little more to say. When an aircraft is lost, the evidence of the cause of the loss generally accompanies it, just as some evidence of the misdeeds of the Opposition have disappeared from the official files from time to time.
Case of Private J. Wilson
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether or not Mr. Justice J. Reed, of the Supreme Court of South Australia, is at present in Canberra to conduct an inquiry into the case of Private Wilson? If so, will the right honorable gentleman make arrangements for the inquiry to be conducted in Sydney, to which city Private Wilson has been transferred for the purpose of being present at it?
– I am not aware that Mr. Justice Reed has arrived in Canberra, but I know that he was appointed to conduct an investigation of the case of Private Wilson. The venue of the inquiry was left to the discretion of Mr. Justice Reed, and I assume that it will be Sydney.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider the advisability of lifting all restrictions on wheat-growing in the coming season, with a view to relieving the acuteness of the position in the industry?
– The whole matter has been considered. The honorable member need have no fear in regard to the future of wheat-growing in Australia. The limited supplies of superphosphate are an outstanding factor in wheat production; even with an increase of almost 50 per cent, compared with last year, there will not be nearly sufficient to meet the requirements of all the licensed areas in Australia. Flippant references to an increase of wheat production disregard this factor entirely. The decision conveyed to the wheat-growers of Australia through the Stabilization Board under the regulations, will ensure an all-time record planting for the forthcoming season.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday, I referred in some detail to anomalies that exist under the landlord and tenant regulations, and to the delay in implementing the promise of the Minister for Trade and Customs to give effect to at least six suggested amendments. The Attorney-General, who was present at the time, said that he would bring the matter to the notice of the Acting Prime Minister, and promised that a statement would be made before the termination of the present sittings. Has the Acting Prime Minister had a discussion with his colleague, and will he be in a position to make the promised statement?
– The speech which the honorable member made on Friday afternoon will be perused, and action will be taken as soon as is practicable.
– I give notice that tomorrow I shall move -
That this House places on record its belief that-
by its public attack (made through a Minister speaking from his place in the House) upon the integrity of Justices of the High Court;
by its attempt (made through Ministers who still retain office) to intimidate a public officer in respect of court proceedings to which the Minister for the Interior was a party;
by its attempt to put the coal tribunals beyond the control of the High Court;
by its interference with the discretion reposed in the Maritime Industry Commission, presided over by a judge: and
by its feeble failure to enforce the laws against war-time strikers; the Government is undermining the authority of the courts and of the law and is thereby injuring the basic structure of the Australian democracy, and is therefore deserving of the censure of this House.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of want of confidence of which he has given notice for the next sitting, and that such motion take precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I am greatly indebted to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) ; but I have given notice that to-morrow I shall submit a certain motion, and to-morrow I shall do so.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
N oes . . . . . . 18
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the whole number of members of the House.
The order of the day for the motion of censure having been called on,
The House may, by suspending the Standing Orders, permit me to submit the motion to-day; it cannot compel me to do so. Further, I wish to draw attention to the terms of the resolution which has just been carried. It is as follows : -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended aswould prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of want of confidence of which he has given notice for the next sitting,
Therefore, I am at liberty to move to-day if I so desire. The resolution continues - and that such motion take precedence over all other business until disposed of.
I am still at liberty to submit to-morrow the motion of which notice was given, and until that motion is disposed of, no other business is to be done in this House.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent . . .
I stop at the word “ prevent “. The suspension of the Standing Orders only clears the way to enable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) to take certain action if he thinks fit. It does not give to the Prime Minister the right to demand that he shall take such action. Whether that action shall be taken depends on the Leader of the
Opposition. I submit that no ruling which you may give, Mr. Speaker, can contravene the decision of this House.
– Order ! The Chair is prepared to give a ruling and does not need any more debate on the point. There is no special standing order covering this particular matter. We have to consider precedents. There are two ways of disposing of a motion such as that of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has given notice. One is to adjourn the House until the next day to consider the motion, and the other is the course taken by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde). In either case, the wishes of the House have to be’ consulted. If the adjournment of the. House is moved, the House has to be consulted. On this occasion the House, as master of its own business, has determined that the Standing Orders shall be suspended to enable the motion to be taken forthwith. The resolution reads -
That so much of thu Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving his motion. . . .
The further portion of the motion unquestionably is dependent upon what the right honorable gentleman determines to do. If he determines to go on, all other business will be stood aside until his motion has been disposed of. Since he has determined not to take advantage of the first portion of the resolution, the second portion does not matter.
– On a further point of order - I direct the Chair’s attention to Standing Order 407, which reads -
In eases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the House may be suspended for the day’s sitting, on Motion, duly made and seconded, without notice: Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of the Members of the House.
I submit that the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders was not seconded and that therefore the House was not competent to vote upon it. Therefore, the division was not in order and should not remain in the records of the House.
– It is well known to all honorable members who understand the Standing Orders that a ministerial motion does not need seconding.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wine Export Bounty Act
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 28thSeptember (vide page 1706) on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That the bill be now read a. second time.
– This bill, if I may venture to remind the House of its contents, is designed to approve of an investment, of £1,500,000 of Commonwealth money in the establishment of government-controlled works for the production of aluminium, ingot in the State of Tasmania. As the result of this bill and the agreement upon which it is founded, Tasmania is also to find £1,500,000. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who introduced the bill, made a speech which was, in one respect at any rate, a masterpiece. It occupied a certain amount of time, but it conveyed no information to the House, except two things : First, that the Commonwealth Government was to find £1,500,000, and, secondly, that the State of Tasmania was to find. £1 for £1. But, as we gather that the State of Tasmania is to provide the hydro-electric power necessary for these works, it may be, for all I know, that the State of Tasmania is to find £3,000.000 in total, and the Commonwealth Government £1,500,000.
Obviously, at this time, with a war in progress, but with the end of that war, as we all profoundly believe, approaching, this proposal mustbe regarded as one of first-class importance. The proposal is that we should establish in Australia a new manufacturing industry for the production of aluminium ingot. On the figures to which I have referred, it involves a, total investment of millions of pounds by the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania. In those circumstances, one would have expected, even in these more casual legislative days, that the Minister would put before the Parliament, and, through the Parliament, before the people, some material facts that would enable honorable members to form a judgment on this proposal. But what has he done? He has told us about the amount of money that the Government will provide, and what kind of commission will control the undertaking. He has told us, very optimistically, and with no facts whatever behind the statement, that it is estimated that 6,000 tons of aluminium per annum will be used in Australia after the war. That is a very interesting figure, seeing that the quantity of aluminium used before the war was probably 1,500 or 1,700 tons per annum. Yet the Minister said, “We think that the consumption willbe 6,000 tons Not one word has been said by either the Minister or the Government about the anticipated costs of production. We have not been given a solitary figure which would enable us to determine whether it will cost £80 or £800 a ton to produce aluminium in Australia. We have been given no information whatever regarding the likelihood of an Australian industry, constituted in the way in which this one willbe, keening abreast of scientific development and research in other parts of the world. No information whatever has been given to us regarding the stocks in hand, the world’s productive capacity, or the supposed world demand for aluminium.
– Where would one be likely to get that information?
– It would not require very much research by a Commonwealth department to enable it to tell this House how much aluminium the world is now producing.
– The Commonwealth would not get the facts from private companies in the United States of America and Canada.
– The honorable member overestimates the difficulty of securing such information. Any Minister with a normal clerical staff could find out, without any trouble at all, what the production of aluminium is in the United States of America andCanada. One of my reasons for saying that is that, with very little trouble, I have found out a little bit about it. But. the Minister for Supply and. Shipping - and perhaps this is what the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) did not like me saying - has not told us anything about that problem. We have not been given any information about world supply or world demand,, or anything that would throw light on the probable world price of aluminium, and, therefore, the cost of all these works. There is complete silence as to what tariff protection will be needed when this industry comes into production. We are left absolutely at large to speculate about it, and, therefore, it is just as likely as anything else that, in due course, when this industry comes’ into production and is confronted by enormous world supplies, this Parliament will be invited to impose a tariff of something like 200 per cent, ad valorem in order to keep the industry going. It might bc a good thing to impose a tariff of 200 per cent, ad valorem ; I do not know yet. I do not know enough about the proposals, because the Minister has not told me the details. But before Ministers in this Government and honorable members who support them, become too eloquent about the obligations into which we have entered under the lend-lease agreements and the Atlantic Charter, they should realize that this first step which they are taking to establish a large new industry under government control involves an entirely unknown and possibly very high protective tariff. Never before has the Parliament ‘been invited to bake such an important step on such little information. For many years, there has been in Australia an admirable practice of referring to the Tariff Board matters that affect secondary industry, so that the Parliament might have before it the report of the board and all the information that a highly trained and authoritative body of men could put before it. With that information at its disposal, the Parliament has determined whether it favoured the proposed industry, and, if so, the duty involved in its establishment. The Tariff Board has done’ that time after time, year after year, after having heard evidence from all interested persons.
– Evidence for and against the proposal.
– That is so. The purpose waa to obtain ultimately a true view of the proposal. On this occasion, the Parliament has not been given that information.
I find it extraordinarily difficult to relate this proposal to any general postwar economic policy, although this industry is essentially a post-war proposal. The Minister for Supply and Shipping did not suggest that this industry will come into production during the war. It is not claimed that the reason for its establishment is that, while the war is in progress, Australia shall have aluminium ingot of its own production. Quite plainly, it is to be a post-war proposition; and every post-war proposition involving large sums of money ought to ‘be related at this stage to some general post-war economic policy. If we are to live from hand to mouth in these matters, and if we establish an industry without fitting it into the general conception that we have of our economic design for living, we shall be in no end of trouble. No attempt has been made to do that in this instance. The aluminium capacity of the world, as every one knows, is not only great, but also growing. I have the advantage of looking at a table produced in Iron Age, of the 24th August, 1944, a journal of high authority. This journal reveals the significant fact that the annual capacity of the American aluminium industry is 1,180,000 tons, but at the date of publication of this issue, the stocks of aluminium in the United States of America were so much greater than the demand that the industry had agreed to a voluntary annual reduction of output of 33 per cent, or about 400,000 tons.
– And that while the big war demand still has to be supplied !
– That is so. We know that on account of the need for aluminium for the manufacture of military aircraft the production has gone up to astronomical proportions. Scores of thousands of aircraft have been required by the Allied nations. But what will be the position after the war? One would need to be a raving optimist utterly detached from the realities of life not to realize that there will be a heavy falling off in the demand for aluminium immediately the war ends. Accordingly, more and more of the productive capacity of the United States of America and Canada will become unused. It is in these circumstances that we are being invited, without a shred of information, to approve of two Australian governments launching out on the expenditure of millions of pounds to establish another aluminium production unit, the effect of which will undoubtedly be to add to the world’s productive capacity, and, consequently, to the world’s glut.
– Is that the position under private enterprise?
– Does my unsophisticated medical friend from Tasmania suggest that although the demand for aluminium is falling in the United States of America and/Canada, where the industry is under private control, it will increase if this industry be established in Australia under government control?
– The position would probably be more accurately gauged.
– Two years ago the honorable member might have been heard praising God because private enterprise was producing so much aluminium in Allied countries, but what will he and my other socialistic friends opposite say when the world’s demand is falling? Will they say, “ Let the Government control the industry”? Do they imagine that thereby the demand for aluminium will be increased? Perhaps they will arrange for their ballot-papers to be printed on aluminium, and for aluminium to be used in other ways that will prevent a reduction of demand ; but
I cannot understand such an outlook.
Let me remind honorable members of the provisions of Article VII. of the Lend-Lease Agreement made between the United States of America and the United Kingdom in February. 1942, which has been adopted as the basis of an agreement between the United States of America and Australia, for it sets out one of the international obligations entered into by this country, with bell, book and candle, to which many references have been made in the last few days. The article reads -
In the final determination of the benefits to be provided to the United States of America by the Government of the United Kingdom in return for aid furnished under the act of Congress of 11th March, 1941, the terms and conditions thereof shall be such as not to burden commerce between the two countries, but to promote mutually ‘advantageous economic relations between them and the betterment of world-wide economic relations. To that end, they shall include provision for agreed action by the United States of America and the United Kingdom, open to participation by all other countries of like mind, directed to the expansion, by appropriate international and domestic measures. of production, employment, and the exchange and consumption of goods, which are the material foundations of the liberty and welfare of all peoples; to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce, and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers; and, in general, to the attainment of all the economic objectives set forth in the Joint Declaration made on 12th August, 1941, by the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; at an early convenient date conversations shall be begun between the two governments with a view to determining in the light of governing economic conditions, the best means of attaining the above-stated objectives by their own agreed action and of seeking the agreed, action of other like-minded governments.
– Has the United States of America carried out its obligations in respect of wool and cotton?
– When we carry OU our obligations it will be time enough for us to become somewhat inquisitive about what other countries are doing. Before we presume to criticize the United States of America in relation to something it is doing or may do, let us first satisfy ourselves that we are taking seriously our obligations under the Lend-Lease Agreement. The first action taken by this Government, which comes within the provisions of the article to which I have referred, is to introduce a proposal for the establishment of a new industry in Australia which, for years past, has been peculiarly an industry of the North American continent. The Government, says, in effect, “It does not matter to us what the prospects are in this instance, or what degree of tariff protection will be needed; we intend to produce aluminium, and that is all about it “. That is a curious attitude for a government to adopt at the very inception of important post-war negotiations under which it is hoped that a revival of world trade will occur. Of course, it is obvious to all thinking persons that to ensure a revival of world trade the principle of give and take must be observed.
This is not a question as to whether we believe in the establishment of secondary industries or not. I do not know that it has ever been suggested that I am not a friend and supporter of the Australian protective tariff. The fact is that on occasions I have been in trouble with some of my allies on this matter.
But surely the time has come when we must realize - and I hope that the general public will realize it - that we shall not be able to solve the problems of international relationships which face us by simply proposing a simple formula or a sweeping theory, and by saying, “ I am a protectionist “. We must deal separately and reasonably with the problems that come to us. The first thing that Parliament should do when a proposal is being advanced for the establishment of a new industry in this country, is to ensure that a complete and objective examination of the whole subject shall be made by an authority separated from politics, and not by individuals who are concerned about some to and fro between the Commonwealth and Tasmania. The first question to be decided must be: Is this industry sound from the point of view of Australian economics ? If it is, well and good. The second question then arises: What tariff protection will be needed in order to establish it? No answer has been given by the Government to either of those questions.
I now turn to the bill, for not only does the whole proposal suffer from a lack of information but also the bill contains provisions which to me are distinctly curious, though. I quite understand that what may seem odd to me may seem most even to the honorable member for Denison. Clause 6 of the measure provides for the appointment of a commission which shall consist of -
The Minister who introduced the bill did not tell us anything about the aluminium industry, but he did tell us the names of the proposed commissioners.
– He told us who would got the jobs!
– That is so. We were informed that Mr. A. V. Smith would be one of the Commonwealth’s representatives and presumably chairman of the commission. Mr. Smith is; an experienced and capable public servant, but to him the. control of this commission must inevitably be a spare- time occupation, for the work will have to be done in whatever time he can spare from the work of the War Disposals Commission, which was established recently to perform an enormous job, and from his other duties as permanent head of the Department of Supply and Shipping.. So we may assume that, so far as he is concerned, with all his administrative experience, he can give only a small fraction of his time to the work of this commission ; and, of course, in any event, he is without any experience of the kind of business that will be carried on by the commission. Another member is Dr.. Wark. He is a. very eminent scientist, a man of reputation in connexion with the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and a man of experience in research, but, so far as I know, with no experience of business administration. The third member is Mr. L. R. Benjamin. He has gained considerable experience in the conduct of newsprint mills in New Norfolk. He isan able man, of course ; these are all able men; I am not discussing that aspect of the matter. He is the one man of the four with experience of business administration; and his business experience,mark you, does not lie in the direction of this highly specialized metal production. The fourth member is Mr.. Williams, the Director of Mines in Tasmania. So we have one member with manufacturing and commercial experience of some kind, and we have not any member with experience in. the production or sale of metals. That is the commission. I go further than that. At the beginning of clause 7 of the bill, there is a very innocent phrase.
– A Tasmanian phrase.
– It is as innocent as some of my friend’s speeches, but, I may say, somewhat more deadly.
– The speeches of the right honorable gentleman are innocuous.
– I was speaking to my friend from Denison (Dr. Gaha). I am sorry that the Minister for Information should have misunderstood me.
Clause 7 reads -
Subject to the provisions of this act and of theagreement, it shall be the duty of the commission- to do certain things in connexion with the production of aluminium. If we turn to the agreement, which is embodied’. in the schedule to the act, we find that the powers of the commission are set out elaborately in clause 4, which begins -
Subject to any directions given on behalf of the Commonwealth and the State by the Minister of State for the Commonwealth administering the act, the commission shall- do so and so. In other words, every power conferred upon this commission, constituted in the manner I have described, is to be subject to direct political control by the Commonwealth Minister for Supply and Shipping. So we have here direct political administration of an undertaking which, I believe, has been put forward in the ‘State of Tasmania as an undertaking of great business validity - something which will add a great new industry to the resources of that ‘State; and we (find that it is to be run by a politician, under whom, for mere convenience - because they will be entirely subject to his orders - will be four persons, only one of whom is experienced in general business matters, and not one of whom is experienced in the production or sale of metals.
– Does the right honorable gentleman “ side “ with the Premier of Victoria ?
– I wish that my friend, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), would not ask me whether o:- not I “ side “ with somebody. I am stating my views, and they are views with which the honorable gentleman some day will agree.
– Order! There are too many interjections from the front bench.
– It is not the number to which I object.
– It is the quality which the right honorable gentleman does not like.
– Exactly ; the honorable gentleman understands me perfectly. It may be said that, notwithstanding considerations of the kind to which I have been referring in this speech, and in spite of protests and criticism, we succeeded in establishing the iron and steel industry in Australia. That is very true. But I remind the House that the iron and steel industry of this country was established, not by a public commission under government ownership and political control, but by experienced business men and administrators.
– They received help from the Commonwealth.
– Of course they did ! In making that statement, the honorable gentleman merely says that they had help by means of the tariff. Of course they had, in certain respects. They also had bounties. They have justified all of that by so applying purely business considerations to the production of their metal that, in this war, they have ‘been able to sell it competitively to other countries, in those countries; but here we have a great new theory of business efficiency. The Government sets up an amateur commission, and places it under the direct orders of the Minister for Supply and Shipping. The Minister, in turn, is under 1]:e direct orders of his party. It then says, “You are equipped. We provide you with £1,500,000 of Commonwealth money and £1,500,000 of Tasmanian money “ - if there be such a thing - “ and if there should be losses “ - as, of course, there will be - “ the taxpayer will provide “. I said just now, “ £1,500,000 of Tasmanian money - if there be such a thing”. I confess that I have a little doubt on that subject.
– Do not go beyond aluminium.
– I did not believe for a moment that the honorable gentleman would know the answer. I am wondering where the State of Tasmania is to get its £1,500,000 for this purpose, plus its other £1,500,000 to establish the hydro-electric works. Are we to understand that this is to be included in the next claim by Tasmania for Commonwealth assistance?
– It will be added to the Commonwealth grant to that State.
– That is what I was thinking, and for that reason I looked interrogatively at the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). I suppose it is quite on the cards that eventually most of this money will be provided by the Commonwealth; and of course, if that happens, particularly in the next couple of years, it will be provided out of loan funds. I suppose that a “ slab “ will be attached to a victory loan for the establishment of an industry on which we have been given singularly little information.
The last thing I want to say about the matter is this : The whole proposal, which cries aloud for investigation by the Tariff Board and ought to be referred to that body for investigation, is, after all, heavily tainted by politics.
– It passed the Legislative Council of Tasmania, in which there are only four Labour members.
– The right honorable gentleman’s government decided in favour of the proposal in 1941. He has forgotten that.
– I do not forget much.
– ‘The right honorable gentleman is a typical “ Bourbon “ - he forgets nothing and learns nothing.
– I was about to say that the whole matter is heavily tainted by politics. At that moment, there wa3 a spatter of interjections. I do not wonder at that; because it is significant that two announcements were made by the Commonwealth Government before this bill was produced. The first was made during the last election campaign of blessed memory, in 1943.
– It is not a blessed memory for the right honorable gentleman.
– It was a victory for this Government which will be remembered, like an oasis in the desert, for the next 50 years. In the last election campaign the Minister for Supply and Shipping made a speech at Hobart - a very good place in which to make a speech, although I noticed that the Minister for Information did not find it to be so during the referendum campaign.
– I spoke to 3,000 persons there the other night.
– That was a compensation for the 73 whom the honorable gentleman addressed during the referendum campaign. My friend from Denison remembers that as vividly as I do. Let us go back to the election of 1943. It was then that the Minister for Supply and Shipping announced in the Hobart Town Hall - it was a winner, honorable members will observe - that the aluminium industry was ‘to be set up in Tasmania, and that the Commonwealth Government had set aside £3,000,000 for the project. Then there was a lull, one of those periods of inactivity that occur even with a magnificent and stimulating government like this one. Nothing more occurred until last April. This Parliament had dealt with the Constitution Alteration Bill. On the 31st March this House adjourned in order that honorable members might take part in the referendum campaign. Early in April the Attorney-General went to Tasmania on a holy mission, to convert, not the heathen, but the members of the Legislative Council of that State, a body of which the honorable member for Denison was at one time a distinguished member. The result, apparently, was that, on the 18th April, while there, he signed the present agreement. That was the next thing that we heard. Curious, was it not? 1 In the last election campaign, in the Hobart Town Hall, a scheme was announced under which the Commonwealth was to provide £3,000,000. In the referendum campaign, with a reluctant Legislative Council which had to be persuaded, this agreement was produced, and, I believe, was signed with great pomp and ceremony, with moving picture cameras and flashlights; so much so that I really believe it ought to go down in history as the Australia-Tasmania pact.
– Was it signed on a historic table?
– -The table used by Queen Victoria was not produced, but I have no doubt that a suitable table was used. The agreement was signed.
– It will be a great event if it comes off.
– That puts the position perfectly. One might speak for an hour, and fail to improve upon that condemnation of the whole proposal. This has been a political exercise: The oddity is, that whereas during an election campaign the amount to be provided by the Commonwealth was £3,000,000, when the referendum campaign arrived the price had dropped to £1,500,000, with Tasmania to find the balance. If this be not something that has been brought forward merely for political reasons, if it be a seriously intended productive business enterprise which this country proposes to establish, how is it that the responsible Minister has not been able to inform us of one of the facts which any ordinary investor would insist upon knowing before putting £10 into such a proposal ? Is the answer to all these things to await an inquiry ? If so, Tasmania apparently will wait for a long time for the establishment of this industry. If they are to be inquired into, why should not the inquiry be made by persons who stand in a position of independence, like the members of the Tariff Board, whose opinion carries weight in Australia? It may be that the Tariff Board will be able to put before the House information to enable it to say with confidence that this proposal is sound. The House is unable to come to such a conclusion in the entire absence of information which has characterized the presentation of this bill.
– I listened with great interest to the eloquent speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and the doubts which he expressed were similar lo those which have been raised regarding every secondary industry started in Australia. More than 30 years ago I heard exactly the same kind of story when it was first proposed to manufacture cloth in Australia. We were told that it would be impossible to make a yard of cloth in Australia, and similar objections were raised, in regard to all other secondary industries. I, in common with all other honorable members, am very interested in the establishment of the aluminium industry. The situation abroad in regard to this industry is very different from that in Australia. [ am informed that overseas the bauxite, which is the raw material of production, is obtained at a great distance from where the manufacturing plant is located. Actually, there are three stages in the production of aluminium goods. First, there is the mining of bauxite, which is converted by a chemical process into alumina. The second stage is the conversion of the alumina into aluminium ingots, and the third process is the fabrication of aluminium articles from the ingots. In America the bauxite has to be transported for thousands of miles over land and sea to where electric power is available for the process of manufacture, and that is necessarily a costly business. Tasmania has been selected for the manufacturing stage because of its cheap and abundant electric power. It will be for the commission to decide where the manufacturing processes shall be located. If the commission decides that Tasmanian bauxite is to be used, transport costs will be greatly reduced, and there are extensive deposits of bauxite in Tasmania adjacent to the site where the electrolytic process for the manufacture of ingots is to be performed. The Tasmanian deposits are not so rich, J understand, as those of Victoria, but they have the advantage of being on the spot. It will be seen, therefore, that Australia has certain natural advantages which should enable it to compete economically with other parts of the world. In Tasmania, there is cheap and plentiful electric power, bauxite deposits are on the spot, and labour costs are no higher than in the United States of America. Moreover, there is ample water on the proposed site, and there are waste land? in the vicinity such as are necessary for the first chemical process. The Leader of the Opposition laid great emphasis on the Australian iron and steel industry. There must have been certain advantageous factors to enable us to do what we have done in the development of that industry here, and, I suggest that similar factors exist in respect of the aluminium industry. Thus, we have here everything necessary to enable us to produce aluminium, not necessarily in competition with the world, but for the purposes which we have in mind. Early in the war there were many rumours circulating regarding the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia. Honorable members have surely learned one thing from this war - the defence of Australia transcends every other consideration. For that reason alone the aluminium industry should rank with other defence industries. If should be placed in the same category as the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, for instance. No one would say that the small arms factory should be a paying proposition. The Leader of the Opposition argued that we should not seek to manufacture aluminium here because it can be produced more cheaply in the United States of America. To be logical he should apply the same test to every other commodity produced in Australia. For instance, so that the people may have cheap butter - and not so cheap at that - the Australian taxpayers are paying £9,000,000 a year. Would the Leader of the Opposition argue that because we might be able to huy cheaper butter abroad we should let the dairying industry in Australia go out of existence?
– The industry could not carry on in peace-time without assistance.
– That is true. It was necessary to subsidize the industry m peace-time, so that there is no likelihood that the subsidy will ever be withdrawn. If the industry has to be assisted to the amount of £9,000,000 during the period of war-time prosperity, what will be the cost in peace-time to keep it going? However, because the dairying industry is vital to the welfare of Australia, we are subsidizing it. The same argument should, I submit, be applied to aluminium. Why was the industry never established in Australia? Because it was never considered to be a commercial proposition, but it is rubbish to say that an industry, which is vital to the safety of the country, should not be started simply because it cannot be made to pay. I hope that no honorable member of this House will look upon the aluminium industry in Australia as anything other than a war industry which is being continued into the post-war period. Moreover, aluminium is not the only light metal which will be required for defence purposes. Probably others also will be needed for the manufacture of aircraft, and who is to say that, in the future, aluminium will not be used for other purposes than those with which we are familiar? I have been told that it is proposed to build bridges of aluminium, and even railway rolling stock, so as to reduce weight. But for the time being let us continue to regard aluminium production as a war industry. Even if we did not learn anything from the lastwar, let us learn something from this one - namely, that those goods which are necessary for the security of the country must be produced here, whatever the cost.
– Honorable members opposite are not interested in the prosperity of Tasmania.
– I do not want to discuss the matter on that plane, but I know that other States also are interested. Evidently, the proposal smells when it is suggested that the industry shall go to Tasmania, but it would be sweet enough if it were to go to one of the other States. Other secondary industries have had their birth-pangs, and I have no doubt that this one also will have them. Powerful interests .abroad do not want us to start an aluminium industry here, but surely we have not reached the stage when our fiscal policy must be moulded by what other countries think.
The commission will have to decide, as I have said, where the bauxite is to be obtained. Although the Victorian deposits are richer, those in Tasmania have the advantage of being on the spot, and there is less overburden to be removed. Moreover, they are only 50 miles from the coast. As for the third stage of manufacture, that of fabrication, I understand that a Victorian firm is prepared to undertake the work. If the industry does not succeed, I have no doubt that it will be pointed to as a great national failure. However, at the beginning of the war, when it- was necessary for us to obtain aluminium from abroad, it was touch and go whether we would be able to get any at all. The war situation would not have needed to be much worse in Europe or New Guinea for us to be completely isolated. Therefore, I submit that this industry will be of great advantage to the Australian people. The Leader of the Opposition indicated the possibility of a great financial loss to the community, but I remind him that many munitions factories, deliberately created to help defend this country against the aggressor, may yet have to be the subject of rigorous examination and probably will be disposed of by this Government.
– A writing-off !
– Yes, a complete writingoff. If- that can be done we can think, of the aluminium industry on the sam& basis. The primary industries of this- country, the very basis of our life, are subsidized to an amount of more than £20,000,000 a year. The dairying industry alone receives about £9,000,000. It is no argument whatever to say that because an article can be produced more cheaply somewhere else we should not produce it an our own country. We have the cheap power, bauxite, labour and the need. The aluminium industry is fundamental to our defence.
.- The proposal of the Government for the establishment of the aluminium industry is shrouded in mystery, so far as the relevant facts are concerned. An individual who wants to start a new business asks three questions: What “will he the cost? What is the possibility of markets? What competition am I likely to meet? The Government should do the same. Two questions which must be answered, one or the other in the affirmative, before any secondary industry is set up, are whether it is economically sound and whether it is necessary for defence. I shall show that in this instance the answer to both is in the negative. There are other considerations. The first is the political consideration, to which attention was drawn by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), with whose arguments I thoroughly agree. There is also the sentimental consideration. This proposal will mainly benefit Tasmania, the Cinderella State almost since the inception of federation. During the war, the five other States have waxed fat and become prosperous, whereas Tasmania has remained in its condition of ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. Whilst I believe that everything possible should be done to make Tasmania an industrial State, as I believe it will one day be, I feel certain that the Prince to raise it to prosperity will not come in the form of aluminium ingots. In fact, Tasmania will not benefit to any great degree from this bill, which proposes to allocate for the -establishment of the industry £3,000,000, of which £1,500,000 will be provided by the Commonwealth Government and £1,500,000 by the Government of Tasmania, with more to come, presumably, for the provision of hydro-electric power, ;and the mining of bauxite and limestone, together with transport facilities. So, what we shall have to expend on this industry will be far more than the modest £3,000,000 proposed for our acceptance. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), in one of his few definite statements, when moving the second reading, referred to the prospective post-war market for .the proposed industry, and forecast that the local consumption of aluminium would be 6,000 tons a year. The Leader of the Opposition said that the pre-war consumption was from 1,500 to 1,700 tons a year. It will be most surprising, on the information I have been able to get, if our post-war consumption is anything like 6,000 tons. It is much more likely to be about 2,000 tons, little more than our annual pre-war consumption. We have two aluminium processing factories, one privately owned at Granville, New South Wales, and the other, set up by the Government, at, Wangaratta, and there is not sufficient demand to keen more than the one at Granville in production. What hope have we, therefore, that in the immediatefuture, or even within a reasonable number of years, there will be work for both factories? We are over-supplied with manufactured aluminium. The Minister for Supply and Shipping said that he believed that there would be an extended use of aluminium in the post-war period. He instanced the replacement of steel by aluminium girders on one of the main bridges in Pittsburgh, United States of America, and mentioned experiments in that country with a view to replacing steel girders in other bridges with aluminium girders. I remind the House, however, that not only is aluminium competing with steel, but also that other light metals and materials are competing with aluminium; one of them is magnesium. The consumption of magnesium in the United States of America has risen from about 6,000 tons a year before the war to more than 220,000 tons, and it is estimated that the post-war consumption will be about 102,000 tons. Magnesium has replaced aluminium very largely in the transport field - equipment of motor care, aeroplanes and rolling stock - as well as in a number of other ways. Both these metals are being challenged by plastics and laminated woods. It is doubtful whether aluminium will ever be used so extensively for the manufacture of aeroplanes, because plastics and laminated woods are already being used in the construction of aircraft. The outlook for the extended use of aluminium is, therefore, by no means so rosy as the Minister for Supply and Shipping would have us believe.
I come to the question of cost of production about which the Minister was silent, not even replying to interjections. He said nothing about what the cost of production was likely to be, but the point is most important, as the House will realize. Producers in this country have too long been saddled with costs of materials out of all proportion to the costs in other parts of the world, and we do not want to add to their already heavy burdens.
– That is not so with iron and steel.
– The honorable member is right, but the costs of other materials required in manufacture are excessive. The pre-war cost of aluminium in Australia was £110 a ton. It is held by those best qualified to judge that the post-war price in Canada and England will not reach £100 a ton. In the United States of America the price to-day is 15 cents per lb., or about £100 a ton. Canadian producers state that they can make primary aluminium ingots at a cost to enable aluminium to be sold in the United Kingdom after the war for £55 or £60 a ton. Fudging by all normal standards, and in view of the enormously increased productive capacity of the world, I am of the opinion that we should be able to import aluminium from either Canada or the United States of America for about £75 a ton after the war. The lowest figure I have been able to arrive at as our own cost of production is £200 a ton, which is nearly 300 per cent, higher than the cost of the imported metal. The Government may hold more optimistic views; if so, no doubt it bases them on the fact that our costs of production of base metals during the war have been low. The prices of zinc and lead, for instance, have been reasonable, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited turns out the cheapest and probably the best steel in the world. It must be remembered, however, that those organizations have been operating for many years, have had great experience, and are fully developed.
– On what figures does the honorable member base his calculations ?
– On the costs of production, labour, transport and various other charges, particularly overhead. Those other operations were fully developed before the war broke out, and the concerns involved have always enjoyed active and ample markets, but the aluminium project will be set up at a time when costs are at their wartime peak, and it will have a local market for only a minor part of its production, with no hope of disposing of the surplus anywhere. There is no doubt as to the truth of the latter part of that statement. The world has produced more than its needs of aluminium. Canadian figures are not published, but it has been announced that the Arvida and Shipshaw plants produce 350,000 tons a year, about 50 per cent, of the entire aluminium needs of the United Nations. In 1939, in the United States of America, production wai 175,000 tons. The peak production reached in 1943 was just over 100,000 tons. To-day production is far outrunning consumption, the over-production being estimated at 350,000 tons a year. For the information of honorable members, I shall read the following extract from a New York journal, Business Week, of the 9th September last: -
We are making the most and the biggest planes in the world, but we can’t chew up all the aluminium -which military authorities, back in 1942, thought they were going to need. Result is that the latest in a string of cutbacks will pull output of virgin ingot down, late in September or early in October, to about 90,000,000 lb. (about 40,000 long tons) a ‘month - about half the 1943 peak. Meanwhile, there has been a steady increase in the amount of scrap aluminium. If the rate of scrap recovery were to hold at its present level, this source of metal shortly would amount to nearly 4.0 per cent, of the total supply.
The cut-backs in production mentioned include the following plants: -
Spokane. - Originally six pot lines: now four in operation.
Los Angeles. - Project called for five pot lines, but two never went into production - plant now closed.
Troutdale (Portland) . - FourLines, one closed in July, another now closed.
Jones Mills, Arkansas. -Four lines capacity - one ordered closed.
American Metal Market, of the 2nd June last, said that the last four pot lines of the government-owned aluminium reduction plant at Queens, New York, would be closed. The capacity of the plant was 1.30,000 long tons of virgin metal yearly, and a pot line would produce approximately 14,000 tons a year. The same article in Business Week referred to an announcement by the War Production Board that Canadian exports of aluminium to the United States of America were being sharply reduced, and that the delivery of 100,000 tons of Canadian metal had been postponed indefinitely. It also declared that the American national stock-pile of aluminium exceeded 156,000 long tons. American Metal Market, of the18th April, stated that secondary, or scrap, aluminium in the United States totalled 95,000 tons in 1941, 180,000 tons in 1942 and 230,000 tons in 1943.
I have no doubt that some Ministers are saying to themselves, “Even if Australia does not export its surplus aluminium to the Western world, we shall be able to find markets in South-East Asia, India and the Netherlands East Indies “. If they entertain that hope, I shall quickly disillusion them, because I have information that the Dutch Government has evolved a plan to manufacture aluminium in Sumatra. An. amount equivalent to £A. 5, 000,000 was ear-marked to develop the manufacture of aluminium by using the extremely rich bauxite deposit on Bintang Island, situated in the vicinity of Singapore. The post-war plan of the Billiton Company, a semi-governmental concern, is that large aluminium works shall be erected in. Sumatra. Sumatra was chosen as the site for this enterprise so as to take advantage of the tremendous potential hydro-electric power which can be generated from the overflow of the Toba Lake, situated in the mountains about 3,000 feet above sea level. It is almost twice as large as Lake Geneva and considerably larger than the Dead Sea. More than 50 miles long and about 3 to 5 miles wide, Toba Lake is in places 1,350 feet deep. The Dutch engineers estimate that the water from this lake, which slowly flows to the Wilhelmina Falls, has a capacity of over 900,000 horse-power. The bauxite itself can be cheaply transported by lighter in a few hours from Bintang Island, and the Billiton Company is confident that whatever the future price of aluminium may be, there will be no place in the world where it can be produced at a more economical rate.This project is so far advanced that, after the war, production is expected to commence within two years. The Dutch confidently believe these works will become one of the greatest industries in the entire Indies,. and will form the background of a speeded-up industrialization of the Netherlands East Indies.
– The honorable member always has an inferiority complex regarding Australian industries.
Mr.RYAN. - That is not correct; but I have said sufficient to show that the Government’s proposition to manufacturealuminium in Tasmania is not economically sound. Our ability to compete with other countries in the production of aluminium presents a gloomy picture, and the possible high cost of production will burden unnecessarily our other secondary industries.
– Will the honorable member tell me his authority for the statement regarding what the Dutch propose to do when Sumatra has been reoccupied ?
– I prefer not to make the information public, but I obtained it from a reliablesource. Australia’s requirements of aluminium are small. Indeed-, the local demand will not be sufficient to absorb the output from the Tasmanian works. I see no necessity for embarking upon this venture. Admittedly, . aluminium is essential for the manufacture of aircraft and military equipment. But would not it be less costly, instead of expending huge sums of money upon an uneconomic proposition, to import the metal and put it into a stock pile? If we estimate that our consumption will be 6,000 tons per annum, let us accumulate reserves for five years for defence purposes. If that were done, the cost of creating those reserves would be considerably less than the amount of” money that will be required, to establish the aluminium industry in Tasmania..
Aluminium does not deteriorate, and a substantial reserve of the metal, if established, would be available for defence purposes whenever an emergency arose. I regret to pour cold water on a proposal, which I know will benefit Tasmania economically for the time being. My attitude is not prompted by any dislike of an extension of Australian secondary industries. If Australia is to carry :i substantially increased population, it must expand its secondary industries. Rural industries will never absorb appreciable numbers of new population. Therefore, we desire to see the “establishment and extension of secondary industries without delay. But to say that I want to sec industries established is not to assort that I believe in the launching of uneconomic industries. The Government’s proposal, if proceeded with, will ultimately be an incubus not only on Tasmania, but also on Australia as a whole.
I should like to know whether Ministers firmly believe in. the. Atlantic Charter, to which Australia’s signature was appended not long ago. If they do, 1 remind them that one of the first principles of the Atlantic Charter is Freedom- of trade. The aluminium industry, which will prove to lie economically unsound, will require to bc bolstered by :h high tariff, and that will be contrary to the principles of the Atlantic Charter. If the industry is obliged to face competition from other countries, it will be ruined, and the money spent on it will be wasted. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) pointed out that factories established for war-time production will be disposed of at a loss after the conclusion of hostilities; and using that as an argument, he declared that he saw no justification for criticism of the proposed aluminium industry. The .two things spring, from entirely different bases. The establishment of war-time factories was forced upon us by the exigencies of war. But in the establishment 6f the aluminium industry we are embarking of our own free will upon an uneconomic proposition. Let us not make the mistake of launching this industry before we are sure that it will be a success, and a value to Australia as a whole. Before proceeding with the bill, the Government should adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition. Time is not an urgent factor in the establishment of the industry. Production will not be commenced next month or even within a year. During that period, the Tariff Board should inquire into every aspect of the proposal for the purpose of seeing whether the industry will be of value to the country.
– The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) declared that time is not an urgent factor in the establishment of the aluminium industry. I remind the honorable gentleman that there was a period when aluminium was urgently required foi1 the defence of Australia, and our continued existence as a free people almost depended upon it. We must not allow our country to be imperilled by a repetition of those circumstances. I listened with interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who opposed the Government’s proposal.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not say that he was opposed to the proposal, but he asked that it be fully investigated.
– The attitude of the right honorable gentleman showed clearly that he was opposed to the proposal, and that opposition was only consistent with the political record of honorable members opposite, who have always desired to delay the development of industries essential to our national security.
– That statement is nonsense. Is there any reason why the Tariff Board should not investigate the proposed industry?
– The circumstances will prove the accuracy of my contention. Honorable members opposite consider that the Government should not proceed with this proposal, and they have raised all manner of objections to it. One objection was that the commission lacked a proper business foundation, and, for that reason, it would not be able successfully to direct the industry. I have no doubt that many business men in Tasmania are associated with the State Parliament, and particularly with the Legislative Council. Before members of the Legislative Council would approve this agreement, involving the State in an expenditure of £1,500,000, 1 am confident that they fully investigated every business aspect of the proposal. Australia is rich in mineral resources. If we fail to take advantage of them, we prove ourselves unworthy of that inheritance. I cannot understand why any objection should be taken to our utilizing these resources to the best advantage. Honorable members of the Australian Country party have frequently dilated at length on the value of our bauxite deposits which, they have said., are equal to any in the world. It seems a little odd, therefore, that they should object to the proposal now under consideration. Why should we delay the development of our resources seeing that tile supply of ingot aluminium is so necessary to our defence ? A definite obligation rests upon the Parliament to develop this industry. All honorable members are well a ware that our need of aluminium became so desperate two or three years ago that we appealed to our people to make available fo us every scrap of this material which they could find. At the time when Japan struck at Pear] Harbour we had only 70 tons of aluminium in the country. There was a time when we had only three weeks’ supply of this essential commodity for aircraft and all other work. If a consignment that was on the high seas at that time had not reached us we should have been in dire distress.
– What are Australia’s requirements at present?
– Even the Leader of the Opposition admitted that we needed 1,700 ions of aluminium per annum. The Government’s estimate is that in the post-war period we shall require 6,000 tons per annum.
– The Minister said a few moments ago that at one stage we had in the country only 70 tons, which was three weeks’ supply.
– Evidently the honorable member for Bass did not understand my remark. I said that when Japan struck at Pearl Harbour we had only 70 tons of aluminium in Australia.
– The Minister also said that it was only three weeks’ supply.
– I said that at one stage, when a consignment of aluminium was on the high seas on the way to Australia, we had only three weeks’ supply. If that shipment had failed to arrive we should have been in a desperate plight. The Government desires to avoid any such possibility in the future.
– What about the Atlantic Charter?
– No provision of the Atlantic Charter or of the Lend-Lease agreement would prevent Australia or any other country from making proper provision for its own defence. .Surely all honorable members must realize that whatever money has been expended in this country in the past in the development of our iron, steel and copper industries has proved a worth-while investment. The Government is of the opinion that the investment of money in the aluminium ingot industry will also be a first-class investment. Both air and sea power will require to be developed and maintained! for the future defence of Australia. I cannot understand any honorable member offering objection to a proposal to establish an industry which will make practicable the strengthening of our aircraft manufacturing industry. Honorable gentlemen opposite who oppose the establishment of this industry reveal them«elves as little Australians, and they do the country a serious disservice by their attitude. A country which fails to learn the lessons of its own history does not deserve to continue to be a force among the nations.
The establishment of the aluminium ingot industry is absolutely essential to the security of the CommonwealthThe Leader of the Opposition stated that we had been living from hand to mouth. That is quite true, and it is one of the reasons why the Government is taking this step to establish an industry which will ensure to Australia adequate supplies of a metal which has become vital for defence purposes. We have found it extremely difficult to secure supplies of aluminium. Certain quantities of aluminium which were considered to be necessary for essential purposes of this country were on order for almost two years, but the delay in delivery was so- protracted, and the likelihood of obtaining supplies from that source became so slender, that the Government took steps to cancel certain of the orders; it was not able to do so.
– Where was that order placed ?
– I do not propose to divulge that information. It is sufficient to say that delivery was likely to be so belated that the Government considered it necessary to cancel the order. However, that was not permitted, and supplies came to hand ultimately, which is one of the reasons why a certain factory in the electorate of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has not been working at full capacity. In view of the geographical isolation of Australia, it is essential for us to make this country as self-contained and self-reliant as possible, especially in respect of defence services. We have the raw material, as well as electric power which can be provided cheaply by the waterways of one of our “best States. Honorable members opposite would deny to the nation the opportunity to provide for its own security and well-being. The establishment of this industry would place us beyond the risk of being denied an essential commodity in a time of extremity. The project should commend itself as one of the most important that could be undertaken for the defence of this country.
– Give us facts. We want statistics.
– Whatever facts I I might produce, the honorable gentleman would not be convinced of the soundness of the ideas we are propounding. A fundamental feature of the proposal is that this project is to be sponsored by two governments. Had the matter been left to the great combine which deals in this metal, I have no doubt that there would have been little or no complaint from honorable members opposite. They decry this industry, which is essential to our defence, because the nation seeks to establish it. They wish a profit to be made by private enterprise even out of the necessities of the country in time of war, and to enrich the speculator, rather than serve the public interest by making whatever contribution might be possible to the security of our country. They are rarely willing to keep abreast of the times in which they live, or to move in ways that would proclaim their mental advancement and their determination to provide for the development of this country. This industry not only will provide for essential defence needs, but, in addition, has almost unlimited possibilities in other directions. The Government has given proof of its desire to consider first the well-being of Australia and the provision of its essential needs so that we shall not, in future, require to face a perilous situation such as confronted us in the early days of the war.
– The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has certainly enlightened the House on the sentimental aspect, but he has not enabled it to decide calmly and coolly whether or not it would be wise to invest £3,000,000 of public money in this undertaking in the existing circumstances. It is all very well to say to the House and the people that it is necessary to establish in Australia as many industries as possible, and to utilize our metals and other resources to achieve that purpose. No one is more desirous than are the members of the Australian Country party of having established in Australia as many industries as possible, and of making the country self-contained; but when it is proposed that £.3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money shall be invested in a time of war, we have the responsibility of seeing that there shall first be a most minute investigation of both present and future economic aspects. So far, the House ha? not been given sufficient detail to enable it to arrive at a sound conclusion along the lines I have indicated. We have been told that this industry is essential. Nobody was more conscious of the need for it than was the Government with which I was associated. Honorable members opposite have attempted to discredit us by making allegations of all sorts against us, but they cannot deny that we were responsible for a subcommittee being appointed for the thorough investigation of the light metal industries of Australia. It was our Government which appointed the bauxite committee to investigate matters in connexion with that essential raw material of the great aluminium industry. The establishment of the industry in Tasmania would be a natural step to take, because that State has cheap hydroelectric politer which should be harnessed and utilized to the full. But having regard to the meagre data available to us, this House should be more fully informed before authorizing the Government to provide £1,500,000 towards the cost of establishing the industry, the balance of the £3,000,000 to be provided by the State of Tasmania. From the information available to me, it would appear that an expenditure of £3,000,000 would provide a capacity far in excess of the requirements of Australia. This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) gave figures which have not been disputed, in regard to productive capacity. He stated that, according to the latest available figures, the capacity in the United States of America alone is 1,180,000 tons a year, and that the demand for aluminium has declined by 33-J per cent. Any one who considers the economics of the matter must realize that both production and demand reached their peak when war necessities were satisfied. It is obvious that the present demand will not be maintained, and that consequently the existing productive capacity will not be needed. Such factors should be taken into consideration, and this House should be enlightened upon them before agreeing to a Commonwealth investment of £1,500,000 in the enterprise. There is not sufficient information before the House to enable it to discharge its responsibility as the custodian, of the public purse. Taxation has reached saturation point, and the Government is finding it increasingly difficult to raise money by means of voluntary loans. The only other element in public finance is the expanding and dangerous one known as bank credit. Were we to agree to an expenditure of £1,500,000 on this undertaking, we should totally disregard the responsibility and duty which our trusteeship involves. I am not condemning the establishment of the industry. I consider that it should and must be established, on such a scale that it will be able to meet present and future demands so far as they can be determined. I am informed that the argument that aluminium cannot be produced in Australia at a fraction of the cost of its production elsewhere cannot be substantiated. I understand that the cost in Australia would be at least comparable with the cost overseas. Also, I do not hold a pessimistic view in regard to the establishment of the industry. We can recall the opposition that was encountered when it was proposed that the iron and steel industry should be established in this country. Every honorable member, and every sensible Australian, must thank God for the establishment of that industry at Newcastle. The state of our defences would have been very poor, in fact, we would have been non-existent to-day except as the serfs and slaves of others, had it not been for the successful establishment and expansion of that great undertaking, which has been so developed that to-day it compares more than favorably with similar undertakings in any other country. I remind honorable members that that service has been given wholly by private enterprise.
– It was spoonfed by the Treasury for 25 years.
– Does the honorable gentleman begrudge it that, having regard to the results achieved?
– I repeat, that honorable members should not lightly consider the establishment of this industry at a cost of £3,000,000, in the absence of detailed information in regard to costs, and the financial and other commitments of the Government. The Tariff Board exists for the purpose of investigating such projects, and the Government should avail itself of the knowledge and experience of that body. I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn for the purpose of referring the matter to the Tariff Board for investigation and report”.
Sitting suspended from 5.4-5 to 8 p.m.
– The Government is fulfilling a duty to the nation in establishing the aluminium ingot industry in Australia. First, it is of vital importance, that there should be a local source of aluminium to provide for our future defence requirements, and to ensure that Australia shall not again have to he precariously dependent, as it has been during this war, on supplies from overseas. This industry is essential for our air defence and for ancillary industries, for which aluminium forms a basic or important material. Reasonable aircraft production after the war will entail the use of a considerable quantity of high-strength alloys. In addition, these alloys will be in demand for a wide range of munitions, and for other urgent government requirements.
Secondly, by establishing the project in Tasmania, the Commonwealth Government is incidentally providing one of the smaller, less industrially developed States with a sound and important manufacturing industry, and is giving practical effect to its policy of decentralization of industry. However, the selection of Tasmania is solely due to the fact that expansion of the Tasmanian Government’s hydroelectric scheme will ensure that the necessary power will be available.
– Is that why the promise was made during the last election campaign, and repeated during the referendum campaign?
– If the honorable member will listen for a few minutes 1 think he will withdraw any objection he has to the bill.
Nowhere else in Australia is there sufficient power available for the aluminium industry. Electric power up to 40,000 horse-power, for the production of 10,000 tons of ingot a year, will be provided by the Tasmanian Government, which is extending its hydro-electric power scheme to ensure that the required power will be available at reasonable cost. The price per unit is comparable with that which applies at the large aluminium smelteries in other parts of the world, and should enable Australia to produce aluminium at a satisfactory price. The effect which the price of electricity has upon the economics of the industry will be gathered from the fact- that each Id. a unit means an addition of approximately £10 a ton to the cost of the metal.
The Government has confidence in the success of the industry. The Aluminium. Production Commission to be set up under this bill will take action, immediately the bill has received assent, to accelerate the procurement, delivery and installation of plant, so that the industry can ba brought into production. The technical and commercial management of the enterprise will be in the hands of the commission. It may be possible to obtain some plant in Australia. Preliminary inquiries have been made overseas, however, and it may he that the complete plant will be obtainable from the United Kingdom within a reasonable time. Inquiries through the British Ministry of Supply indicate that there are prospects of obtaining either a. 5,000-ton or a 10,000-ton plant, both of which have recently been in operation in that country. It has yet to be decided whether we shall have a 5,000-ton or a 10,000-ton plant. Despite continuous efforts and widespread inquiries in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom it has been impossible up till now, because of war demands, to obtain plant and equipment. It is true, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) pointed out, that reference was made to this matter in Tasmania, before the last general election. That is only another way of saying that- the Government put its plans before the people. It has, therefore, a mandate to establish this defence industry.
– It was a good time to do it - just on the eve of an election.
– Promises are often made on the eve of an election, but in this case the promise is being fulfilled. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) announced in Hobart in August, 1943, that the Curtin Government had decided to establish an aluminium ingot smeltery in Tasmania. He indicated then that Australia had fabrication facilities, but lacked the vital raw material. Sir Ronald Charles, a British expert, was asked by the Commonwealth Government, during a visit here, to report on the establishment of the aluminium production industry in Australia. He submitted estimates for a plant to produce 5,000 tons of aluminium per annum, and these estimates have been taken carefully into consideration by the Department of Supply.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) claims that there should be an inquiry by the Tariff Board. He completely overlooks the history of this matter. In May, 1941, during the term of office of the Menzies Government, this very distinguished expert, Sir Ronald Charles, made a special report to the Government on the production of aluminium ingot in Australia. I understand that he pointed out in his report that, in providing a smelter, the essential condition was an assured and uninterrupted supply of electric power at the rate of about 20,000 horse-power per annum, and at a cost per unit which would enable the metal to be produced economically. It was and is plain that these essential conditions could be fulfilled only in the State of Tasmania. There, alone, sufficiently cheap hydroelectric generation is or can be made possible.
– That report was presented three years ago. There has been much development since then.
– Has it been circulated?
– No. I have not the report with me, and I am reading from the notes prepared by the Department of Supply and Shipping. Finally, the Menzies Government decided, during Senator McBride’s administration of the Department of Supply, that for the very purpose of obtaining independence from overseas sources of supply, and as a matter of government policy, the manufacture of ingot aluminium in Australia should be proceeded with, preferably from Australian bauxite.
The Menzies Government even went so far as to import 25,000 tons of bauxite from the Netherlands East Indies. The landed cost was approximately £4 10s. a ton. The Leader of the Australian Country party says that all this took place three years ago, and so it did. That 25,000 tons of bauxite was brought to Australia, and the stuff is now stored at Unanderra in New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government paid to the New South Wales Department of Railways £3,000 for the construction of a railway siding at this place, and since the arrival of the metal there the Government has been paying rent to a local landholder for the right to store it on his property. Thus, it was not merely that the Menzies Government made a decision regarding the matter. Bauxite was actually imported for the inauguration of the aluminium industry in Australia. In his report to the Menzies Government, the British expert, Sir Ronald Charles, pointed out that power could be obtained only in Tasmania. He concluded by recommending that, in view of the many uncertainties, the Government should restrict itself, in the first place, to the erection of a smelter, and should rely upon imported alumina for the production of aluminium.
– The right honorable gentleman should be fair enough to give the reason why the purchase was made. When I speak, I shall give a list of other purchases made at about the same time. The purchases were not made by me.
– The honorable member may not have been a party to the decision to purchase the bauxite, but that was what was done.
– But the right honorable gentleman knows the reason for it.
– I do not know the reason. All I know is that there was an inquiry by an expert. The Government reached a decision and followed it up by importing 25,000 tons of bauxite from the Netherlands East Indies. It has since been proved that Australia itself has adequate supplies of bauxite of suitable quality, and it is estimated that by open cut mining the cost of production will be less than £1 a ton. As the Minister for Supply and Shipping announced in his second-reading speech, the estimated cost of establishing the industry for the production of 10,000 tons of aluminium a year is £3,000,000, of which £1,500,000 is to be provided by the Commonwealth and a similar amount by the Tasmanian Government. This computation is based on estimates made available in answer to official inquiries overseas covering the capital cost of a plant of 10,000 tons capacity. There are some unpredictable factors, however, and it is possible that the original estimate may be substantially exceeded. The £3,000,000 is made up as follows:-
Aluminium ingot is produced in the smeltery from alumina, which, in turn, is obtained from alumina-bearing materials, the chief of which is bauxite. The location of the factory for obtaining the alumina from bauxite has not been decided, and there is no commitment to the Tasmanian or any other government on the alumina factory. A decision on the site for this factory will not be made until the commission has carefully examined the merits of the alumina production and the economic factors involved.
The Government has undertaken to consider the production of alumina in the States which have good bauxite deposits. Most States have these deposits, but so far as is known those in Victoria are of the best quality. Consideration will be given to the possibility of using alumina from Western Australia if it can be produced satisfactorily from alunite as a by-product from the potash industry. Experiments are being carried out by the Western Australian Government at Lake Campion. As the processes for the production of both alumina from bauxite and the ingot from alumina are highly technical and complicated, the commission will obtain expert assistance from overseas as well as in Australia. Already, preliminary inquiries have been made overseas in this respect.
It is estimated that approximately 800 men will be required for the purposes of operating the industry, and approximately the same number for constructional purposes. This is on the basis of a 10,000-ton plant. The capacity of the plant to be installed will be a matter for consideration by the commission after weighing all the factors involved.
When Sir Ronald Charles made his investigation into the possibility of beginning aluminium production in Australia it was recommended that the alumina be imported, because it was thought then that Australia did not possess satisfactory bauxite deposits. The Curtin Government was not satisfied that Australia did not have bauxite, and instituted a comprehensive survey of the bauxite deposits of Australia by the Copper and Bauxite Committee. The committee established that throughout Australia there were appreciable deposits of bauxite of suitable quality. It has been proved that if bauxite is chosen as the source for aluminium the supplies in Australia will be sufficient for many years.
The commission has made preliminary inquiries into the matter of land, buildings, plant and equipment, and into the engagement of experts and other officers and staff. Already it has collected valuable data. A detailed survey has been made of Australian post-war requirements of ingot aluminium. This survey discloses that the possible immediate requirements approximate 6,000 tons a year. This figure was reached after full allowance had been made for the competition which aluminium might be expected to meet from plastic materials. It is recognized that unpredictable factors may mean that the 6,000 tons will not be realized. On the other hand, wider use of light metals, particularly in any expansion of the aircraft industry, may mean that the Australian consumption will be greater than 6,000 tons a year. This survey of probable post-war requirements of aluminium covered defence needs, and other essential and urgent governmental requirements.
Investigations indicate that the price of the aluminium which will be produced in Tasmania in an efficient 10,000-ton or 5,000-ton plant should be comparable locally with that of aluminium imported from overseas. Many factors will operate in our favour. Australian bauxite deposits are readily accessible. The Canadian and American interests are mainly dependent on bauxite imported from British and Dutch Guiana, involving several thousand miles of haulage and transhipment. Estimates already made indicate that Australian labour costs will compare favorably with those overseas, and the unfavorable exchange rate will increase the Australian price of imported metal by at least 25 per cent. The supply of electricity for our project in Tasmania will be available at such a reasonable cost that this also will compare favorably with overseas prices for power charges despite the size of overseas installations. No one who impartially assesses the achievements of Australia in other industries would challenge its ability to conduct alumina and aluminium plants efficiently. A reasonable post-war aircraft production and Air Force will require a considerable quantity of high-strength alloys. In addition, these alloys will be in demand for munitions and other urgent governmental requirements. The Government is convinced that Australia must not be without its own source of aluminium if we are to ensure our future defence, particularly our air defence, which will be vital to our safety. In addition, the production of ingot aluminium in Australia will enable us to make an important contribution towards Pacific defence generally.
Finally, why is this to be run as a governmental enterprise? Perhaps that is the objection. I do not know. The previous Government decided to establish the aluminium industry, but the question now is - Why should this industry be run as a governmental enterprise? I have already endeavoured to state my general approach to these questions. Some enterprises governments are quite unfitted to operate. Some public utilities, however, are peculiarly fitted for government operation. An excellent example of this is the interstate aviation industry, because of its very intimate relationship to the air defence of Australian and neighbouring Pacific territories. The same principle applies to the aluminium industry. Upon the establishment of that industry may well depend the future of the aircraft production industry of this country. Although economic considerations are not to be neglected, the air defence of this country is of supreme importance, and it is only proper that the aluminium ingot industry should be controlled and operated as a result of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania.
The bill provides in clause 9 that the undertaking shall not be disposed of without the consent of both Houses of the Australian Parliament. This is done to prevent the executive government from selling this enterprise without parliamentary approval. In the past, there were a number of successful State enterprises which were sold - often at a ridiculously low price - before Parliament had been consulted, still less had approved,. Under this bill, that cannot occur in relation to this joint CommonwealthTasmanian undertaking.
That disposes of any case for further inquiry by the Tariff Board at this stage. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) and his department base their estimates on the report of a very distinguished expert who advised our predecessors.
– Where is the report?
– I have not the report; it was made three years ago.
– That is never the basis on which secondary industries are established in Australia.
– What is not the basis?
– The report of an expert, without listening to the evidence of those affected.
– If it is not the proper basis, why did the previous Government decide to establish the aluminium industry?
– It did not decide on the details, as the right honorable gentleman knows.
– But, in principle, it was decided to establish this industry in Australia.
– That is all that was decided.
– That is all that this bill does.
-This establishes the industry under joint control of the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Tasmania. I admit that one cannot predict every possible factor in the cost of such an enterprise. It is intimately related to defence.
– The Governmenthas changed its opinions about manufacturing power alcohol from wheat.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– The Government is not manufacturing power alcohol from wheat to any extent.
– I do not see what relation that has to this matter, but the reason why the power alcohol distilleries are not making power alcohol from wheat is that the Australian Wheat Board will not make wheat available. That is owing t’j the drought.
– Yes. The circumstances have changed, as the circumstances in relation to this may change.
– The drought has caused temporary suspension of the manufacture of power alcohol from wheat. The two things are quite independent. I do not say that a government is not entitled to change its mind about an industry, but it is a sufficient answer to those who say that we should have an inquiry to point out how dependent we were and probably shall be again on aluminium for our air defence. This is a defence enterprise and it is proper that the Government of Australia should conduct it. If, incidentally to that defence purpose, an industry of value be established in Tasmania, which has peculiar facilities for the establishment of the industry, I do not think any one elsewhere in Australia will begrudge Tasmania that great benefit.
.- I was hopeful that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) would advance some good reasons for the proposed establishment of the aluminium industry. I say that “seriously, not flippantly. I do not intend to talk on a party level. If the right honorable gentleman could prove that for u very good reason this industry should be established in Australia, I should support it. We have the bauxite, the necessary fluxes and the electric power. He endeavoured, however, to build his case on the fact that a report was made some years ago that the industry should be established. I have not seen that report. I was not in Australia when it was made.
– The circumstances were entirely different.
– So I understand. The only other report was on bauxite, a mere clay abundant in Australia. The right honorable gentleman then cited the interstate airways as a reason for making aluminium, under State socialism. The interstate airways have not yet been acquired by the Commonwealth. A statement has been made in Parliament, with a good deal of unfavorable reaction, that they will be taken over. The airways are highly efficient and were pioneered by men who understood what they were doing.
– And this is a highly efficient Government.
– The government spokesman says that the Government is highly efficient - I doubt- it - but there is no evidence that it can run a metal industry, and the proposal before Parliament is that the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Tasmania should subscribe £1,500,000 each in order to enter into business as manufacturers of ingot aluminium. Where will the money come from ? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has pointed to the fact that Tasmania has no surplus money and the Commonwealth can only find it by taxation, credit expansion, or loans. The £3,000,000 needed to finance this industry will almost certainly come from loan money. Is it fair that money subscribed by the people for war purposes should go into such a hazardous enterprise? We have a long history of State enterprise. The Government of Queensland has had costly experiences. It tried everything, from butchers’ shops to cattle stations, under government management. In theory, we all can -be socialists, but the present Government believes in the modern propaganda, “ Socialize everything and we shall have a new breed of men and a new kind of State”. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), a recent recruit to the House, is prolific in print about this “ brave new world “, but I tell the honorable gentleman that we live in a democracy wherein common sense ought to prevail. If something can be done more efficiently by the Government, it should be done, but there should not be the nonsensical belief that everything that the Government wishes to run can be done much better, and that under government control men have a change of heart and that perfection is achieved.
– That is going from the sublime to the ridiculous.
– I am glad that the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) admits that. That is what I have been trying to teach for a long time. If the Government wishes to make aluminium, why not plastics and plywoods? In Great Britain, plastics and plywoods are playing a prominent part in aircraft manufacture. The Mosquito aircraft, our best intruder aircraft, and both a fighter and a bomber, is made of plywood. To-morrow, the Government may decide to go into the manufacture of three-ply and plastics.
– It may.
– I am glad to extract that admission from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin). He was very war-like before the dinner adjournment and declared feelingly that only 70 tons of aluminium stood between us and the Japanese, or something of that sort. The honorable gentleman was not so war-like when he was the Speaker, for he even had the M!ace removed from the chamber as a relic of barbarous war. There is joy over one sinner that repenteth, and I am glad that the honorable gentleman now stands for defence. In his change of heart, however, he must not let sentiment run away with him.
– The Government of which the honorable member was a supporter talked about defence, but we did something.
– I practised what I preached about defence. The Minister for the Navy said that at one period we had only 70 tons of aluminium. That may have been so, but to-day the Royal Australian Air Force itself holds a quantity of ingot aluminium reclaimed from crashed aircraft. For weeks, I have had on the notice-paper a question as to what quantity of aluminium ingot is held by the Royal Australian Air Force. I have not received an answer yet, but I believe that it is approximately 3,000 to 4,000 tons. Therefore, the position to which the honorable member referred does not exist to-day. Every one will agree that before embarking on an enterprise of this kind any government, or an individual, should have the fullest information. What information have we? We have not had a copy of a report or a memorandum giving the facts. The Attorney-General read a statement handed to him by a departmental officer, and based his view that the Government could conduct the aluminium industry on the fact that itintends to run an air service, although it has not yet run one. The only sound procedure is to ask the Tariff Board to inquire into this industry. That is the purpose of the amendment. I put to honorable gentlemen, especially newcomers on the other side, who do not know the history of the workings of the Tariff Board, that it has been of very great value to the Commonwealth. I say that advisedly, having referred some hundreds of matters to it for investigation. Our basic industries, such as cotton and woollen goods, and iron and steel, are some that have been investigated by the board, and governments have been largely guided by its recommendations. The especial merit of the board is that it conducts an open inquiry which any honorable member, or member of the public, may attend. Equally with supporters of the Government, I am against monopolies. Nor do I want to see a government monopoly or a trade union monopoly, and the Government will have political power over this iudustry when it is set up. I do not want to see any cartel controlling the production of aluminium in Australia, either. Ultimately, this industry may fall from the Government’s palsied hands into the control of some international cartel. It is almost sure to go the way of so many other industries which were uneconomic and which were finally sold at knockdown prices.
– Sold by whom?
– I remind the honorable member that . recently a munitions establishment at Wagga in his electorate was handed over to private enterprise. Perhaps the honorable member would like to inquire into that matter. Earlier in my speech, I mentioned that Government industries in Queensland had made colossal losses. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) has the stock sneer that when we do not support the establishment of an industry in Australia, it is a sign of smallmindedness. There is nothing more fatal than to have a one-track mind, and believe old shibboleths like that. It is ridiculous to think that simply by creating a government monopoly, piling on protective duties with a spade or giving a substantial bounty, prosperity can be assured. Those honorable members opposite who were members of the Scullin Government will recall that, when the economic blizzard struck the world, their endeavours to rectify the position of Australia were beset with many difficulties. “We on this side of the chamber gave them our sympathy and a good deal of support in adjusting the trade balance. But they will recollect that many colossal duties were imposed on imported goods for the purpose of fostering Australian industries. So far from making our industries prosperous, those duties increased the cost of production in other industries and made conditions more difficult for the primary producer. Consequently, the increase of trade, which had been expected, did not eventuate. I had the unpleasant task of revising the tariff in 1933, removing some of the duties and imposing others. It is fatal to believe that the indiscriminate imposition of duties will bring prosperity, because unexpected repercussions will occur. Every industry should, therefore, be investigated separately.
Great Britain, because of its war effort, which is above all praise, whether on the field of battle or in the manufacture of aircraft and munitions, has lost 70 per cent, of its pre-war export trade. As honorable members are aware Great Britain has a large population who live on a small island, and they depended before the war on overseas countries for 70 per cent, of their food requirements, and large quantities of raw materials for manufacture. By its sheer excellence in production and wonderful enterprise, Great Britain has been able to pay its way at all times. Honorable members who listened to the broadcast by Mr. Bankes-Amery on Sunday morning will remember that he said that Great Britain, heavily rationed, undernourished and under fire for five years, will take all the food that Australia can produce during the next four years. Are we blind to the fact that trade has to be reciprocal ? It behoves us to .study the goods which we are making. Many articles have to be manufactured in Australia during the war. but in peace-time we could with advantage divert our man-power in some cases to more useful and more economic work. “We must -help Great Britain to recover its trade ; otherwise, how can that country establish the credits with which to buy the food which we produce? I do not assert that Great Britain oan export aluminium to Australia; actually, it is a buyer of aluminium from the United States of America and Canada. In fact, Great Britain buys about 100,000 tons of aluminium a year. Any honorable member who blindly supports this bill on the meagre information given to us rather cavalierly by several Ministers, and without studying the economics of the proposal, will render a grave disservice to Australia.
It should not be thought that honorable members on this side of the chamber do not believe in measures to secure the adequate defence of this country. For years the Lyons Government did a great deal in that direction by setting up the aircraft industry and helping factories that were engaged on defence work. That was always taken into account in the economic policy of the United Australia party when it was in office. Does the present Government now intend to make a wide departure from that policy by embarking upon a Socialist plan? It proposes to nationalize interstate civil aviation, and the venture will probably succeed, not because of any action of the Government, but because of the high standard of the personnel. To acquire the assets of the civil aviation companies, the Government proposes to expend £3,000,000 from money that was raised for the conduct of the war. In the same way, the sum of £1,500,000, which the Commonwealth will invest in the aluminium industry, was raised for war purposes. No urgent need exists to-day for the establishment of this industry, because the Commonwealth Government can obtain from abroad all the aluminium that it requires. Allied countries have a surplus of aluminium at the present time. All that we require is a pilot plant that can be operated in an emergency. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) stated that the security of Australia was imperilled in 1942 because of the lack of supplies of aluminium here. But a firm in Australia could have produced all the aluminium required here. I shall tell the Minister the name of that firm later. “With its small plant it could not have gone into quantity production immediately, but within a period of six months it could have supplied to the Government all the aluminium that it required..
To embark so lightly upon this proposal, ignoring the thousands of tons of aluminium in stock and scrap ingot from crashed aircraft and the like, is most unwise. Are honorable members opposite prepared to overlook the economics of the proposal? The Government is the custodian of the public purse. Ministers charge honorable members on this side of the chamber with being the champions of capitalism and private enterprise. We do believe that if private enterprise is capable of conducting an industry economically, it should be given an opportunity to do so, but private enterprise risks its own money and not the- public’s moneys. The Minister for Munitions declared that after the war government munitions establishments, in which £100,000,000 has been invested, will produce goods for peace-time needs. That policy will accelerate the decline of this country. Internally, we are not in a happy position to-day. Whilst no one can criticize the splendid efforts of our fighting services, there has been a sag in national character in many ways. In Parliament we must carefully examine every proposal of the Government, and not be lavish with the public purse. Taxation has reached ite peak and will remain there for some time if the Commonwealth Government expends £3,000,000 in acquiring civil airlines, and. £1,500,000 in the aluminium industry, and follows other such wasteful ways. I exhort Ministers to allow the Tariff Board: to inquire into this proposal and hear both sides of the case. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has only to ask the Tariff Board to inquire into and report on proposals for the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia and to accelerate the inquiry, if necessary. No honorable member can reasonably oppose that suggestion. On many occasions the Tariff Board has been invited to advise the Government upon similar proposals, and its reports have enabled honorable members to form judgments. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that even the commission which has been selected to control the aluminium ingot industry, though consisting of men of much technical knowledge, has not a complete knowledge of the industry itself. The Tariff Board, by public advertisement, invites any person to come forward and express his views upon the proposal under consideration. The board is tolerant of everyone. If the Government accepts the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, any one who believes that a cartel or monopoly may gain control of the industry, or any one who opposes State socialism, will have an opportunity to voice his opinions and the Tariff Board will submit a worthwhile report. The Government does not necessarily follow slavishly the report of the Tariff Board.
– In some instances, governments have ignored the reports of the Tariff Board.
– I cannot recall any particular instance, but I know that for six years during my period at the Department of Trade and Customs every report of the Tariff Board making a favorable recommendation on trade with Great Britain was approved. But we ignored some reports which recommended the lowering of the foreign tariff, and the wisdom of that policy has since been evident. The Government is acting very unwisely in not seeking a report upon this proposal. No honorable member has been able to study the economics of the proposition because we all have to rely for information on the statements of Ministers. Therefore, I have the greatest pleasure in supporting the amendment.
– I regret that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who introduced the bill, is not in the chamber this evening, because I know the great work that he put into this measure, and that he intends to fulfil the assurances that he gave. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) declared that no urgency exists to pass the bill, and that Australia at present has plentiful stocks of aluminium. Earlier the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) informed the House that the security of
Australia had been, imperilled in 1942 as the result of lack of supplies of aluminium.
– But the supplies are plentiful to-day.
– The reason for that is easily understood. It is known that the Commonwealth Government intends to establish the aluminium ingot industry. Certain overseas interests will try to ensure plentiful supplies of aluminium to Australia hoping that the Tasmanian project will be knocked on the head.
– Is there not a glut of aluminium in the world to-day?
– “We are told that there is. I recall that at the termination of the last war, a carbide industry was established in Tasmania. The price of carbide was £80 or £90 a ton. As soon as that industry commenced, ships brought foreign carbide to Tasmania at a cheaper rate than the price at which it was available elsewhere.
– Was the carbide factory established by the Government or by private enterprise ?
– The factory was originally established by private enterprise, but the Government took control when the company was unable to continue operations. Later, another company acquired the factory from the Government. After the last war, we heard that large quantities of carbide would not be required, because electricity supplanted carbide for lighting purposes in many towns. Since this war began, we have been able to supply the whole of the requirements of Australia. Even before the war commenced we exported thousands of tons of carbide to the Middle East and .Singapore. I am glad that this new industry is to be established in Tasmania. Several new Australian industries have been located in that State and not one of them has failed. The newsprint industry was established there just as the war started and if it had not been for the production of newsprint in Tasmania the Australian press would not be in its present position.
– Private capital was used.
– That is so, but the Government of Tasmania invested a large sum of money in the project. Zinc smelters were also established in Tasmania, and they require about 70,000 horse-power continuously from the Tasmanian hydroelectric scheme. The fact that cheap hydro-electric power is available in Tasmania is of great importance in connexion with the establishment of the aluminium ingot industry there. Tasmania also has adequate waterside facilities for this industry. I understand that Tasmanian bauxite will not necessarily be used exclusively. If it becomes necessary to import bauxite from other States that will be done. Substantial deposits of bauxite are to be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia as well as in several parts of Tasmania. The previous Government imported 25,000 tons of bauxite from Malaya.
– And so prevented the Japanese from getting it!
– But only 25,000 tons of it! The previous Government was also prepared to dispose of the Yampi iron ore deposits to Japan. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) argued that because it was proposed to establish aluminium smelting works in Sumatra we should not establish similar works in Tasmania. I have no sympathy with an inferiority complex of that description. The proposal to manufacture aluminium ingots in Tasmania should be implemented as quickly as possible. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) stated this afternoon that not long ago we had to appeal to householders to make available to the Government all the aluminium that they could spare, and some householders made great sacrifice!: in that way. Surely we do not desire ever to repeat such an appeal.
The purpose of the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is to defeat the bill. There is no need to wait for a Tariff Board report on this project because we know how vital aluminium is to Australia for defence purposes. The honorable member for Flinders remarked that we could not compete with the cheap labour of other countries, but that is an old story. At one time we were told that it would be impossible to produce sugar in Australia by white labour, but, to-day. the Queensland sugar industry is well established and of immense value to Australia. If Queensland sugar had not been available during the war period a great deal of our fruit would have been wasted. The Tasmanian Government has already done a great deal to make practicable the establishment of this industry in Tasmania. I congratulate the Premier of Tasmania on his fine work in this connexion. The Butler’s Gorge hydroelectric scheme which will be capable of generating sufficient power for the aluminium and other industries to be established is nearing completion in spite of all the difficulties associated with the provision of plant and man-power during the war. We should not lightly assume that the war will be over at an early date. It may last for a long time, in which case we shall need aluminium for defence purposes. I am glad that the Government is proceeding with this measure, and I hope that it will result in the establishment of a new industry in Tasmania which will be of immense value not only to that State but to the whole of the southern hemisphere.
– I agree that aluminium ingots should be manufactured in Australia. I do not agree with the argument that because other countries are establishing the industry, we should forgo our rights on the ground that our industry may be uneconomic. Let us make it uneconomic for some other country to establish the industry. The bill has been introduced to “give effect to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania with respect to the production, for the purposes of defence, of ingot aluminium and for other purposes “. I have no doubt that when this measure was drafted the defence aspect loomed largely in the minds of members of the Government, and had a great deal more significance than it has to-day. It is easy to understand the need for establishing, in association with the production of ingots, an industry for the fabrication of aluminium. That would be necessary to ensure continuity of supply if Australia were deprived of supplies from other sources. At one stage war needs might have justified the immediate establishment’ of this industry under National Security Regulations, but war needs cannot be regarded as an overriding consideration to-day. We should therefore consider this proposal now from the point of view of its value in peace-time. It calls for the same searching investigation and criticism as any other peace-time government enterprise.
My main criticism will be centered on paragraphs j andk of clause 3 of the agreement which appears in the schedule to the bill. These read -
I very much doubt whether those conditions will be observed in connexion with the establishment of this industry, and I base my view on statements made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) in introducing the bill. The honorable gentleman said -
Before embarking upon this project the Commonwealth had the benefit of the advice of leading Australian technicians, who carried out extensive investigations of the production of aluminium in North America and the United Kingdom.
Later he added -
Both the Australian Minister in Washington and the High Commissioner in London have been asked to make inquiries. The High Commissioner has been in touch with Sir Stafford Cripps, Minister for Aircraft Production in the United Kingdom, with regard to obtaining plant and the services of technical experts. These inquiries are proceeding.
I direct attention also to the following statement made by the Premier of Tasmania in reply to observations by Sir Walter Lee -
The fixing of the amount of capital had not been quite ‘” slapdash “. The amount had been recommended by Mr. W. S. Robinson, one of the outstanding financial figures of the Commonwealth and adviser to the Government.
Mr. W. S. Robinson is, no doubt, an outstanding authority on finance, but it is significant that neither he nor the technical experts to whom the Minister for Supply and Shipping made reference examined this proposal from the point of view of Australian production and processes, and I have formed the opinion that in their remarks they gave no attention to provisions such as those of paragraphs and k of the agreement, which I have already cited.
I read a newspaper report recently to the effect that the Labour party caucus had decided upon two important steps. It gave approval to the proposal to manufacture ingot aluminium in Tasmania, and it then decided that a committeeshould be appointed in connexion with the matter. I am in agreement with both decisions, but the investigation by a committee of experts should precede the appointment of a commission to establish the industry. In view of those caucus decisions, I was surprised to learn that the Government intended to ask Parliament to pass this bill without delay.
One aspect of this matter is of greater national significance than the wording of the bill would lead the public to realize. I do not pretend to be an expert, but I have been able to glean sufficient information to express certain hopes and fears in a manner that can be understood. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made a slightly different approach to the subject, and cast doubts in another direction. I was interested in his reference- to our obligations under the Atlantic Charter. We agree that we have certain obligations under that charter, the idea of which is that, as we shall win the war as an association of nations, we can win the peace by a similar association. In certain respects, international cooperation is advantageous. But that applies more to the nations that are fully developed. I apprehend danger in too many international undertakings with nations that are in the process of development, because we might find our internal economy dictated by international boards, which, while understanding our problems, could have only an academic interest in their solution.
I wish to address myself to this project purely from the Australian viewpoint. Jealousy between the States in regard to it does not exist. I believe that the logic of the argument in support of cheap power has been recognized. I would merely add that whilst cheap power may be an exception to-day, it probably will be the rule before this industry is out of its swaddling clothes. Therefore, the argument that the industry should be placed in a certain location because of the existence there of cheap power will lose much of its emphasis. We are prone to consider the present too much and the future not enough. I do not disguise the fact that my electorate is vitally concerned in this industry. Nevertheless, I believe that it is willing to approach the matter from an Australian rather than a parochial viewpoint. Its position i« so serong, that it is entitled to demand that the future of the industry shall not be jeopardized by the Government entering into commitments which may prove not only embarrassing but also, probably, stultifying. When dealing with matters of national importance, I do not indulge in what are known as “ wisecracks “. But I say with all respect that this bill, not because of what is in it but because of what has been left to the imagination, is visible evidence of the fact that, “ The mountain has laboured and brought forth a mouse”; in many respects, an anaemic specimen of mouse; If it be intended as a milestone in Australian development, we must be sure that it shall not become a milestone on the road to disillusionment. The industry must be established on a purely Australian basis. In order that honorable members may appreciate the difficulties that lie ahead, I shall read a paragraph from a statement relating to the Canadian set-up. It is this -
At Arvida they are already planning for the post-war, for a production programme that will swamp the world with aluminium goods on a scale undreamed of previously.
That is a challenge which has to be accepted, if at all, in the spirit as well as the letter. Around - that production have been built the arguments against the establishment of the industry in Australia. Consequently, I regret that the bill should have been presented as un fait accompli, because, in a sense, this binds the hands of the Government, whereas a full-dress debate by this Parliament would, be consistent with the potential importance of the subject and might produce something much more comprehensive than this measure. Associated with it in its present form are factors which arouse suspicion, and potentialities which must be thoroughly explored before it can ‘be accepted as the innocent thing it purports to be. It is said that the object of the bill is merely to ratify an agreement between the Government of Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government. I claim that it does much more than that. Actually, it will be responsible for the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia, and the foundations that we now lay will determine the strength and character of the undertaking that must necessarily be developed, from it. In short, this is the acorn from which the’ giant oak must grow and flourish. On that account, the bill should be as clear and informative as the prospectus of a proposed public company. The report of the technical experts should bo available to thi3 House. I asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping to produce it during the secondreading debate. He refused to do so, but promised that it would be available at the committee stage. I hope that that promise will be kept. Failure to produce the report would suggest that it contains something which the Government would not like the people to learn. I do not suggest that the Government is afraid to produce it. If it be not a confidential document, its production would be helpful to honorable members. “With prolific production, the provision of markets for what we produce must be an important consideration in the establishment of an industry of this kind. Let us examine the prospects. It is expected that wc shall require from 6,000 to 10,000 tons of aluminium annually. Presumably, we shall enter into contracts for materials for the processing of that quantity. But it is also believed that we are about to emerge into a light metal era. If so, who is to say that in twenty years’ time we shall not want 100,000 tons, or in 50 years’ time 300,000 tons? If we do not make a beginning, we shall never have the 300,000 tons when we want it. Because of the uses to which the metal will be put in the future, in the construction of bridges, battleships, the mercantile marine, motor cars, railway carriages, Aic., no one can say that because we want only 10,000 tons to-day we shall not want 100,000 tons ten years hence. That is one of the reasons for my insistence that the future as well as the present shall be considered. I regard the matter of time as only relatively important in nation-building; therefore, we must always build for the future as well as for the present. If we are to build for the future in thi* industry, we cannot afford to have national interests hamstrung by being in conflict with the interests of monopolistic enterprises overseas. I hope to be able to show the association between those two, in the control of production. If the Minister can prove that I am wrong, I shall be happy to accept the correction. The Commonwealth Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Premier of Tasmania, in a joint statement, said -
On the advice of the great enterprises, it has been decided to establish the industry in Tasmania, mainly because cheap power is available, and power plus raw material is a big factor in the cost of production.
I remark here that possibly enterprises are great because they are successful. It is news to me that the executives of such enterprises are in the habit of giving gratuitous advice which is not in some way related to their own interests, particularly to prospective competitors. Apart from that, we have no fault to find with the general reason for the establishment of the industry in Tasmania, except that power represents only from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent, of the cost of manufacture of aluminium. We fully agree that anything which will reduce the cost of production of a peacetime industry is of the greatest importance. The intrinsic value of war-time industries is not considered to the same degree, and the psychological effect on the growing generation, whose only experience has been in war-time industries, is to create a false idea of values. The sooner we realize the necessity to relate selling values to production costs, the better will it be for Australia generally. Whilst agreeing that power is a factor which must be considered, we say that the fundamentals in aluminium production are the alumina, the electrodes, and the ingredient named cryolite which transforms the alumina into metal. Cryolite is produced in Greenland, and without it or an effective substitute no country can continue to manufacture aluminium. I ask honorable members to keep that point in mind, because I shall return to it later. In order to emphasize the points that I shall make, I have been permitted by Mr. Speaker to illustrate by means of exhibits some of the processes in the manufacture of aluminium. I first show to honorable members a sample of bauxite. The next sample - a pure white substance - is the alumina extract from the bauxite. The third is the finished ingot; and the final sample is the processing material - synthetic cryolite, an Australian production which has never been investigated by the experts. Its effect is seen in the finished ingot. These samples are the product of Austraiian ingenuity. From the raw material to the fabricated ingot they have been processed, from Australian materials, which have not been investigated by the Government experts. It would be impossible to have anything purer than this aluminium ingot. The Premier and Attorney-General of Tasmania, in a joint statement, said that the industry would be established on the unshakeable foundation of proven facts, and not on the mere hopes of experimenters. I ask honorable members whether these samples represent proven fact or figments of the imagination. I mention these matters in order to bring out the point that the Australian industry is not being investigated as much as it ought to be. The materials which I have shown to honorable members are the work of these mere experimenters, whose guidance the Government thought it could do without. I contradict the statement of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) that no one has attempted to establish an aluminium industry in Australia. The interests to which I have referred made frequent application to the Commonwealth Government for the right to manufacture ingot aluminium in Australia. Their nearest approach to success was during the regime of the Fadden Government, but before finality could be reached in the negotiations that government was defeated. Every approach that has been made to the present Government has been negative in result, possibly because the establishment of the industry would involve the raising of money, about which the Treasurer would have something to say. We are not complaining of that, but we are complaining that those who are experts on Australian conditions have not been consulted. Reference has been made to a manufacturing plant which might be obtained in England. Why is it available? Most probably because it is obsolete. The English process is obsolete so far as Australian condition? are concerned. The Bayer process, which was invented. in 1866, is still suitable in England, but it would not be suitable for Australia. That is the opinion of the experts. The Government should go a little deeper into this matter, and see for itself how the work is being done in Australia. tn order to illustrate the cost factor m manufacture, I propose to place before honorable members a further exhibit. This object which I hold in my hand is a miniature model of the furnace in which aluminium is smelted. I have here a carbon electrode of which 1 ton is required for every ton of metal smelted. It will probably have to be imported, though it is possible to make it in Australia. The next sample is the alumina, and in another jar is a sample of cryolite, the essential ingredient which is produced in Greenland, although, as I have explained, there is a synthetic product, which can be made in Australia, that serves the same purpose. Through the agency of the electrodes, the cryolite becomes a molten mass. The alumina is poured on it, and the effect is that the oxygen is dissipated, and the metal remains at the bottom of the furnace. Four cwt. of cryolite is required for every ton of metal produced. Thus, for every 10,000 tons of aluminium produced in Australia we shall need i0,000 tons of carbon and 2,000 tons of cryolite. If these ingredients, amounting to 12,000 tons, have to be imported, this factor will go a long way towards dissipating any advantage which we may enjoy from the possession of cheap electric power in Tasmania, Victoria or anywhere else. Cryolite is produced in Greenland, and without it or some acceptable substitute, aluminium cannot be produced. Strangely enough. cry oli te, this essential ingredient, iscontrolled by Alcoa, the Aluminium Corporation of America. If I may paraphrase a well-known social credit slogan, let me say that he who controls the production and distribution of cryolite also controls the production of aluminium in the world. Thus, our production of aluminium in Australia will not be dictated by our needs, or by the quantity we can sell, but by the quantity of this cryolite which will be made available to us. In other words, we shall be dependent for production on the goodwill of our chief competitors. I do not think that there is any escape from that fact. I am waiting to hear this assertion denied - that it is proposed to obtain supplies of cryolite from elsewhere.
Thus, my objections to the present proposal are, first, that we are too much dependent on overseas supplies of processing materials, and that these supplies may easily be cut off in time of war. Judging from our experience in this war, it is reasonable to suppose that Australia will be thrown on its own resources for a considerably longer period in a future War. Therefore, we should not allow ourselves to be dependent on overseas supplies of processing materials. I can imagine the Minister saying that the Government has entered into agreements for the supply of necessary materials, but agreements run out and have to be renewed, and this benevolent institution, the aluminium combine, will insist that the agreement, if renewed, shall be to its own liking.
My second objection is that the bill appears to limit the proposal to the production of aluminium ingots, whereas I believe that it should provide for the fabrication of the ingots. Even if it were not intended to use the power, it would be a safeguard to have it included in the bill. The third objection is that the bill specifically refers to “ ingot aluminium “. Here I quote the opinion of a metallurgist as follows: -
Just what is meant by this peculiar phrase ingot aluminium”? Strictly it means pure aluminium. Metal lurgically this would be 99.99 per cent. aluminium. Metal of such purity is expensive to produce, and is only used in relatively small quantities in commerce. Much aluminium produced is known as98 per cent. and the balance consists of other metals not necessarily regarded as impurities, in fact their presence is advantageous and necessary in the production of most of the widely used aluminium alloys. Again, much of the widely used aluminium alloys are produced directly in the aluminium smelters, and they are very profitable products, from the aluminium manufacturers’ viewpoint, but it is evident from the precise wording of the bill that the commission is not empoweredto make aluminium alloy.
The fourth point refers to the fabrication of the aluminium after we have made the ingots. Incidentally, this brings to my mind another matter, about which the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) may know something. There has been much talk in the press lately about the fabrication plant which has been established at heavy cost, and this talk leads one to the belief that it may be sold in certain circumstances. The prospective buyer of such an enterprise must have the money, and the incentive to buy. I understand that the fabrication of our ingots will be undertaken by a Sydney firm known as the Australian Aluminium Company. I have no doubt that this is a most estimable company, and that it would do, a good job. However, when we are considering the setting up of an Australian industry, it is our duty to study the composition of such a firm as this, and when we do so we find that only one-third of the shares are held in Australia, whereas one-third are held by the Aluminium Company of Canada, and one-third by the Aluminium Company of England. Both the Canadian and English companies are components of the world aluminium combine. Therefore. I repeat that we appear to be delivering ourselves into the hands of the overseas combines. The crux of my criticism is that without Australian processing materials our production will be controlled from overseas. There is a provision in the bill for the sale of this undertaking. By a decision of both Houses of Parliament, the enterprise may bo sold, apparently to the exclusion of the equal partner in the enterprise, the Tasmanian Government.
– It cannot be sold without the consent of this Parliament, and that means it will not be sold without the’ consent of the Tasmanian Government.
-I shall leave that point for consideration by honorable members who represent Tasmanian constituencies. It has been proposed that the whole matter be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation. I do not know whether the Tariff Board investigates the economics of proposed industries, and it seems to me that failing such an inquiry by the Tariff Board, an all-party committee of this Parliament should be appointed to make an investigation. I believe that I have raised enough points to warrant an investigation by such a committee. It would have power to take public evidence and report to this Parliament. Honorable members would then be in a position to vote with confidence on a measure -which may be destined to play an important part in Australian development.
.- 1 support the proposal of the Government to establish the aluminium ingot industry in Australia. I think that the Government is actuated principally by defence needs. The Opposition astutely sidestepped that aspect. It is not surprising that members of the Opposition, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), do not want to canvass the defence aspect of this measure, because, whan this party took office, most industries, particularly the metallurgical industries, were in such a state that had we not been able to import metals from overseas, our chances of defending this country would have been meagre. I shall not spend much time on that aspect, because I also intend to deal with the economic aspect. “We had from the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) a laboratory demonstration of and lecture on the manufacture of aluminium by a process which is obsolete in Great Britain and America, but the American process is not the only process. I have recollections of a similar demonstration in the laboratory of the Sydney Technical College in 1941, when Dr. Penfold and Dr. Murphy, a clever metallurgist with a European degree and a world-wide reputation, set up a pilot plant to produce aluminium from Australian bauxite. I admit that he used some imported cryolite, but the Ministry of Munitions display in Sydney contains samples of synthetic cryolite produced by
Australian manufacturers. iSo our dependence on potential competitors for cryolite is not of such great import. It i* no more important than our ability to get magnesium for the manufacture of aluminium alloys. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Commonwealth Government should look for information overseas, where success has been made of the commercial manufacture of aluminium. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the President of the United States of America, Mr. Roosevelt, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, had great difficulty in handling the companies that had created a monopoly in the manufacture of aluminium. He was compelled to establish a commission to advise on ways and means of either getting control of those companies or finding a substitute for aluminium in the manufacture of aircraft. The commission concentrated on the production of magnesium, a. lighter metal, as a substitute for aluminium, and, after eighteen months of experimental work, it announced to the President that’ it was prepared to go ahead with the manufacture of magnesium on a commercial scale. ‘The difficulties that, I understand, were encountered by the Government of the United States of America when it tried to control the operations of the aluminium manufacturing companies arose out of the control of natural deposits of bauxite.. As has been said by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), the principal sources of bauxite for the manufacture in the United States of aluminium are in British and Dutch Guiana. Apparently, the companies had tied up all the leases in those countries and the Government was not able quickly to obtain a lease with a rich deposit of bauxite. We, fortunately, are much more favorably situated, because we have rich deposits of bauxite in practically every State of the Commonwealth. It has been said by the honorable member for Gippsland that we may face difficulties in . the manufacture of aluminium because some ingredient in the manufacture may be held by a potential competitor. In that case, we shall have to adopt exactly the same tactics as were adopted by the
President of the United States of America, who refused to allow his Government to he held in pawn by any private company or international cartel. It was his responsibility to ensure that, if the American people were thrown on their own resources for their defence, they should have at their disposal all the elements necessary for that defence. Consequently, he tackled- the big international cartels as we shall have to do.
As the manufacture of aluminium is impracticable without cryolite, so aluminium alone will not make us independent in the construction of aircraft. When the American commission evolved ways and means of using the light metal, magnesium, it was found that it was an indispensable associate of aluminium and neither a competitor nor a substitute. Magnesium has certain qualities which made it ideal for blending with aluminium as an alloy, but it cannot act as a substitute for aluminium any more than aluminium can act as a substitute for magnesium, because it must be remembered that magnesium is a war metal which has its own uses. It is used extensively in flares, smoke bombs and fire bombs. It has pyrotechnic qualities. Its ignition point is much lower than that of aluminium, and, if it were used alone to a great degree, it might catch fire and, instead of being a help, it would be a hindrance in the particular -job that it was designed to do. It was found that a proper balance had to be kept between the quantities of aluminium and other light metals associated with the construction of aircraft and other munitions of war. The fact that the Government of the United States of America was able to produce sufficient quantities of aluminium from its own resources, plus the fact that it devised ways and means for manufacturing extensive quantities of magnesium, made it independent of the great international cartel. We can place ourselves in the same position, because we do not require tremendous quantities of aluminium, and, if we are precluded from obtaining the natural cryolite, we have the necessary ingredients for the manufacture of synthetic cryolite and the knowledge and technique to do the job.
With regard to the prospective market for aluminium in peace-time, some people seem to have the idea that the only use for aluminium is in the construction of aircraft and that because the American demand for aluminium has decreased, the world demand for aluminium will be scant when the war is over. But let us remember this fact. If the United States could afford the man-power to use the scrap aluminium and the surplus aluminium from the war plants for the production of peace-time goods such as kitchen utensils, there would still be a demand for the output of all their factories. In the home, many aluminium utensils are used. Some of them may have holes in them which have been plugged with a screw, rivet or solder. The housewife cannot discard them, because she cannot replace them. Nations at war cannot afford to allocate manpower for the production of kitchen utensils and the like, but those goods normally represent an enormous proportion of the aluminium trade. More tuan 50 per cent, of the world’s aluminium before the war was used for household purposes. All of that “ slack “ must be taken up and in addition, new and expanding markets will create a big demand. That there will be an avenue for the employment of the surplus aluminium from the war factories is certain.
Aluminium will also be required m large quantities in the expansion of the use of electricity transmission lines and electrical equipment. I have been studying the McGowan Report on the supply of electricity in Great Britain. This is a survey of the present-day problems of the industry, with proposals for the reorganization of electricity distribution. The report stated that about 150,000 tons of steel and 12,000 tons of Scottish aluminium were required for the overhead lines for “gridding” England with electrical transmission lines. Thousands of tons of aluminium will be required for a further extension of the “ grid “. When the electrification of railways is extended, all the aluminium produced by factories in Great Britain will not be able to supply the demand. Yet we hear the cry, “ What are you going to do with the surplus aluminium from the war factories, because their capacity is so great? “ I have given the answer.
Regarding the cost of production, many “ little Australians “ always decry any attempt to establish a new industry in Australia. I shall not discuss their motives for doing so, but it is known that Australian bauxite, dolomite, and, alunite are as rich as those of any other country. Some of our small deposits are even richer than those which occur elsewhere. At Trundle, in my electorate, this ore occurs on the surface. The question has been asked, “ Can we generate electricity in. Australia as cheaply as it is generated in other countries?” I have obtained some statistics from an English publication dealing with the supply of electricity in Great Britain. At only 15 out of 241 electrical generating plants examined was the cost per unit, excluding the capital cost, less than .2d. The figure rose to as much as 4d. a unit. Regarding the bulk supply cost, including the amount necessary for overhead and to provide a fair profit, only 13 out of 552 undertakings could produce electricity for less than 3d. a unit. The significant point is that England manufactured aluminium, using electrical power at that price. Compared with those figures, the Bunnerong powerhouse in New South Wales, with steam generation, produces electrical power at 114d. a unit and the cost increases in other undertakings to .117d. a unit. In those circumstances, is it not necessary for us to develop this industry in Australia ?
The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) said that the price suggested in Tasmania for hydro-electric generation is .Id. a unit, and stated that every increase of .Id. a unit in the cost of the supply of bulk electricity means the addition of £10 a ton to the cost of the mineral. From those facts honorable members can imagine what the cost of the production of aluminium in England is. We had to start the production of steel under great difficulties, and we experienced several failures before the industry was placed on a commercial basis. We shall be able to produce aluminium in this country more cheaply than Great Britain produces it. The use of aluminium and electricity is tied up as inextricably as the use of air power and land power in war. As we develop electricity transmission, we shall create a new demand for aluminium. All modern transmission lines contain a big percentage of aluminium. . This metal is used in transformers, and many phases of electrical development. As we proceed with the erection of more electrical power plants in-Australia, it will be our object to supply power to the rural industries. We shall introduce into the manufacture of secondary goods the most economical power unit, namely, electricity. Yet honorable members opposite ask whether there will be a sufficient demand for our aluminium to justify the establishment of the industry in Tasmania ! The question of whether it is in the’ interests of the country to make the industry a national project, rather than leave it to private enterprise, does not require much consideration when we recall what happened when the United States of America was attacked by Japan. The big international cartels, which had a large manufacturing plant in America, could not bear to sacrifice any of their commercial interests in the cause of patriotism. I trust that the Government will not be diverted from its purpose, or let any side issues interfere with its decision to make the manufacture of aluminium in Australia an accomplished fact. Having regard to all the information which the Government has at its disposal, I believe that the site for the works in Tasmania could not be improved.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) negatived:–
That the debate be now adjourned.
. He tore the measure to shreds, and proved that the Government did not blow the first thing’ about this subject. He completely demolished every one of the light metal arguments put up by the Government.
– The honorable member evidently did not listen to the speech of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen).
– The Labour party did not pay any more attention to the honorable member for Calare to-night than it usually does.
– There were some exceptions on this side of the House who were grossly rude to the honorable member.
– 1 know that the honorable member for Batman is always an exception. He should be Master of the Oddfellows over a period of years. I have gained some knowledge of these hybrid organizations, and it goes without saying, and is proved beyond doubt, that if ever some one wants to establish a monopoly, trust or combine to fasten upon the flesh 0f the people of this country, he should not approach the political party which I represent, but should wait until a Labour government is in office. Here, to-night, we have had a little talk about how this proposal will affect Tasmania. One Minister waxed exceedingly eloquent and extremely red on this subject this evening, in telling us how this industry would benefit Tasmania. From the point of view of the Opposition, that has nothing to do with the subject. The honorable member for Gippsland showed clearly that there was no justification whatever for establishing the industry. No proper inquiry has been made. We were told this evening that the decision to establish this industry in Tasmania was made by Senator McBride while he was in ministerial office, and that it was based on war-time needs. The war has moved considerably in both time and space since then. It is strange, however, that the decision that was made three years ago has not been implemented long before this. We find that the industry is still in its swaddling clothes, although the Government is reaching middle age. On the average, every government has reached middle age by the time it has been three years in office. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) almost wept this afternoon in describing the importance of this industry, yet more than three long, weary years have passed and the Government has done next to nothing about it.
Not one fact of any consequence has been advanced to demonstrate the need for immediate action to establish, the industry in Tasmania or elsewhere. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that 25,000 tons of bauxite had been imported from Sumatra by the previous Government, but the right honorable gentleman did not state the reason why this was done. It was left for the Leader of the Australian Country party to do that, and he told us that in 1940, at a time when I held ministerial office, Australia bought every scrap of chromium, nickel, and, in fact, everything else it could buy from New Caledonia.
– On the advice of Sir Ronald Charles.
– It could also be stated that in 1941 we bought from the Netherlands East Indies all available supplies of quinine, rubber and everything else that the authorities there had to sell, in order to prevent the goods from passing into the hands of the Japanese. Surely, that was a reasonable thing to do; I am defending the action. I say that the bauxite was bought for the same reason, and the fact that it has been lying in Australia ever since does not affect the issue. I remind the AttorneyGeneral that if the decision to establish this industry was made by Senator McBride it must have been made after the 27th October, 1940, when I left office, and before the 3rd October, 1941, when the Government with which the right honorable member is associated assumed office. Those are two cardinal dates which, if the Attorney-General’s statement is correct, show the period within which Senator McBride’s decision was made.
– That is quite correct. The honorable member was not a member of the Menzies Government when the decision was made. ‘
– No doubt some decisions that were made bv the previous Government have been implemented by this Government; at any rate, I hope so.
– The Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member was in office for two years and it did nothing to establish this’ industry.
– My point is that it has taken this Government more than three years to do anything about a decision by Senator McBride of which it apparently approved. Any snail would be ashamed of such a pace.
I propose to direct attention to a few enterprises with which Commonwealth governments have been associated in order to show that they have not achieved anything like the results expected of them. I refer, first, to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. It was managed by the Commonwealth Government for some time after the war, but as a loss of £2i20,000 was incurred in a relatively short period, the dockyard was handed back to private enterprise, which not only made it profitable, but, after some time, paid rentals to the Government in respect of the property. I recall, next, a proposal to establish a company known as the National Oil Proprietary Limited to exploit the Newnes oil shale deposits. Arguments similar to those used this evening by honorable members opposite in regard to bauxite deposits were used at that time in regard to oil shale deposits. Figures were produced during our debates in 1937 to show that Australian shale contained a greater percentage of oil than that of any other country in the world. It is well for us to consider what happened on that occasion, for it should influence us in dealing with this bill. With other members of the Australian Country party, of which I was then a member, I opposed that measure and, in so doing, was associated with members of the Labour party. The company was established by the contribution of capital totalling’ £167,000 by Mr. G. F. Davis of the Davis Gelatine Company, £166,000 by the Government of New South Wales, and £334,000 by the Commonwealth Government. Many concessions were granted to the organization in the form of bounties, remissions of duty on certain oil products and the like. The company contracted to produce 10,000,000 gallons of crude oil per annum. But during a period when this country has desperately needed oil its maximum production has been 2,000,000 gallons per annum, although the Commonwealth ‘Government has sunk huge sums of money in the venture since its inception. The arguments which are being used in opposition to this bill were used - and rightly used - in 1937 by the Labour party to damn the bill to establish the National Oil Proprietary Limited, but now the scene has changed. The Labour party is the dispenser of gifts, the creator of monopolies and the producer of trusts, combines, cartels, and practically everything else which its policy has condemned from beginning to end. Every one knows what is behind this proposal. The name has been used of a gentleman who accompanied the Attorney -^General overseas on more than one occasion. Perhaps he is packing his bag to proceed overseas again with the right honorable gentleman.
– That is a preposterous suggestion.
– If there is to be another Robinson Crusoe, it is only right that the aluminium industry should be established on an island. The first ingot produced should be used to press out passes for honorable members for use on the national airways after the interstate airlines have been properly nationalized.
I bring to the remembrance of honorable members, now, the circumstances of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Is there one honorable gentleman who would say that this company has done a single thing for the benefit of the oil consumers of Australia? Although the Commonwealth Government contributed 51 per cent, of the capital of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, we know that the organization is a member of the international oil trust, combine, cartel, or whatever you care to call it. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is another hybrid in which the Commonwealth holds the majority of shares. It was supposed to devote one-half of its attention to manufacturing, and one-half to international tele-communications, but we all know that it has run counter to government policy during the war, particularly with regard to telecommunications with Japan. Let me remind honorable gentlemen, too, of one of the latest embarkations on enterprises of this description. I refer to the establishment of power alcohol distilleries. No clear statement has been made on this subject on behalf of the Government for a long time. The only actual fact we have is that a power alcohol distillery was established at Warracknabeal, in the electorate of the honorable member forWimmera (Mr. Wilson) at a time when the Government was dependent upon his vote and the vote of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles).
– That was pretty good strategy !
– But it is not political strategy that the Government should be considering at this time; it is the welfare of the country.
– In the sense in which the honorable member for Bass has used the word “ strategy “, it is only another name for bribe.
– I refer now to the coal-mining industry, concerning which the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) had something to say. We have some of the richest coal seams in the world at Newcastle. Yet we are faced with what seems to be an everlasting problem in the shortage of coal. We have no grounds whatever for concluding that happenings in the coalmining industry at Newcastle may not be repeated in the aluminium industry in Tasmania or wherever else it may be established in Australia. If the Government desires this industry to be launched successfully, can it find any brighter lighthouse to steer by than the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited - an enterprise which the Acting Prime Minister has said recently the Government intends to nationalize? If the Government is sincere in its desire to establish the aluminium industry let it adopt the pattern of that company. I remind honorable members that when the Government desired to establish the aircraft manufacturing industry in Australia it turned to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. In this instance, however, it is adopting the old practice of taking a million or so of the taxpayers’ money for experimental purposes.
I am not opposed to the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia, but I say that the Government has not made proper inquiries into the subject. This was proved conclusively by the honorable member for Gippsland. I consider that the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) should be agreed to, and I shall support it. An inquiry should be made by the Tariff Board to ascertain whether it would be economic to establish this industry, and whether it is necessary to do so. The facts on the subject should be submitted to us, and we should also seek some advice as to the best location for the industry in order that it may meet, to the fullest possible degree, the defence needs of the country. I question whether that has been done. I do not think that any Minister can assure the Opposition that it has been. Let us consider some of the other international implications. It is all very well to cite the Atlantic Charter, and to talk about the great brotherhood of nations after this war. I do not believe that very much will come of it, because I am too well versed in the history of the world. But I do say that if the Government wished to do something that would wreck certain of our export industries, this would appear to be a very effective method to adopt. I am told that our pre-war imports were almost exclusively of sheet aluminium for manufacturing purposes, and that they came almost wholly from the United Kingdom and Canada. If this industry is established, we shall strike a blow not at the American aluminium industry - which the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) cited so effectively - but at the aluminium industry established in the United Kingdom and Canada. It is only reasonable to suppose that if, in the postwar world, the principle of economic nationalism which was condemned so vigorously before this war broke out, were again to be operated as a national policy by the Commonwealth Government, certain of our export industries would suffer in consequence. This very day, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) introduced a bill to extend the operation of the Wine Export Bounty Act, which deals with a big export, particularly in my State. In the export of dried fruits and wines, we enjoy to-day a very considerable tariff preference in both the United Kingdom and Canada. If, without consultation, and without consideration of the ultimate result of the steps we are about to take, we were to injure certain export industries of the United. Kingdom and Canada, it is only reasonable to expect that they would review their attitude in regard to certain of our exports. The whole matter of international trade will resolve the future of the world for a number of years after the present struggle has terminated. If we are to revert to a position in which every country will act for self-security at all costs, and manufacture everything it wants regardless of cost - as it would appear the Commonwealth Government proposes to do by means of this legislation - then we can expect that sooner or later other countries will show their resentment effectively by proposals aimed at the export industries of Australia. I submit that the Government has not established a case for the passage of the bill. The measure has certain very clear defects, which were exposed fully by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) . Honorable members opposite are not free to say in this House to-night what they think about the bill. Before it proceeds any further, it ought to go to the only place in which are made decisions of which the Government takes notice; that is, the caucus. Members of the Australian Labour party, many of whom are here for their only term, should take the opportunity of doing the right thing. I notice a smile on the face of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Eraser). I include him in that observation. I shall name his successor now, if he wants to hear it. These matters are important. The Government cannot argue on the premise of war. The bill has no more to do with the prosecution of the war in which we are engaged than 1 have to do with the moon. It has been shown that two years will be needed to establish a battery capable of producing ingot aluminium. It is not to be expected that the ‘Government will make a start until after the new year; therefore, it will be 1947, at the earliest, before anything can be done. Meantime, expenditure will be incurred, and decisions will be made in regard to location and the mining of the raw material, which may vitally affect
Ifr. Archie Cameron. the future of the whole concern. If the industry is to be founded - I am not opposed to that - it ought to be after a proper inquiry by competent men, not on a snap decision of the Parliament, dominated by a two-thirds majority of a party which got into by power by accident and has not paid the slightest attention; in detail, to the principles and the implications of what is proposed- under this hastily drafted legislation.
.- We have heard a most remarkable speech by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who said very little about aluminium, but took us for a cruise around Cockatoo Island Dockyard and other enterprises; and in so doing poured ridicule on this project, entirely ignoring all Government undertakings which, established on a competitive basis and operating on world markets, are doing a very valuable service for this country. I instance the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory, of which the honorable member may have some knowledge.
The bill has inspired some good speeches, in which I include the speech of the honorable member for Calare, (Mr. Breen), who, I consider, effectively answered- the argument of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). Fundamentally, the opposition to this mea’sure arises from the fact that the project is to be undertaken by the Governments of the Commonwealth and Tasmania. It is all very well to disclaim opposition to the establishment of the aluminium industry. Had there been no opposition to it, the parties which now occupy the Opposition benches could have taken action in regard to it long ago. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and others, have said that the matter ought, to be referred to the Tariff Board, on the ground that it has not been sufficiently investigated. In my view, that is one “of the “red herrings” that are being drawn across the trailAny old stick will do to beat a dog. In this instance, the dog is represented by the aluminium industry. The prospects of. this industry have been carefully investigated not only by Ministers, but also by executive officers of the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments. It is significant that even that most conservative body, the Legislative Council of Tasmania, has approved the expenditure of money on this project. It may be well to study the background of aluminium production throughout the world. Aluminium is now a commodity of major importance, yet it is only a little over 50 years since it was a laboratory curiosity. The growth of the use of this metal in that short period is without parallel in the records of modern industry. The cheap and efficient production of aluminium is a matter of consequence in the economy of industrial nations. A considerable number of resources and materials arc involved in its manufacture, and upon their proper organization depends the success or failure of this important industry, and its subsidiaries. An efficient Australian aluminium industry, capable of meeting the demands of war, is acknowledged in many quarters as a necessity, whilst the Tasmanian resources and environment are eminently suitable for economical and successful operation. In time of peace, as well as in time of war, Australia should be made as self-sufficient as possible in supplies of this important metal. Since its advent as a commercial metal in 1890 aluminium has been in great demand, despite the extraordinary increases of the world production of this metal. During the last war the production of aluminium increased by about 200 per cent, compared with the 1914 output. At the end of the war large stocks of the metal were on hand, but the demand, for it was so great that in 1921 - the year of the bottom of the postwar slump - production was appreciably higher than in 1914. The world production of aluminium in 1914 was 69,000 tons; by 1921 it had reached 75,000 tons. Although the consumption of this metal declined between 1929 and 1933, that decline was not comparable with- the falling off of consumption of other basic metals. During the five years 1925-29, prior to the depression, the average annual world production, of aluminium amount to 223,500 tons. During the fiveyear period from 1930 to 1934: - the depression years- the average annual world production of aluminium was 189,000’ tons, a reduction of 16 per cent. During the same period the world production of copper was reduced by 20 per cent, under an international agreement. Owing to its many qualities, aluminium, including alloys with other metals, has many uses. It is flexible and light, and has high electrical conductivity, and so new uses for it are continually being found until to-day it has 260 distinct major uses. During my recent trip abroad I had the privilege of learning a good deal of the uses of aluminium in other countries. It is interesting to note that in Canada and the United States of America aluminium is being used in large quantities to replace steel in the construction of bridges. Aluminium has been used to replace steel decking girders on a bridge at Pittsburgh. It is considered that after the war aluminium will capture 2 per cent, of the uses of steel for heavy industry purposes. Indeed, the possibilities of the greater use of this metal are almost limitless. I foresee the time when there will be such a demand for it that our output will not cope with it. I regard as pessimists those who are not prepared to face realities and world trends in the use of this metal. Aluminium is continually entering new fields, its development having coincided with an increased demand for lighter materials, particularly for ais transport and for heavy moving parts. It is reliably reported in the United States of America that aluminium is being extensively used in the manufacture of railway equipment and that several complete trains of aluminium alloys have been fabricated. Moving bridges, lock gates, and heavy moving cranes are also being built of aluminium alloys, and, as I have stated, its high electrical conductivity has led to its being increasingly used for the manufacture of electrical cables in place of heavier and more corrodable copper cables. That aspect of the use of this material was enlarged upon by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) in his excellent contribution to this debate. The aircraft and automobile industries use aluminium in large quantities, and more recently shipbuilding and other transport industries have followed their example. At the moment, it is impossible to forecast any diminution of the number of new uses for this metal. With a lowering of the price, following increased production, aluminium is becoming a strong competitor of steels, bronzes and brasses. In the light of experience and the certain expansion of the field of uses for aluminium there should be little fear that any wartime surpluses will not be readily sought by manufacturers in peace-time. The use of aluminium in Australia has closely followed world trends. As in other countries, the consumption in Australia has grown considerably during the war. Whereas in 1919-20 only 36 tons of aluminium was imported into Australia, by 1938-39 the quantity imported had increased to 1,320 tons. A survey of postwar requirements which was recently made by Commonwealth officers indicates that provision should be made for an annual consumption cif 6,000 tons of aluminium. In his second-reading speech on this bill the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) said: “ The indications are that this will be greatly increased during the time required to construct and bring our plan into full production”. Tasmania possesses many advantages for the production of aluminium, advantages which are not completely shared by any other State. Every ton of aluminium ingots produced requires 4 horse-power of electrical power, and therefore a unit for the production of 10,000 tons of ingot per annum would require 40,000 horsepower. This power will be available in Tasmania at a price comparable with that which applies to the large aluminium plants in Canada and the United States of America. Nowhere else in Australia is there sufficient power available for this purpose at the present time, nor could it be supplied at anything like a comparable price. The effect which the price of electricity has upon the economics of this industry may be gathered from the fact that each .Id. a unit means an addition of approximately £10 a ton to the cost of the metal. With the inevitable expansion of the industry and its subsidiary undertakings more electrical power will be required. As there is no other State in the Commonwealth possessing the potential hydro-electric power resources of Tasmania, its choice for the major electrolytic operations of the industry cannot be questioned if a long-range policy is adopted. The raw materials are available in substantial quantities in most parts of the State. Both in the north and south of the island, there are bauxite deposits in close proximity to deep-water ports. There are also ample supplies of water and of electric power. If it is decided to use Victorian, bauxite it can be conveyed by sea and unloaded at a deep-water port in northern Tasmania. These are natural advantages enjoyed by Tasmania, and they should be taken into consideration. We should avail ourselves fully of the advantages with which Nature has endowed the country. During his- speech this afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to the manufacture of aluminium as an essentially North American industry. As a matter of fact, the industry is not by any means confined to North America. The importance of aluminium has caused practically every country possessing a heavy engineering industry to make some provision for its production. Prior to the war there were plants in the following countries: - United States of America, Canada, Prance, Germany, .Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain, Norway, Italy, Russia, India, Japan and Hungary. It is significant that several of the plants had a much smaller reported pre-war capacity than the one at present under consideration for the Commonwealth namely, 10,000 tons a year. For example, the Austrian plant had a capacity for the production of 2,100 tons a year and the Japanese plant of 4,000 tons a year. The Indian and Hungarian plants were even smaller. Whilst some of these industries did receive government assistance, it is known that others, including the Indian undertaking, are solely commercial concerns. It would appear that provided the cost of electrical power is comparable with that available in other producing countries, there is a favorable background for the economic production of aluminium in the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) argued that it would be better to build up an aluminium stock-pile than to establish an industry here for the manufacture of aluminium. With this I disagree. In view of the Commonwealth’s experiences during the past three years nobody could consider as at all adequate a stock-pile of less than 20,000 tons of metal. This would be almost a dangerous minimum. Even if this quantity of metal were obtained at the very low price of £75 a ton, that is, £20 less than the 1939 price, it would cost £1,500,000, or half the estimated cost of the new industry when it is fully developed. Storage, interest and insurance charges on such a stock-pile may b” conservatively estimated at £60,000 a year.
While the Commonwealth is dependent upon overseas supplies of metal it is subject to price arrangements quite beyond its control. In spite of the fact that the Government invested £1,000,000 in the new aluminium plant at Arvida, Canada, in company with the United Kingdom and Canadian Governments, it is at the mercy of price fixing by cartel. The base price to Australia was fixed at 17 cents a pound, but owing to the existence of a special clause in the agreement under which a premium may be fixed on the cost of production, the price was raised to 21 cents for the first three months of 1944. This rise of price to Australia coincided with a reduction of price to Canada and the United States of America.
It might well be impossible to add to a stock-pile from overseas sources after the outbreak of war. In spite of arrangements made for supplies of Canadian aluminium during this war it was reliably stated by the Director of the Department of Aircraft Production, that at. times there were only two to three weeks’ supply of aluminium in the Commonwealth. The shortage became so acute that a drive for the surrender of pots and pans and scrap aluminium had to be instituted. A local plant can be designed to enable production to be rapidly increased, 1but it is not possible to keep replenishing a stock-pile from distant overseas sources. We must remember that the advent of the flying bomb has made the destruction of the American aluminium plants a future possibility.
The bauxite industry was established in 1922, and was used for the manu facture of chemicals such as aluminium sulphate and alum. This industry received considerable protection from the Scullin Government, which enabled it to extend and supply the whole of Australia’s demands. When the Ottawa Agreement was entered into, the tariff on this particular industry was slashed by the Bruce-Page Government, of which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was then the Minister for Trade and Customs. But for the strength the industry developed under the protection granted by the Scullin Government, investigation into Australian bauxite reserves would not have been possible. Therefore, the argument of the honorable member falls to the ground. I support the bill. I hope that it will be passed, and the Government thus enabled to proceed with its plans for the establishment of this industry. Like many other industries, this will probably have its. teething troubles; but so long as the Government resolutely tackles the problem, the people will eventually come to appreciate the Government’s initiative in undertaking this venture, just as they now appreciate its establishment of other industries which are operating to the great advantage of the nation.
– I am not surprised at the poor standard of the speeches delivered by supporters of the Government on this measure. Honorable members opposite have been given no facts on which to base their support of this project. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) in his second -reading speech dealt only in broad generalities. He gave no indication as to how the industry was to be established and run, or of the cost involved. It is true that the Attorney-General *(Dr. Evatt)** came into bat very late in the innings, and endeavoured to recover the position for the Government by giving facts and figures, which, however, were obviously hastily compiled by departmental officers and did not convince the Attorney-General himself when he was reading them. He dealt first with the economic possibilities of this industry. He dealt at length with the volume of electric power that would be required to produce aluminium ingots. However, after going to considerable pains to emphasize that point he said, that, of course, unpredictable factors might arise with the result that the original estimated cost of £3,000,000 might be exceeded. In that statement he is quite correct, because the establishment of an ingot industry is not the last cost in, the production of sheet aluminium. In order to develop this industry on a worth-while scale, the ingot aluminium will have to be rolled into various thicknesses to meet the requirements of the market available. This means that existing rolling mills will have to be expanded. Therefore, the establishment of this industry will involve considerable cost in adapting existing rolling plant. Further evidence that the main concern of the AttorneyGeneral was to endeavour to give some information to, the House upon which supporters of the Government could fasten their teeth was his statement that the Government had been offered the choice of a 5,000-ton or a 10,000-ton. plant from the United Kingdom. He explained that both plants had already been in use, but he could not say at the moment which of them would be required. The fact is that the Government does not know its mind in the matter. It does not know exactly where it is beading, or on what basis the industry should be established. I should like to know how the United Kingdom at the moment can offer to the Government the choice of plants mentioned. Is it because there is a surplus of production at present in the United Kingdom and these plants are being closed down, or is it simply a case of the United Kingdom selling a gold brick to this country which has barely cut its industrial teeth? If aluminium is in short supply, and is urgently required in countries situated much nearer than Australia to the theatres of war, how can the United Kingdom offer this choice of plants to Australia?
– Because this industry is necessary to the defence of Australia now and in the future.
– This proposal has nothing whatever to do with our war effort. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) knows very well that the industry will not come into product-ion for at least two years.
The facts placed before the House speak for themselves ; and, obviously, it is simply a case of the Government indulging in a gamble with £3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money. The AttorneyGeneral failed miserably to recover the position in this debate for the Government, because the proposal was just as clouded when he resumed his seat as it was when he rose to speak. I shall support the amendment and oppose the bill, because I believe that the Government is indulging in a great gamble at the taxpayers’ expense with money which could be better used for post-war purposes, and which would readily be subscribed by the people by way of loan for such purposes. This gamble is doomed to failure. The debate has been somewhat illuminating. We know that during the last election campaign the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) paid a hurried visit to Hobart, and, in order to entice Tasmanian voters to support the Government, promised expenditure of this sum for the establishment of this industry. We know that he promised Tasmania a £3,000,000 industry if the Government were returned to power. We know also that the Attorney-General went to Tasmania in an effort to convince the unconvincible Upper House in that State that it should pass the “ powers “ bill. He reduced the £3,000,000 to £1,500,000. Why is this bill introduced at this juncture? Is it because the Government is trying to honour a promise of a bribe to the people of Tasmania or because it is afraid its socialization programme, including the nationalization of hanking, has caused adverse comment in Tasmania and hopes by this measure to retrieve the position before the next general elections, which, I am inclined to think, will not be far away. Alternatively, is it to bring another Government-controlled business into being as a part of the plan of nationalization of industry. Is the Government saying : “ Here is something which private enterprise may establish as an industry and we are getting in first “ ? The Government should make it clear whether this measure is a part of its Socialist programme or the honouring of its promise of a bribe.
It is apparent to thoughtful people all over the world that, for a long time after the war, the resources of the world will need to be economically distributed. Indeed, the Atlantic Charter is based on that principle. That distribution will be effected by the three known methods of negotiations, trades agreement, and the interdependence of the Allied Nations. lt can be established that there is surplus production of aluminium and insufficient demand, regardless of what new markets are found. How can the economic resources of the world be distributed if an industry is developed in another country to expand the surplus? That applies to any commodity. How can Australia hope for trade agreements if we enter into the production of an already surplus commodity? The Government is placing the country in an absurd position on the eve of the close of a world war when there must be complete economic interdependence between countries in world trade. To prove the truth of my argument, we must examine the position of this industry. It has been necessary for honorable members to obtain the information they need to make an intelligent contribution to this debate from sources other than the Government. I have looked in vain at the second-reading speech of the Minister, and I have listened in patience to other speeches of honorable members opposite without gleaning one bit of information in. that respect. But that information is available and the Government should have transmitted it to the House. In the last quarter of 1943, production of aluminium in the United States of America exceeded consumption by 40,000,000 lb. a month. Production of aluminium has exceeded consumption to such a degree that it has been used for extraordinary purposes in an effort to get rid of it. For instance, the Allies used 100,000,000 lb. of aluminium as landing mates on beaches, a use never contemplated in the early days of war. Moreover, in an effort to restrict production in the United ‘States of America, fifteen production lines have been closed. The subject is worthy of the very closest attention in post-war planning. Owing to the war, the output of the aluminium industry has been expanded by about 1,500,000 tons. Honorable members must pause when they hear figures of such magnitude. It is proposed that this country should produce 5,000 or 10,000 tons a year of a commodity, the monthly production of which is already 40,000,000 lib. a month above requirements. When the war ends, there will be immense quantities of scrap aluminium which will have to be used in the manufacture of household commodities, to say nothing of unused aluminium. I listened with considerable interest to the speech of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who stated that girders could be manufactured from aluminium. Of course, some people are endeavouring to find uses for aluminium, because they have such huge surpluses of this metal that they must use it in some way. At present they are using it for wall decoration, hat linings, insulators and a multiplicity of other things. But every new venture in this respect means that the use of some other metal or material will be reduced.
I have already dealt with the great gamble in which the Government is indulging by investing over £1,000,000 in the aluminium ingot industry. The Government, which has heavy commitments in the conduct of the war, for social services and in post-war planning, cannot afford to waste money. It has no right to waste £1,500,000 of the taxpayers’ money in a venture of this nature.
Mi-. Mulcahy. - Who said that it will be wasted ?
– It will be wasted, because the Government does not know what the proposal involves. It has not told the House how it proposes to develop this scheme, or given an estimate of costs. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) even admitted that the Government does not yet know whether the industry will require a plant to manufacture 5,000 tons or 10,000 tons, or the best process for the production of aluminium. In fact, the Government is in an extraordinary position. Even the commission, which it appointed to control the industry, knows nothing about the subject. The Government is groping in the dark. To liquidate an obligation, it is prepared to pay £1,500,000 “ on the blind “. If the Government sincerely desired to obtain information upon the advisability of starting this industry, it could avail itself of the’ means already at its disposal.
Honorable members know that the Tariff Board has been used extensively by governments to advise them upon the establishment of new industries, and to recommend increases or decreases of the tariff. When the Acting Prime Minister was in Opposition, he pleaded With the Government, of which I was a member, to obtain from the Tariff Board a report upon every proposed new industry. If he had so much confidence in the Tariff Board then, the Government should see that an impartial inquiry is made into the economics of this proposed industry. The Tariff Board can take evidence for and against the proposal, examine the whole of the facts, and advise upon the importance of the industry from the stand-point of defence. If the Tariff Board were to report favorably upon the proposal, the Opposition would not resist the passage of the bill. But the Government is not prepared to risk a reference to the Tariff Board. 1 direct attention to the annual report of the board for the year 1939-40. Under the title of “Expansion of Industries under War and Post-war Conditions “, the following illuminating paragraph occurs : -
Expansion in the industrial field is highly desirable, and to be encouraged so long as it proceeds on sound lines. There is, however, always the danger that the protection afforded by the factors mentioned may result in the starting of industries which would have little or no prospect of surviving when the existing state of affairs has passed.
That paragraph should apply to this particular industry. The Government knows perfectly well that an impartial tribunal like the Tariff Board, acting upon those opinions, could not report other than adversely upon this proposal. Therefore, the Government is not prepared to take the risk of referring the matter to the board. The report continues -
Industries which it is proposed to establish during the war and proposed extensions of existing industries could be examined by the board with a view to their being classified into three classes -
Those which are desirable for permanent establishment in Australia and which should be assured of reasonable and adequate protection after the war.
Is it under that heading that the Government proposes to establish the aluminium ingot industry? The Tariff Board should first inquire into the economics of this proposal, because I believe the Government, by venturing into this field, will throw into the gutter £1,500,000 of the taxpayers’ money. The report proceeds -
As Ministers have claimed that this industry should be established for defence purposes, the Tariff Board could inquire into the proposal under that heading. But does the Government propose to invite the Tariff Board to make the investigation? Of course not! Ministers know that the industry which they are sponsoring will not be capable of supporting itself. They know that thisproposal is designed purely for the purpose of satisfying electors whose votes they have bought. They cannot justify their action. The report proceeds -
That is the category in which this industry should be placed. No valid argument can be adduced to support the contention that this bill should be proceeded with. I shall oppose the measure, and support the amendment. My reasons for doing so are, first, that no information has been given to the House to permit honorable members to make a fair and reasoned decision upon the proposal. Ministers have dissembled, contradicted earlier statements and been guilty of evasions. They declared that this industry was required for defence purposes, but when challenged they became evasive. From the beginning of the debate, honorable members opposite have followed the Government blindly. My second reason for opposing the bill is that I disagree entirely with the principle of government-controlled industry, regardless of the nature of the industry, because I believe that when the dead hand of government impresses itself upon an industry, we find decay and disintegration and every malpractice that may be associated with political preferment.
In that way one finds a complete wastage of the taxpayers’ money. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) furnished a classical example when he pointed to undertakings partly controlled by the Government which are part of great cartels and monopolies now operating. Yet the Government is sponsoring an undertaking which, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has pointed out, would not be able to produce 1 ton of aluminium without going cap in hand to that great combine, the Aluminium Company of America, for one of many essential fluxes. I believe that the industry has been conceived in an atmosphere of chicanery and intrigue. On the eve of the last general elections, a promise was made in Hobart by the Minister for Supply and Shipping to provide £3,000,000 for the establishment of the industry, and, on the eve of the recent referendum, the Attorney-General wrote that sum down by 50 per cent., and made an agreement for the provision of £1,500,000. Those facts lead me to believe that the scheme was conceived in an atmosphere of chicanery and intrigue.
Why should the Government gamble on this post-war project? New metals will be found in the post-war years. I believe that the three-ply structure of a Mosquito bomber is a development in aircraft manufacture that will be adapted to an extraordinary degree after the war. Not only will new metals be found, but plastics will come into their own. Many articles now being made of aluminium will be manufactured in the post-war years from plastics. Therefore, the Government should not gamble on the use of a metal of which there is a huge surplus throughout the world. If it be essential for Australia to have the aluminium necessary to build its own aeroplanes, I suggest that £3,000,000 could be expended to better advantage in the purchase of aluminium ingots which could be held in reserve. That would be preferable to opening up a huge drain through which the taxpayers’ money will ultimately be poured, leaving to a subsequent government the task of cleaning up the mess and restoring the position.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Morgan) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired - For Commonwealth purposes - Tocumwal, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Disposal of dead bodies.
Taking possession of land, &c. (23).
Use of land.
National Security (Man Power) Regula tions) - Orders - Protected undertakings (27).
National Security (Potatoes) Regulations -Order- No. 18.
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Order - No. 75.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. This matter is at present the subject of close investigation.
Hostel at Bulimba, Queensland.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Air. Lazzarini. - This matter comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Labour and National Service, who will supply the desired information as soon as possible.
y. - On the 16th November, 1944, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked me a question, without notice, relative to stocks of olive oil held in bond in Sydney.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that action has been taken with a view to specified quantities of olive oil being supplied to certain firms and wholesale druggists in Sydney for medicinal use at prices fixed by the Prices Commissioner.
Wine Export Bounty.
e - On the 17th November, “1944, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the following question, without notice : -
Does the Government intend to introduce a bill this session to extend the operation of the Wine Bounty Act which expires early next year ?
This matter has now been considered by Cabinet and I have already given notice of intention to introduce a bill this session which seeks to extend the operation of the Wine Export Bounty Act for a period of two years from the date of expiry, namely, the 28th February, 1945.
e. - On the 24th November, 1944, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following question, without notice : -
I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether or not permission is now being given for the importation of English and American novels? If so, will the honorable gentleman make available supplies of paper for the production in Australia of novels by Australian authors?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Books printed in the United Kingdom and exported therefrom are entirely free from import licensing procedure. Import licences may be issued to cover the importation of certain novels from non-sterling countries within the limits of monetary quotas established by importers on the basis of importations of books from non-sterling sources during the year ended the 30th June, 1930. Licences may not be granted, however, for the types of novels known as westerns, detectives, crime and light romance or fiction in paper-covered editions. The specific diversion of paper for the printing ‘of a novel is contingent upon sponsorship being accorded by the Book Sponsorship Committee. In other circumstances, the responsibility for finding paper must rest with the printer or publisher.
e. - On the 17 th November, 1944, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question, without notice : -
In the absence of the Minister for Labour and National Service, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has received any protest from members of trade unions regarding dangerous Communist influence in those unions, and requesting that the Commonwealth Government take action to support the proposals of Mr. Mullens, a Labour member of the Victorian Parliament, that there should be compulsory voting for trade union officials, that all safeguards exercised in the conduct of Commonwealth and State elections should he observed, and that the vicious practice by which ballot-papers are handed out by shop stewards should be abolished? Does the Government intend to heed that protest, or introduce legislation to ensure that Communist control is purged from the trade unions?
Representations both for and against Mr. Mullens’s proposals have been received. It is not the policy of the Government to interfere in the domestic affairs of trade unions or other similar associations.
Unions which are registered with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration must submit their rules to the registrar. These must be in accord with certain broadly defined principles,, and under the law as it now stands the registrar could not force a union to adopt Mr. Mullens’s suggestion unless the union itself was willing to incorporate tho appropriate provisions in its rules.
The Commonwealth body which controls fill national trade union matters is the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the State controlling bodies are the Trades and Labour Councils of six States. In all, they have 1,205,000 members, of which 1,020,000 are registered in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Before registration can be granted, union’s rules must be submitted to and passed by the Registrar of the Court, and any alterations or amendments to such rules must be endorsed, if registration is to be continued.
e. - On the 15th November, 1944, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) asked, without notice, whether I would consider permitting bootmakers to work overtime in boot factories in view of the shortage of children’s footwear in South Australia. I have had investigations made and furnish the following information: My department is not preventing the working of overtime, but on the contrary it has been the policy of the Director-General of Man Power to encourage the working of a reasonable amount of overtime where this is necessary to maintain or increase essential production. In the present instance negotiations have been carried on between employers and employees for the working of overtime, and the Man Power Directorate has been making strenuous efforts to increase the supply of female labour to the industry. The problem appears to have been aggravated by a shortage of leather and some lack of co-operation between the retailers and the manufacturer?. The matter has been taken up with the Controller of Leather and Footwear, and all possible steps will be taken to alleviate the position.
Interstate Bah. Transport: Use of Sleeping Berths.
d. - On the 21st September, 1944’, Sir Frederick Stewart asked the Minister for Transport the following question, without notice: -
Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been drawn to the annual report of the Railway Commissioner of New South Wales, where it is stated that last year there were 35,000 unused sleeping berths between Sydney and Melbourne, a loss which the Commissioner has attributed to what he has termed “ restrictive and irksome federal regulations”? Can the honorable gentleman give the assurance that these regulations now have been modified ?
I have examined the statement made by the honorable member for Parramatta, to the effect that 35,000 sleeping berths were unused between Sydney and Melbourne during the year covered by the New South Wales Railway Commissioner’s annual report for the year 1943-44. I find that the statement refers to 36,000 vacant seats and sleeping berths. T have also communicated with the New South Wales Commissioner for Railways, and he lias furnished me with the returns from which the figures quoted were calculated. These returns show that the figures represent the vacancies which existed on interstate trains running between Sydney and Albury when the trains actually left the starting points - Sydney or Albury, respectively - and do not make any allowance for intermediate or roadside traffic, for which accommodation is held in accordance with the usual railway practice. Consequently, the figures quoted are not a true reflex of the vacant accommodation on the trains referred to.
An examination of the details of the statement furnished discloses that during the twelve months, accommodation was provided for 62,994 sleeping-berth passengers on the express trains from Sydney to Albury and 910 berths were vacant at the departure of the trains from Sydney. On the express trains from Albury to Sydney, accommodation was provided for 69,986 sleeping-berth passengers and the recorded vacancies on departure from Albury totalled 2,023.
It must also be remembered that, in the case of Canberra, accommodation must necessarily be set apart for such passengers, and whilst this is in substantial demand when Parliament is sitting, there are periods when the demand for such accommodation is light, which would account for quite a number of vacancies which are recorded. Canberra traffic would be included in the movement from Albury but not in the movement from Sydney. This would account somewhat for the variation in the figures in the “ up “ and “ down “ journeys.
With regard to the sitting accommodation, the figures show that in the case of the express trains from Sydney to Albury the accommodation provided for first-class passengers totalled 39,560 seats, of which 7,415 were recorded as vacant at the point of departure. The second-class position on these trains was - accommodation provided, 122,867 seats; vacancies, 11,5S6 when the trains departed from Sydney.
On the express trains from Albury to Sydney, the information provided shows that sitting accommodation was pro.,vided for 33,3S6 first-class passengers, and that 3,424 seats were vacant at the point of departure. The second-class position on these trains was - accommodation provided, 143,238 seats; vacancies, 9,736 when the trains departed from Albury.
The position in regard to all accommodation provided, both sleeping and sitting car passengers, from Sydney to Albury is - accommodation provided, 225,421 passengers; vacancies, 19,911 provided for “intermediate passengers.
The position in regard to the total accommodation provided from Albury to Sydney is - accommodation provided, 246,610; vacancies, 15,183 provided for intermediate passengers.
These figures indicate to me that, allowing for intermediate or roadside pick-ups, much of this accommodation would be used from a point other than the commencing point of the trains, but having regard to the fluctuation of traffic, cancellations, &c, there must of necessity be some vacant accommodation.
The allegation that empty seats on interstate railway trains resulted from the priority system, which was made previously, was taken up by me at the time, and a statement was submitted to this House on the 21st March last. It was pointed out that an actual test of the loading on interstate trains between capital cities, both from the starting point and throughout the journey, had demonstrated that the figures taken at the starting point of the train were not a fair indication of the true position.
There is no justification for the statement that the priority system is responsible for the non-use of seats which could be used by passengers who are refused permits for travel. My investigations, and the figures given “ herein, prove beyond doubt that there is no ground for the assertions which are made from time to time.
I wish to again assure members of this House that the priority system has been and will continue to be eased to the fullest extent justified by the requirements of the day, but it must be remembered that whilst the .question asked by the honorable member is based on the period for the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1944, since that date, owing to the shortage of coal supplies, it has been necessary for the interstate passenger train services to be reduced by approximately 50 per cent., with the total elimination of sleeping-berth accommodation.
This position will be reviewed immediately the miners’ Christmas holidays are over, and as soon as the railway coal position warrants any easing of the conditions of travel appropriate action will be taken.
Tax Agents in Northern Territory.
– On the 24th November, 1944, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act.
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is, I understand, (a) the income tax collections from each of the States during each of the years that the Uniform income tax plan has been in operation; and (b) the compensation allowed to each State for each year for vacating the income tax field. The information required under (a) is not ascertainable as there is no practical basis of apportioning Central Office collections amongst the States. The following are the collections of income tax (including war-time (company) tax) during the financial years 1942-43 and 1943-44:-
The following are the amounts of compensation paid to the States under the State Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942 : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19441128_reps_17_180/>.