23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Further to my previous inquiry, has the Government any information about when Australian farmers, businessmen and citizens generally will share in the benefits of lower petrol prices which other countries have been enjoying for some time? Will the Government take up this matter with the oil industry, particularly in view of its important effects on production costs and overseas balances? Does the Government agree that lower prices abroad, due to surpluses of oil and lower tanker freight rates, should by now be reflected in Australia?
– The decision on the prices of petroleum products is not one that rests with the Commonwealth Government. This is not a matter in which the Commonwealth Government has any say or over which it has any control. I can only repeat what I said in reply to a previous question on this subject. The information which comes to me from my department indicates that the fall in overseas prices and freight rates creates conditions which would be expected to lead to a fall in prices in Australia. On the information that is available, the indications are that if that position has not actually been reached, it soon will be. We would expect that Australian prices would move in the same way as prices elsewhere.
– Can the Minister for National Development indicate when the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will be in a position to commence purchasing its requirements of beryl for the current financial year?
– First, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has said that it will be purchasing beryl this year,, but on a lower scale than in previous years. Secondly, exports will be permitted to approved destinations. Those with stocks to sell need not hesitate to arrange sales overseas; no obstacles will be put in their way. Thirdly, Senator Scott has asked when the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will commence purchasing. I cannot give a definite answer to that question,, but I should imagine that the commission is watching market movements within Australia and overseas and that there will not be any lengthy delay before it commences to purchase. Substantial sums will be involved in these transactions as large amounts will be purchased. I would not like to hinder the commission in making a business judgment as to the appropriate time to purchase, remembering that export markets are available..
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer or to the Leader of the Government, whoever is the appropriate Minister. I preface the question by saying that I realize that Ministers must have cars to enable them to carry out their duties properly, and that it would be unreasonable to ask them to provide cars. Will the Minister obtain for the Senate the figures showing the total amount involved in ministerial car expenses for each Federal Minister, including the Prime Minister, for the financial year ended on 30th June, 1960?
– The question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer or to the Leader of the Government. I think it should be addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior or the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. Within the Australian Capital Territory, the Minister for the Interior is in charge of all Government cars, including ministerial cars, and in the other capital cities the responsibility lies on the Minister for Supply. I do not know whether records of this nature are kept. I suggest to the honorable senator that he put his question on the noticepaper, addressing it to one of those Ministers.
– I ask the
Minister for the Navy whether he was correctly reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 26th September last to the effect that it would take 25 years to survey and chart the coastline of Australia. Will the Minister say who will attend the conference to be held in Canberra next month to discuss such surveys? Can the Minister assure the Senate that the merchant service guilds will be represented at the conference?
– Yes, 1 was correctly reported in saying that it would take 25 years to make a comprehensive survey of the Australian coastline. A meeting called by the Navy to map the next five-year programme of charting around the Australian coast will be held shortly. The meeting will be attended by the appropriate authorities - representatives of the various departments interested, and representatives of the State governments and shipping interests. As at this moment, 1 am not in a position to say whether representatives of the merchant service guilds as such will attend the meeting. The effort being expended in this direction is quite considerable. The number of ships employed by the Navy on this work has increased from four to six, and the programme which will be undertaken as the outcome of the meeting will be the result of consultation by all the interested authorities.
– By way of a supplementary question, I ask the Minister for the Navy whether the thorough survey or charting of the Australian coast includes an equally thorough survey or charting of the coast of Tasmania.
– In the opinion of the Royal Australian Navy, Tasmania is a
Dart of Australia.
– I wish to ask a few questions of our good friend, the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that the operations of certain finance organizations outside the control of the central banking system are challenging the Government’s banking power? Does the Government intend to take action to control these organizations? If not, does lack of action mean that, constitutionally, the Government does not have the power? Will the Government take action in the near future to acquire the necessary power?
– This is rather a big question to answer without notice. I shall give a very brief reply. So far as I am aware, there is no question of this development being a challenge to the Government’s banking power. If 1 interpret correctly the annual report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, it is therein stated quite explicitly that such operations are not covered by the Government’s banking power. Whether the Government proposes to take action and whether it has constitutional power to do so, are questions of policy, my understanding of the situation being that the Government has no constitutional power to control interest rates. I make no comment on whether this is altogether a bad movement so far as the economy is concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, who is in charge of the Weapons Research Establishment. Has he seen a press report headed “ Balloon Mystery Deepens “, which states that a cigar-shaped balloon measuring 24 feet by 14 feet, fitted with three tail fins and carrying instruments, was captured by a police constable at Cobar on Sunday? In view of the fact that the balloon was trailing 1,000 feet of quarter-inch steel cable, which could have been a danger to aircraft flying in cloud, can the Minister say who was responsible for the release of the balloon and what was the country of its origin?
– The balloon found at Cobar has been identified as a meteorological balloon belonging to the Department of Supply. It broke loose from its moorings at a remote range in South Australia. lt is a barrage balloon of World War IT. vintage. The Minister for Supply is taking all possible steps to ensure that such a happening does not occur again. It broke loose during the terrific storm over South Australia at the week-end. It is an Australian balloon.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. In view of the fact that prosthetists - qualified men engaged in the making of dentures - are recognized by the State laws in Tasmania and they are carrying out the major portion of that work in Tasmania, will the Acting Treasurer give consideration to permitting amounts paid by taxpayers to prosthetists in Tasmania for dental expenses to be claimed as an income tax deduction? As the Tasmanian Government recognizes these men, will the Federal Government also recognize them by acceding to my request?
– I am not familiar with the matter to which the honorable senator has referred. The most that I can tell him is that I will have a look at the question and, in addition, I shall ask both the Acting Treasurer and the Minister for Health to have a look at it.
– The question that I wish to direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade arises from a recent press report in which it was stated that the services of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation had not been availed of to any appreciable degree by exporters during the past year. Can the Minister inform me whether this is due to a lack of exports to countries where insurance against the risk of non-payment is required? If this is not so, has the Minister any comment to make regarding the position?
– My reply to Senator Hannaford is that, at a later stage of to-day’s proceedings, I will table the annual report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation which, I think, will contain the answer to his question.
– I would like to ask a few questions of the Leader of the Government in this chamber, and I hope that he will take them seriously. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has discovered a method of putting an everlasting crease in men’s trousers? Would it be asking too much of the Minister that he should prevail upon the more or less staid scientists of the C.S.I.R.O. to turn their attention to ladies’ stockings? Is it not a fact that nonlasting, laddering nylon stockings are a source of great worry and loss to the female half of the community? If a non-laddering, lasting nylon stocking could be produced would it not put value back into the ladies’ £1?
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has perfected a process, known as siro-set, for permanently creasing woollen goods. I understand that the method is constantly used within Australia in the treatment of men’s suits. I have not the slightest doubt that if the suggestion now made by the honorable senator contained any glimmering of a prospect of success, the organization would already have undertaken the necessary research.
– I wish to direct to the Minister representing the Minster for Labour and National Service a question which has reference to the following resolution of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that was referred to by the Minister in the House of Representatives on 2 1st September: -
The A.C.T.U. is of the opinion that a compulsory political election levy should not be applied by affiliated unions.
Can the Minister tell me whether that resolution was unanimous or whether there was any difference of opinion among the delegates about it? In what circumstance was the resolution passed, and is there available any published information on the discussion that took place before the resolution was passed?
– The statement by the Honorable William McMahon merely announces that the resolution was passed by the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and that it read as follows: -
The A.C.T.U. is of the opinion that a compulsory political election levy should not be applied by affiliated unions.
I have no information as to the voting inside the A.C.T.U. which resulted in the resolution being passed. All that I can add to what the Minister said is that that resolution by the A.C.T.U. was referred to the trades and labour councils in the various States and it has been adopted by a number of them. I shall find out whether it is possible to obtain from the A.C.T.U. records of its debates and votes. Whether they will be supplied is, I should imagine, a matter entirely for the A.C.T.U.
– Has the Leader df the Government in the Senate read of the latest release from the green belt in the Sydney metropolitan area of land for intensive suburban housing? As the Minister’s department is interested in housing, and as some people who doubt the wisdom of this policy are inclined to blame the Federal Government, has the Minister any comment to make?
– This is a big question. I do not express any views about the release of land from the green belt because I am not sufficiently well informed about the green belt and its ramifications. I have no doubt at all that one of the major factors contributing to the increased cost of homes is the price of land. I had an interesting discussion last week with a member of a big construction firm, who expressed to me the view that building costs had not increased over recent years and that it was the increase in the price of land that was causing the difficulties. I hesitate to accept that view offhand, but it is an interesting one. The release of additional land for purchase seems to me to be a very valuable contribution towards reducing the cost of homes. Perhaps I can go further and answer a question that the honorable senator did not ask. Another factor increasing the cost of homes is the action of the Valuer-General in making valuations on the basis of fringe transactions, with the result that a few transactions have caused increased values throughout whole areas. That is something that I think needs a little consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the excellent season that promises for grain in most Australian States, will the Minister for Primary Industry take steps, in those States where adequate storage in silos is not yet available - as is the case in South
Australia, where the bulk installation is not yet completed - to ensure that there will be a sufficient supply of com sacks to store the grain at rail sidings?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s request to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry and suggest that the Minister take the matter up with the honorable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior seen the report of a study on street lighting in relation to road accidents made by a lecturer of the Sydney University School of Traffic Engineering in which it was stated that over a period of three years accident records had been examined on several busy roads near Sydney, that it had been found that the street lighting varied from poor to good by modern standards, and that as lighting became more effective the number of street accidents showed a noticeable decrease? As street lighting in Canberra is noticeably ineffective, largely because the trees lining the streets have now reached maturity, will the Minister for the Interior have an investigation made in Canberra with a view to reducing road accidents? Will he agree to the street lights of Canberra being left on till a later hour as is d’one in most capital cities?
– I have not seen the statement that the honorable senator has mentioned, but I can quite understand that a variation in the intensity of street lamps would be detrimental to the vision of motor car drivers and probably would tend to increase road accidents. Street lighting in Canberra is a matter for the Minister for the Interior. Therefore, if the honorable senator places her question on the notice-paper I shall get a detailed reply for her.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. In view of the cessation of national service training and the increased need for recruits for the Citizen Military Forces, and because the youth of Australia would provide the most suitable recruits, will the Minister request the Minister for the Army to consider setting up a corps of regimental cadets, thereby allowing school cadets to continue their military training until they become eligible by age to enlist in the C.M.F.?
– I think the suggestion has a lot of merit. Very often schoolboys leaving school show great interest in the Army as a career and would continue with their training if the opportunity presented itself, but a number of them lose interest between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years. If we could adopt the honorable senator’s question of having a regimental corps so that boys could go straight on with their training, I believe the number of recruits would be greatly increased. I shall have pleasure in bringing the matter to the attention of the Minister for the Army.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: How many undersized whales have been taken on the Western Australian coast during each of the past three seasons? In view of the need to safeguard this industry, what action has been taken to stop this practice? In how many cases have prosecutions been launched?
– I suggest that the honorable senator should place her question on the notice-paper. I ask her to make it a little clearer whether she means the number of undersized whales taken by Australian whalers or by other parties to the whaling agreement, and generally to state the details in relation to which she desires an answer.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General prepared to ascertain from his colleague whether the Postmaster-General’s Department is contemplating any plans for making television facilities available in the country areas of South Australia? I invite the Minister’s attention to the fact that there is not yet one country television station in that State, and as far as I know none is contemplated.
– I have a recollection that the Postmaster-General has announced that the provision of television facilities in country areas is to proceed according to an arranged plan. My recollection is that under the terms of the act licences are not to be granted until public inquiries have been held. A decision has been made to hold those public inquiries and, indeed, in certain States they have already been held, and it is contemplated that further inquiries will be held elsewhere in due course. I think it would be safer if I asked the honorable senator to place the question on the notice-paper, because this is a matter in which there is a great deal of interest.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer obtain a statement for tha Senate setting out the regulations governing tha printing of papers, reports &c, for government departments, business undertakings and Commonwealth statutory authorities and indicating in particular what permission, if any, must bo obtained before action can be taken to have tha printing done other than by the Commonwealth Government Printer?
– The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer: -
There are no specific regulations or instructions in relation to printing which cannot be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government Printer. The work may be placed with State government printers; alternatively, quotations or tenders may be invited by the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
Certain aspects of this matter are still under discussion between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government. Full information will be given to the Parliament as soon as practicable.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Acting Treasurer has replied as follows: -
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 687), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the following paper: -
Bell Bay Aluminium Works - Proposed SaleMinisterial Statement - be printed.
.- Before the debate was adjourned last Thursday, I had pointed out to the Senate that the people of Tasmania were very glad to know that at long last the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s works at Bell Bay were being expanded. Any one who knew of the activities of this industry realized that its annual production was too low, and we learnt with great pleasure that the Tasmanian Government was to invest a further £1,500,000 in the Bell Bay works to increase the production to 16,000 tons per annum. Any expansion of an Australian industry is always looked upon with great pleasure. Our Tasmanian industries, including the newsprint, paper pulp and timber industries, are ready for expansion and we are always pleased to see them expand. 1 had also made the point that the people of Tasmania, and for that matter the people of Australia, have not been given any opportunities in this sell-out by the Government to overseas interests to invest in the undertaking. 1 am quite certain that had the people of Tasmania or the people of Australia been given an opportunity to subscribe to a loan or to take up shares to develop the aluminium industry, that opportunity would have been readily taken. 1 believe the Government stands condemned for not having first given the Australian people an opportunity to invest in an industry which is using our own natural resources, which has a great future, and which will satisfy the growing need for this metal in Australia’s expanding economy. The Government has by-passed the Australian people in its negotiations.
It is very difficult indeed to find out exactly the background to these negotiations. Some Ministers have mentioned that an agreement was made by the lateBen Chifley, when Prime Minister, with the British Aluminium Company Limited, giving it the opportunity to make the first offer for the Bell Bay works. We have found it most difficult to get that information substantiated. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has refused to give us evidence by laying the relevant paper on the table of the Senate so that it could be perused by the Senate in a democratic way. The position is that we as a Parliament do not know the extent to which the people of Australia or the Australian Government were committed by this so-called verbal agreement.
Since that time the British Aluminium Company has been taken over by American interests. The company’s interest in Bell Bay, over which it considered it held an option, has also been dissipated because it has cut itself adrift from Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited. The fact remains that the Australian people have not been given an opportunity to invest their money in this industry. No attempt was made to obtain Australian money. Willy-nilly, the Government has gone to the international aluminium combines and handed over this most important strategic and commercial industry, lock, stock and barrel to overseas interests.
When the debate was adjourned last Thursday I had pointed out that the Government had failed to see the ultimate results of its action. A few years ago the Egyptian people disputed an arrangement whereby their assets were sold to overseas investors and a state of war existed over the use of the Suez Canal. Most of the troubles that face mankind throughout the world to-day are caused by this very trend which has taken place in the past and which is being perpetuated by this Government. Look at the situation in the Congo to-day. The whole of Africa has been turned into a cauldron of unrest because over the years private companies have been able to gain control of the natural resources of the Congo, and when difficulties arose the private investors were able to bring the army in to protect their interests. The same thing is happening in Cuba. In every instance the principle involved in selling out the natural resources and assets of the people is being challenged. That illustrates how retrograde is the step taken by this Government. Instead of realizing that a young and growing country needs every thing it can get from its own natural resources and needs a spirit of co-operation among its own people in developing its own industries, the Government sells out to an organization which is obviously a part of an international monopoly. That can be seen by looking at the pyramid of control of aluminium in the whole of the Western world.
It is all very well for the Minister and the newspapers to say that Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited and the British Aluminium Company Limited have separated; but when one goes further into the matter one finds that there is an interlocking of directorates and two British companies have been taken over holus-bolus by the Reynolds Metals Company of America. The same type of arrangement exists between Alcoa and Alcan, the American and Canadian enterprises. There is an interlocking of these companies at top level, which gives a virtual monopoly in the Western world over this vital commercial and strategic metal.
The Minister summed up by saying that there was a difference between the Government’s policy and some cranky ideology which was right outside the realms of reality in this world. The Minister might think that it is some cranky ideology that we on this side of the Senate subscribe to - that we believe we have a responsibility to protect Australia’s natural resources from exploitation and from control by overseas interests. We ourselves are capable of developing our own resources, and I think it is the responsibility of Opposition senators, despite the fact that we have not the numbers to prevent the policy of the Government being carried out, to point out at this time the consequences of that policy. Any one with half an eye can see that some day the people of Australia will want to have this industry back in their own hands, but the difficulty then will be to get it back.
The position in Cuba, where American interests have been able to buy up local sources of production, is that those interests can influence not only the development of the natural resources of the country, but also the government of the country. The policy that was applied in Cuba in the past has brought about a reaction which to-day . is confusing every one. I project my thoughts into the future, and I say that irrespective of whether the people of Australia will employ the same methods as have been employed in Cuba, they will in the future ask why we have to skim the cream off our production in order to pay high rates of interest to overseas* investors when we should be developing and expanding our own natural resources. That is the big clash of ideas between the Government and the Opposition that is manifest in this debate.
– Where does Mr. Reece come in?
– He has been placed in the position of the proverbial man over the barrel. He has had to pay interest on money that was loaned by the Commonwealth Government to the State of Tasmania for investment in Bell Bay. The honorable senator knows very well the efforts that Mr. Reece and Mr. Cosgrove have made over the years to get, as it were, blood out of a stone. They tried to obtain from the Commonwealth money for developmental projects. The honorable senator knows the money that Mr. Reece and Mr. Cosgrove invested in this great enterprise but no mention has been made of the £10,000,000 that has been expended on the extension of the hydro-electricity scheme and the reticulation of electricity to serve the needs of Bell Bay. No mention has been made of the amount involved in sealing the highway leading to the works, the building of the north Esk water scheme, or the building of 700 or 800 houses at Georgetown, or of all the amenities or facilities that have been provided by the State’ Government of Tasmania, which has to pay interest to the Commonwealth Government on money collected from the taxpayers. In the face of all this Senator Marriott asks, “ What is Mr. Reece doing about it? “ Mr. Reece also found £1,500,000 from the very limited amount of money available to the Tasmanian Government needed to expand the production of Bell Bay from 12,500 ton to 16,000 tons. The position is that Mr. Reece and the people of Tasmania believe that the Commonwealth Government should have expanded this industry years ago. It should be producing up to 50,000 tons at the present time.
Because of our great need for exports we cannot afford to overlook any industry in which we have a natural advantage. At one time we could, as it were, sit back on the sheep’s back, and say, in effect, “ In our wool we have something that the rest of the world cannot produce “. Only recently a representative of G. B. Falkiner and Sons, on returning from a visit to the Soviet Union, reported that sheep in that country had been developed to a quality equal to that of the Australian merino. He also spoke of the tremendous strides that had been made in artificial insemination through which 100 per cent, lambings are being obtained, while we in this country are satisfied with 60 per cent, or 65 per cent, merino lambings. That is a challenge to our industry, and one that will have to be explained by those people in the Senate who have pulled the wool over their eyes. I leave the explanation to the distinguished senator opposite who has a better understanding of the wool industry than I have. I hope he will be truthful when he has to debate this subject in the Senate.
I point out also that, as every one knows, the Tasmanian Government has hold of the wrong end of the stick. Under the present taxation system it has no taxing powers but has to be satisfied with the handout that is given to the State by the Commonwealth Treasurer. The State has to attempt to ingratiate itself with the Commonwealth and haggle with the Commonwealth Treasurer in order to obtain the bare necessaries to keep the State functioning. I felt that it was unworthy of Senator Marriott to say last week that this industry was set up in Tasmania because the Commonwealth Government wanted to win votes in that State. He knows that the industry was set up in Tasmania because that State has the greatest potential for the generation of hydro-electricity in Australia. An assured supply of electricity is most important in carrying out a continuous process such as is employed in the production of alumina. Apart from that Bell Bay provides a good, accessible and sheltered port, and also nearby are deposits of bauxite which are available for use in an emergency. Although these deposits are not of the same quality as those at Weipa, they could be used for the production of aluminium. I think it was in very poor taste for the honorable senator to suggest that this industry was set up in Tasmania because the Government wanted to ensure that the former Minister for Repatriation and honorable member for Bass, Mr. Barnard, got back into office in 1946. It illustrates how an argument can be reduced to its lowest common level.
Do honorable senators think we are going to win any gold medals for our efforts to export to the world markets when the industry itself, from its very beginning, was more or less held at the end of a shot gun? At that time we wanted to learn the know-how of conducting such an industry, but we met with opposition ever before the industry commenced production. As production developed we have had to bring expert advisers from overseas, and as the Minister has said, all this has done for us is to give us an industry that can make a profit of only 1.4 per cent, per annum on the capital invested in it. It is obvious that the international cartels and monopolists in aluminium did not want to have a competitor in Australia. They tried their best in their own way to discourage the commencement of the industry, and now the Government is handing it over to them. The protests from this side are justified because this sell-out is even worse than have been other sell-outs of the people’s assets to which the Government has been a party.
In answer to a question in the Senate to-day about the price of petrol Senator Spooner said that he hopes that in good time the price of petrol will be reduced. Should the price of petrol be raised, the rise would take place probably the day before any prior announcement was made. If the Government had retained its interests in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, our own distributing organization, it could have kept its finger on petrol prices and ensured that a decrease in the price of petrol would take place immediately such a decrease was found to be practical. That illustrates my point that once you sell out to the big boys they look upon Australia, economically, as a colony. That is the threat that is inherent in this deal. The results of similar happenings elsewhere are challenging the United Nations at the present time. The further we put our head into the noose, the more difficult it will be to get out of it in the future.
During the course of his speech the Minister for National Development spoke of the work that has been done by his department. I have in my hand a pamphlet entitled, “ Major Development Projects of Australia “ published in June, 1960, by the Department of National Development. J have looked carefully through it and I find that during the time this Government has been in office, other than those projects which have commenced in the Australian Capital Territory - the lakes scheme and a few other minor projects - this Government has initiated no major developmental work. It has merely carried on the Snowy Mountains scheme which it tried to prevent in the first place. That scheme was supposed to be a political stunt. The worthy people who are now occupying the Government benches in this Parliament boycotted the opening of the Snowy Mountains scheme. They said, “ Oh, all the Labour Government is trying to do is get a few votes “. But the only thing that the Minister for National Development has to crow about these days is the fact that that scheme is growing. The people of Australia think so much of it that last year 80,000 of them paid to go and see it. What joy they get from seeing what can be done by people of goodwill who are putting their shoulders to a national project
The people of Australia feel they are sharing in the work, and that it is a part of their job and their destiny to develop their own resources. Yet, here is this miserable stunt, this backdoor sell-out, to people who are not interested in Australia, whose only concern is in the amount of interest they can get and in tying up the industry. They are not interested in improving conditions for their employees. There is constant pressure on them from the stock exchange to earn higher and higher profits. We have only to look at the share market reports to appreciate that the thing that counts to-day is capital improvement. It is necessary to hold back as much as possible, even from the shareholders, so that those who invest in organizations of this kind can gain from takeovers and like transactions. The whole thing is haywire. No country which was crying out for development as Australia is could withstand the trend of high interest rates and restrictive trade practices which are becoming increasingly evident. The sale of the Bell Bay works is a glaring example of restrictive trade practices. As we know, the aluminium industry has been able to stipulate the quantities of metal, and the prices, which should go to practically every part of the world in which the industry operates. Even the product of our industry has been undersold on the Australian market. People from overseas can bring their product into this country and sell it at a lower price. Has not that helped to discredit our industry? Of course it has. That, Sir, is the technique of restrictive trade practices. You go in and undercut your weaker opponent, and eventually you gobble him up. That is the modern trend.
It is not in the national interest to sell this industry to overseas investors. I do not think we should put a liquidator in. I say that Senator Spooner, in relation to this deal, has been a liquidator. We know that if a business is going badly and there is a lack of confidence in it, if the atmosphere surrounding it is unhealthy and it is obvious that it should not continue to operate, that is the time for a liquidator to step in; but the aluminium industry is not due for liquidation. Nevertheless, it has been virtually liquidated, in that the interest of the Australian people in the industry has been largely disposed of.
Senator Armstrong, in the course of his speech, spoke of the hundreds of millions of pounds of Australian money that have been invested in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Why should not the attitude that is adopted towards that company also be adopted towards the Bell Bay undertaking? It is a fact that there is a great shortage of steel in Australia, and as a part of our national policy, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited having been given a monopoly, should be obliged to meet the needs of the Australian people before it is permitted to export steel. The latest plans of the company for expansion perhaps will overcome that difficulty. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is now attending the General Assembly of the United Nations, has been instructed to introduce a bill directed against monopolies and restrictive trade practices. We believe that such legislation, within a very short time of its introduction, will have to be directed at the inter national aluminium cartel. We on this side of the chamber think that prevention is better than cure.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) made several important points in his speech. He noted that production of aluminium at the Bell Bay works is to be increased to 50,000 tons. He insisted that the Government from a national point of view should have retained its interest in the undertaking and he pointed out that to hand over the resources of this country to control by overseas interests is restrictive because through the pyramid of cartels and interlocking directorates that has been built up, the same policy applies all along the line. He made the point, to which I also have referred, that an opportunity was not given to Australian investors to acquire an interest in the organization. The Minister failed the Parliament and the people of Australia in not being able to place on the table of the Senate a list of the tenders that had been called. Had he been able to do so his action might have indicated that he was prepared to permit all the people throughout the world who are interested in the manufacture of aluminium to put in their price for the project.
– He did the same thing with the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission.
– lt has been done all along the line. We now have a fait accompli, a sell-out, without the normal processes of government business having been observed. As we know, the highest bid may not necessarily be accepted, but it is usual to call tenders. When we consider the terms of the sale, such as the conditions regarding interest and repayments, we could be pardoned for thinking that the Government was trying to get rid of a skunk, a pole-cat, or some such thing that was objectionable. I suggest that no other organization would be sold on such terms, which include postponement of payment of the purchase price for sixteen years, the condition that unless a certain amount of interest is paid to the shareholders the Government will not receive its interest, and provision for the cancellation of arrears of interest after a certain period. I think that if Australian companies were able to get terms like those they would think that Christmas had come. Yet, the Minister puts forward those terms as being in the natural course and as the only way to get rid of our interest in the undertaking. We on this side of the chamber believe that it is reprehensible that that kind of sell-out should be made without the Parliament having the opportunity to object.
The Minister, in order to strengthen his case, quoted from documents, lt has been the practice of the Parliament, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that if an honorable senator quotes from a document, other members of the Parliament also should be able to peruse it. If, as has been said, it was so binding and so important that the options should have been taken up, 1 suggest that the so-called agreement which was made between Mr. Chifley, a former Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Labour Party, and the British Aluminium Commission, should have been available for us to see. We on this side of the chamber voice a strong protest at the reticence of the Government and its refusal to adopt the normal procedure in such cases. 1 believe that the sale of the Bell Bay works is a retrograde step and that future generations will condemn the Government for it. 1 think that if the full facts were known there would be a widespread outcry, but unfortunately the sources of news and information in this country are controlled by certain people. I think it was Senator Lillico who said, “ I did not read anything about this in the ‘ Examiner ‘ or the ‘ Mercury ‘ “, but I suggest that if you were to regard those newspapers as the fount of wisdom and truth you would end by being a numskull. The point I am making is that the newspapers are interested in this type of thing. Their pages are full of stock exchange reports, company reports, and references to the profit that is being made by business concerns. Many pages of the “ Financial Times “, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ and other newspapers are devoted at this time of the year to reports of profits made by various companies. Do honorable senators opposite imagine that those newspapers will utilize their editorials to tell the truth about a venture such as this? I say that in these troubled times throughout the world the Government has adopted a negative and a retrograde approach to this matter, which should be opposed most vigorously by everyone concerned. It pains me to see the Government handling the matter in this way instead of supporting the rapid development of this country by Australians for Australians and with Australians, and not with outsiders and the capital they bring in. It is capital of opportunity that is brought in only because the outsiders are getting on to a good lurk. We do not see overseas capital being brought here to develop the Mount Isa railway, or projects in Western Australia. We do not see overseas capital being invested in national projects; it is invested only in places where there is a good harvest to be gained.
– Such as in the National biscuit company.
– Yes, new processes of making biscuits and new means of distribution are to be introduced. The same thing applies to General Motors-Holden’s Limited. After the Australian people had done the spade work and lent money and so on, the Australian content was practically eliminated. Now, huge amounts of profit are being repatriated, not at the rate or 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, but at the rate of 100 per cent, and even 400 per cent.
– Do you say that General Motors-Holden’s represents a national sell-out?
– I say it does represent a national sell-out. Initially, Australia’s interest in General Motors-Holden’s was a normal procedure. The Federal Government said that it would assist the company to establish the industry. Initially, the company was a public company which had to publish its balance sheets. The sellout has been accomplished in this way: The company has been permitted to develop to a stage where it is not now obliged to tell the people of Australia its trading results. This illustrates my point that the only capital we are getting from overseas is the quick quid stuff, the fast dollar stuff. I say that an economy that permits land booms and share booms and a market readily available to be exploited cannot continue to be soundly based unless a proper account of these transactions is given to the people: More of this type of capital will be coming to Australia. Saturation point has been reached in the automobile industry and the steel industry in America and so American investors will be exporting their capital to Australia instead of keeping it at home to provide work for the American people. But capital is a soulless, impersonal thing which, like mercury, reaches its own level. I do not want to see capital do in this country what it has done in other countries. Inevitably, the law of supply and demand operates.
As my worthy deputy leader, Senator Kennelly, has said, it does not matter how much logic we have, we need the numbers. Honorable senators on the Government side have the numbers, and I say that future generations will hold this Government responsible for the action it is taking. I believe that historians of the future will adjudge that this Government was recreant to its responsibilities to the coming generations of Australians.
– 1 have been very interested to bear during this debate the references that have been made to the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia. It would be perhaps as well for me to remind the Senate that, in 1940 and 1941 Senator the Honorable P. McBride, who later became Sir Philip McBride, set in motion a movement to establish the aluminium industry within Australia. He proposed to establish an aluminium plant to augment the limited supplies of aluminium that were held in Australia at that period during World War II. Not only did the Menzies Government of that day purchase all of the available bauxite that was anywhere within reach of Australia but it also purchased all available supplies of quinine, drugs and rubber from our near neighbours- to mention only a few items - lest these sinews of war fell into the hands of the Japanese. Not a word has been mentioned of this aspect of the matter by honorable senators opposite.
Labour came to office in 1941, and there was no further move to establish the aluminium industry in this country until 1943 - two years later. In 1943 a move was made to institute inquiries relating to the. establishment of the industry. It is recorded that in 1942 the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organiza tion had submitted a report to the Labour Government on this matter. I shall deal with that report at a later stage. In November, 1944, Mr. Beasley, the then Minister for Supply, introduced a bill into the House of Representatives to authorize the Government to establish an aluminium industry.
– Does the honorable senator say that that was the first move that Labour made?
– It is evident thai Senator Aylett was not listening to what I said.
– I heard what you said.
– As a matter of fact, he does not know anything at all about the early movements in this matter, so I shall produce a few facts and figures for his information.
– I know all about–
– If the honorable senator will be patient, perhaps I may be able to satisfy even him. Under the Labour Government, the industry was handicapped from the start.
– We were at war.
– As I was saying, the industry got off to a very bad start, and for the first five years at least it had a chequered career. Senator Ridley has referred to the fact that Australia was at war. We knew in November, 1944, that the war would not continue for very much longer. If we were to accept Senator Aylett’s statement, that was the first time the industry was mooted. However, as I have said, it had a very chequered career.
Senator McKenna has been acclaimed by his party as the guiding hand in the Bell Bay undertaking. During his speech, I interjected to ask him- whether the industry was established with new or with second-hand plant and he stated he did not know. Does not the fact that the man who was held responsible for the scheme did not know whether second-hand plant or new plant had been used indicate that honorable senators opposite do not know very much about the matter. It was common gossip that the first proposal in 1944 was to buy second-hand plant from America. Senator Keane was assisted by his then secretary, Mr. - now Senator - Hendrickson, who would have vivid recollections of these proposals. I was in this chamber when these matters were being discussed. The plant purchased for Bell Bay was second-hand, war reparations plant.
– Yet this company is buying it.
– I shall answer that point later. In 1944, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) gave what was perhaps the best summary of the Government’s proposals. This summary may be read in “Hansard”. In a careful analysis, he demolished many of the arguments advanced by the then Minister for Supply, Mr. Beasley, who was in charge of the bill in another place. Subsequent events proved that Mr. Bowden’s submissions were soundly based. At the beginning of the establishment of this industry, an extraordinary association arose between Mr. W. S. Robinson, a director of Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, and the Labour Government. That government never gave a satisfactory explanation, of the arrangements it made with Collins House and the Ballieu group. Those arrangements were never disclosed. That is rather interesting in view of the talk by honorable senators opposite about papers not being tabled. Those two groups were welcomed by the Labour Party with prodigal effusion. It fell over them. How true it is that “when things are different they are hot the same! This arrangement that Labour had with big business is but further proof of the insincerity of Labour’s ranting against big business. That was a most interesting association.
Actually, there was a stock pile of aluminium in Canada and the United States of America when the original bill was introduced and debated. To say that we had to commence these works to assist our war effort is just plain nonsense. Another significant happening was that the Government of the day did not make the report of Messrs. Keast and Hey of the Electrolytic Company of Australia available to members of another place during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill. After the greatest pressure, this report was made available to members of the then Opposition, only during the committee stages. I mentioned a report of the C.S.I.R.O. and it was said that nothing was done until 1944. Perhaps Senator Aylett will avail himself of a report made in 1942 by the C.S.I.R.O. to the Labour Government. That report was completely suppressed until Mr. Larry Anthony, who was then the member for Richmond, produced a copy of it. The very existence of the report was denied by Dr. Evatt and other Labour members. They said that it was a fake or that it was fictitious. Mr. Archie Cameron, who was then the member for Barker, moved that the book containing the report from which Mr. Anthony was quoting be laid on the table of the House. What happened? The Chairman of Committees ruled that Mr. Anthony did not have to table the document Mr. Anthony wanted to lay it on the table in order to prove its authenticity, he was anxious to table it. The Chairman said that he did not have to produce it, as he was not a Minister. Dr. Evatt, who had denied the existence of the report and insinuated that Mr. Anthony’s copy was a fake, later had to admit that the report had been furnished to the Government in 1942. Mr. Anthony’s copy of the report was genuine and the report had been suppressed. It is interesting that almost immediately - it may have been coincidence - the secretary to the Minister for Supply was transferred to another position. The story of this aluminium industry and its establishment is a mighty interesting one. The child aluminium had a queer childhood under its Labour parent. It had many teething troubles.
– I thought you said that Sir Philip McBride was the one who mooted it.
– So I did. Extra monetary grants were made by both the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government. Differences of opinion arose within the ranks of management during Labour’s regime and it was not until the advent of Mr. Beale as Minister for Supply in the Menzies Government that order and progress came into being. I have given some of the history of the Bell Bay undertaking and I .do not intend to traverse the whole of it,, including all the grants that were made and the debates that occurred here and in another place. Taking all the facts into consideration, after reviewing the prospects for the undertaking, the Government has decided to sell its share in it. The Tasmanian Government will retain its interest in the industry.
The Opposition says that we are selling the people’s assets. By implication, it says that the public is not receiving a fair price for its assets. This was answered very effectively by Senator Courtice a few moments ago. The Opposition says that the Government is selling to a monopoly, that the interest arrangements favour the monopoly, and that tenders should have been called. It says also that extra capital to develop the industry should have been found by the Government. Finally, it says that if Labour is ever returned to power it will repossess the undertaking.
– Who said that?
– Senator O’Byrne said it this afternoon.
– That is what he meant.
– Are you a thought reader?
– He would not have very much reading to do. The Government will receive in annual instalments the whole of the £9,700,000 that it has invested. It will not lose anything. I would say that this was a good deal. We are told that we are selling to a monopoly. We are selling to a great industrial concern which will, in return, give great benefits to the Australian worker and the consumer of aluminium ware. It has been said that tenders should have been called. It was not necessary to call tenders. When all is said and clone, this matter had to come before the Parliament for discussion. If you get a price by negotiation, there is no need to call tenders. That is particularly so if the price is just and fair, and we have obtained a just price for the asset.
The Labour Party says that extra capital should be put into the venture. I suppose that money would have to be found from loans or by way of taxation. I imagine the States would have something to say about the use of loan money for the extension of this plant. They would have every right to object. At least £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 would have to be advanced to develop the project. I should say that, from a governmental point of view, we are better off not having the responsibility for the Bell Bay industry. The best return we ever got from the £9,700,000 that the Commonwealth put into the venture and the money which Tasmania invested, a total of approximately £11,000,000, was £154,000.
The plant belongs to the people. It is ten years old. Its product is being sold at an artificial price of £37 10s. a ton above world pan,y, and still we are not making a great profit.
– You will not, with an uneconomic plant.
– It is not worth while for the Government to retain the venture. We know that the existing plant must be replaced by modern equipment. For once we are in agreement with the Opposition! We have experts in Switzerland now, and reports which they are sending back confirm the need for new plant.
– What report are you quoting from?
– I am not quoting from any report.
– That is the same as the rest of what you have said - just make-up.
– I am reading from my notes. I said that the plant must be replaced by modern equipment. A few moments ago the honorable senator said the same.
– I did not.’
– What did you say?
– I said it was uneconomical because the Government did not put up the cash to allow other plant to be put in beside the existing plant. Plenty of foundations were laid, but only half the plant was put in.
– The fact remains that it is necessary to install new equipment. I happen to know one of the men who is in Switzerland now inquiring into the matter. He has been there for some considerable time. The reports sent to the Government indicate, and every one knows, that it is necessary to install new plant and to modernize the whole thing. Under the terms of the sale the present production of 12,000 tons annually will be increased to 28.000 tons. When that is done, it will become a profitable undertaking and it will be able to sell its product at world parity prices. But what amount of capital will be required to obtain that objective? At least another £9,400,000 would have to be spent at Bell Bay to raise production to 28,000 tons annually. If we wanted to step it up to 40,000 tons we would need to spend £20,000,000 at Bell Bay and perhaps £34,000,000 at Weipa.
– What would be wrong with that, if it was an economic proposition?
– An extra £54,000,000 would be needed. Let me tell the honorable senator that the difference between the Labour Party and the Government parties is that when it comes to a matter of spending public money the Labour Party does not seem to mind how it is spent, where it is spent, or how it is obtained.
I do not think we would be justified in spending £54,000,000 on the industry. That is why 1 am approving the sale and am disapproving all the cant and hypocrisy displayed by the Opposition.
I support the Government’s decision to sell the project, because wc will be securing a just payment for our investment and will benefit from a fair interest rate. The Government is selling the project, and the public knows the Government is selling it. We prefer the undertaking to oe in the hands of private enterprise. As 1 said earlier, I do not approve the investment of another £50,000,000-odd in this concern. If honorable senators opposite believe that the means of production, distribution and exchange should be controlled by the Labour Party, that is all right; but I do not believe in that. That is why I am approving the sale of this plant at Bell Bay. To my way of thinking, the sale of this undertaking will result in a greater contribution being made to national progress and the national welfare.
The company that is taking over the plant will get to work and, with the amount of capital it is able to invest and good management, will make this a profitable industry. All of us will reap the reward. The Government will be well recompensed in the taxation it will collect. The Government is shedding what, under the present management, is perhaps a doubtful investment.
When I say that I am not referring to the men who are managing the project. Rather am I referring to governmental management and saying that I am not .in favour of governmental management. Under private enterprise, this plant will be able to ensure a better return to Australians as a whole.
I know the Opposition has the duty or, shall I say, the privilege of opposing; but on this occasion we expected from honorable senators opposite something better than the ineffective criticism they have offered. I believe the Government did a good thing in deciding to sell .the plant under the just terms and conditions that have been agreed upon. 1 believe the Australian aluminium industry will expand and become perhaps one of the greates industries in the land. I support the action of the Government.
Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) [4.33J. - The first part of Senator Manner’s speech was most interesting, but we of the Opposition would like to know how he arrived at the conclusions he subsequently expressed. The matter we are discussing is very important and should receive the most assiduous and careful examination. 1 hope I shall be able to satisfy those whose minds are open to satisfaction that no one can say that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) gave the matter the assiduous and careful examination that it warranted. During the weekend when I read through his speech 1 marvelled at some of the reasons that he gave in support of the Government’s action in selling the Bell Bay project.
In opening for this side the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in a very masterly manner posed seven questions to which he sought answers from the Leader of the Government. I will not deal with each of those questions. I will not deal with the history of this undertaking. Senator Mattner dealt with that in a most interesting fashion. Senator McKenna, who also referred in his speech to the history of the undertaking, stated that the Government was handing over Bell Bay to overseas interests. Senator Spooner in reply to that statement, said “ What rubbish!”, or words to that effect - he probably did not use those exact words. Senator Spooner said that 40 per cent, of shares in
Consolidated Zinc are held in Australia. But he said nothing about the other 60 per cent, that were held outside Australia. No doubt he knows that the 60 per cent, interest will dominate the 40 per cent, interest in any decision that may be arrived at. This means that overseas interests will control the undertaking and what they say in relation to its management will go. So Senator McKenna’s statement that the Government handed over control of this rich undertaking to overseas interests has yet to be dealt with satisfactorily by the Government.
Senator McKenna’s second point, of great merit, was that, having determined to sell Bell Bay, the Government should have given interests in Australia first refusal. I do not suggest that any Government-owned undertaking should be sold, even to Australian interests, at a bad price. But if the Government was unable to get a satisfactory price from Australian interests, one would have thought that this undertaking would have been offered for sale on the world’s markets. During my experience as a Minister - it was only a short one, but hope springs eternal - I always felt that in matters such as this it was safe to call for tenders on the open market. But that was not done in this case. I do not imply for a moment that the Leader of the Government has been guilty of any wrong-doing. Nothing is further from my mind than to suggest any sinister action on the part of the Minister in this transaction, but if the undertaking could not be sold at a fair price to Australian interests it should have been offered for sale on the world’s markets. As many people know, I am chary about money coming into this country from overseas. There will be a day of reckoning in this matter. The 40 per cent. Australian interest in Consolidated Zinc will not be able to control the overseas shareholding. If this project must be controlled by overseas interests it should have been offered for sale on the world’s markets. Even then the Government would not have been obliged to accept the best offer. I know that whenever the States call tenders they stipulate that the lowest or any tender will not necessarily be accepted.
I do not think that the Government has satisfactorily explained why the undertaking was not offered for sale on the world’s markets. The Government has simply said that in its view the price paid for the undertaking was satisfactory. The truth of the matter is that if the undertaking had been sold on the world’s markets we may have obtained a better price. Unfortunately we have not seen any of the documents relating to this transaction. The Leader of the Government has refused point-blank to produce the documents. Nobody really expects them to be produced. At least I give him credit for being straightforward. In this connexion he has acted a little differently from one of his colleagues, who is not in the chamber at present, who promises to produce documents but never does so. Nothing is worse in politics than a refusal to honour an undertaking.
Let us see what is to be paid for this undertaking. The price to be paid is £10,973,000. The deposit to be paid is £2,500,000. Some people may say that that is not a low deposit. But is £2,500,000 a fair deposit to expect from an organization with world interests which made more than £2,000,000 profit from its undertakings in Australia last year? A deposit of that amount may be considered satisfactory if we had some clear statement of the rate of interest that is to be paid on the balance. But we do not know how the interest is to be met or if indeed any interest is to be met. The Government is selling an asset. Suppose I sell my home. The purchaser pays a deposit on it and pays a certain rate of interest on the amount owing. That is common business practice. In this instance, for some extraordinary reason the purchasing company will pay interest on the amount outstanding only if it earns 6i per cent, on its investment, and if at the end of sixteen years the full amount has not been paid the Commonwealth is to look further into the matter. With the greatest respect I suggest that the Leader of the Government would not agree to terms of this kind if he were selling something that he owned, and what you will not do with your own possessions you should not do with those of the nation. The Prime Minister holds a responsible and high position. He is elected by the people to do the greatest good by the greatest number. In this sale of the Bell Bay works he is not doing the greatest good for Australia.
Let us see what certain people could do as a result of this sale. I am not saying they will do this, but this is what they could do. In the first statement on the sale of the Bell Bay works the interest Tate was quoted at 5 per cent. On the sum of £8,470,000 which will be outstanding when the deposit has been paid, interest payable at 5 per cent, will be £423,650 a year. Under the contract the Government allows the company not to pay interest until its profit is 6i per cent. If it made 6 per cent, profit it would not pay any interest, and i per cent, interest represents £56,000. I know about hard business dealing and I will be really surprised when the company makes a profit of 6i per cent. To my mind, the claim that this is a good business deal is just astounding. No honorable senator would sell anything of his own under those conditions, and if you would not do it when selling your own assets it is bad government to do so when selling the people’s assets.
The Minister for National Development said that he would not produce the documents. I want to know why he will not produce them. What right has any government to refuse such a request? These assets belong to the people, but the Government is here only for the time being. It is not here under its own right; it is here only because a set of circumstances gives 10 or 11 per cent, of the people the opportunity to give Government candidates their second preferences. I doubt whether the Government received more first preferences than the Opposition received. Being the custodian of the people’s assets for the time being, the Government has no right to say to the people of this country, “ You will not see the papers that record all the facts about the sale of this undertaking “. That is an unprecedented action, which leaves the Government open to adverse criticism much stronger than I can offer and brings the Parliament into disrepute.
What does the man in the street say when any one in the outside world makes a deal like this in the ordinary course of business? I hope, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the words I am about to use are not unparliamentary. The man in the street will say, “ It is crook “, or he will use another expression which I hope again is not unparliamentary, “ It smells “. I am not saying for one moment that the transaction is crook; I am saying that as an elected representative of the people every honorable senator has a responsibility, whether he is on this side of the chamber or on the Government side. I do not believe that there is any reason why a Minister should say, “ We will not show each and every senator the actual contract of sale “. The job has been done and nothing that I say will alter the position. If the Minister continues to refuse my request, I do not know how the Government can expect greater respect for the Parliament.
– We have not refused to show you the contract of sale.
– Tell us all the facts. Why do you not produce the documents? I am not implying wrong-doing, but any one who wants to belittle our parliamentary institutions is given an opportunity to say, “ What is wrong? Why can’t you give the information? “
– You said that the contract of sale was not made available.
– The Government is prepared to submit that document, but is not prepared to submit the papers that Senator McKenna asked it to produce. The Minister said so. The most interesting thing is why the Minister refuses to disclose their contents. That is most remarkable, coming from the Leader of the Government, and especially from a hardened campaigner such as Senator Spooner. He said -
Let the Opposition prove that the transaction is wrong on its merits - not by fumbling over a set of papers in which they might conceivably find some argument.
The main words in that statement are “ in which they might conceivably find some argument “. The Minister, as reported on page 543 of “ Hansard “ also, said -
I will not table the papers in this matter in order to give the Opposition an opportunity to divert this debate from the merits of this great transaction to some subsidiary issue.
Another point raised by Senator McKenna, which is still left up in the air, is whether the people who are employed at the aluminium works at present are being transferred on the same pay and subject to the same conditions. Conditions are important. In my early life I had a lot of trouble over working conditions. The Government has not said that the employees are being so transferred. The concluding paragraph of the Minister’s speech relates to this point. In that valiant way for which I like him, but which does not carry much weight when he has not got the goods, he said -
There is one last point I want to make and which I hope the Tasmanian press will report.
The Minister continued his speech, but there is nothing to say that the present employees of the aluminium works at Bell Bay will become employees of the new owners on exactly the same pay and conditions. If I remember rightly, the Minister mentioned remuneration; but there is also the matter of superannuation. The superannuation scheme of the Crown may be much better than that of the company which is buying this plant. The employees are entitled to protection and the Government has not said that under this sale the employees will be transferred on the same pay and conditions.
I have considered the Minister’s reply. I think he will admit that 1 have gone to some trouble and have spent some time over it. I was amazed that a Leader of the Government of Senator Spooner’s calibre should bring the question of unity tickets into his speech. That has nothing to do with this matter. The only point in this matter is that the Government is selling the plant at Bell Bay to a company and will not tell us all there is to tell about the sale.
– Oh, yes we will. The contract of sale will be discussed on the floor of the Parliament.
– If the Minister is prepared to tell the Opposition all it wants to know, why did he make this statement, “ I will not table the papers in this matter “? It is of no use for the Minister to say anything to the contrary, because that is what he said. Why should not the Opposition know?
– You must at least commend the Minister for being honest.
– I do not want to go back over that. For a good portion of his speech, Senator Spooner abused the Labour Party from a political point of view.
– I certainly got a few interjections.
– I did not mind that. I think we know each other well enough to know that we both hit above the belt.
– When I get it 1 always try to give it.
– I do not mind that either. In this game of politics, if you cannot take it, you are a fool to give it. The Minister became lyrical about his own party. I could see the wings sprouting from his shoulders. I regret to say that from a political point of view his speech was nothing more or less than soap box oratory.
– You are a bit envious.
– No, I am not. Listen, my friend, and I shall tell you something about your party. I would go out of politics to-morrow if I were used as a lick-spittle by any party. I am here as a representative of the Labour Party, and I give my friends who belong to the Minister’s party the credit for being here as representatives of the Liberal Party, but as for the Country Party, I often ask myself how and why it exists.
– Envious again!
– Not at all. Although the Government is selling out a public undertaking we have had to listen to a speech from the Leader of the Government that was arrogant and inexcusable because of the lack of facts that marked it. The reading of Senator Spooner’s speech did cause me some enjoyment and I am certain that he, too, will laugh when he hears again what he said. His first defence of this sale is that the aluminium deposits were opened up by Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, which had spent its own red gold in investigating our natural resources. T remember a general election that the Liberal Party won on a story about Moscow gold. I was supposed to have been the recipient of that gold on behalf of the Labour Party. Senator Spooner must have been thinking of that incident when he referred to red gold. I know that gold is hard to get to-day, but I have never known it to be red. Leaving that aspect of the matter, let us investigate the logic of such a remark. Does it mean that any foreign company that investigates our resources is entitled to exploit those resources? If that is the policy of this Government we might as well hand over the whole of the destiny of this country to wealthy outside interests. 1 do not think that Senator Spooner’s views are very different from my own on the effect of excessive investment of foreign capital on this country. We have only to think of what is happening in Cuba, and what has happened in China. In the latter country prior to the advent of the present Administration the spheres of influence did not help the Chinese to retain a government whose thinking was more on a par with our own.
Going further into Senator Spooner’s speech, I noticed that he criticized Senator McKenna for referring to Consolidated Zinc as one of the giants in this industry. Surely he does not deny that the world’s production of this commodity is in the hands of three or four industrial giants? Every one knows about the mergers and take-overs of present day commercial ventures but Senator Spooner did not suggest that in respect of this undertaking there will be no merger, or takeover, by some other interest. Could not one of the other three giants approach Consolidated Zinc and offer for an industry for which it has paid in the vicinity of £11,000,000, an amount of £20,000,000 or some sum which would allow a profit to be made? We do not know whether this could happen because the Minister will not produce the documents for our examination. Without seeing those documents how can any one say that the contention of Senator MeKenna is wrong? At all events, no one can suggest that Consolidated Zinc is not an industrial giant in world affairs.
However, other points in Senator Spooner’s speech amazed me even more. I spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon reading the speech again and again. The most incredible point he made in order to bolster his case was the absence of criticism of the sale by newspapers. I think even he will laugh at that one. Can he point out to me any occasion when the newspapers have said that it was wrong to sell one of the nation’s assets? The newspapers have never criticized these sell-outs because the four or five men who control the mass media of the supposedly news sources of this country are also members of the directorates of banks and other industries. Do you think that the Williams family of Melbourne is interested only in the million a day they sell of the “ Sun “ and the “ Herald “? What about the Fairfaxes, the Hendersons and the Packers? After all, the present Government has belittled the Queen in knighting some of these people just because they support the Government at election time. What have they ever done except make money for themselves? The honour of knighthood was supposed to be something worthwhile in years gone by, but now it is bestowed on heads of departments and superior clerks.
I repeat that the most incredible point made by Senator Spooner was that the press did not criticize this transaction. Senator Spooner knows that he gets very little criticism from the press, and when he has been subjected to such criticism I have seen him bristle under it. During our lives we become used to press criticism. I never read it. I laugh at it. The newspapers may print what they like, so far as I am concerned. If some one comes to me and says, “ The ‘ Herald ‘ has given you the rounds “, I say, “ Why should that worry me? I never read it.” But it is different, perhaps, with the supporters of the Government who do the bidding of those newspapers. I laughed to myself not long ago when the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ was for once taking the Government to task. True, it was at a time remote from a general election. I admit that I agreed with the newspaper on that occasion, which shows that politics is a funny thing.
Let us turn to another argument advanced in support of the sale of the Bell Bay works for more than £11,000,000, which is a lot of money. Senator Spooner, having failed to answer Senator McKenna’s criticism, claimed that the Australian Labour Party was objecting to the sale because it had never changed its policy on any matter. I do not have to answer that claim, Mr. Acting Deputy President, because Senator Spooner himself answered it a little later in his speech. Having said that the A.L.P. had outmoded ideas and never changed ils policy, a little later he said that the A.L.P. watered down its platform when an opportunity to win votes occurred. He accused us of clinging to old beliefs, but he knows as well as I do that the old beliefs still hold good to-day. He did not think, 30 or 40 years ago, and neither did I, that we would ever see a system such as that which operates in Russia and China. I do not agree that it is a good system, but we must admit that it is gaining such momentum in world affairs that Russia is now the second largest power in the world. In fact, Russia claims that it is the greatest power in the world. We must try to look ahead for at least 50 years, even though we may be worried by contemplating future events.
We have added certain words to the provision that was incorporated in the platform of the party in 1920, to make it applicable only to industries that are exploiting the people, but nevertheless the provision is still there and every one adheres to it. I, for one, would not mind at all if the Government said to the nation that because the Bell Bay undertaking was not doing the work that it ought to do and its production was dragging, private capital should be injected into it. As long as 51 per cent, of the shares were held by the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania, there could be no objection, because that would be the next step.
I turn to another aspect. Senator McKenna asked explicitly for the papers. I have received a setback in this respect. I thought it was the custom of the Parliament if a member asked that an officer of a department be made available to discuss a particular matter with him, he was allowed that courtesy. It seems to me that, provided confidential information is not to be divulged, the services of officers should be made available in such instances.
I had cause to-day to have my secretary ring Senator Spooner’s office and ask to speak to a representative of the department. I wanted certain matters cleared up. Naturally, I understood that an officer could not divulge confidential information. I was amazed to get a ring back later on to the effect that Senator Spooner would not allow an officer to be made available. I say to the honorable senator that his refusal must have been due either to the belief that his case was not a good one, or to lack of trust in his officer. He may take it whichever way he likes. I think his refusal was unprecedented. In the two Parliaments with which I have been associated, I have never known a previous case in which a member asked for a departmental officer to be made available to discuss a matter with him, and the Minister said “ No “. Either the Minister’s case is bad or he does not trust the officer concerned. If I did not trust a person who worked for me, he would not be there long. I say openly that I am amazed by the Minister’s action. I hope his decision in this instance will not be taken as a precedent for future decisions.
I have referred to the superannuation rights of the employees at the Bell Bay works, and I ask the Minister to answer my queries. If it is stipulated that the superannuation rights are to continue, that will be one point cleared up. I have already mentioned, and I shall mention again, the position regarding interest. It is most extraordinary. So far as Consolidated Zinc is concerned, it is a case of, “ Heads I win, tails you lose.” I have never heard of such an arrangement being made before. The Minister has said that the price is a fair one. I am certain that Consolidated Zinc would not pay more than it considered was a fair price. I suggest that the transaction could end in the company owing this nation a number of millions of pounds for interest over the sixteen year period, and it might be that if the interest were not paid at the end of the period, it would have to be wiped off. I have already indicated that the matter could be got over by the Government taking 6 per cent., thus saving about £375,000. As it stands, the arrangement is fantastic.
I do not know why the Minister would not produce the papers. He has often quoted from them. I understand that in an earlier debate Senator Henty also used them. Papers were quoted from by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) when the telephone tapping legislation was being discussed in another place.
– What did he use?
– He used papers that he would not produce, during the debate on telephone tapping. Another instance of refusal to table documents comes to mind. I refer to the report of Mr. Warren McDonald, the former Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission. The only portion of the document which was tabled was the part that dealt with the sale of the Viscounts and the DC6B’s, and that part of the report did not support the Government’s contention about the transfer. Without being personal in any respect, I say that the Minister’s statement that it did support the Government’s contention was a dishonest statement to this chamber. I defy any one to say that I am wrong.
I have no quarrel with the Government, which was elected by the people, for putting its policy into operation, but I remind members of the Liberal Party opposite that the reason they are still in power is that they have the support of the Australian Country Party - I admit that that party has not been given much for its support - and also got a few second preference votes from our friends in the corner, the members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party. But politics is a peculiar game. One never knows what the morrow will bring forth. However, while honorable senators opposite are in office we expect them to do what they said they would do. The people expect the Government to place before them all the facts of this matter. That has not been done. Personally, if I had to bear the responsibility in this matter and I thought it would help this nation to get Consolidated Zinc Limited into the industry, I would have no objection to that company acquiring 49 per cent, of the undertaking, leaving the ownership of 51 per cent, with the Government, but I would have safeguards so that the company could not put its shares on the stock exchange. But we do not know what the Government has done in this matter. The Minister will not tell us.
I conclude on this note: I have listened to many speeches by Senator McKenna, and I think his speech on this matter was a very good one.
– I should like to congratulate the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on his speech in which he said that the policy on which this Government was elected in 1949 has been continued ever since and has been applied in the matter now under discussion. Unlike the members of the Labour Party, the members of the Government parties are not socialists. We do not want to own these instrumentali ties particularly when, for the most part, they are run at a loss.
I believe that the sale of the Bell Bay undertaking to Consolidated Zinc Limited and the Tasmanian Government will be the beginning of increased enterprise in Australia. Not only will this industry increase its earnings, but eventually it will provide further employment.
Senator Kennelly has criticized the provision in the agreement relating to interest, whereby interest at 5 per cent, on the purchase money outstanding will not be charged until the company is earning 6) per cent. Does not the honorable senator realize that, for almost ten years, the taxpayers of Australia have had £10,000,000 invested in this enterprise, from which not one penny of interest has been received?
– The enterprise has provided a lot of work.
– lt has indeed made a lot of work for the people in Tasmania and I believe that, as a result of the sale, there will be much more work available for the people in the future.
The Minister has stated that Consolidated Zinc Limited and its partner, the Tasmanian Government, have agreed to increase production from the present rate of 12,500 tons of ingot aluminium a year to 28,000 tons. It is expected that a further investment will then be made in the industry enabling total production to fee increased ultimately to 50,000 tons of ingot aluminium a year. Production is to be increased from 12,500 tons at present to 28,000 tons in the next four years, at a total cost to Consolidated Zinc Limited and the Tasmanian Government of £9,400,000. Is not that a great thing? And, as I have said, that will be only the beginning because the plant will be gradually increased until it has a capacity
Of from 40,000 tons to 50,000 tons a year.
This is only a small part of the enterprise. I do not know how many honorable senators have visited Weipa. When I heard of the vast potential resources of north Queensland, I made it my business to go there and see the position for myself. I wanted to find out from the people on the job about their difficulties and to see what could be done to help them. When I arrived, I was amazed to find that the deposits of bauxite at Weipa extended over some 600 square miles and contained at least 2,000,000,000 tons of bauxite, according to a preliminary survey. That is a lot of bauxite. There could be much more than that, and I think there is. The cuts in the deposit that I looked at were from 12 feet to 15 feet deep. There was only 1 foot of overburden on the surface; the remainder was bauxite, lt has been estimated conservatively by Comalco that in the Weipa deposits there are over 2,000,000,000 tons of bauxite. In the initial stages, the bauxite will be taken from Weipa to Bell Bay for treatment. Future requirements of bauxite will, I hope, be produced at Weipa and shipped to Bell Bay, there to be turned into alumina and then into aluminium.
In addition, Consolidated Zinc has agreed to spend another £30,000,000 in developing port facilities at Weipa and a treatment plant that will ultimately convert bauxite to alumina. Comalco, which was jointly owned by the Consolidated Zinc Corporation and the British Aluminium Company, has been making surveys of ‘the area for the last two years. It brought experts from Holland to advise on the best place to establish a port and the best methods to use. The Weipa deposits are situated on Albatross Bay. I understand that the facilities will be placed adjacent to a river near the camp site. The Dutch experts did a considerable amount of work on a system to obviate the silting caused by the prevailing tidal system. If the project had proceeded as was initially hoped, as fast as a dredge cleared the sand away, sand would have been filled in by the tides. The Dutch experts have fixed a location for the port and devised a method of construction that will obviate silting and the need for a dredge to operate continuously.
It is expected that port facilities and other equipment will require the expenditure of £30,000,000. Would the Labour Party expect the taxpayers to find that money? Could we go to the people with a proposition involving the purchase of the Bell Bay project for £10,000,000 or £11,000,000, the expenditure of another £9,400,000 there, and the expenditure of £30,000,000 on development at Weipa, the total amount being £50,000,000, knowing full well that the shareholders in the industry have not received one penny by way of dividends?
– What has been the cause of that? Was it mismanagement?
– The plant has not been mismanaged, I can assure you. That is only your view. In the initial stages there was a little bit of hanky-panky when the Labour Party was trying to get it started. I remember that Senator Henty told us how Labour muddled and fooled about. It could not even decide upon a site.
– Was there a profit last year?
– There was a profit of £158,000. Capitalized, that represents a return of 1.4 per cent.
– You just said that the taxpayers got nothing.
– The taxpayers did not receive a dividend. That profit went back, as it had to go back, to offset the losses that had been suffered. When the plant and its productivity have been increased, the shareholders will expect a dividend of 6i per cent. The company does not expect to be able to pay that until the plant has a commercial capacity of about 28,000 tons a year.
– That is the cause of its being uneconomic.
– ‘It is too small. The Government does not want to become involved in the expenditure, only as a beginning, of £30,000,000 or £40,000,000.
– But you admit that that is why it is uneconomic.
– Yes. I was told by Comalco that an economic unit to treat the bauxite produced at Weipa would cost about £250,000,000 and would produce about 250,000 tons of aluminium a year. Who wants to go in for that expenditure? The Government does not want to do so. The Labour Party would be in it, I have no doubt, and the plant would show no return on its capital. We want these people to develop these areas, making big profits, from which we will obtain in taxation 8s. in the £1. That is not bad. Labour’s philosophy is to get in and have a go and lose the taxpayers’ money. That is all that Labour has done in the past.
– What was wrong with the Commonwealth’s whaling enterprise and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited?
– It was not our policy to carry them on. When we sold our shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the capital was £709,494, and the net profit earned was £135,000. Since we sold, the capital has increased to £2,250,000, and the net profit is £701,000, of which the Government gets two-fifths, or about £280,000, by way of taxation. If Labour had carried on, there would have been no profits.
– What about the Menzies inflation?
– It is a lot better than Labour’s depression. I remember that when Labour was in office from 1929 to 1931 the people could not get food. There is a lot of difference, but I do not want to continue in that vein. I do not want to talk about inflation or the depressions of the Labour Party.
It has been said that we should have called tenders for the sale of this undertaking. When we got this offer for a plant that is ten years old and much of which needs renewing, we grabbed it with both hands, because we are getting back the money that the people have put into it. If we called tenders what would we have got?
– What was wrong with calling for tenders?
– I have been in business all my life, and I believe a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. That is why we have taken this offer. We are proud to take it, and we are glad to get out of the undertaking. We wish the company all the luck in the world. We will give it all the help in the world. The company has the bauxite, it has the Bell Bay plant, and production will go ahead. It is prepared to take this gamble. It is prepared not to make any profits for four years but to spend a further £9,400,000 to increase production to 28,000 tons a year.
We as a government have said to the buyer. “ We will sell you this outfit. You will pay us £2,500,000 cash and pay the balance over sixteen years. There will be four annual instalments of £250,000, making £1,000,000; eleven annual instalments of £625,000, making £6,875,000; and one instalment of £598,000, making a total of £10,973,000. Interest on the balance will be at the rate of 5 per cent.”. The company said, “ You have not made any money out of this. We will agree to pay you 5 per cent., but we tell you right at the beginning that you cannot expect to receive any interest in the first four years because we will be losing money. We will be spending another £9,400,000 to increase the capacity of the plant from 12,500 tons to 28,000 tons.” The company said that when it reached that stage it expected to be able to pay its shareholders a dividend of 6i per cent, and to pay interest at 5 per cent.
The Minister for National Development agreed to the proposition and brought it into this chamber. He has received applause throughout the length and breadth of Australia from every person who does any thinking, but not from the Labour Party. Honorable senators opposite cannot find anyone outside the chamber who is opposed to the proposition. Their friends in Tasmania are all for it. The Tasmanian Government says, “ We want to be in this. We think it is a good deal.” The Tasmanian Government knows that 66J of the undertaking is owned by a progressive company which has the necessary initiative to develop it. The State Government knows that the plant has been under the control of the Commonwealth and itself for ten or twelve years but that it has not received a penny return. The Tasmanian Government says in effect “ Now we have a chance, because Consolidated Zinc is behnid the project and that enterprise does not go into anything unless it can make some money “.
– Can you assure us that the Premier of Tasmania was not rolled over a barrel?
– 1 cannot assure you to that effect. I believe he went into this quite willingly. I have not heard many Tasmanians opposing the sale. In fact, the people of Tasmania are right behind the deal. They know that production will be increased and that the work force will be increased.
– Who told you that? Was it Reg Wright?
– I did have a conversation with Senator Wright about it. He told me that the workers in Tasmania are eager that this deal should go through. Let us look at what the position will be in outback Queensland. It is expected that eventually 5,000 people will be living at Weipa and developing the bauxite deposits. The deposits at Weipa are not the only deposits of bauxite in Australia. There are also deposits on the other side of the gulf at Gove and in Western Australia, from which areas three trial shipments have been sent to Japan. The aluminium industry will become a great export earner for Australia. This is the beginning of a new era in the history of the industry.
Honorable senators opposite talk about monopolies controlling the production of bauxite and aluminium through out the world. If they were to look at the publication “ Australian Aluminium Industry “ which I have in my hand, they would see that twenty different companies are producing aluminium. They would also see set out at page 4 the world’s production of aluminium from 1950 to 1958. It is interesting to note that within the last ten years production has increased from 1,476,0G0 long tons to more than 3,398,000 long tons. It is expected that within the next ten years production will again double itself. We have got the aluminium industry started in Australia, we have the bauxite, and we can look forward to a development of the industry. Doubtless other companies will become interested in the development of our bauxite deposits. The Commonwealth and the State Governments should induce overseas companies to come to Australia to expand the aluminium industry. The Consolidated Zinc organization is now examining various sources of power so that the utmost development can be undertaken at Weipa.
Honorable senators opposite have asked why the Minister for National Development has not produced the relevant papers so that Labour senators and we on this side of the chamber may peruse them. I am perfectly satisfied with the Minister’s statement. Surely we do not need to look at the papers to learn of the stupid actions of the Labour Party in regard to this project. We do not want to go back over the papers for ten years or so to see how the Labour Party messed up the establishment of this industry. The deal that has been negotiated by the Government will stand on its merits.
The Labour Party has not yet taken a trick in this debate. The majority of the people of Australia are behind the Government in its sale of this enterprise. I have very much pleasure in associating myself with those people and in supporting the Government’s action.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Deputy President, I had not intended to speak in this debate but in view of some of the erroneous statements that have been made by some honorable senators opposite, particularly by Senator Henty, I am compelled to do so. Some honorable senators on the opposite side were very fair in their remarks, particularly Senator Lillico. Senator Marriott praised Mr. Reece and the Tasmanian Government for having the wisdom to retain an interest in the aluminium industry.
Honorable senators from Tasmania on this side of the chamber presented some constructive views to the Senate, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I endorse everything that he said. He was ably supported by Senator Kennelly, Senator Dittmer and my Tasmanian colleague, Senator O’Byrne. Senator Marriott chided honorable senators from Tasmania on this side of the Senate for not entering into this debate, but I quite freely enter into the debate. The Opposition has never yet squibbed an issue.
Senator Lillico referred to remarks passed by Mr. Reece and quoted him as saying -
My government has won an industrial victory of major proportions, but more and more lies ahead of us. The construction of hundreds of new homes, and more schools, the bridging of the lower reaches of the Tamar and the search for still more industrial development in the Tamar valley built around Bell Bay aluminium, will be our early objective for this year.
Senator Lillico claimed that the Labour Party spoke with different voices in the State and Federal spheres. Mr. Reece had no choice of action. It is not news to me that he was looking for new capital to bring into this industry. I could have told honorable senators that three years ago. The Labour Party does not speak with two voices. It is 100 per cent, behind the action of Mr. Reece. I do not doubt that any of us on this side of the chamber, placed in Mr. Reece’s position, would have acred as he acted. I was pleased to hear Senator Marriott and Senator Lillico say how wise Mr. Reece was to retain an interest in this wonderful project. It was gratifying to me to hear them state that the industry has a wonderful future. I thank those honorable senators for those comments. I will have more to say later about other statements made by them when I deal with the remarks passed by Senator Henty and others.
Effectively to relate the history of the aluminium industry we must go back to the important part that aluminium played during the last war. The Labour Party became aware of the importance of aluminium and, judging by some of the speeches that I have heard in this debate, the Liberal Party also became aware of its importance to this country. It was that importance that led to the first move to produce aluminium in Australia. Before aluminium could be produced here untold difficulties had to be overcome. The “ industry was starting from scratch. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has told us of the problems that are being faced in opening up the Weipa bauxite deposits. He has told us how electricity and other facilities must be provided before the bauxite fields can be mined. Electricity and many other facilities had to be provided at Bell Bay before aluminium could be produced. The establishment of the industry as a defence project was first mooted in 1943, but it was not until 1944 - this is for Senator Mattner’s benefit - that anything definite was done by the two Labour governments to establish the industry. In 1944 a bill was introduced into this Parliament to establish the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. That was the start.
– In November, 1944.
– I said 1944.
– Senator Mattner said that the industry started much earlier than that. At the time neither the Tasmanian
Government nor the Commonwealth Government knew much about the technical problems of aluminium production. I agree with what Senator Henty said in this regard, although I will disagree with him a good deal before I have finished. I doubt whether anybody in this chamber knows everything about the technicalities of aluminium production. The first ingot of aluminium that I ever saw was at the opening of the Bell Bay factory. It was probably the first ingot seen by many members of Parliament. Up to that time private enterprise had shown no inclination to establish an aluminium industry and it was incumbent upon the Government to do so. Many difficulties were involved. Some honorable senators have referred to the fact that the Tasmanian Government invested £3,000,000 in the industry. But in addition the Tasmanian Government had to provide sufficient electric power to run the plant and achieve an annual production of 16,000 tons. When the plant first went into operation the Tasmanian Government found that it could not supply all the electric power needed, but as time went by the Tasmanian Government was able to increase its output of electricity. The Tasmanian Government agreed that it could supply sufficient electricity to run the plant by a certain date, but the provision of thai extra electricity involved the Tasmanian Government in an expenditure of £10,000,000. The Tasmanian Labour Government set up the Trevallyn electricity plant, which is linked with the Great Lake scheme, for the principal purpose of supplying power for the aluminium plant at Bell Bay. In addition it had to embark on a major water scheme, because water, as well as electricity, plays an important part in the manufacture of aluminium. A considerable expenditure and considerable time were involved. Even after this Government came into office, people were constantly wanting to know how soon the plant would commence operations. Often the cry went up that the electricity would not be there when the plant was ready to start operating, but the Tasmanian Labour Premier always replied that the electricity would be ready on time. Nobody in the Commonwealth sphere dreamt that it would be ready on time, but it was ready before the Commonwealth Government was ready with the aluminium plant.
Let me get back to some of the other points raised by the Minister for Customs and Excise. I do not want to misquote him. I notice that what is reported in “ Hansard “ is not what he stated in this chamber because he said first that Trevallyn was chosen as the site. Trevallyn was never chosen as the site for the establishment of the aluminium industry. Great pressure was brought to bear on the Commonwealth Labour Government by businessmen in Launceston, the Chamber of Commerce and the fatherly aldermen of the city. The Minister was an alderman and also a member of the Chamber of Commerce. The Trevallyn site was a few acres of mudbank and it was unreasonable to think of establishing an aluminium industry there. When the Minister for Supply and Development came over to inspect that site, it took him just ten minutes to make up his mind to reject it. I agreed with him 100 per cent, and I did my best to show him that it was ludicrous to try to establish the aluminium industry on a mudbank on the edge of Launceston.
Then other sites down the river were considered, and that investigation also took time. In order to satisfy the pressure from the fatherly aldermen of Launceston, the Chamber of Commerce and others, in which Senator Henty played a very important part, the government of the day agreed to build the plant on the best available site as near as possible to Launceston. So, the Dilston site was considered. The Minister for Customs and Excise did not tell the Senate about the Dilston site. While the Tasmanian Government was making its plans for the development of hydro electric power to supply this industry, if my memory serves me correctly the Commonwealth Government also asked the Tasmanian Government to make tests at sites down the river. The Commonwealth Government financed the tests, but the Tasmanian Department of Works carried out the tests to determine whether there were suitable foundations to enable the industry to be established on one of the other sites. After two or three years battling to try to get suitable foundations on the mudbanks on the west side of the Tamar River, it was found to be impossible to select a site which would satisfy the Launceston people by establishing the industry near Launceston, because other factors had to be considered.
It was claimed that the residue from the aluminium works was unsightly and that it would fill up the channel of the Tamar River. It was also claimed that the residue was injurious to productive land. Therefore, a site had to be chosen where the residue from the plant could be channelled into dead end corners which were of no use to anybody else and not ornamental. That is why other sites were considered in an endeavour to get dead end corners for the residue from the’ industry. That also took a considerable time.
While that was going on Australia also had a major war on its hands. I come back again to Senator Henty’s speech. 1 do not want to misquote him. I would hate to misquote an honorable Minister who claims that he never makes a mistake. So that I will not misquote him, 1 will read part of his speech as reported on page 608 of “ Hansard “. He said -
The reports go right through these incidents step by step. If the Labour Party had not been so atrophied by socialist dogma in 1943, it would have gone to an American firm and said, “ This industry is important to Australia. Come in wilh us on a one-third partnership basis-
Senator Henty used those words “ on a one-third partnership basis “; honorable senators know what the Government is doing to-day - “… and get this thing built. “ But what did the Labour Government do?
The Minister was talking about 1943 when he was comfortably established in Launceston with his little import and export business. I am not too sure that he was not the mayor of the city at the time. He was very comfortably established in Launceston, but the majority of Australia’s men were fighting for their dear lives and the allies were being belted to their knees. That is the time in respect of which Senator Henty says, “ Why didn’t the Labour Government go and ask the Americans to come out here at once and build the aluminium industry? “ All of America’s aluminium was tied up in America; we in Australia had no aluminium; the Americans could not get aluminium out to us; we could not get ships to bring it to Australia; ando the Japs were coming down upon Australia. But the Minister forgot about the war. He wanted the Australian Government to ask the Americans to stop their assault on the Japs to the north of Australia and establish an aluminium industry in Australia. If that is the way he would go about winning a war and developing an industry, it was not the Labour Government’s policy because it considered the major task at that time was winning the war.
The shortage of aluminium at that time emphasized the necessity for establishing the aluminium industry as a defence industry in Australia, to which honorable senators opposite probably object. But the Labour Government did not want Australia to be caught in the same position again with no aluminium in the event of a war. The Labour Government decided to establish the aluminium industry as a defence industry.
Let me go a little further. We overcame the difficulties as well as it was possible to overcome them, but the Labour Government never meant to establish this industry while the war was on. We knew that was utterly impossible. It was to be a defence project for after the war so that Australia would not be caught in the same position again. In all these difficulties the Minister has cast a reflection upon the Labour Government because in his speech he referred to us as a bunch of the greatest suckers in the world. If honorable senators opposite would like to hear the Minister’s remarks, I will quote them. I have them here. There are only about two other places where I have heard such remarks during the 22 years that I have been in this chamber. I have heard them on the Yarra bank and in the Sydney Domain from down-and-out speakers. Those are the only other places where I have heard language such as that used by the Minister. He referred to us as a bunch of mugs. I do not expect such phrases to come from a leading Minister in this Parliament.
– A Minister of the Crown.
– Yes, from a Minister of the Crown. I am quoting facts and if any honorable senator doubts my word he will find those remarks in “ Hansard “. If there is no doubt about them there is no need to quote them, but I will give the page. They are on page 610 of “Hansard”.
The Minister went on to say something with which I agree. He does not always show his true colours. He gave great praise to Mr. Keast. I will read the Minister’s remarks so that I will not misquote him. He said -
When the Government came into office-
He was speaking of his own Government - it appointed one of the greatest constructional engineers that we have ever seen in Australia, Mr. J. R. Keast.
I agree with Senator Henty 100 per cent. Mr. Keast did a wonderful job. In the Minister’s speech he emphasized the great job that Mr. Keast did when he related how some of the machinery was missing. lt came from different parts of Europe and was landed in Tasmania, and for years it rusted while the Government was waiting for Mr. Keast to get it all together. However, he surmounted all those difficulties, got the plant together, got it to the stage where it was ready to go into production. He saw that it went into production. But what did Senator Henty do while Mr. Keast was doing this? Mr. Keast was a great engineer who night and day was engaged in solving some of the most difficult problems that ever confronted an engineer. Senator Henty’s speech bears that out. Mr. Keast deserved all the help he could get, but because his driver drove him the 40 miles from Bell Bay to Launceston and then another 10 miles out to the airport, Senator Henty pimped to the Minister and said it was a waste of public money that Mr. Keast, the manager of Bell Bay, should be driven right to the airport. He suggested that Mr. Keast should have got out of his car at Launceston and travelled to the airport by bus. On subsequent occasions Mr. Keast did get out of his car at Launceston and go by bus to the airport. That illustrates the assistance that Senator Henty gave to this great engineer. I wonder whether Senator Henty goes to the airport by bus or whether he rides in a ministerial car. Mr. Keast is doing a great job, a job equally important to any job that Senator Henty has ever done since he has been a Minister. I give Senator Henty full marks for his praise of Mr. Keast, but I do not give him any marks for these other references he made about him.
Going a little further I wish to deal with the praise Senator Henty gave to the Tasmanian Government. In order that I will not misquote the Minister I shall read what he is reported to have said at pages 607 and 613 of “Hansard”. At page 613 Senator Henty is reported to have said -
The Labour Government of Tasmania is aware of the benefits that will flow to Tasmania.
Let that sink in. He continued -
In that respect, it is entirely out of step with the Labour Opposition in this Parliament, which is trying to tear this great deal to pieces, although it knows that when Labour was in office it did nothing to develop the industry.
Did you ever hear a statement which was further from the truth insofar as it applies to the previous Labour Government and to Labour senators in this chamber at the present time? I join with Senator Henty in the praise he gave to Mr. Reece Let us now see what Senator Henty is reported as having said at page 608 of “ Hansard “ -
The reports go right through these incidents step by step. If the Labour Party had not been so atrophied by socialist dogma in 1943, it would have gone to an American firm . . .
I have already read that passage from the Minister’s speech. I have referred also to the difficulties confronting the Labour Government in Tasmania. I agree with Senator Henty’s just praise of the Labour Government, but I disagree entirely with his statement that the Federal Labour Party is out of step with the Labour Government in Tasmania. What Senator Henty did not tell the Senate was that although we disagree entirely with other sales of the people’s assets the present Government has made we do not disagree with the sale of this industry. Long before this sale took place the Government had commenced to strangle the industry. It has been doing this for three or four years, and it had to dispose of its interests, or part of them, before the industry was completely strangled out of existence. Nobody knew that better than did Mr. Reece. I knew it myself, because about three years ago when I went to Bell Bay the engineers emphasized the fact to me that the industry would never be an economic success until such time as its output had been doubled. I asked the engineers why extra rows had been left vacant and they informed me that the vacant rows were for the purpose of enabling the machinery to be duplicated, thus doubling the output. I was informed that the commission could not go on with the duplication for the simple reason that it could not obtain any funds. This plant could have been duplicated and the output of aluminium ingots increased three years ago. If that had been done we would not have heard the story of a profit of only 1.4 per cent, to-day; we would probably have heard the story of an industry that was standing on its own feet. Knowing this to be a positive fact, what else could Mr. Reece do . but look for outside capital to come in to keep the industry on its feet and prevent it from being strangled by the Federal Liberal Government, which refused to put another £1 into the industry. It is perfectly true that Mr. Reece was looking for outside capital. I will not deny that because if any of us had been in his place we would have tried to do exactly the same thing. We would have been thinking of Tasmania and of the £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 already invested in the industry by the Labour Government. We would have thought of the hundreds of homes that have been built by the Labour Government for the employees engaged in this industry. All these things had to be considered, and Mr. Reece was thinking of these things when he decided it was necessary to look for outside capital. He knew perfectly well that the Federal Government would sell out, but at no time did he ever have any intention of selling out the State’s interest in the industry. I agree with Senator Marriott that Mr. Reece in his wisdom never intended to sell out the State’s interest.
I have dealt with the reason why the industry had to be sold by this Government. This Government knew perfectly well that if it did not sell the industry there would be a hue and cry because of the condition into which the industry was getting. The Government knew that it would not be able to give the industry away in the future and that it would be wise to sell it now. The Government had definitely made up its mind that it would not invest another penny piece in the industry. That is a true statement which has been reiterated time and time again during this debate by the Minister and other speakers from the Government side.
The Government sold its share in the industry. We disagree with the Government for selling out the whole of its share in the industry. Senator Henty asked why the Labour Government of 1943 did not obtain American capital and retain a onethird share in the industry. I ask the present Government why it did not retain a one-third share in the industry. With the one-third share held by the Tasmanian Government the holdings of the two governments would have been two-thirds, and in those circumstances the introduction of outside capital would not have mattered. But no, the Government decided to get right out of the industry. In view of the Government’s decision to get right out of the industry what was the Premier of Tasmania to do? Was he to say, “ I will get out of it, too”, or was he to try to save the industry? He tried to save it for the purpose of saving the other expenditure that Tasmania had incurred, and therefore I give Mr. Reece full marks for his decision. When pressmen asked me for a statement about this matter I said that the only remark I had to make was that I have every confidence in the Premier of Tasmania. I said nothing more and nothing less. I agree with the praise that he has received.
I wish now to deal with the conditions of this sell-out by the Commonwealth Government because this is where we do make a complaint. We do not object to the Government getting out of the industry because it had strangled the industry before it decided to get out. In fact it is good for Tasmania that the Commonwealth has got out of the industry.
– And for Australia, too.
– Yes, and for Australia too. It is a good thing for Tasmania particularly, but it is also a good thing for Australia. However, it is the manner in which the Government got out of this industry to which we object. We in this chamber are, as it were, trustees or executors elected by the people to watch their interests. Why should we be ignored and everything be done by the Government in secrecy? Why were we not consulted until after everything had been arranged, and why cannot the necessary papers be laid on the table of the Senate? Why should we be ignored so completely? Honorable senators opposite cannot tell me that every citizen of Australia is not a shareholder in the Bell Bay industry.
– Of course he is. The people of Australia are shareholders, just as they are in the Snowy Mountains scheme. Such schemes belong to the people of this nation, and those of us in this place have been elected to look after their interests. That is why we on this side of the chamber are vocal to-day about the manner in which the sale was conducted and its terms and conditions.
Senator McKenna, ably supported by Senator Kennelly, left no stone unturned in emphasizing that point. In the field of government, the only people who have looked after the interests of the shareholders in the industry - the citizens of Australia - are Mr. Reece and his Labour Government in Tasmania. We on this side have been criticized because we are endeavouring to support him. We claim that the Government did the wrong thing in disposing of the people’s interests and rights in the Bell Bay works without consulting their representatives or allowing them to have any say in the sale.
Another aspect on which we disagree with the Government’s method of disposing of this industry which belonged to the mass of the people, is that it did not ascertain whether it was obtaining the highest price for the works. The Government did not call for tenders, and for that reason it cannot say definitely that no other company, either inside Australia or outside it, would have paid a higher price or given better conditions. Nol The business had to be secret between the Minister representing the Cabinet and the Zinc Corporation. Why all the secrecy? Can any honorable senator opposite say definitely that the Government received the best possible offer for the industry and that the sale was made on the best possible conditions? Of course not. If the Government contends that it was the best possible sale, why does it not produce the papers and so prove the point? The Government is silent on that issue. It prefers to bring in outside interests to take over the industry, debarring Australian interests and Australian capital, although Australian interests might have been prepared to do just as well, if not better, than the organization that has bought the works.
Australian interests never were given the opportunity, because everything was too secret.
The supporters of the Government say that we have no right to stand up here and criticize the sale. What would our electors think of us if we let it pass over our heads and failed to protest at the Yarra bank and Domain oratory of Senator Henty, who hardly touched on the transaction at all? 1 suggest they would think very little of us if we let the subject pass without making known our views, not only to the Government but also to the general public.
Senator McKenna tried to drag from Senator Spooner an assurance that the interests of the employees were being adequately protected. However, he received no guarantees whatever. Let me read the evasive reply given by Senator Spooner on this important matter -
There is one last point I want to make and which I hope the Tasmanian press will report. It relates to the interests of the employees. When we came into this matter, naturally we said to the purchasers, “We will want to protect the interests of the employees “. They said, “ Do not concern yourselves on that score. We have been through this plant. You have a good management and a good staff. We want to ensure that they come over to us. . . .”
That was the Minister’s reply regarding the protection of the interests of the employees. He did not refer to superannuation rights, long-service leave and sick leave rights, and matters of that nature. Apparently, there is not one word about those things in the contract, and there was not one word of assurance from Senator Spooner that the interests of the employees were being protected. For all we know, the employees may have to start from scratch, as new employees in an industry. We cannot drag an assurance from the Government. Instead, we have to listen to evasive replies. Yarra bank oratory from Senator Henty and references to “ mugs “ and “ suckers “. I hate to use those expressions and I would not have used them had he not done so. I say to Senator Wright, in case he has made a note of them, that they are not my words but Senator Henty’s. I have never indulged in that kind of talk and I do not want to indulge in it now.
We have not been able to get an assurance that the interests of the employees have been protected, but nevertheless the Government chides us for criticizing the sale and demanding protection. I demand it not only as a representative of the people of Tasmania but also as a citizen of Australia who owns part of the industry, as everybody else does. I say that we should not be ignored as Mussolini, Hitler or Khrushchev might ignore the people in similar circumstances. Such treatment is expected from dictators but not from a democratically elected government. What has the Government to hide? What is it afraid of? It is apparent from its failure to table the documents that it is afraid of something. Honorable senators opposite hate us to stand up and challenge them to throw their fears on one side and come clean with the people of Australia. We are not going to say that the deal is shady, but let the Government prove to the people that there is nothing shady in it, by producing the facts and laying the contracts on the table of the Senate. Until that is done, the people of Australia must consider that there is something that the Government is afraid of.
Let me have a parting word for Senator Marriott. If his brother thinks he is going to win the Bass seat on the strength of the sale of the aluminium industry by the Federal Government, I am afraid it is going to be a long time before he sees the inside of this Parliament.
.- I understand that we are discussing to-night the motion that the Minister’s statement on the proposal to dispose of the aluminium industry at Bell Bay should be printed. The proposal has come under some criticism from the Opposition. So far from denying any member of the Opposition the right to criticize it, I think that anybody in this chamber, on reflection, would concede that the utmost liberty had been accorded to members of the Senate to express views, either of approval or disapproval. That is as it should be.
I think the matter should be approached neither from the point of view of panegyric nor, indeed, of prejudice. It is not a case in which we might expect superlatives to be used. It is a case of a practical business proposition in the affairs of the nation. Looked at in that light, I think we ought to begin by considering the place that the aluminium undertaking at Bell Bay occupies in the national economy. As I understand it, this is a very small undertaking by world standards. I think 1 have read somewhere that it is about one-third the size of the smallest establishment for the production of aluminium in America. I believe that it was established essentially as a defence project, lt would be a sad mistake if we were to go along simply on the basis of the position in 1944 and the defence needs as we saw them then. 1 think it is proper that, those conditions having passed, the Commonwealth Government should realize that a new situation has developed, in which the defence need for aluminium is no more peculiar than the need for iron, copper, steel and other products of heavy industries.
At the same time, the impetus for development in Australia has gathered momentum to a terrific extent. In this problem, we should consider whether or not the Commonwealth Government should itself raise loans or levy taxes for the expansion of the capital which is essential to the increase of this industry, or whether it should induce private enterprise, either internal or external, to make its contribution to the capital expansion. For myself, I am amazed at the outlook of the Opposition, which can see within the financial resources of this country, sufficient money to develop the aluminium industry as well as other great industries. If we did not induce overseas capital to come to this land of opportunity - of great political opportunity, and great developmental opportunity, having regard to the areas of development still left in, the world’ - I think we in Australia would miss a golden opportunity. We have in this country a government which creates a political atmosphere that is designed to encourage an association of capital and labour which will not leave the resources of Australia in their raw, unimproved state, but will develop them so that, when they have been developed, benefit will accrue to our people.
Senator McKenna, in his speech to the chamber, made use of such expressions as, “ the Government has handed over a rich aluminium empire “. It may be that the honorable senator, in using that expression - I do not want to interpret his remarks unfairly - had in mind Weipa and other deposits in the north of Australia. But the expression, used in that context, would convey to a less suspecting reader than 1 am, an indication that he thought that Bell Bay was a rich Australian aluminium empire, lt is only a flea bite, a mere morsel, in the language of the giants of this industry.
Faced with that proposition, what was the Government to do? The one thing that is needed is the expansion and development of the aluminium industry. Since this midget undertaking was established at Bell Bay, huge resources of bauxite have been discovered in the north of the continent. Should we leave them undeveloped and not emphatically induce people to bring capital and know-how to this country for the development of those resources? Fortunately, this matter has been handled under the spirited guidance of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), a man who brings to this portfolio a balanced judgment, a judgment based on great business experience both public and private and one of those robust judgments that can strip the particular circumstances of their trappings and embroidery and get down to the kernel of the proposition.
As I see it, the Minister foresaw the need to put this industry within Australia on a business basis. In effect, he said, “ What would be the position if we induced people to develop bauxite deposits and the aluminium industry in north Queensland if the Government held the industry at Bell Bay? “ The answer is clear. The Government would be induced, as it was a year or two ago after receiving the report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, when competition was giving the Australian product a thrashing, to use import licensing for the peculiar protection of the Government undertaking. The Government would be under pressure to apply tariff protection to its products from Bell Bay in order to enable them to withstand superior competition. We would get a feature in the Australian economy that is wholly undesirable - the protection of a relatively small section of the Australian aluminium industry.
Therefore, it is wise to say to the interests that are willing to develop the major deposits, one of the things that must be stabilized before the industry can be put on a balanced basis in Australia: “ If you consider purchasing Bell Bay, we will see to it that you have proper opportunities to develop the major deposits in the north. There will then be no repercussions because of government ownership of a section of the industry. You can then expect the Government to play its true role impartially, uninfluenced by the fact that it has a business interest in Bell Bay. You can expect the Government to deal impartially with import licensing in the industry, uninfluenced by the fact that it is bound to protect its own investment.” I think that those considerations are the considerations that have been governing the Minister over the last two or three years during which, I sense, negotiations in this direction have been faithfully pursued.
I see in this proposal that the Minister has been able to lay a sound basis for the national development of the industry in Australia. At the same time, he has been able to ensure not merely the continuance but the expansion and security of the Tasmanian section of the industry. I would be completely recreant to my responsibilities if I did not pay special regard to that aspect of the matter, because the Tasmanian people, particularly those in the north of Tasmania, are entitled, now that this industry has been established, to look to it to continue to provide employment. They are entitled to look to it as an undertaking that will strengthen the nucleus of industry in our comparatively small State. I see in Senator Spooner’s proposal something that even the Opposition could not deny - the definite securing of an opportunity for the Tasmanian section of the industry to expand. He would be a blind disciple of either socialism or free enterprise who did not see that the Tasmanian section of the industry will have a great opportunity to expand, given the capital of Consolidated Zinc and the know-how that that enterprise can bring to the industry. I believe that it is that consideration which has persuaded Mr. Reece to accept this proposal without, so far as I know, one element of hesitation or one word of criticism.
So far as I know, the negotiations towards the achievement of this proposal have been on the basis of real understanding and business agreement between the Tasmanian Premier and the Minister for National Development. I am not surprised, because the Tasmanian Government has shown a realism with regard to industrial development. As Tasmanian senators have said, that government did exert every effort on new electrical development and other public works in order especially to supply this industry. In addition the Tasmanian Government has shown that it is quite eager to encourage private enterprise to give the people employment. Having welcomed the establishment of the new paper mills undertaking outside Devonport and the new development by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Georgetown, Mr. Reece would be inconsistent to the greatest degree if he did not approve the outcome of Senator Spooner’s negotiations, bringing the capital and the know-how of Consolidated Zinc into the Bell Bay project, with the expansion of the output of the industry from 12,000 tons to 28,000 tons in the next four years, and with the hope of developing an output within a few years afterwards of between 40,000 and 50,000 tons. Quite obviously, that will be a notable expansion of the Tasmanian section of the industry and Mr. Reece’s approval should spell complete rejection of Senator McKenna’s disapproval of the proposal.
Now let me come to the terms of the agreement. In addressing myself to this aspect, let me say at once that even Senator McKenna allowed himself to make the statement that there were many gaps in the terms that he, as a lawyer, an experienced ex-Minister and a public accountant, would expect to appear in the final agreement. He said that the Minister’s statement announcing the proposal had many gaps. We are not here to-night asking for final approval of the agreement which must come to us for legislative sanction in due course. We are asked only to consider the general statement of principle of this agreement. Final approval will depend upon consideration of the various clauses in committee. I doubt whether the final agreement is yet drafted. You would certainly not expect the Minister to go through, on the floor of the Parliament, clauses which still have to be hammered out as a matter of drafting agreement between the parties.
Senator Aylett referred to the need to preserve the accruing rights of the employees of the undertaking. Let me hasten to say that I have completely mistrusted my Minister if he has not attended to that matter with a great deal of concern. My approval of the agreement goes with my confidence that he, as a Liberal Minister, will see to that essential part of any transfer of an undertaking - the securing of the rights of the personnel who operate the undertaking. Nobody need offer criticism in advance on that matter, because I have every confidence that the Minister will see that in the final agreement the accruing rights of employees in regard to superannuation and sick leave are properly protected, as they would be on the transfer of any undertaking.
Senator McKenna criticized the proposal because the structure of the proposed company was not outlined in ten or twelve foolscap pages as it will be, I have no doubt, when the final agreement takes shape. Those criticisms weigh with me not one bit at this stage, because we should confine ouselves to the major consideration that should determine our position.
Therefore, I look to the price, which I am told by the Minister is £10,973,000. As I understand it, that is the Commonwealth’s interest in all the fixed assets excluding some leases in Wessel Island and elsewhere. All that I want to say in that regard is that I should think the Minister had an abundance of expert advice on valuation before the price was fixed. No doubt the appraisal of an undertaking such as this would be made by considering the reconstruction costs of the industry as at the date of sale and applying the proper depreciation for the period of its life. That would be checked by capitalizing the earning capacity of the industry to see whether or not the reconstruction costs, as a matter of pounds, shillings and pence, could be serviced by the income that could be derived from it.
One could only make a guess at the reconstruction cost to-day of an industry established with the main outlay having commenced about 1948. One could only make a stab at the depreciation scale that would be appropriate. Looking to the capitalization basis, one sees that the income for the year ended 30th June, 1958, was a mere £25,000. In the year ended 30th June, 1959, there was a little increase, but there was only a midget return of £158,000. I do not think anybody has referred authoritatively or with confidence to the revenue for the year ended 30th June, 1960. I am assuming there was not a remarkable increase. If any one were to tell me that an industry with that experience of income could capitalize out at a price of approximately £10,000,000 - the price we are getting for this undertaking - I would regard him as an optimist. As Senator Scott or Senator Mattner said this afternoon, if you applied a capitalization factor of ten per cent, to the sum of £158,000, you would sell the plant for £1,500,000.
Do not let me be misunderstood. Usually no one takes an industry’s returns in the first year or two as a sound basis for the capitalization method of valuation. World competition, the present state of world prices, the necessity for a tariff to bolster up this industry, and the indication of import licensing some two years ago must all be considered when you are fixing the capital sum into which you would translate a proper capitalization of revenue.
So I am not in any position to criticize the sale price. In fact, every consideration that I can bring to bear on the situation leads me to believe that the price which has been obtained is a remarkably good one. I make that statement whilst being very conscious of the inflation which has taken place during the ten years that have elapsed since this project was established and which would greatly affect the replacement cost of the undertaking.
There is one other factor that I think we are entitled to look at. Since the Minister for National Development made his announcement on this matter, there have been references in the press to the fact that the partnership between British Aluminium Company Limited and Consolidated Zinc has been dissolved. One does not need to be very shrewd to infer from that fact that there has been a division of opinion as between the British Aluminium organization and Consolidated Zinc about the price that should be paid for this undertaking. I could well understand the Reynolds corporation adopting the viewpoint that it would not go into Bell Bay and outlay, not merely this sum of approximately £10,000,000, but also another £10,000,000 for development over the next four years.
I think that would be a more sober judgment of the business facts relating to the division between the partners in Comalco than was the opinion expressed by Senator McKenna when he said that they were engaged in distributing the booty.
Another aspect of the transaction is that of interest. In this respect, we certainly have an unusual provision. The purchasers have made the payment of interest on outstanding purchase money dependent upon the profits they will actually earn from the undertaking. It is necessary to apply a business judgment to a proposition like this. If we were to continue producing at the present rate of profit, there would not be much prospect of our getting interest on capital already invested and much less prospect of getting interest on capital still to be invested. For myself, I get more satisfaction out of the prospect of Consolidated Zinc expanding this plant and producing a dividend from it, and of the Government’s getting interest if the dividend exceeds 6i per cent., than I would if the Government were to carry on the undertaking on the present basis and put more capital into it.
The next thing that has been criticized is the absence of tendering. I should like to see that method of disposal adopted uniformly in the sale of all public assets to which it is appropriate. But I should think that, in the aluminium world of to-day, an invitation to submit tenders would be completely futile. As my business judgment goes - I simply express it for what it is worth - the one consideration that would induce a company to buy this undertaking would be that it could bring stability to the Australian industry. If the company were proposing to develop the major sections of the industry - for example, in Queensland - it would get the advantage of having control of a private enterprise project not merely in the major field of Queensland but also in Tasmania. Therefore, I believe that in a proposal such as the one we are considering a request for tenders would be inappropriate.
I have not chosen to go through all the seven deadly sins that Senator McKenna advanced as an argument against the sale of this undertaking, but I feel that I have touched upon the main ones. I leave the subject with those brief thoughts, convinced that the proposal announced by the
Minister deserves warm approval. 1 believe the fact that the Premier of Tasmania has seen fit to take a share in the new organization and to welcome these proposals for expansion should put the seal of approval on the sale from Tasmania’s viewpoint. We see how this proposal combines so well the interests of the established Tasmanian section of the industry and the undoubted need for the development of the major section of the industry on the mainland. In all the circumstances we in the Federal Parliament should feel completely satisfied. The sagacity of the Minister has enabled him to submit to us a very sound proposal.
.- I support wholeheartedly the agreement that has been entered into between the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), Consolidated Zinc Limited and the Tasmanian Government. I agree wholeheartedly, too, with all that Senator Wright has said about it. He put the case very fairly and lucidly and has given us a good idea of the deal from a purely business viewpoint. I cannot understand the attitude of the Opposition towards the sale of this very important undertaking. I congratulate the Minister upon the excellent business arrangement he has entered into with the purchaser and upon the successful outcome of the negotiations, which extended over quite a long period. He is also to be congratulated upon having negotiated the return of the initial capital outlay plus the various amounts of capital that have been expended from time to time. He has done a magnificent job.
I sympathize with honorable senators opposite in their efforts to obtain some basis upon which to belittle and play down this deal, which is of importance to both the Commonwealth and Tasmania. The Opposition makes the charge that the Government has almost bent over backwards to play into the hands of monopolies and big-money interests overseas. The truth of the matter is that the Government is putting into effect the policy that it has proclaimed from the house-tops, as it were, and from every platform throughout the country ever since its election to the treasury bench in 1949. The Government has implemented its policy of handing over to private enterprise any industry that it has developed to a stage where companies with large financial resources and the necessary know-how can operate it more efficiently.
I do not think that honorable senators have pointed out very forcibly that the money obtained by the Government from the sale of this interest in Bell Bay will be available for re-investment. We know that the money received by the Government from the sale of its whaling interests has done a great deal for the development of the fishing industry in our waters.
Senator Aylett said that under the agreement employees of the undertaking were not fully protected. The Minister for National Development has given an undertaking that all the superannuation, furlough and leave rights of the employees will be preserved. It is only right that the employees should be protected and if anybody will protect them-
– At what page of “ Hansard “ is the Minister reported as having said that?
– The Minister said that employees will be fully protected, and I believe him.
– We want to see the contract.
– The contract cannot be produced because it has not yet been signed. Furthermore, it is only natural that any employer worthy of the name would wish to protect his employees. From my experience I know that nobody looks after the interests of employees better than an employer with experience. In this instance I feel sure that the employees have nothing to fear.
With one act the Minister has sold an enterprise that needed expert guidance, further capital and know-how to develop it and to obtain a reasonable return on the money invested in it. In doing so he has obtained for the Government more than £10,000,000. He has also given effect to the Government’s policy of encouraging free enterprise - a policy that has been extremely successful during this Government’s term of office. That policy has helped to develop and expand this country in a way that has never been known in any other country.
What of the interests of the purchaser - Consolidated Zinc? What is its position?
How does it come out of the deal? I like to think that the company will come out of this deal particularly well. I am sure that it will. I like to think that the company is well satisfied with the deal that it has made, despite a small return on capital over* the years. Senator Wright told us that in 1955 the undertaking suffered a loss but that in the next three years it made profits of £26,000, £56,000 and £156,000 respectively. Those amounts do not represent an adequate return on the capital invested. They represent a token return only. They do not allow for interest on the capital invested. Consolidated Zinc will be required to infuse a further £10,000,000 into the industry in order to increase production to 28,000 tons annually. The company is bound by the agreement entered into with the Commonwealth to expand the industry.
From what I know and have heard I venture to suggest that there are no keener negotiators than the British, and I do not think that the case under discussion is any exception. I feel sure that the company made a full investigation of the prospects of this industry before committing itself to purchase. The company has a fine record of service in Australia. We know of its mining activities in the north, particularly in relation to uranium, silver, lead and zinc. No doubt Senator Scott will correct me if I am wrong. Although most of the company’s capital has been subscribed in Britain, 12 per cent, of its capital assets is owned in Australia.
The Bell Bay aluminium business is being taken over as a going concern. The company that is taking over will begin to earn profits immediately. The undertaking is ideally situated on an elevated position with plenty of room for expansion. The land on which the factory is built overlooks the wharfs and harbour facilities. There is plenty of water at the wharfs and in the bay to allow ships to manoeuvre if desired. The harbour is situated just inside the heads. Everything is made to order for the importation of raw material and the export of aluminium for at least the next ten years.
I have already said that undoubtedly the company investigated the value of: the assets it proposed to purchase. It may be advisable to say a few words about Tasmania’s hydro-electric power position. The Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission is in its 45th year and in its report for 1958-59 it said that it had met all demands for power and that the system was in a position to satisfy any new demands likely to eventuate from industrial and other classes of consumers. So the commission will be able to satisfy the demands of Bell Bay, not only at the present rate of power consumption, but I should say at any rate likely to be experienced in the next ten years. The revenue from the electricity undertaking is about £6,577,000 a year. lt must be remembered that in addition to cheap power Tasmania has a very great capacity for water storage. At the moment it has 100 per cent, water storage capacity. I am open to correction on this statement, but I think somebody has said that Tasmania has sufficient water to support a population of 5,000,000 people. We are particularly fortunate in having high level lakes, water storage capacity and timber resources, all of which could be used to advantage by the aluminium industry at some stage of its development.
In 1959 the number of units of electricity generated was 2,380,000 kilowatts, so one can see that the power position is very satisfactory. The supply is assured for ten years ahead. Up to 1953 the cost of estalishing the hydro-electric scheme was £47,000,000. Tasmania has spent about half its loan allocations on the development of power. Since 1953 Tasmania has spent on an average, £7,500,000 a year on such works. Therefore, in 1960 there is an asset worth £94,000,000 to the State and after the 1960-61 expenditure it will probably be worth over £100,000,000.
– That is the hydro-electric power system?
– Yes. The Hydro-electric Commission owns more than half the public assets of Tasmania. So it is in a particularly good position to help an industry such as the one we are discussing.
The Bell Bay works are producing 12,000 tons of aluminium ingot a year, which is about one-third of the production necessary to supply Australia’s requirements. In addition, there is an everincreasing demand and a ready sale for all the aluminium ingot that can be produced by this factory. Probably that is one of the reasons that attracted Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited to this purchase. In the next decade Australia’s requirements could easily be 50,000 tons or 60,000 tons a year, and later they could be of the order of 100,000 tons a year. I notice that Australia uses about six or seven pounds of aluminium per head, while America use up to 25 lb. per head. When sufficient aluminium is available in Australia, doubtless we will use it to its best advantage. That fact has probably weighed considerably with the company in this very important purchase. Therefore, it can be said that the purchasing company is quite happy with the transaction.
Finally, I shall refer to the people of Tasmania and their attitude to the purchase. The Premier has already expressed himself as pleased with the outcome of the negotiations. He realises the importance of the industry to Tasmania. The overseas delegation headed by the Attorney-General has just returned. It went abroad to induce people to invest in Tasmania. I believe that this venture will be of very great assistance to Tasmania in the establishment of other industries which are just as important. There was excitement and great jubilation in the town of Georgetown, along the Tamar valley and in Launceston at the prospect of the expansion of this very important aluminium industry. I am sure that as a result of that expansion the Tamar valley and Georgetown itself will show a very great improvement, particularly in business activity and employment. I heartily support the action of the Government, which I am sure will benefit both the Commonwealth of Australia and Tasmania.
– in reply - Mr. Acting Deputy President, it is a very rare experience for me to have the opportunity of winding up a debate.
– It is just like the old days.
– Indeed it is. The outstanding features of the debate, as I see them, were the number of complete misrepresentations of the Opposition’s arguments by Ministers and supporters of the Government, and the zest with which they attacked their own misrepresentations.
As Senator Kennelly said, they erected Aunt Sallys in order to knock them over. The other feature was the deliberate and complete ignoring of many relevant and vital arguments addressed to the Senate on this subject.
Listening to speaker after speaker on the Government side of the chamber, I heard mere affirmations of faith that this was a good deal and that the best possible price was realized, without hearing one argument addressed in support of the Government’s action in this deal. From that statement I exempt three speeches. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), up to a point, addressed himself to the merits of the matter, Senator Wright did, and Senator Scott did; but I do not recall hearing from anybody on the Government side a real statement of justification of the deal the Government has made in this matter. If time permits, I propose to give some instances of that before I conclude my speech.
What does this sale amount to? Surely it amounts to this: The only aluminium smelter in Australia, providing nearly one-third of the nation’s aluminium requirements, was designed to give this country some degree of independence from overseas interests. That was its primary purpose. The idea was to lead ultimately to complete independence in respect of this necessary material. Now we find that in one stroke the undertaking and the substantial control of it are to be handed over to those very overseas interests. That is the complaint of the Opposition. We rejoice with every body else at the projected expansion of the plant. Nobody on this side of the chamber has a word to say in opposition to that expansion. We have been warm in our congratulations on it. The matter that concerns us is the defeating of the very purpose for which this undertaking was established.
I remind the Senate that this is the type of thing that has produced a most violent reaction throughout the world. A few years ago the people of Canada awoke to find that the Canadian aluminium industry was controlled mainly from overseas. Alcan, the great Canadian company, is 75 per cent, controlled from outside Canada. What happened when the Canadian people became awake to the situation? They threw out the government that had been in office for years and had permitted that situation to develop. I need only to point to the present situation in Cuba to show the natural human reaction to the exploitation of a nation’s resources in favour of people from overseas. I point also to Egypt. 1 remind the Senate of what happened in Persia over oil. One must remember that the people of the world to-day look upon the taking over of their major industrial activities, particularly those that” are dependent upon natural resources, as being nothing but a form of financial colonization.
– ls not that a caricature of what is happening?
– No, it is exactly what is happening. The Government’s own Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has protested most violently against the attempts being made by overseas interests to move in on Australian industries, and he has asserted that he will oppose such attempts to the limit. One sees short-term advantages in this situation. For instance, you stave off the evil day in adjusting your overseas balance of payments, but year by year with the commitments in which it involves you your position deteriorates. It is completely wrong that the nationals of a country should not have a dominating say in developing things that are dependent upon indigenous raw materials which are so vital in themselves to the country. I remind the Senate that Eugene Black, the noted chairman of the International Bank, when in Australia only last year, directed attention to the importance of not allowing overseas investment to dominate local investment. He stressed how important it was that there should be at least a partnership.
In the instance of which we complain at one stroke a 100 per cent. Australian industry has become an industry which is now predominantly controlled from outside Australia. That is what this deal does and that is the thing that disturbs the1 Opposition and which surely will disturb the Australian people. The accumulation of these things will provoke a very violent reaction in this country one of these days, a reaction comparable to that which took place in Canada and which is taking place in other parts of the world.
– You are not suggesting that the reaction that took place in Canada is in any way comparable with that which is taking place in Cuba?
– The difference is only one of degree. The same principle runs through both of them. I say that what the Government has done is not only un-Australian but also anti-Australian. It is a sabotage of the best interests of this nation and its people.
What brought the sale about? In 1958 the Australian Aluminium Production Commission and the Government realized that the overhead involved in operating a plant of only 12,500 tons capacity was disproportionately high, and that with the same overhead and a bigger production capacity the unit cost of production could be lowered. The State of Tasmania proposed that the production capacity be increased from 12,500 tons per annum to 16,000 tons per annum, but at that point the Commonwealth refused to supply any further capital for expansion. That is the cardinal point in this situation and that is what provoked this sale which is unAustralian in its effect.
I have here a statement by the Minister for National Development on this subject made in November, 1958, from which I propose to read three, or perhaps four, brief extracts.
– Was it made in the Senate?
– No. It was a press statement, a copy of which I obtained from the public relations officer of the Government. Incidentally, Senator Spooner quoted from it himself during the course of his speech and traversed some of the extracts I am about to quote. Senator Spooner said -
I supported the commission’s suggestion that an expansion of this plant should be effected and
I expressed the view of the Commonwealth Government that the necessary capital should be provided by the introduction of private enterprise into the project.
He further said -
In the meantime Mr. Reece’s Government proposed an early start on an expansion programme. It said that it was prepared to put up ?1,500,000, or if necessary ?2,000,000, to enable that start to be made.
He also said -
The Commonwealth has told the Tasmanian Government that it is surprised that it has put forward a proposal which may involve Tasmania in a commitment of some ?2,000,000.
Senator Spooner said further ; . . it has informed the Tasmanian Government that it would not do anything to impede its proposal. It raises no objection to the initial work being put in hand.
So that when we talk about expansion - and this Government takes credit for it - let us go back to the beginning. We find that it was the State Government of Tasmania that not only initiated the proposal for expansion, but forced it into actuality. Without Tasmania initiating that expansion it would never have happened.
On Thursday night last when Senator O’Byrne was speaking I interjected to the effect that it was the Commonwealth Government that refused to find the capital necessary to expand the industry. Senator Spooner contradicted me and said that that was not so. I invite honorable senators to refer to the Minister’s speech on the motion for the adjournment on 4th May last, where, in three places, he repeated the words I have just read from his 1958 statement. He completely reaffirmed what he had said in November. It is perfectly plain that the Government made up its mind that there should be no additional capital provided by the Commonwealth to expand the plant to the 16,000 tons level, let alone the 28,000 tons level proposed to-day. I invite the Senate to consider what would have happened to the Bell Bay undertaking had not private enterprise been prepared to come in and provide some capital. So far as the Commonwealth Government was concerned the production basis could have remained at 12,500 tons a year, and it is simply mendacious and audacious for the Government to claim credit for the expansion that is now contemplated.
– Do you not rather think that the Government decided it was more advantageous to do it by enlisting private enterprise than by using Commonwealth Government money?
– I ask the honorable senator to consider the point I have just made. Assuming that private enterprise money was not available, the attitude of this Government was that it would supply no more capital and would allow the industry to remain at the uneconomic production level of 12,500 tons per annum.
– That alternative did not arise.
– It did not arise, but my conclusion is a proper one to draw from the attitude of the Commonwealth Government. This Government has a Budget of £1,800,000,000 this year. It is expecting a surplus of £15,000,000, but no doubt the surplus will be greater than that this year. The projected development from 16,000 tons to 28,000 tons a year will cost £9,000,000. Three-fifths of the estimated surplus would provide for that expansion. The £9,000,000 could be put into a trust fund and expenditure spread over four years, which is the time it will take to develop the plant to a capacity of 28,000 tons. In other words it would cost the great, financially dominant Commonwealth £2,250,000 per annum. Who will pretend that that would be an embarrassment to the Government?
– The Government would not get a cracker of interest on that money.
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that the economics of the situation are that if that amount was expended it would pay good dividends in that the commission would be able to pay its way. Who on the Government side will pretend that that would impose an undue strain on the Commonwealth? Yet it is left to little Tasmania, with its lack of financial strength and the struggling aluminium production commission, to go on with the expansion from 12,500 to 16,000 tons.
– It is cowardly.
– It is perfectly clear that the State was left to flounder so far as the Commonwealth was concerned. I will say two things in favour of the Commonwealth. It did not, during that period, press for any moneys to be repaid to it by the commission, and 1 understand it guaranteed, to an extent, the overdraft sought by the commission to enable the expansion from 12,500 tons to 16,000 tons to proceed. That much can be said in favour of the Commonwealth.
– And it found the initial £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 instead of the projected £3,000,000.
– I remind the honorable senator that at a later stage the State of Tasmania supplied money on a £1 for £1 basis, without which this industry could not have existed at all.
Let me now deal with Tasmania’s interest, which is to be a one-third share in the venture. Tasmania has had to write into the current agreement a provision that it cannot be required to find any more money. That means that it is not to be required to find any portion of the £9,000,000 necessary to permit expansion to 28,000 tons. Who will provide this money? It will be provided, of course, by the partner, Consolidated Zinc. How will this affect Tasmania’s interest? By the time another £9,000,000 is provided by Consolidated Zinc - and I have no doubt added to the capital of the company - within four years Tasmania’s interest will be more than halved, lt will fall away to 16 per cent, and will no longer be 33-l/3rd per cent. It is quite obvious that Tasmania cannot be expected to make a capital commitment continuously over a period of four years to the extent required to maintain that 28,000 tons development. So, we have Consolidated Zinc as the dominant partner with two-thirds of the shares in the proposed new company and developing a bigger interest in the capital year by year as that of Tasmania diminishes. Consolidated Zinc will be in complete effective control from the moment the company is formed. It will not need the additional capital strength in order to prevail, but unquestionably it will prevail.
– The Tasmanian Premier is happy about that arrangement.
– I shall come to the position of the Tasmanian Premier before I conclude. I am discussing the aspect that this Government dealt with one company only and finished by making a sale to a company to which it had neither moral nor contractual obligation.
We were told in this place that the Government was very embarrassed by being tied by its proposal to British Aluminium. British Aluminium was bought out. This
Government was then free to do as it wished: - to sell to Consolidated Zinc, if it wished, to try to find out whether Australian organizations were interested, or whether people outside this country were likely to make a better deal with it. The Minister admits most frankly, at page 544 of “ Hansard “, that he never went beyond the one company. He said in his speech -
We have dealt in no, direction other than with this particular company-
Senator Armstrong then interjected, “ Did you deal with Comalco first? “ and Senator Spooner replied -
This company is a lineal descendant of the British Aluminium Company Limited. The line of succession is British Aluminium Company Limited, Comalco and Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited.
I have heard many a time that a company has neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned, but I am amazed to learn from the Minister for National Development that it is capable of having children. What an absurd thing to talk of lineal descendants in relation to companies! I have never heard such a preposterous proposition in my life.
Where was the obligation on the Government to deal only with Consolidated Zinc and to confine its negotiations to the one company? The Minister, with all the wealth of experience that Senator Wright attributed to him, knows that he is in the position of a trustee. The Bell Bay undertaking is not his to do as he likes with. He is trustee for the Government, the Parliament and the nation, and he has to get the best price that he can for it. How do you find out whether you are getting the best price?
– You go to some one who owns some bauxite.
– You go to some one who is interested. You call for tenders. You give everybody who may be interested the opportunity to tender. I say to Senator Scott that the people most likely to be interested, in the general public of this country, are those who are interested in the fabrication, the retailing and the use of aluminium in all its forms. I have little doubt that they would be very keen to put in capital to safeguard their basic supplies. The truth is that on the very day that the
Minister’s announcement of the agreement in principle was made, Melbourne interests wired the Tasmanian Premier and said they would take it on the same terms and conditions - with the know-how - and do it in the same time of four years.
– What about the other £30,000,000 that is to be spent at Weipa?
– I shall deal with the £30,000,000 in another context in a moment.
– Does the honorable senator say that those Melbourne interests are responsible?
– I do say they are responsible. I further say that I think the Auditor-General of this country is responsible, and I will be staggered if he does not take up a situation in which the Government looks at only one company and deals with it without finding out who else might be in the field. I consider it his bounden duty to investigate this whole transaction, including the circumstances in which the Minister confined his dealings to one company only, ignoring not only the rest of Australia but the rest of the world.
– He has done so before.
– Yes. I hope the Auditor-General will have a good look at that matter and also investigate the bona fides of the Melbourne people. I hope he will find out, from me if necessary, to which of the overseas interests that have representatives in this country, he may talk. Representatives of the Swiss company A.I.A.G- informed me in Melbourne months ago that they were interested to join with the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania in expanding Bell Bay. That is a Swiss company, with ramifications throughout the world.
– Did that mean anything other than giving the services the company was then giving?
– Oh, yes. I say that it meant to join in the undertaking as a partner with the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania, a situation in which overseas interests would, not dominate but in which Tasmanian and Commonwealth, or Australian, interests would dominate.
– Is there any particular reference that explains why the representatives did not make that known to the Minister?
– I do not know what their negotiations with the Minister are, but there is a duty on the Minister to ascertain whether people of that ilk are about, in Australia or elsewhere. I say, further, that the Minister did know all about A.I.A.G., because, in June - months before he signed this contract - the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, of which he is in charge, signed up the company as consultant for the future. So, I say to the honorable senator that the Minister did know, and that it is a fair assumption on my part that he knew of the company’s desire to have a financial interest in the development of Bell Bay.
When I asked, in this place on Tuesday last, “ After getting rid of British Aluminium, how did you come to confine yourself to one company? What led you to do that? “ I received no reply. I knew that the Minister had twelve minutes to go after dinner, and during the dinner interval I put it to him that he had not answered my question and reminded him that I wanted an answer. What did I get from him in the last twelve minutes of his speech? A talk on socialism and unity tickets. On the important and relevant subject of why he had dealt with only one company there was dead silence. I have not heard one word about that particular point from anybody on the other side of the chamber. It is a matter of scandal that a government which deals with one company in that way does not take the earliest opportunity to guard itself against the breath of suspicion. On the contrary, we are met with a complete and absolute refusal to answer questions directed officially by the Opposition on behalf of approximately half the electors of Australia. There is no answer of any kind. The failure to provide an answer lies very heavily at the door of the Government.
It is quite true, as Senator Kennelly said earlier to-day, that people are entitled to be suspicious when they see questions being pressed by responsible persons in the National Parliament and a Minister shirking the answers. They are entitled to ask: “ What has he got to hide? Why not tell us? “ It is surely the right of everybody in this nation to ask that question. There is one other aspect, namely the refusal to table the papers connected with the initial deal alleged with British Aluminium and the subsequent variation of it. Senator Kennelly’s experience this very day should not be forgotten. He asked Senator Spooner, through his secretary, to make available a competent officer to answer some questions, and his request was refused, for the first time in my sixteen years’ experience of this Parliament. In my experience, invariably a Minister who receives such a request from a responsible member of the Opposition makes available an officer for the purpose of supplying information, the terms being that he will disclose nothing that is confidential and that the officer will be free to report the whole discussion to his Minister. I have been on those terms hundreds of times in this Parliament, but it is on this vital matter that I run into a refusal by the Minister for National Development. I place this fact on record, with an exceedingly strong protest from the Opposition.
I think that Senator Wright suggested that Consolidated Zinc Limited would bring know-how to the industry. I say, first, that know-how is not needed in Australia any more. The Australian Aluminium Production Commission in its report for 1959, when it terminated the British Aluminium Company Limited’s technical consulting agreement, stated -
The Commission however, felt that its staff was sufficiently experienced to obviate the need for continuance of the agreement. . . .
We have the know-how, built up over sixteen long, weary years at Bell Bay, to perform this work. It is there. We are not looking for know-how any longer. Secondly, Consolidated Zinc Limited has had no previous experience in the field of aluminium. The company has not been in that field; it is new to the field. That may be one reason why Aluminium Industries Aktien Gesellschaft has been called in for some particular consulting service.
I pass now to the question of the terms of sale. They, of course, are simply outrageous. The price is £10,973,000 of which £2,500,000 is to be paid down and £8,473,000 will be paid over sixteen years.
These are the terms in favour of a company that is prepared to spend probably £34,000,000 at Weipa to build a township, and a smelter to develop the bauxite deposits, lt has committed itself, if it goes on in the South Island of New Zealand, to an expenditure of £120,000,000. What an absurd thing it is that a company of that iiic which is backed by Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited, of Great Britain, should be given terms over sixteen years, lt is just outrageous. Look at the interest proposals-
– I do not suppose it is suggested that the company did not have the money?
– Of course it would have the money to pay. Why give the company those terms? Why not make it pay? More importantly, why did not the Commonwealth Government sell half of its interest - one-third of the total undertaking - and retain a one-third interest? The company would then not have had to find as much money and the asset would have remained under Australian control instead of passing to overseas control.
The purchasing company gets a lot more than the site, the buildings and the plant, lt gets the benefit of a fully experienced working staff on the job, a staff that has been trained for years, lt gets the benefit of an expenditure of £10,000,000 by the State Government - Senator Aylett mentioned this to-night - on the provision of electricity and water to a township, amenities and everything else. Without them, there could be no work done at the place.
– There is an obligation to pay for them.
– If the purchasing company had to start as the Australian Aluminium Production Commission started it would have to provide these things at a total expenditure of £20,000,000.
– It would be more like £60,000,000 to-day.
– Quite. I pass to the questions that have never been answered at all. I asked the Minister for an assurance that the rights of members of the staff in relation to recreation leave, furlough and sick leave would be preserved and that their respective periods of employment with the commission and with the company would count as continuous service to enable them to qualify for those benefits. That is a fundamental point upon which the men should have been protected. No assurances have been given.
– They have been.
– The men have been told that they will get rights - not the same rights. That point emerged very clearly. We have not been told one word in relation to that item.
What happens to the mineral leases that are presumably still held by the commission at Wessel Island? What is the future of the commission? What is to happen to those leases? Are they to go to overseas interests and, if so, to what interests? We should be told when the new agreement is to be concluded.
I see that my time is running out. I say that we members of the Opposition are disgusted at this completely un-Australian attitude of the Government. We find no breath of the spirit of Australianism in this transaction. We saw the same thing with oil. When the oil industry - in this instance, British Petroleum Limited - offered this Government an interest in the Kwinana refinery, the offer was refused. I say that this Government has been un-Australian, anti-Australian, and completely oblivious of the best interests of this country in vital things like aluminium and oil.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Byrne). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment: -
Repatriation Bill 1960.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1960.
.- I move-
That the Senate takes note of the report of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the Development of Canberra, presented to the Senate on 29th September, 1955. 1 have raised this matter because there have been some complaints recently about the development of Canberra, and I think it is well that they should be ventilated in the Senate. 1 thought it would be better, rather than reduce the motion to those particular complaints, to bring up the whole report of the Select Committee on the Development of Canberra that was presented to the Senate some five years ago. That report includes the dissenting report of Senator Wood and a small dissention from the main report by Senator Vincent. 1 think that we should consider anything connected with the development of Canberra at this particular time.
This report was the result of the work which lasted for about a year. The members of the committee were drawn from both sides of the Parliament, but there was never at any time any dissension on party lines. The committee generally agreed on matters. When its members could not agree, they reached a compromise. The only division that took place was not on party lines.
We carried out a most extensive survey of everything from the beginning of the development of Canberra until the time of the inquiry. One of the recommendations was that a Senate select committee should be appointed and be given a special duty - oversight of what was being done. Of course, when a committee presents its report, its work is finished. Unfortunately, many people do not understand that, and I am constantly receiving letters from people both here and in the States who think that this committee is still alive and that it has still some jurisdiction over what is happening in Canberra. That is not the case. What is done in Canberra now is the responsibility of the Executive, and part of that responsibility has been delegated to a special commission.
The appointment of that commission came out of the Senate committee’s report. We recommended, I think, that there should be a commission with complete oversight of everything that was happening here. The commission that has been appointed has somewhat limited powers, but it is in charge of the general development of the capital, including the bringing to the city of all the public servants in the head offices remaining outside and the provision of accommo- dation for them. We recommended a single authority, but one that was subject to the control of the Parliament and to the constant supervision of the Parliament, particularly of the Senate. I think we all agree that the Senate, representing the States, had a very special duty with regard to Canberra. The programme that we envisaged is, in general, being carried on. I moved this motion so that anybody who had criticisms to make could make them. Any criticism that I make is not querulous and does not in any way show a lack of confidence in either the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) or the members of the commission. It will, I think, in the long run be helpful to them.
There were 96 recommendations. They concerned the general development of the city, its relation to the States, its buildings, the type of architecture, and the provision of gardens, parks, open spaces, and so on. The recommendations were very comprehensive, and I think that in the main they are being carried out. Only this morning, in the “ Canberra Times “ we saw a report and map showing the plan that the commission has in mind. I have considered that very carefully. Although I may criticize it in detail, it shows that, following our report, there has been an enormous extension of the work to be done in the city. Tn general, I am satisfied with that and with most of the things that the commission is doing.
I am not quite satisfied with the general architecture. We have no great buildings. All the new buildings are, in general, in conformity with modern architecture, which I do not particularly like. When it comes to architecture, I am not one of those who say, “Because I do not like a thing, it is not the right thing “. When we started our inquiry, I was completely dissatisfied with the type of building that was going up. I found that there were temporary buildings, shoddy buildings, and buildings that I was told were in the modern idiom and were the sort of things that modern architects were turning out. I think that we must alter our general ideas about what constitutes a great city, in accordance with what is happening in the modern world.
I suppose that my ideas of architecture may be considered to be archaic. I may happen to like Doric architecture, mediaeval architecture or Georgian architecture. We find ourselves confronted with all sorts of things that the modern architects tell us we must accept. The architects say that they are the experts and that we, the amateurs, do not know anything about the subject. But, after all, the amateurs are the people who have to look at or live in the buildings, and their views have to be considered. The conception on which government in the British tradition is based is that the expert has no right to force his opinion on the people who finally control. The people who finally control may listen to the expert but their decision is not dictated by what he says.
There are buildings that 1 do not particularly like, and about which we can all express our opinions. The criterion that the commission can adopt is that it must get the best type of modern architecture. The buildings erected near the American War Memorial look rather grim, like barracks. That may be so because they are, after all, military buildings, intended to house the heads of the defence services. Whether the two buildings, when completed, will fit into the general scheme as they should do, 1 am not quite sure. Possibly the one thing that will redeem them is the great tower of the American War Memorial.
One particular matter that has led me to bring this motion before the Senate is the great discontent that has arisen because Westbourne Woods is to be made a golf links. That proposal was debated before the committee and we made a definite recommendation that the woods should not be used for that purpose. According to all the evidence that we had at that time, that was the right decision. I understand that the commission has had before it further evidence and that conditions to-day are not quite what they were then, lt may be that the decision that the commission has come to is the right one, but it was made without consulting the Parliament. lt was made while the Parliament was not in session. Consequently, there is some public suspicion that it was something hurried through, of which the commission did not welcome full discussion. I bring the matter up for that reason.
That brings me to a more important point. I think the time has gone when what happened to tilings in this city was the concern only of the National Parliament. The commitee tried as hard as it could to determine the relation between the public interest of the whole of Australia and the particular interests of this city. We could not find any clear dividing line, although we tried very hard. We finally made a compromise, as all committees do, and decided that, for the moment, this city and the community around it could not be given full self-government. We considered that certain things must be decided by the National Parliament and that the final authority of the National Parliament must be availed of.
We also felt that in the main the citizens of Canberra should determine their own affairs. One of the great difficulties that confronted us - only those who were members of the committee can fully realize those difficulties - was that there was no great enthusiasm on the part of the local citizens to take control of their local affairs. We felt that they were doing pretty well out of the existing arrangement. For example, we went into the whole question of municipal government, and all the evidence we got, particularly from the local citizens, was against the establishment of a municipal government. The attitude of many of the people who gave evidence was that municipal government would mean undertaking more responsibility and perhaps getting less advantage from the national treasury. While the committee was wholly in favour of the development of Canberra and in many ways was on the side of the local inhabitants, we felt that responsibility and privilege go together and that there should have been a greater tendency on the part of the people living here to undertake responsibility for what concerned them alone.
The final opinion we all came to was that, whilst the Commonwealth Government should and must carry on the development of this city until all the services are transferred here, until every head office is here, and until this really is the National Capital and the centre of administration, the time must come when we should offer and even insist upon a measure of local government. We had to decide between municipal and State legislative powers.
Our recommendation for the establishment of a legislative council was criticized, I think, rather unjustly at the time. Many people thought that a legislative council was necessarily grandiose, that it had nothing particularly to do with the local inhabitants, and that a smaller municipal authority would be more suited to their needs. It happened that all the evidence was to the contrary. Therefore, we recommended that a legislative authority should be established. We had in mind a modest body like that in New Guinea, with certain members selected and certain others elected. We also recommended that the Government should wait for the time when municipal government was clearly demanded.
I think the time will arrive very soon when we must offer and even insist on the setting up of a legislative or municipal authority. This city, partly, I think, because of the programme that was initiated after the committee made its report, has expanded to a very large degree. It has ceased to be what people condemned it as being in the early days - a purely governmental city, with no one but public servants living in it. Private enterprise has moved here in many ways and is moving here in even greater ways. We have a greatly expanded retail trade, greatly expanded tourist activities, and things like that. I believe that, without any direct incentive or any direct force by the Government, some kind of manufacture will be undertaken and we shall see a growing city which no longer is a city of public servants.
The committee went into almost every aspect of this matter that could be considered. One of the main considerations that governed my thoughts, and I am sure the thoughts of all the other members of the committee, was that this city had originated from the demands of the Constitution that there should be a federal capital and therefore a governmental centre, and that we could not deliberately set up industries which might be considered as competing unjustly with industries in other States, particularly the neighbouring State of New South Wales. But we came to the conclusion that, once a certain number of people were here, once all the government services were here, and once all the contributary services were here, this city would go ahead and would be a magnet. The feeling I have to-day is that we were very moderate in our estimates. People thought of Canberra as never becoming anything more than a small country town. I believe that the city eventually will extend to the full bounds of the Territory, and even beyond. I believe that the town of Queanbeyan, whether or not it becomes part of the Territory, will more or less become part of the City of Canberra. Therefore, I do not think we need to worry too much about there not being a complex of industries, a complex of occupations, here.
Members of the committee faced fully the problem that it was not good for a city to consist purely of public servants - certainly it is not good for it to consist of an heredity race of public servants - but that there should be opportunities of employment for the children of public servants, and that that meant something beyond the Public Service. Of course, we already have the Australian National University and the Canberra University College, ‘ which will soon become part of the Australian National University. We have schools, and more will be built. This city will be like Oxford or Cambridge. It will be not only a governmental city, as Oxford once was, but also a university city - a city having an attraction to people interested in education.
The committee made only a few suggestions about the establishment of special industries, but I went very thoroughly into one of them. I refer to the printing industry. I believe that Canberra could become a great city like Edinburgh, which has no large industry in the ordinary sense of the term but depends largely on its old, historical associations. It is still the capital of Scotland, even though Scotland has no parliament to-day. Its printing and publishing industry is one of the greatest in the world. I believe that the possibilities of establishing a similar industry in Canberra are infinite. I have come to the conclusion that we must continue to let the National Capital Development Commission and the Government generally conduct the development of this city until the stage is reached where we have the head offices of all the government departments centred here, but that even now we should begin to prepare to give this city some form of selfgovernment and even force that responsibility on the local people. Why should the National Parliament be concerned with the situation of the golf links? That is one of the matters about which I have been bombarded for quite a few weeks. The commission has, for- what it thinks good and sufficient reasons, disregarded our recommendation in relation to an area that we think should be a public park and not a golf links for the Royal Canberra Golf Club. That is a responsibility that we have thrown on the commission and which we cannot take away from it, although we may discuss it. That is Why I think the Senate should devote a considerable amount of time to this debate. In the final analysis the people who live here should have a say in those matters. Therefore, self-government in some form must be granted to the Australian Capital Territory. That is the main theme that I want to develop to-night and I should like every honorable senator who enters into the debate to deal with this aspect.
The Australian Capital Territory can never become a State. It is bound by the terms of the Constitution. If the Territory became a State the very idea of having a federal capital would be subverted. Therefore the Territory must be, to some degree, always under the control of the Executive and the legislature here in Canberra. In this respect we have followed to a large extent the parallel of Washington, lt is unfortunate that the Americans have never found a form of local self-government for Washington. I understand that constantly bills are introduced in one of the United States Houses seeking to give selfgovernment to Washington or, to be more exact, seeking to give self-government to the District of Columbia. But those bills never get anywhere. The Americans have procedures and ways for stifling legislation different from and, I think, more effective than ours in Australia. I believe that the Americans have a problem in relation to Washington that we in Australia do not have. Washington has a large negro population.
– It represents 52 per cent, of the negro people.
– Thank you! Apart from the fact that the negro population may be a problem anywhere, there is a particular problem in relation to Washington because, traditionally, the attitude of the people in the northern States of America towards negroes is different from that of people in the southern States. In the north the negro has been fully emancipated for more than 100 years. The north and the south fought the terrible Civil War - probably one of the worst wars in history - over the emancipation of negroes. The south sought to retain the negroes in slavery. The Civil War that began almost 100 years ago has not quite ended and the negro question may be a crucial one in the forthcoming American presidential election.
Fortunately we in Australia do not face this problem. I do not think that we have any problems that cannot be solved. I think we can afford to give the people of the Australian Capital Territory the measure of self-government that they deserve. The form of such self-government should include a body to provide all the legislation that customarily belongs to the States and all the regulations that customarily belong to a municipal body. In addition the Federal Parliament should have representation from this district. Under the Constitution - I am not a constitutional lawyer, but the committee went into this matter - the people of the Australian Capital Territory are allowed representation in both Houses of Parliament, and I think that we should give them that representation. I know that from the point of view of the States many people would object to representation in this Senate, but if it was felt that a representative in the Senate would upset the balance of the States, that representative could be deprived of a decisive vote on matters other than those relating only to Canberra. In relation to the House of Representatives, I think the time will soon come when the representative in that place should cease to be a mere spokesman and should have the right to vote on all matters. I know that all parties will tend to look at this proposal from the point of view of its effect on the government of the day. The people may ask why the fate of Australia should depend on a single vote. I do not think that the people of the Australian Capital Territory are fully represented in the Parliament. They do not have full democratic rights. They will not have all the rights that they should have until they have an effective vote in the other House and at least a spokesman in both Houses. Once we give the people of the Territory those rights many of the things that have been worrying us will disappear. We will no longer be worried about the petty concerns of this district. The Federal Parliament can confine itself to what concerns this Territory as the capital of the Commonwealth.
I am still greatly concerned with all the things that we considered in the report - with the architecture, the provision of public gardens, and the preservation of natural woodlands. Those things are, I think, being considered by the commission at this moment. This morning’s report, which I have not fully considered, shows that the commission has come to certain conclusions, with which I cannot quarrel. It has dedicated for all time, as far as we can foresee it, certain parklands so that they will never be niched from the people.
I hope that this debate will continue and that many honorable senators from both sides of the chamber, whether they agree with me or not, will make a contribution to it. Whilst I feel that the select committee performed a public service in condemning certain aspects of what had been done, and in making recommendations, there is still need for vigilance on the part of the Parliament, and particularly of the Senate. I hope that many honorable senators will speak about what the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) and the commission are doing and that they will offer criticism where they think it is warranted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600927_senate_23_s18/>.