Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 858


Mr CAMPBELL(8.47) —After hearing the speech of the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite), I feel driven to depart from my prepared speech on the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Amendment Bill. His speech was substantially the same as the one he made the other day on amendments to the Lucas Heights legislation, and he must be refuted on many points. The Bill seeks to raise the duty on the export of uranium from 11c to 80c a kilogram which will recover half the cost of monitoring the site. I have a reputation in my Party for being hostile to environmental issues. That is not true. I believe that I have a very good record on environmental issues. However, I abhor those silly people who have become ill-informed on en- vironmental issues when, as I have said before, many of them are members of the urban, affluent, guilt-stricken middle class.


Mr Peacock —They are members of your Party.


Mr CAMPBELL —On the contrary, my friend, they belong to both parties. That is why, when the Opposition was in government it never took steps to export uranium. It never took steps to do so because it knew that those people inflicted both parties.

Opposition members interjecting-


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Kooyong and the honourable member for Dawson might hear the honourable member for Kalgoorlie in silence. The honourable member for Hinkler should return to his seat if he wishes to make any contribution at all.


Mr CAMPBELL —I doubt whether the interjections will faze me at all. Self-deception is the greatest treason, as the honourable member for Kooyong would know. Those guilt-stricken people afflict both parties. They have done some things for Australia. If it was not for them we would not have had gazetted the greatest national marine park in the world-the Great Barrier Reef. If it was not for them we would not have the situation where we will drill for oil on that same Barrier Reef because those same people ran out of oil. I guess they do have a balancing function in society. I believe that the companies exporting uranium could well stand the charge of $1.40 a kilogram. This would be a very small price to pay, considering the good work that this Government has done in allowing those companies to write new contracts-something which the previous Government, for all its verbosity and rhetoric, never did. This Government has allowed those companies to write new contracts which, of course, has made an enormous difference to their overheads.

The supervising function is carried out by the Office of the Supervising Scientist. It was established in 1978 as part of the Fraser Government's policy package for the Alligator Rivers area. It was the Fraser Government that instituted it. The reason why the Office has a large contingent in Sydney will become apparent. The Government at the time looked at the matter and decided that it made economic common sense. This policy of the Fraser Government arose out of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, commonly known as the Fox Inquiry. The responsibility of the Supervising Scientist was to devise standards and strategies to supervise and monitor the operation and to advise the Minister.

There has been a lot of ill-informed comment about the Supervising Scientist having his office in Sydney. I observe that the honourable member for Dawson, before he came to this place, was an accountant. I think that to some extent he is performing a public service by being in this place and not practising as an accountant. It is alleged by ill-informed populists such as he that all the staff should be employed in the Alligator Rivers area. If you analyse this, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will see what damned foolishness it is. Two-thirds of the staff are located in the Alligator Rivers area. These are the people who are involved in the day to day monitoring-the people who must be on-site. But it is enormously costly to keep people in the Northern Territory. The cost of housing, schooling and all of the other things militate against locating people there, if it is at all possible to locate them anywhere else.

The people located in Sydney-that is, about one-third of the staff-include scientists involved in mathematical modelling, which is essential for planning; some administrative and supply staff, who undertake administrative and co-ordinating duties and deliveries between Jabiru and Sydney-and other places, for that matter; management services staff, who simply make up wages; and the executive supervisory and co-ordinating staff. While it is true that some cost is involved in the Supervising Scientist travelling from Sydney to Jabiru, conversely, there would be just as much cost involved in his travelling the other way. He would have to make constant trips to Canberra to keep the Government informed of what was going on. The fact that we have modern communications these days-the Opposition may not have caught up with this-means that there is no lack of efficiency in these people being employed in Sydney; there are merely large savings in costs. Incidentally, in terms of cost savings, the staff of the Supervising Scientist will be cut by 12 over a two-year period as a result of the deliberations of the functional review committee. I must say that that makes me a little uneasy. I would like to be sure that monitoring in that area would be very secure.

Having said that, I want to touch on some of the environmental issues that have been raised. Water control in the area is important. But many people whom I have spoken to seem to think that we are controlling the water for fear of the spread of radiation. The truth is that the real danger from water is heavy metal pollution. Australia has lived with that for centuries. In the early days in Tasmania, no attempt was made to control it and some environmental damage was caused. I would certainly like to limit that environmental damage. But heavy metal pollution can be contained and it can be treated. I am sure that we will devise methods of adequately handling the water at the Ranger mine site. But let us be realistic about this: Even if there was an escape of water from that mine site-an escape of tailing water-it is very doubtful whether there would be any damage, and certainly, there would be no lasting damage. That ought to be kept in perspective. So while I am in favour of monitoring, let us not get carried away with it.

I remember that, a couple of years ago in the Ok Tedi mine in New Guinea, the Government of New Guinea, after some consideration, gave permission for the company to release its surplus water directly into the Fly River. The surplus water would have contained quite a high percentage of heavy metal. It is true that the Fly River has an enormous volume. It is for this reason that dilution was reckoned to be sufficient and the flow enough to avoid any environmental damage. Shortly after I returned from New Guinea a barge sunk there carrying 20 tonnes of cyanide. Many people said `shock, horror', but the results were absolutely nothing because cyanide is a substance which oxidises very rapidly and is very rapidly locked up into insoluble cyanates, which do no harm at all. So these things have to be kept in perspective.

I want to touch on a few things the honour- able member for Dawson said because I thought he was allowed extraordinary latitude in his speech. He talked about on-costs in Australia and productivity. This is symptomatic of Opposition members, who seem to revel in selling Australia short, selling Australia down the drain overseas. The truth is that the costs of production in Australia, despite the rhetoric of many of these people, are substantially lower than they are in the United States. While these people opposite talk about how we must get rid of the 17 1/2 per cent loading and abolish long service leave and all the other things they do not get in America, they forget to tell people that in many equivalent industries in America the hourly rate is substantially higher. I had an experience of this in my electorate recently. Some people from North West Cape went to Florida to do identical jobs in an institution over there. The nearest equivalent rate they could get was $3.50 an hour higher in the United States, and that was the lowest rate. One can buy an awful lot of 17 1/2 per cent loadings, a lot of holiday pay and a lot of public holidays for an extra $3.50 an hour. So it is nonsense for honourable members opposite to go around dishonestly making these comparisons because they are not comparing apples with apples, and I believe that they know it.

I believe that these people are prepared to sell Australia down the drain for the simple objective of grabbing power. Their lust for power is so great that treason is not beyond them. A matter concerning Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was raised this morning in the House-`Sir' Joh Bjelke-Petersen, a knighthood if you please, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sure in my own mind that no one would have given Joh a knighthood except himself.


Mr Peacock —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I have listened to the remarks just made by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie and I cannot find them relative to any clause in the Bill. I draw your attention to their irrelevancy.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —The honourable member for Kooyong has a point. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie might address himself to the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Amendment Bill rather than to whether someone should or should not have a knighthood.


Mr CAMPBELL —You are quite right, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will endeavour to sustain the very high standard of relevance which the honourable member for Dawson sustained.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, you will not endeavour to stay relevant. You will stay relevant.


Mr CAMPBELL —I will do my very best, Mr Deputy Speaker.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —If it is only your best, you might not get to continue.


Mr CAMPBELL —It seems to me that the viability of Ranger is important to us and is relevant to the Bill. The viability of Ranger is not going to be enhanced if Australia's reputation as a reliable trading partner is destroyed. We had the spectacle in Western Australia of Ross Lightfoot, a State member of parliament, writing to Mr Shultz, the United States Secretary of State, telling him virtually to stick it up the farmer and cripple our trade because he saw that-and he was honest enough to say it-as a quick way to government. He thought that if the economy of Australia could be destroyed it would bring down the Government more quickly. It is interesting to note that Ross Lightfoot has just had a meeting with Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen which was described as very meaningful. I leave honourable members and the public to draw their own conclusions about that.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Kalgoorlie might stick to the Bill that is before the House.


Mr CAMPBELL —I was just returning to it. I thank you for your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I was not granting you any indulgence. I am bringing you back to the point.


Mr CAMPBELL —And I was being sarcastic, because I think you are being far tougher on me than you were on honourable members opposite.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I would never be tough on the honourable member for Kalgoorlie.


Mr CAMPBELL —I think you take advantage of my good nature at times, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I am used to it. Productivity is an issue for Australia. I was one of the people who advocated the formation of the Iron Ore Industry Consultative Council. This is relevant because we are talking about mining. The truth is that productivity in the Pilbara has increased enormously since the formation of the Council. In some cases there have been improvements in productivity close on 100 per cent. Many of the work practices have been changed or abandoned. There has been co-operation from the work force and a great decline in industrial disputation during the life of this Government. But we get no credit for this, nor do the workers.

Looking at the philosophy of the Opposition, as Professor Galbraith said, it has the strange philosophy that the rich in this country will not work because they are not getting paid enough and, on the other hand, the poor will not work because they are getting paid too much. That basically is the economic policy which is being put forward by the Opposition. We hear it every day. I am sure that it will come out again in due course, but it needs re-emphasising. The basis of this philosophy quite clearly-we hear it every day-is that we must reduce taxes.


Mr Peacock —I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do not know whether it relates to a lack of discipline or an inability, but the reality is that the honourable member's remarks are not directed to the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Amendment Bill.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Kalgoorlie was making a point by explanation of his remarks, and I think that he is quite within order.


Mr Peacock —A bob each way.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will not debate the rulings of the Chair.


Mr Barry Jones —He is showing leadership.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The Minister is not helping.


Mr CAMPBELL —I am touched. The apologist for the Bjelke-Petersen Government in this House used to be the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron), but, since he has been exposed as a Sunshine Coast land developer, that mantle has now fallen on the member for Kooyong. I hope that we do not get something that will destroy his credibility so totally. Returning to the Bill, I believe that uranium has enormous potential for Australia. In the present context there is not a very large world market, no matter what the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) says. This is typical of these people opposite. They have imagination; they imagine things and then see them as solutions. The truth is that there is not a big market for uranium. What we should be doing in Australia, and this is something I am pursuing in my own Party, is looking much further afield. We should be looking for value added for our products. We should be mining uranium, we should be processing and re-processing uranium for it is in this way we can lock countries such as Japan in to Australia as a regular supplier.

If we go that far, we must then get into the storage of uranium waste. We are the best situated country in the world to do this. We have the best technology and it is in the world's interest that this storage, which can be dangerous, should be done in the safest possible way. It is Australia that has the technology, the right geology and the right geography to do just that. We have an obligation to the world, to society, and I think an obligation that we should fulfil-a far greater obligation, I might add, than the preservation of some particular piece of Australia which some people think is of world importance. I am also on record as saying that stage 3 of Kakadu is, in my opinion, not worthy of world heritage listing. However, there are parts that are of significance. I would also add that much mining took place in that area before it was designated as a national park. This brings me to the wider policy which governments will have to address in Australia-and it will be no easier for the Opposition than it is for this Government-but it will have to be addressed one day when we have joint use of national parks. After all, this happens in the United States and in other countries, and we must face up to that here.

In returning to the business of mining, which is what this Bill is basically about, we must look at costs. It is important in these days of reduced commodity prices and downward pressure on commodity prices throughout the world that we are very conscious of the costs involved. In this respect it is interesting to look at the performance as between States. In Western Australia the Government has performed very creditably, keeping State charges to an absolute minimum. In no year since the advent of the Burke Government have State charges exceeded in total the consumer price index rises. When one looks at Queensland one finds that that is not the case. We find massive increases in these State charges, most of which are hidden charges, such as railway charges. It is interesting to see that the mining companies in Queensland have estimated-this is not an estimate from the Australian Labor Party, it is from the mining companies of Queensland using Australian Bureau of Statistics figures-that hidden tax in Queensland amounts to $394m. That is $394m of unnecessary imposts on the mining industry. Yet the honourable member for Dawson had the indelicacy to get up in this place and complain about the rise in the price of supervision of uranium mining in the middle of one of Australia's great national parks. As I have said, this industry could well pay the full cost of monitoring, and I believe that it should. That money could then be used in some other vital area of environmental study and evaluation.

Not just the mining industry in Queensland is controlled; it is interesting to find that even the bread industry is controlled. Queensland has legislation which sets a minimum price to the manufacturer and a minimum retail price. That is a good way to treat the public, the low income earner-to set a minimum price at which people can buy bread. There is no competition there, as there is in Western Australia. The responsibility of the manufacturer to take back bread also is limited. That imposes a very big cost on retailers, which is passed on to consumers. Yet Queensland is a supposedly great free enterprise State. Mr Deputy Speaker, it is a fraudulent State and it is run by what are in fact very slick con men. I believe that the people of Australia, when they are exposed to all the information, all the facts-there are numerous facts which I obviously will not have time to go through-will see just what a fraud and a charlatan the Premier of Queensland is.