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Tuesday, 6 December 1938

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) . - I impress upon the Government the necessity for action to ensure that undertakings, given by interested parties before the Tariff Board, are' carried out in their entirety.. I agree that Parliament should do all that is possible to assist the development of secondary industries in the smaller States. I say this, having in mind Commonwealth grants from time to time to the smaller States, rendered necessary because of disabilities which claimant States have suffered under federation. Taking the long ' view, I think that the more we can help the smaller States to he self-contained, the less will be the need for monetary grants from the Commonwealth to assist them in the future. The value of- the newsprint industry to Tasmania from this standpoint, therefore, cannot be overestimated. The aspect of the proposal at this stage that concerns me mostly is its probable influence on unemployment. The more employment that is provided by State activities through the establishment of new, or the expansion of existing industries, the greater will bo the revenue of the States and the less the need for Commonwealth aid. Tasmania is in the fortunate position that -its hydro-electric system should make possible the satisfactory development of a number of industries, and the Tasmanian Government in assisting this venture i3 endeavouring to do the best it can fully to develop and exploit the resources at its disposal. -But, as honorable members have gathered, I am somewhat troubled about the undertakings given by the interested parties, outside the Government, in connexion with the develop ment of this new industry. When tho Tariff Board was making its inquiries certain specific promises were made with reference to the number of persons who would bo employed by the industry in its initial stages, and the amount of capital to be invested. I am anxious that those undertakings shall be honoured to the full. This Parliament should insist on the observance of any promises made to the Tariff Board. At the moment I am not in a position to say what action the Tasmanian Government has taken or intends to take to safeguard the interests of employees of this industry, "including the matters to which I have referred, but I imagine that it has not been idle. Nevertheless, it is, I think, advisable to mention the matter. When the Newnes shale industry was before this Parliament w-e were told that in its initial stages so much capital would be expended, and it would give employment to a certain number of men. I arn not satisfied that those undertakings have been observed. I therefore submit that this Parliament should insert in the bill the necessary safeguards. I have in mind the attitude of former governments in connexion with the Commonwealth Government's investment in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.

Sitting suspended from 1.2.^5 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr BEASLEY - Prior to the suspension I was referring to the representation of the Commonwealth on the directorates of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, with a view to ensuring that the policy agreed upon in this Parliament in connexion with the conduct of those undertakings is given full effect as far as the power of its representative can impose it. I believe that to be a good idea. Although many honorable members may feel disposed to criticize both of these undertakings, the fact is undeniable that by reason of this direct representation on the boards which control them. Parliament has an opportunity to inform itself exactly as to what is being done, and from time to time to question any departure from the original intention. Tho report of the Tariff Board dealing with the newsprint industry states that it is estimated that in the initial stage the number of employees on the payroll will be: J.u the bush, 116; at the mill, 134; and in connexion with communications, 20; making a total of 266 men, the payment to whom will aggregate £70,000 per annum. In reply to a question during the course of the inquiry, one witness stated that it was expected that during the period of eighteen months to be occupied in the construction stage, apart from the erection of the plant, an average of about 2-50 men will be employed. It was also claimed before the board that in regard to the production of newsprint only the employment would be; In the hush, 320 men, earning £75,000 per annum; at the mill, 450 men, earning £120,000 per annum; and on communications, &c, 80 men, earning £18,000 per annum ; a total annual wages payment of £213,000. The report states that this represents direct employment and that the circulation of the money so expended will result in considerably increased employment in other industries and services. We all expect that the provision of employment in this particular venture will necessarily lead to the expansion of other undertakings which depend upon it. Generally, from the standpoint of the State as a whole, these results, if they can be achieved, will be welcomed, and I would not say one word which might militate in any way against their being realized. I merely express at this stage the sincere hope that the undertakings given will be carried out, and that all the things anticipated in the Tariff Board's report will be accomplished. I want to feel certain that the Government will keep an eye on the venture. I have already said that it will be particularly to the interest of the Government of Tasmania to do so; but at the same time it is as well that the parties who will control the venture should understand that this Parliament expects them to live up to the assurances they gave when appearing before the Tariff Board in support of the claim for a bounty or other form of assistance. I take it that the Parliament to-day will agree to grant assistance because of the undertakings given, and particularly I have in mind the matter of employment. I wish the venture well, as would every Australian wish well any enterprise tending to develop Australia, particularly the smaller States, which can promote secondary industries peculiar to their own circumstances. Perhaps the Minister, in his reply, may be able to assure me that his department will closely watch the annual development of this venture, and from time to time advise the Parliament as to whether or not the assistance granted is» being devoted to the- object desired. If the undertakings given are observed in their entirety, we shall have cause to be satisfied at having assisted the development of another important secondary industry in Australia.

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