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Wednesday, 29 November 1944

Mr MORGAN (Reid) .- I commend the Government on its enterprise and foresight in taking steps to establish the aluminium industry in Australia on a sound and permanent basis. The bill provides for the allocation of £1,500,000 of Commonwealth money for this purpose, and it has been agreed with the Government of Tasmania that it shall provide the same amount. It is proposed to produce aluminium ingots from local bauxite. I am glad that it is to be a purely government concern run by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments in conjunction. Many thousands of workers in my electorate are vitally interested in the aluminium industry, particularly those employed in aircraft production and in the extrusion plant at Granville. When this proposal is put into effect, we shall no longer foe dependent upon overseas supplies of aluminium, and the fact that the industry will be under government control will foe a guarantee that it will not close down after the war, as might happen if it wore controlled by private enterprise. Millions of pounds have been invested in the Australian aircraft production industry, and the many thousands of workers employed in it are anxious that the continuity of their employment shall be assured. As was pointed out by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beasley), when introducing the bill, theestablishment of the aluminium industry in Australia is vital to the defence of the country, not only during this war, but also after the war. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) explained how serious the position was some time ago when there was only three weeks' supply of aluminium in the country. When I was a member of the War Expenditure Committee, we visited the works at Granville, and the manager, pointing to a small quantity of aluminium lying in a yard, said that that was all they had with which to carry on the industry, and his was the only firm engaged in fabrication at that time. He then took us to another part of the premises where there was a dump of scrap aluminium. Honorable members will recall the campaign to obtain scrap aluminium from anywhere, even the halt, the lame and the blind. Amongst the heap of household pots and pans there was an artificial limb passed in by a cripple. We all know that aluminium imports were limited severely by the sinking of ships in the Pacific and other seas and by the fact that one British factory producing aluminium ingots was blown up by German bombs. That was one of the reasons prompting this Government to set up its own factory. I -know that the factory at Granville is controlled by the international cartel, Alcoa, and that twothirds of the shares are owned and controlled by overseas interests. I have nothing to say in disparagement of the manner in which the owners have conducted the works. It is a credit to them ; they have materially aided the prosecution of the war. I understand that there was an agreement with the company that it would obtain its supplies of aluminium ingots from overseas. But we have learned our lesson. We cannot allow ourselves again to be in the plight that threatened us when supplies of aluminium were virtually non-existent. We must be self-reliant. Doubtless, there were influences at work, particularly early in the war, to prevent the setting up of the aluminium industry in Australia. How those influences worked has been referred to many times in this chamber. On one occasion, when I was dealing with the retarding effect of monopolies on the war effort in the early stages of the war, I pointed out that certain activities, including the manufacture of aluminium, were being held back until big interests were able to deal with them. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) last night referred to a process for the manufacture of aluminium devised by certain engineers in conjunction with the Sydney Technical School. As a private member in opposition, during the Menzies regime, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to an engineer in Sydney who offered a certain process for the manufacture of aluminium to the then Director of Materials, who replied that the Government was not interested and referred him to Electrolytic Zinc and Metal Manufactures Limited, a private concern in which 'he was interested. Those examples show that the previous Government was not interested in setting up the aluminium industry as a governmental activity, but was prepared to leave the industry to private vested interests. A group of people in Berrima, where there are bauxite deposits, was interested in a project for the establishment of a factory to manufacture aluminium. Among them were some engineers who formerly occupied fairly high positions in an aluminium factory in Yugoslavia and had brought the blue prints of that factory to Australia. That proposition was put to the Menzies Government. 1 saw the correspondence, including the reply of the then Prime Minister that the matter had been referred to the Director-General of Munitions, Mr. Essington Lewis, but nothing further about the proposition was heard by those people. Then there was the offer by an outstanding Australian engineer. Dr. Bradfield, who recently died, to act in an honorary capacity in developing resources of bauxite in Queensland which he, in conjunction with the Mines Department of Queensland, had tested and found to be 90 per cent, pure alumina. Unfortunately, his offer was not accepted, again showing that the Menzies Government was not interested in establishing a government factory. I am glad that this Government takes a different attitude. Sir Ronald Charles came to this country at the invitation of the Menzies Government to report on the proposed establishment in this country of the aluminium industry. He is interested in the overseas combine and he was mainly interested in setting up a privately controlled factory. It was submitted to the then government that the overseas interests would establish, at the estimated cost of £2,500,000, a factory for the manufacture of aluminium on the condition that at the conclusion of the war the plant be dismantled and sent back overseas. That was the catch. That shows that overseas interests are not concerned about the development of this country in times of peace.

It has been proposed by the Opposition that the establishment of this industry should foe referred to the Tariff Board or some other body for further inquiry, but there is no necessity for that, because I have no doubt that the commission that will be set up to govern this enterprise will fully inquire into all aspects of the industry and ensure that the most modern plant shall be installed. It will not necessarily accept the plant offered by Sir Ronald Charles. I hope that the commission will investigate the other propositions, including the one emanating from the Yugoslavian engineers. Now that Yugoslavia has been almost liberated by the United Nations, there should be ample evidence available from that country as to the type of plant in operation there.

It is important that this asset should be controlledby the people, because, if the industry were left to the control of private interests and dismantled after the war, as was proposed, the users of aluminium would have been saddled in the price of aluminium products with huge costs for the establishment of something which would no longer exist. Never again shall we believe that we can find millions of pounds to expend in a war for destruction, but nothing in time of peace for construction and the development of this country. This industry, among other secondary industries, . is not only essential to the development of this country, but also vital 'to its defence. Never again shall we allow ourselves to be in the position we occupied at the outbreak of this war, particularly when Japan entered the conflict, when we had to beg aid from overseas, and when, in the words of the Prime Minister, we had to start from scratch, with the great defence undertakings like the Cockatoo Dock and the Small Arms Factory almost motionless. The aluminium industry also is an important subsidiary to the aircraft industry, which mustbe developed in this country. The next war will be a fast-moving war and it will come from the north. The very fact that this industry will be in Tasmania may be advantageous, because Tasmania will be isolated. Tasmania has suffered considerably in this war because we have had to divert to the mainland not only industrial activity, but also man-power. After the war, aluminium willbe needed not only as a defence material, but also for the manufacture of household and office equipment and in railway construction. Railways will have to compete against speedier methods of transport, and it will be necessary for the rail services tobe accelerated, and that will entail lighter rolling-stock, for which aluminium will be needed. I feel sure, therefore, that there will be a considerable market for aluminium. The light car industry will be a further avenue for disposal of the product of this proposed factory. Other ways in which the products of that factory willbe used could be mentioned.

This (bill cannot be challenged constitutionally. There will certainly be no challenge . from the Government of Tasmania, which is contributing one half of the cost. Tasmania is ideal for the development ofthe industry. Experts have approved of it. The hydro-electric power is cheap and, as in the other States, deposits of bauxite are available. The climate is ideal for the establishment of engineering activities. Moreover, it is only fair to Tasmania, which has lost so much of its man-power ito .the mainland, that the Commonwealth Government should take some steps to redirect manpower to that State. The hill provides in clause 9 -

The sale or disposition of the whole or any part of the undertaking of the Commission shall not be effected unless approved by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament.

That is an assurance that this industry shall not be sacrificed as other important governmental enterprises like the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers were sacrificed by executive action, after the last war. Paragraph j of clause 3 of the agreement provides -

The Commission shall not enter into or bc in any way concerned in or a party to or act in concert with any commercial trust or combine but shall always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking; and

I fail to see any justification for the criticism, doubt and suspicions cast by members of the Opposition upon the bona fides of the two Governments in setting up this industry under their control. Without the approval of both Houses of the Parliament, it will be impossible to dispose of this undertaking, or to come to any arrangement with any overseas cartel which may affect the price or the control of the industry. Another important item which protects the Australian industry and which will create more employment and assist in the development of this country, is paragraph h -

Other things being equal the Commission shall give preference to goods manufactured in the Commonwealth or its territories when purchasing machinery plant and supplies.

That is a step in the right direction. It is proof of the Government's determination to honour its promises to Tasmania, to workers in industry and to members of the fighting forces that the wheels of industry shall be kept revolving in the post-war period, and full employment shall be provided for every one. It is a step in the implementation of the Labour party's policy of nationalizing the basic industries of this country, and will help to provide economic security for all the people.

Mr Breen - A Commonwealth Government in the future may desire to dissolve the partnership between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania. 'Can the honorable member suggest any ways in which the State could carry on the undertaking?

Mr MORGAN - The AttorneyGeneral may be able to elucidate that matter; but I do not see how the State of Tasmania could act independently without the approval of the Commonwealth.

Mr Breen - If the Commonwealth ' were to dissolve the partnership, would it mean the end of the industry?

Mr MORGAN - I do not know whether the Commonwealth could terminate the partnership; but such action would have a detrimental effect on the industry. The agreement ensures that each party shall carry out its obligations. [Quorum formed.']

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