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Wednesday, 29 November 1944

Dame ENID LYONS (Darwin) . - What has most deeply interested me and, indeed, deeply touched me during this debate has been the concern that almost every speaker has evinced for the welfare of Tasmania. At last, it has become obvious to 'honorable members that Tasmania has a right to participate in the allotment of Commonwealth money and expenditure upon war-time establishments or any other projects that from time to time may be necessary. The Government must have noted the absence of any real opposition to this bill. All that honorable members on this side of the chamber have asked is for a further investigation of the Government's proposal before a decision is reached. I am most anxious for this industry to be established. Yesterday, during this debate, I heard a cynical interjection to the effect that Tasmanians were sure to vote for the measure. But, to date, I have not 'heard any convincing argument against the establishment of the aluminium industry. Some honorable members asked whether aluminium will .he of the same importance to industry in the future as it has been up to the present, and I confess that I am not in a position to make any comment on that. Nevertheless, one argument adduced was most pertinent. The honorable member for

Flinders (Ifr. RYan). speaking of a proposal for the production of aluminium in Sumatra, advanced it- as an argument against Australia rushing into the manufacture of this metal. I disagree with his contention. The fact that the careful Dutch are prepared to establish an aluminium industry during the next few years, .because they cannot begin with the project immediately, must he a cogent reason for the foundation of the industry here.

Several honorable members referred to the proposed ownership of the industry by the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of Tasmania. With that arrangement in this particular instance, I have no quarrel, although, like other honorable, members on this side of the chamber, I am not a warm supporter of government, participation in industry. Certain industries must be established, and if private enterprise is not in a position to do it, the Government must undertake the responsibility. On that point T have this criticism of the bill to offer. Tt is not proper that the disposal of this industry at any future date 3hall be subject to the approval of only the Parliament of the Commonwealth. When we have an equal partner in an undertaking, the partner should have an equal voice in the conduct of the industry, and in determining whether it should be sold.

The only other matter which has directly interested me is defence. One argument which weighs with me more than another is that of our international relationships. The subject should give us considerable, thought. I cannot subscribe to the view, which the honorable member for Flinders evidently holds, that in this matter we are under some obligation to stand aside because of certain commitments into which we have already entered. On the first occasion on which I spoke in this chamber I made it clear that I stand for international co-operation, wherever and whenever possible, in every field for the purpose of promoting international peace. But each country must attend to certain things for itself, and I should like to direct attention to a statement published in the press recently. Issued by the Soviet Legation in Canberra, it contained a highly significant passage, as follows: -

Russia bases its foreign policy on the strength of the Red Army.

That is a realistic approach to the subject of international relations after the war, and we cannot afford to ignore it. Every country, while subscribing to every possible measure for achieving international co-operation, must see to its own defences. I agree that Australia could not have survived in this war if we had been left to stand alone, and that will apply in the future. But it is nothing short of a miracle that at no time during this war were we entirely cut off from the rest of the world. I see no guarantee that in our lifetime we shall not again be involved in another war. I shall do everything I can to prevent it. Such concessions as lie in my power as a representative of the people will be made towards this consummation of our hopes; but we cannot allow our hopes and dreams, as we did in the last few decades, to override our sense of what is probable, and what, we must at all costs be prepared to meet. If this industry be established, aluminium will be one item that we shall not require to bring from overseas in war-time, sacrificing precious ships in doing so. Therefore, I hope most devoutly that this industry will be established. Strangely enough, I have no particular axe to grind in this matter. Every honorable member will agree that the right of Tasmania to be the home of the undertaking is not to be spoken of as " claims " in this case. In the present circumstances, Tasmania is the only State that can provide the conditions necessary to make the aluminium industry a success.

The honorable member for Gippsland made a most telling contribution to this debate. In my opinion certain aspects of the Government's proposal demand further investigation. In the interests hot of the proposed industry alone, nor of the State of Tasmania and the people of the Commonwealth, but in the interests of the Government also, this inquiry should be conducted. I suggest, probably in my guilelessness, that the Government would be wise to accept the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). If necessary, let the Government make it a condition that the inquiry shall be completed within three months. I am opposed to any long delay in reaching a decision. Procrastination has been one of the treacherous things with which we have had to deal in the past. "Whilst supporting the whole idea of the establishment of this industry, I warmly urge that the House should ask the Tariff Board to secure information which at present is only vaguely held by many honorable members and not at all by others. The Government, in its wisdom, should accept the amendment which is in the interests of all concerned.

Sifting suspended from 6 to S p.m.

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