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Wednesday, 29 November 1944

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) . - The Attorney-General stated that he would agree to postpone clause 10, and .proceed with the remainder of the agreement. The matter does not mean a great deal to me, because the Government has the numbers to enforce its wishes. We are now asked to give our assent to a clause consisting of these simple words -

The agreement is hereby approved.

If clause 10 be postponed for the time being, clause 4 should also be deferred. But since we are expected to speak on clause 4, I take this opportunity to protest at the manner in which this important subject has been presented to this chamber. Honorable members should have been afforded an opportunity to examine these reports without bias, because most of us approach this matter with an Australian outlook. "We have no personal axes to grind in either approving or opposing thebill. We simply require -information in order that we may best determine what should be done in the interests of Australia. Earlier, I pointed out that circumstances surrounding the presentation of this project call for careful thought. Honorable members have not been given a fair opportunity to acquaint themselves with the details of the bill. This afternoon, I mentioned the names of certain individuals who, it is suggested, have some vested interest in forcing the Government to expedite the passage of the measure in case something should leak out, and the bill not be approved.

The Parliament of Tasmania had to approve this legislation, which was submitted to it on the 19th April last. Even in the State legislature the bill was not supported unanimously by honorable members. Members of the Opposition called for a report, and asked for an inquiry, and the Launceston Examiner published a news item entitled "Aluminium Bill Approved - Move for Inquiry Defeated ". That occurred six months ago. The Government of Tasmania did not authorize a public inquiry into the proposal, even though the Opposition pressed for it; and now, no information has been given to the House of Representatives, even though the Opposition has asked for it. The only conclusion is that some reason exists for this cloak of secrecy. I propose to read an extract from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament, because an endeavour has been made to convey the impression that all the Tasmanian people are just gasping for this bill. The report states -

Mr. Bakersaid he felt both sides of the House would do their utmost to bring about the industry. Every member of the House should be as careful about the spending of £1,500,000 of the people's money as he should of his own money. " Surely it. is not for me to be called upon at five minutes' notice to reply on behalf of the Opposition on this bill ", he said. " I regret that a splendid industry for this State should be prejudiced by this stupid piece of bungling by the Premier in its introduction. Whether it would be £1,500,000 or not history would disclose. Judging by previous estimates it might be £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 ".

Evidently the same hasty tactics were adopted in the Parliament of Tasmania as those that are being adopted in this chamber, because the Leader of the Opposition protested against being called on at five minutes' notice to deal with the bill. The people of Tasmania may be committed to the expenditure of millions of pounds more than they anticipated. The procedure adopted in the Commonwealth Parliament by a Labour government is almost parallel with that adopted in the Tasmanian Parliament by another Labour administration. In view of the allegations made in the debates to-day and yesterday, it is the duty of the Government to protect the interests of the Treasury to the maximum degree. The money required for this project cannot be found by any easy method. It will have to come from either taxation or loans. If it comes from loans - and that is what unundoubtedly will happen - it will be a part of a huge sum of probably £150,000,000 which the Government will raise for war purposes and other requirements. In short, the people of Australia will be called upon to subscribe the money. It may be said that Mr. A. V. Smith, who is to be chairman of the commission, is quite capable of safeguarding the interests of the Commonwealth, but. we should remember that he is already chairman of the War Disposals Commission and secretary of the Department of Supply and Shipping. Consequently, it will be impossible for him to devote a groat deal of time to the work of this commission. We understand that whenever possible the meetings of the commission are to be held in Tasmania, so that Mr. Smith will be under some difficulty in that connexion.

Mr Frost - Why? It only takes about two hours to go across to Tasmania by air.

Mr ANTHONY - Even the Minister cannot get across to his home State as frequently as he would like to do. I consider that the amendment should be agreed to.

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