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Wednesday, 29 November 1944

Mr ABBOTT (New England) . - This bill provides for the establishment of a great, new industry in Australia at an estimated cost of £3,000,000, yet neither the Minister in charge of the bill nor his experts can say what will be the cost of producing aluminium. Attached to this report, which has been put into our hands, is a letter from the British Aluminium 'Company in which mention is made of the cost of producing aluminium, " . . . excluding interest on capital . . . based on our own costs, and costs can vary enormously according to the ore used . . . " That is the most empiric form of costing that I have ever seen, but then, to crown everything, no cost is shown at all. There is an estimate of the cost of plant, and also an estimate of " red mud disposal ". It seems to me that this is a "muddy" sort of agreement, one which has never been properly examined by the Government. An attempt has been made to rush it through the House. We have had to drag the report out of the Government, and the operation was as difficult as that of dragging out a man's wisdom teeth. The Government did its best to suppress the report. It is proposed to commit the country to vast expenditure, yet we are not told what the cost of production will he. When I proposed that a Treasury official be appointed to the commission to watch expenditure, the Government refused to consider it. Why the AttorneyGeneral will not postpone further consideration of the bill until to-morrow morning so that honorable members may study the reports, I cannot understand. The attitude of the Government in this respect is on a par with its attitude regarding this whole proposal. Discussion has been stifled as far as possible, and now, when the report has been finally made available, it is evident that the Attorney-General knows nothing of its contents. Notwithstanding the fact that a promise was given on the 17th September last that the reports would be made available, only six copies of this particular report have been placed before ns. I should like the Attorney-General to say why more copies were not prepared. He knew that the honorable memher for Gippsland had asked for the report last night or. if he did not know, it is a reflection on his secretarial assistants. On the matter of this vital report the Attorney-General misled us when he was speaking earlier this evening. He said first that it was a short report, and then he suddenly discovered that it was a long one. That shows how much study he gave to the report, and probably Cabinet studied it just about >as much. This attempt to push through the bill without proper study or consideration is unfair to the Parliament and to the people. Parliamentary sessions are few and far between. It would be better if they were more frequent so that, more consideration could be given to the business of the country. The Attorney-General should adjourn this debate straight away so that more copies could be made of the report, and so that honorable members might read it. through before the House meets to-morrow.

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