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Friday, 12 July 1946

Mr BLAIN - That is the inference to be drawn from the refusal of the Minister to meet the men of Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.

Mr Johnson -That is not true.

Mr BLAIN - The Minister has stated in this House that he is not going to be led into that trap. The ex-Administrator of the Northern Territory has said that the whole of that area is "Red ". It is not.

Mr Johnson - I did not make any mention of Communists.

Mr BLAIN - This is the letter that I have received from Mr. Rowe, secretary of the Miners and Leaseholders Association at Tennant Creek -

At a general meeting of the above association held on 7th July, 1946, I was instructed to ask the Mines Department to have the leases on the Tennant Creek goldfield surveyed. Prospectors arc put to great trouble trying to locate protected gold lease applications, and on accountof the leases not being surveyed it is almost impossible to prove location in a court of law. The department has held survey fees for years in many cases, and we think that as the survey fees have all been paid it is time we received value for our money.

That isa subject with which I am particularly familiar, having been a mining surveyor years ago in the extensive mining areas of Cloncurry and Mount Isa, and having surveyed the Granites and parts of Central Australia in 1932. It is incumbent on a licensed surveyor to produce two copies of his surveys. One some form of price control and distribution of mica from Alice Springs. At present, mica is trimmed and graded in Melbourne. Strong, arguments can be advanced in favour of doing this work at Alice Springs, which is closer to the point of production. The mica-miners would then have an opportunity to supervise the handling of their product. As a result of the present lack of supervision, many of them do not entrust their winnings to the Melbourne depot for trimming and classification. They believe that people who are interested in the grading of the mica, purchase it after it has passed through the Commonwealth pool. If the work were done at Alice Springs, the miners would be able to see how their product was being classified and make sure that they received the proper price for it. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) to confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) on this subject. The handling of waste products also should be considered. If the work of trimming and classification were done at Alice Springs, much of the mica which is now abandoned at the mines might be used for the production of paints, varnishes, linoleums and so forth after grading and initial treatment in a grinding works. The insulation properties of mica make it possible for inferior grades to. be ground into powder for use as insulation material in various trades. 1 ask the Minister to consider extending into peace-time some form, of control which will 'guarantee to the miners a payable return for their product. The Government has complete power to prevent the importation of mica from overseas. Apart from India, the only supplies of any importance come from Brazil. The world demand for mica, as the result of the destruction 'of large quantities of electrical equipment in many countries, is likely to be very high. Therefore, Australia should aim at the establishment of an export trade. The cost of mica used in the manufacture of electrical and other equipment is so small in proportion to the total -cost of production, of an article that it could easily bear a special local price without seriously impairing the competitive ability of secondary industries. Only by guaranteeing prices over a period of years can the continuation of mica-mining on a reasonably large scale in Central Australia be made possible. As the present price control arrangements are due to expire a.t the end of this year, early consideration should be given to this matter so that miners will know what the future holds in store for -them. Many dealers are anxiously awaiting the day when price control will end. They will then be able to purchase inferior mica from abroad and cut prices, especially on medium grades which are most in demand and which are in greatest supply. The whole matter is of such vital importance to the future of the Northern Territory that I urge the Minister to have a thorough investigation made and to arrive at a decision before the present control scheme ends.

Another important mineral produced in Central Australia is wolfram. A bill was introduced this afternoon relating to the control of materials which may bc used for the production of atomic energy. It is no secret that Central Australia possesses materials from which catalyst agents may be produced. One definition of a catalyst is, "a substance that disturbs everything else but. does not disturb itself".

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