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Tuesday, 10 November 1953

Mr GRAYDEN (Swan) .- I do not wish to say a great deal in reply to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). I do not think he said anything that was very controversial, butI challenge one statement he made. He said that the Labour party had introduced all of the important social legislation in Australia. Actually the reverse is the case. It was non-Labour governments that introduced child endowment, age pensions, free milk for children, secret ballots for trade unions, satisfactory medical and hospital benefits and many other benefits: I do not intend to enumerate all those benefits, but I stress that facts establish without question that non-Labour governments' have been responsible for practically all of the great social legislation introduced in this country.

I desire to refer particularly to that part of the speech of the GovernorGeneral which dealt, with the development of this country. The matter is relevant also to a question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) towards the end of the last session about the granting by the Australian Government of a licence for the export of manganese ore from the north of "Western Australia. When the honorable member for East Sydney asked the question, apparently he was of the opinion that undue influence had been used by a Liberal senator to obtain the licence. I take this opportunity of telling the honorable member for East Sydney, and of making it clear to this House, that the honorable senator who he alleged was associated with the syndicate which obtained the licence never made representations on behalf of the syndicate.

Mr Curtin - How did they get the licence?

Mr GRAYDEN - The honorable senator has never, made any representations. The only member of this Parliament who has ever made representations on behalf of the Northern Mineral Syndicate was a colleague of the honorable member for East Sydney and the federal Labour member for the particular district. Nobody else has made representations on behalf of that company. A few months after the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) obtained the licence for the Northern Mineral Syndicate the Labour Premier of Western Australia wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as follows: -

During a recent visit to Port Hedland 1 was interviewed by representatives of ^Northern Mineral Syndicate, whose Perth address is A.N.A. Howe, 44 St. George's-terrace Perth. This company is- engaged in the production of manganese ore at Bagged Hills, via Port Hedland.

The company will he shipping 5,000 tons of manganese ore from Port Hedland to America in June of this year.

At the present time the company holds an export licence only for the 5,000 tons of manganese to he shipped in June.

Therefore the company is now in a position of being placed in considerable doubt as to its future operations, as the price offered for the manganese by Australian manufacturers is uneconomical to the company and efforts to obtain further export licences have so far been unsuccessful.

As the mining operations of this company are being carried out in difficult country with very great transport costs involved to enable the ore, when mined, to be brought to Port Hedland, it is necessary, to ensure the continued operation of the company in the man ganese field, for additional export licences to be made available.

For some time past the company has been in communication with the Director of th? Bureau of Mineral Resources", Melbourne, for the purpose of trying to obtain export licences to cover 25,000 tons of manganese ore per annum. ft is understandable that the Director of the Bureau doubtless supported by your Government, would not be in favour of granting such licences for more than, say, one year ahead, and there could be no objection to any decision which might be made along those lines.

I repeat that this letter was received from the Labour Premier of Western Australia after the licence had been made available as a result of representations made to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) by th? honorable member for Kalgoorlie. The letter continued -

However, it is a matter of urgency as well as of great importance to the company that it should be granted an export licence for 25,000 tons of manganese to enable the company's operations to be carried out during the next twelve months.

I would point out that the company has expended a great amount of capital in locating the manganese ore deposits at Ragged Hills and is putting in plant and equipment to mine the ore. In addition, considerable sums have been expended in the provision of transport equipment. Considerable sums have also been spent by the company in putting the long mileage of road from Ragged Hills to Port Hedland into reasonably traffickable order. The Main Roads Department has also assisted in that work.

The company has also had to construct houses at Bagged Hills for its employees*, together with other necessary buildings, and a water supply has had to be provided. As the manganese deposits at Ragged Hills have been discovered comparatively recently by the company and as they are of considerable extent, I trust your Government may be able to see its way clear to approve of the granting of an export licence to the company to cover 25,000 tons of manganese ore during the next twelve months.

The company's position and case is more fully set out in a letter sent by the company on the 23rd instant to the Director, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Melbourne.

Trusting your Government may be able to assist this company to continue its valuable work in a remote part of Australia and thanking you to advise me.

Mr Thompson - When was that letter written ?

Mr GRAYDEN - On the 30th April, 3953, which was a few months after the licence was granted. I wish to make it clear that I believe that the /honorable member .for Kalgoorlie .did the best thing possible .for the ' north-w.est of this country when he made his representations to the Minister for 'National Development and obtained a licence for the syndicate. .1 have read that letter .simply to emphasize the fact that, after the licence -had been obtained, the Labour Premier of Western Australia wrote to die Prime 'Minister .and stated that the licence should be for the export .of 25,000 tons of manganese ore instead of only 1,000 .tons. It is .obvious, therefore, that when the honorable member for .East Sydney raised the point about a Liberal senator who was alleged to be a member of that syndicate, he was on the wrong track. I am certain .that the honorable member for East Sydney would not have raised the matter had he been aware of the facts that I have given to the House. He asked a question about it in the House, without notice, and was asked to put his question on notice. When he did so .he deleted any reference to undue influence having been exerted in the matter, because he had already contacted his Labour party colleague who .represents the electorate concerned, as a result of whose representations the licence for the export of a quantity .of manganese ore had been granted.

I consider that the facts that I have stated will satisfactorily dispose of that aspect of the position regarding manganese. However, there is another aspect which I believe to be extremely disturbing. Manganese is a mineral which is found in large quantities in Australia. It can be sold at only a low price, which is about £25 a ton overseas and, until recently, about £8 a ton in Australia. Its uses are principally connected with the removal of the sulphur content of iron from which steel is made. An amount of about 17 l'b. of manganese is necessary in order to make a ton of steel. It is also used as a hardening agent, and as such is particularly important to the western world at the moment 'because of its significance in relation to the production of -such 'filings /as jet engines. The main producer of (manganese in the I/r. Grayden. world -is "(Russia. That country formerly exported 600,000 tons of manganese ore to the United States of America every year. About eighteen months ago Russia cut off all its supplies of manganese ore To America, and stated that ' it did so "for political reasons ". There is very little manganese in the 'United States of America and such manganese as is there is of low grade. 'Consequently, America is mure or less .scratching for supplies of this essential material, and the United Kingdom as in the same position. Recently, American industrialists stated that unless America could find new sources -of manganese any war in -which America was engaged would be as good .as lost.

Manganese is absolutely vital to the defence preparations of the western world. Australia has considerable resources of manganese. Before the last war manganese production in Australia was of little consequence, because the price obtainable for that ore was only about £3 -10s. a ton, and it was not profitable to mine it at that price. Prior to the war, therefore, no prospecting for manganese was -carried out in Australia. Since the war, however, it has become economic to mine manganese provided a reasonable price can be obtained. As 1 have said, the price in Australia has been about £8 a ton. A miner who goes hundreds of miles into the outback of Western Australia -and locates and mines manganese would receive -a profit of about £1,000 from the sale of 2,000 tons of manganese on the Australian market. It has dimply not been worth while mining manganese for such a return. The overseas price, however, is about £19 a ton f.o.b. Fremantle or Geraldton, and the prospectors and other people who are developing manganese deposits in the north-west can make a fair margin of profit on overseas sales. There is only one market .for manganese in Australia, and that is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited-

Mr Curtin - Because that company is the only steel-maker in Australia.

Mr GRAYDEN - Yes, and therefore it is the only Australian user of manganese in any quantity. For metallurgical grades of manganese that company provides the only market. It is able to buy Australian manganese at a fraction of the overseas grice. The. pro:ducers. of * manganese are unable to sell their manganese abroad because of" the export ban. which* was imposed by the Labour Government during. the war years.. If they were permitted to export the ore. they would' be assured of a reasonable margin of' profit. The ban was imposed by the Labour- Government,, because that government had very little information on the subject.. About twoyears ago I asked the Minister representing the1 Minister for National Development (Mr., Casey) whether- he could state, exactly where the known deposits of manganese, ore in Australia were located'. I. was informed that they were mainly iii "Western Australia. Several' major deposits in Western Australia were not then known to the .Bureau, of" Mineral' Resources. The' bureau has since conservatively estimated' that the deposits of one in .Australia amount* to approximately 750,000' tons. Thus,, we have assured supplies" in sight' to meet our. requirements for- the next. 30 or 40' years.

A.   few days, ago I had an opportunity to discuss, this matter, with Mr. Keyes,, of tlie Bureau of" Mines- of" the. United: States of America, who had. been. sent, to Australia to examine and report upon our mineral resources. My conversation with Mr.. Keyes was- most interesting. He told me that the United. States of America was perfecting a- chemical process for. the treatment of low-grade manganese ore, and that it was possible that, in- the' near- future,- high-grade' manganese deposits- would' no' longer be of great consequence. There will never- be a world shortage of manganese' because" it is the twelfth, most: common- element' in theworld. Sooner or later- when our deposits of high-gr.a:dbv Australia., Before- the war: no encouragement, was given' to. prospectors to prospect for new deposits^ and since the war the imposition of the export ban: has made prospecting, for new deposits not worthwhile.

Two. export; licences have been: granted,, one ti* Messrs;. Bell' Brothers, and- the other, to. the Northern Miner.ail Syndicate. Messrs.. Bell Brothers,, who., conduct, a. very large concern, in. Western. Australia, have a. permit, to: export 9,000 tons.. They are. working a, deposit the. estimated; content, of which, is 50.0,000. tons. They were granted an export permit so that they would, be able to construct access, roads to the deposits,, to. open them up, and. to. pit. test. them in-order, to. ascertain their extent.. But for. the; granting of. the licence,, the Government would' have had to. undertake that: work.. Because of the. restrictions of the licence only a. fraction of the. total tonnage of manganese mined, can be exported.

Those who are engaged in. the mining of manganese in Western Australia have no desire to - export their product. All they ask is that they be given a price by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited} which' will allowthem a reasonable margin, of profit on. their, operations. The price paid by the- company is too. low to make the mining of. manganese ore an- economic proposition.. An. increase of. the price of manganese would, not affect, the. price of steel-, because, only. 1'7. lb., of manganese- isused in the.- manufacture of a ton. of. steel.. The Broken, Hill. Proprietary Company Limited could pay a much higher price foi- manganese, f.o.b. Fremantle,, and still enjoy a tremendous advantage in the. sale of steel over its overseas competitors. At present the company is getting cheap iron ore and converting Lt into gig-iron at thu expense of the development of the; north-west of. Western Australia and of the dollar position,, because manganese ore could earn large: quantities of dollars for Australia.. It is- getting cheap ore at'- the expense of the Western, democracies which urgently need manganese in the- defence programmes.

I suggest, that the Government should: appoint a-, committee- of members of this< House- and instruct it. to. visit the northwest, of Western Australia in or.der tolearn at firsthand the- need for- the development, of. the mineral, resources of that remote! area. I. ask the Government: to, appoint; either; a royal-. commission, or a joint, parliamentary, committee toexamine the position- in regard to man.ganese iri: Australia- Our policy should: be? directed not to* the- unlimited' export of manganese but to the development of known deposits and the search for new ones. That policy could be applied in one of two ways - by permitting discoverers of deposits to export reasonable quantities in order to cover their initial expenses, or by increasing the Australian price. 1 prefer the former method because it would enable us to earn dollars which we bo greatly need and at the same time assist in the defence programmes of the Western democracies. Australian producers should receive a price that will enable them to pay for the mining costs and the cartage of the ore to the seaboard and leave them a reasonable margin nf profit. Mining is to Western Australia what taxation is to Canberra. Western Australia has been developed on the mining industry and is able 1.0 carry on only because of the mining industry. Indeed, the future of the State largely depends upon the mining industry. I emphasize the need for an investigation into the farcical position that exists in regard to manganese. Instead of paying lip-service to the need for the development of the northwest we should take every opportunity to encourage those who are attempting to develop that area and not hinder them by governmental action.

Mr. galvin(Kingston) [9.50].- His Excellency the Governor-General, in opening the second session of the Twentieth Parliament this afternoon, performed his function with great merit, but honorable members on this side of the House wore disappointed with the contents of His Excellency's Speech. I join with the mover and seconder of the motion for the Address-in-Reply, and with other honorable members who have taken part in the debate, in expressing my pleasure at the impending visit to Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. Opposition members may not be as eloquent as are some members of the Government, but their loyalty to the Throne and to the British Commonwealth, is without question. I sincerely hope that when Her Majesty visits Australia she will not be pestered at every public function by the Ministers of the Crown and politicians. I trust that every opportunity will be afforded to the people, particularly the school children, to see their Queen and to make contact with her. I see noreason why members of Parliament should be given special privileges on such an occasion. Members of Parliament should regard themselves as fortunate if they are permitted to attend one function at which the Queen will be present. That,, at least, is a much greater privilege than will be extended to the majority of the Australian people. I sincerely hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council. (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is in charge of the Royal tour, will not embarrass Her Majesty by permitting the functions which she attends to be crowded out by Ministers of the Crown and parliamentarians. As the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) has said, it is not the special prerogative of any political party or any group or section of the Australian people to be present at functions which will be honoured by the presence of Her Majesty. I trust that no attempt will be made to make political capital out of the Royal visit. I hope that the Minister in charge of the Royal tour will ensure that Her Majesty shall not be worn out by too many public appearances and by functions at which she will meet only politicians. I do not see any occasion for members of this Parliament, when Her Majesty visits the States, to seek any special privileges at functions to the exclusion of citizens. .1 trust that the Government will ensure that Her Majesty will not be tired out by too heavy a programme during her visit.

Mention is made in the GovernorGeneral's Speech of the conclusion of an armistice in Korea after a struggle which lasted more than three years. Members of the Labour party are gratified that, at long last, an armistice has been signed. We are pledged to support the United Nations in an effort to achieve and maintain world peace. It is unfortunate that the threat of war is still present, but I feel that the danger of a conflict is receding and that there is a real hope for peace in the future. We all should do everything possible to attain that most desirable objective.

I take this opportunity, perhaps a little belatedly, to congratulate the honorable member for Lang on his excellent maiden speech, which was one of the best that I have heard during the time I have been a member of this House. He has shown, in the brief period he has been here, that he is a worthy successor to the late Mr. Mulcahy. The people of Lang are fortunate indeed that they have a representative of the calibre of the honorable member to look after their interests.

His Excellency has also referred to the improvement of our overseas balances. It is pertinent, to ask how the Government allowed those reserves to be dissipated in the first place. The responsibility in that matter lies fairly and squarely on this Government, and although it is gratifying to know that our overseas balances have recovered., we regret that they have not yet returned to the level which existed when the Chifley Labour Government was in office.

His Excellencyhas also informed the Parliament that the long-awaited health pla.ii will be introduced during this session. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) complimented the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) on his scheme. The right honorable gentleman has announced so many health plans during the last few years that I have lost count of them, and I defy any honorable member to give a clear explanation of any of thom. The Minister, whenever he is asked a question about his latest health plan, is never able to give a satisfactory answer. However, at long last, a health plan i.3 to be introduced. I am eager to examine the Minister's proposals with a view to determining their real import. So far, we have waited in vain for a practical scheme. The Minister has frequently claimed that his health proposals will do a great deal for the people, but in actual fact, very little has been done for them.

I hoped that the Government, after the constructive criticism levelled at its policy during the recent debate on the budget, would have attempted to honor some of the pre-election promises that it made in 1949 and again in 1951. The Government will be judged on its record. The honorable member for Angas claims that the Government has a good record. That view is not supported by a majority of the people. Members of the Labour party will welcome the earliest possible oppor tunity to test the views of the electors on the Government's record.

A few weeks ago, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court decided to suspend the granting of cost-of-living adjustments. We are told that inflation has been halted. That statement is not borne out by the facts. The last quarterly cost of living adjustment, which was denied to the workers, ranged from 2s. to 10s. in the various States. The fact that the C series index shows such an increase proves beyond a shadow of doubt that inflation has not been halted. Indeed, this Government has failed miserably in its attempt to check inflation. Wage-pegging will severely reduce the standard of living of workers unless other action is taken by the Government to compensate for it. Even at this late stage, this dying Government should, re-establish effective prices control. In the past, the Government has claimed that prices control without wage pegging would be ineffective. That argument is no longer valid. Wages have been effectively pegged, or frozen by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and it is the responsibility of the seven governments in Australia to protect the standard of living of the wage-earner. The time is opportune for the re-introduction of Commonwealth prices control.

Effective prices control was destroyed in 194S when the present Government and its supporters sabotaged the referendum conducted, by the Chifley Labour Government. Members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party boasted that the States could control prices more effectively than could the Commonwealth. I recall that the Premier of South Australia boasted that his government could, control prices, yet prices have skyrocketed in that State, as they have done also in States administered by Labour governments since the. abolition of Commonwealth prices control. The plain fact of the matter is that the States cannot effectively control prices. Members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, if they were honest when they said that prices control could not be effective without wage-pegging, should now agree to the re-introduction of Commonwealth prices control. I do not agree with -the decision of the count on 'the abolition of cost-of-living adjustments, but the fact remains that 'the adjustments have been-abolished, and -we -can do uo.thing a'bout "the '.matter. We accept the decision -of the court, but we 'press for -the re- introduction of Commonwealth -prices control, and control of profits, -in order to balance the determination -of :the court against wage-earners.

Unless this 'Government and the State governments 'take remedial action, the fora mon wealth Arbitration Court will gra-dually -fall into -disrepute. For 'many wars, Australian 'workers have -regarded the court 'as the body that they must approach 'in -order to receive a-fair 'reward for their labour The workers, if they find that they cannot obtain justice from industrial tribunals, will drift away 'from Arbitration, and will gradually adopt a policy of -collective bargaining They will nott -wish to-do so, but they will 'be forced into that position, unless this Government Hid the State governments act promptly lie control prices.

Mr Pollard - Tills -Government -will not take any action in that - respect

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