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Wednesday, 7 December 1960


Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) . - This bill is related to the measure which was passed a few moments ago. I am indebted to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for his constructive remarks and the plea that he made to the Government that the scope of this bill be widened to include other producers who find themselves able to help the nation in this respect. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) was at pains to point out that this industry might become uneconomic and, therefore, was not worthly of being subsidized. I am astonished that the honorable member who represents such a vast metalliferous area in Western Australia, including Norseman, should speak in this fashion. I am quite certain that those whom he represents in Western Australia - producers in Kalgoorlie and potential producers in his State - will be asking him some questions about his conduct in this place.

The remarks of the honorable member - the young pretender from Kalgoorlie - seem to be far removed from those which we heard through the years from his predecessor, Mr. Victor Johnson, who understood this problem. He came into this House with an intimate knowledge of this industry and was able, on innumerable occasions, to give useful suggestions and support to the Government whenever it was prepared to go ahead with a measure that was likely to assist our nation. Instead of chiding the honorable member for Lalor and talking about putting him right, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie should settle down in this place, doing some quiet study, going around his electorate, and seeing some of these mining industries. If he were to talk to some of the old miners in his electorate they would put this callow young member on the right track in regard to this important industry. Of course, the young member appreciates the fact that he is serving his first and last term in the Parliament. Consequently, be does not think it necessary to inform his mind on the subject.

This Government is supposed to be a government of free enterprise. If that is so, it should not close its doors to the development of the industry in any fashion at all. Again I ask the House: What is the reason for the restriction? Why should this be contained in any way? If one reads the Tariff Board report - and it would take far too much time to go through it in detail - one finds that almost every reference in it deals with the importance of this industry and the need, for a variety of reasons, to develop it. The report states, at page 6 -

The art of roasting pyrites concentrates in Australia has been developed over 20 years. There is a danger that it may be lost if not practised over an extended period.

It would be advantageous to maintain pyrites mining and roasting operations to enable industries' needs for sulphuric acid to be met in a national emergency.

This matter is related to sulphuric acid, and it is extremely difficult to separate them. As the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has said, there is a great need for this commodity in war-time. It is a tragedy that when a crisis arises in Australia, we rush hither and thither trying to do those

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things that we should be engaged in constantly. It is easy enough to forget these things and proceed to import the things we need. The Tariff Board report went on to discuss this matter when dealing with requests for the bounty. I have not complained about those who want to make this an important industry. I have the greatest sympathy with them, and no remark of mine can be construed to discourage in any respect the development of the industry by those who are engaged in it. The Tariff Board states -

These requests contained such references as the need for a bounty sufficient to establish conditions conducive to the sale of pyrites and that it was important that governmental policy should encourage sulphuric acid producers to use indigenous pyrites rather than imported brimstone.

Of course, that is logical. If it is logical and correct to take it from established producers, it is also sound and reasonable to extend the scope and take it from other places that are capable of providing this necessary ingredient of national development. If new areas can produce pyrites, why restrict production? Is this taxing law of ours to be construed as a sectional one? Is it to be supposed that taxation paid by the people shall be paid in bounty to selected groups? If the people of Australia pay their taxes for the development of the country, it is only reasonable, right and proper to expect that the benefits will be spread over the widest possible field. In its conclusions, the Tariff Board, when referring to the encouragement of the use of indigenous material for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, stated -

This policy has applied in particular since 1950 because of a world shortage of brimstone existing at the time and the possibility of inadequate supplies for the production of sulphuric acid and consequently for the production of superphosphate, by far the largest single use for the acid.

Witnesses at the inquiry showed that the Government had actively encouraged and, in fact, had urged them to convert plants to achieve as rapidly as possible an urgently required increase in the use of local materials to reduce Australia's dependence on imported brimstone.

That surely indicates without any doubt the great importance of this industry and the urgent need to get on with the job. We applaud the attitude of the Government in bringing this forward. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) asked the Minister to consider the war-time application of this bill. In a minute or so, I intend to tell the Minister how this matter can be of substantial interest to a part of my electorate in ensuring employment and the development of a country centre, ls this the type of development that is to be resented by honorable members on the Government side? I can only hope that the Minister himself will have a look at this matter and see what can be done. The Tariff Board report states -

It is of particular note in this industry that the highest costs and newness of plant are closely correlated. In other words, high cost is not necessarily indicative of inefficient manufacture.

That brings me to the point I wish to make in relation to my own home town of Lithgow in the Macquarie electorate. A group of persons have been working for some time with the object of establishing an industry there. They have already spent considerable sums of money in trying to get this industry established, but if the law stands as is proposed by the Minister, it will be faced with a difficulty. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) stated -

Bounty will be restricted to those producers to whom the Government recognises an obligation. Accordingly, the only recipients will be those producers of iron pyrites who have been in operation before the introduction of this bill.

I ask the Minister to review that proposition. I think it is far too restrictive. I ask him to consider further that this is a time in our history when increasing attention must be given to the development of our Australian industry. It is vital for many reasons. The Opposition supports the broad principles of the bill because it seeks to preserve an important industry and will help to support declining plants and reduce our dependence on imports of brimstone. Surely that is necessary when there is great anxiety about our declining overseas balances. All our attention should be given to stopping this gap in the outflow of money and trying to preserve our overseas balances. It might be said that this will not produce a great amount of money; that it will only provide a few hundred thousand pounds. But whatever it saves Australia in our balances abroad should be preserved. If the Government would show a little more realism regarding unnecessary imports, our balance of payments problems could be solved quickly.

This bill is too restrictive. It provides for existing industries, but excludes new industries. I have a special interest in this matter and I make a plea for the extension of the time for the registration of premises. The industry is growing up in my area and this is an important matter. A group of people have been engaged for some time in trying to establish this industry. Their idea is to produce lead, zinc, copper and iron pyrites. They have set out to employ 25 to 30 workers immediately and later to increase the number to 100. This is a consideration when you think of the general picture in our district where employment in the mines has fallen by more than half. Statistics show that at the end of 1959, there were 1,075 employed compared with 2,422 in 1952. In that period, 1,347 had lost their jobs.

Lithgow and district need new industries. The mayor of the town, the chamber of commerce, other public bodies and everybody concerned with the development of the area have applied themselves to this problem. Therefore, I ask the Minister to review this matter sympathetically. Let him consider the provision in the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill which deals with the situation under that measure adequately. That provision is that the bounty is payable provided that - the person making the application had, on or before that date,-

The date of application - incurred, or agreed to incur, substantial expenditure for the purpose of the installation at those premises of plant intended to be used for the production of sulphuric acid from materials of Australian origin.

There, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is an indication that a group is prepared to engage in this production and provide employment. I ask that people who are prepared to spend their money in extending this industry should be encouraged to do so, and I ask the Minister to consider sympathetically the proposals I have made.


Mr Browne - I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker.







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