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Tuesday, 11 April 1961

Mr Ward d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Does the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited have a monopoly in the field of steel production in Australia?

2.   Is it a fact that, despite substantial expansion of its manufacturing plant, the company is failing to an increasing extent to meet Australian requirements in respect of certain types of steel?

3.   Is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited,1 through its great strength, able to destroy any organization attempting to challenge its position in the Australian market?

4.   If so, is there little or no likelihood of any competition arising in this field of production?

5.   Is he able to say whether the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has deliberately followed a policy of producing less than the local market requirements?

6.   Has the company's failure to produce sufficient steel to meet Australian needs forced, particularly in recent years, an increasing importation of certain types of steel, thus adding to our balance-of-payments problem?

7.   Does the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited enjoy a privileged and protected position in the industry?

8.   If this is so, and in view of the essentiality of the company's products for future Australian development, has the Government taken, or does it propose to take, any steps to see that production is expanded to a satisfactory level and that national interests are placed before those of a private company operating for the gain of its private shareholders?

9.   If the Government has plans to deal with this problem, what are the details?

Mr Menzies - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, together with its subsidiary company, Australian Iron and Steel Proprietary Limited, is the only company in Australia producing steel from iron ore. Another company makes steel from scrap metal in Melbourne.

2.   Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was unable during the past year to meet the strong upsurge in demand for certain types of steel, but there are indications that demand and supply are coming closer to balance.

3.   I am not aware of any evidence to support this contention.

4.   See 3 above.

5.   No.

6.   There was an. increase in the level of steel imports during 1959-60, but there was a net export surplus for steel mill products totalling almost £8,000,000 for the years 19S8-S9 and 1959-60.

7.   No, but certain of the industry's products are protected by the tariff. 8 and 9. The Government has entered into discussion with the company with a view to examining how Australia might avoid the need to import steel and become a major and continuing net exporter of steel.

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