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Thursday, 2 December 1965

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) . - I want to reply to the reply made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) to my interjection a few minutes ago when I asked: "What is wrong with the Tribunal directing the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. to reduce the price of steel? "

Mr Killen - From £80 to £60 per ton.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - Yes, by £20, if you like.

Mr Killen - By 25 per cent.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - Yes, by 25 per cent. My interjection was made on the very proper assumption that the Tribunal, when it made the direction, would have acted in good faith and that it would not under any circumstances order a 25 per cent, reduction unless it felt that that was justified. If the Tribunal felt that a reduction was justified then I see nothing wrong with it directing that the reduction be made, because I well recollect that a few years ago the B.H.P., after announcing a record profit, announced, almost in the same breath, that the price of steel would be increased by £3 per ton. The company arbitrarily increased the price of steel by £3 per ton immediately after announcing a record profit. It is of no use the honorable member for Moreton replying to my interjection and making the foolish statement that our amendment, if carried, would put a lot of men out of work. It will not do this.

Mr Killen - It could.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - It would not put people out of work at all. If the Tribunal thought that the 25 per cent, reduction could be supported by logic, the company could continue to make a profit and to employ all the men that it is now employing. The only difference would be that the users of steel would get it at a cheaper price. I cannot understand the attitude of Government supporters to this legislation. Honorable members opposite who have sought to amend the Bill or who oppose its proposals have not done so because the Bill offers too much protection to the public. They have attacked the proposals because they do not give enough protection to the giant monopolies, cartels and other organisations that fleece the public. The amendments moved by honorable members opposite are designed not to protect the public - the electors who vote at election time - but the 0.5 per cent, of people who profit from monopolies, prices control and restrictive trade practices.

The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) was correct when he said that the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. is one of the toughest employers in Australia. I know this is so because I have appeared in Federal and State arbitration tribunals against the B.H.P. company in an endeavour to get decent wages and working conditions for employees of the company. I have never appeared in an arbitration tribunal against a tougher employer of labour than this fabulously wealthy giant monopoly.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) - And the Australian Workers Union will not allow an Aboriginal in its ranks.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - I have explained that section 144 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act makes it an offence for a union to prevent a person of nonEuropean blood from joining the union unless that person can be shown to be of general bad character or not to have abided by the rules of the union.

Let me get back to the point under review. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) said that the B.H.P. company has done a magnificent job for Australia. In a way it has, but it has done a much better job for its shareholders. It has done more for its shareholders than it has for the people who buy its products. There can be no question of that. No company in the world enjoys the same facilities and natural advantages for the production of steel as does the B.H.P. company.

Mr Haworth - Its steel is still the cheapest in the world.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - Of course it is. The honorable member entered the chamber and interjected without hearing what I had been saying. The B.H.P. company is able to produce the world's cheapest steel because it has access to the world's best deposits of iron ore and coal.

Mr Griffiths - These deposits are at the company's back door.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - Yes, the deposits are situated geographically in such a way as to make it easy for the company to draw on them. Our iron ore deposits are virtually all on our coast, as are our coal deposits. It would be a different matter if our coal was at Oodnadatta and our iron ore was more than 100 miles inland from, say, Port Hedland, but this is not the situation. The B.H.P. company's steel should be cheaper than it is. The point raised by the honorable member for Chisholm was irrelevant, but since the honorable member raised it, I have felt obliged to answer it. I make this further observation: I am absolutely amazed, as I am sure are the people of Australia who may be listening to this debate, at the way backbench members of the Liberal Party have defended the right of the giant monopolies to exploit the people of Australia. Not one honorable member opposite has struck a blow for the people who have to buy the products of these giant monopolies.

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