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Thursday, 9 December 1965


Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is too much noise coming from the honorable member's own side of the chamber. It is a unity ticket, I think.


Mr LUCHETTI - If the Minister will return to his own side of the House, Mr. Speaker, we might proceed a lot better. Provision was made in the Budget, according to the Treasurer's Speech, for £750,000 to be provided this year for development at Weipa. Honorable members well know that Weipa is on Cape York Peninsula and that an area of 2,380 square miles there has been made available to Comalco Industries Pty. Ltd. Comalco is to exploit that area which is perhaps the richest bauxite deposit in the world. This is a very special privilege for Comalco for it is being granted an opportunity to take from this nation this valuable commodity, to process it, and to earn in return rich rewards for this labour. At the present time the company is taking 700,000 tons of alumina a year. It is proposed that, after the wharfage facilities have been extended and the channel deepened into Albatross Bay, an increased quantity will be mined and shipped from the area. The figure may reach 2,500,000 tons a year.

Honorable members will appreciate that Comalco is a company which at least sets a pattern for national development. At least it is making some effort to process this raw material in Australia. It is pleasing for me in particular to note that at Gladstone an alumina plant is being established and is being expanded. It will provide opportunities for employment, for population growth and for the development of Gladstone and of Queensland. I owe a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) for the information he has provided on this matter and for the information he furnishes, not only to the Parliament, but to the parliamentary Labour Party's national development committee with respect to this important industry and concerning Weipa which forms part of the electorate of Leichhardt. I want to say " Thank you " to the honorable member this evening for what he has been able to do in regard to this matter.

It is also significant that Comalco has wide ramifications. It has interests at Bell Bay. I think it was announced only yesterday that an additional £4 million will be spent by Comalco at Bell Bay in expanding and extending its operations at that centre. In one way, it is a matter of great disappointment to members of the Opposition when we remember that a Labour Government of Tasmania established Bell Bay as a great Australian industry and yet it has been taken over now by a private organisation with very great interests outside the Commonwealth of Australia.

On that note, just in passing, I would like to make one or two other comments. The comments I wish to make deal in part with this matter before us but they deal generally with the problem of the plunder of Australia's natural resources. I, and other members on this side of the House, are gravely concerned with the plunder of our resources and the fact that the great wealth of this country is being shipped from our land and in many instances is being processed overseas. There is an urgent need to take action to plan the use of our raw materials and to design our national development. Whilst Australia's rich resources may be shared with nations less fortunately endowed, nevertheless our first responsibility is to Australia. To the extent that Comalco plays a part in this, its efforts are appreciated.

That company is doing something at Bell Bay. It is engaged in work at Gladstone which will promote activity in the north of Australia. But may I emphasise that we must measure our resources not in terms of 100 years but for a thousand years or more. We should cease thinking that we have resources to last for 100 years. We should think of the history of Europe. We should think of the United Kingdom which has had hundreds of years of industrial activity and development. Yet we measure our resources in terms of 100 years. Australia unlimited demands development, time without end. It should not be measured in time at all for in the long run we have to look into the future for a great and expanding Commonwealth of Australia. We have to think of our own needs, our own population and the future of Australia's role in this part of the world. Our history is short by European standards. It is the duty of this Parliament to plan the future without limitation of time.

If one were to be tempted to enroach on other fields - which I should only do in passing and not in detail - one could look at the sale of our very best coking coal. It is being shipped to Japan by an overseas company, the Utah organisation. Japan is getting the coal, Utah - a foreign company - is getting the profit, and about 160 people in Australia are at work digging it out. We get the hole, foreign people get the profit and our coking coal goes to a foreign country. That which could not be won in war has been surrendered in the days of peace.

This is the sort of thing I refer to in passing only because it does not fit directly into the discussion on this Bill. One could say almost exactly the same thing in regard to iron ore. This is the sort of thing that disturbs and upsets me when legislation of this kind comes before the Parliament. This legislation in this form is wholesome because it will deal with the movement of ships between the coastal ports of Australia. I should like to think that this island continent of ours is developing with an integrated transport system of road, rail, air and sea transport in such a fashion that we can tap the resources of this nation and use our transport system for the development of our industry, the expansion of commerce and the well-being of Australia. All forms of movement of people and all the nation's goods and services must be freely and economically made available. This work should be extended and so far as harbour facilities are concerned perhaps this legislation could represent a beginning. I should like to think that when ships come to Weipa, as they will, they will be modern ships, that drive-on drive-off vessels may be used as circumstances require, and that all this work into the broad transport pattern. Few vessels at present are equipped with modern facilities, but I hope that in time more of them will be so equipped, and that these facilities will become the rule rather than the exception in our coastal trade.

I believe that all processes connected with the manufacture of aluminium should be completed in this country. I can only hope that in the immediate future we will see great developments in Australia and that future governments will use their legislative powers to further developmental works of this kind and to encourage the use of our raw materials for the sake of our overall development.

The idea of making the money available at the long term bond rate, on the credit foncier system, is quite sound. No one can argue about that. I think it is most desirable. If we were to continue the arrangement for a period of 30 years, as is provided for, it would meet, to a great extent, the situation that confronts Australia at present. Let this legislation be a lesson to the Parliament and to the Government on the way in which funds should be provided for the development of our country. We should not confine this kind of arrangement to the bauxite deposits at Weipa; it should be extended to the man on the land and to all those who are trying to develop our industries.

The Opposition is pleased to support' this legislation, and I have one other matter to refer to before concluding my remarks. Some years ago I visited Weipa with other members of the Select Committee on Voting Right's of Aborigines. We looked over the area. We saw the tribal lands upon which our Aboriginal people live and we discussed with them the necessity for them to move to another area. Let me make this plea to the Government: When this Bill becomes law I sincerely hope that the Government will be humane and realistic in dealing with the needs of our Aboriginal people. I hope that they will not be pushed around. They told members of the Committee that they did not want to move. They said: " We would not move for a thousand pounds". To these primitive people £1,000 was a great sum indeed. It represented to them the ultimate amount that could possibly be obtained for the disposal of their tribal lands. I can only hope that the Government will remember this.

The Opposition supports the measure and hopes that it will have a speedy passage.







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