Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 12 May 1970


Dr EVERINGHAM (Capricornia) - In the 1967 by-election which brought me to this House the then Prime Minister's wife, Mrs Zara Holt, said in my home town: 'Queenslanders have a wonderful potential but they will not wake up to it and sometimes I feel like shaking them'. One of the Government speakers who preceded me in this debate said that Queensland is a sleeping giant. I suggest that it is not for want of asking that Queensland has been kept asleep for so long. It is noi because the people in that State do not realise the potential up there, but you cannot pull yourself up by the bootstraps. This project will benefit Australia as a whole and not just Queensland. Queensland was left pretty much at the end of the queue for this type of development and it is the only State which has up to this time nol had any assistance from the Commonwealth for power development. We might be a

Gulliver but we are not gullible. On 24th October 1968, not 18 months ago, the then Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), assured me that there were no figures available on the shipments from Gladstone and there were no figures available on the relative prices of bauxite or coal or power or freights; these were confidential to the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. Yet he could give me in the same answer what it cost New Zealand to produce electricity which was then extracting aluminium from Queensland bauxite. He said that the cost in New Zealand was 0.02c. In Tasmania the cost was 0.05c.

Referring to the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board which at the moment supplies the electricity for Gladstone, he said that the average industrial cost per unit per kilowatt hour was 1.2c to 30th June 1968, but the actual rates charged to any one of these industries in Gladstone was a matter of confidential agreement between the Board and the industries. He also said that the means used to raise loan money for development funds by the State or by this Regional Board were purely a State matter. What a turnabout this Bill is. lt was, according to the Minister not 18 months ago, purely a State matter. The Commonwealth would not come into it. We protested vigorously about this at the byelection, as we have at every election since. Queensland did not take this lying down. At the last Federal election the campaign in Capricornia was fought largely on this issue, and one of the results was this promise, just before the election, of up to $80m for Queensland at 6.4% interest, provided Queensland would be able to show that it would attract export industry. Apparently Dame Zara was way ahead of her late husband's successor because she was already well convinced. She thought that it was Queensland holding up development and not the Government of which her then husband was the leader.

However, by 14th April this year the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was still not convinced. It seems he has taken this long to draw up this 4-page agreement - not greatly different from other agreements for capital projects - which forms a schedule to the Bill. He promises nothing until the State can guarantee contracts to buy more than half the power to be produced. He wants 2 bob each way. He is a bit like the banks when you go for an overdraft these days. They want your mortgage to guarantee up to the hilt a little bit more than the amount of the overdraft and they want all your insurance policies to make sure they can pay for it by immediately cashing in the insurance policies if the bottom falls out of the housing market. Just to be sure they will like a guarantee from your grandfather so that he will have to pay if you cannot. This is the sort of agreement that is offered to Queensland. We cannot knock it. We cannot reject it. It is there ready for signature. There is no way we can amend it here in this Parliament to make it more equitable. We either take it as it is or leave it. Therefore we have to vote for the Bill. It is the best that we can get.

The State has to carry half the cost of building this project before any return is obtained. It has to find half of that cost from whatever loan sharks it can persuade to lend the money. It has to pay back every cent of the other half with this interest. Admittedly the rate has been watered down a bit because we protested. When the Prime Minister made this statement we protested that it was an unreasonable rate of interest. The Commonwealth proposes to lend the taxpayers' money - money from all the taxpayers in Australia - back to the taxpayers of Queensland and make them pay interest on it again. That is just about double what is being loaned to them. Queensland has to take all of the risks. The Commonwealth will not be in it until the State has a guarantee of customers to buy the power. The Commonwealth gets all the interest and all the revenue from the income tax that will be created by these new industries. The State will not get any taxes out of them. It is Australia as a whole which will benefit financially from this investment. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) said that this investment is not to benefit the electorate of Capricornia, the town of Gladstone or the State of Queensland; it is to help Australia's balance of payments. Queensland already carries more than its share of this task. Although New South Wales and Victoria have a debit balance of payments, Queensland has a credit balance, notwithstanding that the people of Queensland have a lower standard of living and a lower average potential income than the people of New South Wales and Victoria. The people of Queensland also get a worse deal by way of development capital from the Commonwealth than do the people of New South Wales and Victoria.

The Commonwealth commits itself to not one cent for the increasingly urgent needs of this area. Not one cent comes from the Commonwealth for harbour development in the fast growing town of Gladstone. It must find finance for harbour development from harbour dues, which fortunately arc very reasonable because of the large tonnages of bulk cargoes being shipped through the port. These are equal to the tonnages being shipped through Brisbane and other ports of Queensland combined. We had to put forward a very strong case before the Commonwealth would build an incinerator in Gladstone, and this is a Commonwealth quarantine responsibility. There is still in Gladstone no adequate control of venereal disease, a matter which I have brought to the attention of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). This is a Commonwealth responsibility and a matter for concern in this growing port. The control of venereal disease is left to State and local authorities, which have limited facilities for this purpose.

The Commonwealth has committed not one cent for road and rail facilities which are part and parcel of these new industries. The Minister for National Development referred in his rambling summary to beef roads, but these have nothing to do with the new industries which the power station will bring to Queensland. Not a cent is to come from the Commonwealth for the housing that will be required in the vicinity of these new industries. The industries which will benefit from the new power station - the alumina industry and its subsidiaries - have done nothing to improve the housing situation. It has been left to the employees to find places on which to park their caravans. Housing has been left to the private development firms which are there to make a profit out of the people who cannot provide their own housing. The Commonwealth has provided not one cent for housing, schools or hospitals, all of which ate run down and inadequate in this area.

Not 1 cent has been provided for parks and other amenities. These things have been left to local and State authorities. We get sick and tired of hearing about these shortcomings on the part of the Commonwealth. Not 1 cent has been provided for water, sewerage and drainage works, which are completely choked in the area. The local authority has been swamped by the rapid growth of industry in Gladstone. There is no way in which it can catch up in the time required to develop the new power station. The Commonwealth has provided not 1 cent to overcome the growing pollution problems, and there has been bitter complaint about air pollution and the large numbers of midges in the area. Midge control is left to some amateur organisation - some scientist who has taken the initiative to get rid of the biting midges or sand Hies that abound in the growing residential area of Gladstone. Not 1 cent has been provided by the Commonwealth for the conservation of marine life, which will be menaced by the effluvia from these new industries. The water supply had to be augmented by the alumina works so that it could hold a work force in the town and so that it might have enough water to run the works. But what of the extra water that will be required when there is an alkali works there producing caustic soda and when we have, as we have been told we will have, the biggest aluminium extraction plant in the world? After all this neglect we are supposed to acclaim the Government for coming forward magnanimously in the role of usurer and demanding its pound of flesh before it pays anything.

Let us examine the statements made today by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). Like the Minister for National Development, the honourable member said that it is all a matter of balance of payments: To earn export income we must have an inflow of capital. Let us see how much export income these industries will earn for Australia. In a speech delivered on 10th April this year to the West Australian Chamber of Manufacturers the Prime Minister referred to the percentage of foreign ownership in Australian industries. In the case of the motor vehicle industry, 90% is foreign owned. In the case of the chemicals industry, which is one of the major industries coming to Gladstone, 75% is foreign owned. More than 50% of the electrical and electronics industry is owned and controlled by overseas capital. The alumina and aluminium industry, based on deposits of bauxite which may be the largest in the world and which is the key to Gladstone's future economic development, is almost 100% in the hands of overseas capital. If the industry is owned 100% by overseas interests obviously 100% of profits go overseas. How, then, can such an industry increase our export earnings? How does Australia benefit if all the investment is in the hands of overseas interests? The Prime Minister knows the answer. He said: 'You and I are 50% partners in all these enterprises because of the company tax that you and I collect'. That would be all right if we collected any company tax but 3 companies have first opportunity to buy the alumina that is produced in Gladstone. They are the 3 companies that own the alumina works and would you believe that the price they set for selling this alumina to themselves is the cost of production. They do not make any profit. They are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts - producing alumina at no profit, all for the benefit of Australia. The people of Gladstone should thank them humbly for not taking any profit out of the town. As a result of all this no company tax is paid and 50% of nothing is nothing. It is that 50% to which the Prime Minister referred when he said: 'You and I are 50% partners in all these enterprises'.

Let us examine the Prime Minister's speech to see the trends. Firms with fewer than 50 employees are 26% owned by overseas capital. Firms with more than 50 employees are 34% owned by overseas capital. Firms with more than 100 employees are 37% owned by overseas capital and firms with more than 500 employees are 43% owned by overseas capital. So the larger the firm the more likely it is that it will be controlled by overseas interests. That is the trend confronting Gladstone. Already the aluminium industry is 100% in the hands of overseas ownership. The partnership to which the Prime Minister referred is not worth the paper on which it is written.

The honourable member for Lilley had a lot to say about the high load factor necessary to get cheap power. He said that

Tasmania and South Australia had been required to pay interest on loans made for similar purposes to the one under discussion. He said that export income is essential in a development of this kind. For how long are we to be guaranteed this export income? Well, he does not say this. We have no guarantee. He asks: 'How could we possibly have started such an industry if it were not for private enterprise?' I asked the honourable member for Lilley by way of interjection whether he had heard of Bell Bay. The honourable member said that we are not talking about Bell Bay. I am going to talk briefly about it.

Bell Bay was set up as a CommonwealthState partnership in Tasmania to produce aluminium, not bauxite. Bauxite is refined in New Zealand and in the United States of America as well as other places. This is what is happening today. Some of our bauxite is now being refined in Gladstone. We produced our own alumina in Australia.. This was a little bit of Government enterprise. Capital was just as tight then as it is now. In fact, it was tighter. We had problems associated with the war. But we found the capital. We had a very profitable Government concern. I have heard an honourable member opposite praising the Government and giving it a pat on the back because it disposed of this concern to private industry. He said: 'Look at the remarkable results that this has produced and look at the wonderful benefits that it has brought to Australia'. He continued: 'If this had not happened, there would not have been a search for new bauxite deposits. We never would have discovered bauxite at Weipa in North Queensland and we would not have our Gladstone alumina industry today.'

Unfortunately, the fact is that Weipa bauxite was discovered by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, carrying out socialised activity which falls within the responsibility of the Minister for National Development who is sitting at the table. It was public enterprise that discovered Weipa bauxite. If public enterprise can produce alumina in Tasmania at a time of austerity, if it can find bauxite, if it has foresight and if it is willing to take a risk - this Commonwealth Government is not willing to take any risk in the project under consideration - it can produce alumina in Gladstone and it can produce cheap power for that city. This idea that we must attract overseas capital inflow and put ourselves on the chopping block for those who wish to cut off our heads at any time is nonsense. It is poppycock.

The honourable member for Lilley contends that Weipa, Moura, Goonyella and Gladstone would never have developed under a Labor philosophy. Let me look to a little bit of history. Let me look to the fact that we are giving now $50Om a year - approximately 5 times this loan money to be provided by this Bill to Queensland - as a present - as an absolute subsidy - to oil firms, if you please, in order to get from them dearer petrol than we had before. This is the sort of nonsense that we hear when we say that a shortage of oil exists in this country. Why could not some of that money be put towards developing power that is a little bit cheaper instead of being used to develop dearer petrol?

The honourable member for Lilley tells us that an interest holiday is to take place which, in effect, will reduce this 6.4% interest on the money to be provided by way of a loan to Queensland. So it is. But let me assure this House that if it had not been for the vigorous protests that the Leader of the Opposition and I made when the Prime Minister made his statement this concession would never have come about. This concession was not offered in the original agreement before the last federal election.

The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) spoke of putting priorities into this business. I think that this is the whole crux of the matter. What are the priorities? We have heard a terrible lot about earning export income and attracting overseas capital in order to give us more holes in the ground, more headaches with sewerage problems in Gladstone and so on. Certainly more prosperity will not follow. This industry will attract a few more people to Gladstone and, eventually, by struggling and by cheeseparing on the part of the State, this industry somehow will attract other surrounding industries which will bring a measure of profit to the town. The alumina works will not. The alumina industry will take the profit overseas. But eventually a little bit of prosperity will come out of this development.

Then we will find that the interest holiday will have done something. It will have achieved a little bit in decentralising that State and this country. But decentralisation was put very low on the list of priorities stated by the Prime Minister and by all Government speakers. They were more interested in what capital they could attract to Australia and what exports they could push out without getting anything back for those exports. I suggest that decentralisation is not putting up some smokestacks out in the bush. It is not polluting new harbours here and there. Decentralisation is not making people work at half a dozen different places instead of at the one big place. Decentralisation is establishing a quality of life by getting people out of these huge diseased structures that we call cities, which are concrete conglomerates of people and industry. Cities suffer from hardening of the arteries. They cannot cope with the traffic generated by people going to and returning from work. They cannot cope with the traffic of children getting to school and back home or even the traffic of housewives going shopping.

Decentralisation is improving the quality of life by dispersing these huge conglomerates. Unless the Government makes some of its plans with the quality of life in mind, and not the figures of its export budgets, its balance of payments position and the figures contained in its loan interest papers, it will never achieve the confidence of the Australian people. It will never convince the Australian people that it is concerned more about people than profits and more about people than production figures. Alumina cannot be eaten. Aluminium cannot be eaten. What we need is a total plan which will encourage private enterprise and assist private enterprise but which will, above all, use a little bit of public imagination and initiative in order to bring a variety of activities and industries to these places.

Rockhampton, my home town, is a prosperous and a very nice town to come into. As one comes into the airport there, one sees that the area surrounding it is covered with trees. One finds that it has a tempo of life which helps people to live into their eighties in a graceful way, still be human and still have time to speak to somebody who comes to visit them from the rat race of the south. One will find that in Rockhampton no jobs are available for the

15361/70- I75J

unskilled man past 40 years of age if he has the slightest disability which prevents him from doing heavy work. No jobs exist for the teenage girls. They leave the town and go to the big cities for jobs. No jobs are available for the widows or housewives who need to earn something to help their, families. Rockhampton has a concentration of a few heavy industries.

No planning exists in this country for the quality of life. Industries grow like Topsy where the will of the profit seeker puts them. A man finds a place to put his industry, and that is where it will be. No incentive is provided to a man who wishes to establish, for instance, an electronics factory or a lingerie factory to put his factory in one of these areas. Any number of light industries that I could mention come to mind which could solve this unemployment problem. The development of these industries in areas such as Rockhampton would save the Government thousands of dollars a year in payments in respect of unemployment problems and other social problems. But no planning is done in this direction because the Government does not see its role as that of helping the quality of life. It sees its role as making things easier for private enterprise.







Suggest corrections