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Wednesday, 24 November 1971
Page: 3555


Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Treasurer) - As the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) has said, he has asked 2 questions about this matter. He asked one question this week and one in the previous sitting week. I do not for a moment underrate the importance he puts upon the matter. Naturally enough, all of us in this House have had experience of putting as vigorously as we could in the House and outside the House the interests of our own electors. This is a matter of survival and no doubt that is a duty for members to fulfil. We understand that. But it follows that governments are not able to act as an honourable member wants them to act on all occasions. Certainly, governments cannot act until they make a full examination of all the issues.

The Government's decision to renew the subsidy for 3 years was taken in J une 1 970 after careful consideration of the case presented by the industry. At that time, the labour situation in Kalgoorlie was tight and general business activity was at a high level. The view taken by the Government was that a continuance of existing rales of subsidy would allow gold mining activity in Kalgoorlie to continue to phase out gradually with the employees concerned being able to obtain employment in nickel mining. The figure of declining production which the honourable member gave to the House a moment ago is an indication of this gradual phasing out. Many of the employees would retain their employment at the treatment plants as these shifted from handling gold to the treatment of nickel ore. Also, the construction of a nickel smelter by Western Mining Corporation and the reconstruction of the railway to Esperance would provide employment for the period ahead. In October 1970 whilst the legislation extending the subsidy was before the Parliament the then Prime Minister, the present right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) at the request of the Premier of the day of Western Australia, Sir David Brand, saw a delegation comprising the Western Australian Minister for Mines in a Liberal Government, Mr Griffiths, the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Tonkin, and Mr Brodie.Hail. President of the Chamber of Mines. In December 1970 Mr Brodie-Hall wrote to the Prime Minister saying that conditions had deteriorated mainly because of an increase in Stale minimum wage rates and requesting an increase in the rate of subsidy. He also stated, as I recall it. that that was a changed circumstance. As honourable members will remember, at that time there was a very sharp increase in the minimum wage rate throughout Western Australia. The request was considered by

Cabinet and rejected. When this decision was conveyed to Mr Brodie-Hall by the then Treasurer, my colleague the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), it was asked that it again be reconsidered. In January 1971 the then Treasurer wrote saying that he could see no basis for a reconsideration.

In response to further material provided by Mr Brodie-Hall, the Prime Minister in March 1971 re-affirmed the Government's position. I am bound to say that that was never accepted by gentlemen such as Mr Brodie-Hall whom 1 have seen on, 1 think, 2 occasions. Certainly, I have a very clear recollection of one occasion here in Canberra. In April 1971, I, as Commonwealth Treasurer, saw the Western Australian Treasurer who at that time was Mr Evans. I understand he is now AttorneyGeneral. I said that I did not consider there was a case for Commonwealth action. There have been many subsequent representations. I think it is relevant to point out that the Western Australian State Government has a role to play in this matter. Commonwealth funds provided to Western Australia this year are substantially greater than they were in 1970-71. That State has, in common with all the other Stales, benefited from the substantially improved financial assistance arrangements, access to payroll tax which has already been applied at an increased rate by the States, additional financial assistance provided at the June 1971 Premiers' Conference and from the Commonwealth's continued support of a high level of State borrowing programmes. The benefits to Western Australia from the transfer of payroll tax to the States and from the special revenue assistance provided in 1971-72 will amount to over Si 2m this financial year and will increase according to the formula next financial year. The Commonwealth has supported in the last 2 years special additions to Western Australia's borrowing programmes in recognition of its rapid rate of population and economic growth compared with other States. As a result the State's borrowing authority was 85m higher in 1970-71 than it would otherwise have been and is S8m higher in 1971-72 than it would otherwise have been. Many persons have made representations. I have a clear recollection of Senator Durack from Western Australia making representations to me. Others who made representations include the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, Mr BrodieHall, the Chamber of Mines of which he is the President, the town clerk of Kalgoorlie, and the shire president of Boulder.


Mr Collard - Does not that mean anything?


Mr SNEDDEN - Yes. That means that representations have been made. That is what it means: The representations have been made. I have since received telegrams which state: 'Unless you' - that is the Government - 'make a decision we are going to come over at a cost of $2,000'. I have sent back a telegram saying that those people making all the representations are providing the information and that I do not believe that a deputation would add materially to the information available to us There is no need for them to make the point that it will cost $2,000 to come here The matter is being pursued by representations. What the representations have pointed out is that circumstances have changed and that, while an increase in the subsidy was refused previously, it now ought to be granted because of the changed circumstances which relate to the nickel industry, because there has been a slowing down of the realisation of nickel mining and nickel smelting operations, and because the transference of the work force from the gold mines into the nickel mines and smelters will leave a gap. This is the new situation which is represented to me. It is said that the break in the changeover will cause social dislocation of the people there. Because of these changed circumstances, the Government agreed to submit the matter to further examination. The position at the present time is that the matter is being so examined.







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