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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - Several statements have been made upon which I should like to comment briefly. Senator Duncan, with great natural eloquence, has put forward an excellent plea, based, I regret to say, onfalse premises. I have not time to analyze his statement completely, but I can give one instance to show how wrong he was. He told us that the Wonthaggi colliery uses exclusively explosives manufactured at Deer Park. I am informed from an equally reliable and equally ex parte source - the other side, in fact - that the South African company supplies more than half the explosives used at this particular colliery.

Senator Duncan - Even if the Wonthaggi colliery obtains half its supplies from the local factory, that answers the argument against the use of the local article.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I have said that I have not the time to analyze the whole of the honorable senator's statement. I picked out one portion of it about which I made inquiries, and that is the information given to me. Senator Elliott is most anxious to establish the industry here. The industry is established, and is flourishing. The figures supplied by Senator Duncan show how thoroughly it is established, and how it is flourishing. What is the necessity for an increased duty on explosives when the industry is in such aflourishing condition that it is able to supply the many tons of explosives used by the mines in New South Wales, Queensland, and elsewhere, to which reference has been made by Senator Duncan?

Senator Elliott - Why does it not supply them all?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I will tell the honorable senator why we do not wish that it should supply them all.

If it did, we should have in Australia a condition of affairs such as obtained here before, when we were at the mercy of this company. The company had not then a branch factory in Australia, but the Australian mines were at its mercy; and how did it treat them?

Senator Duncan - It tried to strangle them.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - It tried its best to strangle the mining industry of Australia, and it was only because, at our request, another company came to our assistance that we were able to defeat its attempt. The de Beers Company assisted us to defeat the Combine.

Senator Lynch - It was the only friend we had.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - It was the only friend we had to come to pur assistance in our hour of need. Some honorable senators and some people outside say to me, " You are a soldierman, and obviously must support the establishment of this industry in Australia." I am prepared to agree to that to the extent of saying that it is very desirable that we should be in a position in Australia to manufacture our own munitions of war. I go further and say that the time will arrive when it will be essential that we should have this industry established in Australia.

Senator Bolton - It might be tomorrow.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - That is so; but I have so far heard no reasons advanced why one industry in Australia should have to pay forthe establishment of an industry essential to the defence of this country. That is what Senator Duncan proposes. He wants the mining industry of Australia to pay for the establishment of the explosive industry. We know that the metalliferous mining industry in Australia is tottering on the verge of destruction, and yet it is asked to supply the funds necessary to keep this factory at Deer Park going. Is that a fair proposition ? Would it not be a fairer proposition to ask the whole of the people of Australia to pay for this factory, or some similar institution, in the interests of the defence of Australia? Is it a fair thing to ask the unfortunate mining industry, which never experienced in its history a worse time than it is going through now, to carry on its back yet another load? Honorable senators have only to consider the incidence of the Tariff, which I have characterized in very strong terms, to learn how it hits the miner and mine-owner at every turn. Here is the last straw. Miners, mine-owners, and all associated with mining in Australia join in an appeal that this last straw should not be added to the burden of their industry. I am afraid that their appeal does not reach some members of the Committee. We are told that the factory at Deer Park employs a few hundred people, and on that account we should keep it going. The mines of my own State alone employ thousands of people. Are honorable senators going to set the interests of a few people at Deer Park against the existence of the whole of Kalgoorlie, because that is what the request under consideration amounts to? Which is of the greater importance to Australia, the carrying on of its mines or the carrying on of the Deer Park factory? Our first consideration in this matter should be for the mines of Australia, and the small factory at Deer Park should be but a secondary consideration.

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