Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 17 November 1927

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - It is proposed to use the profits made by the savings bank for the purpose of encouraging various industries. With that, I agree, but in many instances money has been advanced for purposes for which it should not have been used. For instance, many prosperous industrial concerns have been assisted by the bank, whereas other concerns, more deserving, have had to obtain assistance in other ways. This bill proposes to increase the ti umber of purposes for which the profits of the savings bank may be utilized. Money may be advanced for the erection of warehouses or storage facilities, for the warehousing or storage or primary products. I do not know to what extent the wool growers of Australia will take advantage of that provision. They will probably find other means of financing their operations. Many other forms of primary production have already enjoyed a considerable amount of patronage from this and preceding Governments. On at least two occasions meat-producers approached the Ministry for assistance to tide them over a period of stress, and they were helped substantially. Similarly, the producers of dried fruits have received Government assistance, and now they are to get a further share .of patronage. Hopgrowers, likewise, have been helped by legislation - by the tariff and otherwise. Cotton-growers have been receiving a bounty for some years ; and as for sugar, I know of no other industry that has been helped to the same extent, and deservedly so. I always have a soft spot in my heart for the growers of sugar in the tropical belt of Queensland. I believe that they are holding that country in trust for the rest of Australia, at the expense of great physical and social disadvantages, and that, therefore, they deserve every consideration from the Government. It may be said. that we are being called upon to pay too much for our whistle, and that the industry is being helped at the expense of the consumers. I content myself with saying that the producers of sugar in tropical Australia have properly received substantial encouragement from the Commonwealth Parliament. Now they are to have further assistance in that under this measure provision is to be made to help them market their product. While all this encouragement is being given to the industries I have mentioned, and others, as well, the gold-mining industry is left out in the cold. Why has it been neglected? Why, indeed, is it singled out for repeated visits from the taxgatherer, and not as much as a single pice from the bounty dispenser? He is the only Government official that has given any attention to it. The subject has been dealt with in this chamber on many previous occasions. A year or two ago I submitted a motion inviting honorable senators to consider the position of the industry and see what could be done to keep it from by slow exhaustion. The Senate almost unanimously placed on record its opinion that something should be done to help the industry. Following that decision, members of this chamber waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) as a deputation to impress upon him the urgent need for more liberal treatment being given to it. Unfortunately, from that time to this, nothing has been done. At the risk of repetition, I propose to present the claims of the industry for consideration. During the war period, producers of gold were singled out from among all primary producers, so far as the sale of their product was concerned. They were obliged to sell it at the pre-war price, notwithstanding that, in common with other primary producers, they had. to meet rising prices for all other commodities, including the necessary machinery for the carrying on of their own enterprise. Other primary producers were in a much more fortunate position. Wool-growers received a flat rate of 15½d. That price, as Senator Guthrie knows, was a substantial increase on previous rates.

Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator is wrong there; it was the then ruling price.

Senator LYNCH - I am afraid Senator Guthrie's memory is at fault. I remember very well that, when a cablegram was read stating that the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had sold tlie wool clip for 15½d. the wool-growers threw their hats in the air with joy.

Senator Guthrie - Yes; that was because they feared that, as the wm: proceeded, wool might be unsaleable.

Senator LYNCH - Then the honorable senator agrees with me that the woolgrowers of Australia were placed in a very favorable position. Not so the gold producers. They had no reason to throw their hats in the air, even if they had hats to wear, at the price which they received for their product. Wheat growers also were treated most favorably. They obtained 5s. a bushel for their product - a considerable advance on previous rates, and certainly a remunerative return. If we examine the position of the minor primary industries, we find that almost without exception they have been helped in some way during .the war and since, whereas the gold producers have all along been strictly confined to pre-war prices for their product. The secretary of the Cold Producers' Association, Mr. Maughan, has estimated that if the gold producers of Australia had had a free market, or if they were compensated for the losses which they have been obliged to suffer, they would be better in pocket today to the "extent of £3,000,000. I mention this fact to show that the industry did something for Australia during the war period - something which no other industry did or was capable of doing - stud I emphazise that nothing has been done by the Government to encourage it, either during the war or since. It is a country industry. Why are the country representatives in this Parliament so shy about saying anything for it? It is essentially a pioneering industry. When gold-mining is no longer profitable, it invariably gives way to other and more permanent forms of primary endeavour. To-day the industry is suffering from a crushing burden in the- shape of a Customs duty of 40 per cent., on the machinery necessary for mining; operations. That is a most outrageous impost. No other adjective can properly be applied ' to it. Many goldmining towns in Australia are little better' than a memory now, largely because of unsympathetic treatment from this- and preceding Governments. I ask now that some1 restitution be made to the industry, so as to give it. some encouragement, be it ever so little. I trust that it will be included in the proposed new sub-section.

Suggest corrections