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Thursday, 17 November 1927

Senator ANDREW (Victoria) .- I hope the amendment will receive careful consideration at the hands of the Government. Owing to the high cost of production, the gold-mining industry is steadily declining. In 1915 the production in Australia totalled 1,946,907 ozs., valued at £8,269,936; in 1926 production had. fallen to 520,006 ozs., valued at £2,208,829. . The decrease in production in eleven years was 1,426,901 ozs., or a total value of £6,061,097. In consequence of the imposition of high customs duties on mining plant, the cost of production has been increased, and as wages are also higher, gold-mining is now a losing proposition. As the Government assisted primary production last year to the extent of over £500,000 in the form of bounties on dried fruits and other commodities, it should also assist the mining industry, a revival of which would have a very beneficial effect upon Australia. The stimulation of the industry would absorb a large number of the men who are at present unemployed. The discovery of gold and other minerals inAustralia has always attracted large numbers of migrants from all parts of the world, who, when operations were restricted, remained in the country and followed other avocations. Ballarat, Bendigo, and other such places, developed owing to the discovery of gold. A good deal of the development of Western Australia is due largely to the discovery of gold, and to the influx of population, which always follows such a discovery. Some months ago a conference, representative of all the States was held at Maldon, in Victoria, at which certain resolutions were passed with a view to submitting proposals to the Tariff Board in support of a bounty on gold. These resolutions were to the effect that if a company were making profits and paying dividends, it should not receive assistance, but that prospecting companies and syndicates endeavouring to discover new fields, should be given financial help. As the Government has allotted only £10.000 of the £25,000, which it has made available for prospecting purposes, some assistance should be given now to the gold mining industry. In a pamphlet entitled twelve reasons are given in support of a bounty on gold. From these I quote the following -

1.   Because the Commonwealth's active public policy is based on White Australia and protection to local industry. To make a living force of both, natural co-operation and mutual help should be extended to all, not alone to those industries covered by the tariff duties.

2.   Because gold mining is a natural industry - the parent of numerous other industries - and vital to the immediate welfare of thousands of worthy Australian citizens.

It .is important to remember that the successful development of a mining show leads to the establishment of numerous other industries. During years of great mining activity, there were in the city in which I reside, five foundries employing hundreds of men; but now that milling has declined, these are closed and the workmen have drifted to the capital cities to increase the number of unemployed. Nothing is of greater assistance to decentralization than a revival of mining, which leads to the establishment of cities and towns, and provides work for the unemployed. In a communication to the right honorable A. Bonar Law, M.P., Chancellor of the Exchequer, from the Gold Producers' Committee of London stated -

We believe that the augmentation 01 the supply of gold and its utility in value in our economic system is universally recognized as being of the greatest moment to the State, and it appears to us clear that, unless exceptional steps are taken in the present exceptional circumstances to help the gold producing industry, the supply already materially diminishing must inevitably suffer a further and very serious decrease.

It is universally recognized that gold is a means of stabilizing finance. America is at present importing more gold than she is exporting in order to stabilize the finances of the nation. Gold is the most valuable commodity which a nation can have at its disposal during a period of war. Fuel oil is essential, but gold i3 of even greater importance. The production of large quantities of gold would be of material help to the Commonwealth, not only in time of peace, but also in the event of war. I support Senator Lynch's contention that the Government should assist those engaged in gold production, as the costs have been increased to a remarkable extent in consequence of the imposition of high Customs duties.

Senator Hoare - What is gold worth at present?

Senator ANDREW - Approximately £4 an ounce. New Guinea gold is worth less. Certain commodities required in gold production have increased from 71 per cent, to 600 per cent, in consequence of the tariff. For instance, explosives have increased in price from 10 per cent, to 100 per cent. Wages have also increased by 100 per cent. Moreover, the extra cost of production cannot -be passed on as is done by the producers of other commodities. It is absolutely, essential to stabilize the gold milling industry. That, I contend, can be done only by financial help from the Commonwealth Government. If new fields are discovered the population in. country centres will increase, and the capital cities will be relieved of large numbers of unemployed. Iron foundries will also be established in towns adjacent to the fields, and work will thus be made available in other industries. Almost every industry is active when mining operations are being successfully carried out. In view of all the circumstances I trust the Government will favorably consider the amendment.

SenatorGRAHAM (Western Australia [5.0]. - As the bill provides that the Commonwealth Savings Bank shall in certain circumstances render financial assistance to the producers of wool, grain, butter, cheese, meat, fish, preserved and #dried fruits, hops, cotton, sugar, and such other produce as is prescribed, surely assistance should also be given to the producers of such a valuable commodity as gold. Those responsible for drafting this sub-section have evidently overlooking the gold-mining industry, which has been of great assistance in the development of the Commo»wealth. Prior to 1896 there was a general trade depression throughout Australia; but the discovery of gold in Western Australia about that time changed the whole outlook. Thousands of men left the eastern States, and immediately found remunerative employment on the goldfields; industries began to thrive, and it was not long before large sums of money were being transmitted to the eastern States. This had a marked effect upon trade. The increase in population was also most marked, and "Western Austrialia was brought from a state approaching bankruptcy to one of great prosperity. Extensive and valuable buildings were erected on the fields, but when mining commenced to decline they were allowed to fall into a state of disrepair, and in some instances are now being demolished and carted away because gold mining there is unremunerative. In order to assist in the prosecution of the war to a successful issue the Government commandeered the whole of the gold produced in that" State, and, as mentioned by Senator Lynch, gold mining was the only industry which was not allowed to benefit by the increased prices. As the industry was not allowed, as the result of the action of the Commonwealth Government, to take advantage of increased prices, Western Australia lost over £3,000,000, whilst the loss to the industry throughout the Commonwealth was approximately £4,000,000. The sugar industry has been spoon-fed at the expense of the consumers to the extent of £3,824,000.

Senator Thompson - How does the honorable senator arrive at that figure? '

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