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Thursday, 17 November 1927

Senator GRAHAM (Western Australia) . - Senator Payne believes that the Commonwealth Government should assist the gold-mining industry, but is doubtful as to the method which should be adopted. Ever since I have been a member of the Senate I have been endeavouring to ascertain what, in the opinion of the Government, is the proper method of assisting the industry.

Senator Thompson - Low-grade ores and high costs of production are responsible for the difficult problem confronting the industry.

Senator GRAHAM - The honorable senator has little to say concerning high costs when the production of sugar or bananas is under consideration. The Government is being asked to assist, not doubtful mining ventures, but only wellestablished mining companies, which are asking for a bounty on 6-dwt. dirt - equivalent to 12s. a ton - which would enable the companies to carry on. Whoever assists the industry financially will not incur any risk. For the information of the committee, I quote the following from a pamphlet issued by the Chamber of Mines, Kalgoorlie: -

In 1923 the total population of the Commonwealth was 5, 749,807: the total Commonwealth taxes per head of population were £8.0. the total production per head of population was £67.8: and total exports per head were £19.9. The population of Western Australia was 353,815; the total State taxes per head were £2.7 ; the total production per head was £70.1', and the value of exports of primary products per head was £27.3. In this State the gold production amounted to £2,105,483, from 781,769 tons of ore treated; and the number of men employed in producing it was 5,347. The gold-fields towns of this State are practically isolated, and it is, therefore, easy to learn what is the proportion of people who live in the neighbourhood of the mines, and depend for their livelihood upon the mines, as compared with the number of men actually working on the mines. We find that the proportion is, at least, six to one. If wo multiply 5.347 by six the result is 32,082. The value of the State's gold production, divided by this figure shows a production of £65.6 per head for the year.

The pamphlet goes on to show the quantity of wheat and wool produced in that State, and also the value of the gold won. If the Government is honest in its desire to assist the industry, it should find a way out of the present difficulty.

Senator Sampson - If the honorable senator believes that the industry should be encouraged why did he support higher duties on mining machinery?

Senator GRAHAM - I did not do so. The records will show that every vote I have recorded in this chamber, directly or indirectly, has been in support of the gold-mining industry.

Senator Ogden - Is it a fact that the ore in the mines is of too low a grade to be mined at a profit?

Senator GRAHAM - No. In the absence of a bounty the companies will be compelled to extract only the best ore in order to make both ends meet. I am anxious to know the manner in which the Government proposes to assist the industry, and I trust that before this amendment is disposed of, we shall have some information on this point from the Minister in charge of the bill.

Progress reported.

Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.

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