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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Senator DARCEY (Tasmania) . - 1 am not at all surprised at Senator Allan MacDonald moving the adjournment of the Senate in order to deal with the gold-mining industry, but I think that he defeated his own object when he remarked that gold was not a commodity which could be eaten or fired at the enemy. Therefore, to compare it in importance with sugar, wheat or any other foodstuff seems absurd.

Senator E B Johnston - Is that a good reason why the industry should be annihilated ?

Senator DARCEY - Australia is not the only country in the world that realizes that gold is of no value to-day in the war effort, A serious discussion has taken place in the Canadian Parliament as to whether 60,000 men, which is three times the number employed in gold-mining in Western Australia, should be taken out of gold production, because Canada is satisfied that gold-mining is not an essential industry. For many years various countries have been taking gold out of the holes where it is found, and putting it into another hole in the form of a vault in the United States of America. In 1940 the gold reserves in the United States of America were valued at $8,126,000,000, whilst the gold reserves of other countries were as follows:- Great Britain, $2,396,000,000; France. $1,435,000,000 ; Holland, $595,000,000 ; Belgium, $318,000,000 ; Switzerland, $407,000,000; Germany) $17,000,000; Italy, $124,000,000; and Japan, $97,000,000.

We notice that the three powerful countries of Germany, Italy and Japan are practically doing without gold. Gold had a great value some years ago, and it was used by the Bank of International Settlements to pay off the debts existing between various nations, but the debts became so great after the 1914-18 war that there was not nearly sufficient gold for the purpose. During times of depression the gold-mining industry of Western Australia has undoubtedly been of immense value to Australia, but the Government now realises that the men employed in the industry could be more profitably used in the construction of aerodromes and roads for military purposes. Since Japan is apparently striking towards Madagascar, it is only reasonable to expect an attack on the coast of Western Australia, and I believe that the authorities of the United States of America are urging that the construction of aerodromes and roads in Western Australia should receive first consideration. Why should not the wives of miners remain in Kalgoorlie? One would think that the danger of a Japanese invasion would prevent them from desiring to live near the coast. Our troops who serve overseas are called upon to leave their wives behind in Australia. A sufficient number of men should be left on the gold-fields to keep the mines in order, but the provision of man-power for the construction of roads and aerodromes for military purposes is ten times more important than providing man-power for the gold-mining industry.

Why should not the price of gold keep up? Three men meet in London everyday to fix the price, and when the gold is supplied the producers receive paper money for it. They can never obtain gold coin in return for that paper, although a person once had the right to demand a sovereign in exchange for a £1 note. The Government of Great Britain went off the gold standard from 1924 to 1934, and at that time "Bradburies" filled all the requirements of the nation for commercial purposes. One result of the British Government returning to the gold standard was that Birmingham and Manchester factories were covered with, cobwebs. So pronounced was that depression that the Government had to go off the gold standard again and it has never returned to it since.

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