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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - I am at a los3 to know why the goldmining industry has been singled out by honorable senators opposite for special attention. Members of the Opposition are well aware that there are other industries and businesses which are being encroached upon every week for the simple reason that man-power now engaged in them is required, urgently for work which is of far greater importance in our war effort. The gold-mining industry must take its turn. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) has not been doing any more than I and many others have been doing, namely, advising people that as labour is required the activities of industries which are least essential to the war effort must be curtailed, and labour now engaged in them diverted to war undertakings. So far, that is all that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has been accused of doing. I have been doing it practically every day for the last mouth. Senator Allan MacDonald. who moved this motion, claims that goldmining is an essential industry inasmuch as if it were closed down the livelihood of the men engaged in it would be taken away from them.. But the honorable senator knows perfectly well that as soon as a man is displaced from the goldmining industry, employment will be open to him in other avenues of production more vitally concerned in the prosecution of the war. No one will be ruined by the transition as he has suggested. The honorable senator also stated that

Western Australia would be thrown into a state of economic chaos, but I fail to see why that should be so if the workers who lose their employment in the gold- I mining industry are employed immediately on more essential work in Western Australia, as they probably will be. Their energies will be absorbed in various avenues of our defence programme. In other words they will be given a greater say in the determination of whether Western Australia shall remain part of the Commonwealth or be occupied by the Japanese. That is what is intended, and I am sure that the honorable senator knows it quite well. For his information I point out that miners are required urgently to produce commodities essential for the manufacture of munitions. Four hundred men could be pm on to-morrow to increase the production of tin and copper in Tasmania alone, and probably a far greater number could be employed in Western Australia on war work when the labour becomes available. I ask honorable senators if gold is an essential commodity. Senator Allan MacDonald suggested that we should return to a gold backing for our currency, and to the use of gold coins, but where would we get sufficient sovereigns to meet even one-tenth of the deposits in the banks of Australia? The honorable senator knows quite well that such a proposal is sheer lunacy and would result in chaos.

Senator Keane - Senator AllanMacDonald supported the Government which sent our gold away in 1931.

Senator AYLETT - Yes, because he knew that we could do without it, just as wc are doing without it to-day.

Senator Allan MacDonald - I was not in Parliament in 1931.

Senator AYLETT - But the honorable senator was a member of the party which supported the Government of the day. What is the use of gold to-day? If the whole of Kalgoorlie were made of gold, it would not assist us one iota in our task of defeating the Japanese. Our enemies cun be fought only with man-power and war materials. There is no way of using gold in the production of armaments, and so the continuance of gold-mining would be of no advantage to our war effort. Metals such as copper and aluminium are of vital importance in time of war. If the present objections referred to a tin mine or a mine producing some other essential metal, we could understand them, but even if we had a mountain of gold our war effort would not be advanced a step. We could not eat it, and we could not make bullets of it. Lead is much cheaper and much more satisfactory. More effective still is steel, which is urgently required to-day. 3 regret that .honorable senators opposite do not recognize that this is part of a nation-wide policy which must be followed if the defence of Australia is to be assured. No protest has been raised about the shortening of hands which has been taking place in many other industries for weeks, but now that an industry carried on largely in the State which Senator Allan MacDonald represents is affected, he forgets about the necessity to heat the Japanese, and endeavours to keep men at work in gold-mines. Apparently he is not concerned about the possibility of the Japanese taking over Australia, including the gold-mines. That is the only construction that I can place upon his action in moving this motion to-day. I hope that, in future, he will concern himself more with the safety of this country than the continuation of goldmining.

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