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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Senator J B HAYES (Tasmania) . - On the 1st May I addressed a series of questions regarding blue peas to the Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce, and, unless some explanation be given by the Government, I think that a good deal of confusion will be occasioned among farmers. My first question was -

1.   Is it true, as reported in the press of the 29th April, that 8,000 bogs of New Zealand blue peas have been landed in Sydney, and are selling at 28s. 6d. per bushel ?

The reply furnished to me was as follows : -

A shipment of peas from New Zealand has reached the Australian market. Blue peas from this shipment have been sold at 28s. 6d. per bushel in Sydney, but the consignment was not all blue peas, and .prices have varied.

Of course the price of peas varied, because a quantity consisted of grey peas which are being sold at lis. 3d. per bushel. 1 understand that the Government has acquired the crop of blue peas in Tasmania at 15s. per bushel, although they are selling in the open market to-day at 28s. 6d. per bushel. In fixing the price paid, the Government ought to take into consideration the market price. I also asked -

4.   Is it proposed to withhold 3s. per bushel of the price to be paid ?

5.   If so, what is the reason for this deduction?

The answers to those questions were -

i.   Afirst advance of 12s. per bushel is being made to growers. The balance of 3k. per bushel will be made at a later date.

I do not understand what is meant by the expression " a first advance of 12s. per bushel is being made " because if the peas, were bought they should have been paid for in full. I am informed that many sales have been made at £1 per bushel although the Government has undertaken to pay the growers only 15s. per bushel. Was this transaction an acquisition or has a pool been established? In either case the situation requires explanation. My last question was answered in the following terms: -

S.   The payment of an initial advance for products pooled in a marketing arrangement pending determination of the final price i« in accordance with the usual practice.

In that instance the Government has introduced new verbiage. The growers naturally wish to know why the 3s. was withheld if the peas were acquired. If a pool has been formed may the growers expect to receive more than the additional 3s. if sales warrant such a payment? The phrase "pending determination of the final price " requires elucidation. Obviously the answers to my questions need elaboration in order to prevent confusion. I therefore ask the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to inquire from the Minister for Commerce exactly what is intended, and, in particular, whether, in fact, the growers may receive more than 15s. a bushel for their peas.

Thursday, 7 May 19J&.

Senator ALLANMacDONALD (Western Australia) [12.4 am. - I ask the Minister for the Interior to furnish me with some additional information about the Government's intentions- in relation to the gold-mining industry: Last Wednesday I inquired from the honorable gentleman whether an early pronouncement would be made on this subject. I have not yet received a satisfactory reply to that request. Some weeks ago I sent the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) a telegram from Kalgoorlie on the same subject. I have not received a reply to that message. Last time we met the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to discuss the subject he said that he would suggest to the Prime Minister that an early statement be made on the future of the industry. No such statement has yet been published. This is a matter of great importance to Western Australia as you, Mr. President, well realize. I appeal to the Minister for the Interior to make a statement in the Senate on this subject when we reassemble next Wednesday. The Premier of Western Australia Mr. Willcock, and the Minister for Mines, Mr. Panton, had a long conversation with the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in Melbourne on this subject recently. A report of their conversation appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner on the 30*th April. I quote the following extracts from it: - "Mr. Panton and I placed before Mr. Dedman the whole position as we see it," said Mr. Willcock. " We stressed the vital nature of the industry to Western Australia, explaining that it provides more than one quarter of our national income and one-fifth of our total State revenue. Vast areas of our State are completely dependent upon it and if it ceased operating these would inevitably be denuded of population. Whole towns would close down and the economy of the State would be completely disrupted. Many mines once closed down could never be re-opened and an industry which could be of tremendous value in providing employment during the post war reconstruction would be prevented from fulfilling this valuable function."

Then followed certain statements on aspects of the subject to which I referred in the Senate recently. The report then adds these observations by Mr. Willcock -

Mr. Dedmaninformed us that when he had placed the position before the Chamber of Mines last week they had assured him that iter every physically fit man within the army age group, with the exception of a few indispensable key men, had been taken, and after a reasonable number of men had been provided for- works required by the- Allied Works Council,, it would, still be possible to carey on the industry on a fairly good scale.

I have received a copy of a lettergram sent to the Prime Minister try the Secretary of the Chamber of Mines, Kalgoorlie, on the 1st May, in relation to those remarks by Mr. Dedman. It reads as follows : -

We understand Dedman is of opinion and has expressed to Willcock State Premier that Chamber of Mines approves of his proposal that all fit men under forty-five be withdrawn from industry and that further number of men over forty-five be withdrawn for allied work* programme. He further stated Chamber wac of opinion that mines could be carried on on fairly reasonable scale of operations despite such withdrawal of labour. This is entirely wrong and we cannot understand how Dedman arrived at such conclusion.. Proposal was placed before representatives gold-mining industry as absolute minimum requirement* of man-power by Dedman who at same time told representatives it was not the Government's intention to close the mines stop no acquiescence was asked for nor was it given to this proposal it was a plain statement as to what was to take place and the mining representatives did not consider they were serving any useful purpose by combating what was put to them as a condition which was inevitable whether the mining industry liked it. or not. If it is. the federal Government's wish that goldmining should continue on a reasonable scale in the interests of Western Australia then it is perfectly obvious that it cannot do so if the man-power as outlined by Dedman is to be withdrawn. This was clearly stated in memorandum handed to Dedman at the conference in Kalgoorlie. This lettergram is sent to yon so that there should be no misunderstanding of the position when it is considered by the Government. In fact the position at present is so acute that the call up of approximately 450 men arranged for 11th May will seriously jeopardize existence of some mines. Anderton, Secretary, Chamber of Mines.

The whole matter is of immense importance to Western Australia, and I should like the Minister for the Interior to ask his Cabinet colleagues who are handling the subject what their intentions are in relation to gold-mining. Originally we feared that the blanketing of the whole industry was contemplated. It appears now from the statements attributed to Mr. Dedman, which I have just quoted, that some other procedure is likely. If Mr. Dedman's proposal is put into operation it will undoubtedly destroy the goldmining industry, for it involves the denuding of the gold-fields of their manpower. The suggestion that allied works might be put in hand elsewhere is impracticable. It would be impossible for the miners to work many miles distant from their home, and for their families to remain on the gold-fields. I urge the Minister to endeavour to have some definite pronouncement made on the subject, because so many residents in Western Australia are dependent upon the mining industry for their livelihood, and are most anxious to know to what degree the Government's man-power proposals will affect the future of the industry. Many fear that such proposals will go so far as to paralyse the goldmining industry.

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