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Tuesday, 18 September 1973
Page: 1142

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - -This motion deserves contempt and the 2 honourable members who have just spoken on behalf of the Opposition deserve contempt. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) who proposed the motion would be the last person able to stand in this House and talk about the state of the Australian mining industry. He was the architect of the chaos which we inherited. If we were removed from office tomorrow our stay would have been worthwhile because the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has re-established and asserted our role as providers of resources to the rest of the world, and he has put our mining industry into reasonable order with a national policy. Let us look at the 2 honourable members who have just spoken. The honourable member for Farrer, who is spoken of by his former Prime Minister as a pedestrian, destroyed his former Prime Minister over the issue of off-shore sovereignty. Because of the background of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who has just spoken we do not know whether he is here representing OPEC or Colonel Kadhafi - but it is one or the other. He is a man also beneath contempt. As a Minister of the Crown he was the laughing stock of the Parliament. It ill behoves this nation to be so badly served in this Parliament by people in the Opposition such as the 2 honourable members who have just spoken.

Wherever we look in relation to the honourable member for Farrer we see that he has held this Parliament to scorn. He destroyed the graticulator system whereby four-ninths of an area which was to be explored by a private company for oil and gas was to be returned to the Commonwealth. He gave that away for a miserable li per cent increase in royalties. He opposed the Submerged Lands Bill which would give this Parliament power over our resources from the low water mark to the edge of the continental shelf. He destroyed his own former Prime Minister in the process. Now he has the hide and temerity to come here and say that we are destroying the extractive industries. Let us look at the record of this man and of the former Government. Let us look at the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The Bureau was created by the Labor Party 20 years ago. The previous Government used it as a whipping horse for private industry. It poured a fortune into the Bureau by way of Commonwealth revenue to have it carry out the geophysical mapping of Australia. The maps were sold for $1 a throw at the Government Printing Office. In any other country such maps would not be available to the public. They would be regarded as a national resource.

That is the sort of thing which the previous Government did. All it did was make a slave of itself to private industry. We have sorted out the mining industry. We corrected the iron ore pricing bungles which the previous Government created. Every time the Australian dollar was valued upwards or the American dollar was valued downwards our miners lost a fortune. We restored the 18 per cent differential by the actions of the Minister for Minerals and Energy in his negotiations with Japan. (Quorum formed.)

I point out that the Opposition moved for this discussion to take place as a matter of urgency, yet it does not have enough of its members here to maintain a quorum. That shows how interested they are in this matter. I was referring to iron ore contracts with Japan. We have shown our producers how to negotiate. We have put some gumption back into them, because they know that the national Government is backing them. We have revived the Australian Coal Association. We have restored coal prices to world parity prices. The honourable member for Farrer was prepared to see the Japanese play our Queensland coal producers off against our New South Wales coal producers to see whether they could get a cheaper price. We have cut out all that nonsense.

We have curbed the inflow of foreign capital which was moving into a depressed stock market after the mining boom which the Opposition members allowed to develop. Foreign companies bought up our assets very cheaply, for next to nothing. This Government has instituted a 25 per cent deposit rule on foreign capital, whereby 25 per cent of capital brought into Australia has to be left interest free with the Reserve Bank of Australia. Fortunately, this has discouraged the movement of this money into our extractive industries. We have established, as the Minister said, a proper and respectable trading relationship with Japan. We go to Japan as willing sellers and the Japanese are willing buyers. As someone pointed out a few moments ago, when the Minister goes to Japan later this year he will go there with the respect of the Japanese Government, not the way members of the former Government used to slink through Tokyo airport and go about recognised as nothing but junior representatives of Australia. That is the difference between the former Government and our Government.

I want to talk about the mineral industry and the increase in production since we came to office. Overseas control in the aluminium industry is 100 per cent, but the production has moved up. In the last financial year it was worth $131m. Figures for other industries are as follows: Coal $268m; iron ore $454m; lead $88m; and zinc $66m. All those industries have had record productions totalling $ 1,007m in value. Last year we exported $ 1,405m worth of minerals. Yet honourable members opposite talk about the state of the industry. The Minister referred to the tax concessions which the previous Government was giving to all the phonies such as Barton who set up all these little tin-pot companies in the mining boom of 1970. Because they had some sort of a lease, they were getting subscriptions for virtually worthless paper. What are those people doing now? They are not out exploring; they are sitting on a little bundle of $1.5m or $2m which they raised in the mining boom and which to them represents directors' fees for the next 20 years. That is what it is all about. The section 77 concessions were only icing for the cake given by the previous Government to these people, these crooks who were not producing anything. We have chopped that out and we will assist genuine Australian miners.

The Bureau of Mineral Resources will be looking at each particular proposal and we will genuinely support them. But at the moment there is no need for intensive search in regard to most of the extractive industries. There is record production of bauxite, coal, iron ore, lead and zinc. The honourable member for Kennedy spoke of Mount Isa. Mount Isa Mines Ltd showed a record profit and record production for this year. That company also is sitting on a world ranking deposit at the McArthur River, which it is keeping under wraps. There is no need to talk about exploration in this area. The whole case proposed by the honourable member for Farrer on behalf of the Opposition, and Opposition members, is a sham; it has no worth. The matter of public importance has no value and no merit. This Government has taken the question of minerals and energy seriously. We have established a separate portfolio to deal with it. We are fortunate in having a most competent Minister to handle that area of responsibility. The end result will be that Australia will have a better industry, a managed industry, a fuel policy and a minerals policy. We will be able to go to any part of the world and negotiate world parity prices for our materials. That is all we have been asked to do.

If honourable members opposite want to find out what the Australian mining industry thinks of this Government they should ask the directors of the Hamersley group and all the rest of them. They are laughing all the way to the bank. Paraburdoo has just been reopened. As the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) - we call him the honourable member for Woodside-Burmah because we are certain he is on a retainer - said, the reopening of Paraburdoo was not the decision of the Government. Paraburdoo was reopened because of the increased prices paid for iron ore. We have re-established this major extractive industry since we have been in office. We have no case to answer. The previous Government when in office consisted of a bunch of bungling incompetents who do not deserve the support of this House. In fact, they are beneath contempt. I urge the House to disregard the motion.

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