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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - In addition to what has been said about the preservation of the lives of miners, there is another reason why we should be careful before we agree to any extra impost upon this item, namely, the need to preserve the life of the industry itself. Remarks which I made during the debate upon wire ropes apply with equal force to explosives. I do not see why the mining industry should be called upon to contribute so largely to the development of the manufacture of explosives, especially in view of the fact that works of this nature are essential for defence purposes. In the debate upon the iron duties it was urged that the protection should be agreed to from a defence point of view, and it was perfectly understandable that the burden in that case should be spread over the whole community. But the same process cannot be followed with regard to the item now under discussion, because comparatively few people besides those engaged in mining are in the habit of using explosives. It is quite true that one section' of the industry - I refer to coal mining - is in a fairly satisfactory position, but the same cannot be said of the metalliferous miner. We have only to read the reports of almost any of these metalliferous mining companies to realize that the industry is in an unfortunate, if not almost hopeless, position. Mines are closing down all over the country, and yet we are asked in this item to agree to duties for the purpose of supporting another industry, which, let it be remembered, must be intimately related to any defence schemeIn view of this fact, it is false reasoning' and quite unfair to expect that the mining industry, which, as I have shown, is almost on its last legs, should bear the entire burden of this impost. The duties should rest on broader shoulders, instead of upon an industry which it will take us all our time to keep afloat. No mentionhas been made, so far, of the relationship that exists between the. socalled local company and the big Combineoperating in the Old World. It was; set out clearly in the evidence before the Inter-State Commission that the Australian concern would not have been in operation were it not for financial aid re- ceived from this Combine at the other end of the world. It is an industrial offspring of the parent Combine, and, like most offsprings, it shows an unmistakable likeness to the parent that begot it. We have the evidence of a Broken Hill mine manager that they were fleeced and almost driven into a corner as the result of the action of this Combine, whose pup has been established in the Commonwealth. The mining industry of Broken Hill had to pay exorbitant rates for its explosives. That being so, is it reasonable to assume that the offspring of the Combine will act differently towards it?

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.

Senator LYNCH - It is entirely wrong to shoulder upon the mining industry the entire burden of promoting this industry at Deer Park, which it is said should be fostered asa necessary adjunct to the defence system of Australia, more particularly when we recall the fact that the metalliferous mines of Australia are to-day in a struggling, position. When men go out to prospect and develop a mine, they work on a very narrow margin for months and perhaps for years. There is no profit in mining to-day; yet here is an undisguised effort to make the lot of the mining companies still harder, and to prevent a prospecting show from having any chance of proving itself to be a success. It is a proposition which I do not think this Committee ought to countenance. I have drawn attention to the close relationship of this Melbourne concern to the world Combine known as the Nobel Explosives Company. In giving evidence before the Inter-State Commission, a mine manager from Broken Hill South pointed out that the industry at Broken Hill was in such a bad way in" 1908, because of the high prices then being charged for explosives, that a meeting of the management was called to decide what steps should be taken to improve the position. As a result of that meeting, tenders were called, and the two big Combines - the British and the Hamburg - submitted tenders, but there was no difference in their prices. In fact, there was no attempt to, disguise the existence of a combination between them. The Broken Hill mining companies were then driven into the position of defending themselves; they invited a South African explosives manufacturing company to come into this market, and gave them a five years' contract, which brought about a reduction of from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, in the cost of explosives in Australia. It is now proposed to shut out this South African Company's products - at least, that will be the result of increasing the duty; and, seeing that the European Combines showed no mercy to the Australian metalliferous mining industry, if is hardly reasonable to expect that their progeny in Australia will have more sympathy for it. Its nature must be precisely that of its parents overseas. ButI ask Senator Pratten to have a little more sympathy with those States in which metal is mined - Western Australia, for instance.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The effect of the duty on the explosives used in Western Australia will mean an increase of 10 per cent., which is not much to ask for the preservation of the explosives industry here.

Senator LYNCH - But it will mean adding £23,000 to the annual cost of working the mines in Western Australia, where there are companies just tottering on the verge of liquidation, hanging on in the prospect of something turning up. There are four times as many men employed in those mines as are engaged in making explosives at Deer Park. Does Senator Pratten know that some mines, whose balance-sheets show no profit, employ as many as 600 men?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Quite so; but I take it that Senator Lynch is desirous of preserving the explosives industry of Australia.

Senator LYNCH - Yes ; but I would adopt means of doing so which would not involve the extinction of mines in Western Australia. If the Government would bring down a proposal to give a substantial bounty to the enterprise at Deer Park, I would be prepared to support it.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Hear, hear!

Senator LYNCH - In the meantime, there is no exaggerating the position which confronts the copper, silver, and gold mining industry of Australia.' They are at the lowest ebb in their career, and these duties, if imposed, will saddle those in my State with an extra annual expenditure of £23,000.

Senator Wilson - Almost all the explosives used by the Western Australian mines are manufactured at Deer Park.

Senator LYNCH - If the mining companies of Western Australia are so infatuated with the superiority of the Deer Park product, it is a singular fact that Mr. Hamilton, the President of the Chamber of Mines, Western Australia, has sent a telegram to all the Western Australian representatives here asking them to insist on explosives being made free. If they wanted the Deer Park proposition kept afloat, the Chamber of Mines' would have advised the Western Australian representatives here to at least maintain the duties; but, as Mr. Hamilton's telegram to me indicates, they are unanimously of opinion that the duties upon explosives should be wiped out. I am against wiping out the Deer Park industry. I think that the Government and this Parliament ought to take into serious consideration the necessity for preserving it; but, even on the statement of the manager of the factory itself, it is making a small profit, whereas I can name half-a-dozen mining companies which are not making a profit, although they employ five or six times the number of people employed in the explosives industry in Melbourne. Have we no consideration' for the men engaged in mining ? If it is intended to put them out of existence, by all means let us impose this duty and put them out of financial pain at once. I am surprised that the representatives' of States in which gold and silver are not produced have not more sympathy with neighbouring States. If we want to encourage the manufacture of explosives in Australia, we should do it by means of a. bounty, which would make the job one for the whole community, and not for an industry which is on its last legs.

Senator Keating - The explosives industry should be nationalized if it is an adjunct of defence.

Senator LYNCH - Yes. Let us go about this in a business-like way, but do not let us put the whole burden on an industry that cannot pass on the cost of production, and must jostle in the world's markets for the disposal of its output.

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