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Wednesday, 19 November 1941

Senator MCBRIDE - The honorable senator is not satisfied with the inquiries conducted by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries?

Senator AYLETT - In saying that the honorable senator is merely indulging in a little mind-reading. Does the honorable senator know before the committee has even deliberated on the evidence taken by it what it will recommend? I can assure him that I shall be very gravely disappointed if the opinions which I expressed to-night are not also expressed in the committee's report. How can the honorable senator know that I disagree with the findings of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries when that committee is only now about to commence the preparation of its report.

Senator Keane - How many mills are to be erected in order to handle the next flax crop?

Senator AYLETT - Approximately 30 mills will be required for the whole of Australia. A number are to be erected in Tasmania, but the construction of them has not yet been commenced. Tenders have only just been advertised in the press. The Joint Committee on Rural Industries was told in evidence by mill managers that the additional mills required must be completed with full machinery installed and running by the end of December, in order to be ready to handle the coming crop. Owing to the incompetence of the Flax Production Committee, as I have already said, it will be impossible to have those mills ready by that time. Consequently, the contractors will be clamouring for both skilled and unskilled labour for these works at a time when labour will be required for harvesting.

I urge the Minister to give consideration to the problem of providing labour for harvesting not only flax, but also other crops. That problem will exist throughout the Commonwealth, because on present indications there will be a grave shortage of rural labour during the coming harvest. In this connexion I refer to the following statement made recently by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) : -

Where primary producers have complained to him about labour shortage, he had asked for information about hours of work, wages. and living conditions. If primary producers want mcn to work on the land, they should ensure that the standards were equal to those of other industries.

I agree with that statement. At the same time, however, I point out that owing to the low prices ruling for primary products some of our rural industries cannot afford to pay the equivalent of the basic wage. The Government itself must grapple with this problem. The shortage of labour for harvesting will obviously be accentuated by reason of the fact that our primary industries generally cannot afford to pay the equivalent of the basic wage; but one method of dealing with the problem is to ensure that those employed in those industries are given the equivalent of the basic wage. Of course, the further problem of guaranteeing higher prices for commodities in order to enable primary industries to pay such a wage and standard working conditions must then be dealt with. Those two problems call for urgent attention.

Another matter of vital importance to Australia at the moment is the shortage of aluminium supplies. At present, we import ingots which are rolled in this country by Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited. In view of the gravity of the position in the Near East, it is obvious that our import trade is in danger of serious interruption. Should our supplies of aluminium be cut off, our production of aircraft and other war material will be brought to a standstill. At the same time, we have the raw materials and the equipment necessary for the provision of the finished article. All that is needed to overcome this problem is for the Government to establish the industry. The previous Government was asked to establish it, but as it was more concerned with fostering and protecting monopolies, it failed to do anything in that direction. Had it done so, it would have acted contrary to the interests of Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited. I point out that this company is a subsidiary of the combine operating throughout the world which is interested in the manufacture of aluminium and magnesium. The Government must not allow this industry to become the preserve of this monopoly, but should establish and operate it under Government control.

It is not only a war industry, but also a post-war industry. Supplies of the raw material for .the production of aluminium are available in abundance in Tasmania, where the requisite electric power for treatment works is also to be had comparatively cheaply. I urge the Government to ensure that this industry does not fall into the hands of the combine of which Australian Aluminium. Company Proprietary Limited is a subsidiary. Like the Australian company, the subsidiaries of that combine in every other country masquerade as small individual concerns, but they are interwoven with Alcoa, which in the past has been the main suppliers of aluminium to our present enemies. In order to enable honorable senators to realize the ramification of this combine, I shall give a brief history of Australian .Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited. In November, 1938, a company was registered under the name of British Aluminium (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and Sir Colin Fraser and Mr. A. J. 0. Bult, of 360 Collinsstreet, Melbourne - Collins House - were the first directors. In 1939 the name of the company was altered to Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited with its registered office at 360 Collins-street, Melbourne - Collins House. At that time it was announced that onethird of the capital was being supplied by the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Canada, which is owned and controlled by the Aluminium Company of America - Alcoa - and the British Aluminium Company Limited. A search at the Titles Office revealed that, in April 1940, the following were the shareholders : Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, Metal Manufacturers Limited, British Aluminium Company Limited, Aluminium Limited. Montreal, Canada, Aluminium Limited, Geneva, Switzerland.

The first two companies held approximately one-third of the capital, British Aluminium Company Limited held onethird and the balance was held by Aluminium Limited Montreal and Aluminium Limited, Geneva. Both of these companies are subsidiaries of the American Aluminium Company. Aluminium Limited, Geneva, is the organization through which the combine carries on its European business in Norway, Germany, Italy and Japan. The directors of the Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, in June, 1940, were - Sir Alexander Stewart, Sir Colin Fraser, John Seymour Teulon, William Sydney Robinson, Lawson Greene Bash, Norman Warren Waterhouse, Sir Walter MassyGreene, Leslie Vickery Waterhouse, Henry St. John Somerset, and Aubrey John Clifton Bull. Sir Walter MassyGreene, Henry St. John Somerset and Aubrey John Clifton Bult were alternative directors. Lawson Greene Bash is an American citizen, whose address is given as Montreal. Together with Norman Warren Waterhouse he represents the Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) interests. The remaining directors represent, between them, the Electrolytic Zinc and the British Aluminium interests. A further search at the Titles Office on the 30th June, 1941, indicated that Aluminium Limited, Geneva, had disappeared from the shareholders' register. Apparently, this shareholding had been transferred to Aluminium Limited of Canada. The present shareholders of the company are - Electrolytic Zinc Company Australasia Limited and Metal Manufacturers Limited, holding 150,000 £1 shares, British Aluminium Company Limited, holding 150,000 £1 shares; and Aluminium Limited, Montreal, Canada, holding 150,000 £1 shares. The directors were the same as at June, 1940, with the exception that W. S. Robinson had retired from the board and Sir Walter Massy-Greene, who was previously an alternate director, was appointed a full director. The articles of association provide that two directors shall be nominated by British Aluminium Company Limited, two by Aluminium Limited, Canada, and two by Electrolytic Zinc Company and Metal Manufacturers Limited.

It will be seen, therefore, from the shareholding that the Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited as at present constituted is controlled, so far as capital and the directors are concerned, by non-Australian interests. Both the British- Aluminium Company Limited and Aluminium Limited, Canada, which is owned by Alcoa, were members of the original aluminium cartel which was formed in 1904 when the price of aluminium had fallen to the lowest on record, namely, £60 per ton. They were also members of the second syndicate, or cartel, which was formed in 1909. On the outbreak of the great war the metal was selling for about £85 a ton. During the Great War it went . to £220 a ton, and a very large development in the American and Canadian production was -financed out of war profits. The price did not fall, below £100 a ton until 1922, and it was maintained roughly at that figure until the outbreak of war in 1939, when it was pegged at £110 a ton by the British Ministry of Supply. The aluminium cartel is world-wide and operates in all of the aluminium producing countries with the exception of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Even in Nazi Germany, the Aluminium Company Limited of Geneva held large interests, particularly through interlocks with the Germany I.G. Farbenindustrie. which, of course, is the great German dye, chemical and metal trust. It can be seen, therefore, that the controlling interests in the Australian Aluminium Company Limited represent two of the oldest and strongest individual members of Alcoa, the great international aluminium combine. I bring this matter forward because, if the aluminium industry in this country be not protected and operated as a national concern, sooner or later it will automatically find its way into the hands of this great combine. The Government should not be forced to depend for ite aluminium supplies upon an organization such as the Australian Aluminium Company Limited, some of the directors of which represent the great aluminium combine of America. The controllers of Alcoa were indicted recently for subversive activities, namely, the holding up of supplies. In answer to a question which I asked in this chamber I was informed that the people concerned had been cleared of these charges, but I am not satisfied with that reply because the inquiry into the metal industries in America is still proceeding. Unless the aluminium industry in Australia be controlled by the Government, it will ultimately pass into the hands of people such as those who have been indicted for subversive activities in America. In order to ensure continuity of supplies of aluminium, regardless of interruptions of shipping on our trade routes, I urge the Government, before it is too late, and before our war effort i-' hampered through lack of supplies, to take immediate steps to establish this industry in Australia. "We have the raw material and men capable of doing the job. An adequate supply of aluminium is necessary for aircraft production. Not only would we save the freight on the aluminium that is now brought from overseas, but also we should save the £4 10s. a ton which is going out of this country to purchase bauxite overseas. We have huge deposits of bauxite in two or three, if not four, States. In addition, to the large deposits known to exist in Queensland and New South Wales, other extensive deposits have been discovered in Tasmania. They have been tested for quality and, to some extent, for quantity. If the Government requires information in that regard, it is obtainable from the Registrar of Mines, Mr. Williams. He is the only man who is in a position to give the Copper an'l Bauxite Committee the information which it desires when it visits Tasmania. The Government should explore every possible avenue with a view to establishing this industry in Australia before it is too late.

As my time has expired and I do not wish to ask for an extension, I shall leave several other matters to which I intended to make reference, to other honorable senators.

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