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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2476

Senator CANT (Western Australia) - The purpose of the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Bill is to increase the amount of bounty paid to the large producers of gold - it does not concern the small producers - and to increase the amount of the premium price which may be retained by the industry from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. This measure shall operate from 1st January 1972. Because of the way in which the gold mining industry was running down, the question of assistance by way of an increase in bounty has been before this Government constantly since 1968. The Government has resisted an increase in the bounty on every occasion until December last year when it indicated that it would increase the amount of bounty from $8 to $12 an ounce. I do not want to say a great deal on this Bill. Those who wish to understand anything about the way in which the bounty is paid in the industry should have a look at the speech made on 23rd May in another place by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) where he sets out the way in which the bounty is paid in association with the retention of a percentage of the premium price. The Minister for Supply and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Garland) in reply tried to make political issues out of the matter. I believe that the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) was overseas at the time. The Minister stated:

The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who just spoke in the debate, put his finger on the point of the speech made by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) when he said that this is a matter which affects the electorate of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. ] listened to a very party-political speech from the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. It was no surprise to learn from him that he did not think that the Government had done enough. That is always his cry. Indeed, with respect, it is always the cry of all members of the Opposition. I have never heard the honourable member for Kalgoorlie praise or approve of anything that the Government has done.

We have never opposed anything which the Government has wanted to do to assist the gold mining industry. On every occasion we have criticised the Government for not giving sufficient assistance and for unduly delaying assistance. At the present time in Kalgoorlie the price of gold has gone up to $58.35 an ounce.

Senator Wood - It went up to $60 an ounce in Zurich.

Senator CANT - It was $58.35 an ounce this morning. That is a high premium over the standard price of SUS38 an ounce. This measure will give the industry some life. Of course, it will apply only to those mines that are presently in operation. The price is not stable enough to allow new mines to be opened. In order to develop a new mine one would have to have a guaranteed price for something like 20 years, having regard to the fluctuations of the stock market. Nevertheless, the subsidy has engendered sufficient confidence in the Lake View and Star gold mine in Kalgoorlie and in the Norseman gold mine at Norseman to recommence development operations. But this Government took a decision some time ago to apply the bounty for only another 3 years on the assumption that the gold mining industry would phase out. That was the statement made by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) at the time - that the gold mining industry would be allowed to phase out and the nickel industry would be allowed to phase in and therefore the employment of workers in the mining industry would be continuous. But this has not happened. The workers in the industry saw that the gold mining industry was phasing out but that the nickel mining industry was not taking over, and they left the industry and sought employment elsewhere.

Now that Lake View and Star and Central Norseman mines want to increase their activity they are unable to obtain skilled miners to be able to do it. That is what the delay in the payment of the bounty has done for the gold mining industry. Because of a shortage of skilled miners the mines will be very lucky if they can increase their activities. I do not want the Minister for Supply (Mr Garland) or anybody else to tell me that the Broken Hill South mine will be closing down and they will be able to obtain miners from there. You just cannot pick up people from one centre and take them to another. They are not snails; they cannot carry their houses on their backs. It is not easy to shift communities from one place to another.

The Minister, in reply to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie in another place, Mr Collard, accused him of playing party politics. Let me say this to the Minister: He is the only Liberal Party member of Parliament from Western Australia. Because of that he has been elevated to a position of importance. This is a classic example of the application of Peter's principle. Since Mr Collard entered Parliament in 1961 the gold mining industry has been running down. The $35 an ounce was insufficient for the industry to be able to carry on. A bounty had been paid under the Chifley Government in order to assist the industry to keep going. It was incumbent upon Mr Collard constantly to press the Government for assistance for this industry and constantly to press the Government to keep the industry in operation so that the 25,000 people in Kalgoorlie would not be dispersed throughout Western Australia and probably throughout Australia, applying pressure on all the social services such as power, roads, houses, water supply and sewerage. All of these things happen when towns are allowed to close down and people have to go elsewhere to seek employment.

It is wrong for the Minister - who has probably never been to Kalgoorlie, who has certainly never been underground in Kalgoorlie and who has certainly never associated wilh the miners in Kalgoorlie - to turn around and say to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, whose responsibility it is to see that the mine is kept in operation, that he was making a party political speech. If anybody has made a party political speech it was Mr Garland in his reply to Mr Collard.

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