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Tuesday, 6 December 1938

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- I desire to associate myself with other honorable members who have given their support to this measure. The manufacturing of newsprint should be a most important industry in Australia, and I welcome this bill because it is a step in the direction of making Australia economically self-contained, as well as of bringing about the decentralization of industries. During the regime of the Scullin Government, consideration was given to the establishment of a newsprint manufacturing industry, and at that time two separate and rival organizations were interested in the project; As the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) pointed out, there had been for a number of years an experimental plant operating at one end of the island, while investigations were being conducted in the opposite, or north-western, end by a separate organization. This proposal has been exhaustively investigated by the Tariff Board which, in the course of its report, slates -

The company proposes to proceed by three principal stages of construction and development, each of which will entail an outlay of approximately £1,250,000-

(a)   the erection of a mill, with one machine capable of producing 27,000 tons of newsprint annually, with a mechanical pulp mill capable of furnishing 75 per cent, of the pulp required. In addition, the general services, such as wharf and mechanical handling equipment, roads and vehicles, water supply, &c, will be provided.

That is the first instalment. In the second stage, when the enterprise is under way, the estimated output per annum will be 45,000 tons. The report sets out the various interests concerned in the proposal, and points out that, at one stage, certain newspapers were strongly in opposition. The report states -

The parties represented do not oppose the establishment of any Australian industry which can be founded- with economic benefit to Australia, but they believe that the proposal with regard to the newsprint industry in Tasmania is entirely speculative and that any possible benefits will be far outweighed by the penalties and burdens imposed on the newspaper industry.

No one desires to see heavy imposts placed on newsprint. Honorable members on this side of the House would oppose any proposal likely to place in the hands of certain interests power to crowd out of industry rivals operating in a small way. That aspect of the matter was discussed fully by the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in a statement reported in the press on the 25th September, as follows: -

The Government has decided to grant the measure of assistance recommended by the Tariff Board to the new industry but proposes to give this assistance by means of bounty without fluty unless the price of newsprint fall's materially below present-day levels. No additional duty to that at present in force will be imposed unless the c.i.f. and e. price (plus primage) of imported newsprint is less than £15 a ton.

As the result of that statement, those interests which were opposed to this scheme because they feared the price of newsprint would be increased, or that it would be made impossible for them to obtain supplies, withdrew their opposition. There are many independent newspapers in Australia rendering valuable service to the public, and it is the duty of the Government to see that justice is done between them and the powerful interests associated with this industry.

While it is true that newsprint has not yet been produced in Australia in commercial quantities, those who have been conducting experiments are convinced that it can be done. So confident is the

Government of Tasmania in the success of the venture that it has bought shares in the company to the value of £250,000. I trust that this measure will be passed by the House, and that the new industry will be as successful as we all hope.

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