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Wednesday, 10 April 1957

Mr BEALE - In answer to the honorable member for Braddon, who, as a good patriotic Tasmanian, has always shown a great interest in the aluminium industry, 1 want to say that I did see some report on the matter he has mentioned. I am a little reluctant to enter into a public controversy, especially with a partner government, about the aluminium industry. We in this Government have always tried to keep the industry out of both party politics and StateCommonwealth politics, and I could only wish that some other people had been equally anxious. But, sir, 1 saw the report referred to. I did not say that world oversupply had caused the surplus at Bell Bay.

Mr Calwell -" Beale " Bay, is it not?

Mr BEALE - For my sins it should be " Beale " Bay. I did not say over-supply had caused the surplus at Bell Bay. What I said was that some years ago there had been a serious shortage and that as a result consumers in Australia had bought up large stocks. This was quite prudent because Bell Bay was not at that time in full production, or even producing at all. That was followed by a change in the world situation and there was plenty of aluminium. By then, too, production had started at Bell Bay. In those circumstances it was not surprising that consumers should want to use up their stocks. There was also a difference of a few per cent, between our prices and overseas prices. All of those circumstances conspired together to put the Australian Aluminium Production Commission in the position of not being able to sell ils ingots. At one stage it had more than the whole of its working capital tied up in unsold ingots. E mentioned that matter only as an illustration of why we should use some businesslike caution in approaching the question of how and when we went in for the doubling of the size of the plant, which was the substance of the honorable member's question. I notice also that the comment has been made that we should be using import licensing now to prevent the importation of aluminium. This Government has never used import licensing for that purpose. Import licensing is a currency matter, not a tariff matter, and we do not propose to use it as such. As to the size of the plant itself, if T may conclude this part of the answer, let me make it quite clear once and for all, because I am tired of answering questions about the matter, that we are not against an increase in the size of the plant.

Mr Ward - You are against the industry altogether.

Mr BEALE - The honorable member for East Sydney, that paragon from Woolloomooloo, or wherever he comes from, says we are against the industry. My only comment on that is that this Government has made the industry a triumphantly successful industry, notwithstanding the fact that the beginnings of it were hopelessly botched by the Labour Government. Having said that, perhaps I can get back to my own answer. We are not against an increase of the plant but what we are determined about is that the matter should be approached in a prudent and businesslike way. First of all, who is going to pay for increasing the size of the plant?

Sir Arthur Fadden - Now you are on the right track.

Mr BEALE - I am on the right track. The Tasmanian Government wants the Commonwealth to pay for it, and I suppose a lot of other citizens of Australia also want big development projects in their part of the country. Secondly, where is the power to come from? I assure honorable members we had enough difficulty in getting continuous supplies of power to start the project, without running into the same sort of problem with another block of 40.000 horse-power unless we are quite sure power will be available. It is said that it will be available. The Premier of Tasmania says it will be available. But who is going to pay for that power? Will the Commonwealth pay for it? I think I have made my point. I conclude by saying that the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is examining the matter with great care and will make the right recommendations at the right time.

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