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Wednesday, 7 December 1960

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- 1 note from the r.?port of the Tariff Board that the Mount lsa company does not require any assistance. The position of that company has been explained by the member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney); but there are in the Mount Isa-Cloncurry area small men who are producing up to 50 tons of copper and who would be eligible for the bounty provided in the bill if they could have their ore treated and sell their product on the Australian market. Unfortunately, the position is, as pointed out by the Tariff Board, that prior to 1957, 1,500 tons of copper cam- from customs ore treated at Mount lsa. The Tariff Board report also stated that in 1960 Mount Isa was taking only enough ore to produce 650 tons of copper. As a consequence, the amount of customs ore that was taken bv Mount Isa has dropped by more than 50 per cent. The men concerned have been forced bv their economic position to make overtures to Japanese buyers.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr RIORDAN - At the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with the question of the small producer on the Mount IsaCloncurry field. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) pointed out that it is a long way to take ore for treatment south to Townsville. I point out that it would be an even longer way to take it for treatment to Port Kembla, in New South Wales. The small man in such circumstances would find that he would be working a considerable part of his time to profit the railways and the shipowners.

The small man, who has a show that gives him perhaps 8 per cent, or 9 per cent., wants to remain in the industry. It is true that the small men have been negotiating with Japanese interests and, according to the Tariff Board's report, the suggestion is that treatment plants may ultimately be established at certain places on the Cloncurry field. Because of their economic position those small producers, whom 1*1 is bill is supposed to assist - the small men who produce less than 50 tons of copper a year each - have to negotiate with buyers from another country in order to sell their product. The fact that they c'o deal with buyers from other countries means that they cannot avail themselves of the provisions of the bill. So I suggest to the Minister that if he and the Government really want to assist this industry - and the Tariff Board, according to its report, also wants to assist the industry - they should extend the provisions of the bill so that payment of the bounty will cover copper produced by mines yielding less than 50 tons of ore a year each, and also copper sold to overseas buyers.

It is true-, as the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) sard about the Mount Lyell mine, that the producers will have to export most of their copper in future be cause of the altered position. The Minister ought to give more consideration to the small producers if he wants to keep these men in the industry. The small producers are living and working in isolated parts of this Commonwealth in the most difficult conditions. If those men are prepared to so out and work under those conditions th, Government should adjust its economic policy to assist them. If there were no other reason for assisting these men and for extending the bounty to cover their sales to overseas buyers, the fact that such overseas sales would help to overcome this country's balance of payments difficulties should surely be enough. The Government has been screaming for more production for years. Here is an opportunity to get more production and to earn overseas income at the same time. The small man should not be penalized under this measure.

This bounty has been operating since the 1958 legislation was brought down. I think that if the Government is sincere in wanting to develop the industry, and if it wants people to go into the north-west part of Queensland and develop that area, it should give every encouragement in those directions. That small copper producers are not getting that encouragement is evidenced by the fact that they have to seek buyers in Japan for their product. Nobody knows how long the Japanese market for that copper production will exist, but ft is interesting to note that the Peko interests have entered into a seven-years agreement with the Japanese for the sale of Peko's copper concentrate. Tt is natural to assume from that that the copper market in Japan will be available for the next seven years, operating on the conditions laid down in these negotiations with the Japanese buyers. T do not know the details of these negotiations, but when I was up in that area it was suggested that a treatment plant was to be built in the vicinity of Cloncurry and that the ore treated there would ultimately find its way overseas.

Since the Mount Tsa plant has reduced the amount of customs ore that it takes, and since the small producers are being forced, in consequence of their economic position, to sell overseas, I think the Government should consider bringing the small producers within the ambit of the measure and not place them in the same position as the Mount Isa interests and other exporters. It is true that this point is not dealt with in the Tariff Board's report, but I say that due regard should be given to the small producers, and that a review of the position of the industry should be made. The views of the Treasury and the Government generally should be sought regarding the best way for the bounty to operate. In particular, the small producer should be allowed to sell his product overseas, thus augmenting our overseas balances, without depriving himself of the right to receive the bounty.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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