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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - There may be some truth in Senator Lynch's statement that during the war the Government disposed of the gold produced from the Western Australian mines at an upset price, but I am not prepared to admit that its action in that respect involved the mining companies in a loss of £3,000,000. During the war, the Government found it necessary to definitely fix the price of many commodities, including galvanized iron, which was extensively used throughout the Commonwealth. The Government also fixed the price of wool at a flat rate of ls. 5d. a lb., and annexed the whole of the newsprint in stock in the Commonwealth and appointed a special board to distribute it. In scores of other ways the Government fixed prices of commodities in the public interest, and arranged distribution. The gold-mining industry was not singled out for special treatment, but its decline is attributable to the fact that when once the metal is removed, mining becomes an unpayable proposition. Gold mining in Australia is costly, for obvious reasons, but other mineral deposits may be discovered. The proposed reduction of 5 per cent, in the duty is not worth speaking of. The action of the Government in this respect is merely a part of the great national policy of protection which Senator Lynch has advocated for a lifetime. If the speeches delivered by Senator Lynch since he has been a member of this chamber were studied, it would be found that he has always supported those who advocate excessive duties. He is now confronted with a position which he has assisted in establishing. . If the honorable senator desires to protect one industry, he must also be willing to assist others. If he thinks that the goldmining industry should escape these duties, why does he not advocate the entire removal of duties on all mining machinery, or adopt the logical attitude which I sometimes adopt, and advocate a straightout land tax ? If Senator Lynch and those supporting him, wish mining machinery to be imported absolutely free of duty, they should support land value taxation instead of suffering dose after dose of high protection which is really too good for them.

Senator THOMPSON(Queensland) r/9.39]. - I cannot support the request moved by Senator Lynch, which I think is too trifling to occupy the time of the committee. I do not agree with the Minister (Senator Crawford) that the mining machinery in use was purchased when the companies were making good profits.

Senator Crawford - I did not say all of it.

Senator THOMPSON - I mentioned earlier in the debate on this item that there was a strong possibility of a very large new plant being laid down at the Mount Morgan mine, and consequently lower duties would be very beneficial. 1 saw the report of the South African expert who reported on the "Western Australian mines, and who said that a good deal of the inefficiency in Western Australian mines was due to the use of obsolete machinery. That indicates that if the mining industry is to improve, a good deal of new machinery will have to be installed. The same could be said of most of the mines in Australia.

Senator Crawford - And of industry generally.

Senator THOMPSON - But of the mining industry in particular. I am surprised that I did not receive more support from honorable senators on behalf of the copper-mining industry in Queensland. Quite a number of senators who should be following the debate are absent from the chamber until a vote is taken, when they support the Minister in charge of the bill.

Senator Crawford - It is hardly fair of the honorable senator to reflect upon his colleagues.

Senator THOMPSON - Closer attention should be given to tariff matters, on which honorable senators are allowed to express their individual opinions. As the Government does not expect honorable senators to support it on al] tariff matters, it is the duty of honorable senators to follow the debate intelligently and to record their vote in accordance with their convictions.

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