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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Senator FRASER (Western AustraliaMinister for External Territories) - I am not astonished that this subject should have been raised in the Senate, but I am astounded that Senator Allan MacDonald should say that the motion before the chamber has no political significance and that party political considerations do not arise. I remind the honorable senator that he and I travelled on the same aeroplane to Western Australia, and that if the control of gold-mining had been a matter of such importance as he has suggested this afternoon, he might have taken me into his confidence and discussed it with me as well as with the secretary of the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Mines, when the aeroplane arrived at the aerodrome there. We were at Kalgoorlie for about 40 minutes during which time the honorable senator was in earnest conversation with the secretary of the local Chamber of Mines. I imagine that they discussed the visit of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) to Western Australia.

Senator Allan MacDonald - Mr. Johnson had not arrived there then.

Senator FRASER - I am aware of that.

Senator Allan MacDonald - That being so, how could any one have known what he was going to say?

Senator FRASER - The honorable senator has taken no steps whatever to discover whether the honorable member for Kalgoorlie actually made the statements attributed to him. The honorable senator has yet to learn the mission on which that honorable member was sent by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to Western Australia. I say advisedly that, for security reasons, it is undesirable that the details of that mission be disclosed. We must remember that Mr. Johnson is the representative of the electorate of Kalgoorlie in this Parliament. He is a member of the Government party. I remind Senator Allan MacDonald and Senator McBride that, when their party was in office, the Government which they support did not consult Opposition members from any State on actions it proposed to take in respective States. To a large degree, however, this Government has followed that procedure. The main point in this matter is that Senator Allan MacDonald called a meeting at the town hall in Kalgoorlie with the object of making political capital out of this incident by arousing the local people over statements which, on his own admission, are only alleged to have been made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I repeat that, for security reasons, it is undesirable to disclose at this juncture details of the mission which the honorable member undertook on behalf of the Government.

Senator E B Johnston - His statement, is reported in the press.

Senator FRASER - The press report was merely to the effect that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was engaged on a mission for the Government, but it gave no details of that mission. When I last visited Kalgoorlie, the secretary of the Chamber of Mines, Mr. Anderton, hadevery opportunity to bring the matter tomynotice. I have not the slightest doubt that he would have done so if he believed that there was any foundation for the allocations now made by the honorable . senator. It is clear however, that in the interim, -party political considera tions have entered the matter. I say that with all respect to Mr. Anderton. I remained at Kalgoorlie for one day and one night. and had interviews with various people directly interested in the gold- mining industry. None of them raised this matter with me.

Sena tor Allan MacDonald. - The honorable member for Kalgoorlie had not made hisstatement then.

Senator FRASER - He had visited Kalgoorlie at that time. During my stay in Kalgoorlie, I heard nothing about the possibility that the mines would be closed down by the Government; but I heard very definite statements that the industry was not making as great a contribution to the war effort as it should. At all times, the safety of this country must he our prime consideration. In no circumstances must preferential consideration be given to shareholders in any mining company. Unfortunately, vested interests have not shown a willingness to play a part in the winning of this war. Should the machinery or man-power available in any town in the Commonwealth, whether it be Kalgoorlie or any other centre, be required for the prosecution of the war, and should such action involve the closing down of local industries, we shall not allow any section or industry to maintain an attitude which will imperil our war effort. We shall allow no one who simply wants to maintain dividends from gold-mines to frustrate that effort. In any case, should action he taken along the lines alleged to have been indicated by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie,I assure honorable senators that the interests of all sections affected willbe protected by the Government. It will not be the first time that industries have been closed down, or man-power transferred to other localities for the prosecution of our war effort.

Senator McBride - The Minister for Trade and Customs spoke more frankly. He was not concerned about security reasons.

Senator FRASER - I am concerned about security reasons. One of our difficulties to-day is that too much information dealing with our war effort is published prematurely.

Senator McBride - Especially by spokesmen for the Government.

Senator FRASER - This Government is doing a good job, and honorable senators opposite do not like it. As the Prime Minister said, they are endeavouring to put gravel in the Government's shoes. Regardless of class, our people must contribute to the war effort. Senator Allan MacDonald should have endeavoured to verify the statements which he attributes to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie before raising the matter in the Senate. He could have inquired from tlie State Government whether it was acquainted with this Government's plans. When I saw the Western Australian Minister for Lands and Agriculture, Mr. Wise, a fortnight ago in Melbourne, he did not know anything about this alleged plan. The burden of the honorable senator's complaint is that he was not co-opted by this Government to make certain inquiries concerning the industry. Had he approached the proper quarters instead of rushing to Kalgoorlie to make political capital out of these alleged statements, he would have obtained all of the information he required. The miners on the gold-fields in Western Australia declare that their services are not being used to the greatest possible degree in the prosecution of the war effort. I admit that shareholders in gold-mining companies may not share' that view. I again assure the Senate that whatever action is taken by the Government with regard to the industry, the interests of all affected will be fully protected.

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