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Thursday, 30 June 1949

Mr HAMILTON (Swan) .- I rise to oppose this measure because I believe that it represents another step by the Government in its plan for socialism. That was admitted in effect in this House some time ago by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) who said that they were prepared to go on with the Government's socialistic plans and that the only things that would not be included were ice-cream carts and rag shops. The whaling industry is a very lucrative one, and until such time as the Government informs the House of any serious attempt to encourage private enterprise to engage in it, I must regard this measure as a further step along the path that is being followed by the Government towards the socialism of industry, production, distribution and exchange. It is admitted by everybody on both sides of the House that very little has been done in Australia about the whaling industry up to date.

Mr Barnard - Then why has not private enterprise done something about it?

Mr HAMILTON - The Minister should not rush in with such interjections. I shall quote from the second- read ing speech made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) when he introduced the measure, lie said -

With the exception of certain private interests which have engaged in whaling activities in a small way at odd points on the Australian coast, no serious attempt baa been made since 19:17.

Let us cast our minds back to what was happening on the other side of the world in 1!)3S. Norway, from which country we were obtaining the labour to carry out whaling projects was very closely situated to Hitler's Reich. In March, 1938, Hitler started to march into the countries surrounding Germany. Later in the same year the Munich Agreement was signed, and was followed a year later by the outbreak of World War II. So it is quite understandable that no serious activities in connexion with whaling were capable of being undertaken subsequent to 1937.

Mr Fraser - I cannot follow that reasoning.

Mr HAMILTON - I am sorry aboutthat, but that is the position. The Norwegians were preparing to fight for their very lives and, as I have said, it is understandable that no great whaling activity was carried out subsequent to 1937. In his second-reading speech, the Minister went on to say -

A valuable resource which should logically be available to our country has therefore been> practically neglected for many years.

I consider that it is unworthy of the Minister to have included such a statement in his speech without at least following it with a definite indication that attempts had either been made or not made to encourage private enterprise' to engage in the whaling industry. I shall quote other parts of the Minister's speech to prove that the attention that the Government is giving to the whaling industry arises from the fact that it is a very lucrative industry. The honorable gentleman stated that at a time when whale oil was valued at about £20 a ton the catch off the Western Australian coast returned a revenue of more than £850,000. As the honorable member for Franklin has pointed out, the price of whale oil is now £112 to £120 a ton. Why has not this Government, knowing the position, endeavoured to encourage private enterprise to get on with the job? Instead, it appears to be following the example of the Labour Government in Queensland which established and operated' abattoirs, butchers shops and other enterprises that later on it could not get rid of quickly enough. [ am definitely opposed to the idea of the Government nationalizing this industry without first exploring every avenue of private enterprise that could be used. Provision could be made to ensure that if private enterprise developed this industry it should not make exorbitant profits out of this natural product, whale oil. It is useless for the Government to state that the industry will be more efficiently carried out if operated by the Government than it would be if run by private enterprice. The Minister said in his speech -

As I mentioned earlier, there has been no real attempt by private enterprise to develop this industry.

If the Minister is prepared' to make such a statement, why does he not go further and give us evidence that nothing has been done by private enterprise? Until such time as the Government produces such evidence, I shall not be prepared to accept the statement. Later in his speech the Minister said -

.   . the Government feels that the only sound and practical alternative is to establish it as a government enterprise.

I have yet to see any appreciable number of Government enterprises that have proved to be successful. We have government railways and government airways, and we formerly had a government shipping line and are now to have another that, I believe, will be tied up with the exclusion of private enterprise from engaging in the whaling industry. Now we have the Government proposing to establish itself in the whaling industry. The provisions of the bill which refer to the establishment of a commission are almost, word for word, the same as similar provisions in the Shipping Act and other measures. The Government has not given private enterprise an opportunity to engage in the whaling industry. Private enterprise might he willing to engage in it if it was assured that the Government would not hog-tie it with regulations. The Government should give private enterprise such an opportunity, and keep out of the industry itself, because we have seen only too clearly the mistakes that have been made by governments that have engaged' in this kind of enterprise. I should like the Minister to indicate also whether the Government is permitted under the Constitution to engage in activities that will eventually arise from the operation of this measure. The Government intends to capture whales and then to treat the catch. What does it intend to do with the whale oil so produced? The oil will have to be sold to processing firms for the manufacture of various commodities. I am not sure that the Commonwealth has power under the Constitution to engage in trade of that kind. Yesterday, when it was suggested that a certain commodity should be imported in order to save the community from hardship, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth did not have power to import the commodity from overseas and sell it to the States. If the Commonwealth lacks that power under the Constitution, how can it engage in the whaling industry, in the course of which it must either sell the oil to processing firms, or go one stage further in its programme of socialization, and itself establish factories for the processing of the oil ? We know that, ever since 1921, the Labour party has proclaimed that its policy is to socialize more andmore industries. I am convinced that the life of this Government is limited to a few more months, but it apparently intends to use' that brief period in order to establish as many socialistic enterprises as possible. I intend to oppose such attempts to the best of my ability. The wording of this bill is in keeping with that of certain other measures, which have been recently passed by the Parliament. For instance, sub-clause 1 of clause 21 is as follows: -

The Commission shall have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia upon the guarantee of the Treasurer.

That is identical with provisions in legislation concerning the Joint Coal Board, the Commonwealth shipping line, and the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme.

Mr Pollard - I suppose the honorable member does not object to a similar provision for financing the marketing of wheat ?

Mr HAMILTON - I object to all forms of State enterprise. As for the marketing of wheat, that is supposed to be controlled by the growers, although I admit that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has interfered at every opportunity.

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