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Wednesday, 17 September 1958


Mr SPEAKER (Hon John McLeay (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -

Order! The honorable member for Lilley is out of his place.


Mr DUTHIE - Mr. Pitulejis at present in the process of obtaining patent rights from the Commonwealth. With this new process he can make a deposit with a nickel content of 1 per cent, a profitable undertaking, and the Beaconsfield deposit shows a content of 1.5 per cent, of nickel. Scientists tell us that in future nickel will be more important than uranium. Nickel is to the steel industry in Australia as salt is to a human being. It is the most versatile mineral in the world. Now it has been discovered for the first time in the Commonwealth, and as we have a brilliant geologist and scientist on hand to develop it, federal and State financial and technical aid should be given unstintingly to this project. The Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited, for instance, requires 600 tons of nickel annually to strengthen and toughen steel. The company could use more than this quantity. At present Australia imports 1,000 tons of nickel annually, at a total cost of 100,000 dollars, mainly from Canada. We could save this dollar expen diture by developing our Tasmanian deposits, and we could produce enough nickel for all our needs.

Chromium, in association with nickel also has been discovered at Beaconsfield. Australia needs 9,000 tons of chromium annually, and at present 90 per cent, of our requirements is imported. The Tasmanian Department of Mines, the Commonwetlth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and the University of Melbourne have been most helpful to Mr. Pitulej in his discoveries and experiments. It is tragic that this man has no facilities or laboratory for his experiments. In fact, all his experiments so far have been done in the back yard of his home in Launceston, with the help of Mr. Oliver Harvey. If he were in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, just imagine the facilities that he as a scientist would be given! He would have his own laboratory, a high salary, a big staff, finance, a car, and everything else he needed. We in Australia complain about the lack of scientists to match the Russians, but what are we doing for the scientists that we have? It is a disgrace to Australia that a man like this should be forced to experiment in the back yard of his home.


Mr Brand - The honorable member is praising Russia!


Mr DUTHIE - Praising Russia, my fat aunt! Mr. Pitulej has spent £6,000 of the funds of the Ben Lomond Mining Company to prove and test the nickel. He is trying to raise £50,000 from private people to begin the mining and treatment of the Beaconsfield deposit. It will be an open-cut mine, and a model of the plant he has designed is being built now at Devonport. For £50,000 he can supply all Australia's needs of nickel, but no financial aid has been given to him by the Federal or State Governments.

Who imports our nickel at present? W. R. Wright and Company of Sydney are the sole importers. They are tied up with Wiggin and Company of England, which company is a subsidiary of the great International Nickel cartel. Wright and Company import annually 1,000 tons of nickel at £500 a ton and sell it in Australia for £2,240 a ton. The headquarters of the International Nickel cartel is in Canada. It controls the entire deposits of nickel in

Western countries. International Nickel has heard of Mr. Pitulej's discovery. The president of the organization wrote to him for details. I saw the letter. Mr. Pitulej did not give International Nickel any information. Two or three weeks ago a top man from International Nickel arrived in Tasmania to try to find Mr. Pitulej in order to interview him about his deposits, but he could not find Mr. Pitulej, and he will not find him, for obvious reasons. Mr. Pitulej has no intention of selling out this deposit to the international cartel. If this cartel got control of the deposits at Beaconsfield it would close them down immediately, as oilfields in Australia have been closed by overseas interests, and a potentially great new Australian industry would be stillborn. It is to Mr. Pitulej's credit that he is not prepared to sell his interests to any international cartel.

I appeal to this Government to help him in this fight to save this industry for Australia. It is up to the State Department of Mines and the Federal Department of National Development to give all possible financial and technical aid to this new discovery. They should let him have boring plant to further test the deposits. Fifty test holes have been put down to a depth of about 5 feet, but it is desired to make further tests. We must save this industry from strangulation by the international nickel octopus, and we want to save it for Australia alone. I suppose that if we achieved that, it would be the only mineral of world importance saved for our own country. At present, nickel is produced in Cuba, Norway, China, New Caledonia, India, Alaska and Canada.

I raise this matter to-night in discussing financial aid to the States, because I believe that it definitely comes within the scope of special financial assistance to the mining industry, and I appeal to the Government for aid. I know that Senator Spooner has been helpful to Mr. Pitulej. He cannot go into Tasmania without an invitation from the Tasmanian Mines Department, but when he gets that invitation he is prepared to put plant into Tasmania in order further to test the nickel deposits. This is not a laughing matter, although Government supporters appear to think it is. As the scientists tell us, nickel will be more important in the future than uranium. That is an amazing statement, but I have it from a top authority. Having discovered nickel in Australia, it behoves us to do all we can to safeguard it for the future. We should help this man and his colleagues to the very best of our ability so that, in the years to come, we may get all the nickel possible out of that deposit.







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