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Thursday, 12 May 1960

Mr JONES (Newcastle) .- I wish to raise once again a matter that I raised last Thursday night on the motion for the adjournment of the House. This matter concerns the dismissal of 91 employees of the Commonwealth explosives factory at Mulwala. I am particularly disappointed that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) have not as yet stated what the Government intends to do about maintaining this factory for the production of sulphate of ammonia, and providing employment for the 91 men who have ahead) been dismissed and for the further 100 men who, it is expected, will be dismissed very shortly. Allegedly it is the policy of the Australian Country Party to decentralize industry in order to provide employment in country districts. The Acting Prime Minister is particularly concerned in these dismissals because Yarrawonga, which is just across the Murray River from Mulwala and is the town where most of the employees of the factory live, is in the right honorable gentleman's electorate. As yet he has not said what he intends to do about these dismissals. He has given no indication of the action, if any, that he proposes to take to maintain this factory in full production and give effect to his party's alleged policy of decentralization.

The Liberal Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, has sent a telegram to the Acting Prime Minister requesting that the date of dismissal be deferred for a further two months in order to give the people concerned an opportunity to find other employment. Two months is not long enough. This factory should be retained at full operating capacity if the leader of the Aus- tralian Country Party, who is at present Leader of the Government, is sincere about decentralization of industry. The men who are to be dismissed have been offered employment in similar factories at St. Mary's, in New South Wales, and at Albion, in Victoria. I believe that these dismissals are being made as a result of this Government's import policy. I have made inquiries and have ascertained that urea, which is a substitute for sulphate of ammonia - both substances are nitrogenous fertilizers - is being imported into Australia in ever-increasing quantities. In 1957-58 the quantity imported was 136,802 cwt. Of that amount 47,472 cwt. came from the United Kingdom, 30,804 cwt. came from Germany and 54,608 cwt. came from Japan. The remainder came from other countries.

In 1958-59 the quantity imported increased to 181,312 cwt. Of that amount 46,411 cwt. came from the United Kingdom, 39,425 cwt. came from Germany and 94,862 cwt. came from Japan. In the first nine months of the current financial year about 155,525 cwt. has been imported. I direct the attention of honorable members to the significant increase in the quantity imported from Japan. Of the total of 155,525 cwt. imported in the first nine months of the current year, 118,999 cwt. came from that country. That was for the first nine months of the year only. If that rate of importation is continued, the quantity will be stepped up to 207,368 cwt. - a considerable increase. That is the equivalent of approximately 25 tons of sulphate of ammonia. At present, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle has considerable stocks of sulphate of ammonia of which it is unable to dispose. The Mount Isa organization and the Electrolytic Zinc Company in Tasmania also have large quantities of which they cannot dispose. What is happening? The factory at Mulwala, which is a unit of a decentralized industry, has to be closed down to provide an opportunity for the I.C.I, plants in Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom to export to Australia, thus providing employment for the workers in other countries to the detriment of Australians.

Mr Uren - How many are employed?

Mr JONES - There are 272 employees at Mulwala. It is a big industry for a small centre of population. There are only 5,000 persons living in the district. If the employment of 272 people is taken away, obviously that must have a disastrous effect on the economy of a small town. I have mentioned what the Government proposes to do about the homes of the workers there. It will meet travelling expenses and the cost of transporting personal effects. But who will buy these homes? Obviously, nobody would want to buy homes in places such as Mulwala and Yarrawonga when the sole industry, probably, in the areas has been removed. I have been advised that a subsidy of £30,000 would maintain this industry at its present economic level. The Government will probably say that it does not believe in subsidizing industries. However, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) may point out, the sulphate of ammonia industry received a considerable subsidy from the Labour Government when it was in office.

Last year, the Shortland County Council, which is the second largest reticulator of electricity among the councils of New South Wales, called for tenders for a certain type of copper cable. Eleven stooge agents for Fairfield Cables quoted £55,537, and four agents for Olympic quoted the same amount, but the English firm of Enfield Cables quoted £39,966. The council approached the Department of Trade with a request that it be permitted to import the cable from the United Kingdom, but the council was told by the Department of Trade that that was against the policy of the Government. It was not prepared to permit the council to import the cable at approximately two-thirds of the Australian price, because the Australian company could provide a product of comparable quality. Therefore, the council had to buy the Australian cable.

I agree completely with that policy and I suggest that it be applied in the case of the sulphate of ammonia industry. The importation of urea, a substitute for sulphate of ammonia, should be restricted. Employment should be provided for these 91 men and the additional 100 men who will probably be displaced in a very short time. The sensible policy is to look after the employment of our own people and not to worry about the Japanese, who are being suppressed under the economic policy of the Japanese Government. The Japanese are not paid a decent wage and their products can therefore be sold in Australia below the Australian cost of production. Charity begins at home. Let us look after the Australian workers, curtail the importation of urea and give employment to our own people.

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