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Wednesday, 18 May 1960


Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- The purpose of this bill is very similar to that of the measure we have just passed. We find that the measure now before us is designed to extend for a period of six months, from 30th June, 1960, all the existing bounties paid in respect of the production of refined copper of Australian origin sold for use in Australia to the Australian community. The criticism which I offered in my speech on the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill 1960 concerning the delays in tariff board reports applies equally to this bill. Here again the Government says that the question has been referred to the Tariff Board, that no report is yet to hand and that it will extend the payment of the bounty for an additional six months. In view of the fact that the bounty payable in the current financial year is £897,000 in round figures, we could be committed to the payment of something over £440,000 in copper bounty if it should so happen that the Tariff Board says that the payment of the bounty is no longer justifiable. It is most unfortunate that these delays take place and the result is that bounties to which concerns operating in Australia are not entitled may be paid.

The Opposition thinks that protection for the Australian copper-producing industry, to the extent that it is applied to copper consumed within Australia, is justifiable. The alternative form of protection would be per medium of tariffs, and the end result of that would be that people in this community, many of whom had just established themselves in homes would have to pay higher prices. In every home a great quantity of copper is used - in hot water services, taps, bathroom and kitchen fittings, radios, kettles and all sorts of electrical apparatus.

We can extend the situation further and take into consideration the cost of manufacturing cables for the purposes of the Postmaster-General's Department, electrical installations, power plants and the enormous range of goods in which copper is used in Australia to-day. Some of our industries make for export goods which contain copper, and they are already struggling against very strong competition in some of the markets overseas. An increase in price would restrict their trade opportunities. I think the Government, in this case, has considered the matter rightly. Last year rather than protect the industry by tariffs, the Government decided to protect it by the payment of bounties, in order to avoid increasing price to the individual who uses copper.


Mr Duthie - It is only a temporary measure.


Mr POLLARD - Everything this Government does is temporary. It is ruthless in some things but rather dilatory about this sort of thing. I think that these matters should be brought to the attention of Parliament. Industries are left in a state of uncertainty on both the production and utilization sides. However, to the extent that this measure will assist our export industries and the people who use the goods the manufacture of which involves the raw product, the Opposition does not object to it. But we do object to, and firmly insist that in future this practice of temporarily extending a protection or bounty to an industry because of some failure on the part of the Government or one of its instrumentalities to deal promptly with a matter for inquiry can no longer be condoned. I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is in charge of the bill, not to expect us again to be a party to such a procedure, because it is altogether wrong. In both these measures we are asked, in effect, to give support to the payment of a sum involving, in half a year, anything up to £1,000,000. It is not right or fair that the people of this country should have to pay for these bounties through their taxes.


Mr Crean - The money flows into very few hands.


Mr POLLARD - That is true. There are the indirect benefits which I have listed. These are the direct benefits. The beneficiaries in this financial year from the payment of the bounty are Lake George Mines Proprietary Limited at Captain's Flat in New South Wales, which is fairly close to here. That company will receive no less a sum than £36,000. Peko Mines N.L., which I understand is in Central Australia near Tennant Creek, is to receive £159,000-


Mr Bryant - Is that the company's subsidy?


Mr POLLARD - That is the bounty. The Mount Lyell Mining Company, which has been paying very handsome dividends, will receive £411,000.


Mr Osborne - You do not object to that.


Mr POLLARD - I say we are faced with a situation from which we cannot escape, but I am pointing out that this is a practice which the Government does not extend to the community at large. The fellow in a small business may have to sell a product at times almost at cost and cover his losses by other sales. The Government does not say to the Mount Lyell company in regard to its production of sulphuric acid, "You are doing handsomely out of your production of copper, have paid, a dividend of so much for many years, and have issued so many bounty shares, so you do not need assistance ". The Government benevolently says to the companies, " Because we are caught up in a. dragnet in regard to one of your subsidiary operations which is of national importance,, and on which you are at the moment showing a loss, we will pay you £411,000 thisyear ". The Mount Morgan company will get £261,000 and the Ravensthorpe copper mine £6,201 out the pie.

I have frankly admitted that the reason why we are caught up in this conflict is that these people have only to slide out of any unprofitable production in which they are engaged, and the end result of that isfailure to have protection against imports, and, worse still, probably the almost instant dismissal of a very considerable number of men who are dependent upon that particular industry. Surely all this sort of thing presages the day when the economy of this country may be so well managed' that anybody who is given a mining right over a hole in the ground and the deposits thereunder will have placed upon him as a condition of his lease an obligation to extract from the raw material which he brings from the earth every by-product that is required by the community. That would" give protection against this sort of thing, because while the Mount Morgan company for instance, might make a profit by the extraction of gold from its ore, it might lose something from the treatment of pyrites which is obtained from the extracting the gold, silver and so on, although overall the profit is a handsome one. We would not be in the position we find ourselves in to-day of paying a subsidy to those who should have had imposed upon them a national obligation to produce from the raw material everything the country needs, However, despite my criticism, I am faced with the inevitable duty of supporting the measure on behalf of the Opposition.







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