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Wednesday, 31 August 1960

Mr Whitlam m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -

Can the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority state the number of compensable injuries and fatalities which occurred in the stevedoring industry in the last year?

Mr McMahon - The answer to the honorable member's question is as follows: -

It is regrettably a fact that as of the moment the statistics sought are not available. It is now widely known that my department has been actively concerned for some time to develop arrangements which will ensure that basic data in relation to industrial accidents will be available. A great many authorities. State and Commonwealth, are involved and while a high degree of cooperation has been forthcoming, it may still be some time before our objective is attained.

Royal Mint in Canberra.

Mr Beazley y asked the Treasurer, upon notice: -

1.   Does the Commonwealth Government intend to build a mint in Canberra; if so, what is the estimated cost?

2.   Is it intended to discontinue employing the branches of the Royal Mint in Melbourne and Perth for minting Commonwealth coinage; if so, what public interest is served by dismantling their plant and disbanding their skilled work force?

3.   What reasons would justify the building of a mint in Canberra, in priority of other public building projects, when two mints already exist in Australia?

Mr Harold Holt - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   The Commonwealth Government intends to build an Australian mint in Canberra. As plans are still at a very preliminary stage, no estimate is yet available of the probable cost of the new mint. 2 and 3. A major advantage which will result from building a mint in Canberra will be a considerable reduction in minting costs following- the introduction of modern large-scale methods of production. The two existing mint buildings in Melbourne and Perth were erected in 1872 and 1889 respectively and it would be impracticable to adapt them to enable the installation of the new equipment which is now a feature of modern mints overseas. The capacity of this new equipment is such that it would be quite uneconomical in the foreseeable future to have more than one centralized mint operating in Australia. For this reason, no further coinage orders will be placed in Melbourne or Perth once the Canberra Mint is fully in operation. However, as I have said several times in answer to previous questions, no gold refinery will be incorporated in the Canberra Mint, and its establishment will therefore not interfere with gold-refining operations at present being conducted in Melbourne and Perth. Employees at those mints, not required for future gold-refining operations, will of course be eligible to apply for positions at the Canberra Mint. The Government is making a diminishing profit on silver coinage, and an actual loss of significant proportions each year on bronze coinage. The whole question of the future size of Australian coins, and the alloys to be used in their production, is under review at present in the Treasury and will be considered by the Government in due course, particularly in relation to the recommendations of the Decimal Currency Committee. Whether or not a decimal currency is introduced into Australia, it is becoming inevitable that a vast number of existing coins will have to be replaced. The two existing mints would be neither capable of producing the new coinage at a cost acceptable to the Commonwealth Government, nor of doing so within a reasonable period of time. The Government therefore considers that it is now an appropriate time to prepare for the establishment of a new Australian mint, run in accordance with accepted standards of efficiency and economy, and capable of supplying Australia's coinage needs for many years to come.

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