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Wednesday, 9 July 1930

Senator REID (Queensland) .- This afternoon the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) presented a financial statement, which, I venture to think, is not a good advertisement for Australia. Now, following closely upon that statement, we are asked to endorse the action of the Government in guaranteeing financial assistance to what Senator McLachlan has described as a new industry. In view of the unsatisfactory state of Commonwealth finances, the action of the Government in bringing forward this measure is, to say the least, highly injudicious. I have not the slightest objection to the Commonwealth granting financial aid to Western Australia upon proper lines. That State, as we know, has suffered under federation, and it is already receiving special grants from the Commonwealth. I refuse to vote for this measure on the ground merely that it endorses the action of the Government in making an agreement with the Government of Western Australia to stand behind a private mining company in a scheme to develop its property.

Senator Daly - Then the honorable senator does not believe in private enterprise?

Senator REID - That question is not involved. Senator O'Halloran just now had something to say about those honorable senators who supported a bounty for other industries, but were reluctant to vote for this bill. I remind him that all proposals for the payment of bounties have been in respect of new or weak industries which, it is hoped, will be developed and eventually become selfsupporting. The same cannot be said of gold-mining, because every day's working means that the asset is being depleted. All that has been said in support of the Wiluna proposition as a mining venture may be said of many other similar mining shows in the various States, including, in my own State, the Mount Isa mine, upon which a large sum is being expended for developmental purposes.

Senator Lawson,speaking in support of the bill, said we should pass it because the ' Government had entered into an agreement, which it would be injudicious to repudiate. I do not agree with the honorable senator. His reasoning, in my judgment, was unconvincing. The honorable senator added that the case for assistance being given to Western Australia would have been strengthened if the Government had had the backing of reports from independent mining experts, and Senator O'Halloran has just told us that this proposal is practically on all fours with certain recommendations made by the Development and Migration Commission. I am not suggesting that the reports obtained by the Western Australian Government from its mining engineers and other experts are not thoroughly reliable, but I feel sure that if this mining company were in another State the senators representing Western Australia would be, to a man, against the bill, because it cuts directly across all the principles which they have been advocating in this chamber. I was not present when the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill was under discussion, but I should have voted for that measure because, as I have stated, it is designed to assist the development of a young industry which, in the course of twelve months or so, should be self-supporting. The same cannot be said of any bounty proposal in relation to goldmining, because, as I have shown, the value of the asset is steadily being re duced with each day's operations. I, therefore, say that this venture is one upon which the Government should not have entered. The position at Broken Hill amply bears out all that I have said about the uncertainty of mining. At the present time, owing to the decline in the price of metals, there is a possibility of a number of mining properties, which have been in operation for many years, being closed down at an early date. In view of the position which has recently developed at Broken Hill, the New South Wales Government would be justified in approaching the Commonwealth authorities for financial assistance in order to keep those mines in operation. All that has been said in support of this proposition could also have been said in connexion with the Mount Morgan Goldmining Company, which, notwithstanding the assistance it has received, is unable to carry on. I do not intend to support the measure merely because an agreement has been signed. I do not know why the Government should have acted in this way. One is led to believe that it has adopted this course simply because a member of the Cabinet has a certain amount of influence over his colleagues.

Senator Daly - The honorable senator does not suggest that Sir James Mitchell is a member of the Labour party?

Senator Sir William Glasgow - But this arrangement was entered into by the previous Premier of Western Australia.

Senator REID - I do not blame the Western Australian Government for signing the agreement; but that Government should be able to protect its interests without the backing of the Commonwealth. This is entirely a State matter, and, seeing that a mining venture is involved, it is one with which the Commonwealth should not be associated. Every one who has any knowledge of the efforts that have been made by various governments to support the mining industry knows that, in the end, the government concerned has to " carry the baby." If this measure is passed we shall be establishing a precedent which may be availed of by other States. In view of the present financial position we are not justified in supporting hazardous mining proposals of this nature which may result in placing further financial responsibilities upon the Commonwealth.

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