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Wednesday, 9 July 1930

Senator BARNES (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) .- The chief factor that has influenced the Federal Government in bringing forward this proposal is that it is not one to give special consideration to any State. Gold-mining is common to all the States, and there are vast fields in Australia that cannot possibly be worked unless science provides a means by which low-grade ores can be treated at a profit. The Western Australian Government made exhaustive inquiries into the Wiluna Gold Mines proposition, and I suppose that the staff of the Western Australian Mine3 Department is as well qualified and equipped as that of any other Mines Department to deal with gold-mining. The doubt, that some honorable senators appear to have about the ability and integrity of the officials of the Mines Department in Western Australia is quite unwarranted. These officials are there to guide their government with the knowledge they possess, and when they finally reported, as a result of their inquiries, that the Wiluna proposition was a fair and square venture, the State Government decided to back it, not only to the extent of guaranteeing the company's bank overdraft, but also to the extent of building a railway to Wiluna. There was, of course, every possibility of such a railway opening up a vast area of country capable of being developed in other ways than by mining, but the report of the responsible officers was sufficient to warrant the Government in undertaking the construction of the railway solely because of the possibility of development in the gold-mining area at Wilunua. There is a vast area of mineral country in Western Australia which hitherto has not been worked, because it has been impossible to treat the ores at a profit, but science has now brought into being a plant that is, apparently, capable of doing the job. At any rate, a model plant has been put up at Wiluna, and tested. It has given certain results, and on those results two Western Australian Governments in turn decided to back this venture. The Collier Government took the initial step, but the Mitchell Government has signed the agreement.

Senator Reid - The Mitchell Government could not repudiate what the other Government had done.

Senator BARNES - It could have done so if it thought that what the previous Government had done was wrong, just as honorable senators have the right to repudiate this agreement if they think that the Commonwealth Government has done wrong in entering into it. The fact that Sir James Mitchell has attached his signature to an agreement entered into in the interest of his State seems to me to warrant my voting for this bill. But my main reason for supporting it is that there is every promise that the plant which has been established on the Wiluna mine will lead to great mining development in Australia. Because of its financial disability, the State of Western Australia has appealed to the Commonwealth. Clause 2 of the agreement, which seems to sum up the situation pretty well, reads as follows: -

The State and the Treasurer of the Statu shall and will before making any request for payment by the Commonwealth hereunder use its best endeavours to recover from the said The Wiluna Gold Mines Limited payment of all moneys paid by the said Treasurer to the said bank under and in accordance with the said guarantees and failing such payment will in accordance with law exercise and enforce all its rights powers authorities and remedies as mortgagee and grantee under the said mortgage and bill of sale respectively against the said company its undertaking and assets with the intent and for the purpose of recouping itself as far as possible out of the undertaking and assets of the said company and of minimizing the liability of the Commonwealth hereunder :

As pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, the Wiluna Gold Mining Company has already spent about £1,000,000 in developing its mine and importing machinery for treating lowgrade ore. This machinery is supposed to represent tlie last word that can he said by scientists in regard to mining machinery for the treatment of low-grade ore.

Senator Herbert Hays - Was customs duty paid on that machinery?

Senator BARNES - I am not quite sure, but I understand that the Commonwealth did make some concession on the importation of certain machinery which could not be manufactured in Australia. If this plant proves successful, it will enable engineering firms in Australia to gain a knowledge of what is required for the production of that class of machinery. If the venture is a success, the plant can bc installed on mining fields all over Australia; but the thing that impresses me most is that two Western Australian Governments, acting on the advice of their mining experts, engineers, and metallurgists, have backed this enterprise, but, because they are like the crippled brother in the family, they have had to come to the big brother, which is the Commonwealth, and say, " We believe we ave warranted in asking you to back us in this venture, the possibilities of which wo think are undoubted. If you do so the advantage we derive will be of great benefit to the whole family." For that reason I support the bill.

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