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Wednesday, 30 April 1980
Page: 2007

Senator ELSTOB (South Australia) - Whilst the Opposition does not oppose this Bill I wish to make some remarks about the tin industry. Although it is rather small by world standards, the tin industry is quite significant. Australia produces only some 5 per cent of the world's tin. Malaysia is the largest producer. Tin is produced in all States and the Northern Territory. Tasmania is by far the largest producer of tin in Australia. It produces some 60 per cent.

Senator Tate - There is a good work force there too.

Senator ELSTOB - Yes. There is a good work force throughout Australia, not only in Tasmania. I believe that the work of the Australian worker is comparable with that of any worker in the world. The $50 per tonne subsidy to melt the tin in this country will bring a better return to the miners in Australia and to the industry. As I said, it is only a small industry but it is a vital one to this country. In Australia we do not go in for long term production. I believe that by long term planning, especially in relation to our mineral reserves, we could engage much of the labour that is unemployed today. That is vital to this nation.

The subsidy of $50 per tonne will cut out after three years. In 1980 individual export permits will be granted only to miners who supply the Australian tin industry, the smelters, with not less than 75 per cent of their production. For the second year, 1981, this figure will reduce to 50 per cent and in the following year it will cut out completely. Although that is highly commendable to lift the production of tin and to give some security to the miners, I ask: What will happen after three years? As I have said before, I believe that we should go in for long term planning in all our industries. It is necessary to increase the smelting capacity in this country. The majority of tin smelting is done at Alexandria, in Sydney. There is another smelter in Western Australia. I understand that another smelter was established late last year or early this year in Greenbushes, Western Australia, which smelts the production of Greenbushes Tin N.L. This handles approximately 2,000 tonnes per day of concentrates.

For a number of years tin has been exported to Malaysia simple because our smelting processes have not been up to world standard. I do not believe this is satisfactory. This country should take care of its minerals. It is important that Australia not only mine the minerals that we have but also that the work force should be employed in the production of the mineral reserves that we have. We are very wealthy in mineral reserves and we should take every opportunity to employ our people in developing them. Tin is a vital commodity. In the war years the Australian Labor Party was instrumental in setting up the tin industry. I believe that Australia should smelt all the tin that can be produced in this country. We should be an exporter of tin plate. Instead of exporting concentrates, coal and energy they should be used to employ our people.

The only complaint 1 have with this Bill is that it does not go far enough in the long term. There is no long term project to ensure that we build the tin industry up. That, I think, is the worst point of this Bill. As I have said, we do not oppose it. It is a step in the right direction but I do not think enough planning has gone into this industry. Australians should reap the benefit from all the minerals that we produce in this nation. Instead of exporting our coal and energy- we export the great majority of the gas from the North West Shelf- we should be looking to higher production and exporting finished commodities. This is another illustration of lack of planning.

Over three years we will give approximately $500,000 under this legislation. If a Government gives $500,000 to an industry that industry should return something to this nation. The employment of the people of this nation should be the responsibility of that industry if it receives that large amount of money. The plant at Alexandria is half owned by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, which also produces tin plate in this country. As I have said, I am opposed to exporting any of the concentrates. We should be willing to refine the lot. If the smelting operation in this country is not efficient enough to smelt the low grade ores and if we are prepared to give that $500,000, we should see that the companies produce better plant to smelt all the minerals. We support this Bill. We hope that in the future the Government will look to increasing the wealth of this nation.

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