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Tuesday, 18 September 1973
Page: 1141

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) - Because we have seen on the Government side of the House, particularly in the case of Ministers, an appalling lack of ability, capacity or experience, I think it might be well for just a moment to compare the opposing sides in this debate. I make no reflection on the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi). He is a great fellow. I know him personally. I cannot say the same for the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) because he is not the type of man who bounces gaily down the corridor, gives you a hit on the back and says: 'How are you chum?' I do not know him personally.

I propose to deal now with some of the points which will develop the title of this matter. I refer to the high cost to the nation of the actions and policies of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. May I first of all take just a brief glance at some of the comments he made in reply to my colleague the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). I was going to talk about the 2 opposing teams in this debate. I think it is frankly admitted internationally that the honourable member for Farrer did an impeccable job as Minister for National Development, particularly during the phase of mineral development, because one particular attribute of his is complete integrity. He has the attribute of a love of the historic and fundamental qualities of this nation of free enterprise. What is more, he has attracted to this nation some of the greatest mining companies in the world and has produced for this nation a huge capacity to employ thousands and thousands of people, many of whom are in my electorate.

Let me deal with this business of the sell out. The Minister talked about the volume and production of minerals. Is this Government going to take credit for the fact that mineral prices are at a high level at the present time? Is it going to take credit for the fact that the stability and integrity of the previous Government attracted to this country these huge enterprises which are now able to produce large quantities of minerals, a productivity of which this nation was so proud? I must not forget to mention my place in this. I have had a lifetime of close contact with mining - not so much with management but with the small gouger and producer, the miner himself. I have lived in an environment of mining. I have seen the Mount Isa mines district, with its small group of shanty houses with hessian partitions, develop into a proud provincial city. It is perhaps the most important complex of its kind in the world. I see an excellent association between the Trades and Labour Council and the mines management. Do honourable members think that the Trades and Labour Council would give one inch on any industrial issue? It would not give one iota. The Council would fight an issue to the last stand. At Mount Isa the company management and employees work on an excellent basis. But then we have the likes of this Government coming in and trying to create a cleavage and suspicion on all sides.

I shall deal with just one other comment which the Minister made. He said that they are waiting for him with open arms over in Japan, that everything is stopped and the whole radio network is held up because Mr Connor is coming to Japan. Let me tell honourable members one thing. I was chairman of directors of a non-profit organisation known as the Cloncurry Copper Co-operative. Its purpose was to attract development into the Mount Isa and Cloncurry area. I had the opportunity of discussing, long before I became a member of the Parliament, various matters with the chairman of directors of one of Japan's major mining companies. I asked him: 'Why is it that you have chosen Australia as the centre of your particular interests with regard to mining?' He said: 'It is based on 3 things. No. 1 is your geographic proximity to Japan. No. 2 is that you have limitless resources of low grade ore. No. 3 is that you do not have a socialist government'. Honourable members opposite should not have the impression that the Japanese are in any way deceived by what is the ultimate objective of the Australian Government, namely, to infiltrate into the mining industry and inject the serum which eventually will produce the cancer of mini-nationalisation. What the Government would do is break the industry down as happened with the industry in Chile where a superb and magnificent copper operation was proceeding but which collapsed to such an extent that 750,000 workers finally demanded the end of the Allende regime. I do not condone the recent revolution one bit, but long before the revolution 750,000 workers in Chile demanded the end of the Allende regime. Yet the Government seeks to control the Australian mining industry.

I should like to point to one or two of the more specific reactions to this particular operation. I call it 'operation' because it is a move to complete destruction. One must remember at all times that in Australia we are seeing an attempt to nationalise, socialise and regiment every facet of our lives. It is a tragic situation when this can be seen on a national scale. In every mining centre in Australia there is a complete sense of insecurity. I would suggest that the Minister for Minerals and Energy not go to one particular area because the message has gone out there and they have a long rope and a deep shaft waiting for him. He should avoid that area.

Mr Calder - Tennant Creek?

Mr KATTER - I will not tell the Minister because I hope that he does go there. If the Minister has any doubts about the reaction to his own particular attitudes and statements I would suggest to him, that he get out and go to mining areas not mix with the management, as he usually does, but with the workers, in the canteens, as I do. I suggest that he not tell them who he is but simply seek their reactions. The Minister knows what is happening. Most workers are planning to get out of the industry, just as men are planning to leave the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Government has undermined confidence and everybody is wanting to get out of their own particular calling. This is happening in the mining industry. I might say to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who is trying to interject, that I have served on the executive of 3 unions. I have been on strike more times than he has been on strike, so let us compare our industrial records.

Risk and uncertainty are the 2 characteristics of mining exploration costs and risk market fluctuations. Additional uncertainty gradually discourages exploration upon which the whole industry depends. Since December 1972 numerous changes have taken place. These changes have hampered this great industry. There have been 2 revaluations against the United States dollar which have reduced returns to mineral exporters more than to any other industry - and this is saying something.

Open antipathy of the Minister to the industry - 'hillbillies and mugs' is his expression - has produced a barrier between him and normal avenues of consultation with the industry. Joint ventures between overseas companies and Australian tenement holders have all been frozen. None has been approved, although there is no legislation on the subject. The Government has frozen new tenement renewals in the top end of the Northern Territory, despite commitments by previous Governments and signed sales contracts. Is this integrity? Does this give us an international reputation? It certainly does, that we completely lack integrity.

There has been a proliferation of ministries affecting mining. Let us look at them. Even the departments do not know the dividing lines. There are the Departments for Minerals and Energy, Northern Development, the Northern Territory, Aboriginal Affairs and Environment and Conservation. All these departments have a finger in the Northern Territory uranium province. I cannot get a clear cut definition of what shape the Government's policy is taking. I do not think that it knows because it orientates everything according to the political climate. I only wish to God that the Government would go to the people; it would know in a flash the political climate. But the people of Australia are waking up to the fact that this crowd of people in Government have such an intense admiration for foreign ideologies that they are acting, as I said before, like a lot of jackbooted, swastika carrying dictators. I make the final point that the Government stated its intention of going into the exploration and mining business. This has further undermined confidence. In no country which is buoyant and prosperous and where a high standard of living exists has such a venture done other than bring disastrous results. We will move heaven and earth to prevent this happening to our great country and our great mining industry.

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