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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3823

Mr VINER (Stirling) - The amendments now proposed by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) are the result not of a Government decision but of the decision taken by the Labor Party Caucus on 14 November. It was a decision taken in the face of intransigent opposition by the Treasurer, an opposition which he consistently and publicly stated on many occasions both inside and outside this House. It is interesting to look at a review of the events which led up to this Caucus decision on 14 November. On 24 June the Coombs report was presented. It recommended the removal of all the taxation exemptions in favour of the gold mining industry and other prescribed mineral industries in relation to profits made, and also the exemption in favour of bona fide prospectors. In the Budget of 24 August, the Treasurer announced that he would follow the recommendations of the Coombs report. On 22 August the people of Kalgoorlie, as reflected in its local newspaper the 'Kalgoorlie Miner', were dismayed by these Budget decisions and they foresaw that the gold mining industry would be severely jeopardised, if not destroyed altogether. On 28 August questions were asked in this chamber and the Treasurer maintained the position that he had taken in the Budget Speech. He would not recant from the Budget decisions, though he foreshadowed that he would be prepared to listen to representations But the clear intent behind the statements of the Treasurer on that occasion was that he was firm in his acceptance of the Coombs decisions and the Budget proposals.

On 30 August, a public meeting was held in Kalgoorlie to which the Treasurer and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) were invited but neither attended. At that meeting there really was a public outcry against the decision of the Government. One of the most significant public outcries came from the miners themselves who led a march through the streets of Kalgoorlie to the public meeting. At the Town Hall one of them spoke of secession and the need for secession in the face of this kind of Government decision. That ought to be remembered by the Treasurer and Government supporters when we hear the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) try, as he did the other night, to label Sir Charles Court as secessionist. The supporters - as they were previously - of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie were as strong as anyone in Kalgoorlie on that day in a call for secession.

Again on 13 September questions were asked of the Treasurer and he maintained his position. There was no movement backwards by him. On 26 September a question was asked in the Senate of the Minister representing the Treasurer, and the reply which was read on that date to the Senate from the Acting Treasurer said that the Government was not of a mind to change its Budget decision. That was a clear, unequivocal statement made on 26 September. During October there was a deputation to the Treasurer, the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). As appeared later from public statements in particular the Treasurer apparently advised the deputation that the Government could not see its way clear to change its mind on the Budget proposals.

On 10 November it was revealed in an article in the 'Sunday Times' published in Perth that a few days earlier the Acting Treasurer had written to a Mr Motion, who is the Chairman of the company Metramar Minerals Ltd which is engaged in opening up the Blue Spec Mine, that the Government had decided not to change its Budget decision and that the amendments in the Income Tax Assessment Bill - the Bill now before the chamber - would be pursued. There is a clear and unequivocal statement in that letter. On 13 November, in reply to a question from Senator Durack, Senator Willesee said again in clear and unequivocal terms that the Government would not change its decision. On the same day I asked a question in this place, in the light of the article in the 'Sunday Times', and the Treasurer's answer to me showed that there was no intention on the part of the Government to change its Budget decisions.

On 14 November Caucus met and decided, as I said, in face of strong opposition by the Treasurer. But the Caucus decision in the light of those events can be seen as an act of calculated cynicism and only for the purpose of trying to save the political skin of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. It shows no concern for the industry itself, no concern for the people of Kalgoorlie, no concern for bona fide prospectors and a concern only for the political skin of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie because the decision of Caucus which the Treasurer and the Government were bound to accept was a short term decision to defer for one year the proposal to withdraw the exemption in favour of profits from gold mining and one-fifth of the profits from other prescribed minerals.

On .15 November a Dorothy Dix question was asked of the Teasurer so Chat he could announce the Caucus decision. On 23 November, last Friday, an officer from the Department of Minerals and Energy travelled to Perth and then to Kalgoorlie. So last Friday was the first occasion that this Government quite obviously set out to make an investigation on the ground of what its Budget proposals would do to the gold mining industry of Kalgoorlie and the other outlying towns dependent on that industry.

So it is quite clear that all that the Government had before it when it made its Budget decision was the armchair assessment of the Coombs task force economists. The recommendation of the Coombs economists reflected the attitudes of a stodgy accountant.

Nowhere in that recommendation, nowhere in the Government's attitude towards the gold .mining industry is there reflected the spirit of the gold fields, the spirit of the people who have written the gold mining industry deeply into the history of this country. Nowhere do we find on the part of the Coombs task force, the Treasurer or members of the Cabinet any concern for or knowledge of the industry itself. It is quite clear that the Coombs recommendation and the Budget decision, carried through over many months into Caucus by the Treasurer, was a decision made out of plain ignorance, and only now is a study being made on the ground to assess the impact of that decision on the gold mining industry of Kalgoorlie and the outlying towns that are dependent on Kalgoorlie, and upon the outlying gold shows, the old gold mines and prospective gold mines which were expecting that this particular favour - in order to encourage the industry - would be continued. But overnight the desire to reassess old gold mines was shattered.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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