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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3830

Mr COLLARD (Kalgoorlie) - It was not my intention to rise in this debate but I could not let the honourable member for Stitrling (Mr Viner) with his usual disregard for the truth get away with some of the things he said just a short time ago. He spoke of some mythical march in Kalgoorlie - it must have been one that I knew nothing about - at which he suggested there were a large number of people who were severely critical not only of the Government but also of myself. The true situation is that there was a march and it was organised by the Liberal Party and the Democratic Labor Party combined. So apparently there may be a move on for a merger between the DLP and the Liberal Party in Kalgoorlie. It was certainly organised by those branches. The employers - I am not talking about the employers in the gold mining industry but some in the mineral exploitation field - gave their employees the day off so that they could attend this march. The number that attended the march was between 60 and 70 - 60 or 70 people out of a population of 26,000. I do not think that this showed a great deal of criticism. This did not show that the people were greatly upset about the situation.

They were not greatly upset at that time because they know very well that the Australian Labor Party has a good record. They are loyal to the Party and they know that they can look to me to do whatever is right in that regard. I am not trying to pat myself on the back but they have the experience of the things that I went through with the previous Government. Only as recently as a couple of years ago the previous government when it was returned said quite definitely - it is in Hansard if anybody wants to look at it - that it had decided that the goldmining industry could die away. That was the situation. The honourable member for Stirling apparently puts himself forward as someone who has a great knowledge of the industry. Of course, just a short time ago he showed that he had no knowledge of the industry when he asked an inane question about whether the North Kalgoorlie gold mine had put off 30 men. I am pleased that the manager of that gold mine came out in the Press and showed how little the honourable member for Stirling knew. I know that he appeared for some of the unions in cases but my information is that what he charged was greatly in excess of the value of his work.

Mr Viner - Keep up your slurs and you will do well.

Mr COLLARD - It is apparently all right for the honourable member for Stirling to get up and say that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie did not do something, but if I get up and say something about the honourable member for Stirling it is hitting below the belt. This is the general attitude of the people of the opposite side. It was the same when they were in government, when they were able to kick us to death, but now that are getting a little of it themselves they do not like it.

One of the prime objectives in the proud record of the Australian Labor Party is always to protect wherever and whenever possible the best interests of people no matter who they may be who are not in the fortunate position of being able to protect their own interests. That situation can be so easily present with respect to both current and future employment opportunities. Therefore it came as no surprise to the vast majority of the general public and particularly to those with knowledge of the mining industry when it became known that the Labor Party had given further careful consideration to the advisability or otherwise of terminating certain tax concessions which applied to the mining industry and particularly those applying to the goldmining industry.

Mr Viner - What about the bona fide prospectors? You have abandoned them.

Mr COLLARD - The honourable member apparently gets very hurt when somebody has something to say about him. It came as no surprise when it was learned that the Labor Party in its normal sympathetic thoughtful.ness for the future livelihood of the community decided that it could well be in the best interests of the mining community - and indeed of the rest of the community - if certain clauses contained in the Bill were withdrawn. It was well known both inside and outside the Parliament that the Government had decided to take that action. Its decision to do so was widely applauded and was hailed with considerable enthusiasm in the various mining centres in which so many people rely on the mining industry for their livelihood. I would have expected the Government'3 decision to have been welcomed by all members of the Opposition, both inside and outside the Parliament, particularly by Western

Australian members and senators. But I regret that subsequent comments and reports have caused me to be rather doubtful whether they support our decision. The remarks which the honourable member for Stirling made earlier make me even more doubtful whether they support our decision.

There is a story kicking about Western Australia that the Liberal Party had printed for the State election thousands of pamphlets which attacked the Federal Government on this issue. I suppose that is why honourable members opposite are so concerned that we decided to take the action which we did. As everyone knows, it was after lengthy investigation, examination and consideration of submissions, both verbal and written, that on Wednesday, 14 November, the Government eventually decided to make the amendments referred to which, as I said earlier, were expected to be received happily by the Opposition. But on Thursday, 15 November - the next day - Senator Durack of Western Australia asked in the Senate a question which appears in Hansard under the heading 'Gold Mining Industry Concessions'. The question was asked of Senator Willesee as Minister representing the Treasurer. Incidentally, Senator Willesee is also a Western Australian senator. It is no wonder that in his reply he expressed surprise and disgust that a Western Australian senator should raise objections to proposals which assisted Western Australia and its people. Hansard makes it clear that Senator Durack had the backing of his Western Australian colleague Senator Withers. It also shows that Senator Drake-Brockman was similarly concerned.

The question asked by Senator Durack makes it obvious that he and his colleagues were most unhappy that the Bill was to be changed. They were most unhappy that the Government was not proceeding with the Bill in its original form. The senators drew attention to the fact that the Bill was the result of the August Budget. They were arguing that because Liberal-Country Party members had supported the Budget which contained the provision to remove certain tax concessions to the mining industry the Government had no right to change those provisions. That is what they were saying. There can be no doubt about their attitude. They were not concerned one whit that the implementation of the Bill in its original form could cause a running down in gold mining activity which, in turn, could cause unemployment and suffering. They could see no good reason for retaining the tax concession to permit a thorough inquiry into the effect its termination might have on workers and their families and on the community generally on the mining fields.

This is where we differ from the Opposition. We realise that to change budgetary proposals can bring criticism and cause embarrassment. We know those things, but we say that as far as we are concerned they pale into insignificance when the livelihood of people is at stake. The honourable member for Stirling attacked the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and said that the Treasurer was a great opponent of assistance to the industry. Let me tell the honourable member this: The Treasurer made some token resistance, but like all other members of the Australian Labor Party he has a great concern for the livelihood of the people, for the little people about whom honourable members opposite did not have any concern when they were in government when they were attacking the gold mining industry. They could not care less about the livelihood of the men working in the mining industry. That is the situation as far as honourable members opposite are concerned. It was only as a result of the Australian Labor Party, when it was in Opposition, moving motions of censure that the then Government decided to change its view and increase the subsidy to the gold mining industry. This appears in Hansard. Previously honourable members opposite had decided that the gold mining industry should be destroyed - that it should fall apart and be allowed to disintegrate. That was their policy. So it is no good their putting on a show about being the great heroes and the great supporters of the working people. They just could not care less.

Sitting suspended from' 6.14 to 8 p.m.

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