Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 17 May 1972
Page: 1739

Senator WOOD (Queensland) - 1 have very great pleasure in speaking in the debate on this Bill as it relates to my own State of Queensland. It involves the matter of aid to that State, lt is of very great interest to learn how applications for grants are considered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. One particular paragraph, crystallised into a very few words, shows the basis upon which assessments of grants to States are made, lt says that special grants are justified when a State, through financial stress from any cause, is unable efficiently to discharge its functions as a member of the Federation and should be determined by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for that State by a reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below the other States. So far as my State is concerned, this request for a grant is something new. The grant has been decried by some honourable senators on the other side of the chamber. I feel that if my State can get this money to assist it Queensland senators should welcome such a grant. It is not right for honourable senators from that State to decry our State to such an extent that it appears in the public mind to be a State not very worthy of much consideration.

Senator Keeffe - That is not what we said. You want to give the lot away.

Senator WOOD - Senator Keeffehas made his speech and I did not interject then. I do not worry about interjections-

Senator Keeffe - I said nothing wrong.

Senator WOOD - Senator Keeffe at various times certainly takes the opportunity to degrade his State and this is entirely wrong.

Senator Keeffe - I degraded the Government.

Senator WOOD - The honourable senator said that be degraded the Government. One of the fascinating things about this debate is that anything that the present CountryLiberal Party Government in Queensland has done has been wrong in the eyes of Labor senators. Of course, they say, the good thing for Queensland was the previous Labor Government. I sat here entranced last night-

Senator Keeffe - Did you say in a trance?

Senator WOOD - I said 'entranced'. I was entranced at the very fine story of the Gair Government which was put forward by Labor senators in this chamber. I am convinced on the view expressed by Labor senators that they had a very high regard for the Gair Labor Government when it was in office. It would appear to me that honourable senators opposite are dripping tears of sympathy over the loss of the Gair Labor Government in Queensland. So much was I taken by this story told by honourable senators opposite that I got the impression that Queensland senators on the other side of the chamber really have gone over to the Democratic Labor Party. It looks as though the DLP will have an influx of present Labor senators and I warn Senator McManus that he had better be prepared to open the ranks a little further.

Senator Keeffe - Do you ever vote against your Government?

Senator WOOD - I never vote against my Government unless I feel the need to do so. That is a privilege we have on this side of the House and I exercise it whenever necessary. I make a judgment of legislation and decide what will benefit the country most and vote accordingly.

Senator Milliner - Do you know what your Party members call you?

Senator WOOD - I do not care what my Party members call me. All I worry about is that when I lay my head down at night my heart and conscience can rest easily. I do not care what anybody thinks about me as long as what I do is right. What people in this chamber think about me does not worry me. It is what the people of Queensland think about me with which I am most concerned. We have heard this very gloomy story about Queensland but I feel that Queensland has a most fascinating story to tell. It is a story of progress, prosperity and development since the present Country-Liberal Party Government took office.

Senator Mulvihill - You praised Senator Gair.

Senator WOOD - It was not I who was praising him. I am glad to hear Senator Mulvihill praise him. I say quite honestly that he was a good Premier. I am quite happy to see quality in the Opposition. There are some honourable senators on the Opposition side to whom I pay a tribute for their quality. So I am never blind to the quality that there is on the other side of the chamber. I hope

I will always feel that way. The story of the development of Queensland is a very fascinating one, particularly in the mining field. Over the years there has been a transformation. I will not accuse the previous State Labor Government of having fallen down in its dealings with matters such as coal because in days gone by, I think when Senator Gair was the Premier, coal was a drug on the market. There was difficulty in getting people to take coal. In my district of Mackay there is one of the biggest coal fields in Australia. For years it was impossible to get people to take coal at all and a great deal of credit is due to the late Ernie Evans, the previous Minister for Mines, for encouraging men like Thiess Bros to go out into this area to drill and to find coal. Very often, of course, such endeavours come about by the development of markets.

Senator Mulvihill - And a good Federal member like Dr Patterson.

Senator WOOD - I have a great respect for Dr Patterson but these moves were made many years before Dr Patterson appeared on the political scene. For years efforts were made to try to get some interest taken in what are now magnificent coal fields. The late Ernie Evans, who was the Minister at the time, gave strong encouragement to this development. He must have realised that one of the great opportunities that would come to this country would be the big industrial development in Japan which lies to the north of us. What has been done makes a very fine story. Opposition senators were talking about the small royalty paid by the people taking the coal out. The royalty paid to the Queensland Government is 5c a ton. However, it is not just royalty that counts but what else flows to the economy of the State. Whatever royalty is fixed by the State Government is fixed for the whole term of the lease operated by the mining company. But there are other ways in which the Government can receive far more considerable benefits than the simple royalty. Last night Senator Georges spoke about the line to Goonyella which runs south of Mackay. He asked: What does Mackay get from it? During the building and development of the railway line to the fields and also the development of the mine, the city and district of Mackay received very strong help in their development and great wealth has been brought to the area as a result of this development at Goonyella.

Senator McAuliffe - How much Australian investment is in it?

Senator WOOD - 1 will tell Senator McAuliffe how much investment there is in it. This project is being undertaken by Utah Construction and Engineering Pty Ltd, an American company. Honourable senators opposite, including Senator McAuliffe, have spoken about the 5c royalty. However, there has been a railway line built in this area at a cost of $36m which in a matter of a few years, during which time there will be payment of rail charges for the carrying of coal to the coast, will be handed over free to the State Government of Queensland. The construction cost of that line, $36m, represents the equivalent of 75c a ton royalty.

Senator McAuliffe - Is this a confidential concession rate?

Senator WOOD - It is not a confidential concession rate. I know what the honourable senator is talking about. What I am trying to tell honourable senators is that the line has been built and over a number of years the freight rates will pay for it. lt will then become the property of the Queensland Government free of charge. Sir Gordon Chalk in a statement made in the 'Courier Mail' away back on 10th February 1969 said:

The State will receive $50m from Goonyella over 12} years.

Of course this is a magnificent contribution. To talk about royalties only - they are chickenfeed. The Opposition has been talking about 10c or 15c. Honourable senators will see that what the Queensland Government has done is better by far than what the Opposition has talked about. Earlier in a speech the Premier said:

Just think carefully what the Goonyella agreement means. We have negotiated an agreement whereby the Utah company has to supply every penny to build the railway line which the Queensland Government will control and operate with the first shipment of coal and in 121 years the whole debt will be redeemed and the railway handed over to the Government at no cost (o the people of Queensland.

I think a very fine job has been done by the Queensland Government to bring that about. I think that was much better than fixing a higher royalty, because I ask honourable senators to remember that the royalty rate cannot be altered once it is fixed, but the rail freight rates can be increased whenever it is desired. So with altering economic conditions it is within the control of the Queensland Government to maintain its rate of profit on the coal area, comparable with the rate applicable when the project started.

Senator McAuliffe - Does the honourable senator think that the Treasury officials were unfair in saying that Queensland was charging too low a rate for royalties?

Senator WOOD - I would say that they did not understand the situation.

Senator McAuliffe - The Treasury officials did not?

Senator WOOD - If the Treasury officials said that they did not understand the situation.

Senator Milliner - They did say that.

Senator WOOD - I do not care what they said. One has to look at the situation in terms of pounds, shillings and pence or dollars, whatever honourable senators would like to term it. Queensland will benefit greatly as a result of this development Over a period of years we will find flowing into Queensland great wealth because of the development of our coal.

Senator Keeffe - Has the honourable senator any shares in Goonyella?

Senator WOOD - No, unfortunately, I do not have any shares in Goonyella. I think that a company was floated in Australia and that quite a number of Australians hold shares. I know that Labor senators, and Opposition senators in general, talk about selling the country. As they term it, foreigners are coming in and digging out our coal. Let me remind honourable senators that it is all right having coal but the thing to do is to use it. Changes in industry are taking place. New inventions and new ideas are coming out. There are changes in the treatment of copper and in the iron and steel industry, and so on. The point is that if we do not sell this coal now we might find that we will have to keep it because we will never be able to sell it. It is rather interesting to note that in completing this deal the Queensland Government was well aware that, in the long term, there must be a diminishing market for coking coal. The position was put very well in a statement in the 'Courier Mail' of 23rd January by the Professor of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering at the Queensland University, Professor R. L. Whitmore. The statement was reported as follows:

He so properly pointed out that steel-making methods might well dispense, in the long term, with the need for huge quantities of coking coal.

The professor made a particularly pertinent remark in his Press report when he said: 'Let's get some of it (the coal) out and get something back for it'.

These remarks were particularly appropriate when regard is had to the fact that the State was able to obtain most lucrative terms and conditions in negotiating such a long-term agreement.

It is probably easy to say and to think that that will not happen. But it is happening. Already changes have been made in the steel making industry. To indicate that changes do take place in the coal industry let us look at our gas coal areas such as Rosewood. We know that many of the mines in that area were closed down because of the change that took place. There were no orders for the gas-making coal and, as a consequence, a lot of those mines have been closed down. The position is this: Not only is the Government of Queensland receiving a royalty and high profits from the utilisation of the railways carrying coal to the coast, so opening up sparsely populated areas, but also the railway lines are being used for the carrying of goods and crops such as grain. This is helping to develop those sparsely populated areas. This is playing a magnificent part in the development of our country. Also these mining projects which are going on in Queensland have a flow-on. The Premier in a statement gave figures to prove that the flow-on benefit from mineral operations to the State's economy was incontestable.

Let us look at the railway revenue from mining. From 1967 to 1968 the revenue from the Mount Isa area was $7,435,209. From Moura it was $5,223,262. From Blackwater for the 1968 calendar year it was about $3im. I turn now to harbour dues at main ports. At Weipa, which of course ships bauxite, the harbour dues increased from $140,509 in 1965-66 to $686,536 in 1967-68. At Gladstone the figure increased from less than $500,000 in 1965-66 to about $750,000 in 1967-68. In Townsville the figure for harbour dues rose to $722,000-odd in 1965-66. Subsequent figures are not available because of other reasons. This will give honourable senators an idea of the flow-on in matters of harbour dues and other things. But what about employment? At Weipa 307 people are working plus 103 contractors. Wages, excluding contractors', amounted to $ 1.66m yearly. Capital expenditure by Comalco is $25.4m. The Government's expenditure of $5. 2m has been mainly on the harbour and port works which enables the Government to maintain control of the port. In Mount Isa, because of mining, the urban population is 16,877. Mine employees number 4,766 with 142 contractors, totalling 4,908. At Moura there are 434 miners above ground and 125 below, making a total of 559. Another development is Utah-Blackwater with 188 people working.

This is the way the situation goes, lt is a fantastic story of development and decentralisation. It is an exciting story of employment and a more exciting story of prosperity for the State. Mining is very important to Queensland. The national development authorities in the Federal sphere estimate that mining exports will be worth $l,000m to this country by 1973. Of this amount $140m will be contributed by the aluminium industry. The aluminium industry is very important to Queensland. By 1980, 25 per cent of the world's aluminium is expected to come from the Australian industry. Six hundred men are employed by Queensland Alumina Ltd at Gladstone, at a plant which processes the bauxite from Weipa. The plant's rated capacity recently was increased by 50 per cent to 900,000 long tons. Some idea of the immensity of the project can be gained from the fact that that expansion meant the addition of 10,000 tons of steel, 32,000 cubic yards of concrete and 45 miles of piping. The Queensland Alumina company has now invested SI 60m in the construction of the Gladstone refinery. The capital investment of $115m for the original plant and $40m for stage 2 represented the greatest infusion of capital into any Queensland industry in such a short space of time.

Senator McAuliffe - You are reading from the Comalco company's annual report.

Senator WOOD - The Comalco project also was fostered by the present CountryLiberal Party Government. Honourable senators will remember that Mr Ernie Evans was Minister for Mines at that time. Because of his farsightedness and his vision, we see this magnificent result.

Senator McAuliffe - Who started Mount lsa?

Senator WOOD - Mount Isa was started many years ago.

Senator McAuliffe - By whom?

Senator WOOD - I am not saying that the present Government started it. It was started long before that Government came to power. But under that Government it has received further encouragement and, as a consequence, it has developed further, until today Mount lsa is a magnificent mine. To be quite fair, 1 should say that when Mount Isa was started the government of the day played an important part in the original development. So the cumulative actions of governments in Queensland over a period of time have developed this area into a mining proposition of which we as Queenslanders can be very proud.

Senator Georges - When were you last in Gladstone?

Senator Young - You mean people such as those in the Gair Government?

Senator WOOD - In the days of the Gair Government.

Senator Georges - Give us some idea of the housing conditions in Gladstone.

Senator WOOD - To give an idea of what this sort of project means to the country, I point out that next year Queensland Alumina Ltd will consume 2 million tons of Weipa bauxite, 150,000 tons of fuel oil from a refinery in Brisbane, 60,000 tons of central Queensland limestone - that is another industry in Queensland - 2,000 tons of central Queensland sorghum flour, 370,000 tons of central Queensland coal and 30 megawatts of electricity. In 1969 this company was expected to contribute more than $13m to the economy for labour and services, exclusive of moneys spent on raw materials sad supplies. In addition, the company was expected to produce alumina for export valued at more than $40m, giving a large boost to the national income of this country. That is a very important point.

Senator Georges - Will you tell us that company's profit now.

Senator WOOD - I know that honourable senators opposite are always talking about foreign money, but this does not mean only that foreign money is coming into the country; it means also many advantages to this country.

Senator Georges - The Attorney-General wants to make a contribution.

Senator WOOD - The Opposition deliberately ignores the fact that money is flowing in as a result of these major mining prospects. Queensland Alumina Ltd is just one example of this. Labour senators concentrate on royalty payments. How many times must we repeat that royalties in mineral development are a minimum factor, a minimum part of the benefit to the State. The State of Queensland and the country as a whole receive from mining much greater benefits than just the royalties.

Senator Georges - How much tax have Comalco and Queensland Alumina paid?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Senator Georges, you will cease interjecting. I have warned you repeatedly and I will not allow continual disobedience of the Chair.

Senator Georges - If I might make my point-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order Senator Georges, you will cease interrupting.

Senator WOOD - I have not much time left because of the fact-

Senator Georges - I rise to a point of order. Mr Deputy President, if you care to look at the Hansard record of last night's proceedings-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Do you have a point of order?

Senator Georges - I am stating my point of order.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- What is your point of order?

Senator Georges - My point of order is that I object to your disciplining of me, especially in view of the fact that last night when 1 was on my feet I was interrupted on a number of occasions and the Senate was not brought to order. I think that in fairness I should be allowed to make the occasional interjection, even if it is to the disadvantage of the person speaking. But if you will look at the Hansard record of last night's debate, Mr Deputy President, you will see that on many occasions I was interrupted and that my line of thought was-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Georges, you will resume your seat. You cannot rise to a point of order for the purpose of making a speech. There is no substance in the point of order.

Senator WOOD - Because my time has been cut in half through interjections, no doubt deliberately, let me just outline some of the important features of these projects. They have been brought into effect by the Country-Liberal Party Government in Queensland and have created employment in quite a number of areas, decentralisation, and so on. Let me give a striking illustration of the advantages of these projects in respect of school students. In Blackwater in 1965 only 35 children were enrolled in the school. In 1972 the number rose to 570 because of the development of this coal field. In 1975 the number of enrolments is expected to be 900, whereas in 1965 it was only 35. If the State of Queensland is supposed to be so badly run, these figures prove rather interesting. Putting the position in short terms, the Queensland Government was the only State government in Australia, to my knowledge, that made a profit on its railway operations.

Senator Georges - Then why is it a claimant State?

Senator WOOD - The State of Victoria has been harassed by the terrific losses that it has suffered. The other States are in a similar position. Yet Queensland has made a profit.

Senator Cotton - I rise to a point of order. Standing order 422 provides that no senator shall interrupt another senator while he is speaking. Senator Georges has been doing it continuously.

Senator Georges - It is a bit late. I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! You have no point of order.

Senator Georges - A point of order has been raised and I wish to speak to that point of order. I am entitled to speak to that point of order. I want to know why the Minister in charge of this Bill did not raise this point of order last night when I was interrupted continually by members of the opposition. I was not given the opportunity to state my case without interruption. So, it is unfair of the Minister at this stage to raise a point of order against me.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - At the present time you are grossly out of order in criticising the Chair.

Senator Jessop - I rise to a point of order. Senator Georges referred to us as the opposition'.

Senator Georges - Well, you are the opposition to us.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I call Senator Wood,

Senator WOOD - Of course, these interruptions are deliberately designed to cut into my time. Last night Senator Georges was weeping tears about New South Wales coal mines closing down. Why did they close down? The reason is that over a period of years the New South Wales Labor Minister for Mines, who had been a miner, was persuaded by the miners to try to prevent open cut mining. What happened as a result? One of these mines was producing 3 tons per man-day. In modern conditions who can operate a mine on 3 tons per man-day? What did the coal miners from a mine which was closed down do recently? They took over the mine unlawfully. What happened? They produced 1 ton per man-day. This is the sort of thing that has been happening. When the Rosewood mines in Queensland closed because they were not receiving orders for gas coal, did the New South Wales mines and miners come to the rescue by sending orders for gas coal? Of course they did not.

Let us have a look at the record of those miners in New South Wales. How many strikes did they have over the 4 or 5 year period? What were the reasons for the strikes? How long did they last? How was production affected? The New South Wales miners are squealing, but they have only themselves to blame. By their strikes, their disturbances and their upsetting of production, they have made it uneconomic for mines to work in those areas. My time has been eaten into by all these interjections. No doubt this was done for a purpose. Today Queensland is on the great road of prosperity because the Country-Liberal Party Government has achieved so much in developing the great mining projects in the wonderful State of Queensland. Last night honourable senators opposite were electioneering in the speeches they made, but they were whistling up their sleeves because on the 27th of this month Queensland will again have a Country-Liberal Party government.

Senator Cotton - It appears to me, Mr Acting Deputy President, that nobody else wishes to speak. I will be happy to sit down if anyone wants to continue the debate.

Suggest corrections