202 Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister, to Sir Earle Page, Minister for Commerce
Following statement is to be made by the Prime Minister, in the
House of Representatives on Thursday 19th May, 1938:-
After exhaustive consideration of the question, the Government has
decided to prohibit the export of iron ore from Australia as from
1st July next, and a proclamation to this effect will be issued
During the year 1936 the question arose as to the extent of iron
ore deposits in Australia suitable for utilisation by the iron and
steel industries. Up to this date there was a general impression
that Australia was so well endowed with iron ore that there was no
cause for anxiety as to the adequacy of future supplies. When the
matter came before it, the Government came to the conclusion that
on the available evidence it would not be justified in taking
action to curtail exports. But, since there appeared to be some
ground for doubt, it decided to have the whole matter investigated
in order that it might possess the fullest possible data before
coming to a final decision.
To clarify the position, the Government instructed the
Commonwealth Geological Adviser to go thoroughly into the matter
and to make a report. In the light of the report which Dr
Woolnough has now made, the Government is satisfied that the
accessible iron ore deposits which are capable of economical
development are so limited as to compel their conservation for
Australian industrial requirements.
Careful consideration has been given to the proposal that licences
should be granted to export limited quantities of iron ore, but
the Commonwealth Government has come to the conclusion that such
action would be inconsistent with the necessity to conserve
Australia's limited iron ore resources.
Although the Government has accepted the advice contained in the
report of the Geological Adviser, it is its intention to proceed,
in collaboration with the technical officers of the States, with a
complete detailed survey of Australia's iron ore resources.
Preliminary steps with this end in view have already been taken,
and will be followed up with the utmost expedition. It is the
sincere hope of the Government that this survey will result in the
appearance of some reassuring features. If so, the Government
would be prepared to reconsider the decision which has been
reached. The advice to the Government at present, however, is of
such a definite character that it is felt that there is no option
but to impose an immediate embargo.
In reaching its decision full cognisance was taken of recent
developments in Australia.
Eighteen months ago, when this matter of iron ore resources first
came to be discussed, no doubt existed as to the adequacy of our
iron ore resources and the Commonwealth Government saw no reason
to place limitations on their exploitation. It has been only as a
result of investigations which have taken place in the past
eighteen months, and which were initiated owing to apprehension
expressed by experts, that doubt increasing into anxiety has
arisen which has resulted in the decision to prohibit exports.
The Government will be prepared to examine and consider equitable
claims for reimbursement of expenditure which has up to this date
actually taken place in connection with development operations
directed towards the exploitation of our iron ore resources for
[AA : A1608, C47/1/4, iii]