17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hob. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I regret to inform honorable members of the death in. Melbourne on Saturday last, the 26th February, of Mr. Herbert James Mockford Payne, a former senator of the Commonwealth Parliament and a farmer Minister La the Government of Tasmania.
The late Mr. Payne was no doubt personally known to many of the present honorable members and honorable senators of this Parliament, having sat continuously in the Senate as a representative of Tasmania from 1919 to 1938, when he retired following his defeat at the general election in 1937. During the period of his service as a senator, he was a member of the Joint Select Committee on Commonwealth Electoral Law and Procedure 1926-27, a member of the Joint Committee on Public Works from July, 1926, to August, 1929, and a Temporary Chairman of Committees from August, 1929, to July, 1933. He represented Australia, as a delegate nominated by the British Parliamentary Group, at the 25th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union at Berlin in August, 3928.
Prior to entering the Commonwealth political sphere, the late Mr. Payne served in the Parliament of Tasmania, having been elected to the House of Assembly for Burnie at the general election in 1903, and for Darwin at the general election in 1909, which seat he held until he resigned in 1919 to stand for the Senate. He was a member of the State Government from June, 1912, to April, 1914, holding the portfolios of Treasurer, Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Railways.
Apart from his work over a long period as an advocate on behalf of Tasmania, exSenator Payne will be remembered for bis special study of the electoral law, and for his introduction, as a private member, of the Commonwealth Electoral Bill of 1924, which made provision for compulsory voting. The. bill became law in that year. He was also noted for his special interest in the progress and development of Australia’s mandated territories, which he visited on a number of occasions. I move -
That thin House records its sincere regret at the death of Mr. Herbert James Mockford Payne, a former senator for the State of Tasmania and member of the House of Assembly and State Minister, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service and tenders its deep sympathy to the widow and members of his family in their bereavement.
– The Opposition desires to be associated with the motion, and with the views expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde). The late Mr. Payne was a good Australian, a good representative of his own State, a loyal supporter of his political views, and a man who, over a very long period, did service to Australia in Parliament. He was a very well known and respected figure in this Parliament when I myself arrived in it in 1934; he was then, of course, a senior senator. From time to time we have occasion in this House to recall the lives and services of former members of Parliament who have died, and I have been repeatedly impressed by the fact that so many Tasmanians who have come to this Parliament had previously given service in the State Parliament of Tasmania. That, Mr. Speaker, I venture to describe as a splendid tradition. The late Senator Payne was a man who was not only in that tradition but also acted vigorously and honestly in order to maintain it.
– The Australian Country party associates itself with the sentiments expressed in the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I have received from the Minister for
Information (Mr. Calwell) a request for permission for an official photographer to photograph the House. I have consented, on the condition that the photographs shall be taken during question time and that both sides of the House shall be photographed.
– Adverting to your earlier intimation, Mr. Speaker, that you had approved of the taking of photographs in the House during question time, I desire to know whether the photographs have been taken; whether they were taken by a photographer of the Department of Information; whether they were taken while the Minister for Information was making a statement; and, if so, whether this was done by prior arrangement? I also ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you consider that honorable members would have approved of the taking of photographs merely to enable the Minister for Information to pose in these surroundings?
– It would show the broadmindedness of the photographer.
– The Minister asked for permission in the proper way. I was assured that the photographs were required for records for the department. In the past, photographs have been taken in this House at extraordinary times and used for the purpose of lampooning members. In order to avoid any repetition of that kind of thing, I insisted upon the photographs being taken while most honorable members were in attendance and I also advised honorable members that photographs would be taken so that they would not be at a disadvantage. I do not know whether the photographs have yet been taken. My time is fully occupied watching the House; I have no time to watch photographers. I do not ‘know whether the Minister for Information was photographed. If I was photographed, I hope that great care was taken with the job.
– I present the third report of the Broadcasting Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
Coal-loading Plant at Carrington -
Call-up of Miners - Cost of Press Campaign.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether or not the coal-loading plant that was built and established at Carrington, Newcastle, has been sold to the Glen Davis shale industry. If so, what was the reason for the sale? Why could not this plant be used at Carrington, Newcastle, for the purpose for which it was established?
– I shall inquire into the matter, and shall furnish a reply later.
– Will the Minister for the Army state why the call-up notices served upon striking coal-miners on the south coast provide for a period of seven days’ grace before they become effective? Is it so that the Government may withdraw the notices if and when the Coal Production (War-time) Bill is passed by Parliament?
– A minimum of seven days is always allowed when call-up notices are issued, and in the case of the coal-miners the usual procedure has been followed.
– I ask the Minister for Information whether he will disclose to the House, before the committee stage of the Coal Production (War-time) Bill is reached, the cost of the “Save more coal campaign” which was conducted recently, even if he has to inscribe it on his latest photograph?
– The latter part of the question is quite out of order.
Mi-. CALWELL.- The information sought by the honorable member will be supplied in conformity with the usual efficiency of my department.
Burial of .Soldiers - Use of Military Initials - New Guinea Mails - Leave - Australian Women’s Army Service - Australian Army Medical Women’s Service
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to either confirm or deny the accuracy of the following paragraph that was published in the newspapers last evening : -
Farmers whose applications for release ot man-power have been refused by the Army were advised to-day by the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to re-apply. Mr. Scully said that in view of the changed war conditions, new applications may succeed.
If that is a correct report of the statement of the honorable gentleman, will he say what conditions which hitherto have operated to prevent the release of army personnel have been so altered as to enable a new application to succeed?
– What I endeavoured to convey was, that farmers, dairy-farmers especially, whose applications for the release of personnel from the Army had been refused, might succeed in obtaining the release of other personnel who fall within the categories from which releases may be made. I take a serious view of the position of the dairy-farmers throughout Australia, and have sought to impress on them the need to make application for the labour that is essential to maintain production.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen a copy of the Brisbane Courier-Mail, of the 25th February, in which was published a photograph of the grave of a member of the Australian
Imperial Force with the letters “ A.M.F.” on the cross over the grave, the picture being surmounted by the caption “ Security Crosses “? In view of the fact that the Minister for the Army said last week that the letters _ “ A.M.F.” on crosses were used only in certain parts of New Guinea for security purposes, can he say how it happens that they are used so generally in various parts of Australia, and who was responsible for issuing the instruction ?
– This matter was raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). I have not seen the photograph referred to, and do not know whether it is a recent one. I shall be glad if the honorable member will show me a copy of it. As I said in reply to a previous question, no instruction was issued by me or by the Government for the removal of the letters “ A.I.F.” from any headstone or cross. About ten days ago, I issued an order that the letters “A.I.F.” were to be placed on crosses over the graves of members of the Australian Imperial Force. If the letters “ A.I.F.” have been removed from crosses in any cemetery in Australia, I should say that the instruction of the military authorities, that such action was to be taken only in forward operational areas, must have been misunderstood. I shall obtain an explanation of what has occurred, and the honorable member will be advised later regarding the matter.
– I have just received from a correspondent in New Guinea a letter asking when members of the Royal Australian Air Farce would receive their mail, as they had not had any letters for ages. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to take the necessary steps to ensure that all mail for personnel in New Guinea is delivered as expeditiously as possible.
– I am most happy to give the assurance that I shall ask the Postmaster-General to do as the honorable member has asked. Indeed, every honorable member will agree with the purpose of the question. However, there are difficulties in the way, and we cannot assume that any blame for these delays attaches to any officers. Whilst some delays are unavoidable, every effort will be made to . ensure that mail from Australia to the services in New Guinea shall be delivered as expeditiously as possible.
– Some time ago the Minister for the Army stated that where possible men who had served for twelve months in New Guinea would be granted leave. “Will the Minister take action to see that members of units who have been without leave for 21 months shall be granted leave? I refer to such units as one heavy anti-aircraft battery.
– I am in close touch with the Commander-in-Chief regarding this matter, and he has taken all possible steps to expedite the granting of leave to men serving in New Guinea. For security reasons, I cannot divulge publicly the movements which are taking place, but the representations of the honorable member will receive consideration. The Government desires that men who are doing such a magnificent job in New Guinea shall be given leave at intervals not exceeding twelve months. Preference is given to personnel who have been in action. Some places in New Guinea are now considered to be base head-quarters, and the men serving in those areas are, because of transport difficulties, expected to serve a longer time in New Guinea than members of the fighting divisions. After having completed a few months’ service, they are given a spell because of the heavy nature of the work in which they have been engaged. I assure the honorable member that the Government has the fullest sympathy with his representations.
– It has been represented to me by and on behalf of certain members of the Australian Women’s Army Service that they were led to believe by an authoritative broadcast that those who had homes in the city would be permitted to live there. A camp for the Australian Women’s Army Service has now been established at Royal Park. Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether a broadcast was made authoritatively on behalf of the Army that these women, who are now ordered into camp, would be permitted to live at home? I refer particularly to the wives of soldiers and airmen variously employed in the different services.
– Inquiries will be made, and the representations of the honorable member will receive the fullest consideration.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether an undertaking has been given to retransfer certain female physiotherapists, biochemists and pathologists, transferred from the Australian Army Medical Corps to the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service? If so, when will the transfers be made and how will the matter of pay be adjusted?
– Before the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service was formed, these personnel who, not being members of the nursing profession, could not be included as members of the Australian Army Nursing Service, were regarded as members of the Australian Army Medical Corps. On the formation of the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service, they were transferred to that section and were paid at the same rate as applies to the nursing service and to officers of the Australian Women’s Army Service. It is not proposed to vary the decision that has already been made.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Snipping say what progress has been made in regard- to the proposal to establish the aluminium industry in Tasmania? Is sufficient data how available to enable experts to form a firm opinion on the suitability of Tasmanian bauxite, and will it be desirable to use some bauxite from mainland deposits?
– Negotiations are at present being conducted with the Government of Tasmania on this subject. I am unable to inform the honorable member what conclusion has been reached regarding the suitability or otherwise of Tasmanian bauxite. It has not yet been decided where the raw material is to be obtained, but the smelting is to take place in Tasmania. The present plan is for the Government of Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government to operate the industry jointly.
– In view of the grave public apprehension regarding the use of all forms of censorship, will the Deputy Prime Minister give consideration to the appointment of a justice of the High Court as a royal commissioner, the terms of reference to include an inquiry into, and recommendations upon (a) the methods under which censorship in all its forms has been, is being, and should be conducted in Australia; (&) the disclosure to other persons, official and otherwise, and the use which has been made, of information abstracted from censored mail matter and tapped telephone conversations, otherwise than for valid security reasons ; (c) the personal records, character, and qualifications of personnel employed in the various branches of the Commonwealth censorship service?
– This matter was raised in Parliament last week.
– Not this particular matter.
– The Prime Minister made certain statements, and certain undertakings were given with his authority. There has not yet been an opportunity for consultation between the Prime Minister and the other persons concerned on the proposal to appoint a committee to consider the privileges of the House. The Prime Minister had hoped to confer on the matter this morning, but, unfortunately, he was unable to attend the meeting. As a matter of fact, the communications censorship, objection to which is being taken, was established by a previous government.
-The Minister may not debate the question.
– What about answering my question?
– The Government will carry out the undertaking given on its behalf last week.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he will be good enough to answer the question I asked him earlier? He seemed to misunderstand it and to assume that it referred to the debate on censorship in this House last week. It has nothing to do with that at all.
– The Government will carry out the undertaking given last Friday.
– Will the honorable gentleman answer my question? All Australia wants to know.
– No new evidence has been adduced to justify the appointment of a royal commission. The censorship to-day is being carried on in the same way as during the regimes of the Menzies and Fadden Governments, which were supported by the honorable member for New England.
Acquisition of Land
– Will the Minister for Air take steps to defer the proposed acquisition of land at Bradfield Park for aviation purposes until he has satisfied himself that justice is being done to the owners of the land?
– I do not know the circumstances of the proposed acquisition, but I shall have inquiries made, and shall see that no injustice is done.
– Can the Deputy Prime Minister say whether there are yet any signs of life in the Sphinx? If not, will he consult the pyramid in order to find out what the future holds for the Advisory War Council in respect of vacancies thereon?
– I have nothing to report.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government has yet decided what the future sittings of this House shall be?
– The House will meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays until the completion of the sessional period.
– hy leave - The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) last week asked me certain questions based on a newspaper report which alleged that, at an exhibition of photographs at present being held in London, there were none of Australian soldiers serving in the New Guinea area, and that, generally, the officers of the Department of Information in London had failed to take advantage of an excellent opportunity to tell the story of the heroic achievements of Australia’s fighting forces. In a press statement published this week I disclosed the steps that have been taken by the Department of Information in London to display Australian photographs considerably in advance of what has been suggested in cabled messages from London and said that, far from it being correct that publicity has not been given to the efforts of Australian soldiers in New Guinea, the truth was that a full display” of Australian Department of Information pictures of New Guinea land fighting attracted splendid attendances in the very same hall in London three months ago, and was now touring the English provinces. Further, two other large and four small Australian photographic exhibitions are being prepared to tour Britain during the English summer months. An agency which withheld these facts to make out a poor case against its own government is being both vexatious and irresponsible. Our representative in London, Captain Smart, in commenting on the criticism says that the Pacific War Exhibition, which is located at Charing Cross Station, illustrates effectively by photographs and charts the importance of the Pacific war and of Australia as the main offensive base of the South-West Pacific.
It is true that our publicity efforts in Great Britain generally have not, to date, been so adequate as we desire, because the whole work has fallen upon the shoulders of one very good officer assisted by one typist. That position is being corrected. The Treasurer, a month or more ago, agreed to a considerable increase of our vote for expenditure on our London Office, and I give an assurance that we shall soon be doing as satisfactory a publicity job in London as we are doing in New York, where impartial observers agree that, in proportion to its size, the Australian News and Information Bureau is one of the most effective units of its kind in the United States. In addition to carrying into effect and elaborating upon plans prepared by my predecessor, Senator Ashley, the department is busy on several new publicity projects. As a result, I am convinced that the job which Australia has done and is doing will soon be much better known and more fully appreciated by the people of Great Britain. With the co-operation of Mr. Speaker (Mr. Rosevear) and his colleagues on the National Library Committee, steps have been taken for the immediate establishment in London of an Australian Library of Information, in association with the new information bureau to be controlled by the former editor of the department, Mr. C. C. Dawson. Mr. L. C. Key has been lent for the purpose, and he will be in charge of the library for twelve months during the initial stages. The selection of books is in capable hands, and this library will be a most valuable addition to the Commonwealth’s activities in London. In collaboration with the British Ministry of Information, a wellinformed Australian lecturer will be sent from Australia to tour England, lecturing exclusively on Australian subjects. A six months’ tour of this kind, made by Dr. Lloyd Ross last year, carried the story of the Australian war effort to several hundred centres in Britain. Many warm encomiums were paid to Dr. Ross for his splendid effort. To-day we have an even better story to tell.
The basis of re-organization of the Department of Information has been the centralization of its policy direction, and as many of its activities as possible at the seat of government. Expansion of the Canberra Secretariat has enabled the department to develop its external services in close association with the Department of External Affairs and other departments which control Australian interests abroad. Plans are being developed to extend these services with a view to conveying to the world outside Australia a proper conception, of not only the Australian war effort, but also the potentialities of the Commonwealth in the post-war world, and in international affairs generally. Our aim is to ensure that the story pf what Australian sailors, soldiers and airmen are doing in the South-West
Pacific Area in New Guinea shall be much better publicised abroad than at any earlier stage of the war. To achieve this a field unit has been established in New Guinea, enabling some former bottlenecks on the distribution of news photographs to be removed. We hope to be able at an early date to commence a series of regular Department of Information features on the newsreels. We are endeavouring to establish a weekly service of this kind. In conjunction with the Department of the Army, the department is engaged on the production of a series of brochures which will place on permanent record the magnificent deeds of the Australian forces in different battle areas. The first of these brochures is now available to the public, and each honorable member has already received a copy. These brochures should help considerably to make us all accept, without grumbling, the petty restrictions on living conditions that war-time necessity imposes. Special attention has been given to the needs of the troops in remote areas. More news from home of the kind that our absent soldiers want to read is being made available in Home News, a weekly broadsheet produced by the department for men of the fighting forces in Australia and overseas. A close liaison is maintained with the Army Public Relations Section and with its Air Force equivalent in order that Australia’s servicemen and women may secure whatever advantages the department can give them.
I shall be grateful for any suggestions which honorable members may care to make for the carrying out of the department’s highly important work. Representations have been made to me by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) in regard to the supply of literature to Australian troops in Great Britain, and we are examining another suggestion made by him for the provision through the International Red Cross Society of suitable literature for distribution to Australians who are prisoners of war in enemy countries. Our first steps in re-organizing the department have been to ensure the elimination of all wasteful effort and the good and effective direction of every activity sponsored by the department.
– A number of members of the Volunteer Defence Corps will go into camp at Easter. They spend a great deal of their time during the year on training and other voluntary work. Previously their camps have been of six days’ duration, but on this occasion the camps will last only five days, and the men will not be paid, although they will be taken from their civil avocations to go into camp. Will the Minister for the Army consider some alteration of the financial arrangements to ensure that these men, all of whom are returned soldiers from the last war, shall be paid while attending camp?
– Yes. I have the greatest admiration for the splendid service given by the Volunteer Defence Corps. I shall tell the honorable member as soon as possible whether we can meet his request that the members be paid for attending camp.
– On the 23rd February, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked me a question, without notice, concerning the production of power alcohol from wheat in Victoria. The factory in question is expected to be completed and in production at full capacity in about three months. Special provision is not needed to ensure the availability of wheat for production of power alcohol since supplies of wheat are adequate.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether it is a fact, as reported in the Daily Telegraph to-day, that, in order to overcome shortages of labour on dairy farms, his department is planning the establishment of more machinery pools? Will the Minister indicate the nature of these pools, where it is proposed to establish them and whether they will operate in Queensland, particularly in the electorate of Darling Downs?
– The scheme will operate in the dairying districts throughout Australia; but in order that I may give to the right honorable member a more detailed reply, I ask him to place his question on the notice,paper
– I direct the attention of the Minister for External Affairs to the fact that the debate on the Australian-New Zealand Agreement 1944 is No. 8 on the notice-paper, and I also remind him that there appears to have been some discussion of this matter outside of Parliament. Will the right honorable gentleman assure me that as soon as is reasonably possible - I recognize that one or two bills must be disposed of - this House will have an opportunity to discuss this agreement?
– This House will certainly have that opportunity. No one knows better than does the right honorable gentleman that because of other more urgent business, it has not been possible to allot this item a higher place on the notice-paper ; hut I want the House fully to debate the agreement.
– Does the Department of War Organization of Industry exercise any control over the “ zoning “ of medical practitioners ? Is it a fact that a big percentage of doctors are practising in the city of Sydney? Is the Minister aware that because suburban doctors are overworked, many people taken ser:cusly ill at night are unable to obtain medical attention? Will the Minister examine this position?
– The Department of War Organization of Industry has exercised no control whatever over the services of medical practitioners in Australia. I understand that the utilization of the services of doctors is controlled by the Minister for Health. I shall refer the honorable member’s question to my colleague, and ask him to furnish a reply as early as possible.
– Has the Minister for War Organization of Industry seen a statement in the press that 250,000 cheap reprints of English books are being printed in Australia on paper obtained under the lend-lease agreement? As these “thrillers” are reprints and are not new works, will the Minister inform me what arrangements are being made to publish more than 100 new Australian novels already accepted by the publishers? The printing of those works has been delayed pending the arrival of supplies of paper. Is the Minister aware that almost every Australian book from Lawson to Lower, including some of our classics, is now out of print?
– I am aware of the very acute shortage of paper for the printing of books generally. I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member, but permission may have been granted by the Department of Trade and Customs for the use of paper for that purpose. My department has interested itself in the production of books - particularly educational text-books and books of a cultural nature - and a Book Sponsorship Committee has been appointed within the department to ensure that the very limited supplies of paper available shall be utilized to the best advantage. I shall collaborate with the Minister for Trade and Customs in examining the subject. The honorable member may rest assured that we shall do our utmost to make paper available for the printing of Australian novels.
– I ask the Minister to ascertain whether economy in both size and quality of paper can be exercised in the publication of parliamentary papers, departmental documents and the like. The publications by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and also the issue of Digest of Decisions and Announcements would seem to offer prospects of reductions.
– The representations of the honorable member will be considered.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen a press statement to the effect that the proprietors of certain residential have been victimizing their tenants? Will the right honorable gentleman confer with the Minister administering the Prices Regulations in order to ensure that appropriate steps will be taken to protect the interests of these people ?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs on the subject, and reply to the honorable member’s question later.
– I bring to the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture an article on the wheat industry under the heading “ Wheat for all Demands”, which appeared in last night’s issue of the Melbourne Herald. In view of the optimistic nature of the analysis of the industry in that article, and of the fact that it is not authenticated in any way or attributed to any responsible authority, I ask the Minister whether, if he agrees with my view that it is over optimistic, he will have a careful analysis of the industry prepared by the Australian Wheat Board setting out stocks on hand, quantities sold, and quantities available for sale in Australia, so that accurate information may be available on the subject?
– I shall have a full statement prepared, as desired by the honorable member, and present it to the House.
– Is the Attorney-General yet in a position to reply to the strong protests of returned soldier organizations in Queensland concerning the conditions of employment of certain Italian internees who, it has been stated, have been selected for positions before members of the fighting forces have even had an opportunity to be considered? Returned servicemen have been much perturbed by the matter which was raised in the House a few days ago by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann).
– On the motion for the adjournment on the 23rd February, the day on which this matter was raised, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said that the terms and conditions of employment of such persons were now being examined with the object of arriving at a just decision. Honorable members will realize that when numbers of persons are engaged in the same occupation, discrimination has to be exercised very carefully. I shall reply to the question as soon as the report on the subject is received.
Station foe Broken Hill.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General bring to the notice of his colleague the desirability of proceeding as quickly as possible with the construction of the proposed broadcasting station at Broken Hill so that the people of that city, and in the areas outback from it, and particularly the troops there, may be able to get a more satisfactory broadcasting service?
– I shall be pleased to submit the honorable member’s representations to the Postmaster-General. Shortages of material and man-power are making it difficult for the department to complete the chain of national stations which it is intended to provide. The stations are being constructed one by one. Quite recently a new national station was opened in the Newcastle area.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker: Who is responsible for the note-paper of shockingly bad quality which honorable members are receiving? May I be permitted to say that the notepaper used by Ministers, particularly by the Minister for the Army, is of excellent quality? Whilst I have no objection to Ministers having the best, I do not consider that common members should have nearly the worst.
– I do not know who is responsible for the ordering of supplies, but I shall call for a report and shall advise the honorable member later.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether or not the Government has before it a proposal to permit an increased production of beer in Australia? If it has, can the honorable gentleman state where it is proposed that the necessary man-power shall be obtained?
– I am happy to say that the matter of beer supplies comes not within my jurisdiction, but within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Customs, to whose notice I shall bring the question and from whom I shall obtain a reply for the honorable member as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether or not, in view of the present abnormally low prices, fixed by the Prices Commissioner, for oats for grain in Australia, his department intends to encourage its production, which has been greatly reduced within recent years?
Mr.SCULLY. - The Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and the Government generally, regard oats as a basic fodder ; consequently, they are most anxious that as much as possible shall be grown throughout the Commonwealth. The matters of price and the organization of the crop will be discussed at the next meeting of the Production Executive.
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the Committee has duly reported to the House the result of its investigations, namely, “ Additions to the Government Offices known as ‘West Block’, Canberra”.
Debate resumed from the 23rd February (vide page 445), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is cited as the Coal Production (War-time) Bill of 1944. I do not propose to address myself to every portion of it in the course of a second-reading speech. Rather, shall I seek to make some observations that will have general application to it. It is a very hastily prepared bill, which in more than one place shows signs of hurried drafting. The second preliminary comment that I make on it is that it is evasive of the real problem of coal production. That problem has long since become in this country a problem of discipline, and I do not see in this bill very much that can be relied upon, at any rate, to produce more discipline in the business of coal production; unless, of course, the Government has reached the point at which it says, “We have all the powers, but we cannot usefully put them into execution; we shall therefore delegate them - all of them - to one man, who will be called the Coal Commissioner, in the hope that he will exercise the powers that we have failed to exercise in the past “. That is not a very strong position for a government to be in when it produces a bill of this kind. I remind honorable members that as long ago as October of last year the coal-miners addressed a series of proposals to the Government, and, in reply, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), on Monday, the 11th October, produced a statement of the Government’s views. One of the proposals read in this way -
Nationalize the industry, or take such government control of industry as a whole as to direct all Coal Commissioners -
to take individual mines from owners not playing the game or refusing to co-operate;
remove such managers as will not co-operate.
That is the proposal that was made by the employees. The views of the Government, expressed by the Prime Minister, were these -
This is a matter of Government policy. One pertinent comment is that under the National Security Act the Government has full power to get from the owners all the coal it requires, and to put it to what uses it requires. To pay a large sum in compensation to the owners for their mines to achieve the same result would merely add to the already colossal war budget.
So that the position, as the Government stated it, in October of last year, was that it had full power - as, indeed it has had for some time - to get from the owners all the coal it requires and to put it to what uses it requires. Now what has happened since last October? What has happened in the last twelve months, in the last two years, to make this problem of coal production so acute that the Prime Minister, in his place the other day, should refer to it as being possibly our greatest war problem of 1944? It is not uncommon to hear it said that coal production has, at one time or another, reached a record level. No doubt it has. But that is not the point. Production of all kinds in Australia has from time to time reached a record level. The real question, and the Prime Minister answered it by his own statement, is : Has coal production reached the level that it should be at if the war industries and the general industries of Australia are to be faithfully served? The answer of the Government to that is “ No “. It is because the Government agrees that coal production is deficient that it has brought down this bill. I beg every member of the House, every citizen of Australia, to fasten his mind on that fact. This bill is based on the proposition that coal production in Australia is inadequate. Well, what are the causes of this inadequate production? I know that my friend, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), was blamed for the loss of a few tons because he went down a mine and made a statement afterwards. But what are the real causes ? The Prime Minister has said ‘on at least one occasion and, I think, on more than one, that these deficiencies of production are not to be laid at the doors of the coalowners. I do not come to this problem with any illusions about coal-owners. I have had some contact with the industry from time to time in recent years, and the last thing I would say is that the owners were always right; but the Prime Minister himself has agreed that, during this most recent period, the owners have faithfully observed every award and order made. Therefore, the cessation of work is not due to some default on their part, but to this extraordinary feeling of irresponsibility that runs through a certain section of those employed in the coal-mining industry. I say a certain section, because nothing would be more foolish than to allege that the average coal-miner is a curiously indifferent or unpatriotic man. I do not believe that he is, but in the coal-mining industry, and in the ranks of the unionists employed in the industry, there are men whose indifference to the well-being of this country amounts to treason to this country. It is also true, unfortunately, that they have obtained for themselves positions of such influence that they are able to dragoon better men than themselves into walking out of the mines.
– If the right honorable member believes that, he should be able to identify the persons concerned.
– That is a novel proposition. I see something going on in an industry which could not continue unless there is either the grossest stupidity or the grossest disregard of the welfare of Australia, and now the honorable member says : “ Give the persons responsible a name.” I cannot do so, but I have no doubt that they exist, and the honorable member for Batman knows it, too.
It is commonly said by those who seek to explain away this grievous state of affairs in the coal industry that it is a peculiar industry. Well, it is. I agree. They tell us that those engaged in it exhibit this oddity of behaviour, not only in Australia, but also in the United States of America and in Great Britain. In short, not only is there “ something about a sergeant “, but there is also something about a coal-miner which marks him out from the rest of mankind. The coalminers have been told this so persistently during the last two years that many of them are taking full advantage of it. They say : “ We are not to be treated as ordinary people. It is all very well for other unions and other unionists to come under the necessary discipline of war, but it has no application to us. We are odd people, and, therefore, no ordinary rule can apply to us.”
I admit that there is no other industry so full of ancient rules and ancient prejudices as is the coal-mining industry, but it is a little difficult to escape from the fact that in Great Britain, where there are 700,000 miners, the total amount > of coal lost during the twelve months ended October, 1943, was 750,000 tons, or just about 1 ton of coal per man per annum ; whereas in Australia - or rather in New South Wales, where, although there are the finest coal measures, there are also ‘ the most disputes - with about 17,000 people employed, the total loss of coal for 1943 was 1,294,000 tons, or approximately 75 tons per man. We cannot escape from this disgraceful record by saying that difficulties are experienced in the coal-mining industry in other countries.
Then it is said, as it has been said sometimes by that zealous representative of the coal-miners the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), that the coal-miners smart under a sense of injustice. Under what injustices do they suffer? I can say with complete confidence that of all industries in Australia the coal-mining industry, so far as its employees are concerned, has had the most favorable treatment during the last five years. Wages have been increased and the number of working hours . reduced, until to-day, having regard to the amount of skill involved, the coal-miner is the highest paid, worker in the country.
– When were the number of working hours reduced?
– The honorable member knows that they were reduced to 40 hours for a week of five days, as I remember quite well. The honorable member also knows that tha time actually spent at the face must necessarily be much shorter taking into account the time spent in travelling. There have also been substantial wage increases, and annual leave with pay has been introduced for the first time. The honorable member knows that, time after time, concessions have been granted, culminating in the institution of a pensions system in New South Wales under which every miner at the age of 60 becomes entitled to a pension of £3 5s. a week for himself and his wife. In every direction preferential rules have been prescribed for this extraordinarily highly paid work. The honorable member has told us from time to time that the industry is still a very special one because of the dangerous nature of the work, although it has never been shown that the work is more dangerous than in a score of overground heavy industries. The honorable mem ber also claims that the work has an injurious effect on the health of the miners because of the conditions of employment. If that were true it would justify, not strikes, but a ruthless overhaul of conditions, because no industry should be allowed to destroy its workers. However, what are the facts? Only recently, the Parliament of New South Wales passed legislation setting up a miners’ pension scheme, and it is interesting to note the age groups of the men who are drawing pensions under the scheme. Let it be remembered that there are roughly 17,000 men employed in the coal industry in New South Wales. In the age group between 64 and 73, 2,197 miners have gone on to a pension; in the group from 74 to 83 years, 769 men have gone on to the pension; whilst in the group from 84 to 93 years, 57 men have gone on to the pension. In other words, approximately 3,000 men have gone on to the pension at ages ranging from 64 to 93.
– Are those miners working or on pension?
– These are miners or ex-miners still living and able under the scheme to draw their pension. I am sure that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) would consider that those statistics are not a bad testimony to the longevity of the persons engaged in this industry. I should not mind having some good guarantee that I should fall into any one of those groups. It seems to me that the figures are a rather dramatic answer to the claims that this is the industry which, of all industries, is destroying men or shortening their lives.
– Are the men in those groups underground or surface workers?
– All come within the terms of the miners’ pensions scheme.
– Surface workers as well as underground workers qualify for the pension.
– I am not discussing who qualify for the pension. They are men within the terms of the pension scheme and their work was thought by the Parliament of New South Wales to be so odd as to justify a special old-age pension of £3 5s. for a man and his wife. The only other figure that I should like to give the House is this: In New South
Wales - and I repeat the New South Wales coal mines havebeen the whole focus of this trouble - the coal output per man per day according to figures published in the NewSouth Wales YearBook, has fallen from 3.51 tons in 1938 to 3.21 tons in 1942, although in that time there has been, as all honorable members know, a substantial increase of mechanical filling and cutting of coal. But, in spite of extra mechanical assistance, which should, of course, have produced an increased figure, you have that significant fall from 3.51 tons to 3.21 tons per man per day in the course of four years. That, broadly, is the state of affairs in which this bill is produced. We have month after month, indeed, almost year after year, been listening to the Government making one announcement and then another. As I said the other day, the Government has announced new penalties and then announced that they are not worth enforcing, and announced new regulations and then explained that regulations will not get coal. It has recently announced a call-up of men. What it will announce in relation to that matter next week I do not undertake to say. Its whole course in relation to the coal-mining industry has been one of appeasement in its most miserable sense. Now it produces this bill. By producing this bill, and by the structure of this bill, the Government confesses its failure, because it says, “ Although we have all the power, we are not going to use it ; we are going to ask a coal commissioner to exercise it”. The Prime Minister said, with a shrug, the other day that this was not “ passing the buck “. If it is not “ passing the buck “, it is some other thing with exactly the same effect. If it is not “passing the buck “, it is merely securing an alibi in this extremely unpleasant piece of work. There is to be a coal commissioner, and everything is to be handed to him. “ Will you nationalize the mines % “, say the miners, because that has been the agitation for so long a time. “ Oh, no !” is the reply. “ We will just put them under the control of a coal commissioner. To take them over might involve vast sums of money, so we shall let the coal commissioner run them, take all the responsibility of management, make the people in the industry his servants, fix the level of profit to be made out of the mines, and do all sorts of things calculated to make this one man supreme.” - If speculation is true Mr. Mighell is contemplated for the position and he is a man for whom I have the highest regard.
– I have the greatest respect for Mr. Mighell, but one man with no more power behind him than this Government now has is to be given this unruly baby to carry. The Government says, “ We have not been able to do anything about it. We have tried everything. We have altered its feeding and attended to its clothing “ - I do not want to trespass into affairs of which the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) knows more than I do - “ so, Mr. Mighell, will you please take this wretched child off our hands and use all our powers ?”
– Will the Government not be responsible for what he does?
– The Government will be responsible for nothing so long as it has a docile majority in this House. That is what the Government knows. It knows that whatever mess it may make of this or any other industry the honorable member for Griffith will still vote for it cheerfully when it comes to a division.
– Certainly. What am here for?
– I am indebted to the honorable gentleman, because, to be frank, his presence here has always been a mystery to me. This is the first time it has been explained. Apart from the setting up of one man to be in control of the coal-mining industry, what are the two outstanding features of this bill ? The first is that whatever penalty is imposed in relation to this industry is, in fact, imposed upon the owner of the mine who, by admission, is not the person responsible for the state of affairs that brings this bill to light. Let me explain to honorable members what I mean by that. If they look at this bill, they will find in clause 21 that the commissioner is given power to take control of coal mines. It says - “ Where in the opinion of the commissioner it is desirable . . . that with a view of maintaining or increasing the production of coal from any coal mine, the coal mine should be operated under the control of the commissioner . . . and so on. The commissioner makes an order and takes over the control of the coal mine. Then in clause 23, to which I direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral, this is said -
Where the amount of the profits derived from the operation of a controlled mine is ascertained … to exceed for any period while the order is in operation the average amount of the profits derived from the operation of a mine for a corresponding period within the period of one year immediately preceding . . .
When that happens, unless the commissioner otherwise directs, the amount of excess profit is paid into a special fund. Before I go further, let me convert into plain words what that means. It means that if next month the coal commissioner takes over a mine and controls it and the profit derived from that mine is, say, £10,000 and you look back to April last year and find that the profit in that month was £5,000-
– Owing to strikes.
– Yes. I shall come to that. Then, prima facie, unless the commissioner otherwise directs - purely a matter for his discretion - the £5,000 in excess goes, not to the company, but into this special fund. What happens to the special fund? I shall have occasion to say a little more about it later, but the special fund is to be used “ for the advancement of the coal-mining industry “ - whatever that may mean - “ including “ - and this is the kernel - “social welfare schemes for employees in the industry”. In other words, directly or indirectly, the employees will get the benefit of what is declared to be an excess profit. Let us see how this so-called excess profit might arise. It might arise in one of two ways. In the first place the earning of a profit of only £5,000 in the April of last year may have been due to strikes or other stoppages with which the Government was powerless or unwilling to deal. If this bill becomes law, and Mr. Mighell exercises the power of discipline with more courage and consistency than the Government has, stoppages will not occur. And because there will be no stoppages, production will be greater and profits will increase. That will not be the responsibility of the owner, who would have been delighted to have had full production in the April of last year. The inactivity of the Government prevented him from getting full production. Yet when he gets it in the April of this year, the Government will say to him, “ The benefit of that, my friend, is not for you, but for the coal-miners “ - the men who created the stoppage that reduced the profit on the working of the mine twelve months before.
– There could be another explanation.
– I do not desire to goad honorable members opposite by references to profits. I know their views on profits, at least when profits are made by other people.
I come to the second possible explanation for a sudden increase of profits that shall be deemed to be excess. In the April of last year, a company might have been prevented by the policy of the trade unions from installing machinery. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) knows perfectly well that, by and large, there has been a tradition on the part of the men for whom he speaks against the mechanization of mines. Twelve months ago an owner might have had plant ready for installation, but he might have been prevented from installing h. In April of this year, the commissioner, who has power to direct the installation of plant, may say to him, “Install it”, and the result of the mechanization will be greater production and a greater net earning. But the difference will be taken from the owner, whose asset is being used, and paid into a fund for the benefit of the very people whose default- has created these difficulties. That is an almost Gilbertian position. That is one penalty which will be imposed upon the party who cannot honestly be blamed and who has not been blamed for the situation.
– And who has been complimented by the Prime Minister !
– Yes. Whatever I say about clause 27, I say with great diffidence because, frankly, I find it almost impossible to understand the clause. It provides that it shall be a condition of employment of persons by the commissioner in a controlled mine that any one who wilfully disobeys an order or fails to attend for work shall, subject to any order of the commissioner, incur loss of pay in accordance with the scale contained in the schedule. Loss of pay!
– Is that the only loss?
– I do not know what “ loss of pay “ means and I invite the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to give his attention to it.
– I refer the Leader of the Opposition to the schedule to the bill.
– The schedule does not control the interpretation of this clause. The schedule uses another expression, namely, “ Scale of loss or reduction of pay “. “ Loss of pay “ is a most curious expression. I could understand it being said : “ You have done no work; therefore you shall not have any pay”, or “Your employer has lost your work, therefore you shall lose your pay “. But if this means, in plain English, that the man is to be fined the amount set out in the schedule and the amount of that fine is to be deducted from pay otherwise coming to him - that is the best meaning which can be given against me - I have two comments to make on it. In the first place, is the Attorney-General satisfied that he can give a discretionary power to the Coal Commissioner to fine a man for a breach of the industrial law? He knows the kind of thing that I have in mind when I make that comment, and no doubt he will consider it. In the second place, if there is a power to authorize the commissioner to impose a fine on a man for deliberate disobedience of orders or for deliberately striking against his job, I ask the honorable member to enlighten me as to why the amount of loss or the amount of reduction of pay incurred shall be paid to the credit of the social welfare account. Through this indirect channel, the amount will be paid back to the men who have gone on strike.
– “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
– No, robbing Peter to pay Peter.
– If our late friend, Lewis Carroll, were still alive, we would undoubtedly find him on the drafting staff that attended to this bill. The Prime Minister declared : “ There shall be discipline in this industry. There shall be no more stoppages. We shall set up a man, much stronger than any of us, who will produce discipline in the industry. When he fines you, my word, you will have to pay! But you will get it back next week in the form of a contribution to a social welfare scheme for the employees in the industry.” I ask: “ When is a penalty not a penalty ? “. And the answer is, “ When it is in the Curtin Government’s Coal Production (War-time) Bill “. This ought to become a f avorite “ quiz “.
Before I leave that part of the bill, I should like to add an observation. I said at the beginning that this was a hastily got-up bill, and I am perfectly certain that it is. I have a great respect for the skill of the Parliamentary Draftsman, but I think that he never did a more hasty job in his life than this one. I shall give one highly amusing illustration of that. If honorable members will refer to clause 13, they will see the conditions under which the commissioner shall vacate his office. I do not’ wish unduly to disturb my friend, the prospective commissioner, but I point out that he will be deemed to have vacated his office if he “becomes in any way, otherwise than as commissioner, concerned or interested in any contract ot agreement entered into by him “.
– Any contract ?
– Yes. It need not be a contract about coal, you know. I warn the commissioner that if he enters into a contract for the leasing of a flat or even for the purchase of a mangle, he will be “ gone “. Of course, I realize that that is not intended.
– The Leader of the Opposition knows that this is a committee bill.
– All right. That is very good. I am thankful that it is a committee bill, because it has all these earmarks upon it of something done desperately and urgently in order to escape a difficult problem. I was talking to-day to a sporting friend of mine. I cannot profess to be as familiar as I ought to be with the technique of the race-course, but we came to the conclusion that this horse had a rather curious breeding and that it ought to be called : “ Last Refuge “ by “ Procrastination “ out of “Failure”. Perhaps that summarizes the matter as well as it can be summarized.
Part V. of the bill deals with another problem. I do not propose to say much about it except that it admits of one major criticism which I shall make at this stage; other criticisms may be made in committee. Having, in the earlier part of the bill, provided that there shall be a coal commissioner, and having given to him very wide powers in- relation to the production, treatment, handling, supply, distribution, storage and marketing of coal, the Government now provides that the Minister may appoint a person to be the Central Industrial Authority. That authority is to be given every conceivable power to deal with disputes in this industry. He is to be given powers which, in relation to industrial disputes generally, are exercised by the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. He becomes, either directly or on appeal, the dictator in this industry. Once again we have no difficulty in guessing who he will be. I do not suppose that it will be denied that the Central Industrial Authority will be Mr. A. C. “Willis.
– And he will have wider powers than the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, because there will be no appeal against his decision.
– The honorable member for Fawkner is quite right, because, in certain respects, the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court is subject to control of the Full Arbitration Court. In this case Mr. Willis will reign supreme. I suppose that he has been accused of many things in his time, but he would, be very upset if any coal-miner accused him of impartiality. “ Why “, he would say, “ the whole of my life is an answer to that dreadful charge. Have I not, all my life, been the champion, die advocate, the representative of the coal-miner? Do you think that I am going to turn dog on you now? Don’t be silly. Impartiality? Good gracious. What does that mean? I am not impartial. In fact, I am described as the Central Industrial Authority. I do not see anything in the bill about being impartial”. Of course he will not be impartial, and no honorable member believes that he will be impartial. In his circumstances he cannot be so.
Apart from the one-eyed appointment to this tribunal, the principle behind this measure is different from that applicable to all the other great industries of this country which, also, are involved in the conduct of the war and in the maintenance of supplies. All our other great industries are within the jurisdiction of the ordinary industrial courts of this country. Not only this Government, but also the Government I had the honour to lead, have, in their time, gone to immense trouble to broaden and intensify the industrial machinery of Australia. If there is one thing that I thought we all believed in it was that the industrial tribunals are of such immense importance, particularly to the wageearners, that they must be preserved, and that the system should remain untouched. Yet in this bill, by one gesture, the Government sweeps away the whole of the functions of the Arbitration Court and its judges in relation to the coalmining industry, and it says that, in relation to this industry, it will pursue the miserable policy of surrender and appeasement to the extent that no Arbitration Court judge shall bs permitted to have anything to do with the industry! The Government says, in effect, “ We will give you a hand-picked tribunal - one man who can be relied upon to see, with the greatest clarity, how right you are.”
– Honorable gentlemen opposite did the picking for many years.
– I have never picked a partial man.
– I do not wish to cast any reflections on any one.
– The honorable gentleman would be hard put to it to do so. There is no getting away from two salient points in relation to this bill and the coal-mining industry generally. The first is that all normal industrial tribunals are being pushed on one side, and the second is that a special tribunal is being set up for the obvious purpose of conceding any demands that may be made in the future. I do not desire to talk at great length on this subject. I shall conclude by repeating what I said at the beginning of my speech. Although one does not wish to be harsh in reviewing this subject, I am firmly persuaded that what this industry needs, above all industries in Australia, is not appeasement and surrender and change of policy, not the setting up of a new tribunal in order to concede its demands, not foolish and often and ludicrous laws. What this industry needs is discipline - the kind of discipline that other people in this country have to accept; the kind of discipline that the honorable member for Watson (Mr.Falstein), who is interjecting, ought to be subject to. Every other industry is subjected to discipline. Is any other trade union in Australia handled with such soft kid-gloves whenever the law runs against it? Of course not! The whole atmosphere surrounding the handling of the coal-mining industry in Australia is unreal. It is high time that this unreal atmosphere was blown away by a strong draught of common sense. Instead of endeavouring to “ pass the buck” this Government should devise ways and means of exercising the powers it possesses in order to make it clear to the coal-mining industry that the interests of the nation are of far greater importance than the interests of a small group of malcontents.
– Earlier portions of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) suggested that he thought that this great subject might possibly be discussed calmly and impartially. Although the right honorable gentlemen did not foreshadow the making of constructive suggestions, I had hoped that he would do so; but he has ended his speech without any constructive suggestions whatsoever. The right honorable member has spoken of procrastination and failure, yet he was Prime Minister in 1940 when we had the lowest coal production of any year of the war. Procrastination and failure are the marks of his own dealing with the coalmining industry. I do not wish to make that statement without qualification. I do not suggest that either the right honorable gentleman or his Government was entirely to blame; but neither is the Curtin Government to be blamed for this situation. The Government asked for a positive approach to the problems of the coal-mining industry, yet the right honorable gentleman chose to fix his attention on what was an obvious draftsman’s error, which was noticed immediately the bill was printed, and which will be corrected at the committee stage. By dwelling on that point the Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to mislead the House in relation to the profits of the coal-owners. I shall deal with that point later.
Our coal production figures for the five years of the war are interesting. In 1939 we produced 13,500,000 tons of coal. In 1940, when the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, our production was 11,725,000 tons. In 1941, when the Menzies Government was in power for a considerable period, and the Curtin Government in office for two or three months, production showed a very great improvement and totalled 14,103,000 tons. The year 1940 was a very bad one. If we had maintained normal production inthat year we could have accumulated substantial reserves, but our production fell to 11,725,000 tons.
– That was the year of the general strike.
– I know it was, and I shall refer to that matter. The Leader of the Opposition is the last person who ought to refer to procrastination and delay in relation to the coal-mining industry. He did nothing.
– I beg your pardon!
– He did nothing in the shape of discipline.
SirFrederick Stewart. - He went to the coal-fields.
– Members of this Government also have visited the coal-fields.
– Labour members of this House did nothing to stop the strike.
– The honorable members for Hunter (Mr. James) and Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and the then
Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), did everything humanly possible to achieve that end.
– That is only a figure of speech. What did they do?
– They intervened to assist in a settlement. In the Curtin Government’s first year - 1942 - the production was 14,966,000 tons - easily a record for the war period. It was a difficult year, too; because, as honorable members will recall, there was at the beginning of it an inquiry by a royal commission, resulting from the establishment of . a secret fund, which set the whole of this difficult industry in turmoil.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman consider that the close approach of the Japanese to our shores had some influence on the position?
– I agree with the honorable member that in’ that year coal production was helped by the nearness of the Japanese threat. I do not claim that these figures are in themselves conclusive. In 1943, which was regarded by all as a bad year, and has been so described by the Prime Minister, the production was 14,163,000 tons - the second largest in the history of Australia.
– That is not correct. In the years from 1920 to 1925 the production was approximately equal to that of the record year.
– I am speaking now of the war years, 1939 to 1943. If the honorable member is correcting me, I hope that he will state the figures. The production in the two Curtin Government years has been 14,966,000 tons and 14,163,000 tons. In 1940, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, there was a general strike of ten weeks’ duration on all Australian coal-fields with the exception of those in Western Australia. I shall not cite old newspaper accounts of attempts to achieve a settlement. The National Security Act was in operation, and regulations on the topic could have been passed; they were not promulgated until after two or three months. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the Attorney-General of that day, said that the attitude of the colliery proprietors in the coal dispute had been decidedly unhelpful. That shows what difficulty was experienced in settling the strike, which raced at a .very critical stage of the war, although not so critical for Australia as in 1942 and 1943. In 1941, there was another strike of six weeks’ duration - a railways strike - which resulted in a complete cessation of all coal production on the ‘ Maitland coalfields. No proceedings were taken by the Government against the persons, or any of them, responsible for any of those interruptions to production. The National Security (Coal Control) Regulations were not introduced till August, 1941, during the term of office of the Fadden Administration or just prior to that date. Not until after the advent of the present Government were those regulations amended to make it an offence for an owner to fail to keep his coal mine open for the purpose of coal-mining operations, or for employees to fail to work, or to be guilty of absenteeism. It is perfectly true that those regulations have been amended from time to time in order to meet changing circumstances. The Government has to confess to some degree of failure. In giving the figures relating to production, I do not want to paint the picture unfairly. Hundreds of prosecutions were instituted.
– And the fines were remitted.
– Oh, no! The honorable member is quite correct but only to this extent - that on some occasions, after a conference at which representatives of the federation had given undertakings in regard to production, an amnesty was granted in respect both of the employees and of a number of managers who had been convicted of offences against the regulations. Still’ a real attempt was made to enforce the law throughout the coal-fields. But it is extraordinarily anomalous, with a stoppage involving many hundreds, to institute a system of mass prosecutions. That is likely to result not only in the innocent suffering with those who are guilty, but also in the innocent suffering to the exclusion of those who are guilty. Finally, the Government introduced a system of enforcement by the method of garnishee, which involves a deduction from wages. Since October last, after the amnesty of that month, all fines imposed in the coal-mining industry which have not been paid by either the men fined or their organizations on their behalf, have been collected by means of garnishee. I am not satisfied with that as a record. In these matters I prefer that a breach of the law should be followed by an automatic application of the law. With a view to securing that end, we have introduced into the system of .controlled mines the method of deduction from pay. I shall not weary the House by analysing the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition in relation to deductions from pay. The clause is reasonably clear, but if it can be made clearer in committee I shall agree to that being done. The object of the provision is that, without the matter having to be taken to court, it shall be a condition of employment that deductions from wages shall be made in the event of stoppages. The employer, who in such case will be the commissioner, will have the right to remit such portion of the deduction as he thinks fit in the circumstances.
– As the miners work under contract, is not mention of deductions redundant? If they absent themselves, they will not earn anything under their contracts.
– Provision is to be made whereby the breach of contract shall cause the automatic deduction of a fixed sum from the pay of the person concerned, and in the event of absenteeism the commissioner shall have the right to remit if he thinks fit.
– The right honorable gentleman means that the deduction shall be made from pay otherwise accrued ?
– Of course. The deduction will be made from the fortnightly pay, should there be absenteeism during the fortnightly period.
– But as the miners work under contract, how can they earn anything if they absent themselves ?
– The honorable member does not follow me. A man may be absent on one day during a fortnightly period. In respect of that one day there shall be a deduction from the pay due to him in respect of the remainder of the fortnight. There will be no necessity to go to the court. The matter will be treated as a breach of the conditions of employment; therefore, the deduction will operate automatically, subject to the discretion of the commissioner to remit as he thinks fit.
– If a man does not turn up after pay-day he will not have accrued wages.
– That is a rare case.
– It should not be overlooked.
– It cannot possibly be overlooked; it is only a possibility of a possibility. I have explained the principle of the clause, and I ask the House to accept my interpretation. That brings me to a point that I should have made at the outset, because of the most unfair criticism that the Government is “ passing the buck “, or shifting responsibility on to the shoulders of the commissioner. I shall refrain from debating the matter in an atmosphere of ‘recrimination. Throughout the bill there are references to the Minister. The coal commissioner will be responsible to the government of the day. We . shall not abrogate our responsibility. I make it perfectly clear that, in connexion with matters of policy, the responsibility under the act will always rest on the shoulders of the Government. Mr. Mighell - I mention his name because, in answer to the Leader of the Opposition, I said it was intended to appoint him - will have a wide discretion. He is a public servant, an officer whom the Government trusts implicitly, and one ‘to whom we look for an improvement in the coal-mining industry.
– He is the best feature of the bill.
– The right honorable member agrees with the Government on that point, but seeks to cast a slur on the industrial tribunal, which will be an existing authority under the direction of Mr. Willis. As a matter of fact, the other persons whose appointments will be confirmed under the bill were the appointees of the Menzies Government. One of the purposes of the bill is to take away from the tribunals the assessors, or representatives of the parties, who are at present sitting with them. In regard to the jurisdiction of Mr. Willis, we propose simply to put in the form of a statute what is the present practice under existing regulations. This has been done because the Government thought that the whole matter should be brought before Parliament for debate and consideration. Indeed, much of the power taken under the bill is already being exercised in one way or another.
The Leader of the Opposition said quite unfairly that the effect of the bill would be to penalize the owners, and he called the attention of the House to clause 23. Let me refer honorable members first to clause 22, because that clause and the succeeding one should be read together. Clause 22 is as follows: -
The owner of a controlled mine who suffers loss or damage, by reason of anything done in pursuance of an order under the’ last preceding section in respect of the mine, shall be entitled to such compensation as is determined by agreement between the commissioner and the owner of the coal mine, ot, in the absence of agreement, as is determined by an action by the owner against the Commonwealth in any -court of competent jurisdiction.
We say that after that system of control has come into operation, then if, by reason of control - and that alone - the owner has suffered loss, he can recoup himself under section 22; but if as the result of the operation of the new system - and that alone - the owner reaps an added profit, that profit does not properly belong to him. It is unearned. The Leader of the Opposition referred to clause 23, but he omitted the important words, “ Where, by reason of anything done in pursuance of the order made under section 21 of this act “. Clause 23, in full, reads as follows: - (1.) Where, by reason of anything done in pursuance of the order made under section twenty-one of this act, the amount of the profits derived from the operation of a controlled mine is ascertained, in accordance with the provisions of this section, to exceed for any period while the order is in operation, the average amount of the profits derived from the operation of the mine for a corresponding period within the period of one year immediately preceding the date of the order, the owner of the coal mine shall, unless the commissioner otherwise directs, pay the amount of the excess profits to the credit of the commissioner in an account in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
In other words, if the new system is responsible for increasing the profits of the owner, those profits are due, not to the efforts of the owner, but to the system of control. That, I think, answers the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
– On the contrary, it dodges them.
– That is not true.
– Of course it does.
– It is intolerable that I should not be allowed to answer the points made by the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman said that if, because of strikes, profits were low in one year, but increased in the next year, those profits would automatically be taxed. I say that that is not correct. Before profits can be claimed by the commissioner, it must be demonstrated that they are due to the new system of control, and this has to be established to the satisfaction of the court.
– In what court would such claims be heard?
– In the High Court or in the Supreme Court.
Mi1. Menzies. - It will be necessary to amend the clause a good deal in order to make it mean what the AttorneyGeneral says.
– It means that now. However, the matter has been raised by the representatives of the coal-owners, and it has been arranged to amend the clause in order to make the point perfectly clear.
– Supposing an owner had been making only small profits for a number of years, and then, after the institution of control, profits increased, he would, under this bill, be paid only on the basis of the profits previously earned, unless the commissioner directed otherwise.
– As I have said, nothing is payable by the owner out of profits unless it can be demonstrated that the increased profits are due to the new system of control.
– But what if the low profits for the base years were due to lack of control - to strikes resulting in dislocation of the industry?
– If low profits are due to bad management, that is not the Government’s responsibility. I do not think there can be any ambiguity in clauses 22 and 23. There is certainly none in the Government’s intention.
– The Treasury will lose one way and cannot win the other way.
– If that is so, the owners have no cause for complaint.
– No governmentcontrolled enterprise can ever hope to make money.
– Then there will be no additional profits for any one to worry about! The demand for coal is still increasing, and for that reason a measure of this kind is of great importance. Insofar as the provisions of the bill embody existing regulations and practices, the purpose in bringing it forward now is to enable the imprimatur of Parliament to be placed upon them. We are not satisfied with the present increase of coal production. If we were to sit back complacently because we have fairly good production figures we should be merely following a precedent set us by other governments, but we do not propose to follow their example.
– Is it intended that this bill shall supersede existing national security regulations dealing with the coal-mining industry?
– So far as controlled mines are concerned, this legislation will be a substitution for existing regulations. In respect of uncontrolled mines, the regulations will continue to apply, and under them there can be prosecutions for absenteeism.
– In the case of controlled mines, is it proposed that this legislation will exhaust the field?
– Does the right honorable member refer to punishments?
In respect of controlled mines, it is not intended to take cases to the courts, but to make a deduction, and to allow the commissioner to deal with the matter as he thinks fit.
– What will be the position of the coal commissioner if men in a mine which is not under control absent themselves from or stop work?
– In that event, the remedy open will be that provided for in the existing regulations, prosecution. We have not applied the system of deductions to the mines which are not brought under control.
– Two different, sets of law.
– No. We take the view that if government control is introduced, discipline must be of an automatic character. We think we should supervise the terms of the contract between the Government and the employee.
– I think the Government will have to add a fifteenth new power to its referendum proposals if it is to get away with that.
– This has nothing to do with new powers. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the root causes of the difficulties of this industry. They go back into history. One need not go further back into history than the years of depression. When a lockout lasting fifteen or sixteen months occurred in the industry because the coal-owners attempted to reduce the wages by1s. per ton. The matter was kept away fromevery industrial tribunal. The stoppages occurred in New South Wales, but the New South Wales Industrial Court was not given jurisdiction over the dispute. Next, every possible attempt was made by the owners to prevent the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from exercising jurisdiction.
– The High Court said that it had no jurisdiction.
– Yes, the High Court said that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had no jurisdiction. By a lockout, by a process of economic blockade, so to speak, the miners, after a struggle of fifteen or sixteen months, had to yield without their claims ever having been investigated by an impartial tribunal. That seems a far-off occurrence, but it is one of the causes of the legacy of misunderstanding, resentment and even hatred in this most difficult industry, which His Honour Judge DrakeBrockman, in his last award, described as the most turbulent not only in Australia but throughout the world. The solution of the problem is most difficult. Dr. Mauldon, in his standard work The Economics of Australian Coal, says this -
The root causes of the never-ending stoppages in coal-mining lie in the nature of mining itself and of its environmental influences upon the mine-workers. A colliery is like a magnified antbed in the making with pairs of workmen toiling in isolation from one another at separate working faces, and with others each on his own particular bit of road collecting and forwarding the spoil for withdrawal to the surface. The unit of team work is in the pair rather than the group.
He adds -
The mine-workers, furthermore, live in a world of craft traditions. They inherit craft practices little changed by those revolutions in technique which have modified working conditions so completely in manufacturing.
Then he points to another important phase of the problem -
The owner-investors seldom live amongst the coal-winners. As the author has elsewhere had occasion to write they cannot as a class any more than investors generally be regarded as economic oppressors; but because their investment is in coal-mining they are assumed to have inherited the guilt of fore-runners back as far as the bad old days of woman and child labour in the mines, and that is a guilt from which the traditions of the miners are in no hurry to grant employers in coal-mining an entire absolution. This never-ceasing imputation of guilt is naturally enough resented by the present-day owner-investor who may he sincerely anxious to meet his social responsibilities decently and squarely.
What is wrong if money which comes from the industry because of government control goes back into the industry for its improvement? The right honorable gentleman says, “ Because it may be used for social welfare schemes that is giving back fines to persons who are guilty “. That is a narrow view, a preposterous view. The money need not be used for social welfare schemes. All the bill says is that it may be so used or for the advancement of the industry as a whole. Dr. Mauldon goes on -
He in turn tends, if he cannot keep his good humour, to develop an habitual hostility to the mine-workers’ claims to improved condi tions of work and remuneration which are regarded as an expression of incurable selfishness.
– Is that not true of goldmining and metalliferous mining?
– I do not know enough about them to say. But I do know a little about the coal-mining industry. I have visited the coal-mining areas, and attended aggregate meetings at which the men have unanimously resolved to forward the plan of continuous production. Then something went wrong and stoppages occurred. I have instance after instance - there are hundreds on my files - of unjustifiable stoppages, frivolous stoppages. In arbitration matters, the Government led by the right honorable member for Kooyong separated the coalmining industry from other industries. The right honorable gentleman set the coal-mining industry apart from the Commonwealth arbitration system by establishing local reference boards and the Central Coal Reference Board. The chairman of the board was certainly an Arbitration Court judge, but he never sat as such, and there was no appeal from his awards. He had coal-miners and coal-owners sitting with him. I do not say it was wrong for the right honorable gentleman to segregate the coal-mining industry from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. But he has no right to criticize the present system for he established it.
– The right honorable gentleman realizes that by this bill he is abolishing the function of the Arbitration Court in respect of the coal-mining industry, because no judge will any longer have any contact with the industry.
– The right honorable gentleman, by the system he instituted in 1941, separated the industrial control of the industry from the general jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court.
– But not the special jurisdiction.
– Not the special jurisdiction, no. But there was no appeal, mark you, from the awards of Judge Drake-Brockman to the other judges of the Arbitration Court, as is possible in the case of other industries. I repeat that in principle this system repeats the plan of separating the coal-mining industry from all other industries within the jurisdiction of theCommonwealth Arbitration Court. Tinder the system instituted by the right honorable gentleman there was no appeal to the other judges of the Arbitration Court from the awards made by Judge Drake-Brockman and his assessors. Indeed, it was called a coal tribunal, and Judge Drake-Brockman was not sitting as an ArbitrationCourt judge.
Let me come back to the point I was making. I mentioned some of the difficulties of this industry. I admit that there have been failures, and that we have not realized all we hoped for. I pointed to the figures to show that there has been a far better record of coal production recently than there was in the earlier years of the war. I have read and re-read the representations of both the employers and employees in regard to this bill. The employers do not take the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition. On the whole they do not take a negative attitude to this bill. They know the difficulties. They have to face the problems of the industry. I think that one of the root-causes of the present crisis in this industry is that each side is anxious about the post-war years. The owner is fearful that the employee in asking for this and that is endeavouring to develop a set of industrial regulations for the post-war period which will prejudice what the owner believes will be legitimate profits. I believe that the coal-miner, too, is apprehensive of the future. He was treated in the depression in the way I have described. Just imagine it! In a civilized country, locked out for fifteen months without any industrial tribunal pronouncing judgment on the merits of the case! The miner does not forget that. His son works in the industry now. A feeling of bitterness exists, which we must allay as far as we can. It is a difficult task, and, if Parliament is to be of help in allaying it, we must have the assistance of all honorable members. The coal-miner is equally concerned with the post-war period. “ Yes,” he says, “ I am valuable now. The coal I hewed in days of peace they did not take much notice of. In days of peace they locked me out, and kept me away from tribunals. After the war what will be my position ? “
But what the coal-miner produces now is precious. That is true. That is what we tell him now”. We tell him that the nation’s demand is that it shall have coal here and now. The industrial struggle, if there is to be one, should be postponed until the end of the war.
It is in that spirit that this bill is presented to the House. I shall not forecast the results of it. The measure is an honest attempt’ by the Government to improve the position, to redeem past failures, and to see whether a new start can be made in the industry. I pay a tribute to those who have assisted, including the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), many owners, especially Mr. Armstrong, the chairman of the commission, Mr. Mighell, and many officials of the miners’ federation. Some have not behaved decently to the Government or to the country, but many have been of great assistance. I have said this in places where it has not been very palatable, but the men then gave me an undertaking of production. We must see that a fresh start is made. Perseverance has been characteristic of this Government’s attitude in connexion with the coal-mining industry. What is now denounced as procrastination is an attempt to make a new start and to do better than before. The Government has achieved reasonable results in production. But they are not good enough and we must do better. We shall get this coal, come what may, so that the war effort of this country shall be assisted bythe product of this great industry.
– Concluding a rather extraordinary speech, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that after two years and six months the Government proposed to make yet another attempt to increase the production of coal. The theme of his symposium, if one may flatter him by calling his speech by that name, was that the Government would be prepared to change its policy as often as the miners decided to change their mind. Speaking in this House a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) asked with a helpless gesture, “ Can anybody tell me how I can get coal?” It was a pitiful sight. He acknowledged the complete surrender of his powers as a Prime Minister in a great democracy, and that there was in the land an authority higher than the Government. He admitted, in effect, that he had struggled valiantly in the past, with words, to increase the production of coal. Since he became Prime Minister he has made a number of extraordinary pronouncements similar in nature to the statement of the Attorney-General this afternoon. He declared, “ We will get coal “. I do not propose to read at great length statements which the Prime Minister has made regarding his determination to increase the production of coal. The problem is not new. Those scintillating phrases, with which he has sought to comfort the country, are rapidly becoming excrescences. On the 12th December, 1941, he said-
No longer can a responsible government, vest the safety of this country upon appeals to the multitude. The Government must make the decisions, and when those decisions are made, there must be no argument about their wisdom. There must be a ready and immediate acceptance of them.
He knows better to-day. On the 14th May, 1942,he said-
There is no other course for this Government to follow than, to ensure that the law of this country, as formulated by Parliament and the Government through the powers vested in it by Parliament is not set asideby any section of the community. This is the least that can be done to maintain the responsibility of democratic government.
Honorable members will notice how keen he was to maintain the powers of the Government of a democracy. In October, 1943, he said-
The crisis leaves the Government no escape from the duty it owes to the nation of getting the quantity of coal required.
The right honorable gentleman made that statement before the House adjourned. They were very brave words, and the House accepted them. Honorable members even thought that the Prime Minister intended to carry out the duty which he had imposed upon himself. Later, he verbally castigated transport workers and miners in his best manner, accusing them of having adopted a policy of “ lawlessness, naked and unashamed “. He said -
One thing at least is clear, that the Government having applied the law, will enforce it, and, if it cannot enforce it, then it ceases to be the kind of government that the people of this country could respect and being unable to respect, should no longer tolerate.
The House will notice that the Prime Minister has played upon this theme of the need for the Government to take control, and to exercise its authority. Finally, in a moment of desperation, he declared that no group of workers or employers couldbe allowed to dictate to the Parliament and the Government as to the means of conducting the defence of the Commonwealth. “ Were it otherwise,” he added, “ there would be an abdication of the functions of government.”
The Prime Minister is politically astute. When he stated that the people should no longer tolerate such a Government, he realized that he had said too much. The House will remember a similar occurrence last week, when the House was debating the censorship, of honorable members’ mail. The Prime Minister said something which was not politically correct from the standpoint of his own supporters, so he walked out of the chamber and left the AttorneyGeneral to extricate him from the mess. Realizing that he had gone too far with the coal-miners and that no longer would words avail him, he probably addressed the Attorney-General in this manner: “Look here, Bert, you have got to get me out of this “. And the AttorneyGeneral probably replied: “Yes, I think you have gone a bit too far. But we already possess these powers. We have promulgated regulations without number. Let us lump them all together in one bill, and ‘ pass the buck ‘ to some one else, because we cannot carry out these duties. Let us make one man responsible for doing that.” I can imagine the Prime Minister replying gratefully, “ Bert, that is an idea anyway. Let’s do it.” So it was done.
The coal-mining industry has always been difficult to control. Agitators have associated the traditions of the bad old days with present-day conditions. In the bad old days there were narrow seams and low drives in the mines, and some managements pursued a miserly and inhuman policy. Unfortunately, that tradition is still remembered. Speaking in this chamber, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has used such words as would lead the unsuspecting to believe that quarts of blood bespatter every ton of coal hewn. On one occasion he said -
You know they will not put machinery in the mines because machinery costs money and human lives are cheap.
That, of course, is poppycock. The honorable member does not believe it himself. I have stated figures in this House, previously, to show that the incidence of sickness and casualities in the coalmining industry compares favorably with the incidence in other industries. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) cited figures which show that in longevity coal-miners compare favorably with workers in other industries. The honorable member for Hunter knows very well that the New South Wales Minister for Mines, who is the member for Cessnock, and is indebted to the coal-miners for his political existence, introduced a bill in the State Parliament which had the result of removing machinery from the mines. Of course these references to the bad old. days are intended, by honorable gentlemen opposite, to create an atmosphere favorable to the coal-miners. The Leader of the Opposition showed clearly this afternoon that great concessions had been obtained by the coal-miners by the adoption of “ stand-over “ tactics. In fact, they have won concessions, in a time of war, which the workers in no other industry have attempted to obtain, for they have not been willing to hold the country to ransom. They have exhibited more sense of responsibility and of loyalty than have the coal-miners who have taken advantage of war conditions to obtain concessions far surpassing those obtained by workers in other industries. Notwithstanding these good conditions our coal production figures have shown staggering declines, which have had, and are having, an adverse effect upon the war effort of the nation. Since the Curtin Government assumed office, approximately 5,000,000 tons of coal has been lost. I have not been able to obtain the figures showing the losses from October to December, 1941, but in 1942 2,000,000 tons of coal was lost, in 1943, 2,384,000 tons was lost, and in the first two months of this year, more than 400,000 tons was lost.. Therefore, my total of 5,000,000 tons is conservative.
The figures given by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon must awaken deep concern in the minds of the members of the Government and of the people generally, for, notwithstanding mechanization and the concessions which the coal-miners have obtained for themselves, we are in a sorry plight. Normally we have 500,000 tons of coal at grass in this country as a reserve. To-day we have practically none. The Prime Minister told us when he introduced this bill that the war industries of the nation were threatened because of the failure to maintain adequate coal production and coal reserves. He said that there had been a flagrant disregard of the law which was threatening the war effort and the wellbeing of the nation, and the coal-miners are responsible.
– The Prime Minister did not say that.
– That was the only inference that I could draw from his remarks. Indeed, his speech suggested that an insidious form of sabotage was going on in Australia. The Prime Minister said that we needed more food, more guns, and more ships but that our production of all these requirements was being interfered with, and the only inference that can be drawn from hig remarks is that those who were guilty were engaged in a form of sabotage.
It will be interesting for us to consider for a few moments how the nation has got into this position in a time of war, for it is quite foreign to the normal life of Australia. We are not dingoes. Our people have a sense of responsibility. If they are properly directed they will achieve good results. I believe that the present situation in the coal-mining industry is due to over-control and interference by the Government. I believe that the Government has let the nation down by its interference with our Arbitration ‘Court procedure. If the coalmining industry had not been interfered with, a decent job of work would have been done, and the country would have been in a much better position than it is in to-day. The Government has courted failure through taking control to too great a degree, and through failing to exercise its power in a proper way. I shall give two classic illustrations in sunport of my contention, the first of which relates to the situation at the Coalcliff colliery. Up to yesterday about 132,000 tons of coal has been lost through the stoppage of work at Coalcliff. For about fifteen years the Coalcliff colliery w.as worked on the three-lift principle. There has been a good deal of criticism and controversy in this House recently concerning the three-lift principle, but during three years, under the three-lift principle and with scraperloaders, between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of coal was taken out of Coalcliff without any accident whatsoever. Yet the miners stated that scraper-loaders were unsafe and unhealthy, and by striking they have precipitated trouble. The inspectors who have seen the system working in the mine have made no report to the effect that it is either unsafe or unhealthy, although they have power to report to that effect without waiting for special instructions.
– Practical miners can settle that point.
– The inspectors have to be practical miners to obtain their appointments. They are unable to get certificates unless they are practical miners. I do not wish, at this stage, to examine the reasons why the scraperloaders have been objected to, for I said something on that subject a few days ago; but undeniably the scraperloaders have been taken out of the mine because of the importunity of the miners. The three-lift system was operated by pick miners. Practical miners know that the quicker the pillars can be removed the quicker the coal can be won. I shall cite a striking instance.
-Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks about the Coalcliff mine with this bill?
– I do, Mr. Speaker. I am contending that the present trouble has arisen because of over-control. Some time ago Mr. A. C. Willis was given certain orders to the effect that the threelift system should be discontinued at Coalcliff and only two men employed. It has been said, with what degree of truth
I do not know, that the honorable member for Hunter and Mr. Louden, president of the South Coast coal-miners’ ganization, interviewed the AttorneyGeneral on this subject. It is interesting to know that on the 18th January, 1944, Mr. Willis is reported to have said -
My definite instructions were to get on as quickly as I could and bring about a settlement. I acted as Conciliation Commissioner, prepared an order and served it. 1 issued the order, not on the merits of the dispute, but because the nation wanted coal. The order is issued without any expression of the merits of the dispute.
On the 29th January, Mr. Willis said -
Advice was this, that nothing of a practical nature had been done and no settlement arrived at which would have prevented a cessation of work on the south coast on Monday. I was advised further to immediately get back again to try and prevent that at Coalcliff.
I attended Wollongong on Sunday and an order was made and served to the respective parties. It was made after I had satisfied my mind that it was the only means of averting a district hold-up. I did not consider the actual issues involved at Coalcliff. The order was made entirely for the reason of averting a hold-up. The order was made to ensure continued production of coal.
In other words, Mr. Willis was told to return to Coalcliff, and get the mines working, which he could do only by acceding to the wishes of the miners. It appears to me that this “impartial authority “ is prepared to concede everything to the miners, whatever may be the merits of the dispute. If the miners “ dig their toes in “, he gives way to them, his stated object being the winning of coal. That policy can be carried to the most absurd lengths. The logical result is, that if the miners say they will not work unless they are given certain conditions, those conditions are given to them. The management said that it was unsafe to work those mines under the conditions laid down, and that there was approximately 1,500 feet of cover; it ceased to work the pillars. Honorable members know that one-third of the coal in a mine may be won by machinery, two-thirds being retained in pillars. In south coast mining parlance, the pillars are “berries”. The miners insist on working them with picks. If they cannot work them on contract, they impose a rather absurd darg. The system of day wage was tried, but production was restricted to from 3 to 4 tons a man shift, compared with a darg of 10 tons which is now in operation under contract. On the Maitland field, the miners working on pillars, described as “ berries “, are earning approximately £4 a day. Honorable members will see that the reason for the desire to extend the working on these pillars, and to occupy as much time as possible is to effect a spread over a long period at an excessively high wage. In June of last year, there was a dispute at the Pelton colliery, the subject being whether or not there should be a continuance of two pairs of miners in a pillar. The miners wanted only one pair. I invite the House to note the sequence of dates in connexion with this dispute, and the extraordinary rulings that were given. A conference was held at Newcastle on the 24th June, 1943. The local reference board sat, because the miners considered that the working conditions were unsafe. The dispute thus became a matter for decision by the Mines Department of New South Wales, which deals with everything that relates to safety in the mines of the State, under the specific provisions of the Coal Mines Regulation Act. Should an inspector of mines determine that conditions are unsafe, he ha? the power to direct the management to put the matter right; alternatively, he may withdraw the men from the mine. The management has the right to object if it considers that the inspector has given a wrong decision. Upon objection being made, the chief inspector may withdraw the notice of the inspector, or refer the matter to the court. On the 25th June, a government inspector, following an inspection, stated that the conditions were safe; consequently, the manager required two pairs of men to work on the pillars. On the 28th June, the men did not turn up for work. On the 2nd July, the manager received from the Minister for Mines a letter stating that he had conferred with the miners’ federation, and suggesting that work should be resumed under the methods proposed by the men. The Minister, instead of administering the act, had consulted the representatives of the miners, who had informed him that the men were not prepared to abide by the law. The management wrote to the Minister objecting to his proposal, and suggesting the working of pillars by two pairs of miners. The further suggestion was made that before work was resumed there should be an inspection in order to determine the safety issue, the management to have the right to which it was entitled under the act to appeal to an independent authority should the determination of the inspector be contrary to its opinion. A reply to this letter was not received. On the 8th~ July the manager wrote, to the Minister for Mines, informing him that the men were still on strike and asking for a reply to his letter of the 2nd July. On the 12 th July the private secretary to the Minister advised the mine management by letter that the matter was being considered, and that his suggestion was being submitted to the miners’ federation. This was an acknowledgment of the existence of an authority higher than the Government. A similar acknowledgment has been made in this House. On the 16th July, the Minister for Mines advised that the suggestion of the manager had been rejected, not by the Government, not by himself, but by the employees. On the 23rd July, there was a further conference. The miners’ lodge had held a meeting that morning, at which it had been decided that the men should not resume on the basis of two pairs to a pillar. There was a rather interesting development on the 24th July. On that date, the Prime Minister announced that there was to be a new plan to deal with coal stoppages, and that it would be enforced absolutely. That was typical of statements which the right honorable gentleman was repeatedly making with regard to the production of coal. I quote the following passage: -
The National Security (Coal Control) Regulations are to be amended so that when a stoppage is due to a difference of opinion between employers and employees as to safety conditions, the State Minister for Mines is to obtain an immediate report thereon from a mining inspector. Upon receipt of this report action is to be taken in the light of the report; for example, if working conditions are not safe the employer is to carry out such directions as the Minister for Mines may give to ensure safe working, and if working conditions are safe the employees are to resume immediately notification is given.
Although that was a serious departure from the provisions of the Coal Mines
Regulation Act, in that it withdrew from the parties the right to appeal from a direction given by an inspector, it appeared that having regard to the statement by the Government inspector that the working places were safe, it would result in an instruction being given by the Minister for Mines to the employees to resume work with two pairs of miners in a pillar. The amendment of the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations was not promulgated until the 9th August, 1943, on which date Statutory Rule No. 194 of 1943 was issued in terms that were absolutely inconsistent with those that had been outlined by the Prime Minister on the 24th July, 1943. lt was found, upon reviewing the regulation, that in the event of a safety dispute, the Commonwealth Minister could refer such questions to the State Minister for Mines, who could make, or cause to be made, such investigations or inquiries as be deemed necessary. The Minister for Mines was then authorized to direct the owner of the mine to do such things as were specified in the order, if the Minister for Mines were satisfied that the safety of the mine was endangered. Thus, the Minister for Mines was given the same power as was given to Mr. Willis at Coalcliff - that is, power to determine in the miners’ favour. He was not to examine the merits of the case, or the regulations covering it, or how they should be applied. This was another example of the Government’s appeasement policy, a policy which it has applied ever since it has been in office^ The regulation vested in a person holding no technical qualifications authority to give directions to a technically qualified person. It is interesting to note, that under the New South Wales act, colliery managers must possess first-class certificates. The Minister, who, under the regulations, is authorized to issue directions, need not have any qualifications at all, and he need not have a certificate. As a matter of fact, the Minister for Mines in New South Wales possesses no qualifications to determine matters of this kind. Obviously, he has no technical knowledge at all.
On the 14th August, the Minister was reported to have decided to direct the management to comply with the men’s demands. He did not acquaint the management to that effect, but he was reported as having given that direction. There was no inspection of the place in dispute, except by the company’s official, between the 25th June and the 14th August. On the 25th June, the government inspector had declared the place to be safe. On the 14th and 15th August, no direction was served on the management. On the 16th the lodge held a meeting to consider the Minister’s direction, and at 11.55 a.m. informed the manager that it was acceptable to them. After the lodge had accepted that direction, and acquainted the Minister for Mines of that fact, the Minister, at 1.10 p.m., advised the colliery management, and the direction was served at the colliery’s office in Sydney. That is a classic example of how government control of industry can operate. I have cited two examples of how the Government failed to enforce its own directions, and was careful to act only in such a way as would not offend the miners.
Those were the first instances in which the Government sought to implement regulation 27ba, but last month the same thing happened when Mr. Baddeley intervened in a dispute regarding a scraper-loader. The usual thing, when complaints are made regarding the dust raised by a scraper-loader, is to control the dust by splashing, but in this instance the miners held that that was not sufficient. In the New South Wales act, provision is made for testing the dust, but the miners would not work in order to permit the prescribed machinery to be used. They insisted on the introduction of these pressure sprayers. Mr. Baddeley gave a ruling, but it was not acceptable to the lodge, because, had it been applied, most of the men would have been deprived of the “ water money “, amounting to ls. 6d. a day, which they had been drawing. This is an example of how a government, which changes its policy to suit the changing minds of the miners, can upset well-established practices in an industry. The dispute to which I have referred was, of course, an industrial one, but it was described as a safety dispute in order to give Mr. Baddeley the right to intervene. Evidently his intervention had mot received the recognition it deserved because, in the Cessnock Eagle of the 8th February last, this report appeared -
The Minister for Mines has stated that unless a safety question was referred to him by the federal authorities under the provisions of National Security (Coal Control) Regulations 27ea, his authority was limited to dealing with such questions under the provisions of the Coal Mines Regulations Act 1912-1941. Such provisions do not give him power to give a direction to the owners which shall be complied with at once, but he would have such authority under National Security (Coal Control) Regulation 27ea. The question in dispute at Coalcliff colliery, which concerns the operation of the three-lift system in pillar extraction has not been referred to him under such regulations.
His attitude was that he had already fixed up the dispute at Pelton, and if the Government would refer the other dispute to him under regulation 27ea, he would fix that up for them, too, by giving the necessary direction. However, there was no need to invoke his aid, because, in the meantime, Mr. Willis had been appointed, and he went down to the south coast where he employed the same tactics as Mr. Baddeley had used on the northern fields.
There is no need to remind honorable members that the Government has failed to enforce the decisions it has made in regard to the coal-mining industry. Every one knows how it retreated time after time from the position it had taken up. When the Government conferred on the executive of the miners’ federation the right to say whether or not coal should be produced, it conceded to the miners, and to others also, the right to strike. Thus, the Government has allowed the position to deteriorate from bad to worse. Let us look at the origin of the bill. On the 22nd October, 1943, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions told the Prime Minister - -(1) that the Government should control the industry under a Federal Minister of Mines, who should direct all matters on coal production and distribution; (2) any coal-owner or manager failing to comply with government directions to be relieved of control of the mine in question, which would then be managed by the Government for the duration of the war; (3) as suggested to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions by the miners’ federation, alteration of Central and Local Reference Board machinery. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the miners’ federation further suggested that production committees should be made compulsory. The rest of the suggestions of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the miners’ federation are implemented in the bill. The Government already has all the powers except the power of controlling the mines. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions gave the Prime Minister his riding instructions on the 22nd October, and the Prime Minister has ridden according to those directions. There is no doubt whatever about that, because the Prime Minister has already said that there is no responsibility on the management of the collieries for the stoppage and that they have done everything that they have been asked to do. But what has he done? Whilst he has been prepared to pat the owners on the back for their actions, he has been forced - I do not say against his will, because I doubt whether he has a will - to place before this House a bill under which the Government proposes to take complete control of the industry. I do not need to deal with the bill in great detail, because it contains no new method of winning coal and, except for the added power of control of the management, it is only an accumulation of powers already existing. But it does place on the shoulders of one man extraordinary responsibility. The powers that are placed in the hands of the coal commissioner might well, in the hands of a strong man, force a showdown in the industry. In the circumstances, I suppose that the , sooner we have that the better, because the sooner will the industry be established on a proper basis. Having placed those powers in the hands of one man, it will be the Government’s duty to support him, because, if it fails to give him the necessary support, not only he but the whole country will be let down. It would not be fair to ask one man to exercise the powers that the Prime Minister is not game to exercise, and then refuse to give him the necessary backing. However, the Government may remove him and those who follow him until it has as coal commissioner tie man it wants to appease the coal-miners, a man who says, “ My sympathies are with the miners “. That will be the natural sequence of events. If the Government supports the man whom it proposes to appoint as coal commissioner, we shall help it to give him all the backing he needs. But, in the hands of a weak man, these powers may not be properly exercised. I do not regard the man whom the Government proposes at the outset to appoint as weak. On the contrary, as I know, he is not weak. But he may not remain in office for very long, and, in that event, if the Government appoints a weaker man to his position, that man will be able to ruin the industry. Whoever is coal commissioner will ruin the industry unless he takes the strong action that will be necessary to keep it intact.
The powers of the commissioner are set out in clause 17. In sub-clause 1 the commissioner is empowered to regulate and control the production, treatment, handling, supply, distribution, storage, marketing and consumption of coal, and for those purposes, and for the purpose of carrying out his duties and of exercising any of his powers and functions under this act, is empowered to make such orders, and to take such measures, give such directions and do such things, as he thinks necessary or expedient. Those are general powers. Specific powers, which do not affect the generality of the powers set out in sub-clause (1) are contained in sub-clause (2). Then, in addition to those general powers and specific powers, the sub-clause provides that he shall have such other powers and functions with respect to coal mines and the coal-mining industry as are prescribed. That places beyond all reasonable doubt the fact that he has all the powers necessary.
Clause 18 provides for the acquisition and requisition of coal and, under that clause, the Government, through the coal commissioner, may bring about complete national control of the coal mines. It is interesting, therefore, to know what national control of coal mines has effected in other countries. Honorable members will remember what occurred during the last war when the Government of the United Kingdom took over the control of the coal-mining industry in Great
Britain. A royal commission on the coalmining industry was held in Great Britain in 1925, and the following is an extract from the evidence given before it on the 17th November, 1925, by Mr. W. A. Lee, C.B.E., secretary of the British Mining Association: -
The Government took control of an industry which, as has been shown, was in a healthy condition at the outbreak of war. They handed it back to the owners at the end of March, 1021, in a state approaching bankruptcy. A review of the salient figures relating to the control of the industry when the Government hastily decontrolled it at the end of March, 1021, will give some indication of the magnitude of the problem which the owners had to face - [Extension of time granted.] Those figures need no elaboration. In view of the fact that Great Britain has again resorted to national control of the coalmining industry, it is interesting to note recent observations made in the House of Commons. The Parliamentary Debates of the House of Commons for the 12th October, 1943 (volume 392, page 747), contain the following: -
Major Lloyd George (Minister of Fuel and Power). ; The average number of wage-earners employed at coal mines in the year ended 6th June, 1942, was 703,700, and in the year ended 5th June, 1943, 710,700. The total output of saleable coal at coal mines during these periods was 205,050,800 tons and 203,257,800 tons respectively.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I shall now describe the position in New Zealand. I remind honorable members of what Mr. Webb, Postmaster-General and Minister of Labour in New Zealand, said when he visited Australia recently, and I have no doubt that his utterances had a profound effect upon the miners’ federation. If they did not, they certainly influenced the Commonwealth Government, because it has now introduced a form of national control. The Wellington Evening Post, of the 7th February, published some interesting observations about national control. The Waikato field is under national control, whilst the Runanga field consists of state-owned mines. The article stated -
The serious effect on coal output in the Waikato caused by stop-work meetings, absenteeism, and the early departure of men from the mines is revealed in a statement issued on behalf of all the mining companies operating in the district.”Coal-mining operations in the Waikato field have opened disastrously this year “, the statement says. “ The output for the period 5th to 31st January (nineteen working days) is 43,470 tons, compared with 58,163 tons for the same period of 1943 - a falling off in production of 14,693 tons or 25.26 per cent, on 1943 production. These figures do not include the two government mines at Mangapeehi and Oh ura. The capacity of the Waikato mines, fully manned and working full-time, is materially in excess of the outputs referred to.
So much for the national control of mines. The experience of New Zealand and England reveals the effect of national control upon the coal-mining industry. Mines controlled by the Government will not yield more coal than privately owned mines. If we require further evidence, we have only to examine the record of the State mines on the west coast of New Zealand. Of these, the Wellington Evening Post wrote -
Coal production figures at the two Runanga state mines - Strongman and Liverpool - during last week were down to between 55 and60 per cent, of the normal figures, reports a correspondent. Delays through strike action, broken attendances, and go-slow, methods present a poor record since operations were resumed at these two mines early in January.
The reasons are similar to the explanation of the decline of production in the Australian coal-mining industry under the form of control now existing in New South Wales. The article continued -
There are cases of miners and truckers with sine die military service appeals who put in late appearances for work following the Christinas holidays. Some of these are also included among the irregular section who simply go to work or stay away as the inclination takes them. No action has been taken against them by the authorities.
Of course, a Labour government is in office in New Zealand, and the results are much the same under a Labour administration wherever one finds it. The article proceeded -
It is also apparent that the genuine worker among the rank and file has begun to take things philosophically realizing that it is of nogood to go against majority rule. Ifhe did so, he would earn much displeasure.
When the rot sets in, it spreads to the decent men in the industry. The article concluded -
There is no indication when the present goslow policy will end. The Strongman mine has an average production of between 600 and 050 tons daily, whereas last week the average barely worked out at 350 tons. The decline is even worse at the Liverpool mine, where the week’s production of 1,850 tons approximately was down by 1,650 tons on the average week’s output of 3,500 tons.
I have proved conclusively that the national control of coal mines has not been effective in New Zealand and England, and I sincerely hope that the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, will not have his wonderful reputation wrecked by the measures that have been introduced by this Government. Although it possesses supreme powers in this matter, the Government is prepared to “ farm out “ its responsibility by making one individual responsible for the control of the industry, in the hope that he will lift the burden from its shoulders.
All along the line, the Government has given way to the demands of the miners. It has not implemented one suggestion that the owners have made to it from time to time, although the Prime Minister has repeatedly declared that they are not at fault. The Attorney-General stated that the owners were not opposing this bill, and that they were quite apathetic about it. When the right honorable gentleman considers the list of amendments that have already been submitted to him, giving expression to the views of the owners, . he will get a rude shock. The Government, having conceded to the miner the right to strike, now wonders why he takes advantage of it. The Government has permitted a partisan Minister in New South Wales to settle disputes out of hand, even though that may involve overriding a State law. The Government has appointed a partisan in the person of Mr. Willis, who stated only recently that his sympathy is with the miners. Although the Government has taken wide powers, it has failed to exercise them for the purpose of increasing the production of coal. Now, the Government has taken instructions from the miners’ federation to control the managements. In short, the Go- vernment has connived at the greatest industrial “squeeze” in the history of this nation. The Australian Broadcasting Commission news service this evening announced that the miners’ federation has not yet decided what action shall be taken following the issue of military callup notices to striking miners. But one pertinent piece of news, which the House should note, was a statement by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions advising the men to return to work and assuring them that it would ask the Government to cancel the call-up notices. That was a masterly understatement. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions will tell the Government to cancel the call-up notices, because it is a power above the Commonwealth Government.
.- Honorable members opposite have severely criticized the bill without offering any constructive suggestions, thereby proving that their object was to make political capital out of this measure. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) criticized some of the appointments which had been made by this Government, and referred specifically to Mr. Willis. I remind the right honorable gentleman that Mr. Willis has held some very responsible positions. Admittedly, he was for a time secretary of the miners’ federation, but he possessed ability and had the opportunity to seek advancement. He had the benefit of a university education, and he has in various ways fitted himself for the position that he holds. When the right honorable gentleman was Prime Minister, he appointed to high offices persons who were definitely partisan. Now, he accuses the Labour Government of “picking its men”. The Minister for Labour and National Service in the Menzies Government (Mr. Holt), when selecting the personnel of coal tribunals, appointed Mr. Roy, from the western district of New South Wales, Mr. Hickman, from the southern district, and Mr.Connell, who represents the largest aggregation of miners in any part of Australia. He must have regarded them as being impartial.
The Leader of the Opposition also protested because the bill provides that an award, order or decision of the central industrial authority shall not be chal lenged or questioned, and declared that such a power was greater than that vested in a judge of the High Court. That objection was most amusing, because a statutory rule issued during the regime of the Menzies Government contained an identical provision.
– What statutory rule was that?’
-Statutory Rule No. 25, issued on the 10th February, 1941, long before the Labour party took office. It reads -
An award or order of the Central Reference Board shall not, and, subject to the last preceding regulation, a decision of a local reference board, in relation to matters before a local reference board pursuant to subregulation (1.) of regulation 14 of these regulations, shall not be challenged, appealed against, quashed or called into question, or be subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction, in any court on any account whatever.
Incidentally, a similar provision is contained in the Industrial Peace Act and appears in nearly every arbitration act. Thereason is obvious. If the owners were dissatisfied with an award, they could appeal against it, and the workers would be obliged to continue on the job while the hearing dragged on for months. So that provision was inserted for the specific purpose of preventing unending litigation. The Leader of the Opposition compared the’ output of coal-miners in Australia with that of coal-miners in Great Britain; but his figures were contradicted by those read by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison).
– They were two different sets of figures.
– We are speaking of the loss of coal. The Leader of the Opposition said that about 750,000 tons of coal had been lost by about 700,000 employees in England, which equals about 1 ton a man. The honorable member for Wentworth said that losses ran into millions of tons. I asked him which year he was referring to, and he said 1943. That was where he fell. But honorable gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. If the miners are earning the big wages attributed to them they must be winning an extraordinary quantity of coal. The honorable member for Wentworth said that miners were earning £4 a day.
– That was by pillar extraction on the Maitland field.
– Well, I have looked up the figures. The tonnage rates vary from 2s. 6d. to 5s. a ton. To earn £4 a day at 2s. 6d. a ton a man would have to produce 32 tons a day. With a tonnage rate of 4s. he would have to fill 20 tons ; with a tonnage rate of 4s. 8d. he would have to fill slightly more than 17 tons; and with a rate of 5s. he would have to fill 16 tons. If the men are earning big money they must ‘be producing substantial quantities of coal. When the honorable’ member for New England (Mr. Abbott) tried coal-mining he filled one skip and then knocked up; yet he caused a strike in a mine where there had not been a strike for more than twenty years, because he said that it was easy work. One trouble in discussing this subject is that honorable members who have had no experience in this industry accept unrelated particulars as being of general application to the industry whereas they are entirely unsound as a basis of judgment. We ought not to be trying to make political capital out of this important national issue. Our business is to provide conditions which will make possible the winning of all the coal we need. The nation needs coal, but coal will not be won by unjust criticism of the coal-miners in this House. The Leader of the Opposition went so far as almost to put coalminers in the category of traitors to the nation. The fact is that until coalmining was on the list of reserved occupations the percentage of enlistments from the coal-fields was very high. That was true of the last war as well as of this one. It is, therefore, most unfair to insinuate that the coal-miners are disloyal. I had forgotten the statement of the right honorable gentleman until I heard it repeated over the air this evening. It was a nice statement to broadcast! It gives point to my contention, however, that we should consider this issue calmly and fairly. Reference has been made to an educational picture on coal-mining which, in one part, indicates what Hitler would do if he were in a position to bomb this country. If we could get some of the coal-miners who will not attend the meetings of their union to be present at a screening of such a picture, I believe it would do a great deal of good. Unfortunately, some coal-miners will not attend their union meetings. That is another of our problems. If such men could see films of the kind to which I have referred I believe that good would result. However, additional coal will not be produced by merely fining the coalminers. These men will not be driven, but they may be led.
The Government has tried the policy of appeasement, but, unfortunately, longstanding antagonisms exist between the mine-owners and the mine-workers, which go back to the bad old days when women worked in coal mines. In many families, father and son have followed the occupation of ‘coal-mining for generations, and stories have been handed down from father to son of the old days of bad ventilation. Mutual distrust exists in very many districts. It is probably more acute on the New South Wales coal-fields than elsewhere. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about social amenities. Many coal-miners are living under conditions of isolation which oblige the men to provide their own recreations. If the coal-miners of New South Wales had clubs such as I have visited in Western Australia, where the coal-miners and the coal-owners can meet together and discuss their problems over a convivial glass, it would be all to the good ; but in some parts of my district a union leader is afraid to be seen in the company of a mine manager, and a mine manager is afraid to be seen with a union leader. That attitude is entirely wrong, and it must be changed. But discussion of the coal-mining industry from the point of view of political parties in this House is merely heaping fuel on the flames. I would probably take a greater risk in a matter of this kind than would other honorable members, because I represent the biggest coal-mining district in Australia. I am prepared at all times to fight for the miners, when they are subjected to criticism in this Parliament, for whilst I may be quite prepared to smack my own child, I am not prepared to allow other people to smack it.
One of the greatest curses of the coalmining industry is the contract system.
It has the effect of causing men to work at highest pressure, and under most difficult conditions. A man will go “ flat out “ wearing only a pair of shorts, in order, it may be, to do as much work in six hours, or possibly five hours, as a worker in any other industry would do in a normal shift. Everyone wants to get his number of skips. The wheeler wants it, so he goes to work at a gruelling pace, and the men in other sections of the industry keep up the pace because of the curse of the contract system. In the mines in which I have worked where day labour and not the contract system has been the rule, I have met with little industrial unrest. Many coal-miners have to travel long distances to and from their work. Some men have to do a round trip of 80 miles a day, which means they have to rise at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. In many places they have to cope with unsatisfactory transport arrangements. They are compelled to travel these long distances, due to building restrictions and the housing shortage in mining districts. These conditions do not improve the temper of the men.
– What about conditions in New Zealand?
– A member of the New Zealand Labour Government was in Australia a few days ago, and he told us something about the conditions in that dominion. The Government of New Zealand endeavoured to put into operation a law similar to that embodied in this bill, but the measure had to be amended within a year, and the industry was put under the control of a coal council. This bill goes a long way to meet some of the troubles in the industry - I can speak with authority because about 80 per cent, of ray constituents are coal-miners who produce about 75 per cent, of Australia’s coal - but many of the miners are opposed to it, and I hope that, in committee, the Government will agree to certain amendments. I am told that sheafs of amendments are being produced by representatives of the coalowners and handed to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) for distribution among his friends, but I have not seen any of them.
– That is nonsense.
– What are the proportions of contract to day-work coalminers ?
– The proportion of contract miners, including wheelers, would be 60 per cent.
– They are actually the men who win the coal ?
– Yes. I believe the abolition of the contract system would go a long way to eliminate discontent from the industry ; but the Government’s control measures do not go so far as I think they ought to go. I consider that the Government should assume complete control. At present mine managers are required to produce coal for profit, and to maintain healthy balance-sheets for the coal-owners. All of us recognize that coal is an essential commodity. What would be wrong with the nationalization of a mineral that is really the -property of the people and should be applied to their uses, not exploited as it has been in the past, with the ruin of millions of tons? The late Joshua Jeffery, who was recognized as a mining expert, stated to a royal commission on one occasion that only 35 per cent, of the coal deposits are recovered. That that should apply to the Maitland coal-field, which produces the richest coal in the world, is a tragedy. It is due to the mining methods which have been applied in the past, and which will continue to be applied in the future if exploitation by private enterprise be permitted. The requirements of the nation weigh lightly upon the coal mine owners, their main concern being to have the coal extracted by any means that will enable them to get rich quick. From Maitland- to Kurri Kurri there are coal seams which have been practically ruined because of insufficient support in the pillars to hold the roof, the result being that the swamps of Maitland were allowed to seep into them. Heddon Greta, a new mine, did not work for any length of time; because of the smallness of the pillars, it practically collapsed, and had to be closed. We legislators are expected to make provision for the children of the nation. If the coal seams continue to be exploited as they have been, future generations will curse us for failure to prevent the ruin of such an important national asset.
– Who is responsible for that?
– The responsibility rests mainly upon governments, the State Government in the first place.
– Then Mr. Baddeley is responsible ?
– The right honorable gentleman and some of his colleagues have been members of Ministries for very much longer than has Mr. Baddeley. The Labour party in this Parliament has been able to obtain the direction of the administration only during national crises. In the height of the depression, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) led an administration that braved a . financial blizzard. and the present Administration also is in office in a time of national emergency. The attitude of the miners is, “ I might be disposed to give a man a pound, but I will let no man rob me of a penny “. Probably, many grievances involve no more than the payment of an extra sixpence a day. A fund should be established, from which claims for additional remuneration could be met pending the determination of the matter by the reference board. If the decision were in favour of the management, the fund should be reimbursed by the union, and if against the management, the company should pay. Such a system would not be easy to operate in existing circumstances, with so many authorities in control of the industry, many of them giving wrong decisions and few of them endeavouring to be helpful. I try to be helpful and as impartial as possible at all times. I hope that in committee the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will at least provide that the commissioner shall be under the control of a Minister. This Parliament should not surrender whatever control it may be able to exercise over any industry. The miners rightly fear that under the provisions of clause 50 the commissioner could adopt any method of production. They consider that the provision is “ loaded “ for the purpose of having machinery installed in pillars. I have previously expressed my views concerning pillar extraction. There is a greater degree of danger in this than m any other phase of mining operations. The installation of machines would increase the element of risk. It is claimed that machines are noisy. Men learn by years of experience to guard against danger. Their hearing becomes acutely sensitive, enabling them to detect ominous sounds which indicate the likelihood of a movement of earth developing. The coal-mining industry should not have been made a reserved occupation. That mistake was made, not by the present Government but by a previous administration. This occupation was not reserved during the last war. Some of the young men on the coal-fields are discontented because they . are not allowed to enlist in the services, whilst others left the industry before the man-power authorities were able to prevent them from doing so. Now, because of some offence, certain of the men are being called into the Army. That is regarded as savouring of victimization. I can say quite definitely that men between the ages of 18 and 25 years are key men, because they are performing duties which none but agile young men could perform. Tremendous agility is needed for the performance of such work as clipping on coal and taking off empties, because the men have to proceed backward at a fairly rapid walking pace. A slip in. unscrewing and removing the clip might cause a man to fall under the skip and suffer injury. I have worked in all branches of the industry. The ‘older men in the mine cannot perform the work that is now being done by these younger men. An objection to the policy of the manpower directorate to-day is that it will not permit youths of approximately seventeen years of age to engage in this calling. A great deal of discontent is caused because mine managements cannot supply the labour that is needed, with the result that some men are asked to do the work of two persons. The introduction of more man-power would obviate a lot of the existing trouble. All men are not equally robust in health. Some of those who are hewing coal desire to be regraded to either first-class or secondclass shift work, but certain of the mine managements will not permit the transfer to be made, despite the fact that wheelers between the ages of 25 and 30 years are anxious to get on to The coal in order to make as much money as possible so that they may procure homes and rear their families in a reasonable standard of comfort. This does not apply generally, the majority of the managements being anxious to help the young men along and increase contentment among their workers by allowing the transfers to be made.
Unless the proceeds of fines and additional profits are to be devoted to the institution of a proper system of housing, this bill will always be the cause of discontent. However, the bill makes no provision in that direction, and it should he amended in that respect at the committee stage. Those honorable members who have visited the coal-fields must have seen the wretched hovels in which many families are reared. Many hundreds of those homes are just bag humpies daubed with whitewash, and in them women are rearing families. Honorable members ought to see those places for themselves. Most of the miners are very thrifty, and they try to own their own homes, but usually they have to do the carpentering themselves. “Very few of them are in a position to get what is called “ a bank home “. They start off when first married in a bag humpy, and afterwards, if they are lucky, they build a home for themselves. Recently, I went up to Queensland, and there learned that the Queensland Government was making provision for the housing of miners. On the Glen Davis oil shale field in New. South “Wales n. housing scheme has been inaugurated, hut nothing has been done about homes for coal-miners in New South Wales. There is too much tendency to criticize the miners and to make them feel that they are unwanted. Members of this House never visit the fields themselves in order to discover just what the troubles of the miners really are. If they did, they would form a different opinion of the situation on the fields, and they would help me to improve the social conditions of the miners.
I believe that the Attorney-General will be prepared to accept some amendments designed to improve the bill. I have been asked what I have to say about the calling up of miners for military service. I say that the miners can be led, but they will not be driven. They believe that they were oppressed in the past. They believe that no government, either Labour or anti-Labour, ever stuck to them in the past, and this was especially true of the great lock-out of 1929-30. The bitterness of that experience is in their hearts, and nothing can efface it. Let us show that we have some confidence in them, instead of abusing them all the time. I know that a lot of the disputes on the coal-fields are stupid, and should never take place. I do not excuse the miners for some of the disputes; neither do I excuse the owners for some of them. It takes two to make a dispute, and it takes two to settle it.
– Does the honorable member think that the nationalization of the coal mines would solve the problem?
– Yes, this bill goes a part of the way, but it does not go the full way.
– Does the honorable member think that it ought to go all the way?
– I do. The nation owns the coal, and therefore the nation should control it. Some of those in private industry would, if they could, put a meter on our bedroom windows, and charge us for the air we breathe. The nation owns the Post Office and other great national services. Why should it not own and control the coal mines? I know that there would be constitutional difficulties in the way of national ownership after the war in the disposal of the mineral, but those difficulties must be overcome. They will, I hope, by the people giving extended powers to the National Parliament. I do not believe that nationalization would remove all the troubles, but I believe that it would enable us to get a great deal more coal than we are getting now.
– Has that been the experience in the New South. Wales State coal mine?
– Yes, and if the honorable member had read the statement of the Minister the other day, he would have seen that a wonderful record of production has been achieved in the New South Wales State coal mine. Similar results have been achieved at the Collinsville mine in Queensland, and at the Wonthaggi State mine in Victoria. However, it is impossible to get 100 per cent, production under the present system. Only by abolishing the contract system could it be done. [Extension of time granted.’] I am sorry that some honorable members opposite have chosen to discuss this subject in a partisan way. I have .been a member of this House for fifteen years, and the records will show that I have always worked for industrial peace. Like other people, I may, upon occasion, have said unkind things, but I believe that this subject is too serious to use as a political football. The nation is. desperately in need of coal, and I appeal to owners and miners alike to increase production. Only they can do it. Governments cannot do it; fines, gaoling, or the military call-up will not do it. Let us approach the problem in a spirit of sweet reasonableness. The miners may say that Rowley James is asking the lamb to lie down with the lion, but only by the fostering of a spirit of peace and goodwill can the problems of the industry be solved. The trouble is that we never see the coal owners and the miners make any attempt to get together. Indeed, as soon as a man is promoted from the coal face and becomes a deputy or an undermanager, his wife becomes superior to somebody else’s wife who has been her lifelong friend. When I made that remark upon a previous occasion, a newspaper came out with the statement that Rowley James blamed miners’ wives for the trouble on the coal-fields. I am not ashamed to speak to a mine manager or a mine-owner’s representative, but it appears that some are afraid to do so, and that is the cause of a great deal of trouble. I say now to both the owners and the miners that they should remember that the nation is in danger, and that there will be no place in the future for either miners or owners if we do not win this war.
– The House is much indebted to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who speaks on this subject as one who has had very wide experience, but I wish that be had told us how we can get more coal now. We are unable to launch a great housing scheme that will at once remedy the position which he says - much to my astonishment - exists in his district. I do not pretend to be as familiar as is the honorable member with the conditions under which the miners live, but through the years 1 have spent quite a lot of time in the mining, districts, and I have attempted to do something for the miners. It was my good or bad fortune to be involved in one of the most prolonged and bitter strikes that ever took place in the industry. I know something of the circumstances of the miners, and something of their outlook. I quite agree with the honorable member that they are a community apart. They are isolated. The general current of public opinion leaves them untouched. They either hear not or, hearing, heed not. They are a law unto themselves. The honorable member for Hunter said something about the bad old days. They were very bad old days. I remember when I first entered public life, a very old friend of mine, Mr. Alfred Edden afterwards Minister for Mines in the Government of New South Wale3, speaking on the Coal Mining Bill, said that he went into the mine when he was eight years old. That was indicative of the conditions which existed in the coal industry at the time. For many generations the miners were serfs tied to the mines. The honorable member has said that women worked in the mines, and little children, too. Those days, however, are gone. We live in a new world, and must adjust ourselves to the conditions of that world. In the world that has gone the miners owed everything they had to the union. No one who has had any experience of unionism at all could fail to realize that the discipline in the unions in the early days left nothing to the imagination. A man who “ ratted “ on the union was a traitor, and he had to be dealt with as such and speedily. Conditions in the coal-mining industry have been revolutionized. Fifty years ago the miners, or many of them, had no votes. The judiciary, the magistracy, the people who controlled the destiny of the State were men who could fairly be said to be at the service of their employers. But things have changed ; the man who 50 or 60 years ago had no vote, and no voice in the shaping of the laws under which he lived, now not only has a voice in the shaping of the laws, but is the most potent factor in shaping the destinies, conduct and legislation of this Parliament. He who was a poor, wretched, bent figure typified by the “man with a hoe “ is now the man on the tractor, the lord of all he surveys. Yes, time has wrought wondrous changes! The miner of to-day cares as little for the well-being of his fellow citizens as the employers did for that of the miner 50 or 60 years ago. It is a sad commentary on human nature that power robs men of their judgment, and of their common humanity, but it does. What is the cause of all this trouble ? The honorable member for Hunter has said that many of these strikes are stupid. There are many adjectives more appropriate than that to attach to these upheavals. The coalminers are striking to-day at Richmond Main, I think because a limbless soldier is in charge of a hauling engine. I remember long ago - it seems ages ago, but, as a matter of fact, it was in the last Parliament - that there whs a strike in one mine, because there was something wrong with a pit pony. Then a wheeler complains that the overseer looks at him crookedly, perhaps- objecting to “ the cut of his jib “. He says, “ I am going home “ and, as though his voice had been the voice of the Angel Gabriel sounding the last trump, all stop ! As my honorable friend says, you cannot work a mine without wheelers. The men who hew coal must have it taken away. They do not hew just for the fun of hewing ; they hew coal to get 2s. 6d., 4s. 8d. or 5s. a ton, as the case may be. Why do they strike? To put it in a phrase, the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the teeth of the children are set on edge. The miners are steeped in the traditions of a world that has passed away. That is one thing. Another is solidarity. What is the strength of the La’bour party ?
– Yes, right or wrong they stick together. The honorable member for Hunter says that, while he does not hesitate to criticize the actions of the miners, he will not stand patiently by and allow any one else to do so. He says that he is not afraid to tell the miners of their shortcomings. Well, he is the one swallow that does not make the summer, for that is. just what the federation officials are afraid to do. What is the matter with them? I do not speak as a neophyte in this matter. It was my fortune for over twenty years to be at the head of one of the most turbulent unions in this country. It is true that its members do not work underground, but if any honorable member thinks they are not worthy of their hire, he is wrong. They have their rights, which they won because they maintained their solidarity. In the days I speak of, industrial solidarity was essential not only to wellbeing, but also to economic existence, if one was to keep out of the industrial lazaret. Then the strike was the workers’ only weapon. One had to be a member of the .union, and the union had to be strong. But those days are gone. I have said that the conditions of the coal-miners have been revolutionized in my time, and the honorable member knows that perfectly well. I say that, whilst the miners owe much to their union, the union has not been responsible for one of the improved conditions that they enjoy to-day. No major improvement has been won by the miners as the result of direct action. The honorable member cited one or two cases ; let me cite another. I was in a strike that lasted five months. It ended in the men going back on .the miners’ terms. Another to which reference has been made this afternoon lasted on and off, I think, for fifteen months. It was, so they say, a lockout. Well, when industrial trouble has been going on for a long time, one does not know whether it is a lockout or a strike. One only knows that there is very little doing. I find that in that year when the men were out for fifteen months over 8,000 tons of coal was hewn. In 1929 there was 10,000,000 tons, in 1930, 10,900,000 tons, and in 1931, 8,400,000 tons, and from then on production rose. The miners gained nothing in that strike; they never gained anything substantial in any strike. In the strike in 1910 the men gained nothing. They went back on the employers’ terms. In the lock-out they gained nothing, and went back on the employers’ terms.
– The right honorable gentleman was not in the 1910 strike. He stopped out and let Peter Bowen go in.
– Well, I did my best. In that strike I was associated with the father of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). We gained nothing. There is a good deal of talk about the use of machines. The strike in 1910 was against the introduction of machines. It failed. I have said that miners owe their improved conditions to arbitration courts and industrial tribunals. The honorable member for Hunter said something about ventilation in mines. I was in the State Parliament when the Coal Mines Regulations Bill was enacted. It effected great improvement in the miners’ conditions; the eight hours bank to .bank was brought in. Nothing that the miners have won by striking has ever approached that one achievement.
But let me come to the point. We must have coal, and only members of the miners’ federation can get it. There is nobody else. I become a little annoyed to hear people talking about employing other labour. They do not know what they are talking about. No other labour can do it. A great responsibility is thrown on the miners. This country must have coal in order to win the war. Why do the miners not hew it? I asked the honorable member for Hunter the proportion of contract miners to surface men and other workers in the mine, and he said it was about” 60 per cent. I say that the irresponsible trouble makers in the federation never approached 20 per cent., but they terrorize the moderates. If there is a lodge meeting the moderates stay away, or if they go they are afraid to speak ; if they do speak, they get “ a lift under the ear ‘ole “. The honorable member knows this perfectly well. The extremists always carry the day. What applies to a lodge meeting applies to an aggregate meeting. The moderates are afraid to hold up their hands. When the union decrees a strike every man comes out, but when the union tells the miners to go back to work they hang back in the breeching. “ Discipline “, my right honorable friend, the Leader of the Opposition, said, “ is what is wanted”. That is what is wanted - discipline. What are we fighting for in this war? We are fighting for liberty. But. we are compelled in order to maintain our liberty to submit to discipline. Without discipline we are utterly undone. Discipline is the foundation upon which unionism rests. The men who are causing this trouble are of the kind who 50 or 60 years ago would have been .among the foremost of strike breakers ! What have they done for unionism? Nothing. They reap where they have not sown. They enjoy the conditions that their forefathers have won for them : the benefits that have been amply showered upon them by arbitration courts, by industrial tribunals, and by Parliament. They have done nothing to earn them, or to deserve them. And they are doing their best to imperil and destroy them. The Government has brought in this bill to deal with the situation, but I think the right, honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was right in saying that the Government could do everything that the commissioner under this bill is empowered to do. What can the commissioner do under this bill if there is not co-operation? He may issue an order. Is it going to be obeyed? Discipline is the watchword. The Government says “ go “, and they reply, “ We shall go if your order suits us “. They will not obey when they are told to do something which the Government thinks is right, and; which the great majority of miners think is right. That is the cause of all the trouble.
The executives of the lodges or of the federation itself should tell these men plainly what is their duty and compel them to do it. They are in a position to compel them. Public opinion in the mining community, if solidified, concentrated and united upon this one thing, namely, the necessity to hew coal for our war effort,- would compel every one of the irresponsibles to toe the mark. There is no other way. But what does the executive do instead of ordering the men to remain at work? It makes excuses for their defiance of the law. If the court orders a miner to pay a fine, the executive pays it for him. Conferences are held day after day between the Government and the executive. Now, Australia is at war, and we must win. The Prime Minister has told us over and over again that the country must have coal for its war effort. We are not getting coal. At Coalcliff, a strike has been in progress for fifteen days, and the remaining mines on the south coast have struck in sympathy. The merits of the dispute are not an issue, the “ three-lift system “ does not involve most of them.
The honorable member for Hunter said that some of the strikes occur over stupid causes. There is no doubt about that, but strikes in time of war are treachery to the Commonwealth. They are a blow aimed at the heart of democracy and of unionism, which rests on democracy and on the control by free Australians of their affairs. We not only recognize unionism but also encourage and elevate it so that all men do obeisance to it. But unless we win the war unionism is doomed - and to win the war we must have coal. They long and short of it is that unless the executive and the great body of miners realize their responsibility and their clear duty and face up to these irresponsibles, there is no remedy for the unrest that is now occurring on the coal-fields of New South Wales.
The honorable member for Hunter dragged in issues that had no bearing on this case. For example, he spoke of the manner in which the Maitland fields have been worked, and said that, only 35 per cent, of those priceless seams has been exploited. The rest has been irrevocably lost. Whose fault is that? A Labour Government is in office in New South Wales. The Minister for Mines is Mr. Baddeley, who was formerly president of the miners’ federation. On one occasion he declared that if the law had been put into force in 1931, this appalling loss would have ended. But Mr. Baddeley has been in office for two years and nine months, and he has not done anything. The Labour Government of New South Wales could have passed a bill to change the method of mining on the Maitland fields.
The name of Mr. Willis has been mentioned in this debate. As the Leader of the Opposition’ said, Mr. Willis has had a great deal of experience. He has held high office in the federation. I recall an occasion when Mr. Willis and Mr. Baddeley came to see me. There was a strike in the offing. I can hardly remember when there was not. They objected to an award because it did not suit them and they asked for the appointment of another tribunal. I agreed to make that appointment. Then they wanted to know who would preside over it. I replied, “I cannot tell you that”. That was only a few months after the exodus or the hegira from the Labour party. They put the matter to me this way, “If you were still a member of the Wharf Labourers Union and this matter concerned that body, would you appoint the man whom you intend to appoint ? “ What they wanted was not so much another tribunal as another award that would give them what they wanted. Of course, that was perfectly natural. What is more natural than that a Labour government should appoint men who understand this industry and who have some sympathy for the worker? I do not take exception to that. But I do differ from the honorable member for Hunter when I say that those men can hardly be stamped with the hall-mark of impartiality.
The miners have everything their own way. There ought not to be strikes and stoppages on the coal-field; there is no excuse for their going on strike. There was an excuse, if you like, in the days when only one tribunal was in existence that could hear their grievances, and they might have to wait for many months before the case would be completed. Because of that, I appointed the tribunal to which I have referred, and the honorable member for Hunter will agree that it maintained peace for years in Newcastle.
– It was the best piece of legislation that the right honorable gentleman ever passed.
– It seems incredible! A man like me doing a thing like that ! Some mine-owners complained; but then.
We cannot have everything our own way.
The Coal Commissioner will not be able to do anything unless he has the wholehearted support of the Government. The Government and the commissioner will not be able to do anything unless they have the wholehearted cooperation of the executive of the federation. And the federation will not be able to do anything unless behind it stand the great body of loyal, moderate miners on the Maitland and Newcastle fields. I am perfectly sure that, given decent conditions, the majority of ‘ the miners are in favour of working. Compared with conditions years ago, their working conditions are decent now. I do not say that they are perfect by any means. The honorable member for Hunter protested that the miners are not properly housed. I agree that improved conditions must be given from time to time for the worker. But I contend that strikes in war-time are crimes, and I say that the fines which are provided in the schedule to this bill to deter or punish strikers are worthless. The federation will pay them. The miner himself laughs at them. The only way in which to bring these irresponsibles up with a round turn is to put them out of the union. The honorable member for Hunter referred to a shortage of labour. I do not know whether the federation is prepared to accept for membership men who are otherwise suitable. All I know is that if the federation is prepared to do that, it is different from any other union with which I have had anything to do.
The coal-miners of New South Wales must realize what democracy has meant to them. They now have a Labour Government in the Commonwealth and in the State of New South Wales. The State Minister for Mines was formerly president of the miners’ federation. Albert Willis is the authority-designate to determine working conditions under this bill. What more can the miners want? Why are they on strike? No great principle is involved. At Coalcliff, miners have worked with the coalscraper for fourteen or fifteen years without ill-effects. They have been working with three pairs of men on the pillars for many years.’ I shall not dogmatize on the issue because I do not know anything about it. All I can do is to emphasize that for fifteen years the men worked under those conditions without any serious accident, and now, during thegreatest war in history after Australia has been saved from destruction by powerful Allies from overseas, these men strike. No principle is at stake; they were asked to work under conditions that had existed for many years. As Mr. Mighell has pointed out, the men demand the acceptance of their terms and the, will not yield an inch. Whilst the honorable member for Hunter does well tochampion them, he will do better to counsel them wisely. If counsel fails, the very existence of the federation, nay, of unionism generally, will be endangered. Have these men no regard for unionists in other industries? If we took a vote of all the industrialists in Australia, they would by an overwhelming majority condemn these men. True, the coal-mining industry differs from other industries, but I do not know that it is any worse to work in a coal mine than in the deep leads of some metalliferous mines. I believe that working down some of the mines at Broken Hill is worse than working in the coal mines. On that subject, however, I shall not speak, because I am not an authority. What I do know is that these men have gained great things by political action through arbitration courts and industrial tribunals. The machinery for the prompt settlement of disputes is ready to their hand. If a. grievance is voiced at 10 a.m., they are able to bring the matter before a board on the same day. What more can they want ?
As for the abolition of the contract system, I say nothing about it. What has been said by the honorable member for Hunter is news to me. In all the turmoil in which I have been involved, I have never heard the abolition of the contract system mentioned in the mining industry at Broken Hill, in the coal-mining industry at Newcastle, or in the pastoral industry. It is a curious thing that all the great unions of this country have turned naturally to piece-work. They have, of course, as is quite proper, complained very bitterly at times, when the rates payable were inadequate. I do not think that can be said now. If there is cause for complaint on that score it can be remedied. I put to the Government and to the people that we should regard this bill as not doing anything more than setting up machinery to achieve some result which can be gained only by cooperation of the owners and the miners’ federation. Men may be called up, but what then? Certainly the Government having put its hand to the plough should not look back. “What could have been done easily two or three years ago can be done only with very great difficulty to-day. The policy of appeasement which nearly wrecked our Empire is responsible for the trouble in the coalmining industry to-day. If the nettle had been firmly grasped in the first place no trouble would. have arisen; but the men have been encouraged to ignore or flout the law, until they now regard it with contumely. The Leader of the Opposition advised discipline for the industry. That is the only remedy, but it must be discipline informed and guided by human sympathy. I understand very well the feelings that exist between the miners and the mine-owners. I have had dealings with them; they were both the most obstinate bodies of men I had ever met in my life. I can draw no distinction between them. I had dealings with men typical of the mine-owners ; they and the miners are the heirs of the age-long class struggle in this industry. The men are now on top, and are able to say what will happen to the employers if they do not do certain things. It is, of course, most unlikely that anything will happen to the miners. I am told that they may be called upon to make a payment, which is not a fine; but as they will never pay, it does not matter what we call it. The honorable member for Hunter considers that a visit by the Prime Minister to the coal-fields might have good results. He may be right, but no government could have treated the coal-miners with greater consideration than this Government has done. Have the miners no regard whatever for the Government, or for the Labour movement, or for trade unionism, or for Australia? Already, about 300,000 tons of coal has been lost this year; yet we were told that if the miners received their nine days’ holiday at the end of last year they would come back to work like giants refreshed and, by prodigious exertions, more than make up for the coal lost during their holiday. They came back.
– They did not come back.
– Well, I put it in my own way; I say they came back. But they have not produced the coal we need. At the present rate of loss of production, we shall be between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 tons down on the year.
The executive of the miners’ federation may seek to escape responsibility for this, but it cannot do so. The fact is that the executive has a sword of Damocles hanging over it. Its members know that they may lose their jobs unless they preach the gospel that these wild men want them to preach. They are afraid to do what they know they ought to do. Yet they must have the courage to do it. I know that the honorable member for Hunter has courage. I bid him now to go and tell the executive what I have said and what he has said, and to say to it that it must have courage to tell the miners what they should do. If these men are brought up with a round turn that will be the best thing that could happen on the coal-fields.
.- Whilst I support this bill, I regret that the Government has taken so long to introduce it. I accept the measure as a step in the right direction, but, as one who has had professional associations with the coal-mining industry for many years, I am satisfied, from my knowledge of the situation and my observations of the people, that we shall not achieve permanent peace in this industry until the mines have been nationalized or until they are worked on a co-operative basis. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said, only a spirit of co-operation between mineowners and mine-workers will bring permanent peace on the coal-fields. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) reminded us that coal is the gift of the Almighty to us all, and not to a small privileged section of the community. The right honorable member for North Sydney referred to the socalled policy of appeasement. He should know something about appeasement in relation to this industry, as he should know something also about the use of emergency powers during war-time, because we all remember how he used war precautions regulations during the last war. He has referred to the association of my father with this industry, and I have a vivid recollection of one interesting episode of those days. A general strike had occurred in 1917 and a certain judge was deputed to investigate the claim of the miners for increased wages. My father was one of the advocates to appear before the judge. When the representatives of both sides met His Honor, he peremptorily informed them that he would listen to no arguments. The advocates were promptly sat down. I do not suggest that the right honorable member for North Sydney, who was then Prime Minister, gave instructions in regard to argument; but the fact is that an increase of ls. fid. a ton, which the miners had claimed, was granted to them. Within two or three weeks, however, a war precautions regulation was issued which gave the coal-owners an increase of the price by 3s. a ton, which not only reimbursed ‘ them for ‘the ls. 6d. a ton they had to pay the miners, but also gave them ls. 6d. a ton for themselves. If that was not appeasement naked and unashamed, I do not know what appeasement is. The less the right honorable member for North Sydney has to say about appeasement, the better. Of course, he did not tell the whole story of the Industrial Peace Tribunal which was appointed shortly after the 1917 strike. That tribunal was established in spite of strong opposition by the coal-owners, and Mr. Charles Hibble, who was district coroner at the time and a popular and well-known figure in the Newcastle community, but without experience in the coal-mining industry, was appointed chairman of it. Apparently, he had the capacity to exercise sound judgment, for peace was secured in the coal-mining industry and lasted for many years. However, owing to the persistent agitation by the coal-owners, the Bruce-Page Government, which was supported by the interests who are now represented by honorable members opposite, scrapped the Industrial Peace Tribunal. I do not know that the right honorable member for North Sydney was a willing party to that action.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney can hardly be accused of having been an enthusiastic supporter of the Bruce-Page Government.
– That may be one reason why the Bruce-Page Administration scrapped the tribunal. I believe that had the tribunal remained in control, peace would have continued in the coalmining industry. It must be obvious to every one who has studied this industry that an apparently unbridgeable gulf yawns between the coal-owners on the one hand and the coal-miners on the other. An atmosphere of suspicion and distrust prevails throughout the industry; it is, no doubt, the result of the century-old struggle against the system of control by private enterprise. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that those days had gone, but unhappily they have not quite gone, for the same old struggle for better conditions in the industry persists and the owners still resist every move for reform. I do not say that individual managers are not ready to apply remedies, but the trouble is that every claim must be referred to the mineowners’ associations. Those associations really control the industry and their attitude is : “ If we make this concession, the miners will ask for another concession to-morrow, so we will make no concessions.” That attitude has always marked the dealings of the mine-owners with the mine-workers. In the course of the years, improved conditions have been wrung from ‘the mine-owners as the result of great sacrifice and much sorrow on the part of the people whose living depends upon coal-mining.
The remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney about my father bring to my mind stories which have been handed down to me. In 1888, at the age of fifteen years, my father went to work at the old Bulli mine. I recollect hearing of the time when 80 men lost their lives in an explosion in that mine. If the explosion had occurred five or ten minutes later, my father might have lost his life. The miners had been agitating for a long while for the installation of safety lamps in the mine, but the representatives of the mineowners said then, as honorable gentlemen opposite have said to-night in relation to the Coalcliff colliery: “You have accepted these conditions in this mine for years. The mine is quite safe. There is no need for extra precautions.” Yet that explosion occurred. We are now being told that, because certain conditions have been accepted in the Coalcliff colliery for fifteen years, there is no need to alter them. As the result of the explosion at the Bulli colliery, a royal commission of inquiry was appointed, but fourteen or fifteen years passed before anything effective was done, and in the course of that time many more women had been widowed and many more children orphaned. I remember that when a royal commission on this industry met at the Court House in Wollongong in 1902, a prominent mine manager asserted, with the utmost conviction, that the Mount Kembla colliery was one of the safest in New South Wales and that there was no danger in it from poison gas. The words were hardly uttered when a loud explosion was heard. All who were within the building rushed outside, where they learned that that very mine had “ gone up in smoke “. From it were carried the dead bodies of 100 miners, and many others whose injuries caused them to be maimed for the remainder of their lives. Reforms have been obtained as a result of such disasters and sacrifices, not by means of voluntary action by those who have derived profits from mining operations. Only a few years ago, in consequence of continuous agitation by the miners’ federation, rescue stations were installed on the south coast. The present agitation is due to the inhalation of stone dust. I have been associated with Mr. Louden, the president of the southern district of the miners’ federation for many years in the presentation of claims before the Workers Compensation Court. A fight has had to be waged for years in order to obain the recognition of pneumoconiosis - coal dust on the lungs - as an occupational disease. The lungs of many miners, when they have reached middle age consist not of ordinary tissue but of coal dust. This has led to the present dispute at Coalcliff. Mr. Louden has publicly stated that the federation has expended thousands of pounds in having X-ray photographs taken of the lungs of men who work in the mines on the south coast, and these have disclosed considerable lung affection due to the inhalation of coal and stone dust. When men are thrown on the industrial scrap-heap they derive very little satisfaction from the receipt of compensation amounting to £2 or £3 a week. They want to avoid the suffering which is now caused to them by the settlement of coal dust on their lungs. Under’ the present system of control, there is an unbridgeable gap. The question is, whether or not that gap can be temporarily bridged during war-time. That is the object of the Government, and I wish it every success. I hope that it will give consideration to the propaganda that is being issued in regard to the conduct of the coal-miners. What is being said is not to the credit of its authors. I understand that Mr. Louden has endeavoured to have his side of the ease for the coal-miners at Coalcliff, submitted to the public through the press, but has been unsuccessful. He desired to have it broadcast, but was not accorded that privilege. The Government should ensure that the propaganda issued will build up, not break down, the morale of the miners, as is occurring under existing conditions. The right of freedom of expression, which is so widely acclaimed, ought to be conceded to them. The first intimation that we had that men were producing coal at a mine at Muswellbrook was when a strike occurred as a protest against certain provocative and insulting remarks by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Production at this mine had been uninterrupted for nearly twenty years, and during the whole of that period there had been a spirit of co-operation between management and the men, both of whom were incensed at the reflections which the honorable member for New England had cast on the workers in the industry. I hope that the Government will prevent propaganda of that sort. If the Department of Information assumes control of the matter, I trust that positive propaganda will be issued, extolling the good work which many miners are doing. I have obtained from the Library a booklet entitled Building Morale, by J. B. Nash, doctor of philosophy and chairman of the Department of Physical Education and Health, New York University. It contains the following paragraph: -
Men have a desperate need, for approval when something they have done is well done.’ There is a response to such approval, self or group; heads lift, chins come in, eyes are bright, posture is dynamic, body functions are heightened; the individual is integrated; the outcome is dynamic action, it is drama.
I do not countenance trivial disputes, and have never been an upholder of direct action; but I believe in credit being given where it is due. The miners are as human as are honorable members, and welcome a little applause when they deserve it. Honorable members like to be assured that when they make a speech their remarks will be recorded by the press and that they will receive some acclaim and appreciation. Those who criticize the miners should set a good example.We have been virtually on strike in this House for the last three or four weeks, not one piece of legislation having been passed because of the obstructive tactics of honorable members opposite. I am sure that the miners would follow the lead if honorable members set a good example.
Under the bill, control is to be vested in a single commissioner. I should have preferred a commission of three or five members, because control of the coalmining industry will be one of the biggest undertakings in this country. However, I wish the commissioner well, and hope that his efforts will succeed. The honorable member for Hunter has raised the matter of ministerial control, and I am pleased that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has given the assurance that provision will be made in this regard. The Government cannot abdicate for good or for ill; it must accept responsibility in this matter. It may be said that clause 11 makes provision for a certain measure of ministerial control, in that sub-clause 1 provides that the Minister may suspend the commissioner from office for misbehaviour or incapacity. That does not go far enough. The onus is to be on the Minister to indicate what is misbehaviour or incapacity. The commissioner may be doing his best, but the task may be beyond his capacity, or there may be some element which the Government may consider to be outside his province. An important feature of the measure is that which provides that the commissioner is to have advisers. I take it that these will be men who have some knowledge of the industry and will thus be able to render proper assistance to the commissioner in the discharge of his duties. That any profits in excess of the average which the proprietors have previously received shall go back into the industry is another excellent provision. I cannot see any real ground for complaint in that regard. If any profits can be shown to be due to the activities of the commissioner, the industry should benefit thereby.
-Suppose there were no profits last year, on account of strikes.
– I take it that a proper method will be employed for striking an average.
– The bill does not make provision for it.
Mr.Falstein. - There is provision for the determination of the matter by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Mr. Archie Cameron. - I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) - who is not, never has been, and I hope never will be, a Minister of State - in order in interjecting from the ministerial bench?
– All interjections are disorderly. Both the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Barker have been out of order in that respect. I ask the honorable member for Barker to desist.
– The average rate of profits will be taken. It may be difficult to determine whether an interruption has been due to the conduct of the miners or the management. Bad management may be the cause. Many stoppages are outside the control of both the men and the management. There are mines which have not shown a profit for many years. Surely the commissioner is not to be expected to make profits for mines that have not been profitable in the past? On the other hand, if profits have been enhanced as the result of the activities of the commissioner, it is only fair that they should be applied to the benefit of the industry. The owners will be benefited indirectly, because the funds will be utilized in the provision of greater amenities and better working conditions, by which means higher production may be achieved. The possible effect on production of the provision of greater amenities and better working conditions has been overlooked in the past. The failure of many employers to provide more amenities has been due to short-sightedness.
The provision in relation to the setting up of production committees is an admirable one. I have repeatedly advocated this principle in this House. In industries in which production committees of the workers and the managements have been set up during the war period beneficial results have ensued. This has been particularly noticeable in Great Britain and the United States of America. These committees will, if the parties represented upon them act together in the proper spirit, make for better conditions in the industry, and will promote increased production. In the past, the coal-owners have evaded their responsibility to provide better housing for the miners. “When I have asked colliery proprietors why they have not paid attention to this matter, they have told me that it is not their concern, but that of the miners. Had they made it their concern there might have been fewer difficulties on the coal-fields. It has been established that bad housing conditions are often responsible for producing the bad boys who, in turn, become criminals, and the enemies of society. Measures should also be introduced in the mines to ensure safety and to guard the health of the miners. If this were done, there would be less trouble of the kind that has occurred recently at Coalcliff. It used to be the practice to use stone-dust to keep down coal-dust, but it was found that the stone-dust also affected the health of the miners. Only after years of agitation before the “Workers’ Compensation Court was coal-dust, or stonedust on the lungs, recognized as an occupational disease. In the last case in which
I was concerned, that of Pye v. The Metropolitan Collieries, this principle was established, but only after the owners had carried it to the Privy Council. The miners are not satisfied to be given compensation after they have contracted an occupational disease. They want conditions to be improved so that they will not contract the disease. If there were a proper system of watering - not the old bath-tub system - the dust menace could be overcome, whether there were a twolift or a three-lift system, and there would be fewer disputes.
I hope that when the mechanization of the mines is effected, the primary consideration will be the health and welfare of the miners. We should ensure that, as a result of mechanization, miners are not thrown on the scrap-heap. Under private enterprise, the more machines that are introduced, the greater the profit and the fewer the workers. I hope that, in the coal-mining industry, the assets of the nation will be protected, and the welfare of the miners adequately safeguarded. Now that this matter has been brought so prominently before honorable members, I hope that they will take a real interest in those engaged in the industry, instead of merely criticizing them. Before the last parliamentary recess, I suggested that a delegation of members of all parties from this Parliament should visit the coal-fields, and the Prime Minister promised to consider the suggestion. I. hope that it will yet be adopted, because I am convinced that, if it were, it would alter the outlook of many honorable members, particularly those on the other side of the House. I trust that the Prime Minister himself will be able to visit the coal-fields, as did the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) when he was Prime Minister, and as did the Prime Minister of Great Britain recently. I hope that our Prime Minister will also be able to visit the munitions factories. There is, unfortunately, a general slowing-up of production due to war-weariness, which makes the workers irritable, and thus disputes easily arise, which, in turn, lead to the holding up of production. A visit by the Prime Minister to the mines and munitions factories would improve the morale of the workers. I urge him to follow the example of the
King and Queen, who recently visited the coal-fields in Wales and ate with the miners in their canteens. Much of the trouble on the coal-fields is due to the activities of certain extremists, and some of them are among the miners. They still believe that this is an imperialist war, and it is of little use putting such men into the Army. If they are prepared to sabotage the country’s industrial war effort, they would sabotage the military effort, also. There is only one place for them. The great majority of the miners are just as patriotic as any one else in the community, and if the Government were to appeal to the best in them they would not be found wanting.
.- All honorable members in this House will agree that any legislation likely to result in an increased production of coal should be supported. However, we must face facts. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) is animated by a lively sympathy with the miners, but he is obviously shutting his eyes to the effect of what is happening to-day. We are faced with the inescapable fact that production is being hampered in Australia, and transport curtailed, because of a shortage of coal. This was made sharply evident during the recent cessation of production at Yallourn in Victoria. The war effort has been disrupted by absenteeism and strikes among the miners. Honorable members opposite cannot deny this. Indeed, it has been admitted by their leader himself. I am afraid that this bill will be just another scrap of paper to be added to the pile of codes and regulations that have been issued from time to time. There may be some good points in the bill. If so, they can be discovered and discussed in committee.
The honorable member for Reid said that there was a century-old struggle between the miners and the owners. That is the trouble - the grievances of the miners belong to the past. I do not deny that there may be such occupational diseases as lung trouble occasioned by dust, and I do not condone the conditions responsible for them. Those conditions must be improved, but we are face to face to-day with a greater problem than that. Does the- honorable member not realize that the men in the fighting services arc also facing difficulties and dangers ? Doe? he not know that a miner receives twice, or even three times, as much pay as a bomber pilot or a Spitfire pilot, who unhesitatingly and uncomplainingly faces whatever danger or discomfort may be involved in the performance of his duty? Can the honorable member not convince the miners that it is time they laid their grievances aside, and concentrated upon the nation’s war effort ? He must realize how vitally important coal is for the manufacture of steel, and aircraft and munitions. Major Lloyd-George, the National Fuel and Power Minister in Great Britain, recently said that it took 20,000 tons Of coal to mount one 2,000- ton bomber raid. In spite of increased mechanization of the mines, the fact remains that production ha3 declined in Australia in recent years. It has been said, and not denied, that 5,000,000 tons of coal has been lost through absenteeism and strikes since this Government took office. This must result in prolonging the war. Is it fair that these highly paid workmen should behave in this way. Honorable members opposite have said that we should discuss this problem in a non-political way. I try always to approach national problems in that way, and I now quote the following from an article in a non-political journal, the New South Wales returned soldiers’ paper, Reveille -
For far too many people in this country self-interest means more than the country’s well-being. There is a spirit of selfishnessabroad which is a disgrace to those who would sacrifice the nation rather than make any personal sacrifice.
The great body of trade unionists are loyal men and women, actuated by high ideals of national service in the country^ hour of peril; but there is a loud-voiced minority in the industrial movement whose stop-work complex is an act of sabotage. How cheered the Japanese warmongers must be when they hear about strikes and hold-ups? Their own saboteurs could not merit greater commendation for the un-Australian conduct of the malcontents who bring shame upon themselves and the name of Australia. Talk to the men of the fighting services, as I have done. What they think about the striking and self-seeking minority is unprintable.
The actions of the malcontents in industry have aroused a deep and abiding bitterness among the fighting men and their own workmates, who see in strikes and ship holdiiisno justification, no merit, and no decency.
The fighting man’s view is that all strikers in war-time are scabs-
I am not. saying that. I regard it as a deplorable word to use about anybody, but that is the word used by this nonpolitical journal and understood in union circles. The quotation continues - scabs on the mcn who are doing the fighting - and the dying - so that the disruptionists may sleep comfortably in their beds at night and receive their bloated pay envelopes. There is one big lesson the malcontents and industrial saboteurs must learn, while there is yet time: Democracy, while it confers rights and privileges, also imposes obligations and responsibilities.
There is much more in the same strain. This should be read by every honorable member. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that it was time that films were taken to the coalmining districts to show miners what is going on in Great Britain and how the Welsh coal-miners have to suffer bombing and other hardships and receive less pay. These men must have intelligence. In Australia there is compulsory education. They must know that we are at war. Many of them must have in the services friends or relatives to whom they are behaving treacherously. Honorable members who support this measure should preach that sentiment to them. Does any one deny that tribunals, or whatever machinery to deal with the miners’ troubles is set up, would not approach the settlement of those troubles impartially? I urge the miners to go to work and ensure increased production.
In October last, just after my return from abroad, the Prime- Minister made a speech which greatly impressed me. It had been shameful for mc to read in the English press about hold-ups on the waterfront and absenteeism in the coalmining industry. But the Prime Minister spoke eloquently - honorable members know the language he uses and his speech is in Hansard - about irresponsibles and touts and spielers in the industry. He used strong language about those men who, he said, should be expelled from the union. The Government, he said, intended to take action. On ‘ another occasion he talked about “lawlessness, naked and unashamed “, when referring to a stoppage of the tramway and omnibus services of Sydney and Newcastle. The Prime Minister threatened, wheedled, and cajoled, raised his voice in threats and lowered it in pleas, but with what result? Is this bill to be of the slightest use, or is it to be another paper code brought down in order to caution these men in the hope that they will do the right thing?
The position in Victoria was very critical. It has been the habit to keep a reserve of about 500,000 tons of coal in Australia, but that reserve has been depleted and drastic measures have had to be taken in order to conserve stocks. It has fallen to innocent householders to make economies in the use of .lighting and power. Men and women in the services cannot, take leave when it falls due because there are no trains to carry them. All because of a few selfish irresponsible, about whom the Prime Minister has told us! Recently, some five months after that speech in which he used the strongest terms to describe a certain element in the coal-mining industry, I asked the right honorable gentleman how many of those who, he had said, should be purged, had been cleared out of the industry. His reply was, “ about 126 “. I made further inquiries to ascertain how many had been expelled as the result of government action and I found that it was doubtful whether one had been. All had left owing to retirement, sickness or enlistments. In spite of his fine promises, his pleas and his threats, the Prime Minister has pandered to these men and led them to believe that they can dominate the Government and carry on in their own sweet way. Before the establishment of the Yallourn brown coal power scheme in Victoria, that State was dependent on New South Wales for coal for its industries. The State railways are still so dependent. Because the constant strikes in the coal-mining industry of New South Wales disrupted industry in Victoria, it was decided that the brown coal resources of Gippsland should be exploited to obtain a source of supply, and . a famous engineer and soldier of the last war, General Sir John Monash, was given the task. I knew Sir John
Monash personally, and I remember his words, “ When this work is completed “ - and there was difficulty and criticism about the whole scheme - “we shall no longer be the industrial vassals of New South Wales”. He told me that at that time most factories in Victoria had auxiliary power plants to ensure that the employees should be kept at work during any strike on the New South Wales coal-fields owing to the irresponsible actions of some foolish boy. So the repercussions are- tremendous on the home front as well as on the military front. Some honorable members arrived here to-day after rattling along at the alarming pace of about twenty miles an hour from Goulburn. The trip from Melbourne to Canberra occupied seventeen hours, compared with the one and a half hours in which members could have done the journey by air. I therefore suggest that .the miners who presume that they can have protracted sway over this country will find themselves in the position forecast for miners in Great Britain by A. P. Herbert in his couplet, which I might plagiarize as follows: -
Do not presume on your protracted sway;
Maybe we’ll do without you one fine day.
The people in Great Britain have their mining troubles too, but not in the same dimensions as we have.
– How would the honorable member tackle it?
– Aircraft is the answer, fifteen years hence railways will be scarcely used for long journeys. I assume that the slow train from Goulburn to Canberra was made slower because of the coal shortage.
– But aircraft will not get over the difficulty of getting more coal.
– I am coming to that. I do not criticize without suggesting remedial measures. The selfish actions of a few men on the coal-fields throw burdens on most people in this continent, on some to a greater degree than others. Their own workmates, members of other unions, are thrown out of employment. As I have pointed out, the curtailment of train services prevents many men and women in the services from re turning home on leave. The Prime Minister’s threats and pleadings have been in vain. In the first fortnight of this year, 97,000 tons of coal was lost and in the years since the Labour party took office, 5,000,000 tons has been lost. No doubt, there was a time when one could talk of chains and slavery in the coal-mining industry. When I first entered this House, I heard the honorable member for Hunter speak about the plight of the coal-miners of Maitland. I was moved to hear of the miseries they were suffering. I went to the. coal-fields. I did not get any thanks for going there, although the honorable member frequently asks that we go there. In any event, I went there, and I hewed coal - not very much, I concede - and I tried to gain knowledge of what the coalminers were doing. The Rothbury mine was being kept open by the Government of New South Wales while other mines were idle. I spoke to men there who previously could not get work. They said that they had averaged £10 a week. Those I saw in action were not overworked. Honorable members who have worked in the coal-mining industry know that the work is no harder than work in many other industries. Any one who knows anything about metalliferous mining or gold-mining knows that the miners in those industries work infinitely harder than do the coal-miners. Yet they do not create the difficulties that coal-miners create. The men in the steel-works work harder than coal-miners. Men in New Guinea to-night face death and hardship uncomplainingly. They do not go on strike. Their work is harder and fraught with many more difficulties than coalmining. Why weep’ crocodile tears about some one or other who went to work at ten years of age or thereabouts 50 years ago? We have to live in the present. If the men in the coal-mining industry will not work, action must be taken to compel them. Consider some of the reasons for seme of the recent strikes. These are authentic: A bus driver at Stockrington made men walk 300 yards to their homes. The men went on strike next day. The bus from the Burwood colliery went home by an indirect route. The men got off the bus, ‘notwithstanding that it would have taken them all the way home, and walked, and struck in protest next day. At Cessnock, 63 men struck against meat rationing. If the coal-miners in Great Britain ‘behaved as the Australian coalminers behave, it is estimated that, in the six months ended the 30th May, 1943, 37,000,000 tons of coal would have been lost. When I tell honorable members that it requires 20,000 tons to supply the energy necessary for a 2,000-ton bomber raid, they will realize just how long we should be able to remain at war if the Royal Air Force could not carry out the nightly raids into Germany to smash Germany’s production. No words can be too strong to describe the treachery of men who fail to produce the coal on which this country depends. I do not believe in using soft words or in harking back to some one who was overworked or ran a risk in a mine. These are risky days; men live dangerously. If mcn will not work under the conditions of to-day and at £2 5s. or £2 10s. a day for five days, when they are able to go home to sleep in their own beds, what do they expect our future will be? The honorable member for Hunter said that they had no social conditions, no club. Well, if they cannot start a club for themselves out of £15 a week each, they cannot be spending their money wisely. I will not venture to guess how they are spending it. The least they can earn is £7 a week or £1 Ss. a day. They do not work week-ends and they are paid from bank to bank, that is, from when they walk into the mine to when they walk out. If there be any great reform necessary, let us hear about it, and no one will deny it to the miners ; but there is no case for these lazy men. The trifling fines proposed as punishment for their laziness are ludicrous. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said, the union pays the fines and the men repay the union at the rate of 5s. a week, little enough out of a minimum of £1 8s. a day. The fomenters of trouble are few, but they do help the enemy and they encourage laziness and lawlessness in the mines. They are class-conscious and they have no regard for the general weal. They should be punished like any lawbreaker. They encourage inefficiency and incite lawlessness and laziness in other industries. There are some industries where men doing equivalent work in the services definitely do not work so hard. I know that by a comparison of costs of work done in industries and in the services. No master of a school, no officer commanding a unit, could carry on for any appreciable time unless he took steps to punish evil-doers. If a commanding officer, when something went wrong, said to the culprit : “ You are a naughty boy, do not do it again “, it might work once, but, if the culprit continued offending, the punishment would have to fit the crime. Otherwise, the discipline of the other men would be undermined. Would any one deny that the pace of misbehaviour in the coal industry is set by the scamps in the industry? The loss of pay prescribed for the first disobedience of orders by striking or unauthorized absence from work is £2. A fine of £2 when he can earn £15 a week! If he repeats the offence, the fine will be £4. For the third offence he will be fined £8 and for the fourth offence £10. Could anything be more ludicrous than that? If a miner held up industry throughout Australia on several occasions, the fine imposed would not deprive him of his pocket money! Some penalty more drastic than that is needed. About a year ago the Prime Minister issued a national security regulation providing that a man who refused to work and went on strike could be drafted into the Allied Works Council if he was over 35 years of age, or into the Commonwealth Military Forces if he was under 35 years of age. I have some dislike for that regulation, because it is an honour to be in the Army. The Australian Army has no room for slackers. But with a little discipline and after seeing how his companions work, a man drafted from the mines might learn to play the game. Consequently, life in the Army will do some of these irresponsibles a great deal of good. On several occasions I have asked the Prime Minister to implement that regulation. Now, honorable members read in the newspapers that some of the striking coal-miners have received call-up notices. I wonder whether they will be drafted into the Army, or whether this will be just another shaking of the finger at the naughty boys. If the miners decide to return to work, will they still be required to serve in the Army? The Government should not back-and-fill any longer. If, by their lawlessness, these men hamper the nation’s war effort and expose other citizens to hardship and inconvenience, they should be dealt with. Whether they are drafted into the Allied Works Council or into the Army is immaterial to me. Whilst I hope that the Government has passed the stage of breathing threats against these men, I shall not be surprised to read that the notices of call-up are withdrawn following an undertaking by the men to return to work. If that happens, the same men’ will go on strike again.
– If all the miners were drafted into the Army-
– I ask the honorable member not to put a hypothetical question, which is quite ridiculous. I said emphatically that the trouble-makers form a small minority of the miners. The honorable member for Hunter and the Prime Minister have stated that the stoppages are due to a few irresponsibles. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), with all his legal knowledge, will not trip me with that interjection. A few bad men are undermining the good ones in the union, and they must be taken in hand. After having served in the Army on 6s. a day, not being able to go home at night to comfortable beds, and not having picture theatres and billiards saloons at hand when they feel in need of a little relaxation, they may become better citizens. As honorable members are aware, I have always advocated compulsory military training, because it is of the essence of democracy. Men who do not otherwise have an opportunity to mingle with other types of their fellow men, find that opportunity in the Army. A spell of military service will do these young miners good. Years ago, some men who were prosecuted for having failed to report for compulsory military training, and who were sent to Queenscliff for a couple of weeks’ detention, subsequently joined the Permanent Military Forces and became efficient soldiers. The Army is the remedy for this trouble. The Government is simply wasting its time by producing codes which have no effect. The Government must- forget its weaknesses of the past and exhibit some firmness of policy. If it does so, it will have the support of the Opposition. Any liberal measure for the improvement of the coal-mining industry will also have our support. I urge the coal-miners to put aside their small differences until after the war and to produce more coal for our war effort. I shall support any good features of the bill, but I do not approve the measure in its entirety.
.- Whatever the views of the House may be about this bill, there can be no doubt that the subject-matter is probably the most important that has received our consideration for years. I do not desire to emphasize unnecessarily the importance of coal to our war effort, but coal is the life-blood of our economic activity, not only in peace but above all in war-time. Apart from civil requirements, the whole of our military strength depends ultimately on supplies of coal. For thai reason, this problem should be faced without party political bias. Unless the trouble be settled soon, our war effort will deteriorate, and our internal position will go from bad to worse. To-day, coal-miners have a peculiar responsibility. If a stoppage occurs in a munitions establishment or in a butter factory, the loss of production, though serious, is confined to that particular undertaking. But when a stoppage occurs in a coal mine, the repercussions are felt throughout the land. Therefore, citizens look to the coalminers to maintain production.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) declared that the remarks of honorable members on this side of the chamber about stoppages in the industry incensed the coal-miners and made matters more difficult than ever. I do nol. know to what degree the mere fact of our calling a spade a spade in reference to the coal-mining industry affects the coalminers themselves, but if the honorable member believes that resentment is the monopoly of the coal-miners, he is sadly mistaken. Let him talk to the housewife who has to perform her domestic duties hampered by inadequate supplies of gas; to the rural worker who has been immobilized because of restricted railway faci-
I i ties; to the primary producer who is unable to buy and sell for a similar reason; and to hundreds of thousands of factory employees who daily travel in over-crowded trains and whose hours of labour are just as long as those of coal.miners. The honorable member would find that their resentment at the inactivity of the coal-miners is not lukewarm but at boiling point. Honorable members receive many letters from their constituents asking why we have not taken action against these strikers. If the Government will act, it will have the enthusiastic support of large sections of the community.
Australia’s requirements of coal total 15,000,000 tons per annum. If the miners did their job, and the pits worked to full capacity, those requirements could _ be satisfied without bringing more mines into operation or introducing additional labour. ‘ The most disturbing feature to-day is not that our production is 2,000,000 tons short, but that our production is going down in a rapidly descending curve. The Prime Minister stated in Iris second-reading speech that the production in 1942 was a record, amounting to nearly 15,000,000 tons; it is, however, not a record of which this country has great reason to be proud. As far back as 1913 our production for the Commonwealth as a whole was 12,500,000 tons. That was 30 years ago, at a time when there was no mechanization to speak of in our coal mines. The average yearly output in New South “Wales for a period of five years up to 1927 was 11,000,000 tons, or very nearly equivalent to what is being produced in these days, so that that record cannot be said to be in any way impressive, and should surely be improved. Another fact which must be taken into consideration is that it was achieved in 1 942, just after Japan came into the war, at a time when Australia was in the gravest danger. The Japanese wave threatened to engulf the whole of the country, and impressed even the coalminers themselves, who are not, as one knows, a very impressionable body of men. Unfortunately, the impression created then was very short-lived, because even before the end of 1D42 the production, which had been stepped up quite considerably in the early months of the year, had begun a sharp curve downwards. That curve has continued ever since, and is persisting even more strongly at the present moment.
In 1943 we were short of the record total of 1942 by 732,000 tons. In this year alone, for just under two months we are 300,000 tons short, and it looks as if this year is going to produce a record, not in production, but in los3 of coal. Various statements have been made from time to time to the effect that this situation is not peculiar to Australia. People talk about strikes in Great Britain and the United States of America, and seek to convey the general impression that, after all, although we may not be doing too well, othei’3 are doing just as badly. We must all admit, judging by experience, that coal miners are in all countries one of the most difficult bodies of men to deal with. .Strikes occur in the industry every1where, in continental countries as well as in our own, but the disturbing factor is not that strikes occur here, so much as that their effects are far greater than they are in other countries, particularly in those of our Allies. The difference between strikes here and elsewhere is not in kind but in degree. Our loss this year, which I repeat in order to point my argument, has been roughly 300,000 tons in two months. The remark has been made that Great Britain has also had its strikes and losses. It is true that Great Britain also lost quite a large amount of coal in the first part of this year. Tt amounted to 214,000 tons in the first four weeks, but having regard to the total production in each country the British equivalent of the Australian loss in the same period would have been 37,000,000 tons. The worst feature of our coal production is that the efficiency of the men has been steadily going down. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) cited certain figures to-day, of which I shall repeat two, because I want to follow them up with others. He pointed out that in 193S, which was the year of greatest output per man per shift in this country, the average output was 3.51 tons, and from that date until last year there was a steadily increasing fall. In 1940, it was 3.39 tons, in 1941, 3.33 tons, and in 1942, 3.21 tons per man per shift. Those figures are all the more notable because during that period the amount of mechanization in the mines increased to a quite considerable extent, from 28.4 per cent, in 1938 to 40.1 per cent, in 1941, and there has been some further increase since that date. Over and above that, I have figures which show the actual loss of days per employee both in Great Britain and here. The figures for Great Britain are : In 1939, the first year of the war, the average number of days lost per employee was .71; in 1940 it was .68, and in 1941 it was .44. Our own figures, which are remarkable in ‘ comparison, are as follows : - 1939, 22.9 days per employee; 1940, 55.5 - that was the year in which we had the general strike; and 1941, 23.2. There is a vast difference between the loss in 1941 of 44 days per employee in Great Britain and of 23.2 days per employee in this country. Those figures show at least that our men have not realized even in the smallest degree the responsibility falling upon them in this time of war. S’ome people have said that, because of the conditions under which the miners work, the way they are paid, and the surroundings in which they live, they are entitled to fight, even during this critical period, for better conditions. I should like to repeat the facts. The general conditions of the miners in this country have improved very materially, and, indeed, remarkably, in the last ten years. Even since the war started, the wages of the lowest paid man in the coal industry have increased by 38 per cent. To-day he gets a weekly wage of £6 2s. 6d., calculated on the daily rate. He works a five-day week of approximately 37£ hours, and, since the outbreak of the war, he has been granted two weeks annual leave. Pensions on retirement have also been provided at the rate of £3 5s. for a miner and his wife. An analysis of the facts shows that high wages act as a deterrent to hard work. The higher the wages the less inclined the men are to work. Figures which I have show that the penalty rates at collieries in the northern district yielded 23s. 6d. for labourers and 28s. lid. for miners for work on Easter Monday and May Day of last year. The collieries produced about 20,000 tons of coal on Easter Mon- day, but a- strike on the four following days resulted in the loss of 15,000 tons. On the four days following May Day a strike resulted in the loss of about 22,000 tons of coal. Those figures are exclusive of 70,000 tons of coal lost at Hebburn No. 2 colliery which was idle for eleven days. High wages, therefore, are not conducive to hard work.
Strikes occur in the coal-mining industry for almost every conceivable reason. As the Prime Minister pointed out a few days ago, 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of the strikes have nothing to do with conflicts between employees and employers but arise from matters not connected in any way with mining operations. I have a list of stoppages that occurred in one group of mines on the northern coal-fields during the week ended the 20th January last. Mines concerned and the reasons for the stoppages are as follows: -
Abermain No. 2. - Resumed 24th January; struck 27th January, re interpretation of Minister for Mines’ direction on working of scraper-loaders; still on strike.
Aberdare Extended. - Struck 24th January; meat rationing; resumed 25th January.
Bellbird. - Struck 24th January; men turned up without approaching management; understand it is a protest against taxation; still on strike.
Cessnock No. 2. - Struck 25th January, meat rationing and taxation: resumed 26th January.
Pelaw Main. - Struck 25th January, meat rationing and taxation; resumed 26th January.
Richmond Main. - Struck 25th January, meat rationing and taxation; resumed 28th January.
Neath West Tunnel. - Struck 26th January, taxation and meat rationing: resumed 27th January.
Aberdare. - Struck 20th January, meat rationing and taxation; resumed 27th January.
Seaham No. 2. - Struck 26th January, meat rationing; resumed 27th January.
I shall not weary honorable member, with the full list, but the reasons for stoppages include troubles over wet clothes, bad roads, old private buses, and, in one instance, indifferent boots. Not any of the strikes related to safety matters or mining proper. The people of Australia are becoming more and more tired of the whole business, and they are demanding that effective action be taken.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– I have one or two ideas on the subject, which I shall pass on. The coal-miners seem to think that if they have a grievance on any subject they ought to go on strike in conformity with their habitual policy of direct action. It is hard to escape the conviction that the coal-miners regard themselves as a privileged class in the community. The question is : How can this state of affairs be altered and the restless spirit of the coal-miners changed so that they will be stimulated to co-operate whole-heartedly with the rest of the community? Many suggestions have been made to achieve this result. The honorable member for Hunter had something to say about goverment control and nationalization. I would accept any form of control of the industry which resulted in increased production of coal, for we all wish coal production to be stimulated. Experience in Great Britain in the last eighteen months, however, has shown that government control does not result in increased production, for the price of coal in Great Britain has increased, the quantity of coal produced has decreased, and the general efficiency of the mines has deteriorated. The same results have followed government control in New Zealand, as the figures cited by the honorable member for “Wentworth proved.
– Was the control similar in each case?
– To a considerable degree. Let us look now, for a moment, at the results that have been achieved in. this industry in the United States of America. The coal mines of America were working under war conditions for a long while before America entered the war. In spite of the fact that 60,000 coal-miners have joined the Army and that two strikes occurred which led to temporary control by the Army, the coal mines of the United States of America have remained under their normal management, and production throughout the country has reached record figures.
– What is the honorable member’s argument intended to prove?
– That government control does not result in improved output.
– The honorable member does not flatter the conservative government of Great Britain.
– I am not concerned whether a government is conservative or otherwise. My point is that government control does not increase production. A good deal has been said about nationalization. Certain Australian mines are already nationalized, but they are operating at a loss. The latest figures I have been able to obtain in relation to the Lithgow mine show that it is operating at a loss of £315 a week. The Wonthaggi mine was operated at a loss of £80.000 last year, exclusive of £17,000 for depreciation and £5,000 for interest. The total loss was, therefore, roughly £100,000.
– The Wonthaggi mine will never be operated at a profit, because the seam is so thin.
– That remains to be seen ; it has never been worked in any other way. Nationalization, as we know it in this country in quite a number of forms, has not proved a financial success. Honorable members may say, “ What does that matter in war-time? Let us advance the money, irrespective of whether or not we lose it, so long as we get the coal “. Financial loss is proof of the inefficient working of a mine. Surely what we need is efficient working. So I say that neither private control nor nationalization is likely to produce the results that we require.
I spoke a few minutes ago about the general attitude of the miners. In all industry there is a natural law which makes for progress along two parallel lines. In this instance, they are the improvement of the social conditions of the miners, and the improvement of the technical means of working the mines. What can be done along the lines of social improvement in time of war, so as to make the miners more satisfied ? Their wages have been raised, their conditions have been improved, and generally speaking their hours of labour have been reduced. The honorable member for Hunter has referred to their housing conditions. I have not visited all the mining districts, but I believe it can be said that the miners would not suffer from a comparison of their housing conditions with those of other workers. It is true that in some places they have humpies and shacks; but that applies also to other workers. Generally speaking, their standard of housing is good. .It could be, and I hope will be, improved when the time is opportune. Technical improvement implies mechanization. I was interested in the remark of the honorable member for Hunter that he would like contract work to be discontinued. I, too, should, and so would anybody else who has been down a mine and seen the conditions under which the contract miners work. There are two points to be observed in connexion with mechanization. The first is, that the miners are reluctant to accept it. That is quite understandable; because, under the contract system, they have worse conditions of working and do run greater risks, whilst the introduction of mechanization would cause them to lose a certain proportion of what they now earn. Jealousies would be aroused. There is also the problem of procuring the plant that would be needed. It would have to be imported from America, because only certain plant can be made in Australia. The Americans would say to us, “ Why should we send to you plant of which you would not make full use ? “ The miner works in Australia five days a week for six hours a day; in Great Britain six days a week for six hours a day; and in the United States of America six days a week for eighteen hours a day in three shifts. Therefore, the output of the plant would be three times as great in America as in Australia. America wants coal as much as we do, and would be disposed to use in its own mines whatever plant could be manufactured, rather than send it to Australia where it would have only a restricted use. Notwithstanding the very great difficulties in connexion with the introduction of mechanization into our mines, however, I hope that the Government will take the matter in hand and do all that it can in that direction at the earliest moment. Only by such means will the output be increased.
Two points in connexion with the bill, which to me are of considerable importance, have not yet been mentioned. The first relates to clause 33, which deals with the matter of local industrial authorities. Under the existing set-up, one of the chief difficulties is caused by having two bodies - the central authority and the local reference boards. No appeal has been possible from a .local .reference board to the central authority, as I consider there ought to have .been, although Judge Drake-Brockman can direct under certain conditions that a matter shall be taken from a local reference board and be heard before him. Under the bill, the decision of a local industrial tribunal, upon the hearing of a dispute, is to be final. Incidents such as are now occurring will probably be repeated. When miners are dissatisfied with a decision, and have not the right of appeal, a strike is caused. An amendment of the bill to give the right of appeal from decisions of the local industrial authority to the central authority, would be a wise one.
Clause 50 is concerned with safety and health. I remind the House that the three factors in the coal-mining industry are the technical factor, which has so far been dealt with by the Coal Commissioner; the industrial factor, which has been dealt with by the reference boards; and the safety factor, which has been dealt with under the State law. I believe that, if control of any nature is to be effective, there must be co-ordination of those three factors, and they should be brought move or less under one umbrella. The bill proposes that the Coal Commissioner shall have certain powers in regard to safety matters. He will be able to give certain instructions to State officials, relating to investigations; he may order them to make certain reports, and in certain instances to express opinions. This provision should be tightened up. Past experience shows that disputes under the safety regulations are often basically industrial disputes. The miners have switched from the industrial aspect to the safety side and back again, and that has led to much delay and an increased number of strikes. An attempt should be made to deal with this matter in the bill. The measure will achieve practi- cally nothing of itself, unless its provisions be rigidly enforced. We have witnessed a whole series of retreats by the Government. At times it has blown hot and at other times it has blown cold.
– And at times it has done nothing but blow.
– That is so. The coalminers have never been convinced that a dereliction of duty on their part will be met by firm action by tile Government, because in practically every instance a retreat has been witnessed from the position taken up at one time or another by the Minister or bis delegates. Not long ago, much was made of the calling up of 130 men. It was stated in the press that the Government had at last taken action and called up for the Army men who were supposed to be agitators or largely responsible for strikes in the industry. My information is that on the northern fields not one of those 130 men was an agitator, but that all were volunteers. On the southern fields, certain persons involved in strikes had committed breaches of the regulations, but, of the 130 men whom the Government claimed to- have disciplined, only four could be said to have in any way offended against the regulations. I trust that if the Government is serious with regard to this bill, and intends to bring about an increased production of coal, it will take firm steps to achieve that objective. But it will not do that unless it rnakes up its mind to- support the Coal Commissioner in any action which he may consider necessary in enforcing the provisions of this bill. We all know how futile appeasement has proved in the international sphere, and we are also aware of its effect in dealing with the coal-miners. The circumstances of the loss of coal production forms a long story of appeasement, and, if the present state of affairs be permitted to continue, it will have repercussions in every section of our community life. ‘People other than coalminers will say, “ Look at what the coal-miners are doing. They are making a: law for themselves and nothing happens. Why should not we take the law into our own hands, and have special tribunals to deal with our disputes ? “ Action should be taken immediately to ensure that the coal-miners themselves shall be made to realize their duty to the community. We must ensure that the full quantity of coal needed by the nation shall be actually obtained. Therefore, I hope that, when the measure is passed, the Government will take steps to ensure that the law is fully enforced, and will show sufficient determination at the outset to insist on the provisions of the measure being obeyed by all concerned.
.- This measure represents the culmination of the desperate efforts of the Government to bring about, increased production of coal. The policy of the Ministry towards the industry up to the present time has been to promulgate numerous regulations, and, as soon as these have been resisted by the coal-miners, it has retreated from the position taken up by it. It has never insisted upon carrying out the law. Its policy has been merely one of appeasement, but that policy will be as ineffective in dealing with the coal-mining industry as it has proved in the international sphere. In an official statement made in 1942 the Government announced that it had all of the powers needed for the maximum production of coal, yet the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has reported to this House that the annual supply of coal is at least 2,000,000 tons short of present requirements. The bill contains a proposal to place in the hands of one man no greater power than the Government has had for the last two and a- half years. He is asked to do a job which the Government has failed dismally to perform. One objection I have to the measure is that the Government has provided penalties for the coal mine owners, although, in his speech in introducing this measure, the Prime Minister said that the mine.owners, “ according to all records, appeared to have obeyed the decision of the umpire “. It is utterly unreasonable that the bill should provide a series of penalties to be imposed on the mine-owners when, according to the Prime Minister’s own statement, they have honoured all of their undertakings and have done their utmost to produce as much coal as possible. Another objection to the bill is that it completely sweeps away the principle of arbitration, .which has been the keystone of our industrial legislation and administration. Without arbitration Australia cannot hope to produce coal or any other similar commodity in reasonable quantities. It may be possible to submit to the disorganization of industry under peace conditions, but in time of war the interruption of the production of coal cannot be tolerated for a moment. The constant disruption of industry and the holding up of the war effort has had a serious effect on the live3 and well-being of the members of our fighting forces as well as on the civil community; yet, the Government, when all kinds of punitive regulations promulgated by it have been resisted, has run to cover. Despite its admissions that it has all necessary powers to deal with the coal-mining industry, the Government has now presented a bill which merely embodies regulations which it has failed to implement. The Government has vacillated and equivocated ever since it came into office. It has completely abdicated to the extremist elements in the coalminers’ organization. Referring to the position in the industry, the Prime Minister recently stated, on the motion for the adjournment of the House -
Honorable members may, if they like, accuse mc of being plaintive, but I say that if any one can show me a better way of getting more coal, I shall not hesitate to follow it.
However, I have been assured by those who are in a position to know that it would not solve the problem to put the miners into uniform, or to send them to gaol.
In spite of the Prime Minister making that observation last week, notices have been issued to 500 miners on the south coast calling them up for military service. The Prime Minister went on -
I am assured that, before a man is of any use as a coal-miner, he must have some knowledge of the industry. Experience is needed in order to win coal. It may be that democracy has reached a stage in this country, as in others, when certain occupations hitherto disregarded by government and the community, arc now so vitally necessary that those who follow them have become a little bit too important in their own eyes, and regard themselves as able to call the tune.
The fact is that the miners have taken charge of the situation. They are doing as they like, and the Government has demonstrated that it is incompetent to deal with the situation. It is no solution of the problem to appoint some one as a dictator. The only way in which to deal with the coal-mining industry, or with any other industry, is to settle industrial disputes by arbitration. The arbitrator is in a position to weigh the pros and cons of any dispute, and to make decisions, and those decisions should then be enforced. To depart from the principle of arbitration is to invite trouble. I have been acquainted with the present Coal Commissioner for a good part of my life. I know him to be a man of ability who has done his best to solve the problems associated with the industry, but every time he has taken a stand the Government has failed to support him. No scheme can succeed unless the Government is prepared to stand its ground. If the Government interferes with the commissioner’s handling of the coal industry, he is bound to fail. The Prime Minister has apologized to Parliament for his inability to deal adequately with the problems of the coal industry. This is what he said -
I repeat, therefore, that I, and the Government generally, have done what we could. Honorable members may not think much of it, but it has been the very best we could do. Time after time, I have sought to learn how more coal could be produced. I have been told that the arrangements underground could be more efficient, the transport facilities are, in many instances, obsolete. I know that there is much sickness among miners. I know that disputes occur over the safety or otherwise of the mines, and all these things make for loss of production. The law in New South Wales prescribes a method for determining whether or not a mine is safe, but the law is not always acted upon, and I cannot force a State government to act.
He is now trying to shift the responsibility on to the State Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) pointed out that Mr. Baddeley, who administers the New South Wales act under which the miners operate, was at one time president of the miners’ federation, yet the Prime Minister admits that Mr. Baddeley is not enforcing the provisions of the act. That is a grave reflection on the administration of the law in New South Wales, and it is a fact that 99.9 per cent, of the industrial disputes in the coal-mining industry occur in New South Wales. Here is another quotation from the Prime Minister’s speech -
In any case, the problem is how to get the men to produce more coal. I told the owners that they appeared, according to all the records, to have observed the decision of the umpire.
The Prime Minister himself said that if the situation is to be improved the miners must experience a change of heart. These are his words - 1 refuse to acknowledge that the matter ls hopeless. I believe that there can come a transformation of heart on the part of the men. T. hope that those in the managements who, cither thoughtlessly or out of prejudice, are responsible for certain discord in the mines, will also realize that they must exhibit a certain degree of toleration. I have been accused of saying harsh things about the miners, and of having described certain actions as “ lawlessness, naked and unashamed “. I have said these things when, faced with all the, circumstances of the war, I confessed to the human feeling of being stung to anger at what I regard as actions destructive of the best efforts of the country to ensure its defence.
The Prime Minister has been stung to anger only because of his own inactivity, because of his failure to enforce the existing regulations which, as he himself admits, are sufficient, if enforced, to ensure the production of coal. The Prime Minister has admitted that many of the disputes which have interrupted production are themselves trivial, as the followi ng extract from his speech indicates : -
As to statements by representatives of the millers about what is termed “ provocative “ tactics of owners in forcing stoppages, I say that, as not more than 20 per cent, of all stoppages relates to matters between owner and employee, it is suggested that there is little evidence that provocation plays any material part in loss of production. . . . The greater number of stoppages was due to strikes against awards or interpretations of awards as given by the . Central Reference Board, or the various local reference boards.
In this bill we have the equivalent of the Central Reference Board and the local reference boards. Those tribunals have not been successful in the past, and I cannot see that the proposed arrangement will result in more coal being produced. Indeed, no legislation will, of itself, cause coal to be produced; what is necessary is proper leadership, with efficient organization and administration. That many of the disputes in this industry have had frivolous causes is clear from the Prime Minister’s statement - “Frivolous” causes of strikes include: protest against a report made by the miners’ own check inspector; miner claims that his drill was not properly sharpened; wheelers were reprimanded for coming out early; water placed in the boots of a clipper; bathroom attendant not being on duty; wheeler’s horse “too fast”.
– Where did that occur?
– It was mentioned by the Prime Minister in his speech, as the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) will see by referring to Hansard. Reference is also made to it in the publication known as Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches. Australia’s coal reserves are being seriously depleted. Indeed, the miners’ federation is deliberately bringing about that result so that it may be able to force the community to grant its demands. The disputes in the coal-mining industry are mainly in New South Wales. The Prime Minister himself has stated that, in Tasmania and Queensland, the production of coal in 1943 exceeded that of any previous year. He added that in the former State there had been no losses whatever from industrial disputes, whilst in Queensland such losses had been almost negligible. I pay s. tribute to the coal-.miners of Queensland for the way in which they have resisted the extreme element in the industry and have produced more coal each year. If the reasonable men who predominate in the industry in New South Wales would follow the example of their Queensland comrades by opposing the extremists, we should not be in the position that we are in to-day. Queensland miners have paid out in contributions towards strikes in New South Wales many hundreds of thousands of pounds. The only strike which has occurred in Queensland coal mines in the last twenty years was one which was brought about by a majority vote of the coal-miners of Australia. That decision was due to the influence of a certain section of miners in New South Wales. The men in Queensland voted against the strike, but they had to fall into line with the decision of the majority. The Government must tackle this question in New South Wales. In this Parliament, the representatives of New South Wales constituencies are, for the most part, members of the Labour -party, yet conditions in the coal-mining industry in that State are getting worse. The bill provides for the appointment of a single commissioner. It also gives to the Governor-General power to appoint two persons as advisers to the commissioner. In many respects the bill confers on the commissioner powers, functions and obligations similar to those already existing and possessed by the commission under National Security Regulations. Nowhere in the world has control resulted in an increased production of coal. I have no hesitation in saying that this bill will fail unless the Government will stand up to the coal-miners instead of trying to appease them. This legislation must fail unless the commissioner is supported by the Government. The measure itself will not result in more coal being produced. Satisfactory results can be brought about only by the Government backing the commissioner. Far from this legislation increasing the output of coal, the more I examine the bill, especially clause 23, the more I am convinced that friction and disagreement are likely to occur. The provisions of this legislation will be regarded by the miners’ federation as just ground for causing further friction in the industry. Most of the provisions of the bill have been taken out of regulations which have already failed dismally.
– The Prime Minister admitted that.
– Yes. Unless the provisions of this legislation are enforced by the Government, the passing of this measure will be a waste of rime, and there will be more trouble than ever. The collieries in Queensland have operated successfully because the legislation in that State is based on the principle that those engaged in an industry should conduct its business without undue interferenceby government departments. In New South Wales the position is the very opposite, and that is the basic causeof the trouble. I appeal to the Government to leave the control of the industry in the hands of employers, employees and the Arbitration Court. The concentration in the hands of the local commissioner of control now distributed amongst several departments is possibly a promising reform, but that can only be proved by experience. Every one who has stood strongly for the settling of industrial disputes and the fixation of wages, hours and conditions of employment by arbitration courts and industrial tribunals must be disappointed at the introduction of this bill which dispenses with arbitration. Although I can see little hope of success from this measure, I am prepared, provided it is amended in committee, to give it a trial. If, however, the Government is not prepared to support the powers which it is placing in the hands of the Coal Commissioner with more determination than it has been prepared to use its own powers, , the passing of this bill will have been only a waste of time and an attempt to hoodwink the miners and the public. It will be useless for the Government to stand aside and refuse to do the things that it should do, on the plea that the commissioner is in charge. It must stand resolutely behind the commissioner and give him unswerving support.
This bill can be dealt with more effectively in committee. A large number of amendments will be proposed from this side and I judge from the speech of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that he intends to deluge honorable members with an extraordinary number of amendments to remedy the faulty drafting which resulted from the haste in which the measure was prepared. I hope that when the bill becomes law it will help to bring about harmony in the coal-mining industry. Whether it will do so will largely depend on the commissioner. The legislation and the commissioner must fail and the industry must be in even graver trouble unless the Government is prepared to stand 100 per cent, behind the commissioner. Intolerable damage will be done to the war effort if we have a continuance of the vaccilation and equivocation that has marked this Government’s handling of the coal-mining industry. I trust that the introduction of this measure will bring an end to appeasement of the recalcitrant miners. If the Government fully supports the coal commissioner we ought to get somewhere.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders -
Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Guildford, Western Australia.
Rockingham, Western Australia.
St. Peters, South Australia.
Wembley Park, Western Australia.
Woolloomooloo, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (‘General Regulations - Orders -
Use of land (3).
National Security (Man Power) Regula tions- Orders - Protected undertakings (34).
Science and. Industry Research Act - Seventeenth Annual Report of Council foryear 1942-43.
House adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circuluted : -
Real Estate Transactions.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service the following question, upon notice : -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 25 th February, the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Smith) asked me a question, without notice, concerning the wheat industry. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the addition of ls. 1 1/3d. to the advance on wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board is paid to the person in whose name the wheat is delivered. It would be impracticable to interfere with existing sharing arrangements to pay the whole amount due on a share-farmed crop to the share-farmer and thus exclude other persons with an interest in the crop.
Potato Arbitration Case.
y. - On the 24th February the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked me when the South Australian potato arbitration case would proceed to a hearing. I am now in a position to inform him that two members of the Australian Potato Committee will meet the representatives of the Onkaparinga Potato-growers Association in Adelaide on the 8th March.
Destruction of Pests.
e. - On the 23rd February, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) asked the following question, without notice : -
Will the Minister for the Army give favorable consideration to applications for .22-gauge rifles by persons who need them for the destruction of pests on their properties?
I now furnish the honorable member with the following reply: -
Special efforts are being made to expedite the servicing of rifles to meet civilian requirements, but it will be appreciated that the staff for this purpose is limited, and priority must be given to military requirements.
Action is now in course for the servicing of approximately 2,500 .22-in. rifles and 2,000 303-in. rifles prior to sale to ensure that they are safe for use. It is expected that the work entailed in servicing the .303-in. rifles will be completed in approximately three months and the .22-in. rifles three months later. When this is done the rifles will be forwarded to the various States, and will be available for sale for the destruction of pests.
In cases where the need for a rifle is urgent, if application is made to the military headquarters in the State where the applicant resides, endeavours will be made to meet the request as fur as possible.
Supplies of Ale and Stout on Medical Certificate.
– When speaking on the motion for the adjournment on the 23rd February, 1944, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to representations which he had received from a brewery in South Australia concerning the supply of stout to sick people.
The matter was brought to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has now furnished the following information : -
The brewery referred to has a retail sales quota under the Control of Liquor Order and there is no objection, so far as the department is concerned, to the brewery using such quota to supply private persons who desire ale or stout for medicinal purposes. In fact it would appear that the brewery is morally bound to supply a customer whom it has been supplying for a long period.
Action has now been taken to enable stout required for medicinal purposes to be supplied without debit against the brewer’s delivery quota provided a doctor’s certificate is produced to the Collector of Customs certifying that the stout is essential.
Commonwealth Oxygen Factory.
n. - On the 25th February, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked a question, without notice, regarding an industrial stoppage at the premises of Commonwealth Oxygen and Acetylene Proprietary Limited in Sydney.
I desire to inform the honorable member that on the 16th February, 25 drivers and 10 labourers, who claimed to be loaders, ceased work because of the delay in the hearing by Judge O’Mara of an application for an interpretation of the carters’ Cumberland award. The labourers claimed to be classified as loaders, with a wage of £6 5s. 6d. a week as against their present rate of pay, £5 2s. a week under the metal trades award. The drivers had no grievance, but went out in sympathy with the labourers. Judge O’Mara set the case down for hearing on the 1st March, but the men by vote decided not to resume work until that date or whatever date the case would come before the court.
The company desired to supply the shipbuilding and engineering establishments with acetylene gas and oxygen, supplies of which were running out. On the 23rd February, a direction was issued by me as Prime Minister to the 35 men involved to resume work on the 24th February, and the men resumed work accordingly.
n. - On the 25th February, the right honorable the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked a question, without notice, relating to the appointment by the Government of a committee to inquire into certain aspects of the method of making promotions and dealing with appeals in the Commonwealth Public Service.
I desired to inform the right honorable member that having regard to the pressure of duties absorbing the attention of the Commonwealth Public Service under war-time conditions, and to the fact that some thousands of officers are away from their normal duties with the forces and assisting in “war departments “, it is not considered opportune to hold a detailed examination of the administration of the service, as suggested, at the present time. The inquiry that is proceeding is in respect of limited aspects of service administration, i.e., the provisions of the law regarding promotions, appeals and selection of officers for acting duty in higher positions. These provisions have been in operation for approximately twenty years, and the service organizations asked for an investigation so that it could be ascertained whether any changes were desirable. The Government agreed to the request and appointed a committee comprising administrative officers with long experience of promotion methods, and representatives of the service organizations, with a chairman who is not a permanent officer of the service.
The policy, which has been approved by the presentand past Governments, and which, has been followed for some time past, with regard to appointments to the service, has been practically to suspend appointments, other than of females and minors. This is necessary in order to protect the interests of those who, but for service in the forces? may have been desirous of being considered for appointment.
A ustralian Army : Pood Rations in New Guinea.
– On the 23rd February, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked me a question, upon notice, regarding a statement appearing in the Canberra Times of that date to the effect that a Dr. Dungan. who had been in New Guinea, had stated that the rationing arrangements for Australian troops in that area were unsatisfactory and compared unfavorably with the American dietary ration scale.
I gave an interim reply to the honorable member and promised that a fuller report would be furnished. I now desire to state that the sweeping statements which were attributed to Dr. Dungan regarding ignorance and apathy on the part of certain officers are categorically denied. The statements regarding the comparative death rolls are distortions of fact, and are in no way related to the truth. The branches of the Army responsible for these matters are, and have long been, fully seised with the importance of nutrition in relation to the health of the troops. As instance of this, the authorities whom Dr. Dungan is now condemning were responsible for his despatch to New Guinea with other officers to investigate the problems and, where faults were found, to rectify them. He was in the area from the 26th February to the 10th April. His personal knowledge of conditions in New Guinea relates only to that period.
It is regrettable that an officer of the forces, with even such limited experience in the area, should have formed such utterly erroneous opinions and remained so ill informed as to the facts. It is even more regrettable that he should have aired such falsities in such an unwarranted attack. It is of interest that, as the result of constant attention to these matters,, a radically altered ration scale had been prepared for New Guinea and introduced prior to Dr. Dungan’s departure from that area. Further, the scale has been the subject of continuous review since then and minor alterations have been made based on recommendations from competent authorities on the spot. AH questions of this nature are dealt with by qualified medical and dietetic authorities serving in the Army. In addition, the services of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Commonwealth Nutrition Committee are utilized whenever required. Shortly after Dr. Dungan’s return from the area another officer was appointed to the position he had occupied and the survey was continued with improved effects. Intensive education in nutrition of senior and junior officers and other ranks has been effected through both medical and catering channels.
A field nutrition research officer has just returned from a. three months’ detailed survey of nutritional aspects of forward troops on Huon Peninsula, and he reports much improved standard of troop feeding, and increased appreciation of value of nutrition by Army officers. Minor adjustments were effected by him in New Guinea and his recommendations are being acted upon.
The Medical Service reports that food deficiency diseases are extremely rare in Australian white troops. No deaths have occurred amongst Australian white troops from pellagra, beri-beri, or scurvy. There have been no deaths from bacillary dysentery in the last 10,000 cases. This is unique. The death rate from malaria is now approximately one in 2,000 cases, which is the lowest recorded in any country.
y - On the 10th February, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked the following questions, upon notice: - ]. What amount was paid by the Commonwealth Government to the Queensland Government during 1042-43 on behalf of the Civil Constructional Corps as consideration for services rendered by officers of the Main Roads
Board, the Auditor-General and other government departments, and for other like services?
The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Means of collection were -
Commonwealth Bank : Mortgage Bank Department.
Mi-.Chifley. - On the 25th February, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
How many applications for loans have been received by the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank?
How many loans have been granted?
How many loans have been refused?
What amount of money is involved in these loans or refusals of loans to date?
What is the dispersal in terms of States of these loans or refusals of loans?
What is the allocation of these loans or refusals of loans with respect to the various classes of primary producers applying (dairyfarmers, wheat-growers, wool-growers,&c.) ?
What is the average amount applied for or granted?
What is the length or term of loan generally asked for or granted?
The following figures relate to the business of the Mortgage Bank Department from the commencement, of operations on the 27 th September, 1943, to the 16th February, 1944: -
4 and 5. See Nos. 1., 2 and 3 above.
In view of the large amount of work that would be entailed, corresponding figures in respect of applications declined are not extracted by the bank, but it is considered that approximately the same distribution as between the various classes of primary producers would apply to refusals of applications as shown for approvals above. Adopting this allocation, the figures for applications declined are as follows : -
Exact figures are not available in regard to the term of loan generally asked for, but the bank’s experience is that this period also is about twenty years.
Price of Wine Grapes.
n. - On the 23rd February, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked a question, without notice, relating to the result of the inquiry into the price of wine grapes for this year.
I have consulted the Minister for Trade and Customs on the matter raised by the honorable member, and I am now in a position to inform him that the following requests were made at the meet ing of the Grape Prices Fixation Committee held in Melbourne on the 1st February : -
The Minister for Trade and Customs, after considering the requests and the views expressed by the various sections of the industry, determined by virtue of authorities vested in him under the Wine Export Bounty Act 1939 and National Security (Wine Industry) Regulations that it would be reasonable to give for the 1944 vintage an all-round increase of £1 a ton on the prices for grapes fixed for the 1943 vintage.
A copy of the schedule of grape prices for the 1944 vintage is as follows : -
e. - On the 18th February, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) referred to the issue of petrol to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, and I now desire to inform him that the policy regarding petrol for vehicles privately owned by members of the Volunteer Defence Corps and used by them in connexion with their service with the Corps, has been covered by the Liquid Fuel Control Board, releasing through Army channels the approximate monthly average of 46,500 petrol coupons to enable members of the Volunteer Defence Corps concerned to purchase petrol at current commercial rates. These petrol coupons are distributed to Volunteer Defence Corps units on as equitable a basis as possible according to the operational role assigned to each. An increase of the number of coupons issued, and also the question of petrol being made available to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps either free or at Army rates, has been the subject of numerous representations and much investigation and consideration, and although there has been some substantial increase in the monthly quotas of petrol coupons, it has not so far been practicable to accede to the demand for free petrol or its purchase at Army rates. The difference between the cost of petrol at commercial and Army rates is approximately 1s. 8d. per gallon and, on the present distribution of petrol coupons, the making available of petrol for purchase by Volunteer Defence Corps members at Army rates would involve reimbursement by the Government to the amount of approximately £46,500 per annum. The Volunteer Defence Corps is a voluntary force, having its origin in the desire of exservicemen and other patriotic citizens, many of whom were engaged in essential services, to make some active and voluntary contribution to the defence of this country. From the inception of the Corps as an integral portion of the Australian Military Forces, it has been an accepted principle that no payment would be made for transportation by any means between members’ bornes and the assembly point at the local head-quarters of their unit, and there is no indication that there is. any widespread desire among members of the Corps, as a whole, for a variation of this policy. In all cases, however, where parades are held at some place other than the local unit head-quarters cost of necessary transportation by whatever means is met from Army funds. This also applies where duties of a special operational nature are required of members, such as, for instance, the manning of anti-aircraft and coast defence guns or searchlights, which is now the major role of the Corps.
In considering a variation of the existing system of petrol supply for Volunteer Defence Corps the cost of making it available at even Army rates, though considerable, would not necessarily be the most important factor, as reports received from all parts of Australia indicate that the question of replacement of tyres and spare parts has a far greater effect on the limitation of the use of Volunteer Defence Corps private cars than has payment for petrol. The present military situation in Australia is such as to permit some modification of the role and functions of the Volunteer Defence Corps, particularly in country areas where the question of the use of members’ own cars between their homes and places of parade is giving them most concern. Recent instructions issued have directed all Commanding Officers to limit the number of parades held with a view to easing up the position generally, both as regards transport problems and the amount of time taken from members’ civil avocations. In this respect it is appreciated, however, that units and individual members having attained a reasonable standard of efficiency the holding of fewer parades and a somewhat lower percentage of attendance is to be expected, but this will suffice to enable members to maintain the standards already achieved. Unit organization will thus be retained ready for more intensive training to be re-introduced should the present situation deteriorate.
The Government has the very highest appreciation of the work which has been performed by members of the Corps since its inception and fully recognizes that this has entailed considerable monetary and other sacrifices. Members of the Corps, on the other hand, have very rightly prided themselves upon the fact that such services as they have rendered have been entirely voluntary.
Relief for Famine-stricken Countries.
n. - Shipments of Australian wheat to India have been arranged by the British Government in consultation with the Government of India. The Commonwealth Government has received notification that the sum of £137 los. has been raised in Australia to assist in relief in India. Private organizations have also arranged for limited supplies of comforts to be sent to that country from time to time.
The total amount of money raised in Australia for famine relief in China which has come to the attention of. the Government is £121,578 18s. lid. On these contributions an exchange supplement of 100 per cent, has been granted by the Chinese Government, resulting in a doubling of the total as sent from Australia. This sum however does not represent the total of all relief moneys despatched from this country to China, but only the amount which has gone through diplomatic channels:
Wine Export Bounty Act 1939-1940 and National Security (Wine Industry) Regulations - Prices for 1944 Vintage.
In connexion withthe purchase of grapes during the forthcoming season, I desire to inform you that the Minister for Trade and Customs has decided that, for the purposes of the Wine Export Bounty Act 1939-1940 and the National Security (Wine Industry) Regulations, the prices and conditions shown on the attached lists for grapes and fortifying spirit shall be the minimum prices and conditions governing the purchase of grapes and fortifying spirit for the 1944 vintage.
These prices represent an advance of £1 a ton of grapes on the prices operating during the 1943 vintage and the price of spirit has been increased from 5s. 3d. a proof gallon at buyer’s door (1943 price) to 6s. a proof gallon at buyer’s door. The conditions of payment for grapes and fortifying spirit are identical with those determined by the Minister for the 1943 vintage.
Owing to the shortage of fortifying spirit sultanas and zante currants are now included in the varieties of grapes that may be purchased at a reduced price during the 1944 vintage for the production of fortifying spirit.
Of Minimum Prices Determined by the
Minister for Trade and Customs to be Paid for Fortifying Spirit and for Grapes Purchased for the Manufacture of Wine and/or Spirit.
For every half degree Beaume more than the standard given above, 5s. more to be paid with a maximum of 18 degrees, and for every half degree Beaume less than the standard 5s. less to be paid.
A discount of 21/2 per cent, may be deducted by the wine-maker when all grapes purchased by him from any one grower have been paid for in full not later than 30th June, 1944.
All amounts outstanding after the 30th June, 1944, are to bear interest at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum and such interest shall he payable quarterly.
Fortifying Spirit in Bond.
Six shillings a proof gallon at buyer’s door.
A discount of 24 per cent, may be deducted by the wine-maker on all amounts paid for spirit on or before 30th June next following the date of delivery of the spirit.
In the event of the full amount not being paid on or before 30th June, the balance is to be paid in two equal instalments, the first of which shall be payable on 31st July following, and the second instalment not later than 31st October following, both instalments to be net.
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. 17th February, 1944.
Volunteer Defence Corps: Petrol Ration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Apart from the long-terra post-war relief which has been planned by the United Nations Belief and Rehabilitation Administration, what relief has already been sent from Australia to the famine-stricken peoples of India and other countries needing such assistance?
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the prospective widespread demand for rehousing, occasioned hy the ravages of bush fires in Victoria, would it be possible to arrange for a single authority to be established to whom applicants could appeal for advice and assistance, instead of the present arrangement whereby prospective house-builders must deal with four separate departments, viz.: -
the Treasury, for permission’ to build (i.e., to raise and spend money);
the Department of War Organization of Industry, for materials;
the Department of Munitions, for materials; and
the Department of Labour and National Service, for skilled assistance?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The National Security (Supplementary) Regulations relating to restrictions on building are not administered by the Treasury but by the Minister of State for War Organization of Industry. Treasury approval is not required to spend money on erecting a house. Approval to raise money is only required if it is desired to enter into a mortgage or other charge over the property. It is not considered desirable for the control of mortgages to be delegated to any other authority than the Treasury.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
- (a) nil; (b) nil; (c) £1,200,442; (d) £57,545.
4, 5 and6. The National Welfare Act 1943 appropriates in each financial year from Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purposes of the National Welfare Fund £30,000,000, or a sum equal to one-quarter of the amount received within the year as income tax from persons other than companies, whichever is less. The final amount to he’ transferred to the fund in respect of the current financial year will be determined before the close of the year, when information as to the total receipts of income tax from individuals is known. Interest from the investment of the fund will accrue from the dates balances are available in the fund.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440301_reps_17_177/>.