17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Taxationof Deferred Pay
– A constituent of mine has stated in a letter to me that the rumour is circulating that the deferred pay of members of the services is being regarded as taxable income. Will the Treasurer state whether deferred pay has been regarded as taxable income atany time in the past, or is so regarded to-day?
– In the early years of the war, the majority of those who retired from the services were permanent members of the forces. Because of the conditions under which they received the equivalent of deferred pay, some taxation was imposed. In about March, 1 943, the act was amended to make it perfectly clear that in future all deferred pay and interest thereon should be free from taxation. That provision was made to apply to income received from this source during 1942. Deferred pay and interest thereon are not now subject to tax of any kind.
– Last March, I directed the attention of the House to the injustice under which poultry farmers were suffering by reason of the fact that, whilst the ceiling prices of eggs remained constant the costs of production had risen very considerably during this year. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture informed me subsequently that the matter had been referred to the Prices Commissioner for a decision. Although four months have elapsed, a decision has not yet been made. Can the Minister assign a reason for this long delay, and will he ensure an early decision?
– Representations in this matter have been made not only to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture but also to the Prices Commissioner. Those received by my department were passed on to the Prices Commissioner, who has not so far considered that any reason exists for increasing the price of eggs. He still has the matter under consideration, and I expect that he will make a definite decision.
– Can the honorable gentleman hasten the decision?
– I shall do all that I can to assist to that end.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that near Brisbane an immense number of military motor vehicles of all types, with good tyres . and spares, have been standing in the open air inall kinds of weather .for months? Under suchconditions, will not the tyres perish! Does not the right honorable gentleman regard this as wilful and deliberate waste of public money? Will he state the number of military vehicles lying idle’ in Australia, and where they are situated ? Why are . these vehicles .being allowed to become valueless while, producers and others are unable to procure motor vehicles and tyres.? ‘
-The Army declares surplus all military’ vehicles and other equipment that it will not require in the post-war period. Up to date, equipment of a value of approximately £160,000,000, has been declared surplus, for disposal by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Many millions of feet of storage space would be needed to store all of this equipment. . Consequently, the vehicles have to be accommodated at present in parks or other open spaces. I have taken action to ensure that the QuartermasterGeneral and the Master-General of Ordnance shall make a close survey of all equipment so held, and that definite instructions shall be given that all equipment that can be declared surplus and sold shall be sold as soon as possible, and other equipment bought later. Many of the vehicles which the public considers to be Army equipment which is lying idle is lend-lease property,- and iii accordance with a recent agreement’ cannot be sold. I ant g’ad the honorable member has raised ‘ the . matter. A further close scrutiny will be made of all army vehicles being stored in the vicinity of. Brisbane, with a view to making them available to the public, if possible. ‘
– As Australia has now acquired certain commercial vehicles, such as motor trucks and cars, consequent upon the conclusion of the lend-lease arrangements, and as most of the vehicles are to . be found in the eastern States, particularly New South Wales and Queensland, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping’ take steps to ensure that when the disposal takes place, an equitable quantity shall be made available to Western Australia?
– Is it true that, with the expiration of the lend-lease agree ment, a large .number of motor vehicles will now be available for disposal in Australia. Before the negotiations were completed, steps had already been- taken by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to ensure that the vehicles . should be listed and classified, so that they might be disposed of at the earliest possible date.’ I agree that steps should be taken to provide for an equitable distribution of them between the various States. Although I am not. aware of the ‘.details, because the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, I am sure that my - colleague will already have taken measures to ensure that Western Australia shall receive a fair share of the vehicles. There is a difficulty in that some of .the vehicles are fitted for left-hand driving, and the law in some States prohibits the use of .such vehicles. I- shall bring the matter to .the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and I am sure that the suggestion of the honorable member will be given effect.
– Wi Will the .Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether the report in this morning’s press is correct that the Governments of Great. Britain and ‘ Aus-, tralia have completed negotiations’ for a revision- of the prices which Britain pays for Australian dairy products? If the report -is accurate, will the Minister state what are .the new prices,’ and also what prices are to be paid ‘by Great Britain to Denmark for similar products?
– Contracts have been completed and prices determined in respect of dairy and meat products, and at the earliest opportunity, I shall make a public statement with .regard to the matter. It is necessary to obtain the acquiescence of the Government of Great Britain in the release of the conditions of the contracts. As to the ‘prices to be paid by the Government of Great Britain to Denmark for similar products, that is entirely a matter between the Governments -.concerned.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
With the consent of the House, I incorporate the following statement in Hansard : -
As a result of election to the Security Council by the General Assembly of the United Nations last January, Australia has been given an opportunity to play a prominent part in discussions relating to the future of atomic energy, and to share in one of the most responsible tasks ever placed upon a group of nations. In accepting that responsibility the Australian Government is conscious both of the need for removing the danger of destruction which . is threatened by the atomicbomb, and also of developing to the full great possibilities which this scientific discovery holds for the benefit of mankind. This second aspect is particularly important for Australia, where development of new sources of power may show the way to great material progress and removal of substantialdisabilities.
Recognizing this responsibility and opportunity, the Australian Government thought it desirable that a senior Cabinet Minister should be present at the inauguration of the work of the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Government therefore arranged for the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) at the close of the British Commonwealth talks in London last May, to go to New York to represent Australia on the Commission. At the same time it was arranged that two distinguished Australian scientists, Professor M. L. Oliphant, world authority on Nuclear Physics, and Dr. G. H. Briggs of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, should accompany Dr. Evatt as technical advisers. The Delegation was completed with permanent Australian officials already available at the United Nations head-quarters and had the advantage of consultation with the leader of the Australian Military Mission at Washington, Major-General
John A. Chapman, who himself attended a number of the commission meetings or was represented by deputies.
Dr. Evatt had the honour to be selected as the first chairman of the commission and was thus able to exercise a decisive influence on proceedings and ensure that the commission started work quickly and practically. I now propose to give to the House some account of the work of the commission and of the Australian contribution during the first month of its existence.
The Atomic Energy Commission was set up by resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 24th January, 1946. It consists of all members of the Security Council together with a representative of Canada when Canada is not a member of the council. The terms of reference of the commission require that it “ shall proceed with the utmost despatch to inquire into all phases of the problem “. In particular the commission is to make specific proposals -
The General Assembly resolution provides that the work of the commission is to proceed by separate stages in order that the successful completion of each stage may develop the necessary confidence of the world before the next is undertaken. The reports and recommendations of the commission will be submittedto the Security Council, to which on matters affecting security the commission is accountable. These reports and recommendations are to be made public unless the council in the interests of peace and security directs otherwise. Wherever appropriate, the Security Council must transmit these reports to the General Assembly and other appropriate organs of the United Nations. The commission is required not to infringe upon the responsibilities of any organ of theUnited Nations.
The commission held its first meeting in New York on the 14th June. It was decided that it would follow the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council in accordance with which the chairmanship rotates monthly in the English alphabetical order of the countries represented. The Australian Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Evatt, therefore, became chairman for the first month of the commission’s work.
At the opening meeting the United Slates of America representative, Mr. Bernard Baruch, proposed the creation of an International Atomic Development Authority to be entrusted with control over all phases of development and the use of atomic energy. He declared that when an adequate system for control of atomic energy, including renunciation of the bomb as a weapon, had been agreed upon and put into effective operation, and condign punishments effectively prescribed for violation of rules of control, then the manufacture of atomic bombs should stop, existing bombs should he disposed of pursuant to the terms of an international treaty and an international atomic authority should be placed in possession of full information regarding the production of atomic energy. In other words, given an adequate system of control, the United States of America was willing to surrender its virtual monopoly in atomic activities. This was a most liberal offer and a hopeful start to the commission’s work.
The Soviet representative made a different approach. He asked that the first step should be an international convention for the renunciation of atomic weapons and a total ban on their production, this step to be followed by sharing of atomic secrets. Both of those steps were to be preliminary to theestablishment of a system of control providing severe penalties for violations of the convention.
For obvious reasons those in possession of atomic knowledge were not disposed to share it until they had some certainty of control with adequate safeguards against violation. Thus as foreseen in the General Assembly resolution, the Atomic Energy Commission was immediately confronted with the problem of how to define successive stages by which atomic control should be introduced.
General debate followed and revealed a large measure of support for the broad lines of the United States proposals. But this general discussion might easily have drifted into a repetition of lofty aspirations and constant assertions that great problems had to be faced, without much practical progress. Therefore, Dr. Evatt, as chairman, in concluding the general debate, underlined the dangers of delay and stressed the possibilities of beneficial development of atomic energy as well as its dangerous uses. He directed attention away from the difficult question of successive steps by which control should be introduced and stressed the importance of consideringthe problem as a whole. He pointed out that underlying the whole discussion there was -
At his suggestion the commission then established a working committee comprised of all members to examine various proposals that had been made and discover the main principles. I append to this statement the text of a speech made by Dr. Evatt on the 25th June, 1946, setting out in detail the views of the Australian Government.
Under the leadershipof Dr. Evatt the working committee quickly proceeded to comparative study of the various proposals and appointed a sub-committee of six to discuss in greater detail areas of difference. The meetings of this subcommittee, which were held in private, were most useful. It was not possible, nor was it attempted, to draw up immediately an agreed statement acceptable to every member of the commission. Indeed, if such an attempt had been made a great deal of time would have been lost and the result would probably have been a document crowded with qualifications and provisos. Instead, the committee accepted their chairman’s suggestions for a practical approach to the problems involved. Dr. Evatt also gave a clear lead on constitutional problems surrounding the creation of the atomic authority.
The nature of the problems considered by the sub-committee and progress made are indicated clearly in the series of working papers presented by the representatives of the United States of America, France and Australia, and particularly in the general report made to the working committee by Dr. Evatt on the proceedings of the sub-committee. This report draws attention to three important questions of principle, detailed consideration of which will be essential before the plan of atomic control can be drafted.
The first of these was whether it would be desirable to negotiate an international convention dealing solely with the outlawing of “ atomic weapons “ and the destruction of existing stocks, or whether on the other hand an obligation not to make or use such weapons should be included within the framework of a broad general plan, an essential part of which should be an effective system of controls to ensure that atomic energy would be employed only for peaceful purposes. Dr. Evatt’s report indicated that the opinion of the majority of the comrnittee favoured the second alternative. The second question was the general type of international controlsand measures necessary for inclusion within the framework of the general plan, including in such controls the establishment of a special international agency vested with executive power to determine and enforce controls and also to promote development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The third principle requiring consideration was the relationship between organized measures for the international control of atomic energy and the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.
There was general agreement by members of the sub-committee that, at a stage to be determined, an international agree ment not to produce oruse atomic weapons for purposes of war should be entered into. The majority view, however, which included that of the United States, held strongly that a mere convention to outlaw the use of atomic weapons was inadequate in view of past experience of the inefficacy of certain international pacts. Moreover the majority considered that atomic weapons could and should be eliminated by direct measures of inspection and control and, further, that such a control system would make the proposed convention largely superfluous. What was required was the detailed preparation of an adequate system of international control such as would in fact ensure the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes only.
The United States view, which had considerable support in the subcommittee, was that an international agency wielding such control would need to have power to obtain complete control over or own uranium, thorium or other potential sources of atomic energy; to own or rigidly control all facilities for production of U.235, plutonium and such other fissionable materials as it determined to be dangerous; to control such other facilities and activities in the field of atomic energy as might be dangerous in other hands ; to have unhindered access to and power to control, license and inspect all other facilities which possess, utilize or produce materials which are the source of atomic energy, and to carry out other related functions.
There was general support in the subcommittee for the view that the system of control should be established by a single treaty which would define the obligations to be accepted by member states and at the same time, establish the control agency, define its form of organization, functions and powers, and, so far as necessary, its relationship to the various organs of the United Nations.
Concerning the relation between the proposed agency and the Security Council, Dr. Evatt expressed the view that it was legally and practically impossible for the functions of the Security Council to be enlarged so as to include the multiferous and detailed executive decisions involved in administering a treaty providing for the control and development of atomic energy. Under the Charter the Security Council, he argued, has no excutive powers of such a character. Its executive powers exist onlyin situations where a threat to the peace, breach of the peace of act of aggression have been proved to exist in accordance with Chapter VII. of the Charter. The essential and urgent problem was to devise means by which power might be given by treaty to an atomic energy agency to control and supervise the development of atomic energy in such a way that neither threats to peace nor any rupture of the peace could be caused by the employment of atomic weapons. In other words, Dr. Evatt emphasized that the objective must be to make the control system so effective that plans for violations or evasions, whether of a major or minor character, could be detected at the earliest stages and prompt measures taken for effective prevention. Such an objective would not be incompatible with the invoking by the agency of the machinery of the Security Council in a special situation or by a complainant state if the control measures provided by the agency were for any reason found to be inadequate.
The same report also drew attention to another major problem; namely whether -or not there should be a veto power protecting violators of atomic energy agreements. The constitutional side of this problem has already been referred to above. The Australian view expressed by Dr. Evatt on the general issue of the veto is that every party to the atomic -energy treaty would necessarily be subject to rules of conduct laid down either in the treaty itself or by an international control agency established by such treaty. It follows from this principle that no system of veto could be permitted in the procedure of the atomic energy agency because admission of the veto power would mean a right or privilege to claim a special immunity or exemption from the rules and regulations of conduct, thus subverting the main purposes of the overall plan for international control. It was emphasized that’ the binding effect of any system of international controls could be evaded, either by including in the charter provisions for granting special immunity to one or more nations, or by conferring on the Security Council the additional function of administering the control system. Inasmuch as the veto power would be available to any of the permanent members of the council, the effect of the latter plan would be equally to confer special immunity on certain states and thus again’ destroy the practical effectiveness of any system of international control.
Dr. Evatt’s report concluded by stating that the problem appeared to demand for its solution -
The immediate result of the work of sub-committee No. 1 was the setting up by the Working Committee of three further committees which will immediately proceed to the detailed examination of problems of atomic control. Briefly,0 the terms of reference of these committees are as follows:-
It was agreed that each committee should consist of twelve members, i.e., a representative of each Government member of the commission.
The result, therefore, of the month’s vigorous and purposeful chairmanship by Dr. Evatt has been to bring to the surface essential problems and to create organizational machinery bywhich the Atomic Energy Commission can proceed to work on those problems. At the close of his term of office, high tribute was paid to the outstanding contribution which the Australian representative had made to the inauguration of the Commission’s work. Owing to the imminence of the Peace Conference in Paris, Dr. Evatt was obliged to leave New York, but in his absence his deputies at the Australian delegation will carry on along the lines laid down.
The difficulties ahead of the commission should not be minimized. Militarily and industrially atomic energy may prove one of the most far-reaching discoveries ever made by man. It can change world pictures of national power. Great national interests are at stake and only by tolerance, understanding, readiness to negotiate, and, above all, trust, can those national interests be made to yield to international co-operation. This is a great political problem as well as a scientific and organizational problem, and it would be foolish and blind not to recognize that after the first month’s work the political obstacles seem far greater than the technical and organizational difficulties.
Speech by the Chairman, Dr. H. V. Evatt (Australia), 25 June, 1946.
Before closing this general discussion of the question of the statement of the United States of America representative and of the Assembly resolution, I shall state briefly the views of Australia on the proposals which have been placed before us.
The Problem must be Considered as a Whole.
One essential point must be made clearat the outset.
The highly complex problem which confronts us should be considered as a whole. It is not sound to deal with any one of its many aspects in isolation. Action which is proposed in one direction must necessarily have a bearing on action which is taken or proposed in other directions.
From this point of view - that the problem is to be dealt with as a whole - the plan submitted by the United States of America representative offers a sound basis; for planning. The Australian Government is in general agreement with the proposal made by Mr. Baruch that, as part of a single plan, an international authority , be established for the purpose of preventing the misuse of atomic energy and ensuring its use for the purpose of promoting the general welfare of mankind.
Mr. Gromyko has suggested the study of a draft international agreement forbidding the manufacture and use of atomic weapons, to be followed by other measures involving strict supervision and control to see that the terms of the agreements are strictly observed. This suggestion must receive careful consideration and, I believe, it can be fitted into the general plan implied in the United States of America proposals. Mr. Gromyko’s proposals, however, do not, in my view, give sufficient recognition to the essential interrelation between all the various parts of the one great problem.
It was with a conviction of the urgency of this single problem that the Assembly instructed this commission to proceed “ with the utmost despatch”. This urgency is based on bothnegative and positive reasons. Negatively, atomic energy is such a danger to humanity that it must be lessened and then removed. Positively, atomic energy can be such a boon to humanity that we mustnot delay in releasing its beneficial forces. It was inevitable that modern scientific methods would reveal the hidden energy within the atom. Much as some might wish to do so, the world cannot now return to the preatomic age. The problems of the atomic age cannot be evaded by suppression of the relevant scientific facts. The problem must be faced boldly and solved quickly.
If there is long delay in solving the international aspects of the problem, scientists in one country or another will discover new and revolutionary processes for the release of atomic energy. They may prove very tenacious of such secrets.
Delay may also lead nations to build stockpiles of fissionable materials for atomic bombs with the result that required material will not be available for the production and use of atomic energy for industrial and scientific purposes.
Long delay may even endanger the United Nations organization itself for delay may arouse the suspicion of the peoples of the world that the Powers will produce atomic weapons because they are incompetent to agree upon a means for just and equitable control.
It is inevitable in the first instance that any nation will be inclined to approach the problems of atomic energy from the point of view of its own security and welfare. World security and world welfare cannot be successfully promoted if we fail to recognize this tendency. Each nation will wish to avoid the use against itself of the devastating weapons which the release of atomic energy makes possible. Each nation will seek to enjoy as soon as possible the benefits which atomic energy can bring, in scientific development, in the art of medicine and as a source of industrial power. Again, some nations possess in their territories sources of new wealth in ores and concentrates of uranium and thorium. Atomic energy development is not solely or even mainly dependent upon the existing military strength of the powers because the known source of materials are not situated only in the territories of the major powers; in fact, the significant deposits are in the territories of less powerful nations.
It is to be expected that countries which are relatively poor in existing power resources, and particularly those countries which also possess significant deposits of uranium ores and thorium concentrates, should be concerned with the possibility of rapid application of nuclear energy for the production of industrial power. There are nations whose industries may decline in the absence of an alternative to coal as a source of power, and to such countries even the terrors of atomic warfare may often appear more remote than a dwindling economy or decreasing standards of living. There are other countries where supplies Of power not involving the transport of large quantities of coal or the building of long electricaltransmission lines would open up new areas of agricultural or of mineral development. Abundant power at reasonable cost is thelifeblood of modern industry. Power from atomic energy may enable modern communities to flourish in regions remote from existing sources of power. Such nations, for whom the peaceful uses of atomic energy are of more immediate importance, will be likely to demand access at the earliest possible moment to such materials and information as may be necessary for them to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
Need for Just and Equitable Time-table.
These considerations should all be borne in mind when the time-table for the world developmental authority, the exchange of information, and the imposition of controls and sanctions are being discussed and planned. On the one hand the very special position reached by the United States of America in the field has to be fully understood and an immediate and complete disclosure of their monopoly of knowledge could not be supported and would not be in the general interest of mankind. But on the other hand, a retarded time-table for disclosure must leave the development of atomic energy for many years in the hands of a few nations, other nations being handicapped seriously in their development. Accordingly, the steps to be taken should be clearly set out and follow one another in just and equitable sequence as part of the overall plan.
Supply of Radio-active Substances.
There is one step which might well be taken immediately. The importance of radio-active substances in scientific research in general and in medical research in particular, is so great that it is in the interests of every nation that supplies of these materials should be available to all workers in these fields at the earliest possible moment. No one country or group of countries would wish to have a monopoly of these materials. Even if for the time being one or a few countries alone possess the facilities for the manufacture of radio-active substances, all countries should be able to secure on reasonable terms their fair share of such substances.
I have already mentioned the special interest of those countries which possess within their territories deposits of uranium and thorium and who are thus able to make an important contribution as suppliers of raw materials. One should not be surprised if some such countries are reluctant to accept control of their product by an international authority unless controls are also accepted by those countries possessing plants for the production of fissionable materials. Therefore, while control of mining operations and of the raw materials extracted from the ores may well form an essential basis of international control system, that system will also have to provide for disclosure of scientific and technical information, and for the cessation of production of atomic weapons, on terms and conditions to be agreed upon and defined. All this illustrates the necessity of an international agreement which will in the one instrument define the obligations to be accepted by the parties to the instrument and establish an atomic energy authority through which these obligations canbe made effective.
Controls by Inspection.
If an atomic development authority effectively controlled all sources of raw materials and all plants for the exploitation of atomic energy, as suggested by Mr. Baruch, that would in itself ensure that no materials will be diverted to military purposes. It is necessary, however, to guard against a country setting up its own plants in secret. Precautions against such an evasion will be required but such precautions need not give a vast army of official inspectors the right to delve into all the activities of a nation in the spheres of general mining and engineering.
Control over officially recognized plants could be assisted by a strict accounting and supervision of all fissionable materials and by exchange of technical personnel between the plants in the various countries. Such workers, exchanged between nations, would be natural vehicles for interchange of technical information, and with a common background of interest and altruism would assist in maintaining understanding and goodwill.
It is obviously impracticable to conduct inspection in such a way that the possibility of secret mining or bomb-making could be completely eliminated, but if the barriers which at present restrict free intercourse between countries could be eliminated or greatly modified, it would become almost impossible to conceal operations on a scale of major military significance.
Any effective system of controls and safeguards should of course be based upon the most up-to-date information available on the technical aspects of atomic energy. The discoveries are so recent that little reliance can be placed on the claim that great improvements in existing methods are improbable, or that an entirely new and revolutionary approach is impossible. Whatever the precise form of the controlling authority it must base its decisions upon adequate knowledge, and proper provision must.be made to keep it informed fully and immediately of any new scientific or technical developments bearing upon the release of atomic energy.
The Principle of an International Authority.
The Australian Government agrees in principle with the proposal for the establishment of an international authority to act as the organ of the United Nations in the field of atomic energy. The exact relationof such an authority with the United Nations will require detailed consideration. One question of this character which was referred to by Mr. Baruch is the application of the so-called veto.
It is essential that the precise nature of this special privilege should be clearly understood.
At present the veto power relates solely to a particular method of voting in reaching decisions of the Security Council on matters of substance as distinct from procedure. If any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council chooses to do so it can block a decision of the agreed majority (seven) of the eleven council members. Thus the socalled “ veto “ can only be exercised in the course of voting in the body of the Security Council by a permanent member in order to prevent a vote by seven members of the Council from becoming effective. It is erroneous to apply the term “ right of veto “ to decisions of the United Nations generally because it is only in relation to one of its organs that the right has been conferred. The right applies solely to the special circumstances of the operations of the Security Council and the possession of such a right in the Council does not give any claim to a similar veto in respect of the operation of any other international authority.
To some extent the recommendations of this commission will require review by the Security Council. In such review the veto may be exercisable according to the circumstances. In this commission itself no veto is exercisable unless we decide to introduce it, which is not contemplated. When the Assembly of the United Nations deals with the welfare aspects of atomic energy, no veto is exercisable. If in the end an international convention establishes a world atomic authority, the day to day administrative decisions of that body may or may not be subject to the veto system of voting. That is a matter for the consideration of this commission when it is reviewing the problem as awhole.
However, I think I should add that in my view nothing has been disclosed regarding the nature of atomic energy or of the possible functions of the proposed international authority on atomic energy to indicate why any particular nation or nations should be accorded the right of veto over the decisions of the agreed majority of the authority. Some lesser powers have important supplies of some materials; one large nation, the United States, has highly developed plants and very special technological knowledge; a number of other nations, large, middle-sized and small, have brilliant scientists; but none of these facts seems to me an argument for applying the special voting rule of the Security Council to the decisions of anew international authority. We should in any event, take this matter of the veto up only in conjunction with the general plan.
Functions of the International Authority.
The precise functions of the international authority will ofcourse need to be defined.
The authority should own, distribute and account for all fissionable material obtained from mines or used in plants. It should have responsible officers in every plant or mine capable of producing fissionable materials in appreciable quantities, and should undertake or procure a strict accounting of and access to all fissionable materials used in nondangerous operation. One of its functions should be to ensure equitable distribution of raw materials to all licensed users.
To sum up -
The Australian Government favoursa general international convention which will -
From the outset, therefore, the problem created by the discovery and use of atomic energy should be treated as one integrated whole. Special consideration should be given to its beneficial uses as well as to its destructive power; each measure of international control should go hand in hand with other necessary measures so that each may assist the other and all will tend to create that international trust which is necessary in order to simultaneously remove the dangers and to grasp the benefits presented by this new discovery.
The Commission . has been directed to inquire into all phases of the problem. It is true that four matters haw. been listed in the Assembly resolution and With regard to all of them we are required to make specific proposals. However, these matters are not and cannot be mutually exclusive, but are closely interconnected. The work of the Commission should “ proceed by separate stages “. but it seems to me that the Commission should not deal piecemeal with the separate aspects of the problem hut should endeavour to treat the problem as a whole.
Underlying the whole discussion up to date has been the common acceptance of -
In the circumstances,, the Commission should defer for the time being any detailed discussion i-Ofrarding the duration and details of all the steps and stages by which the control of atomic energy will be introduced and developed. We should in the first instance devote ourselves tQ consideration of the basis on which the proposed . international atomic energy authority can be brought into existence, of the obligations which all nations might reasonably be asked to accept in order to give strength and purpose to such an organization and to obtain the benefits which should flow therefrom.
There are certain general principles which should be acceptable to all. For instance, the proposed international atomic energy authority should concern itself both with the prevention of the misuse of the new discovery and with ensuring that its benefits are realized. . Again, it will be generally agreed in principle that as part of the general plan there must be included therein a renunciation by all nations of the use of atomic weapons, a sharing of information and co-operation in the development of atomic energy, and an effective system of inspection and of sanctions to safeguard against any breach of undertakings.
It would also appear inevitable that provision for defining these obligations and constituting the proposed international authority should be contained in a single instrument.
It would therefore appear that one inimedate task before us is to consider the drawing up of a first draft of the heads of such an international instrument as 1 have suggested. I believe that from the statements which have been made before this Commission it is possible for a working committee, composed of representatives from each of the members of this Commission, to prepare a first draft of the main principles of a charter for a world authority to control and develop atomic energy. Such a committee could be set to work immediately with this task before it. It should readily discover those points of fundamental principle on which we are all agreed. The Committee would of course have before it, not only Mi”. Baruch’s statement but also the observations, criticisms and suggestions which have been made by the other eleven members of the Commission. Subject to the supervision of the Commission, the Committee should have . power to appoint subcommittees. It should report regularly to this Commission the progress made by it in working out and drafting one integrated plan to be embodied in the international instrument.
The people of the world are following the proceedings of this Commission with great, anxiety and concern. They are looking to us for prompt action. They will not be satisfied with expressions of mere Hopes and aspirations. They are demanding a plan which will at once remove a great fear from their hearts and bring’ thein closer to the benefits that scientists and - technicians of this age can and will make available from the bountiful forces of nature.
– Will the Prime Minis ter give the Australian Dental Association the opportunity to recommend a number of ex-service dentists for post- graduate study, in the United States of America, expenses to he met from the lend-lease settlement fund for the promotion of cultural and ‘ educational relations between the United States of America and Australia? Is the Prime Minister aware that Australian medical ex-servicemen have already- been selected and have gone overseas, arid that- dentists of other countries are already in the United States of America?
– There is a provision in the agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Sta-tes of America that a part of the money to be paid by Australia in settlement of lend-lease obligations shall be used iu Australia to promote educational and cultural relations between the two countries. I am not sure that this provision was intended to cover the sending of Australians to the United States of America for the purpose mentioned .by the honorable member. How-‘ ever, I shall ‘have the matter examined, and the honorable member will be informed of the result, either before the House rises, or afterwards by letter.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen in this morning’s ‘press a cable message relating to the international -wheat market wherein, it is stated, that the Canadian Government is making long term contracts for the sale of wheat to the United Kingdom at approximately 7s. 6d. a bushel, whereas the price in the United States of America is 12s. 6d. a bushel; and, further, that the Canadian Government is selling some wheat on the open market and retaining some with which to fulfil its contractual obligations? Will the Minister have a statement prepared on the fluctuations of the wheat market?
– I have not yet had time to read the newspapers to-day, but f shall make inquiries about long-term contracts between Canada and the United Kingdom for the sale of wheat. My impression is that the present contract covers one season only.
– Two seasons.
– I think there is a provision for a reduction of price in the second season. However, I shall have inquiries made.
Aerodromes for Country Towns - Cambridge Aerodrome
– Will the Minister for Air make available in the immediate future an officer to go through the north-coast district of New South Wales and advise local authorities at such places as Wingham, Taree, Kempsey, Coffs Harbour and Grafton regarding the measures necessary to put aerodromes into a condition to meet official requirements? The Kempsey aerodrome, which was used throughout the war, has now been declared unsuitable, and local councils are searching for a new site. In view of the expanding housing programmes in the other towns mentioned, and other public works which are being undertaken, it is necessary that the local governing authorities ‘ should know clearly what they should do to prevent the alienation of Crown lands so that they will be available in the future as sites for aerodromes.
– The right honorable member’s question has application to the whole of Australia, as many requests are being received for the development of aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth. It is true that some aerodromes which were in use during the war are not now considered suitable, in view of the higher standards necessary to ensure safe travel. From time to time the Commonwealth Government has made skilled officers available to advise local governing bodies as to suitable sites for aerodromes and their development. That policy will be continued. Requests for the services of surveyors and engineers to inspect sites have been received in such numbers that, sufficient skilled men to do the work are not available. Consequently, the right honorable gentleman may have to wait for some time for his request to be complied with, but I assure him that I am sympathetic towards the idea of lending the services of skilled technicians to advise local governing bodies in all matters affecting; aerodromes. I shall endeavour to have an officer made available as soon as possible to report on the matters to which the right honorable gentleman has referred, but I cannot promise him that that will be done in the immediate future.
– I understand that expansion of the Cambridge aerodrome is being investigated. I doubt whether an aerodrome so far removed from Hobart, which it is supposed to serve, makes air travel any great advantage to the city, but, in the event of the investigation disclosing that the aerodrome connot be expanded to meet the needs of civil aviation, will the Minister for Civil Aviation consider the establishment of a high-class flying boat service on the eastern’ littoral “ of Australia?
– It is’ quite unlikely that flying boats could be used in the existing commercial land services, or in land services likely to be established’ in the future. I shall examine the matter to see whether a more satisfactory service can be established. An investigation has already been made into the adequacy of the Cambridge aerodrome, and I have been advised that the aerodrome can be extended to meet likely requirements in the future. Without wishing to raise any controversy on the matter, I believe that the Cambridge aerodrome at present is adequate to meet the normal requirements of the population in the southern portion of Tasmania.
Land Settlement of ex- Servicemen.
– As the acquisition of large estates is a protracted business, and as the minimum number of soldiers who can obtain land from an. individual owner is at present three, can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether the Government will assist one ex-serviceman to acquire land for his own use?
– Why did not the honorable member vote with the Opposition on that point?
– Many land-holders who arenot able to make sufficient land available for three ex-servicemen could make land available for one farm. Can the. Minister say whether the Commonwealth Government prevents the acquisition of properties capable of settling only one ex-serviceman? Is the Government opposed to the acquisition of one-soldier properties, or does it insist that such properties must be balloted for? As the State Act ofNew South Wales contains a provision for an advance of £5,000 for single farm units, why does the Common- wealth Government prevent . that provision from being put into operation?
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in making a statement that is debatable on a matter that has already been decided by this House?
– I have followed the honorable member’ for Eden-Monaro closely, notwithstanding the din of interjections, arid so farhe has not intro duced debate’ into his question. He has the right to ask a question in his own way so long as it does not transgress the Standing Orders.’’
Mr.FRASER. - As the acquisition of land for one ex-serviceman is in accord with the wishes of returned soldiers’ organizations, can the Minister say whether he is able to give effect to that desire ?
– In order that the position relating to single-farm purchase may be made perfectly clear, I shall defer replying to the honorable member’s question until to-morrow.
– Will the Minister, when replying to-morrow, deal with the question of increasing the limit of £1,000 on establishment loans to a more appropriate sum ? Will he also give consideration to amending the provision whereby farmers’ sons who were 21 years of age or more at date of. enlistment, are excluded from the re-establishment benefits.
– I shall give consideration to the matters that the honorable member has raised..
– Have members of the”
Waterside Workers Federation or . other waterside workers refused -to load cargo into the former Australian liner Katoomba, which has been purchased by. a foreign company? Is the refusal due to their claim, that the crew shouldbe paid Australian rates and that the vessel, should sail under Australian articles? Is this the general attitude of the waterside workers towards. Australian vessels sold to foreign companies, and to vessels owned by foreign companies trading with this country? If so, how does the Government propose to safeguard our overseas trade ?
– I have no knowledge of the matters to which the honorable member refers, and, therefore, I cannot answer the question.
– Will the Minister make inquiries to ascertain the position?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and. Customs whether any licences have been granted recently by the Department of Import Procurement for the importation of tinned plate from the United States of America, other than those granted as the result ‘ of applications approved and sponsored by the Tinplate Control Board ? IT such licences have been granted, will the Minister indicate to whom they were issued, when they were granted, and the tonnage involved ?
– As this question will necessitate some inquiry and research, I shall discuss it with my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, and endeavour to supply to-morrow the information desired by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate whether any final payment is to be paid to Queensland apple and pear growers in respect of fruit acquired in 1942, and, if so, when?
– I shall have investigations made and’ supply an answer to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– by leave- After careful consideration of the representations made to the ‘Commonwealth by the Premiers of Western Australia and Tasmania in relation to the position of the apple mid pear industry in those States for next season, the Government has decided to continue assistance to the industry next year. Because of the withdrawal of the national security powers, there are constitutional and legal problems which’ have to be determined before any final decision can be made as to the statutory form in which the existing marketing arrangements can be continued. These aspects are under examination by the Government, l t is hoped that it will be possible to continue assistance to the industry by means of an extension of the acquisition scheme which has been in operation since 1940. Tn the meantime, the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board will proceed with all the necessary arrangements in regard to cases, packing materials and other essential supplies required for the handling and marketing of the Western Australian and Tasmanian crops. The board has also been authorized to undertake the arrangements necessary with processors to unsure- the absorption of maximum quantities of fruit in the production of dried and canned apples and other products. Apple arid pear growers in States still suffering from shipping and other disabilities caused by the war, can be assured that the support which the Commonwealth has provided for this industry during the past few seasons will he continued to cover the crop for next year.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that two day3 before he stated in this House that Tasmanian shipping had increased by 50 per centover pre-war figures, the Premier of Tasmania informed the Minister for- Supply and Shipping that there was 10,000 tons less shipping on the north-west coast of Tasmania than in 1939, and 3,500 tons less on the Hobart-Melbourne run? In view of this apparent discrepancy, will the Prime Minister have prepared a detailed statement covering exports, imports, passenger traffic and shipping tonnage for the two years 1939 and 1946 ?
– The statement that I made in the House was based on figures supplied to me, showing the tonnage of shipping now in service compared with the average tonnage of pre-war years. I do not know that I can promise to involve the Department of Supply and Shipping in the extensive research that a full reply to the honorable member’s question would involve, but I shall have an inquiry made to see whether the information can be supplied in general terms.
—As Cha Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed Batman Automatic Telephone Exchange, Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
Ordered to be printed.
Use of Confidential Security File
– Some months ago I brought to the notice of theAttorneyGeneral a matter concerning a confidential security file of more than 100 pages which had been stolen from the Army Security Department, and had come into the hands of a certain war-time contractor who had been making improper use of it. Can the Acting Attorney-General say whether investigations into this matter have been completed, and if so, what action is contemplated? In view of the fact that the activities of this contractor, were, at the time, the subject of close scrutiny by the Commonwealth law authorities in relation to extensive frauds on Commonwealth andAllied Works Council jobs at Bankstown and elsewhere, will the Acting Attorney-General take steps to initiate a full inquiry on oath, or set up a royal commission to investigate the whole matter and determine the identity of those associated with the Security branch who have betrayed their official trust by collaborating with him. Will the Minister also take up with the Prime Minister the question of tabling the report of the WarExpenditure Committee in regard to the Allied Works Council jobs referred to?
– I have no knowledge of the matter to which the honorable member has referred ;but if he will furnish me with the name of the person or persons concerned, I shall have the file examined.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that many ex-servicemen who wish to establish themselves in cafes and other food supply services are receivinglittle or no consideration from the Rationing Commission in regard to the supply of butter coupons? Is it a fact that luxury restaurants like Prince’s and Romano’s in Sydney have very high butter quotas? Will the Minister arrange for an equitable distribution of butter to essential cafes to be run by ex-servicemen ?
– I shall discuss this matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs under whose department the Rationing Commission operates. The honorable member may rest assured that anything we can do to help ex-servicemen, consistent with our obligation to ship as much butter as possible to the United Kingdom, shall be done. I am not able to say whether his contention that Prince’s and Romano’s restaurants get more liberal treatment than others is correct, but I think he will admit that the Rationing Commission has done a magnificent job for Australia in a very trying period.
Property of Department of Air
– The Maryborough branch of the Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia reports an acute shortage of houses in the Maryborough district, where many ex-servicemen and their families need homes. Will the Minister for Air review, at their request, the decision that the buildings of the old air force school at Maryborough shallbe disposed of by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission with a view to making them available to the homeless ex-servicemen and their families for housing purposes?
– I shall be glad to have the honorable member’s question examined, but I again remind the House that the decision has been made that houses and other property surplus to the requirements of any service must be declared surplus and made available to the Disposals Commission.
– Does that apply to the Somers Camp?
– It applies to all places where buildings have been erected for war purposes. Whilst I am prepared to listen to all representations and convey them to the proper authority, it should be realized that many questions directed to service Ministers about the bousing of people on service property ought to be directed to the Minister in control of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
– Who is the Minister ?
– The Minister lor Supply and Shipping. I realize that cx-servicemen naturally think that I have control of vacant buildings on property used by the Air Force during the war. I :im anxious to assist in the re-housing of ex-servicemen. I shall have the matter re-examined and supply the honorable member with an answer, to his question. I repeat, however, that the proper course for people and councils concerned to take is to make application to the Disposals Commission to have the houses made available for the purpose so desired.
Government Acquisitions in Melbourne.
Mi-. HUTCHINSON”. - The Mel-‘ bourne Age -a few. days ago published a report to the effect that the Government is considering the purchase of the Manchester Unity Building in Swanson-street, Reliance House in Flinders-lane, and a large block of land in the eastern por-tion of the City of Melbourne, for the purpose of providing Commonwealth offices. I ask the Minister for the Interior whether that report is correct? If so, will the Government consider, as an alternative, the demolition of its building in Post Office-place? That building, which contains the Federal Members Rooms, is drab and. dirty. In conjunction with the demolition of that building will the Government consider the acquisition of the adjoining hotel with a view to erecting a modern ten-story building on the joint sites? Under that alternative plan the Commonwealth could erect an unbroken line nf modern buildings running through from Bourke-street to Post Office-place.
– The Commonwealth Government has decided to purchase the Manchester Unity Building and Reliance
House: but those buildings will meet only in part the Commonwealth’s office requirements in Melbourne. Some time ago a sub-committee of Cabinet was appointed to investigate the Government’s requirements in respect of offices in Melbourne. That sub-committee will meet at Canberra this evening and consider the whole position. I assume that subsequently it will furnish a report which will be made public.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster.- General whether he is aware that many exservicemen who were succoured when in the Middle East and Europe are now desirous of sending food parcels to families in those countries which took grave risks in order to assist them? Will the Minister take up this matter with a view to having removed the present restrictions upon the posting of food parcels to the countries concerned ?
– Responsibility £or refusal to accept food parcels for despatch through the post to any destination does not lie with the Commonwealth Government. We have always been prepared to do so, but governments in receiving countries are not always agreeable to accept food parcels of the sizes and at the weights which many people wish to post in their desire, very naturally and properly, to send as much as possible to those they want to succour.. I shall bring the specific instance mentioned by the honorable member to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. I am sure that any representations which the Government can make to the governments of the countries concerned in this matter will be made.
Profits from Realizations.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the profit, amounting to over £7,000,000, resulting from the sale of skin wools, tops and the deferred, price on wool content of manufactured goods exported has been appropriated to a trust fund within the meaning of the Audit Act? Has any of the balance in such fund been used, or expended, for Commonwealth purposes? If not, is there cash in the trust fund equal to the total amount put into the fund or appro’priated ?
– As a measure on the notice-paper deals with that particular matter, the appropriate time to discuss the subjects raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party will be when that measure is under consideration. Meanwhile, I shall bear in mind the questions that he has asked.
– I require the information in order to discuss that measure.
– I shall see what generosity can be shown to the right honorable gentleman. For his personal information, I shall supply him with the available details.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform me whether any plants are in operation in Australia for the production of synthetic rubber? If so, are any of those plants subsidized by the Commonwealth Government ?
– No plants are producing synthetic rubber in Australia.
Attack on Singapore.
– by leave - The story of a well-kept secret has now been released with the publication of the awards for gallantry to a small but determined band of officers and men who carried the war thousands of miles behind the Japanese lines during the days of1943, when J apan was flushed with the fortunes of conquest. The exploit was a joint effort by a party of fourteen, comprising ten Australians and four members of the British Forces. Unfortunately, six members of this party lost their lives in a subsequent operation in 1944. The awards were approved by the King in 1944 but details were withheld for security reasons. I give now, the names and awards and also the home States of the Australians: -
British Army. - Captain (later LieutenantColonel) I. Lyon, M.B.E., Gordon Highlanders, D.S.O.
Royal Navy. - Lieutenant (later Lieutenant-Commander) D. N. Davidson, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, D.S.O.
New South Wales. - Lieutenant (later Captain) R. C. Page, Australian Imperial Force, D.S.O. (Lives of above lost in subsequent operation in 1944.)
Royal Navy. - Leading Stoker J. P. McDowell, Royal Navy, D.S.M.
New South Wales. - Able Seaman W. C Falls, Royal Australian Navy (life lost in. subsequent operation in 1944), D.S.M.
Queensland. - Able Seaman A. W. Huston, Royal Australian Navy (life lost in subsequent operation in 1944), D.S.M.
New South Wales. -Lieutenant H. C. Carse, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve, Mention in Despatches.
Queensland. - Acting Leading Seaman K. P. Cain, Royal Australian Navy, Mention in Despatches.
New South Wales. - Leading Telegraphist H. S. Young, Royal Australian Navy, Mention in Despatches.
Queensland. - Able Seaman F. W. Marsh, Royal Australian Navy, Mention in Despatches (life lost in subsequent operation in 1944).
South Australia. - Acting Able Seaman M. Berryman, Royal Australian Navy, Mention in Despatches.
The citation of the awards mentions “ outstanding bravery and devotion to duty under circumstances of extreme hazard “. This party, after thorough and arduous training in Australia, undertook the hazardous journey of 2,000 miles unescorted through enemy patrolled waters to Singapore. Despite a number of narrow escapes from detection, the party continued with great determination, and after keeping Singapore harbour under secret observation for several days, made a silent attack on the night of the 26th September, 1943, selecting this night on account of. the suitable concentration of shipping. Despite the hazard of entering a closely guarded and patrolled harbour in enemy hands, the party pressed home their attack and withdrew without loss. This attack resulted in the loss by the Japanese, through sinking and ‘burning, of seven ships of the tanker and freighter class, totalling :>7,000 tons, at a time when its shipping was hard-pressed to support it3 armed forces. The members of the party were, then faced with the 2,000 mile return journey in constant danger of detection, which they well knew meant certain death.
They reached. Australia without loss or mishap on the 19th October, 1943, having spent over 40 days in enemy occupied and controlled areas under conditions of constant strain and danger and having carried out a highly successful and crippling attack on the enemy, concerning the method of which the Japanese are still in the dark. I am sure that all honorable members will join with me in expressing admiration of the heroic .deeds of these gallant men. Our hearts go out. in sympathy to the relatives of those who subsequently lost their lives. It was by such deeds that the Allies won the war.
War Widows’ Pensions
– Has the Minister for Repatriation received deputations from the War Widows Guild and other organizations, and from groups of individuals, regarding the inadequacy of war widows’ pensions? Does he consider the rate of pension to be adequate? If not, does the Government intend to take any action to have the rate increased?
– I have not received any deputations from the War Widows Guild regarding the inadequacy of pensions. I have had representations from mothers of deceased servicemen, but not from widows. The raising of pension rates, of course, is a matter of government policy, which is not usually announced by answers to questions. The honorable gentleman would not like the repatriation legislation to be amended now on the. eve of the’ general elections.
– Of course. Why not?
– I am sure that he would not. This is a matter of policy, and the Government will see that justice is done to the people concerned. I have, received many letters expressing appreciation of the assistance given by the Repatriation Department to widows and others.
Debate resumed from the 30th July (vide page 3295), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is to provide means for securing and maintaining ‘ adequate supplies of coal throughout Australia and for regulating and improving the industry in the State of New South Wales. The proposal is to implement an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales, under which each government is to take measure’s for securing and maintaining adequate supplies of coal to meet the need for that commodity throughout Australia, and in trade with other countries, for providing for the regulation and improvement of the coal industry in New South Wales, and for other matters relating to the production, supply and distribution of coal. Provision is being made for the institution of better working conditions in the industry by the employment of modern equipment and up-to-date methods of operation. Social amenities are to be provided for the workers, and the housing conditions are to be improved.’ The agreement relates to the coal mines in New South Wales, which represent 80 per cent, of the coal mines in Australia. A deadlock has been reached in the conduct of this indu’s- try. The coal owners have not been able to break it, and the miners federation has appealed to the Government to take the initiative. The community as a whole is tired of being jammed between the warring factions. The Daily Mirror recently published an interview with a well-known identity in the industry who is associated with the propietors - Mr. Bernard Kirton, chairman of Excelsior
Collieries Limited, on the south coast of New South Wales. It reads -
Improved working and better living conditions, and the elimination of incorrigible “ in mines would help solve unrest in the coal industry. ‘
This is the viewof the chairman of Excelsior Collieries Ltd., South Coast, Mr. B. Kirton. “ I do not see that any good will ever come nut of employers and employees continuing to fight like Kilkenny cats,” said Mr. Kirton. About 10 per cent, of the miners are most difficult individuals, unreasonable and incorrigible. If they cannot find somebody to fight they, will fight their own shadows, and the only way out, in my opinion, is that there must be some get-together of employers and the other 90 per cent, of miners who, taken as a body, are good types of men. It does not matter who brings it about - the Government, the coal owners, or the miners federation.
I regard the bill as an evolutionary step in the institution of a better system for the control of the coal industry. This might be achieved in one of three ways - by government control of private ownership; by government ownership by means of nationalization of the coal mines; or by a co-operative scheme. This lastmentioned method, should be given a trial, because it has proved a success in other parts of the world, notably in New Zealand. It has been admitted that the great body of the coal-minersand the mine-owners are decent people. If we analyse the causes of all the troubles in the industry, we may find that for even the extremists something may be said. The owners who hold extreme views are well able to lookafter themselves, because they have wealth, and the assistance of a powerful press which will always take up the cudgels on their behalf. Mining superintendentJ. Johnson, of J. and A. Brown collieries, one of the largest of the coal-mining concerns, has said that the continueal writing-up by the press of strikes on the coal-fields has created in the industry a state of mass hysteria, and is designed to bring about the very conditions of which complaint is made. It gives rise to a form of auto-suggestion in the minds of those who are engaged in the industry. An analysis of the conditions in the industry and its history, in New South Wales and Great Britain may give an inkling the real causes of the state of mind of the so-called irresponsibles. In this regard, a poem that has been brought to my notice reads -
They have toasted with a thousand toasts, all sorts and styles of men,
From the gallant soldier at the front, to the man who wields the pen;
But they’ve missed one honest fellow, and I’m raising now a kick
That they didn t make a mention, of the “ man behind the pick “.
Consideration of the history of the industry reveals that the situation with which we are’ now confronted is the culmination of the struggle for emancipation from a form of slavery that has been more soul-destroying than even the slavery imposed on the galley slaves of olden days. The men who worked in the holds of ships were chained, and so were those who went down into the bowels of the earth day in and day out to provide the fuel required by the community. Those who engaged in the coal industry in Great Britain in earlier days were helpless in the hands of the forebears of the modern coal barons. They were ignorant of what rights they possessed, and being economically weak were exploited by the controllers of the industry at that time, just as the coal-miners to-day are being exploited in many ways. Even’ young children and women were sent down into the mines. Not until some years later was a royal commission appointed to investigate the employment of women and children in the mines. A work entitled Lays and Talesof the Mines. by Arthur Wilson, embodies in an appen- . dix evidence that was placed before a royal commission appointed in Great Britain in 1842. I quote passages from it-
Betty Wardle: “I have worked in a pit since I was six years old. I have had four children : two of them were born while I worked in the pits. I worked in the pits whilst I was in the family way.I had a child born in the pits, and I brought it up the pitshaft in my shirt.”
The Sub-Commissioner: “The child is harnessed by abelt, or chain to the waggon : the two children behind assist in pushing it forward.”
Occurrences suchas those have been responsible for the bitterness that exists in the industry to-day. The coal-miners regard as traditional, resistance of all reforms by those who own and control the coal mines, not only in Great Britain but also in this country.
Reforms such as improvement of the ventilation and the lighting of mines have not been obtained without a great deal of agitation on the part of the miners, but new menaces have appeared. One is the disease known as mystaginus, which causes total or partial blindness. Another serious danger is the presence of inflammable gases. Years of agitation and much loss of life were experienced before safety measures were installed. In 1880, over 80 miners were blasted to eternity at the Old Bulli colliery, and ultimately a royal commission was appointed to investigate the clangers associated with the presence of inflammable gas in certain mines, particularly on the south coast. A royal commission was not appointed until 1902. When evidence was given before it in the court house at Wollongong, the manager of one of the mines declared in the witness box, in the course of cross-examination, that the property with which he was associated, the Mount Kembla mine, was one of the safest in New South Wales. The words had hardly been uttered when a loud explosion occurred, and that mine went up in smoke, nearly 200 miners losing their lives. Mr. Wilson further stated in his book -
The Mount Kembla (New South Wales) disaster took place at 2 p.m. on Thursday, the 31st July, 1002, when there were 230 men and boys at work. The force of the explosion was heard for miles around Kembla, and, as one old miner remarked’, “ It was like the report of a 100-ton dynamite charge.” Scores of men and boys were killed outright, and evidences of its terrific nature were seen in the fact that many human limbs were discovered at distances of over one hundred yards away from the body, while one boy was blown into atoms.
The pent-up <ras from the old “ gobs “ had burst forth with ungovernable fury, and swept the workings like a cyclone, carrying death and destruction with ,it. Those who were lucky enough to escape from the impact of the explosion were subjected to the poisonous effects of “after damp” and unless help was speedily and effectively given to them they too must inevitably succumb.
There is now a modern rescue station on the south coast mining field, and safety lamps are provided in the mines, but what a price was paid for those reforms !
They were resisted, as was every other reform, by the great majority of those in control of the mines, and just as bitterly as some of the present political representatives of the employers will resist the bill now before us. [Quorum formed.]
The coal-miners have not been so well represented in the Parliament as have some other sections of the community. Certainly, from time to time, they have had a few parliamentary champions. In this chamber, for instance, we have the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who in season and out of season has fought to uphold the rights of the coal-miners and to improve their conditions of employment. The cost of making necessary improvements of the’ industrial conditions of the coal-miners would be a mere. bagatelle, compared with the cost incurred by the Government in subsidizing rural industries. During the war period, they were subsidized to the amount of nearly £140,000,000. Those engaged on the land have always had ample representation in the Parliament. Whilst they work hard, they have a much healthier life than coal-miners, who have to go down into the bowels of the earth. Coal is the key to all industry, because on its production depends whether the wheels of industry shall keep moving or stop. Before we condemn the. miners, we should consider” the problems of the industry from their point of view, and discover the cause of their difficulties. To talk of disciplining the miners is just as ineffectual, and just as obsolete, as caning school children or youthful delinquents. Preventive measures should be applied. . [Quorum formed.’]
A new menace has appeared on the coal-miners’ horizon. It has been referred to as “ dusted “ lungs, the proper name being pneumoconiosis. As mining operations .extend into the mountain side on the south coast, the coal becomes softer, and dust is deposited on the miners’ lungs. In the course of time their lungs become hard, and are described as lungs of coke. They are condemned to a slow death, which is said to be worse than death at the hands of the strangler’s rone, because the process lasts for years. This is one of the things which has unsettled the minds of thos.! engaged in the industry on the south coast. This bill is designed to provide better working conditions, and to assist towards overcoming the dust problem.
The miners are entitled to a new deal. When the country was in dire straits, the miners joined the armed forces in their hundreds, although they were in a reserved occupation. Notwithstanding that, those who remained behind produced a record quantity of coal during the year when this country was in danger of invasion. By and large, they are just as good and just as bad as the citizens of the country generally. Even the problem of the irreconcilables can be overcome by the mechanization of the mines. With the provision of better conditions, the older men in the industry will probably need to work fewer hours and will have more opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and breathe pure air. The younger men will be able to turn to the occupations for which they are better fitted. Hitherto, they have remained in the industry because they followed the traditions of their families, but all the time they have been frustrated. Everybody has some creative ability, and everybody should have an opportunity to express it. To-day, the coal-mining industry in Australia is in a state of chaos, and some remedy must be found. The miners are embittered by past treatment, and are suspicious of the future. Many are leaving the industry, with the result that the number engaged in it is constantly diminishing. If this goes on the industry itself will cease to function. Therefore, the bill is designed to save the industry, and to improve the conditions of those engaged in it.
– This bill, as honorable members have pointed out, is one of very great importance. It is out of the rut of ordinary measures submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament. It is, indeed, a sign of the times. This measure was introduced by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in a characteristic speech. Notwithstanding his aversion - displayed on many occasions, but particularly in that magnum opus of his, the bill for the “rehabilitation of ex-servicemen - to what he called “ old history “, he fell back upon history and treated us to a moving narrative of the conditions, unlovely, uninviting, dangerous and unhealthy, under which coal-miners work. That narrative, dismal as it was, still fell short of the truth. The conditions under which coal-miners worked for generations were worse than anything the Minister described. The miner was a serf tied to the mine. He was paid a wretched pittance, housed in a squalid hovel, and fed like a dog or a beggar on bones thrown to him by the owner of the mine. He had no voice in making the laws under which he lived. He was denied the right to co-operate with his fellow workers to obtain redress. Those were the conditions which, for generations, obtained in the coal-mining industry, but those conditions are gone, and to-day the miner is no longer a hunted serf, a wretched outcast, an inferior gnawing a bone thrown to him as though he were a dog or a beggar. He sits now an unchallenged, if not an honoured, guest at the banquet table, and is, as we all have reason to know, a power in the land. The Minister would have us believe that this bill has been introduced in order to remedy the conditions which he says still exist in the industry. He has invited the House to believe that the Government has decided that it will no longer tolerate such conditions, and that it proposes to introduce such remedial measure as will make conditions in the coal-mining industry comparable with those in other industries. Of course, that is not the position at all. This measure has not been introduced because of any belated recognition by the Government of conditions in the coal-mining industry. It has beenintroduced because, and only because, of the acute shortage of coal, which has brought the whole industrial and social fabric of the country to a condition bordering on paralysis. We have been told in the press only this morning that the industrial activities of the important city of Adelaide have been brought to a standstill. A meeting representative of all sections of the community decided to close down industry for a week. Nature itself seems to be sympathetic with the coal-miners and has unloosed a gale which has prevented the arrival of colliers with supplies of coal. Only the other day, in Sydney, -we were told to prepare for a complete black-out, a complete suspension of all light and power services. . Coal is vital to- modern society because on it depends the whole industrial and economic life of this country. According to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the miners are . the only people who can cut coal. That is true, but it is also true that they will not cut coal. That is the trouble. It is because of the effect that their refusal to cut coal would have upon the community, and upon the votes which will be cast at the forthcoming general elections, thatthis bill has been introduced. This measure is, as I have said, a sign of the times. The people of this country are long-suffering, but they are also intelligent; they can put two and two together. It does not require a high development of their mathematical faculties to apportion the blame for the present trouble. The people are suffering from restrictions in respect of lighting, heating and power; there is trouble in every household - and there is an election not far off. Therefore, honorable members opposite have to try to explain away their responsibility for the present situation, and the Government, realizing the imminence of the elections, has introduced a measure behind which it can shelter when appealing -to the electors. Government candidates will endeavour to . persuade the people that this legislation will put things right. But of course it will do nothing of the kind. The trouble does not arise from the things to which the Minister/ formerly had such an aversion, but to . which he now turns with the faith of a devotee making abeisance before his favorite shrine; it arises because the miners refuse to cut coal in adequate quantities. We are told that this bill will change everything, but it will not touch the basic cause of the acute shortage of coal; that is the only thing that, at the moment, concerns this Parliament, the Government, and. the people of the country. As I want to make it perfectly clear what the trouble is, and how far this bill can deal with it, T propose to cite some figures. T ask honorable members to bear in mind the statement of the Prime Minister, that miners are the only men who can cut coal, and this for all practical , purposes means the members of the miners’ federation. People who think .that anybody else can cut coal are most foolish. Even Mr. J Justice Davidson refers to some men outside the miners’ federation who cut coal and never strike. I should like to know who they are, and how many of them there are. I do not know of any such people although there may be a handful - perhaps a few hundred - of them. The coal industry of Australia is in the hands of the coal-miners who are members of the miners’ federation. There is no doubt whatever about that and therefore I agree with the Prime Minister that we must look to that body if we would solve the problem. Strikes are an offence against the law. This bill, if passed, will become another law. What is wanted is not another law, but the enforcement of the existing law. That means that the miners must be disciplined. But the Prime Minister told the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), that he will not do that. He will appeal to the miners, but he will not take steps which his predecessor, Mr. Curtin, thought necessary. Honorable members may be interested to hear that, on the 14t/h October, 1943, the late Mr. John Curtin said -
As the result of inquiries which I have had made, it is the opinion of the Government that the removal of minority malcontents and irresponsibles in the industry will go a long way towards maintaining increased coal production. . . . The malcontents .and irresponsibles are indicated by bad attendance records. It is the opinion of the Government that they should be weeded out of the industry. They have a record of chronic absenteeism, and their removal from the industry would leave no reasonable grounds for complaint on the grounds of victimization.
That was a practical suggestion. It is one, the adoption of which, I am sure every member on the Government benches would welcome in his heart, whatever he may say publicly. Such men are a curse to this country. But- this bill leaves them entrenched in the industry. Whatever is good in this measure has been taken from the report of Mr. Justice Davidson. In it the judge pointed out the things that ought to be done in connexion with the coal-mining industry. Some of those things the Government proposes to do, and provision for them is- made in this bill. But the outstanding recommendation - the very basis of Mr. Justice Davidson’s superstructure - is that law and order shall be restored in the industry. At the present time, industrial anarchy reigns unchecked. In the main the leaders of the miners are Communists, but even they are unable to ensure that measure of discipline which, in their own interests, they desire to maintain. But the Government will not attempt to discipline the miners. Instead, it has introduced this measure, the ostensible object of which is the restoration of peace in the coalmining industry. There can be no doubt that peace in the industry is essential, but it must be peace based on justice, not purchased by the tame submission to threats to strike if the demands of the miners are not conceded. I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), because it was my fortune to be associated with his father in the greatest coal strike in this country. I know something about coal-mining, and I know that what is wanted is peace in the industry. We have a huge leeway to make up. We have heaped up a mountain of debts. The world is crying out for our goods. Without coal we cannot produce them. The war in which Australia was engaged until about a year ago was waged to establish the rule of law throughout the world, and to dethrone brute force. After six years of fearful conflict, brute force has been cast down and humbled ; it now lies prostrate in the dust and, temporarily’ at least, peace again reigns. There are two methods by which workers in industry can obtain redress of their grievances. They may ‘ strike, or they may submit disputes with their employers to tribunals set up under the law of the land. For over 40 years arbitration has been an integral part of the in’dustrial and social system of Australia. I have had some experience of industrial conditions when strikes were the only means of redress, and since the introduction of arbitration. I say that arbitration has given the worker very much ; and that by it he has lost nothing. The success of arbitration, however, depends upon the recognition of the rule of law and upon the enforcement of the law. The law is not a mere formal commandment ; it- represents the will of the people; in order to become effective it must be translated into action. The Prime Minister has invited us to make constructive suggestions. I make one now. I remind the right honorable gentleman that Mr. Justice Davidson suggested that before any strike took place the matters forming the subject of a dispute should be referred to the members of the organization concerned and a secret ballot taken under governmental control and that only then, by a majority decision, should there be a strike that could be accepted by the law as permissible. I would not even go so far as to say that that is desirable. If we make a law and “declare strikes an offence against that law we must be prepared to enforce it. At this juncture it might be pertinent to quote from an article I wrote many years ago-
Unionism now occupies quite a different position to that in days gone by. In the past the unionist was an Ishmael, a pariah. Every man’s hand was against him; his organization was tabooed, his efforts at redress ruthlessly crushed. He was both despised and detested. Society regarded him as a noxious and hateful thing. What paltry concessions he secured were obtained at the cost of frightful, privation, at the point of the industrial bayonet. His relations with his employer were in essentials those of a rebellious slave and a cruel, heartless master. The men regarded the employer as an enemy to be despoiled, a tyrant to be dethroned. Such a code was then excusable; under the circumstances, indeed no other was possible. But thes’e circumstances no longer exist. Unionism has come to its own. It no longer wages guerilla war - sheltering beneath rocks, fleeing for its life into the wilds, ragged, ill-fed, despised, outcast. Its disciplined and wellappointed armies take the field with all the pomp and circumstance of regular war. lt meets the capitalist upon equal terms. It no longer snatches up a bone like a dog or a beggar, but sits at the banquet an unchallenged, if not an honoured guest. It makes terms - sometimes dictates them. It makes agreements, too, covering the whole conditions of. an industry: but it does, not always recognize ite responsibilities in respect to those agreements. The habits of its early life have bitten deep, and now as an equal it still sometimes acts as though’ it were a slave. It was quite natural that terms wrung from starving men should not be regarded as binding upon them; but a contract between equals stands upon another footing. Unions are slow to recognize the responsibilities of that great power which their determination and singleness of purpose have won for them. With (tower comes responsibility; with privileges, corresponding duties. That which was excusable and even proper in a slave, is inexcusable in a free man. This involves a more complete control of its members by a union than is now general, lt is not only absurd, but dangerous, that the welfare of thousands should be imperilled by the reckless acts of a mere handful. Discipline must be more rigid. Individual members must not be permitted to violate the terms of any agreement arrived at by a union with the employers. That the enforcement of the necessary discipline will be distasteful to the union, and that it may be bitterly resented by the individual, may. be admitted; but it must nevertheless be insisted upon. And not only must there be a recognition of the responsibilities that come with power in this direction, but in others. No one union should bc allowed to plunge a whole country into industrial chaos. If action is to be taken, it should be only after all affected or likely to be- affected have been consulted. Large bodies of men should not move without reason - nor will they do so unless caught in a whirlpool of sentiment. The sympathetic strike is, or ought to be, an’ anachronism. If a union has a good cause for action, the council of unions will, after careful consideration, endorse it; if it has not, it will condemn it. But these ill-advised rushes into industrial battle without consultation, and these shouts “ to come along and help “ after the battle has begun, ought no longer to be tolerated.
Those were my views on the principles by which industrial labour should be guided when I was de facto leader of the Australian Labour party and head of a great industrial organization in this country. They constitute a code and promulgate a gospel which I have preached through the intervening years. They point the way to bring about peace in industry. The law must be enforced, the miners must be disciplined. But what happens- now to-day on the coal-fields? First, ‘we have at the head of the. miners’ federation a man whose ultimate purpose is revolution, who seeks the complete overthrow of the democratic system of government for which we have fought. All these movements,, these manoeuvres, are preparatory to the great purpose to which he has consecrated his life. At his side are others whose politics are shaded from a deep red to a pale anaemic pink. Most important of all, however, there is an apathy among the rank and file of miners themselves which, if persisted in, is perhaps their worst enemy5 and which’ will destroy the Labour movement. At lodge and aggregate meetings a mere handful of workers attend. I have known in my own organization of 5,000 members that on occasions resolutions carried by 150 members at the most, are binding on all members. Everybody knows that among the miners to-day at least 75 per cent, oppose the tactics of their present leaders; but it is the 25 per cent, who rule, and not the majority. Mr. Justice Davidson advocated the taking of a ballot and the making of voting compulsory as a prerequisite to declaring a strike. It is true that there will continue to be trouble in the industry - if there were no trouble there would be no merit in entering the fray. As a matter of fact trouble itself makes life so interesting. I remind the House of what this bill provides. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who could talk a bird, off a bough, brings in this bill, and to listen to him one would think that butter would not melt in his mouth. He introduced it as a splendid gesture on the part of the Government in the interest of peace in the coal-mining industry. He tells us that all the evils that confront the coal-mining industry to-day had their origins in the bad conditions that had existed in the industry for generations. They have, however, gradually been improving. Whether they are better or worse to-day is to be seen from some figures which I shall cite to show why . this Government has at last been spurred to take some action. Before I cite these figures, let me point out that this bill purports to. be a nonpartisan measure, falling like gentle rn 11 from heaven upon the just and the unjust, the miners and mine-owners alike. Before the bill was introduced, there was some suggestion in the lobbies of the parliament, and in thf- columns of the press, that the Government intended to introduce a measure designed to discipline the miners. People went about saying, “Can such things be?” Others said, “ We shall wait and see “. And now we do see. In this morning’s press there is a report that the disciplinary clauses of this measure are -to be retained; but although I have devoted considerable lime to an examination of the bill, I have been unable to discover any disciplinary clauses. There is, it i° true, a reference to superintendents and managers, and what will happen to them should they stray from the narrow path. There is also an oblique reference to “ any other person “ . Can we expect the miners to endure such a vile defamation? Honorable members opposite approach the miners with bowed heads, bated breath, and whispering humility. They remove their shoes as they enter the temple. They are afraid to say “boo” to the miner - to even mention him by name. Had the bill been intended to discipline the miners, there wouldhave been something in it worth having; but it does not. Surely it is not suggested that strikes are attributable to superintendents or managers, or to “ any other person “. After all, a clerk in an office would come within the definition of “ any other person “. Are the miners to sit dumbly and endure association with mere clerks in offices? These are terrible days indeed, but it has not come to that. The miners will stand firm by the principles for which they have fought over the ages - “ One out, all out “. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister said that during the war the miners had worked faithfully and zealously; but did they? The right honorable gentleman pointed out that, during the 1940 strike, when the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, there was a loss of coal amounting to 900,000 tons as the result of a general strike; but we must not lose sight of the fact that in the six years of the war, the total loss amounted to approximately 2,091,000 man-days, or, expressed in terms of coal, approximately 8,973,000 tons. Subtracting the loss in 1940 and 1941 from that total, there still remains a figure of something like 6,000,000 tons lost as the result of strikes during the term of office of theLabour Government. Under the law the Government itself made, strikes are prohibited and penalties should be imposed upon those participating in them. But the law is only a scrap of paper. In 1945, 629,975 man-days were lost due to strikes, but no attempt was made to enforce the law. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the tentative efforts of the Government in this direction were negligible, and the total amount collected in fines imposed upon miners for absenteeism was approximately £500. There has been no attempt to put the militants out of the unions.
Why should these trouble-makers not be expelled ? Any honorable member who has first-hand acquaintance with union methods knows that on occasions unions do expel members. As Mr. Justice Davidson has pointed out, the only way to ensure industrial peace is to remove the militant forces from the trade unions. Again we come back to the point that this bill is the direct result of the refusal by miners to cut coal. That is an offence under the law. A strike is an offence ; but yesterday eight coal-mines were idle in New South Wales, and at one stage last week, twenty were idle. There have been rare occasions on which we have been informed by the press that on a certain day there were no strikes on the coal-fields. Everybody said, “ That is wonderful “. But of course it did not go on. That certainly would have been wonderful. I have quoted from an article that I wrote many years ago - more than 35 years ago in fact - and I now propose to quote from another statement I made in much later years to show that I believe in the disciplining of members of unions. There must be law and order. In this country the law is what the people make it, and a law made by all must be obeyed by all. If a law is bad, the Parliament may alter it, but whilst it remains a law, it must be obeyed. In 1917, I appointed Mr. Justice Edmunds as head of a tribunal to deal with conditions in the coal industry. Thistribunal did some good work for the industry; among other reforms and benefits it established the “ eight hour bank to bank “ principle, which was acknowledged by the miners to be a great advance. Unlike Mr. Justice Davidson, he was appointed to act in a judicial capacity; to make awards, to restore order, to deal out even-handed justice, and no one will say that he failed to do all things passible. But he found it impossible to continue his work on the tribunal. His resignation is described in an article published in the Brisbane Daily Mail of the 25th August, 1917, a portion of which reads -
Coal Tribunal Flouted
Board ceases in New South Wales and Victoria.
Melbourne, Friday. - In reference to-night to the position of the coal tribunal presided over by Mr. Justice Edmunds, the Prime Minister said that the tribunal was appointed for the purpose of settling disputes in the coal trade, and assuring a supply of coal during the war. The board gave the men all they asked for on the expressed condition, accepted on behalf of the men, that there would be industrial peace, and no interruption of the output of coal during the war. That condition had been broken by the men who deserted their posts at the most critical time in their country’s history. Mr. Justice Edmunds, whose orders had been treated with contempt, had announced that he had ceased operations, and tendered his resignation as chairman of the tribunal.
While he (Mr. Hughes) much regretted that the good work done by Mr. Justice Edmunds had been brought to nought by the action of the men, it was clear that it was impossible for the tribunal to carry on its work in the States when men defied its authority. Therefore, in New South Wales and Victoria, the tribunal might be regarded as having ceased to exist. In Queensland where coal mines were still at work, the board will continue.
Following upon Judge Edmunds’ resignation, I appointed Mr. Hibble to the tribunal. He carried on the work for some years and endeavoured, with some success, to promote peace in the coal industry. My government endeavoured to enforce the law, but this Government does not endeavour to enforce the law. The Prime Minister said quite recently that he would not enforce the law against the miners, that complete immunity was granted to them to do what they pleased, to absent themselves from work without reasonable cause and to cease work on a just or unjust cause. The miners in the last year or two have struck for any reason or no reason at all. Mr. Justice Davidson points out that in the vast majority of cases strikes have had nothing to do with any industrial question. A pit pony has a. sore back. The miners knock off. A foreman looks sourly at a wheeler. They knock off. They do this knowing very well that the law will not be enforced, and that the Government’s policy is to leave them alone because they are the only men who can cut coal. A more immoral doctrine was never promulgated. The miners are given the right to do as they please because they are strong. Eight counts for nothing: force alone prevails as it did in Hitler’s Germany. Because Hitler was strong people who displeased him were put in concentration camps. Justice, the rule of law, was spat on. We fought for the maintenance of the rule of law, but the Government says, “ Oh well, we are not going to enforce the law “. I do not know that I can usefully expound the position further. The bill contains nothing of substance. It will leave things as they are. It is true, of course, that it may do some good in improving conditions in the mines. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), amongst others, recently debated the question, “ How can Australia’s coal-mining problem be solved ?” What the president of the miners federation said was beautiful to listen to : peace was his theme : hearing him no one would suspect that his one object in life is to stir up and foment strife. He said the suggestion that the mechanization of mines was opposed by the miners was quite wrong. All they did was to oppose unplanned and illconsidered mechanization. As to mechanization itself, they were entirely in favour of it. Then he went on to talk about the conditions in the mines and about dust in particular. He gave the impression - I do not say he actually committed himself in so many words- that men were dying, like flies in the mines as the result of dust. He did say countless thousands of lives would be saved as the result of the removal of dust. All I have” to say is that dust is a great evil, but it does not kill as do silicosis or phthisis. It is not a killer. As a matter of fact, coal mines are notoriously free from silicosis and phthisis.Among metalliferous miners, however, these disesases are rife. To suggest that “ dusting “ is a disease of the first magnitude is best answered by citing the figures.
– Order ! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That the right honorable member for North Sydney be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The House has just heard a most amazing speech by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The right honorable gentleman has been a member of the Parliament since federation. He has had a remarkable career as an industrial leader in this country, and he has also been an advocate in the interests of the employers. To-day he criticized the Government. He said that it has not produced coal; and he criticized the coal-miners. The right honorable gentleman was Attorney-General in the Menzies Government, and at that time was charged with the responsibility of increasing coal production by maintaining peace in the industry. But, although he is to-day so full of .knowledge about the industry, and knows so much about how coal can’ be produced, and is prepared to give to the Government and the public at large advice upon the problem, he failed to discharge that responsibility. Being a cunning politician, he got the idea that he could bring about peace on the coal-fields through the use of money. When he was AttorneyGeneral in the Menzies Governmenthe conspired with the miners’ leaders, to whom he handed over government funds. A royal commission which inquired into the matter severely criticized his Government upon the manner in which those funds were disbursed. The right honorable gentleman himself appeared as a rather recalcitrant witness before that commission, which found it somewhat difficult to obtain from him satisfactory information regarding that fund, which came to be known as a “slush” fund. Thus the right honorable gentleman, who now criticizes the Government, and tells it what it should do in order to increase the production of coal, could do no more than conspire with the miners’ leaders and, without the knowledge of Parliament, hand over to them government funds. He has taken this opportunity to indulge mi party political propaganda.” Since I have been a member of the Par1liament I have been more concerned about the problem of the coal industry than about any other problem. The seriousness of that problem is generally recognized. Indeed, it seems to be the only political issue of any importance to-day. On many occasions, this House has discussed the problem of increasing coal production and the prevention of strikes and hold-ups in the industry. The most intellectual men in the Commonwealth have studied, the problem. Honorable members opposite have failed to offer one single constructive idea with regard to its solution. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) did not offer any constructive advice to the Government. In his typical legal fashion he tried to tear the measure to ribbons; but he did not tell the Government or the people how the production of coal could be increased in the slightest degree.
On Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister criticized the speech of the Leader of the Opposition because it did not contain any constructive proposals for increasing the production of coal. This morning, the right honorable member for North Sydney declared that thf unrest on the coal-fields could be settled if the men were compelled, before they stopped work, to express their views at a secret ballot. What authority has the Commonwealth Government to enforce the holding of a secret ballot ? The truth is that we have no more authority to do that than we have to stop strikes. If we are unable to prevent industrial stoppages, how can we compel the holding of a secret ballot? And even if a secret ballot were held, we could not force the miners to work when they refused to do so.
The industrial unrest on the coal-fields has been exploited for political purposes. It is true that the people of Australia look to the Commonwealth Government to prevent industrial turmoil so that the production of coal may be increased. We have that responsibility. We must endeavour in every conceivable way to increase the output, because it is useless to deny that the people in the cities and the country districts alike, are being greatly inconvenienced, particularly by the curtailment of railway services. In its efforts to increase the production of coal, the Government has introduced this bill. Ordinarily, the production of coal comes within the jurisdiction of the States. On the outbreak of war in 1939, the Commonwealth assumed control of the production of coal because of its vital importance to our defence. Now, in the af termath of the war, we must encourage industrial expansion by every possible means. The development of industry should not be retarded in any way. Consequently, the Commonwealth must ensure that coal supplies shall be distributed equitably to all States.
From time to time, the constitutional authority of the Commonwealth and the States regarding the control of coalproduction has been strenuously argued. This bill brings the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of New South Wales into harmony in the matter of coal production. By agreement, the Parliament ofNew South Wales will pass complementary legislation, and a joint authority will be established with a view to increasing the output of coal. How will that be done? Under this legislation a Joint Coal Board of three commissioners will be appointed, and will be given wide authority. It will have the following powers : -
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The board will have power to provide amenities for miners, to establish housing schemes, to assume complete control of any mine, to acquire coal and to operate plant. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that there was nothing in the bill to give the board power to discipline the miners. I refer him to para, k, subclause 3, clause 13, which states that the board shall have authority - to suspend or exclude from employment in the coal industry, subject to appeal as prescribed, any superintendent, manager or other person employed in the industry who acts in a manner prejudicial to the effective working of the industry.
This provides specifically that the board will have power to suspend a miner, to warn him off the coal-fields, in fact to victimize him. It may debar him from obtaining employment in any coal-mine in New South Wales, or perhaps even in the Commonwealth. I know that the board will exercise this power with great discretion. It will have the duty of rehabilitating the coal-mining industry in New South Wales, from which 85 per cent. of Australia’s black coal production is derived. It will have complete responsibility in all matters relating to the production of coal. Honorable members opposite criticize the Government for its failure to increase coal production, but since I have been a member of this HouseI have not heard any honorable member opposite, in any one of the numerous debates on the industry, suggest one practical method of increasing production.
If the parties now in opposition were in power, they would be much less successful than this Government has been. When they held . office, they resorted to low methods of conspiracy and bribery in an attempt to persuade the union leaders to make the men work. During their regime there were strikes which lasted for months, causing a complete cessation of production. The Labour party does not want to have any such disturbances in the country, and it has been successful in keeping production at a fairly high level in spite of changing conditions. There has been a great expansion of industry, and opportunities for employment have greatly increased. Before the war miners could not secure jobs in other industries, but now there is plenty of work for all, thanks to the policy of this Government, and men are able to leave the mines. If honorable members opposite would visit the coal-fields, they would hear of numbers of men formerly employed in the mines who now work elsewhere. This is a free country, and the miners can leave the industry if they want to do so. Coalmining is such a distasteful, unhealthy and dangerous occupation that no sensible man would condemn a miner for leaving it and taking a job elsewhere.
The Joint Coal Board, having the responsibility to increase production, will have to ensure that more men are employed in the mines, that extra mines are opened, and that there is continuity of employment for the miners. Also it will have to abolish strikes and lock-outs. It is easy enough to decide where new mines should be opened. But the abolition of strikes is a very difficult matter. It is useless to talk about the past and revive old hatreds and bitterness between the mine-owners and the miners. That will not satisfy the public. We must bring our transport services back into full operation, and we must provide power and light to satisfy the needs not only of existing industries but also of new and expanding industries. In order to do this, we must obtain a higher rate of coal production, and this involves getting the miners to work. It is futile for honorable members opposite to complain that this Government cannot make the men work. They themselves could not do so. New methods must be applied to the industry. This bill provides for new methods, which will be put into operation by the Joint Coal Board. The most important consideration of all is to have the miners in full-time employment, and, to this end, special inducements must be offered to the men.
The coal-mining industry is unique because, as the right honorable member for North Sydney has said, the production of coal governs the economy of the nation. For this reason it should be accorded unique treatment. For a long time, I have held the view that bonus payments for increased production, profitsharing, or a reduction of taxes would bring about the improvement in the industry that we desire. We must make coal-mining so attractive that men will not want to leave the industry. Those of us who know the coal-fields are aware of the filthy conditions that exist there, ofthe poor housing accommodation and the ugly anddiscouraging atmosphere that pervades the mining districts. The miners would be more easily satisfied if the Government, or some other authority, instituted a modern housing scheme and perhaps gave special rent concessions to miners. Honorable members opposite describe the efforts of the Labour party to improve the conditions of coal-miners as “ appeasement “. That is merely idle talk. We want to make the miners work constantly. The cost to the nation of achievingthis objective is not of primary importance, because adequate supplies of coal are essential to our economic prosperity. Without proper supplies there would be industrial chaos throughout the Commonwealth, and probably hundreds of thousands of people would be thrown out of employment. The Joint Coal Board will give full consideration to the factors which I have mentioned. It will consider ways of inducing the miners to remain in the industry and of attracting other men to engage in it. What man in his senses to-day would want to relinquish constant employment in order to work in the mines?
– And what man in his senses would want to remain in the industry?
– The Joint Coal Board will have to reconstruct and rehabilitate the industry so that miners will want to remain in it’ and other men will vie with each other to obtain jobs in it. A big job lies ahead of the board. But, if upon it be placed men of ability, foresight and courage, they will arrive at an understanding of the psychology that exists on ‘ the coal-fields, bring the management and men together, and do the right thing. My friends who sit opposite talk constantly of action by the miners to prevent production. But what of the mine-owners? They have a very unsavoury history in this country, and have not done a great deal to ensure peace in the industry. The Kandos colliery, in a western district of New South Wales in my electorate, is an illustration of what can be done by decent, sensible management to maintain production and ensure peace in. industry. It is owned and operated by the Kandos Cement Company, and employs 60 persons, including the staff. It is well worth a visit to get an appreciation of the good relations that can exist between a management and its workers. The mine is a small one, with an output of about 400- tons a day, but it is a model of what a mine should be. The conditions underground are about as comfortable as they could be made in a coal mine. The pit is fully mechanized, wilh power boring and Jeffrey cutters and loaders. The ventilation is good. The bathroom is the best in the country, being fitted up with excellent lockers and good, showers, and being well kept in every respect. There is provision for heating and automatic weighing, and the mine has an up-to-date screening plant which is probably as good as could be found in. any other mine. The excellent relations that exist between the management and the men are reflected in the individual output, which averages ten tons a man for every man employed, including .the managerial staff. I have personal knowledge of the fact that at every Christmas period ‘the management presents a hamper of provisions to each of its employees, not only in the Kandos colliery, but also in the Kandos cement works. In that gesture a very fine spiritis shown by the management. What counts is, not the value of the hamper, but the spirit in which the gift ls. made. I know that it has made a deep impression on the men who work for the company. I have not heard of any other mine management, certainly not in the northern and southern coal districts, having offered the hand of friendship to the men whom it employs, as is done at Kandos. On the contrary, the general practice is to pinprick the men and keep them in a state of constant grievance, until bickering develops into . a strike, which may last for a. day or for several weeks. If the owners so desire, they have the power to ensure a pleasant association with their men. They will not do that, because they are too interested in profits and dividends. It is a crying shame that they should be permitted to make maximum profits without having any regard for the convenience . of the people. It is about time a board such as that proposed was constituted. I have no doubt that it will quickly take control of any mine, which in its opinion, ought to be taken over, if necessary removing it from the possession of the owners and paying compensation to. them. I believe that any outside management would soon inspire friendly relations with the men. That is what, is required, and surely its accomplishment should not prove very difficult. Sensible management is all that is needed. We see to-day in the galleries of this House representatives of the mineowners - Mr. Gregory Forster, Mr. Davey, Mr: McNally and others. They have come ‘ here to instruct members of the Opposition on the points that they should make in the argument between management and men. The priming which those honorable members receive will fit them to broadcast the desired propaganda. Surely, the public must have reached the end of its patience. The Government is doing all that it can to improve the position. ‘ It has kept the coal-mines working, and has ensured .some production. For a long period while honorable members opposite were in power,, there was no coal production. They have never had any plans for doing anything, even for ensuring the defence of this country. It could hardly be expected that, Australia having emerged victorious from the war because of the excellence of its war organization, the Opposition should now be entrusted with the task of bringing it through the difficulties of the post-war period. I trust that this legislation will ensure peace iri the coal industry. I believe that it will. Cost is of very little account. A large sum ought to be expended on the coalfields in the provision of social amenitiesand decent housing for the coal-miners. All the coal-fields ought to be re-organized and rehabilitated. “We must take extreme measures, not deal with the matter half-heartedly, whatever the cost may be. Australia will have to depend upon coal for many years. Money was raised for war purposes, and it behoves us to expend sufficient upon once again placing the coal industry on its legs. Coalmining must be made a healthy occupation, and those who follow it must be fully protected. There should be better working conditions, freedom from dust, and protection of health in every way. Up-to-date methods for the watering of mines to counter dust should be introduced compulsorily, and fair compensation must be paid, to miners who become “ dusted “. Better lighting must be installed, and up-to-date methods must .. be used for the extraction of coal. The. primary consideration should be the protection of the health of the miners, and the payment of just compensation to them when injured. To the owners it may seem that I am suggesting a new order for the miners. 1 am. Only in that way will we get the coal which the nation so urgently requires. “We have the matter in our hands, and need only the will to deal with it adequately. The proposed board will have full power. I wish the new coal authority good luck. I am confident that it will succeed.
.- This measure has the ambitious title of “ a bill for an act to secure and maintain adequate supplies of coal “. Any proposal which will effect that purpose, or improve the conditions on the coal-fields, will have my earnest support. There is a good deal of merit in the argument advanced that the working conditions of the coal-miners should be improved. The provision of housing on a considerable scale is one of the urgent needs which should be tackled. I cannot understand why the mine-owners and the miners, together with the governments concerned, do not discuss their problems together, and discover the real difficulties that divide them. Let. there be that community fraternization about which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) spoke. It would be a good idea to. have clubs on the coalfields that would enable _ the minemanagers and other leading officials tomix with the foreman and other employees, in order to improve the relations and outlook of the people connected with the industry. Undoubtedly, muchtrouble is due to a psychology born of traditions on the fields. It is of no use to dwell upon past events. One honorable member referred to a passage in a book written in 1842 about the conditions below the surface, and the slavery that prevailed.. He might have gone back to “ 1066 and All That “, and told us something .even more out of date.
It is disappointing that the Government has put forward the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman to take charge of this bill. He spoke, in such a biased manner, in moving the second reading of the measure, that no doubt any honorable member who is impartial would agree that itwas an unfair speech, particularly in attributing all of the troubles of the industry to the mine-owners and the shareholders in the mining companies, and saying nothing about the troublemakers among the employees in the industry. It is well known that certain men employed on the coal-fields ought to be disciplined and .prosecuted. Statements of the kind made by the Prime Minister cause one to think that this bill is a piece of window-dressing for the forthcoming elections, and is designed to delude the people into believing that the measure will result in an increased production of coal. This is what the Sydney’ Morning Herald said on the day after the Minister’s second-reading speech was delivered - .
Capitulation on Coal.
Rarely can the House of Representatives have listened to a more intellectually dishonest and politically craven speech than that with which Mr. Dedman recommended the Joint Commonwealth-State Coal Authority Bill last night. Whatever merits there may be in. the *’ programme of basic re-organization “ for the industry which the bill is supposed to embody, they are completely nullified by the Government’s apparent decision to ignore the very heart of the problem, which is the restoration of order and discipline in the mines. No one, least of all the owners, challenges the fact that the industry is in sore need of “ wide, systematic and thorough re-organization”.
I entirely concur in that opinion. I thought that the Minister would have been as intellectually honest as the former Leader of the Australian Labour party, Mr. Curtin, who, in a speech in this House in 1943, declared that a great deal of the trouble in the industry was due to the bad men in it. I do n’ot recall his exact words, but he said spielers, dog trainers and others had remained in the industry in order to avoid war service, and that the coal-fields should be purged of them. But the Minister for Postwar reconstruction passed over facts of that kind. He did not mention that Communists were making trouble in the industry, and that bad men should be disciplined. He attributed all of the troubles in the industry’ to the mine managements.
In Victoria, 35,000 tons of coal has to be provided weekly, in order to keep the industries of that State in production,but all that has reached that State from New South Wales in recent weeks is about from 20,000 to 28,000 tons a week. The deficiency has had to be dealt with by strict rationing of supplies. No electric radiators may be used by the people, and gas rationing has been applied from time to time. Housewives are severely penalized by these restrictions. The coal-miners often strike for frivolous and even- ridiculous reasons.
– Do the miners enjoy radiators?
– Coal is delivered to their doors.
– They do not enjoy radiators.
– They do not need them, if they can get coal. If coal could be delivered to the homes of the people in Victoria, they would be most grateful for it. The Minister in Charge of Electrical Undertakings in Victoria has announced that the use of radiators will not be permitted in that State till- some time in 1947. Strong protests have been made against these restrictions. Because of the coal shortage, there is also a shortage of firewood and considerable unemployment, has occurred. A Geelong newspaper dated the 19th July stated -
All kilns at the Fyansford works of Australian Cement Limited will cease “production, except in the unlikely event of Supplies of coal arriving by to-morrow.
The kilns have since been closed, and there is a dire shortage of cement. The great need in Australia to-day is the provision of housing for the people.
– When did the honorable member find that- out?
– The Minister for Works and. Housing apparently has not. discovered it yet. The greatest cement works in Victoria are closing, ‘because of the lack of New South Wales, coal. The woollen mills at Geelong, which is the greatest centre of textile production in Australia, have tried, under’ “great difficulty, to carry on* with firewood; nevertheless many employees have been dismissed from the mills. In South Australia every industry will have to close, because coal reserves have been depleted. The Communists planned to reduce the coal stocks to such a low level that every industry would be dependent for its continuance on the men who lead the trade unions.
– A collier arrived at Port Adelaide to-day, and another will reach that port next week.
– Yes, that is so. Because of bad weather on the coast colliers have been held up; but how precarious must the situation be in a great city like Adelaide when its industries have to stop because a collier is delayed ? The whole trouble arises out of the fact that reserves of coal have been depleted. Australia will suffer a serious set-back unless stern measures are taken. Mere palliatives will not serve. Already in Victoria many railway locomotives have been converted to burn oil. and I was interested to. hear a Government supporter suggest in this House the other day that similar conversions of locomotives should be made in other States. This is an indication of how serious is the position. Oil has to bc imported, whereas Australia ha3 coal in abundance. Nevertheless, for lack of will to win +,he coal, we have to import oil fuel. At one time, Australia had a large coal export, trade . to South America, hut that has been lost. Before long, the miners” may find that the coal-mining industry will cease to lay golden eggs for them.* The Government had an opportunity, when framing this legislation, to do something that would really stimulate production, but it has offered only palliatives. It has all along applied :i policy of appeasement. In a previous measure, the Government assumed power to take over coal-mines, and did, in fact, take over the Coalcliff colliery, which it has run for a little over a-year.- Although . this colliery paid- its way under private management, it has lost more than £50,000 under government management.
No supporter of the Government has mentioned that, communism is at the back of much of the trouble in the coalmining industry. . The truth of this may be established by reading the statements of these revolutionaries who owe no allegiance to country or empire, or even to democracy. They are supporters of a communistic totalitarian regime which differs little in its nature from Fascism or Nazi-ism. If Government supporters will not denounce communism they will be untrue to the traditions of the Australian Labour party. I have here the stated opinion of a mau who frequently comes to Canberra to consult with the Government, Mr. Wells.
– To give the Government orders.
– Well, we do not know what goes on behind closed doors, but Mr.. Wells was quick to express his opinion of this proposed legislation, and he said that if it involved the disciplining of miners he would have nothing of it. He continued -
Malicious and stupid suggestions that the federation proposes to abandon the strike weapon and embrace arbitration have no foundation.
Mr, Sharkey, president of the Australian Communist party, once said -
Further good work will finally convert the miners’ organization into a really . revolutionary union and a firm support for the struggle for socialism.
– The same old red bogy! -
– I quote now the opinion of a Labour party supporter whom honorable members admire, or should admire, Mr. Maloney, who represented Australia in Russia. This is what he said -
Australian Communists were the dupes of the most ruthless dictatorship the world had ever seen. Mr. J. J. Maloney, M.L.C., former Australian Minister to Moscow, told Rotarians at their luncheon to-day.
Russia and everything emanating from ‘ Russia, he said, must be watched closely by the Australian people. Russia was building up a ruthless militaristic caste. Except that there was no persecution of the Jews, Russia possessed all those distasteful features ‘ possessed by the organization which we had spent “years stamping out.
Russia is the greatest danger to the Australian way’ of life we have ever faced..
– What has that to do with the bill.
– If the honorable member cannot see how it affects this bill, and the production of .coal, I can only say to him that none is so blind as he who will not see. I do not wish to be merely critical, and therefore I propose to offer some suggestions.
– And about time, too.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) used to be a prominent union official in Victoria, and may be so still. Therefore, he ought to know something of what has been done to exploit brown coal reserves in Victoria. Sir John Monash, who was responsible for the development of those deposits, declared that Victoria should no longer be the industrial vassal of New South Wales. Unfortunately, he died before he was able to complete his scheme, but various Victorian governments have since explored the possibility of obtaining further supplies of coal in that State. At Yallourn, a model housing scheme for miners has been put into operation, and the example set there might well be followed in- New South Wales. Also, at Yallourn, the miners work two shifts a day .and there is talk of working three shifts; yet to talk of working two shifts a day in New South Wales is to voice rank heresy.
– Where would we get the men ?
– It would be easy enough to get the men if - they were- allowed to come into the industry. The fact is that Australians are losing their most precious heritage - the right to work. As things now are, no man will dare to work in a coal-mine if a few boys have walked off the job. In 1929, the Government of New South Wales opened a mine in an endeavour to obtain independent supplies of coal for the railways, and the men employed had to work under siege conditions, protected by the police. At that time, I went below in the mine, and actually hewed a little coal, something whichI doubt very much that the honorable member for Bourke has ever done. I learned that many men had come to Australia from Great Britain believing that this was a country flowing with milk and honey, as, indeed, it should be. Only one man in six needs to be skilled in the winning of coal. I found that men. who were absolutely unskilled in mining couldearn £10 a week with ease. But they had to be guarded, and live night and day in the mine until the unionists returned to work. We have had nothing but spasmodic strikes and uncertainties in the coal-mining industry over the years. The working of a second shift would go a long way towards producing the additional quantities of coal needed to enable reserve stocks to be built up against such an emergency as now confronts us. Let the Government throw open the mines to decent men who will be prepared to remain in continuous work. Most of the coal-miners are good Australians and would remain at work, but they are prevented from doing so bythe actions of a number of young irresponsibles whom the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, referred to as knowing no discipline in their own homes and consequently having no respect for the law. Most decent miners, who are prevented from working as the result of the actions of these malcontents, are unwilling to “ scab “ on their mates while a strike is in progress. It takes some moral courage for a man to stand up and say, “ I shall do the right thing ; people are dependent upon coal for their very livelihood. I shall not obey the behests of malcontents and irresponsibles and those who are prepared to stage a strike merely in order to have a holiday.” In order to ensure that supplies of coal so vital to Australia shall be maintained, the Government should compel the unions to throw open their ranks to volunteers who are prepared to work in the industry. If that were done it would be found that a large body of men, including many ex-servicemen, would be prepared to enter an industry and remain in continuous employment. Mr. Justice Davidson, who presided over the Commonwealth Board of Inquiry appointed to report upon the coal-mining industry, presented a very full and informative report upon the subject. None will challenge the authority of that learned judge, who has had many years of close association with the industry, to give an unbiased opinion upon it. These are some of his conclusions -
The coal industry in its major fields is a tottering industry. Manifestations of this unhappy condition are to be found in -
a widely spread feeling of antagonism on the part of many mine workers towards the management and the colliery proprietors.
That is a legacy of the past and could largely be dissipated by better housing and better conditions -
lackof cooperation in the great majority of the mines between management and employees;
constant industrial troubles in the form of incessant pit-top meetings, absenteeism; stoppages of production and strikes;
extraordinary apathy in the most stable sections of the workers towards these hindrances to their earning capacity;
almost completeabsence of discipline.
The last paragraph is the crux of the whole matter. If there be no discipline in industry, chaos must ultimately result. We have come almost to a position of chaos to-day as the result of this important industry being held in thraldom by young men either imbued with Communist ideas or who merely do not want to work. Honorable members opposite have invited us to make concrete suggestions as to the way in which this problem should be handled. Although they claim that strikers . cannot be punished, they are well aware of the legislative enactments under which fines may be collected by owners from the pay envelopes of the employees and, subject to the approval of the Coal Commissioner, be paid to the Government. When we inquire into the attempt to implement those enactments we find that there has never been any serious attempt on the part of the Government to make the punishment fit the crime. We have learned that a substantial amount of money collected in fines has been refunded to the miners. Provision is made in the Crimes Act for prosecutions to be launched against employees who take part in an illegal strike and for penalties of up to £100, or twelve months’ imprisonment to be imposed. Has the Government ever attempted to implement that provision? Has it ever prosecuted those men whose names have become a by-word among the people of this nation as the instigators of unlawful strikes, men whose lust for power and notoriety has plunged the nation into chaos? If I were a member ofthe Government I would press strongly for the institution of legal proceedings against the first man who went on strike for no good reason . I do not question the right of workers to use the strike weapon. Most of the strikes that have left such havoc in their trail have, however, had their origins in trifling incidents. Some have occurred because of overcrowding in buses running to the pit top and others because the water provided in the bathing rooms has not been hot enough to suit the fastidious tastes of some of the employees. Many of them, too, have been caused merely because some young men did not want to work. Victorian requirements of coal could be fully and adequately met if two or three of the mines in New South Wales were kept in constant operation. The Government has done nothing to implement the provisions of the legislation already placed on the statute-book to discipline those who illegally absent themselves from work. We have had nothing from it but the usual pious promises and the old-time worn-out shibboleths. Mr. Justice Davidson found. that the symptoms of unrest in the industry were largely the result of -
A spirit of restlessness and disorder stimulated in the workers by political agitators, a small but increasing number of whom are Communists, and other malcontents within the industry.
Propaganda by disaffected groups based on -
A tradition of former ill-treatment of the workers by the owners in Great Britain and Australia.
Exaggerated suggestions that the miners are subject to all kinds of diseases and dangers in their daily work to a much greater degree than persons in other occupations.
Vigorously asserted claims that all alleged abuses will be eliminated by nationalization, as a first step towards socialization, which is said to connote communal ownership of the means of production.
One does not oppose government control of industry if it can be proved to be worthwhile. I challenge honorable members opposite, however, to indicate one industry which has prospered more under government control than in the hands of private enterprise. What happened when the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, called up a few men from the mines and drafted them into the armed forces ? They were kept apart from other recruits and trained, but ultimately most of them were allowed to go back into the mines without having seen active service. Mr. Justice Davidson also found that unrest in the industry had been caused by-
Although the problems of the mining industry come within the province of this Parliament it is a pity that we should have to waste so much of our time in its elucidation. This country came through the war unscathed except for its fighting men and is capable of tremendous development; great opportunities lie ahead for its development. Instead of having a population of only 7,500,000, Australia could attract the best migrants, not only from other Empire countries but also from the rest of the world, in such numbers, as to make it a first-class Pacific power.
– The honorable member should set an example in that direction.
– The speech delivered by the honorable member this morning was merely a reiteration of the views expressed by other honorable members opposite. I am quite prepared to do everything in my power to support the Government in its attempts to solve the problems thatconf ront the nation. Mr. Justice Davidson said-
There is an absence of cohesion amongst the rank and file who ignore their leaders and as amorphous mass stumble in any direction under sectional influences.
These consequences of propaganda are fostered by -
Weak leaders who have created a situation they are unable to control.
Suspicion in the minds of the moderate groups of workers, of whom there are many, with regard to the designs of the Communist leaders.
Accompanying fear of the power of the executive officials of the federation to crush any individual who expresses, or tries to exert, his own opinion which may be contrary to their own. He may be declared a “scab” or dismissed from the union with disastrous results. “ Scab “ is the battle-cry of some unions in Australia. Recently in Victoria the munition workers union was swallowed by the Communist-led ironworkers union. Because the munitionworkers wanted their democratic right of having their own union operating again as an autonomous body the munition workers union was described as a bogus organization by the ironworkers union officials. I saw a circularissued by the ironworkers union in which the munition workers union was so described and its members were labelled as “scabs’”. The fight is still being waged and the supply of explosives to the coal-mines in New South Wales is being held up. If the coal-miners are democrats, let them assert their individual feelings and not just follow blindly the lead of notoriety-seeking Communists. The report continues -
Corresponding fear on the part of the executive officials of loss of their positions and power.
A constantly pervading atmosphere of elections and electioneering promises and suggestions. The executive officials are elected annually and the lodge officers quarterly at some mines and half-yearly at others.
That is not unknown in this chamber. The Government ought to ascertain the possibility of legislative provision that officials of the federation shall be elected triennially. Then there would be no pressure on officials to retain prominence by promoting strikes and other upsets of industry from time to time during the year. The report continues -
Added to all these causes of sickness in the industry are others which should be more easily capable of rectification, namely -
Anxiety of the mine workers as to future security of their employment.
That is natural. We want to ensure their continuance in employment. No one will deny that there is work for twice the 17,000-odd men employed on the coalfields of New South Wales, if they will only get down to the job and do it.
I was derided yesterday when, in debating another bill, I said that high rates of taxation were a main cause of industrial unrest. It is human nature that men will not do their best when they find that by doing so they place themselves in a higher tax group and work for the Treasury after they have earned a certain amount. Years ago I suggested that the tax on overtime shouldbe less than on ordinary earnings in order to provide an incentive to workers to work harder and longer. I am still of that opinion and I think that the Government ought to take cognizance of it.
The report refers to the overweighting of the industry with committees, industrial boards and authorities, industrial courts, governmental regulations and awards, some of which are of doubtful validity, customs and practices, the terms and interpretations of which are obscure, a custom such as the “ seniority rule “, the cost of the workers’ compensation and mine workers’ pensions schemes, and excessive freights charged by the railway department for the transport and loading of coal.
We must take cognizance of this splendid report. The Government did wrong in bringing down this legislation before the report had been considered by Parliament and printed. Mr. Justice Davidson says that the basic requirements of the industry are -
That is put first. I believe that if Ministers would get into their heads that the miners must be disciplined with the full rigour of the law there would be an improvement.
I consider that the Government has not put its best efforts into bringing down this legislation. I do not think that it will result in the production of more coal. I regard it as a piece of specious windowdressing designed to imbue the people with false hopes that their coal troubles are over and that strikes on the coalfields will no longer paralyse industry or cause cold hearths in their homes. I do not see how this bill can accomplish that desirable end. The Minister in charge of the bill made a vile speech when he laid all the blame for trouble in the coalmining industry on the management instead of laying some on the workers. As coal is indispensable to every branch of industry and even to the humblest homes, the Government should withdraw the bill, revise it and bring down something better than this useless piece of electioneering propaganda. If the bill is really intended to do good, I hope that it will do good, but I cannot but think, because of the way in which it was submitted, and because of many of its provisions, that the main causes of trouble on the coal-fields will persist.
.- I have listenedto this debate with considerable interest. I was particularly interested in how the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was helped to make his speech by Mr. Justice Davidson. I do not claim that I have read right through His Honour’s report on the coalmining industry,but I have read a lot of it, and, as one with long experience in industry, I claim that if he had been appointed by the mine owners themselves to make the inquiry, he could not have done a betterjob for them. The Leader of the Opposition said that 75 per cent. of the miners were honest men. That may be so. That is a far higher percentage than the percentage of honest men among the people whom the right honorable member represents. But for the report he would have been hard put to make a speech. That remark applies to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) also. When the report was published it was attacked as biased by clergymen of all denominations in northern Queensland. No one would say that they areCommunists or unthinking youths. Their criticism was well justified. As far as I can see, the learned judge did not say anything about 75 per cent. of the miners being honest. All he said was that they were a body of men led by Communists. It is said that the miners are not hewing coal as they should. I remember the time when, because the coal-owners had more coal at grass than they could sell, the miners were employed for only one and a half or two days a week. The owners feared degeneration and depreciation of the value of the coal because of the delay between its production and sale. Until production is made available for the family instead of for the profit of a few, we shall experience industrial trouble. The miners are wise in their generation. They know that if they build up stocks of coal, they will be either looking for work, or existing on the dole. They have learned, not from theory, but in the bitter school of experience, what it means when they build up huge stocks. That experience is not peculiar to the coal-mining industry. Undoubtedly mistakes have been made by the coal-miners, but errors of judgment have been made by every section of the community, including members of both sides of the House, and the public as a whole. I know how far the interests which the Opposition represents are prepared to go in making lying statements about the cause of the industrial unrest on the coal-fields. Recently, the chairman of the Sydney County Council, Mr. Cramer, made several statements explaining the reason for the black-outs or partial black-outs in Sydney. He knew at the time that he was deliberately lying. In every part of Sydney, neon signs could be seen advertising the wares and merchandise of the big emporiums. When the Daily Mirror showed up this gentleman for what he was, he ceased to disseminate his propaganda. According to his allegations, factories had sufficient coal to keep them in operation for only a few hours, and unless additional supplies arrived at once, the railways would be brought to a standstill. The Minister for Works in New South Wales, to his credit, refused to accept Mr. Cramer’s suggestion for rationing power, and when it was pointed out that his ‘ statements were not in accordance with the facts, the propaganda ceased. I have no doubt that- honorable members opposite will constantly refer in this debate to the chaotic condition of industry generally as the result of a shortage of coal.
– Industry has come to a standstill in South Australia. >Mr. MARTENS.- The attitude of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is that the miners should not dare to hold-up supplies of coal to South Australia. The fact is that there are supplies of coal awaiting shipment to- South’ Australia. ‘It was not the fault of the miners that the coal could not be loaded into the ships because of lack of transport.
– That is not the fault of South Australia.
– - The honorable member is the best Nazi that I have ever known in this Parliament.
– The honorable member for Barker is one of those Scotsmen whom the honorable gentleman desired to deport.
– What I said of Scotsmen I do not withdraw, and what L have said about the honorable .member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), I do not withdraw. I know what the honorable member would do to the coal-miners if he had his way. He would resuscitate the New Guard ,under Eric Campbell, and march to the coal-fields. All of the criticism voiced by honorable members opposite during this debate has been directed against the coal-miners, regardless of what the trouble . was or where it occurred. In every instance, the miners were to blame. If South Australian industries were short of coal, obviously the miners were at fault. I repeat that plenty of coal has been available in New South Wales, but because of the lack of transport it could not be sent to the ports for shipment. That was not the fault of the miners.
I consider that the employer is just as much to blame as the employee. I speak as one who has had many years’ experience of the Labour- movement and as a leader in the industrial field. The statement made by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) cannot be denied. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that if owners and the coal-miners could get together, they could compose their differences. I have always believed that if disputing parties meet in conference and forget about profits, they will reach an amicable agreement. In Queensland, the legislation governing the Arbitration Court contains disciplinary clauses, which have not to be used often. Honorable members opposite emphasize that the Government should compel the miners to obey the awards of the Arbitration Court. I know something of the difficulties that unions experience in having their cases heard by the court. A claim by the union of which I am a member was delayed for two years before the court proceeded to hear it. In Queensland, when industrial strife is brewing, a magistrate, or where there is no- magistrate, a clerk of petty sessions, is empowered immediately to call a conference of the parties before the dispute develops into a strike. At that stage; it is easy to reason with the parties. But once a strike occurs, their temper is different. Honorable gentlemen opposite represent the employers. If they could smash every union in the country and revive the slave conditions which existed a couple of centuries ago, they would unhesitatingly do so. I invite honorable members to read the speeches made on behalf of the miners in Great Britain by the late Robert S millie in order to obtain an idea of how the workers were treated by the employers. I remember when workers in Queensland were “ pushed out “ and had to seek other employment, for having ventured to assert their rights. Not so long ago, the pastoralists’ association in Queensland issued a reference to every employee. If a man did not have a reference he could not get a job, irrespective of his workmanship or general behaviour. A man was not given a reference if ‘he dared to assert his manhood and stand up for the principles which he. believed to be right.
I listened carefully to the speech of the fight honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). In my opinion, he is one of the greatest humbugs in the public life of this country. He read extracts from a hook -which he wrote, The Case for Labour. Throughout, his life he has been a shrewd and cunning politician. He admitted that the Government could not prevent strikes, and that, in some circumstances, strikes might be justified. But he did not justify putting Peter Bowling in leg-irons when he arrived at Sydney station after having spoken in many centres. The right honorable gentleman believed in repression. He never fought honestly .for the welfare of the workers. When you converse with him you quickly discover the subtleness of his brain and his ability to tell a convincing story of his experiences in various jobs. But -when you have had experience of a particular job, and discuss it with the right honorable gentleman, you quickly find out how little he knows about it.
– He has done a lot for the people^ just the same.
– He has never done anything for anybody except William Morris Hughes. The right honorable gentleman referred at length in. his speech to the threatened black-out in Sydney. He was well aware that the propaganda disseminated by Mr. Cramer was false, ft is futile for honorable members opposite to pretend that they are interested in the welfare of the workers, because the workers are awake to such humbug. I do not know Mr. Gregory Forster, hut he has been pointed out to rae in the House. Some of the letters which he has written to the Sydney newspapers have been well composed and very subtle. Their object is to convince the public of the viciousness of the coal-miners. He did not place any of the blame for the industrial unrest upon the employers, who will provide some of the Opposition’s funds for the forthcoming election campaign. No doubt he is in receipt of a large salary, and does a good job for his employers.
– He is .asleep at his post now.
– I believe that he is finite wide awake. The honorable mem ber for Balaclava emphasized that more amenities should be provided for tho. coal-miners, and that they should have a better class of house. Governments which the honorable member supported for years should have provided funds tq enable the Government of New South Wales to build those homes. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, the housing shortage in the Australian Capital Territory has been marked, despite the fact that the Commonwealth has full power ‘ to build homes here. Unfortunately, sufficient dwellings have not been built to overcome the shortage. On transfer to Canberra public servants have had to leave their women-folk in Melbourne’ or elsewhere because there was nowhere in Canberra for them to live. Why did not the anti-Labour Government then in office proceed with the building of the administrative block, as recommended by the Public Works’ Committee? As honorable gentleman know, the foundations for that building have been ready for many years. Instead of proceeding with that work the government of which I am speaking leased office accommodation in Sydney and Melbourne which has cost ihe country hundreds of thousands of pounds in the intervening years.
– Order ! The honorable member is somewhat wide ‘of the bill. ‘
– The honorable member for. Balaclava indulged in some political window-dressing and treated us to more humbug than I have encountered for a long time. We have heard a greatdeal about Mr. Justice Davidson’s report. Honorable gentlemen opposite have complained throughout this debate that the . Government is not giving effect to His Honour’s recommendations. My opinion is that if the report had been written at the behest of the owners, aided and abetted by Mr- Gregory Forster, Mr. McNally and Mr. Davis, the document could not have served the interests of the owners better than it does. Were it not for the fact that a general election is close at hand, we should not have heard anything about this business. Perhaps the right honorable member for North Sydney can be excused for doing the best he could possibly do with, the brief that was handed to him, for the mine-owners have treated him very well indeed. I say without reservation that honorable gentlemen opposite get money for the purpose of fighting their election campaigns from mine-owners and other capitalists, and they are now indulging in political propaganda of the most unjustifiable kind. I have had ;i very long industrial experience, and have suffered severely for my industrial opinions. I remember that many years ago the coal-owners and others told us that we should put our own representatives in Parliament in’ order to ensure that legislation acceptable to us would be passed. It was not long before we discovered that the employers did not desire political unionism to develop. In fact, they did not want unionism of any kind. They desired to retain the right to say .to the miners, “ You can go off on Saturday for a’ month or five weeks, and what you do in that time” is your own responsibility.”
Much as I regret the economic difficulties that have been caused by the nonproduction of more coal, I consider that the coal-miners have been .justified in their actions by the treatment that has been meted out to them by employers. I do not say that all employers have been blameworthy, for I know some in Queensland who have done a wonderful job for the miners, and have not had to approach the Queensland Industrial Court since its establishment by the RyanTheodore Government. Some employers have always “ played ball “ with the men who worked for them. . That is not true, however, of many other employers whom I. could name and. who are never out of arbitration or industrial courts, because they are always trying to undermine the working conditions and reduce the wages of their employees. The right honorable in ember for North Sydney would have us believe that he has clone something for the workers, but he did not hesitate to desert the working class and go his own way when it suited him. We have been told .by honorable gentlemen opposite that we need leadership such as that given to us by the late John Curtin. I remind them that they have not had a real leader in this Parliament for many years,, except one who “ ratted “ from the Labour party.
Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) rs.30].- The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) told us that he had done a little coal-mining in his time, but he has been working a very thin political seam this afternoon. It is a pity that he did not advise the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) to talk a little common sense. That honorable gentleman would have us believe that the Labour party has an alibi ‘in respect of the treatment of coal-miners in New South Wales; but the Labour party has been in office in the State Parliament for more than half the time since 1910. For a good deal of that time it had a majority in the Upper House. In fact it “packed” the Upper House at one stage for -the purpose of bringing about- its abolition. Unfortu.nately for the Labour party some of the men it had appointed to vote for the abolition of the Upper House were not present in their places when the vote was taken.
We must. face the fact that although the Commonwealth already possesses’ all the powers which are being sought in this bill to deal with coal-mining, it is proposing not clear-cut Commonwealth action, but joint action with the Government of New South Wales. The alibi which the honorable member for Robertson sought to establish for the Government in connexion with the coalmining industry was as thin as his arguments in regard to the war-time administration of the Government. Everybody knows that this Government simply accelerated the speed of machinery whichhad been established in connexion with the war effort before it assumed office. The speeches of honorable members opposite have shown clearly how little they are concerned about peace in industry; or that has been the characteristic of the utterances of all Government supporters with the single exception of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley).
However, I desire to make some constructive suggestions with the- object of insuring an immediate improvement in coal production and ‘ the ultimate permanent solution of the problems of “theindustry. The people of Australia need coal urgently, but instead of giving them coal the Government has given them this bill. The people asked for bread and have been given a stone. There is nothing new in this ‘ measure except certain provisions to authorize the Government to “ shovel out money “ for the mechanization of coal mines. .Yet a perusal of Mr. Justice Davidson’s report indicates dearly that the mine-owners are willing and anxious to spend money to mechanize the mines. But they are facing two obstacles: First, the Minister for Mines in New South “Wales, who to a large extent has forbidden action .in this regard-; arid secondly, the miners federation. In the drafting of this bill the Government has treated the whole problem of coal production with incredible levity. If the recommendations of Mr. Justice Davidson were put into effect, an increase of coal production could be achieved in New South Wales immediately, and the Government has all the necessary statutory power to give effect to the recommendations to which I refer. Coal production has been declining steadily during the last four years. Mr. Justice Davidson was aware of this fact and after thorough, impartial and comprehensive investigations lasting for many months, he has made .some practical recommendations. It is regrettable that the report was not made available to honorable members in time for consideration in relation to this bill. In spite of the recommendations in the report, the Government is proposing that the coal-mining industry shall be dealt with on the basis of co-operation with only one State. As soon as the secondreading speech had been made, the Government withdrew completely one part of the bill which the Minister had said was vital, proving how carelessly and casually the measure had been drawn up. From a perusal of the , bill and the Minister’s speech, it is hard to determine whether that part constitutes the brain,the heart or the bowels of the measure; but, because of the record of the Government, I suspect that it must be the bowels, as the Government has never displayed any intestinal fortitude on this subject a<- any ‘time. This legislation may have been designed to secure a psychological effect, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said. But even members of the Government caucus are anxious to have it amended. The miners’ federation has expressed opposition- to it, and the mine-owners have openly stated that they, too, are opposed to it. It seems, to have been badly received, everywhere. A better psychology would be achieved, and more coal would be. produced, if the Government were to take action immediately under its- existing statutory powers. Independently of this legislation, it could remove from the industry all those elements among the miners which are the root cause of the lack of discipline. The late Mr. Curtin, in a speech, that he made in 1943, stated this very clearly. What he then said is worth repeating -
Therefore, the loss of production in the present year, compared with last year, is not due to new grounds, nor to industrial conditions, nor to the failure of the appropriate conciliation machinery, but to causes which were not present to anything like the same degree in any previous year. As a result of inquiries which I have had made, it is the opinion of the Government’ that the removal of minority malcontents ‘ and irresponsible.1in the industry will go a long way towards maintaining increased coal production. In the main the irresponsibles comprise youths of military age and men engaged in dual occupations as well as mining - taxi drivers, starting-price bookmakers, billiard-room proprietors, dog trainers and the like. These nien have engaged as miners in order to obtain protection. Generally, they either readily agree to strike; sometimes themselves openly addressing the men or making the first move from the mine, thus bringing oik a general exodus because of the miners’ traditional policy of “ one out, all out “. The malcontents and irresponsibles are indicated by bad attendance records: It is the opinion of the Government that they should be weeded out o: the industry.
I venture to affirm that the Government, has a dossier in regard to every one of those individuals, and could lay its hands on them immediately. Mr. Curtin continued -
They have a. chronic record of absenteeism, and their removal from the industry would leave no reasonable grounds for complaint on the ground of victimization.
In 1944, the late right honorable gentleman amplified the position when he said this-
As I have said, the remaining sections of the -bill are largely a repetition of the existing regulations, under which the Commonwealth Coal Commission has functioned, and the only other provision to which I need expressly refer is that which authorizes the commissioner to direct that a person shall no longer be employed in tlie coal-mining industry, and prohibit the employment of that person by any one engaged in the industry.
The Government has already passed legislation which, if applied, would arrest the decline of production in the coal industry.
The next step that should be taken to ensure an immediate increase of production is to relieve from taxes that group of incomes in which most of the coalminers are to be found, so that they may be encouraged to redouble their efforts. Even ministerial supporters have advocated this.
Thirdly, special inducements should be offered for the working of a second shift. Mr. Justice Davidson has mentioned several times in his report that, under existing conditions, if a second shift were worked twice as much coal would be produced. “With the working of double shifts from Monday to Friday, and cessation of production during the week-end, opportunities would be afforded to repair all the mining apparatus, and thus improve the conditions underground. The Government could easily bring down special legislation providing inducements for miners to work a second shift. The industry is suffering because it has been allowed to fall into disrepute. Everybody “ flogs “ either the owners or the miners. Both parties in the industry must be held in higher esteem. If the right means be adopted, the production of coal will be made an honorable task. There should be an honour roll, as there was when war loans were being raised, and on it should be inscribed the names of those whose production achievements warrant special recognition. As honorable members know, I am seldom inclined to follow the Soviet Union in any regard, but I am in favour of emulating it in honouring men who do extra work in the national interest and peace-time pursuits.
One of the faults in the industry is that all peccadillos are published to the “ nth “ degree. Unfortunately, extravagant statements are sometimes made by mine-owners and miners’ leaders. The attempt should be made to keep such matters as far as possible out of the press and, off the air. The tendency to-day is almost to regard it as a matter of honour to be “ in the news “ because such things are done, when really it is a matter of dishonour. A degree of dis- cretion should be exercised in that regard. Coal is badly needed. Therefore, simultaneously with the adoption of the’ methods I have advocated there should be a long range plan for the mechanization of all mines, and for electrical development. By cheapening the cost of power, which is a universal raw material in industry, we could increase employment, progressively raise the demand for co.a.1, and remove that sense of insecurity which has been one of the greatest factors in the’ .attitude that, the miners have displayed up to the present time. ‘ “We should start from the end opposite to that from which we have been working, first ensuring the most efficient use of coal, and then proceeding step by step until . production is increased and complete security is afforded for the miners. If the intention to work along those lines was universally realized and accepted, there would be greater, incentive to increase the production of coal than could be given by any other’ means. This legislation will do more than has been done so far’ to divide the owners and the miners. The urgency of the matter is recognized by every one who visits a capital city and finds that, because of lack of coal, radiators may not be used in the . middle of winter, transport is greatly curtailed during the week-end, and the manufacture of galvanized iron, steel and other commodities has ceased. The sooner the problem is tackled wholeheartedly, and the effort is made to effect the improvements I have indicated, the better will it be for all of us. We in Australia are worse off relatively in the matter of power resources than any other country in the world. T have here a statement by Mr. Harper, who was for many years chief of the Victorian power system at Yallourn -
The World Power Conference Committee in its 1929 compilation of world power production during 1927 arrived at figures closely approximating to those above-mentioned.
In the distribution of these world power resources, and in the relative extent of utilization, may be read not only the history of. industrial progress, but also the indications of the trend of future industrial development. Europe and America, possessing 35 per cent, of the world’s resources, are to-day producing 91 per cent, of the world’s output in power. Asia and Africa, possessing 63 per cent., are contributing only 7^ per cent, of the world’s output. What is history going to record, when, the peoples of these two vast continents have advanced to that state of civilization which will require their vast resources to be put into utilization?
Therefore, with limited coal reserves, with limited water power outside Tasmania, and no payable flow of oil yet discovered, we must make certain that our available resources are used in the most efficient way. The fact that we have been slow to start may ultimately be an advantage, because we can start with a clean sheet. We now have’ a splendid opportunity to link up our power systems, both coal and water, so as to make the maximum use of both, and to provide electricity at a reasonable cost. We should consider the institution of opencut mining wherever possible. Only recently I had a discussion with the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) on this subject, and he agreed that with the system of open-cut mining it ought to be possible to found new towns, which would not be coal-mining centres only, but centres of general industry, also. In such a setting the coal-miners would no longer constitute a social island separated from the rest of the community, but would be able to take their full part in the social and civic activities around them. They would be a part of the community, and as such subject to the same pressure of public opinion as everybody else.
Since Australia was first settled, about 500,000,000 tons of coal has been won. In the United States of America, the production of coal last year alone was about that quantity. Every civilized country, if it is to have power for industry, transport, domestic conveniences &c, needs about two tons of coal per head annually. On that basis, Australia needs 15,000,000 tons a year. If we had a population of 20,000,000 we should need 40,000,000 tons of coal a year. In the United States of America, the population is 140,000,000 people, but there they mined’ 500,000,000 tons of coal last year, and also used much power derived from water. In fact, they used the power equivalent to’ 4 tons of coal per person. With so much power available, it is possible in the United States of America to establish industries in what were backward towns, and to make them flourishing industrial centres in a period of ten years.. The railways can be made to pay because there is a constant flow of goods both ways.
In Australia, not only are our power resources limited, but also they are awkwardly placed. The great bulk of the coal deposits are in the south-eastern corner of the Commonwealth, within an area enclosed by a line running from Brisbane to Adelaide. In this area there are large deposits of brown and black coal, and certain other deposits of inferior quality which are not easily marketed, but which could be used on the spot. Little is being done, however, to use coal on the spot. For instance, there is a large deposit of coal at Blair Athol, behind Rockhampton. It has just been opened up, and is estimated to contain 200,000,000 tons, but very little of the coal is being used. Of the total population’ of Australia, six-sevenths is within what might be defined as . the coal area in the south-east, and this same area contains 96 per cent of the total available water power. In Brisbane, where the Brisbane City Council and the Brisbane City Electric Light Company operate in close combination, the company is doing excellent work in reticulating the outer districts. In Newcastle and Sydney, there are big electrical installations to provide power and light for industry and transport. There are other installations on the south coast, and at Yallourn in Victoria, but they are only partially linked up with existing hydro-electric systems. Each one of the installations is capable of producing power continuously, but it can sell the power only irregularly. I have here graphs showing that the peak load in the Sydney metropolitan area is 170,000 . horse-power, but that between 2 and 3 o’clock in the afternoon it declines to 60,000 ‘horse-power and during the night is only 24,000 horse-power. In Newcastle, the biggest load is in the middle of the day, so it ought to be possible, by linking the two systems, to maintain a more even consumption of power. Engineers have told me that they have to install in the power houses enough machinery to handle the peak load, although for a good part of the 24 hours this plant is not used to full capacity.
For an hour before the peak load comes on, the furnaces are going at full blast, whereas throughput much of the day the fires are banked. Thus there is a tremendous waste of capital assets and also of fuel. However, if the coal-burning power-houses were linked with hydro-electric schemes, the water power-houses could handle the peak loads at a moment’s notice by merely turning more water through the turbines. At the earliest possible moment we should approach the task of linking our great sources of power. If that were done we would be able to ensure that the whole of the area served by the grid, representing approximately six-sevenths of Australia, could be supplied continuously with electricity at a cheap rate, and industry would no longer be faced with constant threats of breakdowns and temporally stoppages caused by strikes. New industries would be established and overseas capital would be attracted to this country. At present, industrialists find it almost impossible to obtain from our power supply authorities a . firm quote for the supply of electricity for, say, a term of fifteen or twenty years. ‘ If the system I advocate were adopted that could be done without difficulty ; it would be possible to raise the price of coal, and by that means bring about an all-round improvement of the conditions of employment and standard of living of the coal-miners. It would permit the full mechanization of the industry, and in that way much of the arduous toil involved in the manual handling of coal would be avoided. In addition, it would give the miners and their families a sense of security which they have never known in the past. It is because of that sense of insecurity that coal-miners have been loath to build up reserves of coal, fearing that such reserves might be used by the owners to break down- their conditions of employment at some future date. The raising of the standard of comfort of the mining community and the feeling of ( security would bring about a new psychology among the coal-miners. Large areas of coal-bearing country cannot be developed at present because they are located at a distance from adequate water supplies. I instance Ashford and Gunnedah as important coal-bearing areas which are not being developed on that. account. Steam turbines required for the operating of mining equipment use a tremendous amount of water, and unless water is available in ample quantities their installation would be uneconomic. Inherent in this proposal for the linkage of our power supplies is the necessity for the development of a system of water conservation. I envisage the establishment of plants for the generation of electricity at the pit-mouths so that coal may be used immediately it is brought to the surface. This would eliminate the necessity for long rail haulages and would ensure that every ounce of energy was obtained from every ton of coal hewn. An .examination of all the measures and reports that have been produced by men concerned in the coal industry leads one to the belief that their study has been too close, too intimate, and that men have been too imbued with the traditions and inevitable bias of the past to see the effects that must follow the revolutionary changes in our industrial economy. The same phenomenon is often observed in medical practice. Even first-class general practitioners attending an obscure case sometimes study -it so carefully and attentively that they do not see the gradual development that reveals the true cause of the condition. An outside consultant is brought in at that stage and at first, glance recognizes the latent causal factor. We have looked- at too close a range at the coal-mining industry and have, apparently, failed to diagnose the cause of the ills that beset it We are inclined to be too much influenced by the irritations of the -past and to forget that in these days of modern scientific, developments many of the problems that confront the .industry could be solved if they were viewed in the right perspective. One step in that direction would be to make the most efficient use of our coal at the source of supply, and to inter-link all generating equipment so that no particular area need be entirely dependent upon electricity generated within its borders. Attention should also be given to the full use of waste gases. Such a plan would ensure better distribution of industry and population, which, in turn would increase nacional production.’ Increased remuneration for the worker and miner would follow with improved conditions of living for their families. Men and’ women in mining towns would no longer feel the isolation they now find so irksome; they would feel that they had become the real core and substance of the nation, and that they occupied a position which entitled them to honour and recognition. This morning the honorable member for Hunter
(Mr. James) obtained leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard some graphs illustrating the points he made during his speech. With the consent of the House I incorporate in Hansard three graphs prepared by eminent mining engineers in New South Wales showing the manner in which power stations may be inter-linked. [Leave granted.]
.- Coal production is one of the greatest problems facing this country to-day. In presenting this bill to the House the Government has made a sincere effort to clear up the mess into which the industry has drifted. I regard ‘the measure as one of the most important that has ever been brought before the Parliament. I had hoped that honorable members opposite would have treated it as such and would have co-operated with the Government in this attempt to solve the very serious problem with which the coal-mining industry is now confronted. But although I listened intently to the speeches of honorable members opposite, I found them almost entirely barren of suggestions for the improvement of the industry.
– The Government is unwilling to accept any suggestions which come from this side of the House.
– I can assure .the honorable gentleman that if and when he makes a sensible suggestion we shall be glad to accept it. I am afraid, however, that we shall have to wait a long time. The speeches of honorable members opposite have mainly consisted of villification The miners have not only had to suffer violent attacks by anti-Labour politicians ; they have also been constantly attacked in some sections of the press throughout the, length and breadth of the country. Far from solving their problem,* villification will merely result in making them more discontented than ever. There is a good deal of justification for the discontent that prevails in the industry. For too long coal miners have been compelled to work in conditions that should not be imposed upon any human being. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) made suggestions, not for obtaining increased coal production in New South Wales, but for the adoption of alternative means of obtaining power and light for the community. The only suggestion that he could make to overcome the present impossible situation in the coal-mining industry was for the introduction ‘ of ‘ some form of honour roll to show the production of mine against mine and miner against miner, with the names of extra-good workers recorded. That is a barren suggestion. The Leader of the Opposition, in a speech lasting an hour, made two suggestions only to solve the problem.
– Just now the honorable member said that no one on this side had made any suggestion.
– I said that no one had made any suggestion of value. The right honorable gentleman’s- suggestion was for the introduction of a second shift in the coal-mines of New South Wales. He did not, say whether it should be worked by. the miners already in the mines or whether he would obtain additional men for the industry. History shows that the coal-mining industry is so unpopular that it is almost impossible to get sufficient miners to work the existing pits on a one-shift basis. The number of miners is decreasing because conditions are so bad in many of the mines that the miners are looking for better jobs above the surface, and, with the Labour party in power, they are able, of course, to obtain jobs away from the mines. The second’ suggestion of the right honorable gentleman was that the wicked and outmoded system of “ one out, all out “ should be prohibited. I am not going to say anything in favour of the system, but I remind ‘ him that not so. long’ ago, when he resigned from the Advisory War Council, ‘he demanded that the system of “ one out, all out “ should apply, and, because the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) refused to obey, they were expelled from the United Australia party. It was only because that party changed its name to that of the Liberal party of Australia and a demand was made for the infusion of “ new blood “ into the organization that they were . permitted reinstatement.
The right honorable member for North Sydney had a good deal to say about this matter. He is one who ought to know a lot about the coal-mining industry arid what is necessary for its rehabilitation, because he was either Prime Minister or a Minister for many years during, which he took action in regard to coalmining troubles on a large number of occasions. He did succeed in causing general strikes in the industry, but he did not succeed in making any material improvement of the conditions of work or the production of coal. He tried many schemes. He tried discipline, as he demands that we should enforce it to-day. He wielded the big stick over the miners, but without much success. He then went so far in his efforts on behalf of the coalmine owners to keep the miners in subjection that he was partly responsible for the institution of what became known after a royal commission as “ the slush fund “, a secret fund out of which members of the then Government bribed officials of the miners federation to keep the miners in subjection. Any man with the reputation that the right honorable gentleman has would be advised to keep out of the debate when we are endeavouring to create harmony in the industry and to ensure the production of the coal that is so essential to our -wellbeing. We should eschew discord and start with a clean sheet. This Government, in association with the Government of New South Wales, is making that effort now, and that is why we are debating this bill. I mention these things because I believe that this House and the public should realize what has been going on in the industry for years and the repressive measures that have been taken against the employees in it on. almost every occasion. I do not say that the employees have alwaysbeen blameless or that their organization is perfect. It is not perfect. Many of their leaders have been very poor leaders. At the same time the Opposition has on all occasions taken the side of the employer against the employee. The Opposition and the owners have been backed up by the daily press throughout Australia. We cannot take up a newspaper on any day without finding on the principal page a reference to the coal-mining industry to the effect that “ so many tons were lost yesterday because of stoppages. There were stoppages at 3, 6, 9 or 12 mines “. If a stoppage is due to the actions of the employees it is blazoned with headlines like, “ The employees stopped because some one wanted to go home”: but, if the trouble is due to bad’ management, it is glossed over. The employees always receive the blame of any loss of coal. That has gone ‘on over the years. At no time has the press given the employees any credit for the quantity of coal that they have produced. It is well known that in 1942 coal production was an all-time record, but during, the whole year we read day after day about losses in the coal-mines and villification of the miners, but not one word of praise for their effort in obtaining ,an all-time record coal production. If we are going to make the coal-miners satisfied with their conditions, that campaign of villification and abuse must cease, and they must be given credit for their efforts on behalf of their own industry and industry generally throughout the Commonwealth. Until we can stop that we cannot expect the miners to work regularly, and we cannot possibly expect them to be satisfied. I know also that the demand for coal in Australia is greater than it has been at any previous time. Although Victoria is experiencing a shortage of coal, that State will receive from New South Wales this year 350,000’ tons more coal than it received in any year before the outbreak of World War II. Even with that additional quantity, industry in Victoria is not getting sufficient coal to enable it to carry on. I do not blame entirely the coal-miners of New . South Wales for that position. I attribute the difficulties in Victoria chiefly to the short-sightedness of successive governments of that State since 191S. The brown coal deposits at Yallourn are sufficient to supply the requirements of the State for the next 200 years, but they have been developed to only a limited degree. Certainly, that coal is not so valuable as is the black coal of New South Wales. For approximately twenty years, we used the brown coal to provide a portion ‘ of our requirements of electricity, and as briquettes, but so shortsighted were successive State governments in. the past that during the war, the Melbourne suburban electric train service had to be curtailed by 25 per cent, because of the shortage of New South Wales blackcoal. One Government of Victoria was so short-sighted that it designed the power-house at” Newport to consume, not the brown coal of Yallourn, but the black coal of New South Wales. That is the cause of one of the principal difficulties in Victoria to-day. The present State government is taking appropriate steps ro improve the position. Within the next few years Victoria will not be so’ dependent, on the black coal of New South Wales as it is at present. With a continuation of the present State government, Victoria., in less than ten years, will be largely independent of New South Wales coal. 1
During this debate, honorable members opposite have complained ‘that industry in South Australia has been brought to a. standstill because of a shortage of black coal. I remind the House that successive governments in .South Australia must accept their share of the responsibility; and their share is considerable. South Australia has deposits of coal at Leigh Creek. The quality of the coal is not so good as that of New South Wales black coal, I admit, but it is only in the last couple of years that the State government has realized the importance of the deposits to South Australia, and begun to develop them. At present, production from Leigh. Creek by the. opencut method Ls 7,000 tons a week, or less than one half of the requirements of the State. If successive State governments of South Australia had. not been «o short-sighted-, Leigh Creek coal to-day would make the State almost entirely independant of New South Wales coal. If the governments of Victoria and South Australia had shown wisdom in the period of 1918-38 when there was no shortage of labour, they could now be providing coal to meet the bulk of their own needs, and we would not have had the present troubles.
We must recognize that the coal industry is dying slowly. As coal is mined, no more grows to’ take its place. Sooner or later, we shall be obliged to find substitute fuels. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) suggested some of them, and I have indicated action that should be taken in South Australia and Victoria. It can be done, and should be done, because it will help to solve the. coal problems of those States.
The speech of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was in opposi tion to organized unionism in Australia. The honorable gentleman does not like the workers to organize into unions. He hates the very name of organized trade unionism. Most of his contribution to the debate was devoted to a description ,of the work of “ scabs “ in a certain mine in New South Wales during a strike in 1929. From his remarks, the honorable .member appeared to be very proud of the fact that he went down the mine among the “ scabs “ and hewed coal. That’ describes his outlook towards” the whole of the working class of Australia. He is violently opposed to unionism in any form, and he will Sup- port any .type of person who will attempt to break down unionism in Australia. I mention that matter because the honorable gentleman has, on many occasions, attacked the coal-miners and members of” other unions. To-day, he came out into the open with a straight-out advocacy of support for “ scabs “ as against organized unionists. That is a disgraceful state of affairs, I know, in an enlightened country like Australia, but 1he honorable member cannot grow out of the prejudices that he has held against the workers for so many years.
During this debate, the report of Mr. Justice Davidson on the coal-mining industry has been referred to extensively. I. noticed that when honorable members opposite read extracts from the document, their object was to show that the coalminers were a bad lot. As I stated earlier, I do not contend that the employees are perfect. I know that they are not. They have been responsible for some of the troubles which have occurred. However, I know that the coal-owners also .have been guilty in many other directions. The conditions under which the miners are employed in many pits are not fit for any human beings. The miners have been used as beasts of burden. The. owners have wrested from the toil of the workers as much profit as possible, and when they could not extract any more profit, they have thrown the workers on the scrapheap. In a number of instances, the owners treated the pit ponies better than the men. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated in his speech that comparatively little industrial unrest has occurred among the coal-miners in Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria, and the western districts df New South Wales. He pointed out also that there have been constantly recurring troubles in the mines on the south coast and in the northern district of New South Wales. When we examine the position, we find that most of the troubles in the coal-mining industry occur in those two areas. Therefore, we should endeavour to discover the reason. We cannot always blame the coal-miners. The miner in the northern district of New South Wales is the same type of individual and worker as the miner in the western district, or in Victoria, Western Australia or Queensland. When employed in the western district or in Victoria or Queensland, he works . regularly. But when he is employed in the northern district or on the south coast, his work is irregular. In those two areas stoppages have occurred at frequent intervals. One of the real reasons for much of the industrial trouble in the mines on the south coast of New South Wales has been brought home to us clearly in the last few weeks. It is the absolute refusal of the owners to provide reasonable safety precautions. The miners . have been demanding for many years that action be taken to alleviate dust troubles. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was at some pains, in his speech, to explain that coal dust was not so injurious to the lungs as is the dust in metalliferous mines, but he conveniently forgot to mention that much of the dust that causes serious lung trouble in the south coast mines is not coal dust. On a number of occasions recently, south coast miners have taken days off in order to attend the funeral of colleagues who have lost their life through miners’ disease which they contracted owing to the failure of the miner-owners* fo provide reasonable precautions against dust. The unfortunate miners get the dust in their lungs, and their health gradually deteriorates until, after a long and painful illness, they die. This is due largely to the neglect of the mine-owners to provide adequate safety measures. A great deal of the trouble in the northern collieries has occurred in the mines of
The troubles in this industry can be remedied only, if, in addition to dealing with the dust nuisance, managerial practice also is thoroughly overhauled. This bill provides that under certain conditions a public authority may take control of a mine. If (his course be followed and the management of such collieries be re-organized, many of the problems of the industry will be solved. The application of the principles outlined in the bill would be justified if they resulted in a departure from the present system of “dog eat dog “.
Mr. Justice Davidson’s report has been mentioned frequently during this debate by honorable gentlemen opposite, who,however, have seen fit to quote only pas. sages which reflect adversely on the “miners. For that reason I propose to quote certain other passages which indicate clearly that there is another side to the story. My first extract is -
No honorable member opposite saw fit to quote that passage. I wish also to refer to remarks made by Mr. Justice Davidson about the Coalcliff Colliery which was taken over by the Government. Efforts have been made by honorable gentlemen opposite to’ discredit Government management of this mine, but Mr. Justice Davidson’s observations have completely justified the action of the Government. His Honour reported as follows -
If government control has resulted in nothing else than the introduction of proper measures for the control of dust, it would have been entirely justified. The miners now working in this colliery are assured that they are not taking any unnecessary risk of dusting, whereas for many years past they have had to face great and continuous danger in this regard. The safety measures introduced by the Government will result in the protection of the lives of many coalminers. If the dust nuisance can be properly controlled, and the management of the mines overhauled, many of the problems of the industry will be eliminated.
I bring to the notice of honorable gentlemen also the following passage from Mr. Justice Davidson’s report: -
The coal industry in its major fields is a tottering industry.
Manifestations of this unhappy condition are to be found in -
a widely spread feeling of antagonism on the part of many mine-workers towards the management and the colliery proprietors ;
lack of co-operation in the great majority of themines between management and employees;
constant industrial troubles in the form of incessant pit-top meetings, absenteeism, stoppages of production and strikes;
extraordinary apathy in the most stable sections of the workers towards these hindrances to their earning capacity;
almost complete absence of discipline;
an excessive accident rate to which
is a contributing factor;
inefficiency and archaic methods of mining in the greater number of the mines owing largely to inadequate mechanization;
mounting costs and declining output;
lack of stability to guarantee future prosperity.
That shows clearly that the blame for stoppages in his industry are by no means all on one side. In fact the mine-owners must accept a very large share of the responsibility for the troubles that have occurred.
In conclusion,. I wish to reply to remarks that have been made by honorable gentlemen opposite in praise of private enterprise in industry. I shall show that in regard to the coal-mining industry, at any rate, private enterprise has a very poor record over the years. Surely it is the primary duty of private enterprise to provide the goods that consumers need. Private enterprise in this industry has definitely failed to” deliver the goods “. The excuse that a section of the coal-miners has refused to work, cannot absolve the owners of the responsibility for providing coal for the community. This is one more example of the failure of private enterprise in industry in Australia.
– It has been under the control of the coal-owners for years. Very few coal-mines have been controlled by governments. But time after time governments have assisted the mineowners to maintain production. Neither during the war years nor since has private enterprise succeeded in producing sufficient coal to meet the needs of the nation.
Therefore, some other form of control must be sought. The only control likely to prove effective is that which can be exercised by the Government. This is not a bill for the nationalization of the coal industry, but it is a step in that direction. I hope that the day is not far distant when the industry will be nationalized. No form of control could be so ineffective as that of private enterprise in the coal industry in Australia. The results are a lasting monument to the inefficiency of private enterprise.When the Government assumes complete control of the production of coal, all industries in Australia will be able to look forward confidently to having their needs met. So long as private enterprise continues to exercise control, there will be failure to supply the requirements of the people. If this vaunted private enterprise were all that has been claimed on its behalf we would not be debating the coal industry to-day. The employers in this and other industries should make the labour conditions so attractive that their employees will maintain production without a break. The only concern of the mine-owners is to make profits, and service to the people does not enter into their calculations for a moment. While profits are as large as the owners wish them to be, everything is all right, but should they decline the workers are ground down a little more. So long as the owners can exercise a vestige of control, there cannot be peace and unbroken production in the industry.
– What control have the owners now?
– They have so much control that they can cause production to be interrupted incessantly. Surely the honorable gentleman does not contend that the Government or the miners federation controls the operation of coalmining ! I hope that when he contributes to the debate, his suggestions will be more fruitful than those of his leader (Mr. Menzies) or the other members of his party who have spoken, and that he will realize that there are two sides to every question and that the employees play a really important part in this and every other industry. The day has arrived when the workers must receive the treatment to which they are entitled. They are keeping industries going. We are ensuring that they shall receive a better deal than any anti-Labour government has been preparedto concede to them in the history of Australia. [Quorum formed.]
– I have listened with some interest to the fiery “Yarra bank” effort of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), who has just resumed his seat. Instead of debating the matter before the House, he saw fit to attack one honorable member after another, on the ground that he had done or had failed to do something. Then, being still unsatisfied, he devoted the bulk of the remainder of his time to abuse ofthe coal-owners.
The matter of coal has been before this House every session in the last three years, on motions for the adjournment of the House and in special legislation. This has been necessary, because the Government and its supporters have hot been prepared to face the problems with which the industry has been confronted. Every ministerial member who has spoken during this debate has evaded the issue. I commend for their consideration speeches in which the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, put his finger right on the problem in the industry, and pointed out that the lack of discipline by the Communists in control of the miners federation was mainly responsible for the disorganization by which it was afflicted. Again and again, regulations of all descriptions have been brought down; and these have been supplemented by legislation which, in the main, did no more than implement them. The measure we are now considering is practically identical with the act passed in 1944. Neither acts nor regulations have produced more coal. Unfortunately, the greater the volume of legislation and regulations, the lower has been the production of coal. No legislation of this character will produce coal. Nor will a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a spirit of co-operation between the mine-owners and the miners. Above all, when legislation is brought down the Government must have the courage to enforce it. Those who are in control of the miners federation in New . South Wales to-day well know . that the Government has not the slightest intention of enforcing its legislation. The act passed in 1944 has been a “ dead letter “. [Quorum formed.] That a quorum has had to be formed twice in the space of a few minutes proves that Government supporters have little of that practical, sympathetic interest in this legislation which this House and the country have everyright to expect them to show. It is the function of the Government to maintain a quorum with the Opposition. The policy of appeasement adopted by the Government towards malcontents and extremists has been the basic cause of the troubles in the coal industry. In this respect, I cite an outspoken authority . In Ilansard, volume 179, at page 414, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, is reported thus -
I acknowledge that from time to time representatives of the unions have made representations to the Government that certain things be done to improve the conditions of the workers in the coal-mining industry in order that increased production might result. I have succumbed to those representations. I acknowledge quite frankly that ‘ the union, from time to time, has requested me to do certain things or not to do certain things, and that I have acted in accordance with my judgment, in order that the output of coal might be increased. I acknowledge that I have tried what has been called appeasement.
Every effort to increase the production of coal has failed. While the Government follows a policy of .appeasement, this country will not get. the coal that it needs, nor will peace be restored to the coal industry. I regret exceedingly the introduction of this measure. The Government has failed dismally to give effect to the recommendations that were made by Mr. Justice Davidson, an experienced and competent jurist, after an investigation of the industry which lasted for fourteen months, in a carefully considered and valuable report. The more important of his recommendations have been completely ignored. Yet the Government claims to have based its. legislative proposals on the recommendations of His Honour. I protest against having to discuss these proposals without being able to examine .the report, which has not yet been printed. .We have had to try to inform our minds as to what the report contains, without -having the document before us. That . is a distinctly wrong practice,..which the Government is adopting all too frequently. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) frowns on that statement. I remind him that some time ago members of the Opposition pressed the Government to improve the conditions of dairymen in this country. We sought a subsidy to increase the price received for butter by the dairy-farmers.
-Order ! The honorable member is in order in referring to the delay in the printing of the report of the royal commission, but he is not in order in discussing the dairying industry.
– I submit that the delay in publishing Mr. Justice Davidson’s report is in keeping with a wellestablished practice- -Mr. SPEAKER-Order!
– Well, if you will not allow me to proceed-
– It is not a matter of allowing the honorable member to proceed. I have already said that reference may be made to the delay in producing the Davidson’ report, but not to the dairying industry.
– 1 was merely pointing out that, in this matter, as in others, the Government was following a regretta bie practice. . When the House is expected to discuss matters of importance, reports, prepared at heavy cost, by competent persons, are not available. After continual stoppages and strikes in the coal-mines in New South Wales during the war, the Government saw fit to bring down the Coal Production (War-time) Bill, in 1944, and it duly became law. The act then embodied the regulations which had been promulgated from time to time in an endeavour to promote coal production. ‘ The regulations failed, the act failed, and this present legislation will fail, unless the Government is pre-, pared to back it up instead of applying a policy of appeasement. Other legislative efforts of the Government failed to produce more coal. In fact, every such effort was followed by a further decline of production.
The Government obtained the services of Mr. Justice Davidson, who, as chairman of a board of inquiry, spent fourteen months in examining the coal problem in all parts of Australia. Now, we find that practically all his worthwhile recommendations have been ignored by , the Government in the drafting of this bill. It is proposed in the bill to set up a board somewhat similar te that appointed under the 1944 act. The new board is to consist of three persons, but it is not to be an independent body. It must take instructions from the political head of the Commonwealth, and the political head of New South Wales. Political interference in the control of the coal-mining industry in New South Wales, and in matters affecting the production of coal, together with the faulty advice and had leadership of the Communist-controlled miners’ federation, have been responsible for the deplorable condition in which Australia finds itself to-day in regard to coal. The continuation of such political interference will certainly not result in the production of more coal.
The bill pushes arbitration aside. The Government has repeatedly proclaimed that it is in favour of arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes, but in this measure the Government has ignored our arbitration system. It proposes to appoint a board that must respond to political domination. No industry can survive in such circumstances. Once the Arbitration Court has been bypassed, we cannot hope for industrial peace. The bill provides for the appointmentof a special tribunal, as well as local committees, to co-operate with, and assist, the board. The same basic principle was embodied in the 1944 act, which the present bill is to supersede. The report of Mr. Justice Davidson sets out clearly the causes of stoppages in the coal mines, and suggests how the difficulty may be overcome. I propose to read his summary of the causes of industrial unrest, and his suggestions for removing them.
– Every honorable member has a copy of the report. There is no need to waste time by quoting from it.
– I propose to read these extracts, nevertheless. The causes of the stoppages are stated as follows: -
The causes of stoppages, accordingly, may he said to consist of -
A psychological factor induced by intensive propaganda which is distracting the mine workers.
Lack of discipline. (c)The effect of the contract system.
The machinations of disgruntled minorities.
The benefits that have been gained from strikes.
Possibly in some degree the dissatisfaction created by heavy taxation which has been discussed elsewhere.
Every strike has won some benefit for the coal-miners, which ought to have been obtained by arbitration. The proposed remedies are stated thus -
The only remedy for the disturbing industrial turbulence that has developed lies in meeting the causes by the following means: -
By insistence on providing the workers with improved living and social conditions in order to mitigate their undoubted spirit of hostility. This policy is not appeasement; it is mere justice.
By enforcing the law and maintaining the sanctity of agreements and the judgments and awards of properly constituted independent judicial tribunals.
By insisting upon the right to impose discipline, if necessary, by the dismissal from the industry of recalcitrant employees, but with a right of appeal to an independent judicial tribunal under the presidency of a judge of the Arbitration Court.
By granting the right to employees who claim to be aggrieved by the alleged wrongful acts of managers to attack them before a similar tribunal.
By introducing mechanization, with accompanying abolition of the contract system of payment formining work.
By procuring the co-operation of the miners’ federation in the implementing of the whole of these proposals in conjunction with the amended terms of the Canberra Code indicated earlier in this report.
As I have said, none of these recommendations are included in the bill. The bill ought to be redrafted, and if the Government will include in it those recommendations of the commissioner relating to discipline, the industry will be revitalized and the miners will enjoy greater security. The Minister has ignored, in a cowardly fashion, the recommendations of the commissioner regarding the disciplining of the workers. The Minister’s speech included no reference to this subject, but he blamed the mine owners for the troubles of the industry during the last six and a half years. I quote a passage from the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction who introduced the bill -
Men work in the industry tinder physical and nervous pressure which is rarely absent. And when they find themselves working under that pressure in an industry suffering from technical absolescence anddecay and from insufficiency of capital; it is understandable, if not always equally excusable, that the industry should be the seat of chronic industrial discontent, fanned as often as not by irresponsible newspapers and by parliamentary spokesmen for the ownership who are prepared to make political capital out of the position.
That is a cowardly innuendo) and the Minister has ignored entirely the findings of Mr. Justice Davidson. I ask the Minister to say, upon reflection, how he can hope to restore good-will in the industry by proceeding as he is doing. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, when discussing the part played by the coal-owners during the wai’, in helping to produce coal and keeping the wheels of industry turning, so that Australia might make its maximum war effort, said -
I told the owners that they appeared, according to all the records, to have observed the decisions of the umpire.
Mr. Justice Davidson also said
Practically none of the strikes during the war has been due to impropriety of any kind on the part of owners or management.
Thus, the innuendoes of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction ‘ are cowardly and unjustified’. If the owners had been guilty of the conduct with which theminers of ‘Now South Wales may rightfully be charged, my denunciation of them would be even more vehement than is my denunciation of the behaviour of the miners. Let me now quote the following from a speech by Mr. Curtin, recorded in volume 176 of Hansard, at page 558 : -
As a result of inquiries which I have had made, it is the opinion of the Government that the removal of minority malcontents and irresponsibles in the industry will go a long way towards maintaining increased coal production.
In the main, the irresponsibles comprise youths of military age and men engaged in other occupations as well as mining - taxidrivers, starting price bookmakers, billiardroom proprietors, dog trainers, and the like. These men have engaged as miners in order to obtain protection. Generally, they readily agree to strike, sometimes themselves openly addressing the men, or making the- first move from the” mine, thus bringing on a general exodus because of the miners’ traditional policy of “ one out, . all out “. The malcontents and irresponsibles are iindicated by bad attendance records. It is the- opinion of the Government that they should be weeded out of the industry.
We look in vain in. this legislation for any proposal designed’ to weed’ out irresponsibles from the industry - those who are admittedly to blame- for much industrial trouble. Obviously, the Government is scared.. It has been bluffed by- the miners federation; and lacks’ the courage to. stand up to it. It prefers a policy of appeasement. While we have a government so lacking in courage, there is no hope of industrial peace in the industry, and little prospect of industrial development in Australia. Here is a further quotation from a speech by Mr. Curtin, recorded in Ilansard, volume 179, at page 413-
The charge against these men is that they will not work, an entirely different state of affairs. I admit that these men do not work, I acknowledge that they ought to be prosecuted, and I say that they will be prosecuted. I have made that very plain.
Mr. Curtin declared that the men were not playing the game, and that offenders against the law would be prosecuted. Some prosecutions were launched, and fines were imposed, but under pressure from the Communist-controlled miners’ ‘ federation, the fines were remitted, and the whole effectiveness, of the 1944 act was destroyed. The effectiveness df this legislation also will be destroyed unless the Government is prepared to do its job. Dealing with the proposals for -the provision of amenities for the coal-miners, the Minister said - ‘
The State will contribute half the costs of administration and an amount not exceeding ?70.000 per annum to the Joint Coal Board’s Welfare Fund - this amount to be contributed on a .pound for pound basis with the Commonwealth. In turn, the Commonwealth will contribute the remaining half of the costs of administration, a share of the board’s Welfare Fund not less than that contributed by the State: all other current expenses, including any subsidies and any other expenses arising from the board’s production’ and trading activities, and all advances and grants for capital purposes such as the capital cost of amenities (other than those covered by the Welfare Fundi, mechanization, acquisition and new development.
I strongly support every step that’ is made to provide better conditions for the men engaged, in. the coal-mining industry, brit T deplore the fact- that amenities are to be restricted to the New South Wales coal-fields. From inquiries that I have made it appears that the provision of the - amenities proposed in the bill will cost ?500.000. In the not distant future, a further ?1,000;000 may have to be provided for that purpose. I protest most vigorously against the restriction . of expenditure’ on amenities to the industry in New South. Wales, where” the coal-miners-, were described by. the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, as “ saboteurs, of tlie national war effort “ because they would not work, and as being “ contemptuous of the requirements of the country and the orders and” directions of the Government “. Are not the coal-miners in other parts of Australia, who, for many years, particularly throughout the war period, have remained at work, almost without interruption, entitled to participate in these benefits? The working conditions in the coal-mining industry in Queensland, and in other parts of the Commonwealth, are ‘ worse than they are in New South Wales. The Government, however, has no interest in the welfare of the miners outside of New South Wales, because they have not embarrassed it by calamitous strikes. This proposal in the bill will constitute an incentive to men to strike in order to rectify those grievances. Provision of amenities and the establishment of welfare work must be made on an equal or more generous scale to the coal-miners in my own State of Queensland as well as to those in Victoria and Western Australia. Referring to coal-miners in States other than New South Wales, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, is reported in Hansard No. 177, at page 441, to have said -
Tn respect- qf other coal -producing States the Government is grateful for and appreciative of the- contribution made by all engaged in the industry in those States. In Tasmania and in Queensland production for 1943 exceeded that of any previous year. In the former State there have been no losses whatever from industrial disputes, whilst in Queensland such losses are almost negligible. In Western Australia production last year was lower than in. 1942, but the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner advises me that such decrease was due to perfectly understandable reasons. I am reminded that these men are the only miners in Australia who work a twelve-day fortnight, that their average age, due to enlistments, is higher than elsewhere in the Commonwealth, and that . in some measure the reduced production results from steps taken hy the commission to direct men temporarily to unproductive work for the purpose of improving ventilation, haulage roads, and other facilities, which will eventually lead to increased production. In Victoria, also, production was lower than in 1042, not because of industrial stoppages, but almost solely because of inherent difficulties in the mines themselves.
That is a just tribute to the coal-miners in Queensland, Tasmania and Western
Australia. In view of that opinion of a former Labour leader, it is difficult to understand why this Government is not prepared to show its appreciation of the splendid record of the coal-miners in those States by including them in any scheme for the provision of amenities and welfare work. Despite the adverse conditions under which the coalminers in ‘ Queensland have had to work, there have been no serious disputes in the industry there for the last 25 years. Recently, during the meat strike in that State, Mr. Wells, the president of the miners’ federation, was successful in inducing the Queensland miners to strike in sympathy with the meat workers, he promising to make available thousands of pounds, according to press reports, for strike funds. This period of strike was very limited. That the Queensland miners were able to resist the influence of the Communist recalcitrants in the miners’ federation is a tribute to their sanity and sense of responsibility. Every worker is entitled to the best wages and conditions that industry can afford to pay. I realize that there are special problems associated wi.th the coal-mining industry, and. that, because of the dangerous nature of their calling, the miners are entitled to- every consideration. But what justification can there possibly be for the discrimination to which I have referred. If benefits are to be provided in the way of amenities for employees they should be applicable in all States. This discrimination is a clear indication of the inability of this Government to handle an industrial problem on a national basis, and will foment trouble in the industry in States other than New South Wales. Under ‘ this bill those whom a “former Prime Minister described as “ saboteurs of the nation’s war effort -“ and as being “contemptuous of the requirements of the country” are to get all the consideration, and those in Queensland and the other States who did steadily produce coal, are to be ignored and receive no amenities or welfare funds at all. The miners of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania will not be brushed aside in this arbitrary fashion.
Only by taking the necessary steps to-‘ enforce discipline in the industry will the production of coal be increased. The-
Government should have the courage to enforce the disciplinary provisions of the legislation already on the statutebook against those who illegally absent themselves from work. The policy of appeasement has always failed. The unhappy state of affairs that exists in the New South “Wales coal-mines is the direct result of the Government’s unwillingness to use the disciplinary powers conferred upon it. It is obvious that the miners’ federation has used its influence to’ intimidate the Government into granting anything it desires. If the coal-owners and the employees would co-operate in an effort to settle their differences good results would follow. Those results, however, will not be achieved by this legislation unless the Government is prepared to enforce its disciplinary provisions without fear or favour. Mr. Justice Davidson reported that practically all of the strikes that have occurred in the industry in the last three years were not due to impropriety on the part of the coal-owners. It is obvious that unless we clip the wings of the Communist dictators of the miners’ federation there will be little likelihood of production being increased.
Dealing with the coal mines in Queensland, Mr. Justice Davidson said -
Working conditions in several of the mines visited by the Board were most unsatisfactory because of -
Inflammable gas and dust.
The use of naked lights in the coal mines in Queensland should be prohibited, subject to the allowance of reasonable time to make the change.
There should be much ‘more rigid super-‘ vision and regulation of gassy conditions in the mines.
The practice of stopping the fans at the end of the last daily shift and during week-ends should be prohibited.
If greater precautions are not taken with regard to inflammable gas and coal-dust in the mines, there will be likelihood at any time of serious disaster.
Has any attempt been made by the Government to act upon those suggestions? Dealing with dust he said -
The dust hazard in relation to the health of the workers is being sadly neglected. It is certain that many mine-workers underground will become incapacitated by the inhalation of dust unless proper methods of control of the dust are adopted, whilst the amount of compensation payable will become a serious burden as in New South Wales.
Again in paragraph 28 -
Living conditions and amenities have been, sadly neglected at Collinsville ‘aud from reports also at Blair Athol.
I believe that the Blair Athol mine is in the territory of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). I want to know why the Minister for the Army, who doubtless has read the report, is willing to provide amenities for the striking miners on the coal-fields of New South Wales and to deny them to the miners in Queensland, who do work.
– T - This legislation can be repeated in respect of Queensland coal mines if the Queensland Government wants it.
– All I say is that nothing has been done to carry out the recommendations made by Mr. Justice Davidson concerning the coal-mining industry in Queensland. The report continues -
Education in mining principles is badly needed in Queensland and the suggestion is offered that travelling tutors, should afford great assistance in this respect.
Absenteeism on the fields is high and is largely, due to the burden of taxation.
The report makes critical reference to the contract system and to the low salaries paid to mine inspectors, and generally condemns the standard of coal mines in Queensland, . but the Government is utterly indifferent to the serious reflections cast on those mines by His Honour.
– What did the honorable member do about it?
– Only the Government can initiate and pass .legislation through this Parliament. I ask in the interests of the coal-miner that it carry out the recommendations of Mr. Justice Davidson in respect of the Queensland coal-mining industry. The development of Australia depends on more and more production, but. to-day production is at its lowest ebb. Let honorable members go to any warehouse they choose, and they will find it almost empty. Commodities are nearly impossible to buy because they are not being manufactured, owing to the hold-up of industry by the lack of power. Sydney spent its saddest Christmas in history last year when it was blacked out because of lack of coal. Remember, it was the first Christmas after the end of the war, and it should have been the occasion of greater festivity than ever; but, instead of being a city of carnival, Sydney was a city of gloom. While this legislation is being debated, 25 mines are idle in New South Wales. In South Australia all industry has been shut down through lack of coal. All over Australia industry is working part-time or closed down for the same reason. Melbourne people are gazing towards the heads of Port Phillip Bay hoping to see a collier enter with ‘ coal, so that they shall be assured of gas or electricity with .which to cook their breakfasts. In this severe winter, people are suffering as they have never suffered before. They are, lacking gas or electricity .for cooking, and adequate transport to go to work and are suffering many other disabilities, because the miners of New South Wales will not produce coal. Sickness is rife because people cannot keep their homes warm. The nation is hamstrung because the Government will not enforce the law that the Parliament passed for the purpose of ensuring adequate coal production. The Government has done a serious disservice to the coal-miners by its neglect. In Victoria, coal-burning locomotives are being converted to use oil fuel.
– Order ! _ The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Coal Industry Bill merits the most ‘ serious debate because it deals with the greatest problem that the country has to solve, and it is indeed strange that after an honorable member on the Opposition side has spoken no Labour supporter has risen to continue the debate. Consequently, the call has been given to this side again. After some general preliminary observations, I propose to determine to what degree, if at all, this legislation varies from the Coal Production (War-time) Act, which was placed on the statute-book at the instance of the Labour party in March, 1944. It may be said as a general proposition that as that act failed completely to produce the coal that we were promised it would produce, there is little hope that a bill that, as I shall show, is in all essentials identical with it will accomplish anything more. We have heard- from honorable members opposite, from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) down, the same speeches as were made on the 1944 legislation, and it is pertinent to observe that when that legislation was before honorable members, the problem was adumbrated, and the country was assured’ by the Labour party that once the bill became law most of our problems would be solved and thenceforth there would be increased production of coal and less dislocation of industry. But what are the facts? Since March, 1944, when that bill was passed, the coal-mining industry has gone from bad to worse, and all the hopes that were placed by the Government in that legislation have failed to materialize. Coal production has fallen. The output per man-shift has fallen. Man days lost through strikes have increased extraordinarily, and the average number of days lost per employee per annum has also increased. In 1944, the year in which the act came into operation, the number of man days lost in strikes was 431,643, and, in 1945, it was 629,975. Production fell from 2,500,000 mechanically filled tons in 1943 to 2.160,000 tons in 1945. The total output of coal fell from 11,528,000 tons in 1943 to 11,102,000 tons in 1944, and 10,237,000 tons in 1945.
I propose to divide my remarks into two parts. First, I propose to analyse the bill in order to establish that in essential features it has been lifted almost word for word from the Coal Production (War-time) Act and that certain sections of the act have been left out of this bill. As the result of these omissions whatever efficacy the act may have possessed is to be lost. With few exceptions, the clauses, of this bill are no different from the. sections of the 1944 act. Yet the Government would have the people believe that this legislation will establish a new era for the coal industry. If honorable members refer to the Coal Production (War Time) Act. 1944. sections 6, 7, 9 and 11 to 13,. they will find that clauses, 5,. to 9 of this bill are in essential features no different except that the sections relate to the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner, whereas this bill provides for the establishment of a Joint Coal Board. That act failed utterly to produce the coal that the Government now says will be produced by the board. Clause 13 vests the board with extensive powers over the coal industry in respect of production and distribution of coal and conditions in the industry. Sections 17 to 20 of the act, 1944, confer, although in different verbiage, substantially the same powers as does clause 13. On all matters -of policy the board shall be subject to the directions of the Prime Minister, or the Prime Minister and the Premier in different circum-stances. That provision is made in clause 17, which is no different in principle from section 20 of the act. Clause 37 provides for the establishment of a Coal Industry Tribunal. Honorable members will find that exactly the same provision, except that the name given to the authority was different, was made in section 29 of the act. That tribunal is vested with certain powers, which are specified in clauses 40 to 42. Under sections 30 and 31 of the act exactly the same powers are conferred upon the central industrial authority, consisting of one man, as are to be conferred on the Coal Industry Tribunal, also consisting of one man. Clause 45, which’ empowers the Coal Industry Tribunal to establish local coal authorities, is similar to section 33 of the act, except for two modifications: The tribunal, not the Minister will appoint and determine conditions of appointment, and the members may be appointed for three years, although there is no obligation to appoint them for any more than the shortest period.
Certain powers are vested in these tribunals under clauses 46 and 47, which are the same in all essentials as sections 34 and 35 of the act. Clause 49, which is identical in every essential with section 37, provides for the review of the decisions of the coal tribunals when those decisions are likely to lead to industrial unrest in localities other than that in respect of which the decisions are given. I pass now to another central feature, namely, the establishment of what are called mine conciliation committees, with certain functions of conciliation. The relevant provisions are clauses 50 and 51. Although the 1944 act did not constitute mine conciliation committees as such, they existed under the name of production committees, which were established under sections 38 and 39. If honorable members will read the relevant clauses and. sections, they will see that the mine conciliation committees have exactly the same functions as those which sections 38 and 39 confer upon the production committees.
I have now reviewed all of the essential features of the bill, namely, the establishment and powers of the board, the Coal Industry Tribunal, the local coal authorities and the mine conciliation committees. Beyond that, there are no other features of the bill which were not contained in the Coal production (Wartime) Act of 1944. All the other clauses are machinery, and nothing else. Now, if that be a correct analysis of the bill-
– Of course, it is not. .Mr. SPENDER. - I shall be very glad if the Minister, instead of saying, that the analysis is not correct, will deal with the matters to which I have -referred. I have examined the bill and the act very carefully, and have not depended upon a general statement. I shall not be satisfied - nor will the public be satisfied1 - merely by the say-so of the Minister, because he will have ample opportunity,, when replying to this debate, to endeavour to prove that my contentions are wrong. Therefore, I say that, if that be a correct analysis, and I believe that it is, this bill- does not make in realities a different approach to the coal problem from that made by the act of 1944. Yet, the people of this conntry are told ‘ and told untruthfully, that this is a new approach to the problem, having regard to the recommendations of Mr. Justice Davidson. Later, I shall draw attention to the royal commissioner’s report, which I have taken the trouble to read. 1 allege as a fact that the Government has not made any attempt to implement that report in any vital respect.
Very significant inferences may be drawn against the bona fides of the bill. Honorable members will notice that Part IV. of the measure deals with the control of coal mines, and special conditions of employment and discipline in the mines controlled by the coal authority. According to the Minister’s explanation on Tuesday evening, all those provisions will be removed from the bill. The honorable gentleman’s explanation, upon examination, will be found to be entirely worthless. He stated that Part IV. will be omitted because the Government discovered certain constitutional difficulties in the way of implementing this legislation. A little analysis will show how ridiculous is that suggestion. The vital provision of Part. IV is clause 19, which provides - (1.) Where, in the opinion of theboard, it is desirable, with a view to maintaining or increasing the production of coal from any coal mine in the State, the coal mine should be operated under the control of the board, the board is to have power, by written order, to authorize any person (in this act referred to as an “authorized controller”) to exercise such functions of control and to do such things, on behalf of the board, but subject to any directions of the board, with respect to that coal mine, as the authorized controller thinks necessary for the purpose of maintaining or increasing the production of coal at that coal mine, and the authorized controller may exercise those functions and do those things accordingly.
According to the Minister, the Government has found that clause 19 is unconstitutional. Other clauses in the bill show how empty is that contention. For example, clause 13 states -
The powers and functions of the board are to include the taking of such action as, in the opinion of the board, is necessary or desirable
There can be no more general words than those -
In general terms, that power would be quite sufficient to enable the board to take control of any mine. However, the power does not end there, because without limiting the particularity of that statement, paragraph g of sub-clause 2 of clause 13 provide that the board shall have power to make provision for -
By sub-clause 3 (f) the board may assume control of the management and operation of any mine, and by sub-clause 3 (g) may acquire and operate any mine. In addition, certain limited powers of discipline are contained in sub-clause 3 (k). No greater powers could be conferred upon a board. Therefore, even a superficial examination of the powers contained in clause 13 makes it obvious to honorable members that the explanation given by the Minister for the omission of Part IV. cannot be sustained. However, the matter does not rest there. Sub-clause 2 of clause 12 provides -
Subject to the Constitution, those powers and functions are by this sub-section, and not otherwise, vested in the board to the extent to which they are not in excess of the legislative power of the Commonwealth.
No matter what the powers in the general terms of the bill may be, they must be read as not to extend beyond the constitutional authority of the Commonwealth. How, then, can the Minister say that doubt exists about the constitutionality of any clause contained in Part IV.? In any event, how can the Minister say that that was the reason why Part IV. will be excluded, when clause 13 contains the particular provision and the general provision giving to theboard complete power to take over a coal-mine? I can offer an explanation for the exclusion of Part IV.
– What is the honorable member’s explanation?
– It is not the explanation which the Minister gave. Part IV. deals with two very important matters when a mine is taken over and controlled by theboard. The first arises under clause 25, which is to be excluded from the bill. It is well that I should read it -
It shallbe a condition of employment by the Board of any person in or about a , controlled mine that, if, in the opinion of the board or the authorized controller of the mine, that person -
Why is clause 25 to be excluded? We do not have to go very far to ascertain the reason. Objection has been taken to that power of discipline. The power was contained in the act of 1944; and the miners’ federation has agitated strongly to have it removed. The royal commissioner dealt with it in his report. Although His Honour pointed out the need for the power to discipline, the Government proposes to delete the clause from the bill. The only other power to discipline will then be contained in paragraphk of sub-clause 2 of clause 13, which reads -
Power to suspend or exclude from employment in the coal industry any superintendent, manager or any other person has been vested in the Commonwealth Government, in regulations both antecedent as well as subsequent to the Coal Production (War-time) Act of 1944. Although the Government has possessed that power for years, it has never exer cised it, and is never likely to exercise it. Therefore, the House is entitled to an explanation of why clause 25 will be excluded.
Part IV. contains provision that when a mine is taken over by the board, the owner of the controlled mine, and through him the share-holders, shall be entitled to such compensation as is determined by agreement between theboard and the owner, or in the case of failure to reach agreement, compensation shall be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction. That provision is to be removed although no provision appears in clause 13 for the payment of compensation. There is in that clause most complete and over-riding power to take control of, to exclude the owners from, and to manage a business, but no provision is made for compensation to those who suffer loss by such action. There is a very good reason for the action that the Government has taken. I have heard it stated that some of the Government’s advisers have in mind avoiding the need to pay compensation, because there will be no constitutional obligation to pay compensation if there is no actual acquisition.
– The honorable gentleman has a suspicious mind.
– If there is no doubt about the requirement to pay compensation, why should not definite provision be made to ensure that any one who suffers a loss which can be proved as the result of the taking over by the board of a mine shall be entitled to just compensation, such as is provided in clause 20, which is now to be omitted? What the Government proposes to do, however, is not to acquire the mines. If it acquired the mines it would he under an obligation to pay compensation in accordance with the terms of the Constitution. I have given the real reason why Part IV. is to be omitted, and it has nothing whatever to do with any alleged constitutional limitation.
I put it to the House that this bill contains all the virtues, if any, and certainly all the vices of the Coal Production (War-time) Act, butif Part IV. be omitted from the measure it will contain no provision whatever for the payment of compensation to the shareholders of companies controlled by the board and no power of discipline such as is contained in the Coal Production (War-time) Act. This is very strange when we look at the matter in the light of the Government’s declared purpose to discipline” those- who cause disturbance in the industry, whether they be employers or employees. There is, however, a new provision in the bill to which attention should be drawn. It appears in clause. IS and reads -
Nothing in this act sholl he deemed to authorize any form of industrial conscription.
Difficulties always arise when political phrases are introduced into legislative enactments. I suggest that in view of the provisions of this clause all real power to discipline, which is said to be contained elsewhere in the measure, will be completely destroyed, because if no form of industrial conscription is to be applied, it may. well follow that men cannot be compelled to go to work under any conditions, cannot be prevented from leaving work under any conditions, and cannot be compelled to go back to work under any conditions. If there is no form of punishment, it will be impossible to take any of the three measures that I have mentioned, because any such act might be construed as a form of industrial conscription. ‘I fail to see how any sanctions can be applied unless it he possible to compel men’ to observe a direction to return to work under an award of a court, or to deal with men who absent themselves from work.
My analysis of the bil] leads me to the conclusion that there is nothing whatever new in it, and that nothing to aid the the production of coal could be done by the enactment of its provisions which cannot be done under the Coal Production (War-time) Act; but the measure is seriously deficient in that it contains no provision for -compensation to be paid as the result of the taking over of coalmines by the board as a means of resolving the problems of the industry. I ask the Minister to state specifically, and by comparison word for word with the Coal Production (War-time) Act, where there is anything new in this- measure.
– The bill brings the States and the Commonwealth together.
– I shall show how bright that remark is. Under the Coal
Production (War-time) Act, no question of bringing State and Commonwealth together arose, for the Commonwealth was empowered to exercise exclusive control over the industry. However, coal has not been produced by that means. The reason for this is that the vice of the act of 1944 and the vice of this bill is that it makes all the powers to be conferred on the board subject to the policy of the Executive. The board is to be subject to political direction. If honorable members will refer back to our discussion of the Coal Production (War-time) Bill in 1944 they will see that the expression “ subject to the directions of the Minister “ was introduced by means of an amendment. Mr. Justice Davidson has reported at considerable length on the subject of political influence, and has stated that political influence is at the very root .of the failure of all schemes which, so far, have been devised to deal with the coal industry.
I wish to make my approach to this problem very clear. I believe in the establishment of a board for coal control. I believe that to be essential, for the industry is in such a condition to-day that control cannot be left to one side or the other. We have some important records to guide us on this point - four of them in fact. They are the reports’ of the New. South Wales royal commission, 1929, the Reid Technical Commission, the Foot Commission, which made its report in England in 1945, and the report of Mr. Justice Davidson. All these authorities agree that it is essential to establish a control board with wide powers over the industry, that the board should consist of men of wide experience trained in management and control, and that in no circumstances should it be subject to political control. In this connexion I direct attention to the following observations made by Mr; Justice Davidson in his report -
In both the above reports-
He was dealing with the Reid and Foot reports - it was recommended that there should be some form of control over the coal industry. Mr. Foot was of the opinion that this control should he arranged internally, the Reid Committee that it should be’ by a governmental authority. The latter opinion was ‘shared by the royal commission of 1929 in New South
Wales. But all concurred in the view that whatever the nature of the authority it should be independent of ministerial interference. The Tennessee Valley Authority in America. also, which probably is the most outstanding modern example of controlled private enterprise or collaboration between public and private enterprise, is so insistent upon freedom from political interference that its chairman hae written : “ It is accurate to say that the Tennessee Valley Authority has demonstrated to the satisfaction of those most directly affected that the task of getting resources developed should be kept nonpolitical. It is now ‘good politics ‘ for political leaders themselves in the Tennessee Valley to urge that politics be kept out of.the Tennessee Valley Authority “. ,
Elsewhere in the report Mr. Justice Davidson also focused attention on the subject of political control, and of its failure. I also direct attention to a statement by Mr. Shinwell,, the Minister for Fuel and Power in the United Kingdom, in which he makes it quite clear that in the control proposed to be imposed in Great Britain there shall be no ministerial direction of the industry.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
– In the short time that is left to me, all that I can do is recapitulate some of the points that I have made. Those who have listened to me must agree that I have established that this bill, from which so much is expected, does not vary in any essential feature from the Coal Production (Wartime) Bill passed by this Government in March, 1944; and, if nothing arose from that act to improve the production of coal, then nothing can be expected from this bill when, it becomes ah act. It. is proper that I should state what, in my opinion, ought to be done when dealing with the coal industry. I can do that only, in short- compass. There should be established a central coal board of three members, not a board of one member as the bill provides, with wide powers over the industry. The state of the coal industry is such that a board of that character is essential in the interests of the people. It should be appointed for a term of at least seven years. I draw attention to the fact that the bill does not state the term for which the proposed board . may heappointed. It may be appointed for a limited term,, and thus will be entirely subject to the whim of the Government. The board should consist of men who, by reason of their experience and training, are qualified for management and control. I want to make it clear that I am opposed to the idea, that all boards should be representative of the employer and employee. After all, our desire is not to set up a debating society, but an authority of action.- The men best qualified to achieve the pro’duction of coal should be sought. If the Government looks around, it can find such men. The board should be completely removed from all political influence. That is one of the most important suggestions that I make. This was recommended in the Foot report in Great Britain in 1945, the report of the New South Wales Royal Commission on Coal in 192S, the report of the Reid Technical Committee on Coal, the report by Mr. . Justice Davidson, and, last, hut by no means least, by Mr. Shinwell, the Labour Minister for Fuel in Great Britain. The legislation should have incorporated in it the principle that, subject to the owners effectively carrying out the general lines of policy laid down by the Joint Coal Board, the management should be left in .the hands - of the owners. That was recommended by both the Foot . report of 1945 and the Davidson report that is. now before the House. I believe, also - and this is very important from the standpoint of the equity of the shareholders - that provision should be made for the payment of compensation for all damage done, and for all loss sustained by the shareholders, in consequence of the operations of’the board, with a proper right of appeal to a judicial tribunal. I point out that the bill does not contain any provision for the compensation of dispossessed mine-owners and the shareholders of coal-mining companies. A coal industrial tribunal should be established to deal with the industrial troubles in the industry. It should consist of a judge of the Arbitration Court, specially appointed to deal with the industry. I am wholly opposed to appointment for a period not exceeding seven years “, as the bill provides, because such an appointee would be at all times mindful of what his political masters were thinking and doing, lt is essential, too, that in all industrial matters both the owners and the men should have removed from their minds the idea that they may canvass any decision which happens to be unfavorable to them, by exerting political pressure on any government that may be in power. Local industrial tribunals should be established, composed of men appointed for fixed terms, so that’ they may exercise their’ functions with a feeling of independence. The men appointed should be removed from the hatreds and the bad psychology of the industry. Indeed, I would exclude all ex-miners, ex-managers and mining superintendents. That suggestion is consistent with the recommendation of Mr. Justice Davidson. All tribunals should be independent, and be given the fullest support in their actions by the Government, in accordance with the recommendation in the Davidson report. His Honour pointed out that it would be impossible to ask tribunals to discharge their duties if every one of their decisions could be canvassed publicly, and if the men, in particular, believed that they could approach their parliamentary representatives to canvass any decision. That would deprive the tribunal of any real power. Appropriate legislation should be introduced, in accordance with the paragraph under that heading in the Davidson report. In that sub-paragraph, His Honour recommended legislation for the purpose of preserving peace in the industry. He insisted that discipline can be established only by agreement or by the rule of law, and said that? since in the unfortunate condition in which the industry now is agreement is impossible; therefore, it must be imposed by rule of law. That conclusion is irresistible. His Honour recommended legislation to prohibit the application of the seniority rule; to enable the Arbitration Court to direct that a secret ballot shall be taken under the supervision of a court official, and to impose a penalty on workers neglecting to vote upon the calling, continuance or discontinuance of a strike; to enable the Court to declare whether action by a union or an employer, or by an official of either, had been the proximate cause of a strike, and to impose a penalty upon such union or employer as the case might be. He made other recommendations, which time does not permit me to state now, in regard to many other matters, provision for which is sadly lacking in this legislation. It is incredible, after a commission appointed as this one was, had sat for many months, had made the most painstaking review of the whole industry, and had recommended specific legislation, that not one of Its recommendations should be given effect. If an approach to this problem is being made with a real desire to obtain more coal, it would be wise to pay regard to the recommendations of this learned judge. Whether we agree or disagree with his recommendations, I regret very much that such unfortunate strictures should have been passed’ upon him as were voiced by one Government supporter earlier to-day. After all, a man can only perform the task allotted to him. Mr. Justice Davidson was appointed by this Government to inquire into the problems of the industry. He has made certain recommendations, t say without hesitation, being one of the few men in the House who have had recourse to his full report, that the Government has not made any attempt to ‘give effect to any of his recommendations. I should like to know from the Minister (Mr. Dedman), when he replies, which specific recommendations he claims are being given effect, which are not already in operation; and why, in particular, legislation designed to preserve discipline in the industry has not been introduced. The problem is, indeed, a difficult one.. I have no desire to introduce controversial matters. But I do contend that, in the approach to the problem, success lies .in giving effect as closely as possible to the recommendations that have been made in the Davidson report.
– I deliberately waited until a. number’ of Opposition members had addressed themselves to this measure, so that I could learn first, what criticism they had to offer of the proposals of the Government, and, secondly, what constructive proposals they had to make as to what the Government should do to overcome the difficulties that are now associated with the production of coal. With the exception of the honorable member for. Warringah (Mr. Spender), who has just resumed his seat, I have listened in vain. I do not take that honorable member’s suggestions very seriously.- But for some speeches that were made by the late Prime Minister, Mr.- Curtin, and Mr. Justice Davidson’s report, every member of the Opposition would have been incapable of making any contribution to this debate.
In my opinion, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who introduced the bill, dealt very effectively with the problem that confronts this country to-day. That problem is not one which arose only yesterday or last year, lt has confronted governments in this country for a number of years. If honorable gentlemen opposite know the solution of it, why did they not apply it when they occupied the government benches in this Parliament? Beyond attempting to make party political capital out of the present difficulties of the nation, they have not had a word to say.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction drew attention to the fact that the demand for coal has increased enormously, and will increase as the years go by. In connexion with electricity, the consumption of coal was 1,163,000 tons in 1939, and 1,675,000 tons in 1945; with gas it was 578,000 tons in 1939, and 772,000’ tons in 1945 and with the railways it was 994,000 tons in 1939, and 1,328,000 tons, in 1945. It is true that the demand for bunker coal and coal for export has decreased, and that in some degree has relieved the situation. It is evident that private enterprise, in its. control of this industry, has completely failed. Not one member of the Opposition has endeavoured to argue that this is an efficient industry. All of them have admitted that it requires re-organization. Even the honorable member for Warringah said that a board should.be constituted, and that there should be a new organization to control the industry. Not one of. them has defended those who are at present in control of it. The admission Ls general that the industry is inefficient, and that those in control of it are incapable of properly organizing it. Therefore honorable members argue. there should be some change. But, they say, the change should not be in the direction proposed by the Government. Private enterprise, as I have said, has failed dismally in its control of the industry. Wasteful methods of production have been employed, and the welfare of the workers has been neglected. Listening to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), one would imagine that going down into the bowels of the earth and winning coal for the nation is quite a pleasant occupation. I should like the honorable gentleman to tell the people of this country why, if the conditions are so good, 2,000 men have left the industry in the last twelve months. During the war years, many more men would have left it had they had ‘ the opportunity to do so. Honorable members will well, recollect that when action was taken to exclude certain men from the industry, they were no sooner out of.it than some honorable gentlemen opposite lent their support .to the representations to have them released from the armed forces so that they could return to the industry to win more coal.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made some reference to pillar extraction. That has been a very live matter in. the industry for many years. All honorable members opposite .have quoted from various reports of the investigations that have been conducted by different persons. I propose to show ‘that the present methods of production are distinctly wasteful, and that those in control of the industry are destroying a national asset which, should be preserved as such. On the subject of the bord and pillar method of extraction, Dr. Moulden, in his book, Economics from Australian Coal, has this to say -
The bord and pillar method has as its objective the low cost extraction of the best coal first. Competition for the existing market dictates this policy for the colliery proprietor.
Mr. Justice Davidson in his report on the industry in 1929, said this -
Many of the thickest seams in New South Wales were being inefficiently mined and existing methods of production would result in a loss of 6G to 80 per cent, in the available supplies.
This waste could be avoided if the proprietors were prepared to introduce the system of hydraulic or pneumatic stowage. It is estimated that in the Cessnock district alone 700,000,000 tons of coal has been permanently lost by inefficient methods of working. It will be seen, therefore, that on a consumption basis of about 14,000,000 tons a year, coal has been wasted that would have kept our industries going for a great many years. ‘ At Aberdare Extended the new method is being tried, but the proprietors have been very slow to introduce new ideas’ when it is a matter of benefiting the nation rather than themselves. At Broken Hill, the method of hydraulic stowage ‘has been in operation for years, and there is no reason why its use should not have been extended to the coal-fields.
The Leader of the Opposition questioned the attitude of the miners’ federation to the mechanization of the mines, lt is not true that the federation, or the miners themselves, have opposed mechanization. What they have argued, and rightly so, is that mechanization should bc-, introduced scientifically, with the idea of increasing production, rather than of increasing profits. What have the proprietors done in regard to mechanization? Official figures show that at Abermain No. 2 and at Richmond Main,’ although the mines have been mechanized, production has declined. The most important result of mechanization is that fewer men have been employed. The colliery proprietors were concerned only to -benefit themselves, and had no consideration for the needs of the nation or for the welfare of the miners.
Let us consider the numerous fires and floodings which have occurred in various mines. A fire recently threatened the complete destruction of one of the most valuable coal seams on the northern coalfield of’ New South Wales. All of them have been due to the fact that the proprietors have concentrated on winning coal quickly, and thus making more profit, rather than on taking the precautionsnecessary to protect the nation’s asset against flood or fire.
The welfare of the miners has been consistently neglected. Statistics show that the fatal accidents in coal mines in New South Wales from 1S90 to 1946, have totalled 1,116, or an average of twenty each year. Evidently, coal-mining is not the pleasant occupation which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) would have us believe. In 1887, 81 lives were lost in the Bulli disaster. In 1902, at Mr Kembla, 95 lives were lost, and in 1921, at Mr Mulligan, 98 lives were lost. In Great Britain, from. 1893 to 1914, 23,325 miners were killed, an average of 1,111 a year, a casualty rate such as would be suffered in a major military operation.
Reference has been made to the dust menace in mines. Here is a statement by an officer of the miners’federation -
Of 3,000 men in the South Coast last year we put 120 men off work totally incapacitated who will never work again, including a’ man and his’ two sons about 30 years of age, the man 57, because ‘ their lungs were saturated with coal dust.
The only effective attempt to deal with the dust menace has been at the Coalcliff colliery, while under government control. At South Bulli, of 430 underground workers, 77 have retired since 1935. Mr. F. Lowden,’ president of the southern miners, has stated that a proper examination would show that 50 per cent, of south coast - miners are suffering from the effects of dust in some form or other. If I continue to quote the opinions of mining union officials, as to working conditions in the coal pits, honorable members opposite may’ say that I am giving a one sided picture of the position. Therefore, I quote the opinion of Mr. Jack secretary of the Coal Commission, who has been cited as. an authority many times by honorable members opposite. Discussing conditions of employment, Mr. Jack said -
Although it may be difficult for you to believe that in 1945 such conditions should exist, I found miners coal-getting in temperatures of 123 degrees fahrenheit dry bulb, with a wet bulb reading of 11,5 degrees. The conditions were foul, ni,d the flame of an oil safety lamp was extinguished within ten yards of tlie face. In the same pit miners were working naked, one man with a hose playing water on his mate while he was working. When I inquired what it was all about, the miner directed a hose onto the coal face and the party were enveloped in a cloud of ‘steam.
Those are the deplorable conditions under which the miners have to work. The sooner honorable members opposite realize that the only persons willing to go into the bowels of the earth and win -coal for the nation are the members of the miners’ federation, the better, it will be. “We have been, told that the owners of the collieries cannot afford to provide better conditions. Here is an illustration of the profits which some of the proprietors have taken from the industry. In 190S the Bellambi Coal Company had a capital of £225,000. In 1930 repayment of capital had amounted to £520,000. Then the company was reconstructed with a capital of £130,000, and with reserves amounting to £118,000, a total of £248,000. Thus, after paying back £520,000 on an- original capital of £225,000 there remained a total of £248j000. That method of accounting is one which no doubt will commend itself to the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). It should, therefore, be clear that those who put capital into the industry were well able to- afford the- necessary improvements. During the depression, as well as in other years, the Bellambi company never ceased to pay dividends, which were sometimes :as high as 17-£ per cent. The principal shareholders in the company are Burns Philp and Company and Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited. I have here the report of Mr. Justice Campbell, in which he discusses the profits made by the collieries, and he says that profits as high as 155 per cent, were earned on capital. Why did not honorable members opposite quote those reports when discussing the profits of the coal-mining industry? They w.ere studiously silent regarding passages which they thought reflected upon the coal owners.
Honorable members opposite have argued that if we could only eliminate stoppages in the mines all would be well, and we would have all the coal we need. I know something of the coal-mining industry, and of the industrial disturbances which have taken place in it. In 1909, there was a Liberal government in New South “Wales. It is a strange coincidence that there should once more bo a Liberal party which advocates the application of the same methods as those employed by the New South Wales Liberal government in 1909. That was the year in which Peter Bowling was paraded through the streets in leg-irons. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) knows the circumstances well. Indeed, it is probable that if he had not run away to Victoria, he would have suffered the same fate.
Honorable members opposite say that in industrial matters the miners should never argue with the referee; .that they have arbitration machinery, and should accept the findings of the Arbitration ‘ Court. There was a dispute in 1929, and it was not because the miners defied the authority of the Arbitration Court, but because the owners issued an ultimatum to the federation demanding that rates of wages be reduced by 12^ per cent. That decision
Avas made solely by the private coalowners, and was never referred to an arbitration authority. The miners- resisted, and for over twelve months the whole coal-mining industry on the northern fields of New South Wales was tied up.
Let us now pass on to 1940, when the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister. In that year there was a disastrous coal strike at a time when the country was actively engaged in war, and fighting for its very existence. What methods did the right honorable gentleman employ then? He went to the coal fields and appealed to the miners, but they bad no confidence in him, and his pleas were of no avail. As the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has pointed out, it was because of that disastrous strike that the country’s coal stocks were depleted, and that the position is now so grave. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) argued that the colliery proprietors had been completely exonerated from any responsibility for the strikes which have occurred in recent years in the industry by the report of Mr. Justice Davidson, and by other competent authorities who had carried out investigations. Here is an illustration of how the proprietors can provoke men to down tools. The Bulli company recently varied a practice which hadbeen followed for many years, namely, the practice of supplying to employees on the south coast coal for domestic use. The directors of the company decided that men awaiting the completion of compensation claims were no longer entitled to this concession, a decision which led to much irritation and unrest. Pin-pricking tactics of this sort by the proprietors are the cause of most of the trouble which frequently occurs in the industry. I was Minister for Labour in the first Curtin LabourGovernment, and had some experience in dealing with both the colliery proprietors and the officials of the miners’ federation. I say without fear of contradiction that at least 90 per cent. of the disputes that occurred in the pits during my period of office werethe responsibility of the colliery proprietors and not of the members of the miners’ federation. I cite two instances. While I was Minister for Labour I read in the lying daily press that a dispute had occurred in the Vale of Clwydd pit in the western district of New South Wales because the miners’ federation was demanding that a staff man employed at that pit for a number of years should join the federation. Whilst I did not believe that that was a proper ground upon which to hold up production, I did not accept the view expressed by the newspaper. I went to the district, summoned a meeting of the miners’ lodge, and discovered that the question of the federationmembership of the man concerned had not arisen until after the stoppage had occurred. The real reason for the stoppage was not mentioned by the newspapers. The men working at that mine were contract miners who were paid according to the quantity of coal they produced. They formed the opinion that the weighbridge on which the skips were being weighed was not functioning accurately and they had demanded that it be tested. After lengthy negotiations with the management a test was made, and it was then discovered that the weighbridge was weighing every skip of coal a half cwt. light. The men were reasonable ; they did not suggest that the management was responsible for the inaccuracy of the weighbridge; they realized that it might have been due to some mechanical fault, and they interviewed the management because they wanted production to continue. They said they were prepared to go back to work on the basis that they would be paid so much for a coal skip filled to water level. All they asked by way of compensation was that theybe credited with a half cwt. for every skip that had been put on the weighbridge on the day it was discovered to be faulty. The management would not agree. I called a conference and the dispute was rapidly settled on the basis of the proposal made by the miners. Another instance occurred on the northern coal-fields’ of New South Wales. While I was visiting that area as Minister for Labour, a secretary of one of the miners’ lodges informed me that a stoppage was to occur at a pit on the following morning. He said that the reason for the stoppage was that the management would not agree to the exchange of places by two workers. Following the quarterly cavil, it was discovered that one of the miners, an elderly and sick man, had drawn one of the most difficult positions in the pit where the timbering was bad and working conditions were consequently heavy and dangerous. The man concerned realized that unless a change were effected he could not continue at work. He conferred with another lodge member, a young, physically fit man, who was employed as a brattice hand, a comparatively light job. They agreed to exchange places, but the management would not give its consent. A sensible attitude would have been to have allowed the physically fit man to exchange places with the sick man so that greater production could be achieved and the likelihood of a dispute averted. The management, however, remained adamant, taking the point that the miners’ federation had always insisted that the men should take the places allotted to them at the cavil. I was anxious to keep the pit working so I telephoned the manager. What I said to him on the telephone cannot be repeated in this House, but the stoppage was averted.
Honorable members opposite have quoted from the report of Mr. Justice Davidson, chairman of the Commonwealth board of inquiry into the coal industry. I am well aware of what honorable members opposite did in .connexion with this industry when they were in office. I have already recounted how the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) went to the coal-fields with a policy of appeasement, the very policy which he now charges this Government with following and denounces as being the principal cause of the present coal shortage. The Government supported by honorable members opposite also tried other methods. As a matter of fact Mr. Justice Halse Rogers conducted an inquiry into certain activities of Ministers and supporters of the Government respecting the coal industry, yet not one honorable member opposite has mentioned a word about his report.’ In 1941, the anti-Labour Government, following an attack by the Labour party in the House, appointed Mr. Justice Halse Rogers a royal commission to inquire into the circumstances in which certain public moneys were utilized, to whom they were paid, and the purposes for which they were expended. That commission has often been referred to as the’ inquiry into the “ slush fund “. Let us examine the purpose for which the fund was established. Out of that secret fund the then Government financed the Australian Democratic- Front, which was formed in the vestibule of the Sydney Town Hall on the 14th February, 1940. The inaugural meeting of that body was addressed by the right honorable memberfor North Sydney. On page 5 of his report Mr. Justice Halse Rogers said -
Before that date Mr. George -Christie had discussed its formation with Mr. Hughes, with the approval of Cabinet.
Mr. Christie subsequently became an officer of. the Australian Democratic Front. That shows’ clearly that the responsibility for the establishment of that organization rests equally upon every honorable member of the Opposition. And this is the purpose for which the moneys were used - a rather peculiar arrangement, particularly in view of the fact that the Opposition has accused this Government of dishonest methods. Mr. Justice Halse Rogers found that the moneys from the special cabinet fund were, with the authority of the Commonwealth Treasurer, transferred to the account of Sir George Knowles, the then Commonwealth Solicitor-General, and that from Sir’ George Knowles’s account a sum of £4,995 had been paid into an account in the name of G. A. Watson, Deputy Crown Solicitor, Sydney. From Mr. Watson’s account it was paid to the Australian Democratic Front. If everything had been fair and above board why were not the payments made direct to the organization? It is obvious that they were passed through a number of accounts in an attempt to hide the source from which they came. Cheques Were drawn on the fund and paid to individuals for various purposes. Mr. Justice Halse Rogers said, on page 7 of his report -
We have an extraordinary series of contradictions. In some cases recollection only is involved, in others there must be deliberate perjury . . . There is no doubt that one or more witnesses lied valiantly. One of the great difficulties in the case from my point of view as Commissioner is that some of the Witnesses had given definite answers on matters of recollection and later, when their attention has been directed to certain other evidence and to certain proved facts which arc inconsistent with their testimony, they have been forced to admit that what they had previously sworn could not he correct.
He went on to say -
I pointed out that both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fadden had been asked many questions on matters of detail, and in several instances had given replies which were, subsequently shown to be incorrect. -s
On page 8 of the report he said -
Consequently he- referring to Mr. Hughes - made several mistakes. Mr. Fadden possibly’ made more. Their testimony as to matters incidental to the transaction cannot be relied on: They have increased the difficulties of counsel appearing before the commission, and of myself, because they have made harder the .task and caused greater difficulty in piecing together a connected narrative.
I now deal with the evidence given by Mr. Watson, the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney. Mr. Watson asked Mr. Fadden, “ What is the nature of the payments ? “ Mr. Fadden replied -
They have relation to the promise by executive officers in the coal industry that there would be freedom from further strife during the war.
That was a display of very strong action on the part of honorable members opposite when they formed the Government. As one honorable member has said, it was not a policy of appeasement, it was worse; it was an attempt to corrupt the miners’ leaders so that they would betray the very men whom they were elected to serve. On page 13 of his report Mr. .Justice . Halse Rogers went on to say-
The case is the worst I have ever struck. To me the principle of making a scape-goat of any one is absolutely abhorrent. In-the transaction which has been under investigation many persons have taken a more or less prominent part. If the transaction which has been carried out is discreditable, I think that all concerned should bear some share of the discredit.
Mr. Monahan, K.C., who was .assisting the commission, asked that the evidence of the right honorable member for North Sydney and the Leader of the Australian Country party be rejected. He claimed that it could not be relied upon because it was contradictory. In regard to that request Mr. Justice Halse Rogers said -
I pointed out that Mr. Monahan was, in effect, asking me to reject the evidence of Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fadden as to the purpose, for winch the money was made available and that he (Mr. Monahan) was making the most serious possible suggestion against both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fadden. . . [n view of these circumstances I suggested that these gentlemen might wish to” be represented before the commission. Thereafter, Mr. Dovey, K.C., and Dr. Louat, obtained permission to -appear on behalf of Mr. Hughes, and Mr. Spender, K.C., and ‘Mr. Barwick for Mr. Fadden.
Following that, His Honour granted an adjournment of the hearing so that these two gentlemen could confer with their counsel, and have time to reconsider the evidence which they had already given. Yet these are the people who say that they can show this Government the way in which to solve the problems of the coal industry.
It has been said repeatedly in this debate that the officers of the miners’ federation have no control over their members, and that their members disobey them and will not recognize their authority. Who is responsible for that position ? Prior to the inauguration of the “ slush fund “ and the payments made from it, the miners’ officials had some control over their members; but the machinations of honorable members opposite undermined and destroyed the confidence of the rank and ‘file of the miners in their own. leaders, and, accordingly those honorable gentlemen are responsible for a great deal of the unrest and dissatisfaction that exists in the industry to-day.
I have said that no honorable member opposite, with the exception of the honorable member for Warringah, has made any suggestion as to how we should handle this industry. The honorable member for Warringah, who changes .his policy to suit the political wind - he is an Independent one day and a Liberal the next - made a statement regarding the problems of the coal-mining industry, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 2Sth May last. That statement is at complete variance with his speech to-night. The newspaper report of his statement is as follows : -
The rule of law- and that appears to be a great phrase of the honorable gentleman - in respect of illegal industrial stoppages must be maintained. All strikes not first authorized by a majority of the members of a union must be adjudged, illegal.
Mr. Spender urged that if the fact that a strike was illegal was established on application to a specified court, the funds and assets of the union concerned . should be “ frozen “ and vested in an official receiver. If a strike has been declared illegal and if the union failed to comply with a notice to resume work, a substantial fine, recoverable against its frozen assets should be imposed. Mr. Spender said that a union official who refused to carry out any order of the court should be removed from office and disqualified from holding office for a stated period.
The honorable gentleman did not continue his plan far enough to tell us how they would elect successors to the displaced officers, and I can only assume that he would adopt the same method of appointing new officers of the organization as he adopted when as Minister for the Army he appointed himself a lieutenantcolonel in the Menzies Government. He would adopt dictatorial methods. ‘ I have often listened to the honorable member’s speeches and ho shows many characteristics of a dictator. Actually, he has a great physical resemblence to Hitler. So I am not surprised at -his attitude.’ One argument advanced by the honorable gentlemen opposite is that the miners are “ going slow “, that whereas there are more men in the industry than in earlier years they are now producing less coal. It is difficult to determine, merely on production figures whether or not a greater effort is being made to win coal, because circumstances in pits vary from time to time. The years quoted are, therefore, of the utmost significance.. Since honorable members opposite like figures so much, I point out that in 1927 more than 11,000,000 tons was produced in New South “Wales by 24,500 employees and that in 1942 more than 12,000,000 tons was produced by 17,500 employees. So, in the later year, the miners produced more coal per employee than formerly. But I do not accept production as a reliable basis on which to determine whether the men are doing an honest day’s work, because conditions vary from pit to pit and from year to year. I do know, however, that official figures disclose that coalminers in the United States of America produce about five times as much per man as they do in Great Britain. Honorable members opposite, who are so fond of contrasting the ‘ production of Australian and British coal-miners, might well argue on these figures that the British miner is not doing his best to produce coal, whereas, it is well known that the depth of the seam and the distance of the coal face from the pit top, and all the difficulties of the industry, must be taken into account in determining whether miners are getting a proper return or not. When the Leader of the Opposition dealt with absenteeism he was not fair. He grouped all causes of absenteeism under the one heading and did not refer to the fact that a great deal of absenteeism is caused by sickness. He did. give the figures from 1942 to 1945, the latest year for which they are avail able regarding the amount of working time lost from various causes. I was Minister for Labour and National Service in 1942. That was the year when Statutory Rule No. 77 was brought into force. Honorable gentleman opposite screamed for the provisions of this regulation to be applied against the coalminers. I refused to do so, because I believed such methods to be abhorrent and also because I realized that one could not force production of coal by that policy. In that year fewer strikes and less absenteeism occurred than in any other year since. That proves that a sympathetic approach to the miners’ problems brought the result that this country .urgently wants, namely, more coal. About midway through his speech the Leader of the Opposition decided that he ought to say something about the good men in the coal industry, but the only thing that he could think to say was this -
I turn now to consider some of the vital facts that surround this ‘problem. The first is the deplorable record, indeed, the wicked record, of New South Wales coalminers in the matter- of absenteeism, from whatever cause. When I say that let it be understood at once - because every one in” this. House knows that the average coal-miner in New South Wales is a decent enough man - that the high incidence of absenteeism is due to the absurd system of “ one out, all out “.
Let us examine his own attitude to the policy of “ one out, all out “. During th° war we had a body, known .as the Advisory War Council. The right honorable gentleman was a member representing the Opposition. He suddenly decided to apply the “walk-out” policy when this country was battling for its very existence, but he was not satisfied with walking out alone, and he determined that the right honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Warringah, who were alsoOpposition members, should also walk out. He believed in the “one out all out.” policy, and when they, refused toohey bis command to resign, he had them expelled from the Opposition political party, thus showing the inconsistency of Ids statement during the discussion.
I say in fairness to the miners and. their organization that a great deal. is needed in their industry to improve their working and living conditions. This Government is the only one that has made a real approach to their problems. The others have talked a lot but done nothing. The miners, prior to the advent of Labour to the treasury bench, depended on their own efforts to get from the controllers of the industry conditions at least a little better than those that operated in it in bygone years. The Government is following a course different from that which Great Britain is following. That is because some doubt has been expressed about the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. I hold the opinion that the Labour Government should have attempted to nationalize the coal-mining industry, that we should have tested the Constitution on that issue, because I have heard varying legal opinions as to what our powers may be. But in Great Britain, where there are no constitutional limitations upon the authority of its Parliament, and where there is greater experience of the industry than in Australia, the Government has decided ,to nationalize, not only the coal mines, but also electricity plants and coke ovens, and other associated activities. Mr. Shinwell, British Minister for Fuel and Power, in introducing the bill to nationalize the industry, said -
It cannot be denied that frequent efforts have been made in the last twenty years to devise a remedy. I can hardly recall a session in Parliament in that period without either a coal debate or a coal crisis, yet every treatment prescribed to cure the malady, whether by Sankey Samuel, or Coal Tie-organization Commission, has resulted in failure.
The Government of New Zealand has taken over and is operating successfully a number of mines. The anti-Labour Government of South Australia is operating the Leigh Creek coal deposits with Commonwealth assistance. They were not ‘handed over to private enterprise to- develop.
I now come to the matter of cooperation. This bill gives great powers to the board. If those powers are wisely and well used great good can be clone, but if they are used unwisely great harm and industrial turmoil can be caused, because it is evident that there is no way in which authority can be efficiently exercised in any industry without the good-will of the men employed in it. Mr. Shinwell has recognized the truth of that, because, in introducing the bill to nationalize the British pits he said -
I have not provided in the bill for statutory consultations with the workers employed in the industry. Such consultation is certain, and statutory provision is superfluous. It would’, indeed have been extremely difficult to provide for statutory consultation with all the different bodies, who represent the workers in the varied and far-reaching activities which would bc carried out by the board. But consultation with the workmen’s representatives is inevitable, if the board is to achieve that degree of co-operation which is essential for its success. The board must provide for the continuance and stability of pit production committees, and for consultation on all those matters which concern the personnel of the industry.
If the bill now before this House fails the only course left to “bring stability to the industry will be nationalization which will make the industry completely governmentowned and controlled.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I understand that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), while I was out of the chamber, made some reference to a matter that was also raised by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). I sought to obtain a copy of his speech, but I have not been able to do so. If I find that, what I am about to say is insufficient, I shall ask you, Mr. Speaker, to allow me to make a further personal explanation.
– Do I understand the right honorable member to say that he does not know wha t the honorable’ member for Robertson said ?
– I did not hear, what he said, but I have been told, and I did hear what the Minister for Transport said.
– The right honorable gentleman may refer to that, but I think it would be unwise, until he confirms his belief of what the honorable member for Robertson said, to refer to that. If he. deals only with what the Minister for Transport said, he will be quite in order.
– The Minister for Transport has said a great number of things in his usual way. Amongst other things, he sought to attach to me and some of my colleagues in a former government the charge of having acted improperly in the disbursement of public funds. In his speech the facts were distorted and a sinister and entirely improper construction was put upon them. I want to state what the position was. During the regime of the Menzies Government the inquiry to which the Minister referred was launched. Mr. Justice Halse Rogers was appointed a royal commissioner. After he had been appointed a change of government occurred, and the new government carried on the inquiry which the Government of which I was a member had instituted. The inquiry was into the “circumstances under which public moneys were used for or in connexion with the activities of the Australian Democratic Front, and to whom and for what purpose such moneys were paid “. The inquiry was held. From what the Minister said one would imagine that there was in the judge’s findings some reflection upon me and my colleagues. His Honour’s finding, on the other hand, reflected very gravely upon the president of the miners’ federation.
– I rise to order. I submit that the right honorable member for North Sydney is permitted to make a personal explanation on the ground that he had been personally misrepresented. By now reading a portion of His Honour’s finding which does not refer to himself, the right honorable gentleman is continuing the debate.
– -Undoubtedly, there is substance in the point of order taken by the Minister. The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member who considers that he has been misrepresented by another honorable member, shall have the right to make a personal explanation, but he may deal only with the alleged misrepresentation. Therefore, the right honorable gentleman would not be in order in introducing matter to which the Minister did not refer.
– His Honour came to the following conclusion: -
For the reasons given I am driven to the conclusion that I should find that the moneys in question were paid out of the account established -in the name of the Australian
Democratic Front by Mr. Watson ‘ under the instructions of the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, with” the approbation of the Acting Prime Minister, Mr. Fadden; that the moneys were paid out through- Mr. Winkler to Mr. Nelson in accordance with the instructions of the Acting Prime Minister; that the purpose for which the moneys were paid was that indicated in the receipts and in the letter from Mr. Watson to Sir George Knowles already referred to, that is to say that it had relation to the promise of the executive officers in the coal industry that there would be freedom from further strikes in the coal industry during the war and that it was meant for a campaign in support of the declaration of Mr. Nelson and Mr. Kellock. I find that such a campaign was not in effect conducted and there is no evidence before me as to what happened to the money after it was received by Mr. Nelson; and I find that on the facts proved in evidence there is nothing to implicate any other member of the Coal Miners Federation or the members of the council with the transaction.
Now, in the face of that finding by His Honour, I ask honorable members and the people of this country whether they believe that the charges made by the Minister have any foundation?
– What did His Honour say about the evidence given by the right honorable gentleman ?
– His Honour dealt with the case on the evidence. After he had read the evidence which the Minister did not hear, which he has never read, and which, if he did read, he would not under. stand, His Honour made that finding. The Minister suggested that the fund was secret, and was used by the Government of which I was a member in an improper way, and that there was, something unusual in the Government having control of a fund for that specific purpose. The evidence revealed, since reference has been made to the evidence, that such a fund had been under the control of the government for’ many years. A few days ago, it was disclosed that such a fund was controlled by this Government. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked what the Government had done with the money, and whether it had been used, let us say, for the welfare of the country, for the suppression of evidence, or- for the arrest of persons engaged in subversive activities, and he did not receive an answer.
In conclusion, I point out that the inquiry to which the Minister referred was initiated by the Government of which I was a member. The investigation was conducted by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and he found without any doubt that the only person who had used the money improperly was the president of the miners’ federation.
– We have listened to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) deliver a characteristic speech in true Yarra bank and Sydney Domain style. He treated the House to his usual diatribe of class and sectional hatred and bitterness, and concluded a most inglorious speech by attacking two former Prime Ministers - men whom His Majesty the King has been pleased to honour with the title of Privy Councillor.
– Before His Honour, Mr. Justice Halse Rogers held the inquiry.
– Despite the imputations which the Minister has made, I inform the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) that His Majesty was pleased to confer upon the right honorable member for Darling Downs after the inquiry. The public knows perfectly well that these two gentlemen are men of high standing and prestige, who have served the country well. We have only to compare their public record and standing with that of their traducer to see in proper perspective the shallowness of the Minister’s charge.
The Minister began a characteristic speech by stating, in effect, that all the difficulties which confronted the coal industry were the result of maladministration by the owners. He accused them of being inefficient, of being unconcerned with the welfare of their employees, and of neglecting to mechanize the. mines in order more effectively to win coal for national purposes. Indeed, the whole of his attack was directed in a sectional and bitter way against the owners who have served this country well, improved conditions in the mines and won coal for Australia most efficiently. Yet those men have been subjected to a succession of acts of industrial anarchy by abody of men supported by this
Government, whose efforts to increase the production of coal have been futile. The Minister accused the owners of being inefficient: I remind him of the sorry record of the Commonwealthcontrolled mine atCoalcliff. On the 20th June, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) stated that because of absenteeism at that mine the production loss in 1945 was 34 per cent. He stated that the accumulated loss on the mine since the Commonwealth Government assumed control in March, 1944, until the end of March, 1946, was £56,000. In addition, the cost of production which in March, 1945, was 24s.10d. a ton had increased byMarch, 1946, to 27s. 3d. a ton. For further evidence, one has only to examine the record of the State coal mine at Lithgow, where the cost of production and marketing is higher than that of the mines conducted by private enterprise in the western district. Those examples reveal that the inefficiency which he attributes to private enterprise - I deny that it exists - is greater under government control. The same sorry story can be told wherever the nationalization of industry has been attempted. However, I do not propose to follow the Minister into the gutter with his bitter sectional and personal attacks. I shall leave him there, because he has reached the stage where he is completely satisfied with himself and his surroundings.
I have been endeavouring to discover whether I can say anything new about the coal situation. As long as I have been . a member of this Parliament, I have been hearing debates on the coalmining industry. When the present Government took office, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, spoke in devastating phrases his thoughts of the coalminers and their actions at a time when Australia was facing the greatest crisis in its history. The late Prime Minister spoke brilliant words and phrases, but they did not produce more coal. To-day, the people of Australia are. suffering serious inconvenience as the result of the curtailment of railway services and the lack of ordinary amenities. Industry is being brought to a standstill because of the failure to win coal. Industry cannot be carried on with words. The time for words has long since passed, and we must find a new approach to “the problem of winning coal. So far as I can see, the only solution is to return to the fundamental enforcement of the rule of law in industry. So long as this Government is not prepared to enforce the rule of law in industry, stoppages, strikes, absenteeism, and industrial anarchy will continue, and the production of coal will be reduced. Let us examine the attempts made by the Go’vernment to win more coal. First, the Government attempted to appease the coal-miners’ in every possible way. It met their representatives in conference in Canberra, and alternately cajoled and threatened them. It appointed a coal commissioner to control the industry. When appeasement failed, the Government caused summonses to be issued against the miners, but the summonses were subsequently withdrawn. When some miners were fined, the Government remitted the penalties. The Government appointed Mr. Justice Davidson a ‘royal commissioner to inquire into the coalmining industry, and then ignored his recommendations. Finally, the Government introduced this bill - almost a repetition of the Coal Production (War-time) Act of 1944, which failed to increase production. The sum total of its efforts is reflected in our low coal reserves, the dislocation of industry, the limitation of transport, and prohibition of the use of electricity for domestic purposes. Yet, after all the years of experience of appeasement which this Government has had, it has brought down a bill which is chiefly notable for the germs of nationalization which are to be found in it. Ironically enough, on the day that the Minister made his second-reading speech on the bill, 31 mines were idle in N~ew South Wales, and on three working days in that week there was a loss of 52,000 tons of coal. The . same week was notable for a record loss of production, namely, 82,570 tons. The Prime Minister, in replying to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition on the bill, referred to the heritage of hate behind happenings on the coal-fields, and this evening the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) recalled to our -minds -the names of Peter Bowling, Wade, Weaver and Rothbury. What the Prime Minister meant to convey to us could be put in these words : “ The leaders of governments which have taken a strong stand in order that coal might be won for the nation suffered political massacre, but because those men, for high national purposes, decided to win coal and for that were politically massacred, I will not do so, come hell or high water, notwithstanding my oath to administer the laws of the country impartially”. He said, in effect, “ I will appease the men, I will capitulate and retreat before any advance of the recalcitrant miners; but I will not face political massacre. Leaders of other governments- have suffered political massacre because of their efforts to win coal. I do not question their motives, but I say that I will not risk political massacre in order to win coal. It may be the duty of every Prime Minister of this country to do his utmost to obtain coal for industrial and domestic purposes,- but I will not face political massacre for this reason “.
The Prime Minister had something to say about the sickness and dusting from which coal-miners suffered. It is rather strange that, although the right honorable gentleman and other honorable members opposite have referred frequently to the sickness, accident and fatality rates among coal-miners, they have not produced any statistics in support of their arguments. Usually when an argument of that nature is advanced statistics are produced to support it, but that has not been done in this instance. All we have heard is a tirade against the owners. The honorable member for Hunter has magnified the dangers that confront coal-miners in comparison with metalliferous miners. I shall cite some figures which will indicate clearly that the sickness, accident and fatality rates in the coal-mining industry, compared with those in metalliferous mining, in the period 1936-40 do not bear out the arguments of honorable gentlemen opposite. My table ends at 1940, because, owing to war conditions, production in greatly restricted after that year. It metalliferous mines and quarries was reads as follows: -
Mr. Justice Davidson said something on this subject which I am sure will be enlightening to some honorable gentlemen. He referred to - exaggerated suggestions that the miners are subject to all kinds of diseases and dangers in their daily work to a much greater degree than persons in other occupations. and went on -
The time has arrived when a note of realism should be. struck in order to dissipate the cloud of maudlin sentimentality that is everlastingly spread over the industry with verybad effect.
This report, let me remind honorable members, was prepared after .more than twelve months of close investigation of the conditions’ of coa.1-Miners. Mr. Justice Davidson cited figures relating to injuries covering the period from late on Thursday or early on Friday of each week until the beginning of the following week which show that the claims for incapacity were very much higher during those days of each week. His comment on this point was -
An unmarried second class shiftman would recover in compensation for this period, £1 10s. as against a wages loss .of £1 4s. Sd. If he were married, with one child, he would draw £2 5s. as against a wages loss of £1 4s. 8d.
J.-am sure the significance of those figures will not be lost on the House! His Honour went on to examine the effect of workers compensation on the cost of New South “Wales coal production, and said that the amending State Act, No. 13 of 1942, by providing for unlimited liability in certain cases, in which liability was formerly limited to £1,000, threw such a burden on the coal mining industry that the Government agreed to assume liability during the war for all payments in excess of £100,000. This acceptance of the total obligation of the mine owners is said to have cost the Government more than £500,000.
The fact of the matter is that the Government has been paying extraordinarily large sums in subsidies to the coal-mining industry in consequence of the men making such heavy claims in respect of sickness 1 and incapacity. Mr. Justice Davidson was of the opinion that the claim that the sickness, accident and fatality rates were higher among coalminers than among any other miners was fallacious. He also drew attention to the circumstances which prevail in regard to the retirement of coal-miners, and pointed out that in many instances coal-miners claimed, only shortly before their retirement, that they were suffering from permanent incapacity. They did this in order to obtain payments substantially in excess of normal pension rates. On this point Mr. Justice Davidson observed -
Apparently it is only over-night that the development of the disease has had the alleged effect.
Altogether His Honour used bitter and critical words in respect of certain aspects of the industry, and he debunked what he described as the “maudlin sentimentality “ of many claims made concerning the dangers of coal-mining.
I bring to the notice of honorable members the position that has arisen in connexion with the coal-miners pension funds in various States. When these funds were established the expectation of life of the coal-miners was the subject of guesses, and the guesses proved to be wide of the mark. This, is shown by .the fact that capital deficits in funds in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia are listed as follows: -
The fact of the matter is that many miners who were expected to die did not die, and the funds were not sufficiently stable to meet the claims made upon them. I challenge honorable gentlemen opposite to disprove the figures that, I have been giving in respect of the sickness, accident and fatality rates and of the funds to’ which I referred.
During the last few weeks three coalminers who claimed that they were 100 per cent, incapacitated- have been awarded £5 a week for life. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite would still have ‘ us believe that coal-mining is the Cinderella industry in which conditions are so utterly objectionable that men feel compelled to strike against them. We have been told also that the coal-miners are a down-trodden community and that the industry is altogether repugnant. Compare that pension of £5 a week with the payment of £2 10s. a week to the 100 per cent, disabled ex-servicemen who has fought to preserve the conditions under which the miners are working. Again I say with Mr. Justice Davidson, let us discard this maudlin sentimentality in regard to the conditions under which the miners are working. They may have been bad 100 years ago; but there is no’ similarity in the conditions then and now.
The Prime Minister made much ado about the 1940 strike, and said that it had depleted the reserves of coal by causing a loss in production of 900,000 tons. I do not know what were the coal reserves at that time, but I have some knowledge of what they were in July, 1942, in which year there was a major achievement in production. I cite the month pf July in order to forestall a claim ‘ by honorable . members opposite that the reserves were due to that major achievement. The total reserves then were 1,062,000. By 1945, they had dwindled to 69,000 tons, and to-day those industries that are dependent upon coal are existing from week’ to week. In Adelaide, industries other than those regarded as essential have been ordered by the State Government to close down, because there is not sufficient coal to keep all of them operating. Yet the Prime Minister had the temerity to say that the loss of 900,000 tons because of a strike in 1940 had been instrumental in crippling industries ! The figures that I have given cannot be contradicted. The right honorable gentleman has repeatedly stated - and it seems to be a catch-cry in this House whenever coal is mentioned - that more coal is being produced to-day than was produced under the Menzies government or any other. I shall separate the figures in relation to pit production and opencut production in order to avoid confusion : because it will be remembered that there was practically no open-cut protion in 1940, and that was the year in which occurred the great strike to which the Prime Minister has referred. The production in that year was 9,550,098 tons. In 1945, it was 10,176,254 tons, but 523,072 of that total was won by the open-cut method, and only 9,653,182 tons from pit production. Honorable members will note that there was practically no difference between the production under the Menzies Government in a year in which there was a devastating strike, and the . production under the present Government, which claims to be able to control the miners and to represent them as well as other workers. Let us consider the production this year from Underground and open-cut mining. Inthe first five months, the total was 3,825,000 tons, of which underground production was responsible for only 3,592,000 tons. .Those figures have been given by the Coal Commissioner. If that rate of production be maintained, the total for the twelve months will be 559,200 tons from open-cut mining and 8,620,800 tons from underground mining. That will be the lowest production for very many years, and it should “ debunk ‘’ for all time the Government’s claim that the lowest ebb was reached in 1940. From pit production, not so much coal has been won under the present Government as was won under the Menzies Government. Let us have no more of these fictitious claims.
The Prime Minister has said that the miners are opposed to mechanization because of the effect that its introduction would have on their jobs. These figures are interesting in that regard: In the ten years beginning with 1935, the quantity of coal mechanically filled increased from 13,000 tons to 2,585,000 tons, and the number of employees increased by more than 4,000, from 13,300 to 17,700. That increase of production proves conclusively that the claim that the miners will not have mechanization because of the fear that they will lose their jobs, is completely unfounded. Wherever mechanization has been introduced, employment has been increased. When the matter is shorn of all political and industrial chicanery, the miners frankly admit that all the objections that have been raised to the working conditions in the industry are a mere quibble, and that what they really want is the nationalization of the industry, to which end they will bend all their efforts. This bill contains the germ of nationalization, and represents a complete capitulation by the Government to the demands of the miners. Last May, the miners said of the Baddeley bill introduced in New South Wales-
This bill will do until we can get complete nationalization.
That measure provided for the granting of extraordinary concessions. There can be no doubt that the miners will secure nationalization eventually. They will sacrifice any worker and any industry in order to have their way. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has said that the miners are wise not to hew surplus coal - that if they do, they will be out of a job. Such an observation, falling from the lips of a member of this Parliament, can be regarded only as an incitement to miners to continue their industrial anarchy. The miners do not seem to care whether their actions may cause other industrial workers to be thrown out of employment. In 1945, there were 1,158 industrial disputes in New South Wales, and the coal and shale miners were responsible for 942 of them. The number of workers involved in those disputes was 324,491, of whom 222,344 were engaged in the coal-mining industry. The number of man-working dayslost was 1,878,753, and mining disputes accounted for 629,975 of them. Therefore, it goes without saying that the miners are not interested in other industries. They are out to serve their own purposes, and do not care whom they sacrifice in the process. They are willing, at the drop of a hat, to go out on strike. If they cannot find a trumped-up excuse in the mines, they will go out on sympathy strikes. There were 196 sympathy strikes in New South Wales in 1945, involving 47,062 workers and 289,001 working days. Honorable members opposite have asked honorable members on this side of the House what they would do to obtain coal. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said that he had listen d to the criticism that had been levelled at the Government, but had not heard one suggestion, apart from those made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) as to how coal might be won. I shall answer that for the benefit of the people. Coal will be won whenthere is on the treasury bench a Government that has the courage to enforce the rule of law and compel the observance of discipline in industry, not by words, which have failed to achieve the desired result, but by action. Mr. Justice Davidson said in his report -
Discipline in the mines is as essential to safety as it is to production. It is futile to attempt the efficient conduct of an industry if one or a few employees are allowed, without penalty, unjustifiably to disrupt the whole course of the proceedings.
That seems to me a sound observation. If. the people will elect a government that can enforce discipline, industry will again come under proper control. The law applies to every individual, no matter to what stratum of society he may belong. If he offend against the law, be he Bill Sykes, or a citizen who dwells in the salubrious atmosphere of Point Piper, he becomes subject to the same penalties. The New South Wales act provides all the machinery for the enforcement of discipline, and for the rule of law inindustry. The act from which I quote is a consolidated act which received the royal assent on the 19th April, 1940. Part X. contains provision against strikes and lock-outs.
Paragraph b of section 99, which deals with illegal strikes, runs as follows : -
Any strike by the employees in an industry. the conditions of which are for the time being wholly or partially regulated by an award or by an industrial agreement: Provided that any union of employees may render an award which has been in operation for a period nf at least twelve months no longer binding on its members by the vote of a majority of its members at a secret ballot taken in accordance with the provisions for ballots contained in this Act and the regulations thereunder in which not less than two-thirds nf the members of such union take part.
There is another section which provides for the holding of secret ballots. Section 102 provides penalties against those who take part in illegal strikes, who obstruct the taking of ballots, or participate in illegal picketing, as well as against those who declare any commodity black. Those honorable members opposite who ask what we should do in order to promote the winning of coal, need only turn to the ‘New South “Wales act to see what ought to be done. If the Labour Government of New South Wales is not courageous enough to enforce the law, then let the Commonwealth Government put the New South Wales act into the middle of dur own arbitration act, and we shall not lack machinery for the disciplining of . the miners, the enforcement of the law, and the encouragement of production. .Unless a government is prepared to enforce the law it is not fit to govern.
– I have listened to the flamboyant diatribe delivered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), but I listened in vain for one constructive suggestion as to how we can get more coal. He made it clear that he has a good deal of mistrust, bitterness and even hatred for members of the working class. [Quorum formed.] He made extravagant demands that drastic action be taken against the miners, his speech being designed to play on the feelings of the people in the hope that they would believe that, if the party of which the honorable member is Deputy Leader, were returned to power there would be no more coal strikes, and no longer any shortage of coal.
Any one who listened to his futile criticism of those who advocate the setting up of a board to improve safety conditions in the mines, might imagine that there never had been any great mining disasters in Australia. Does the honorable gentleman- forget the Mount Mulligan disaster in Queensland when 96 men, all ‘those who were below ground at the time, lost their lives? Does he forget the Mount Kembla disaster, when eighteen men lost their Jives, or the Bellbird disaster, which resulted in the loss of 23 lives, or the Stanford disaster resulting in the loss of ten lives, or the Bulli disaster, in which 81. men were killed?
The honorable member cited figures applying to “those years for which the figures suited his argument. He overlooked the fact that in 1927, 24,000 miners were employed, and that the number had declined by 1936 to 15,000. In that year, 7,000 miners were working part-time only on the northern fields. Therefore, they were not so tired, and there were not so many accidents. The action of the honorable member in citing only the figures that suited his argument was unfair to those engaged in the industry. The figures compiled by the Mines Department do not record accidents for which compensation has not been paid. In 1936, as I have pointed out, many thousands of men were working part-time, and the law provides that they must be off work for four days in order to draw compensation. As a matter of fact, they could not afford to go on compensation. Therefore, many accidents which occurred are not recorded in the figures compiled by the Mines Department.
The percentage of miners actually cutting coal fell from 46 per cent, in 1931 to 28 per cent, in 1945. This is due to the restriction of pick room, resulting from bad fractures which cause roof falls and fires. This, in turn, has led to the sealing up of whole sections, of mines. Only the miners at the face produce coal, and the reduction of face area has resulted in lower production because fewer men are actually engaged on the coal face. The shareholders of the mining companies do not produce coal. They find the money which is invested in the industry, but the actual production of coal depends on the men who go downthe mines and work there.
I believe that this bill will remove many of - the disabilities under which the miners work to-day. . It is one of the most important measures considered by this Parliament for many years.’ It represents an earnest attempt to bring about greater production in New South “Wales, in which 80 per cent, of the black coal won in Australia is mined. The bill was drawn after the fullest consultation between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales, and between Commonwealth Ministers and representatives of the mine-owners and the miners’ federation. The joint control board, which has been criticized so much, will have the widest possible power regarding health measures, amenities, production and mechanization. Backed by the Governments of New South Wales and the Commonwealth, it will be able to tackle outstanding problems in a way that the individual mining companies could not do. The Commonwealth Government, when framing the measure, realized the need for substantial expenditure by the Commonwealth in order to provide amenities which have been long overdue. It will be the task of the board to make the conditions of the miners more congenial, and to tackle the difficult problem of eliminating dust, which has proved/ po detrimental to health. In 1942, the mine-owners of South Wales learned of a method of water infusion on the coal face in order to keep down dust, and by 1945 the method had been applied to 90 per cent, of the mines, thus substantially reducing the count of dust particles. During the same period, the system was applied to only one coal mine in Australia, the Coalcliff colliery, and that was under Commonwealth control. It is estimated that it would cost only 3d. a ton to apply the method of water infusion; but it costs 13s. lOd. a ton for compensation. I believe that this bill will succeed in creating a different psychology in the coal-mining industry. Whilst that new psychology cannot be brought about in a few weeks or a few . months, this bill represents a step in the right direction. The coal-miners of this country will now be satisfied that their problems are being grappled with in a constructive manner by the Government. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in one of his characteristic speeches say that he would offer a panacea for all the industrial ills of industry. There is no doubt that the right honorable gentleman has had a vast experience in industrial upheavals. He occupied the position of Prime Minister in 1940 when there was one of the most disastrous strikes that ever occurred in this country; he failed dismally to prevent it or to shorten its duration. His supporters endeavoured to get some “ kudos “ out of the fact that he addressed ‘meetings of coal; miners and exchanged witticisms and pleasantries with the strikers, but the important point is that he did not get them to go back to work.
– That is more than the right honorable gentleman himself has done.
– In 1944, when I was acting Prime Minister, in company with the Prime Minister and officials of the miners’ federation, I visited the western coal-fields of New South Wales and addressed public meetings of coal-miners at Lithgow. I took the opportunity of meeting miners individually and discussed their problems with them. I found many of them at middle age broken in health and burned out. I went down to the south coast and addressed meetings of coal-miners at Bulli and other centres. Again I met individual miners and discussed their problems with them freely and - frankly. I went to the northern coal-fields, to Cessnock and Kurri, with my friend the honorable member for Newcastle (“Mr. Watkins) and sat with h:m and officials of the miners federation on the platform at public meetings at which grievances were freely , aired. There again I took the opportunity to have frank discussions with individual miners. As the result of these experiences I gained a better understanding of the miners’ problems. I do not condone many of the stoppages that occur in the industry to-day - they cannot be justified - but the fault does not lie wholly on one side. After reading in the newspapers of the alleged huge incomes earned by coal-miners, I expected to find coal-miners to be very much better housed. I invariably found them housed in dwellings of the poorest type which were located in drab, uninteresting surroundings, lacking most of the ordinary amenities that one expects to find in any civilized community. There were all the outward signs of impermanency as if the mines were likely to close down at any time; there were the obvious signs that the miners and their families were a forgotten community. The miners themselves lived in the memory of the depression days. At one’ of the places I visited I spoke to the headmaster of the school who told me of some of the psychological effects of the depression on his pupils. He said, “ If the mine is going to work to-morrow the whistle will be blown once; if no work is scheduled the whistle will be blown twice. If the blasts of the whistle indicates that there will he no work nextday the children sink down in their seats in despair and cannot be expected to do their best “. That is the effect that insecurity of employment has even upon the children of the coal-miners. [Quorum formed.’] Members of the Opposition having failed to put forward any helpful suggestions as to how the production of coal may be increased leave the ‘chamber, and rely upon one of their number, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) to di: ect attention to the state of the House. They would be better employed if they remained in the chamber and took a greater interest in this very important subject. Any one who has made a study of industry realizes that, as the result of the establishment of many additional industries over the last few years, particularly during the critical war years, the consumption of coal has rapidly increased. Even if the coalminers remained continuously at work throughout every working week in each year, unless means were found by which the output of each mine could be increased, there would still lie a shortage . of coal in Australia. This industry drifted into the doldrums after the Leader of the Opposition, as Prime Minister of this country, achieved his pyrrhic victory in 1940, when the coal-miners remained on strike for over four months and 900,000 tons of coal was lost. The reserves that had been built up in earlier years were then depleted, and ever since industrial users of coal have been living from hand to mouth. At that time many of the major industries in New South Wales were completely denuded of their coal reserves. The stocks of the New South Wales Railways Department were reduced to onefifth of the quantity held before the strike; the reserve stocks of the Sydney Tramways Department were reduced to one-seventh, of their former size; and the stocks of the gas companies were reduced to one-tenth of their former level. During that time the Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, had a majority in both Houses of this Parliament and’ possessed all the power, he says this Government should exercise to-day to speed up production, to prevent industrial stoppages, and to deal drastically with those who went, on strike. When he is invited to say what should be done to prevent stoppages to-day he cannot make a helpful suggestion. Some honorable members opposite say, “ Turn a machinegun on the strikers. Put them all in gaol “. How could we put from ten thousand to twenty thousand men in gaol? And if that were done, would that bring about increased production? Honorable members opposite have indulged in nothing but cheap talk about what they would do if they were in power. When they held the reins of office they failed dismally to grapple with a much worse industrial situation than that which exists to-day.
Although New South Wales produces 80 per cent, of the black coal produced in Australia, it is also true that Queensland is very rich in coal resources that have remained almost undeveloped. Even if it costs a few millions of pounds to develop them, the expenditure, of that amount of money would he well worth while. If it cost £10,000,000 to ensure that sufficient coal could be produced to meet the needs of Australian industry, that expenditure would be amply ‘justified. The Queensland Labour Government fully realize* the importance of the development of theuntapped coal resources and is anxiousthat the Commonwealth Government should establish a joint control board in Queensland, and make available its quota of the necessary money to develop in a big national way some of the coal resources of that State. This matter has been the subject of correspondence and consultation between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland and will be further discussed at tha Premiers Conference to be held towards the end of this month. During the years 1938-42 Queensland produced over 1,000,000 tons of coal per annum. In that period the total production amounted to 6,807,414 tons. The record production was in 1942, when 1,637,148 tons was won. In both that year and in 1941, -when the production amounted to 1,454,000 tons, the previous peak output of 1,369,000 tons recorded in 1929 was exceeded. Following the adoption of scientific methods in the Queensland coalmines and an examination of the coal resources of Queensland by experts appointed by the Commonwealth and State Governments, coal production in that State could be trebled. Representations have been made by the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture, through one of its representatives in South America, that Australia should endeavour ‘ to build up an export trade of 100,000 tons of coal annually to South American countries. By the development and extension of existing coal-mines in Queensland, I believe that the leeway in the production of the southern States could be met. If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited finds it profitable to, transport iron ore from Yampi Sound, in Western Australia, to the steel works at Newcastle, surely coal that could be mined under the open-cut system in Queensland could be shipped from central Queensland ports to Melbourne and Adelaide.
In central Queensland, there is one of the finest coal-fields in the world, the Blair-Athol field. Whilst that field is being worked to-day in a small way - one of the mines is worked on the open-cut system and the other is a tunnel mine - there is an opportunity for the rapid development of a greatly increased output. It is estimated that the actual and probable resources of coal at that field amount to approximately 208,000,000 tons. So far only about 3,000,000 tons of coal has been taken from Blair Athol ‘ field. I have seen a report describing the coal as semibituminous, non-coking and with a calorific value of 12,000 British thermal units per lb. and a low ash content It is one of the finest steaming coals to be found anywhere in the world. Two companies are now operating, one underground and the other in the open cut. The company operating the open cut has expended £S0,000 since 1937 on its development. Unfortunately, the railway line from Emerald to Central Queensland was laid before the coal was discovered and it is not graded to permit of large tonnages being hauled in one train. The limit is 225 tons. Before the field can be developed’ in a big way the line will have to be relaid or strengthened, additional rolling-stock will have to be provided, and new sidings will have to be put in. The line could be substantially strengthened at a cost of £S00,000. Experts say that by the expenditure of £2,000,000 on a new railway 1,000,000 tons of Blair Athol coal could be taken annually to the sea-board.
– We spent about . that much a day on the war.
– Yes, and if money could be found for war. it can be found for big developmental work of this kind. There are other coal resources in central Queensland that I want to see developed. I want active co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government in the development of the fields. In addition to Blair Athol there are the rich Callide coal-field and the Byfield coalfield. Callide is about 70 miles from Gladstone by road and about, 120 miles from Rockhampton by rail.
– Whose electorate is it in?
– What does that matter? As an Australian I say that those rich resources, which happen to be in Capricornia electorate, must be developed. ‘ T have inspected the fields- many times and learned something about- them. T am of the opinion that before any attempt is made to develop the Blair Athol, field in a hig way, involving the expenditure of a large sum of money, there should be a thorough investigation of the project by Commonwealth and State experts. At the same time, there ought to be. a close survey of the coal resources at Callide Valley and Byfield. Byfield is only 35 miles from Rockhampton, only a few miles from the coast, and I am assured that, the Callide Valley resources can .be developed by the open cut . system, and there would not be a great haulage from Callide or Byfield. Callide is served by a good road to Gladstone one of the finest ports in the world. The suggestion has been made, however, to the State Government that the Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources jointly with the Geological Branch of- the Mines Department of Queensland should make a comprehensive’ survey of both the Byfield and Callide deposits, before, any final decision can be arrived at on the future development of central Queensland coal resources.
The State Electricity Commission is going in for a comprehensive development of power systems and zones are being established, one at Maryborough, one at Rockhampton, and another farther north, and cheaper electricity is to be provided not only to the cities and towns but also to the farming community. That provision is long overdue. There will be greatly increased w consumption of coal with the development of those power systems.
I consider that it is of tremendous importance that some of the Commonwealth Government’s expenditure on the development of coal resources should be in Queensland, particularly central Queensland. Whilst it is primarily a function of the State governments to look after mining development in their own States, the Commonwealth Government, with major financial resources at its disposal and an overall Australian picture before it, must take an active and constructive part in the matter. I am therefore most anxious to see Queensland brought into the scheme- for increased production of coal.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for. Griffith who approvingly interjects knows full well that it is of vital im portance to Queensland that our coal resources should be developed. We believe that tremendous possibilities exist for the development of secondary industries in Queensland, because people who hesitate about establishing industries in South Australia and probably in Victoria, because of their low production of coal, can with confidence start such enterprises in the northern State, for it has not only the quantity and varieties of coal necessary but also one of the best records of all Australian States for continuity of coal production. In view of the great inportance of coal to the industrial life of the community, the Commonwealth Government no longer can leave it to State governments to handle this problem alone. The very fact that from 1942 to 1945 consumption exceeded production by 1,700,000 tons, that coal stocks have been decreasing each year, and that the estimated demand for black coal for 1946-47 is 34,500,000 tons and for 1949-50 is 16,500,000 tons as against the average annual output of all Australian mines for the six-year period ended 1944 of 13,500,000 tons show the urgent necessity for the Federal and State Government, coal-owners and coal-miners to make a Herculean effort to arrest the drift in the coal industry and step up production. Mr. Norman Mighell was a highly efficient Commonwealth Coal Commissioner and did very good ‘ work in the war years in the face of tremendous difficulties. That position is now occupied by Mr. Williams. We must now realize, however, that something more is required. If the Commonwealth Government had to spend up to £10,000,000 to step up production it would be justified in doing so. And that expenditure will be incurred if necessary. I do not attempt to justify many of the frivolous stoppages in the coal-mines. The Labour party stands for the settlement of disputes by conciliation and arbitration. It is useless to indulge in bitter condemnation of one section or the other. We have listened to honorable gentlemen opposite, one. after the other, condemn the coal-miners as though there was no fault on the other side. They are trying to play on the feelings’ of people in the cities and towns of Australia who are suffering some inconvenience because of the under-production of coal. But let us set recriminations aside and tackle the problem of getting increased production. It is not an easy job and it cannot be done in a few minutes. For generations there has been tremendous antagonism between the coal-owners and the coal-miners. We must try to eradicate it. We have to establish in the coalmining districts diversity of employment. I do not think that men should be economically forced to go down a mine to work on’ a job that is repugnant to them, in order to support themselves and their families.
– Any one would think that they were forced to work in the pits.
– The honorable member would have the people believe that he could produce more coal, but he would not know which end of the pick to use. He is one of those who sit on the luxuriously Soft seats in this chamber and indulge in all kinds of flamboyant diatribes against the miners. He is like the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) who, after notifying the press reporters and photographers, went to the Muswellbrook mine and started a strike that lost 1,000 tons of production a day.
– It was the first strike at that mine for more than twenty years.
– Yes. He was going to teach the miners their trade. His trip was more than a dismal failure, because he brought about a needless strike. I believe that a better spirit can be inculcated in the minds of both the miners and the mine-owners. There will have to be substantial expenditure on the provision of the amenities needed in the industry. That was very obvious to me when, as acting Prime Minister in 194.4, I visited the coal-fields of New South Wales. I met the minors individually and collectively, and discussed their problems with them. I. met many miners between. 35 and 45 years of age whose constitutions were undermined /by dust, which effects the lungs much in the same way as does tuberculosis. At the Mount Morgan mine, in my electorate, many of the metalliferous miners are doomed to an early death because they have contracted miners’ phthisis because of the dust with which they come into contact in that copper-gold mine. Although the mine is now worked as an open cut, they are unable to solve the dust problem. I was there last Saturday. Men of middle age told me that their doctors had told them that they were “dusted”. They were short of breath. Their life is limited. They have wives and children dependent upon them. What applies to them applies equally to the miners working in the unhealthy mines on the south coast of New South Wale3. Whereas in 1929 the number of miners and coal-miners was 22,470 employed . in New South Wales, to-day t-hat.number has dwindled to about 16,000, a drop of more than 6,000. These figures indicate that many men have come to the conclusion that mining is too unhealthy an occupation and have got out of it. I have “known men whose lungs were choked with dust go out to- farms in central Queensland in the hope that life in the bright sunshine would enable them to regain their breath; but, unfortunately, they had deferred their departure from mining too long and went to an early grave. Most of them were forced by economic circumstances to continue working in the mines too long, and when they left the industry they had not long to live.* The unhealthy conditions under w huh they laboured undermined their health, at an age when they ought- really to have been in the prime of life. We should realize that these extraordinary stoppages are not peculiar to Australia. When I was in England at the beginning of 1945, I was informed that 2,000 strikes had occurred in the coalmining industry in 1944, although the war was then .in progress, and 3,648,000 working days had been lost, an increase of 824,000 working days compared with 1,943. A little more than a year ago an American said to me, “ The stoppages such as those which take place in the Australian coal-mines’ could not occur in my own country. We would not tolerate them “. A week later, I read that 500,000 coal-miners were on strike in the United States of America. Undoubtedly this industrial unrest is not confined to Australia. There seems to be a world-wide upheaval in this great industry. During the war, the Australian coal-miners worked mere consistently. Australia was threatened with invasion in 1942, and the miners responded to the call made by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, and produced a record quantity of coal. The coal-miners of Great Britain and the United States of America also worked more consistently during the war. After the cessation of hostilities, thousands of Australian miners were suffering from tiredness because few new recruits had been taken into the mines. Indeed, since the end Of the war, 1,500 men have left the coal-mining industry to engage in other employment. This industry must be rejuvenated, and the conditions in it must be made more attractive. Applying the- whip to the miners, failing to understand their problems and their outlook, and isolating them so that they feel that they are outlaws are not the way to solve the problem.
The present proposals of the Government represent a forward step.- As the result of consultations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales, -we shall be able to grapple with the situation in a constructive manner and more effectively than in the past. In short, this bill is a genuine attempt boldly to tackle the complex and diverse problems of the coal-mining industry. The disorganization of industry generally, which is caused by the shortage of coal, and the resultant unemployment of workers in other industries, should sound a clarion call to the owners and miners alike to forget the rancour and bitterness, that have been engendered during the years, sometimes by unfortunate publicity and bitter attacks in this Parliament. Some Honorable members have made those attacks, actuated by the desire to convince the public that, if given the opportunity, they could increase the production of coal.
– Those honorable members are most vocal when an election is in the offing.
– Yes. This measure is the basis of a “ new order “ in the coalmining industry. The provision of additional amenities, an improvement of the conditions in the mines, and the establishment of new industries that will diversify employment in the coalmining districts will, I believe, increase production and keep the wheels of industry moving.
Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond) T10.35]. - Any one who has listened to the speech of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) must be appalled at his failure to realize the true nature of this problem. At the beginning of his speech, he asked the Opposition to suggest a method for increasing the production of coal. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have already expressed their views on that subject, and if the right honorable gentleman requires any additional information, he will find it in the report of the royal commissioner, Mr. Justice Davidson, whom this Government appointed to inquire into conditions in the coal-mining industry. The right honorable gentleman’s lack of appreciation of the national nature of this subject must have astounded the House. He devoted the major part of his speech to making an appeal to the electors of Capricornia for the purpose of opening the Blair-Athol mine, which is located in his constituency.
– No; the Blair-Athol mine is located in the electorate of Kennedy.
– The Minister for the Army has been a member of this Parliament for 25 years, and it is significant that, on the eve of the elections, he suddenly realizes that there is a marvellous deposit of coal at Blair-Athol in central Queensland ! Nothing could be move audacious at this juncture, and nothing could be less satisfying to the people who must walk to work because rail and tram services have been curtailed, and who wonder how long their jobs will last and whether the housewife will be able to cook the next meal with gas or electricity.
I do not propose to speak against the coal-miners or for the mine-owners. I hope to bo able, to discuss this subject with as little prejudice as one can bring to a discussion which has been in the political field for so long. There may be much to explain the psychological condition of the miner. When he is on the jobheis a hard-working man. His occupation is not pleasant. However, I do not consider that he should be encouraged to believe that he is a martyr in the cause of industry. He should realize, and the Government should realize, that he is doing a job of his own selection, for which he receives remuneration greater than that of the average worker.
– The coal-miner is entitled to it.
– I am not criticizing the miner when I make a statement of fact. Every worker does a job for the community. Besides the coal-miners, many other workers are engaged in unpleasant occupations. Not long ago, I visited an abattoir, where I saw men working up to their ankles in blood and offal. I did not envy them that filthy job. The coal-miner has not the only unpleasant work in industry.
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) devoted the major portion of his speech to showing that the mine-owners are profiteers. I have not the privilege of the acquaintance of any of those owners. [Quorum formed.] The statement of the Minister was contrary to the reports of Mr. Justice Drake-Brockman of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and the royal commissioner,. Mr. Justice Davidson. Indeed, Mr. Justice Davidson said that the sudden withdrawal of subsidies necessarily paid to colliery proprietors during the war would be disastrous. More than one important colliery, His Honour stated, would be forced into liquidation, causing serious unemployment, and large and immediate increases of price would be essential. The Minister, who endeavoured to mislead the House regarding the profits made by the coal-owners, must be aware that the Government is paying to about 80 per cent. of the collieries substantial subsidies in order to enable them to continue operations, and keep the price of coal at the present level. The Government has asked the Opposition to suggest a solution of the coal problem. Of course, any one wouldhave difficulty in proposing a simple solution, because this problem is extremely complex. However, one important thing which any government should do is to enforce the law.
At this juncture, I do not suggest that severe penalties should be inflicted upon the workers, but I do point out that a duty devolves upon the Government to uphold the law. I propose to show conclusively by reference to a recent case that when the choice lies between enforcing the law and appeasement, the Government will bend the knee. A dispute occurred at the Mount Kiera colliery on the 8th April over the extraction of coal from pillars by mechanical equipment. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said that the Government favours the installation of mechanical equipment in coal-mines. The Minister for the Army declared a few moments ago that one of the important functions of the Joint Coal Board to be established under this bill will be to improve the mechanical equipment of the industry, and the Minister for Transport earlier this evening accused the mine-owners of retaining oldfashioned methods of coal extraction which were dangerous and laborious. Yet the happenings at the Mount Kiera colliery show clearly that the Government is not prepared to stand by its declaration in favour of the mechanization of the industry. I intend to read the statements of several important officials on the happenings at the Mount Kiera colliery. After the mine closed down on the8th April the chairman of the Central Coal Authority, Mr. Willis, ordered a compulsory conference, which was presided over by Mr. Hickman. [Quorum formed.] At that conference the superintendent of the Mount Kiera colliery, Mr. Hindmarsh, said -
The circumstances as I know them are that the lodge officials saw the under-manager on the 4 th and told him that they had been instructed by the annual convention of the Miners’ Federation that coal-cutters were not to work in pillars. The under-manager told him an inspection could he made immediately if so desired, so long as the pit was working. There was no question of safety, the instructions came from Sydney. I understand the lodge members were not consulted, there was no vote taken, they were instructed togo home. The machines have been cutting pillars at Kiera, to my own personal knowledge, for the last five or six years. There has been no question raised on thismatter during that time, and, regarding the accident rate in that particular area, it compares more than favorably with the rest of the pit.
I point out that this dispute occurred through action by the central council of the miners’ federation and not by the men employed in the mine. The central council, which is apparently opposed to the use of mechanical, equipment, issued instructions that work was to cease at the colliery, although not one man employed there had made any complaint about his conditions. In consequence of that instruction, this mine, which had been producing approximately 1,000 tons of coal a day, was closed, and it remained closed for about a month. During that time the miners and the management at the colliery made representations to the Premier of New South Wales, and to the Minister for Mines, as the result of which a conference was held, when statements were made by the Chief Inspector of Mines in New South Wales, Mr. Hay, and the production manager of the Coal Commission, Mr. Jack. These gentlemen visited the mine and made a thorough inspection in order that all doubt concerning theequipment and conditions there should be removed. After his inspection Mr. Hay made the following report: -
I remind honorable members that I am dealing with events that occurred a few months ago, and not with happenings ten, fifteen or even fifty years ago, as some’ honorable gentlemen opposite have done. Mr. Hay also reported i -
– I rise, to a point ot order. Is the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) entitled to indulge in the tedious repetition of a speech prepared by Mr. Gregory Forster and Mr. McNally, which has already been read by many other honorable members opposite?
– There is no point of order.
– In reply to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr! Fraser) I wish to say that I have not consulted Mr. Gregory Forster in’ any way on this subject. I am making these statements in order to show that, although the Government claims to be favorable to the” installation and use of mechanical “equipment in collieries, it has done nothing whatever to deal effectively with the situation that has- arisen at the Mount Kiera colliery over the use of mechanical equipment. The Coal Commission has authority to order a mine to close or to resume operations. When this dispute occurred on the 8th April in the circumstances that I have described, the mine ceased production. On the 10th May, Mr. Jack and Mr. Hay reported on conditions there. Three days later the Coal Commissioner ordered the re-opening of the mine, but prohibited the use of mechanical equipment for pillar extraction. The result has been that since the resumption of operations at Mount Kiera, production has fallen by 10.8 per cent. All the efforts of the colliery proprietors to cause a conference to be summoned to deal with the dispute have failed. In support of .this statement, I bring to the attention of honorable members’ the following letter written by Mr. S. W. Winning, the chief executive officer of the Commissioner: - 1 refer to your letters, dated respectively the 24th May. ‘ the 4th June and the 13th June, 1040, with regard to the directions given tn your company by the Commissioner on the 13th May in connexion with the use of coalcutting machines in pillars at the Mount Keira Colliery.
The Commissioner has directed me to inform you that, as the convening of the conference mentioned in my letter of the 13th May is a .matter for the’ State government, he has written to the Premier of New South Wales requesting that he see that the necessary arrangements are made for the holding of that conference at an early date.
Not only tas the management of this colliery been victimized by the closing of the colliery for a month in consequence of action by the central council of the miners federation, “but the Government, which is understood to favour mechanization, has refused to tafe any action in the matter and the mechanized equipment has remained idle. Although honorable gentlemen - opposite, and the Labour party in general, claim to be deeply concerned about the safety of coal-miners, the workers of Mount Kiera have had to work under conditions which are not so safe as those enjoyed by them when the mechanical equipment was being used. From the 1st January, 1943, to the 23rd March, 1946, the extraction of coal by the use of the pick alone was 219,000 tons, and in the extraction of it 117 accidents occurred, 34 of the men affected receiving compensation for a month or longer. With the use of the mechanical equipment which the mine management is now prevented from employing, the extraction was 2.19,513 tons, and 21 accidents occurred, only two of the victims receiving compensation for a month or longer. Those figures prove beyond refutation that with the use of mechanical equipment a greater quantity of coal was produced and the workings were safer. The Government claims that those should be the objectives of all mine-owners. The Minister for Transport stressed the need for mining equipment to be brought up to date. I stress the consequences when employers have adopted that practice. Much has been said to-night as to what ought to be done in this industry. It is easy to give advice, but much harder to follow it. Probably, apart from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) ‘, not more than than one or two honorable members have a practical knowledge of the coal industry. Therefore”, we are compelled to debate this matter and form our opinions on ‘information, supplied to us by men who have been appointed by the Government to advise in regard to the industry. It is claimed that this legislation will help to cure the ills of the coal industry. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has shown that it is merely a rehash of the hill which created the authority of the
Coal Commissioner. As a matter of fact, this .legislation will not be so effective because the authority of the proposed board will be much less than that of the Coal Commissioner on account of the withdrawal of Part 4 of the bill, which proposed to confer certain powers in respect of the control of mines.
– I advise the honorable member not to repeat what the honorable member for Warringah has said, because I can knock him over with one hit.
– I have never been engaged in a debate in which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction did not believe that he could knock everybody over; but he has always found himself lying stone cold on the floor at the conelusion of the bout. Mr. Justice Davidson was appointed by the present Government to report on the coal industry. I believe that he made an inquiry into, its many ramifications some years ago.
– That is why he was selected.
– I regard the selection as an excellent one, and congratulate the Government upon having chosen so able a gentleman to undertake the task. In the last twelve or fourteen months, Mr. Justice Davidson visited various parts of Australia, and made a thorough investigation of the conditions in different collieries. He heard evidence from numerous witnesses. Yet I cannot find in the bill any proposal to give, effect to any of his recommendations. Different Ministers have said, “What does the Opposition propose in respect of the coal industry ? “ I can only reply that the Opposition must be guided very substantially by the report of the royal commissioner, and must apply some little common sense to the consideration of the problem that is presented by this very important industry. I am not one ofthose who believe that it is possible to throw into gaol and heavily penalize miners and others. But I do assert that the law ought to be enforced. It is for that reason’ that I have dealt at such length with the Mount Kiera colliery. In that case, the Government did not use the powers that it possesses to uphold the law, because the law clearly was in favour of the mine-owners and against those who would interfere with its production. Mr. Justice Davidson dealt with absenteeism, and the lack of discipline in the mines. He said, for example, that during the war absenteeism had caused -serious losses. We all know that. He went on to say that it was not practicable to decide precisely whether the absence of many individuals had been avoidable or unavoidable, but that the surrounding circumstances established clearly that a substantial proportion of absenteeism was voluntary and avoidable. He then dealt with a matter which is within the province of the Government and will hot be within the province of the board that is to be appointed. This is what he said-
The burden of taxation is the most active of till causes of absenteeism. Both the amount of the fortnightly deductions and the uncertainty of their extent undoubtedly reduced the incentive of contract minors to continue their work to the full number of shifts.
Later, he said -
The suggestion that the amount of the fortnightly deduction should be based on the annual income for the previous year might well receive consideration.
The Government has asked repeatedly what are the causes of stoppages. Mr. Justice Davidson has given his opinion. He may not be absolutely right; nevertheless, his opinion must be treated with respect, because his examination of the causes extended over a lengthy period. This is what he said -
The only remedy for the disturbing industrial turbulence that has developed lies in meeting the causes by the following means: -
By insistence upon providing the workers with approved living and social conditions, in order to mitigate their undoubted spirit of hostility. This policy is not appeasement: it is mere justice.
I emphasize that, in order to show that I am not one of those’ who want to “ put the boot” into the miners. I sincerely believe that the majority of the miners are decent citizens; that is proved conclusively by their record during the war. Their participation in strikes is due to loyalty to their fellows. Rather than have placed on them the stigma of not standing by their mates, they go home, whether or not they agree with the decision to stop work. Mr. Justice Davidson went on. to say -
By enforcing tlie law and maintaining the sanctity of agreements and judgments, and awards of properly constituted independent judicial tribunals.
During his speech, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made a number of observations which call for comment. His speech was very effective from the standpoint of the Government. He traced the’ long and sorry history of the coal industry, and said that he would not inflict heavy penalties on the miners. He related the industrial struggles in which they had been engaged over a long period. I point out that most of the miners to whom he referred are the children of miners who came to- Australia from the Old Country. I have heard that stated by the honorable member for Hunter and other honorable members -who represent coalmining constituencies. If the miners of New South Wales are justified in engaging in a series of stoppages which hold-up coal production to such a degree that the industrial life of the nation is threatened, there ought ‘ to be similar justification for stoppages of coal-mining operations in the United Kingdom; yet we know that they do not number onetenth of the stoppages that occur in New South Wales. There must be a reason for that. I blame, not the miners, but the system under which the industry is controlled to-day. I have gone to the trouble of ascertaining how the miners’ organizations are constituted in the United Kingdom and the United States of America- The United. Mineworkers Federation of the United States of America is controlled autocratically by John L. Lewis. Whatever he says, is accepted by the 500,000 workers in the industry. The history of the disputes in the industry in that country shows very clearly indeed that the organization exercises complete authority. Recently, there was a dispute in the United States in which 500,000 miners, under John L. Lewis, went on strike, after first serving notice upon the owners,, as required by law. They did not_ create a frivolous stoppage. They said. “ We want better conditions and certain amenities, and the control of expenditure on those amenities.” They also claimed an increase of rates, and eventually won their point, but in all this they acted as members of a united organization. When Mr. Frank Collingridge was out here recently, 1 discussed the coal-mining industry with him for some hours. He is a member of the House of Commons, and the vicepresident of a large section of the mine workers in the United .Kingdom. He said that there was very effective discipline among miners in Great Britain, that there were no stoppages resulting from pit-head meetings, and that, if miners went out on strike without the authority of the central council, they received no strike pay. There were also, be said, other disciplinary measures. The miners’ federation in Australia ha3 come in for a good deal of criticism. If the Prime Minister really believes, as he said the other night, that the only way to ensure discipline in the industry is through the authority exercised by the miners’ federation over its members, then steps should be taken to increase that authority. Under the present system, the miners in any colliery anywhere in New South Wales can declare a strike, and neither the Government nor the miners’ ‘ federation has the power to send them back to work. If half a. dozen wheelers decide to stage a little strike on their own, they can take all the workers in the mine out with them. The fe’deration can do nothing because each lodge is very largely autonomous. The very name of the organization, “miner’s federation”, signifies that it is an assembly of more or les& independent authorities, rather than one strong union.
I believe that we should get more coal, because only in that way can. the golden age, about which the Prime Minister spoke recently, become a reality. At present opportunities exist for developing and extending industry such as never existed before, but those opportunities can be availed of only if coal is available. Unless we can get more coal than has been won during the last three or four years, all our dreams of attracting immigrants, of developing our export’, and of inducing big overseas companies to establish’ branches here, will come to naught. I favour supporting any organization which can effectively discipline -the miners. The majority of them want to work. I cannot believe that a miner’s wife can be content if no pay comes into the house for two or three weeks. The miners have families to rear and educate, and most of them must be anxious to continue working. I do not believe that the miners in New South Wales differ essentially from the miners at Wonthaggi, in Victoria, where there have been very few strikes, or that they are different from those in Queensland where, according to the .Prime Minister himself, there have been few industrial disturbances. Neither do I believe tha’t they are psychologically different from the miners in Western Australia, who have a very good record for production. It would appear, therefore, that there must he something associated with the. organization of the New South Wales miners, rather than with their background, which is responsible for industrial stoppage. I regret that the Government displayed so little imagination in the drafting of the bill. As a matter of fact, it goes very little further than the act passed in 1934. However, I hope that, in practice, a measure of real power will be given to the board which is to be set up, and that there will be less political interference than in the past. I believe that the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, could have done a better job if he had not. been subjected to so much political interference.
.- I do not regard this bill as a cure for all the evils which afflict the. coal-mining industry. Rather do I regard its introduction as comparable to the action of a peace officer who takes action in regard to property, the ownership of which is in dispute. If such property is necessary for the community, the executive authority may be obliged to take possession of it until better relations can be arranged between the disputants. In this period of rapidly changing economy, the existing relations between mine owners and workers cannot, perhaps, be allowed to continue. It so happens that nature has placed the most of Australia’s black coal in New South Wales. This has been unfortunate for Australia, because industry in other States has had to depend on coal which must be transported long distances. However, so rich are the New South Wales coal-measures that it has paid better to transport New South Wales coal long distances than to work lower-grade coal in other States.
The fact that all the coal hewn in the past was not needed in Australia left both owners and miners free to carry on their strife at their own sweet will, without interfering greatly with industry, or with the convenience of the public. During the periods of amicable relations, great reserves of coal could be established. Then, when owners and miners had their periodical brawls, the country was able to carry on by drawing on the reserves. However, during the recent war, and since, industry has developed so rapidly that there is now a tremendous demand for coal. If Australia develops during the next twenty years, as we hope it will, it is possible that the present coal resources of the country may not be sufficient to meet our requirements. Even now, New South Wales uses about 75 per cent, of all the coal won in that State, and the remaining 25 per cent, is not enough to meet the needs of industry in other States, which must attempt to develop their own fuel resources. The authorities in South Australia and Victoria are aware of this need, and are developing low-grade measures in a very successful way. When industry in New South Wales requires all the coal, that can be produced in that State, it will become the duty of the government of New South Wales to ensure that the rate of - production is ‘ maintained. It may be that it will then be found that the private control of coal-mining is no longer practicable, and New South Wales may have to make coal-getting a State responsibility, as has been done in Victoria and South Australia. In . my opinion, that time is already approaching. Because of the richness of the coal-measures in the Newcastle district and around Bulli, other seams in the State have been neglected. Other countries less lavishly endowed have for many years past experimented with the use of low-grade coal, and have developed successful methods of dealing with it. In New South Wales, the eyes have been picked out of the seams, and what is left must now be won at great cost. Mining companies in the Newcastle field, and along the South Coast, have pegged out leases with only enough dry land in which to sink a shaft, the rest of the leases being under the sea. Many of these leases. are still held by companies operating on the Maitland field. Under-water measures have been exploited to some extent along the Newcastle coast. In places, the Newcastle harbour has been undermined, as has also the Sydney harbour. Those who control the leases are not ignorant of how submarine coal-measures can be exploited. Expert evidence is to the effect that much of the coal in leases already worked can never be recovered. These measures which were prospected but not developed in the early days might “well be looked at again. The Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government in conjunction might very well send experts, engineers and technicians to other countries, which have developed the underground gasification method of winning power and gas from coal measures without having to bring the solid fuel to the surface, in order to examine and report upon that process of utilizing our coal resources. It might seem fantastic to suggest that 50 or 60 miles of coal seams extending under the sea might be developed by the underground gasification method; but it- is indisputable that if the population of New South Wales grows to 15,000,000 or 20,000,000, the present productive capacity of the mines in that State will be completely inadequate. Some experiments in underground gasification were carried out in the old Balmain mine. I do not know whether the adoption of such a method would be an economic proposition at present, but if we ever reach the stage where a great deal more fuel has to be obtained, either for industrial gas or for the generating of electric power, some measures will have to be taken to exploit the coal beds that lie off the coast of New South Wales. Estimates by geologists, including the late Professor David, have been made as to the quantity of coal in the Newcastle-Bulli basin. Prom what data is available, we know that, taking Sydney as the pivot, the coal measures extend roughly 60 miles inland to the
Lithgow area and about 60 miles north and south. We can assume that the seaward lip of the basin extends under the Pacific Ocean. It is more than likely that one-half of the coal in the basin lies in the sea-bed in a line between Newcastle and Bulli. Estimates made by New South Wales government experts, together with information provided from data left by the late Professor David, which may be taken as factual, indicate that to be so. I suggest that money might profitably be expended in checking those estimates. I know from my own personal experience of the western district of New South Wales that large areas of coal-bearing country have merely been “ specked “. “ Money might well be expended in trying out the commercial possibilities of those projects. When they were first prospected there was no possibility of them competing with the better established mines in the Lithgow district, and consequently their working was discontinued. As one passes these old fields one sees evidence of the activities of former years. I believe that in the immediate future’ those measures will have to be exploited in order to increase our total production. I have seen coal measures in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania that do not offer prospects of economic working nearly as great as many of the measures that have been abandoned in New South Wales. If the Governments of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania decide to exploit these poorer measures, there is no reason why the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales, should not exploit the comparatively poor jurassic measures in the western field. I have also seen the results of experiments in underground gasification made by the late Mr. Pell on the Wolgan Valley field. It was thought when those experiments were made that the time, was not propitious to continue that method. Mr. Fell’s experiments offered some prospects of success. In the future it might be practicable for gas to be piped over long distances instead of winning the coal, bringing it to the surface and hauling it over long distances by road or rail to the electric power generating stations. When the accountants of the new Joint Control
Board are looking into the financial aspects of the industry they might consider the ear-marking of a definite sum of money for experiments along those lines.
I propose now to touch briefly on the continual warfare that has been waged between the two great industrial bodies that operate in the coal industry, namely, the miners’ federation, and the coal-owners, a war which has been waged unceasingly and with varying violence during the whole of my life-time. Sometimes because of economic circumstances the mine-owners were in a position to force down the hewing rate paid to the miners and thus earn greater profits out of the industry. That has been* the case since World War I. and during the war just ended. Owing to the fact that a coal-miner cannot switch to other kinds of employment overnight the miners were not in a position to improve their lot. Thus they have always laboured under a grievance. They have always felt that they were fighting the owners under unfair conditions. When the coal-owners decided the time was ripe to discipline the miners they closed down the mines. Their bread and butter was secure whether they lost or won a dispute; they would still enjoy their motor car and their luxuries. The bread and butter of the miner was at stake all the time. He was under the impression that, too often, the mineowners were prepared to “have a go” at him and attack his standard of living and the security of his family. That is one of the things that has engendered such bitterness in disputes in the industry. I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that a psychological obstacle has to be overcome before we can improve relations between the owners and the miners. 1 worked for a long time both in Bulli and on the northern coal-fields, and ‘ I know from my own experience that great bitterness is displayed in the continual strife between the mine-worker and the owner. Something will have to be done to destroy that sense of frustration that a miner feels when he knows that for him and his family there is nothing else but the coal industry, and that in every fight he has with the coal-owner he not only jeopardizes his prospects of prosperity but also risks bis ability to continue to provide for himself and his family. And the position is not improved by the knowledge that whether he wins or loses the owner will continue to enjoy his luxuries. I endorse the suggestion made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction that other industries must be established in association with the coal-mining industry, to act as a safety valve by providing avenues of employment for the miners’ children who will not be able to get a living in the coal industry when the mines are fully mechanized. It is apparent that the mechanization of the mines must lessen the demand for manual labour, and possibly that also makes the miner feel bitter about the present industrial system. The Government is doing something, effective along those lines by the establishment of industries in the coal-mining areas. At Lithgow it has established the textile and other industries; in the Mudgee district, where there is a good mechanized pit, and where no trouble was experienced during the war years, the Government has also established industries which will offer employment to the children of those now working in the mines. . These moves tend to create’ a happier atmosphere in mining towns and a more hopeful outlook for the future.
Despite the protests of honorable members opposite that this bill is similar to other legislative enactments which did not produce coal, I believe that it will create a much more favorable atmosphere in the mining industry than has existed in the past. The. miners will be satisfied if the outlook of the future is not so black. They realize that mechanization of the coal-mines i,= in the best interests of all concerned. No miner wants to see his son become a pick-and-shovel “ artist “. In the past coal-mining was merely .an underground labourer’s joh; in order to become a miner one merely needed capacity to stand up to intense hardship, to swallow a fair amount of dust, and to work in cramped conditions. In short a miner required more brawn than brains. No man in Australia wants to see his children unnecessarily bound to slavery of that - kind. Consequently, the miners have done their utmost, to give their children an education in keeping with the advancing conditions of our times. I know miners at Maitland who made great sacrifices to send their children to the Teachers College or the Technical College in order that they may make something better out of life than their parents have been able to do. Many of the mine managers are the sons of plain miners.
Sitting suspended from 11.-1/5 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
– We have been taught to expect a bill from the Government whenever a jam occurs in coal production in this country. The last bill was introduced in February, 1944, during the regime of the Curtin Government, in an attempt to stop the steady deterioration of the situation in the coal-mining- industry. Coal production had diminished to an alarming degree. That bill gave . the Commonwealth Government no power that it’ did not already, possess under national security regulations. Indeed, slabs of those regulations, which had been promulgated earlier in an attempt to cope with the drift in the industry, were incorporated holus-bolus in that bill. The idea behind it was that the people might be deluded into believing that an honest and genuine attempt was being made by the Government to settle the problems of the industry. That bill was debated at great length on both sides of the House, and eventually became law. It provided for the imposition of certain penalties on miners guilty of absenteeism or striking. For a little while it had the effect of stimulating production, but the position soon deteriorated again. The next step was the appointment of Mr. Justice Davidson, of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, as a board of inquiry to conduct an exhaustive inquiry into the industry. He delved deeply into all phases of it, and at last. presented to this Parliament the voluminous report that is now in the possession of honorable members. Far from arresting the deterioration of the industry the inquiry might easily have” had the opposite effect, for since the report was presented by
Mr. Justice Davidson, the position has become even worse. Mr. Justice Davidson reported-
The coal industry in its major fields is a tottering industry.
Whatever truth there was in that statement whenit was written is greater, if possible, to-day, and it is equally true that the whole Australian economy is bordering on disaster. Train services have been curtailed. Industries, even essential industries, have been closed down or are working on a restricted basis. That applies to textile mills, paper mills, glassworks and all sorts of industries on which Australian men and their dependants lean for the necessaries of life. In the closing months of last year Sydney housewives were compelled to cook their families’ meals over an open fire in the backyard, because gas and electricity were severely rationed owing to the unavailability of sufficient coal to keep even the kitchen ranges hot, let alone the wheels of industry turning. The same scene is being enacted in Adelaide to-day. Undeniably industry, both secondary and primary, is bordering on collapse. It is not surprising therefore that the Government has once more fallen back on the device of bringing down a bill designed, so it claims, to cure the ills of the coal-mining industry. This time, however, it went into a huddle with the Government of New South Wales, and this bill and one like it that is to be introduced in the Parliament of New South Wales, when it meets, are the outcome. It is the old technique of making out to the people that a genuine attempt is being made to bring an end to the ills they suffer from the turmoil that prevails in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales.
As the honorable member for Warririgah (Mr. Spender) said, this bill incorporates many of the provisions in the Coal Production (War-time) Act of 1944, which itself had incorporated much of the provisions of National Security (Coal Control) Regulations. In spite of the wide powers conferred on the Government by both the regulations and the act, it failed to meet the position. This bill will clothe the Government with greater powers than it had but did not exercise under the regulations or the act of 1944, but this time, as then, the question is not what powers the Government will have, but whether it will be strong enough to use them. I should have thought that the Government would have brought down legislation to give effect to the recommendations of His Honour, but it has not done so. Mr. Justice Davidson certainly advocated the setting up of a board, but not the board to be set up under this legislation. He envisaged a board that would assist the mine-owners and managers to make certain improvements in the mines, a board that would, in fact, make financial assistance available with which to effect those improvements and to mechanize the pits, a board that would collect statistics needed by. the industry, a board that would appoint competent mining engineers and other officers to advise -
It must be acknowledged by the Government that those recommendations have been ignored. This bill is the outcome of the discussion on coal, between the Commonwealth Government aud the Government of New South Wales. It could well have emanated from Moscow. It reminds me of a ukase from some Russian department controlling a heavy industry that that industry must yield to controls. The bill’’ hands over to the board, subject to the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales, full control over the coal-mining industry. I agree that the powers that are to be exercised by the board are in many ways similar to the powers exercised under the 1944 Act by the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner, but for whereas the latter’s appointment was limited to the duration of the National Security Act, the proposed board, as the result of agreement between the two governments, will be permanent, unless there is a change of government, either here or in the State. The board, subject only to direction by the Prime Minister and the Premier, will have complete control over the coalmining industry in New South Wales. It will have power to take over and work mines, to sack managers and technicians, to enter into contracts, or to break existing . contracts. ‘ Such provisions suggest that the owners and managers of the coal-mines are responsible for the debacle in the coal industry. We have only to glance at the Davidson report to find that that is by no means true, because if ever a report exonerated the owners and management from blame this one does. I quote His Honour’s words-
Practically none of the strikes during the war have been due to impropriety of any kind on the part of the owners or management.
Referring to the managers, he said -
As a class the managers are a conscientious hard-working and efficient body of mcn.
Of the superintendents he said -
The superintendents obviously have won by sheer merit the positions they occupy. lt is apparent to any unbiased investigator that in the knowledge and experience they possess of all phases of colliery management including mining engineering, mining practice, the design, development and administration of pits and groups of pits, the superintendents arc the most capable and efficient men in the coal industry.
They are exonerated, if words mean anything, from blame for the dislocation of the industry. So we come to the real reasons for the debacle. There are many. Justice Davidson has cited a lot. I shall confine myself to what I believe are the three main reasons why the country is in such a shocking condition as the result of the situation in the coal-mining industry. I do not include high income tax amongst them, although I do not exempt it from being a contributory cause of the present, hold-up of’ coal production, particularly in New South Wales. The real reasons why Australian industry is dislocated because of coal are three. The first is that men, will not work in the coal-mines, or, if they do work, they work only intermittently. The second is the absence of mechanical means of coal extraction, which is essential for successful coal-mining, not only in this country, but everywhere else. The third is the weakness of the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales in failing to control dis.orderly elements in the industry and in interfering in the management of the industry. Before dealing with those three causes, I wish to say a word or two about coal production. Mr. Justice Davidson reported -
A conservative estimate of the capacity of the operating underground coal mines in New South Wales is 12. 750,000 tons per annum working on one shift daily.
This output could be doubled by the introduction of a second productive shift.
So if the miners work, allowing a reasonable margin for absenteeism and strikes, they can produce 12,750,000 tons a vear with one shift. If more than one shift were worked, production could be considerably enhanced. The estimated demand for black coal from New South Wales next year is 11,660,000 tons. There is no question about the coal being available for mining, and there are sufficient skilled technicians and managers r.o ensure that - the coal can be won. All we need is the willingness .of the miners to work. 1 1 is because they will not work, that we cannot get sufficient coal to carry on even the most essential industries at full production. We must get down to the main reasons why the miners will not work. The first is very simple: that they are controlled by Communists.” No one who knows even the slightest bit about the machinations of the Communists will agree that they for one moment want to see the miners working in peace and contentment. Communism does not feed on peace and contentment in industry. It can feed only on anarchy in industry. It is plain that the Communist objective is revolution. Revolution can be brewed only by the -creation of anarchy in the key industries. That is why we see anarchy rife, not only in the coal-mining industry, but ‘ also in the other industries on which Australia’s economy depends. The miners federation and the ironworkers union are equally riddled with Communists who have contrived the industrial turmoil that gravely threatens the economic fabric of the Commonwealth. It is wise that I should make a few “quotations of words that have fallen from the lips of some of the avowed Communists.
According to the Tribune of the 11tl September, 1945, Mr. H. Wells, president of the miners’ federation, said -
Malicious and stupid suggestions that the federation proposes to abandon the strike weapon and embrace arbitration have no foundation.
The Trade Unions, published in November, 1942, reported Mr. L. Sharkey, president of the Australian Communist party, as having said -
Further good work will finally convert the miners’ organization into a really revolutionary union and a firm support for the struggle for socialism.
Mr. W. Orr, one time secretary of the miners’ federation, gave birth to the following revolutionary slogan
Every factory, every ship, every mine - a fortress of revolution!
The principal reason for the continual industrial turmoil on the coal-fields is the machinations of- the Communists who are in control. Until this miserable gangwho worship before a foreign joss are dealt with in Australia, we shall not have peace in industry. They will threaten the whole fabric of Australian secondary industry, and undeniably, if they are not checked, they will definitely threaten the whole structure of the working class movement. The royal commissioner, in his report, made it clear that the miners’ federation is the principal cause of the trouble. He stated that discipline was observed by mine workers who were not members of the federation, or who were remote from its influence. In other words, the closer we get to the Communistcontrolled federation, the greater is the industrial unrest. The more remote we are from its control, the greater is the peace in industry. The problem of “ no coal through no work “ is due to a simple cause. People controlling the federation do not want the miners to work, or coal to be produced. They recognize that dislocation of the coalmining industry will be a step along the road towards their objective.
The nationalization of industry is one of the objects not only of the Communist party but also of the Australian Labour party,. Therefore, the Australian Labour party has difficulty in opposing the efforts of the Communists to realize that aim. During, the last few years, we have witnessed examples of nationalization in portions of the coal industry. I shall briefly examine them. Nationalization must be judged by the service that it renders to the community. If it renders a better service than that which we now experience, its advocates have every justification for extolling its advantages. But if nationalization reduces the efficiency of the service to the community, its application must reduce the standard of living! Mr. Justice Davidson said, in reference to the -tate mine at Lithgow -
It cannot be claimed that- the State mme at Lithgow since its foundation in 1916 has been a notable success.
He proceeded -
When, after being in operation for eleven years, control was transferred to a board, the sum of ?271.941 - forming portion of the total debt of ?581,941 - had to be written off as a loss.
The cost of the coal produced at the Lithgow State mine exceeded hy. from :2s. 6d. to 2s. 9d. a ton the cost of coal mined by private enterprise in the same district. His Honour also found -
The accident rate is higher than in privately owned mines in the northern district which are of equal or larger size and carry greater mining risks. The insurance rate for workers’ -compensation is within the group incurring highest charges for such insurance, although the risk is covered by the State Insurance Office.
The same sorry story may be told of the Commonwealth-controlled mine at Coalcliff on the south coast of ‘New South Wales. Under the Coal Production (War-time) Act of 1944, the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, was empowered to take over any coal mine. He assumed control of Coalcliff, but its operations make sorry reading. The -financial loss on its operations in 1944-45 amounted to £37,000, absenteeism was higher, and the number of disputes was greater than before. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) gave to the House some interesting figures about the operations of this mine under Commonwealth control’. For example, the production cost in 1944-45 was £1 4s. lOd. a ton and the selling price was £1 ls. 3d. a ton. For the year ended the 31st March last, the loss. was. £27,000, the production cost was £1 7s. 3d. a ton and the selling price was £1 2s. lid. a ton. In 1944-45 absenteeism at Coalcliff was 22 per cent., whilst in other mines on the south coast it , was 14 per cent. In 1945-46 absenteeism at Coalcliff had risen to 34 per cent., but in other mines in that district it was 17 per cent. The number of disputes and the loss of production increased. For gome weeks the Coal Commissioner was obliged to close the mine until he could get the men into a more amenable state of mind to work. Had that action been taken by private enterprise, the owners would have been liable for -a penalty because of a “ lock-out “. As the mine was controlled by the Commonwealth, no penalty could be imposed. The figures which I cited are not new, but I consider that they should be again placed on record. “Briefly, the nationalization of industry in Australia means, a reduction of out put, greater industrial unrest and a lowering of the standards of the community.
Recently, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and I investigated some of the problems of the coal-mining industry. We reported our conclusions to this House, and ever since we have urged that one of the solutions of the coal-mining difficulty was additional mechanization. Of course, that applies not only to Australia but also to Great Britain. For a long time, the miners’ federation opposed the introduction of mechanization, but now it passively endorses the principle. Many miners believe that mechanization will cause unemployment on the coal-fields. That idea is foolish. Supplies of coal must be maintained so that the demand may be met without delay. In that way, the miners will be kept in employment. Mechanization has two advantages. First, the machines remove the drudgery from coal-mining, and, secondly, they enable an increase of production four-fold or, five-fold. Mining under mechanized conditions is not an unpleasant job. If the full facts of the advantages of mechanized mining were disclosed to the people, greater numbers of recruits could be secured for the industry.
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) complained that miners were leaving the industry. To some extent, that statement is true; but I po’int out, in reply,’ that the best men are leaving the industry for the simple reason that they have no guarantee of continuity of employment. Young, efficient men, with a variety of employment offering, will not waste their time in the industry where they may work two or three days a week and be idle for the remainder of the time. The coalmining industry is subject to tremendous internal influences. Many of the youngest and most efficient miners, because of this turmoil and internal political pressure within the miners’ federation, are entering other industries where they will be guaranteed continuous employment and a steady income.
Extraordinary things, however, have happened under mechanization. Mr. Justice Davidson pointed out that, despite the fact that, in late years, mechanization has increased, production per man shift lias tended to fall. In some mechanized mines, the workers have introduced a darg. For a. considerable part of the working day, men and machines are idle. I. cannot see any reason why the Burwood colliery, where conditions are excellent, where there is’ no hard work to speak of, and where a spray of water is played on every part where the coal is Touched by a mechanical cutter or loader, should not work a second shift. If it did, and men would work, tlie supply of coal would be considerably increased. Mr. Justice Davidson bears out all that I have said, and what the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, stated a few years ago about mechanization. His Honour declared that complete mechanization would eliminate much of the trouble in the industry. He considered that the Commonwealth Government should assist coal-owners to finance, upon suitable terms, the installation of machinery. One of the reasons for that recommendation was that the Government should assist particularly the poorer mines to introduce mechanization.
Undoubtedly, contract mining is one of the great causes of trouble in the industry. That statement is endorsed by every authority who has investigated coal-mining problems. Mechanization will abolish the contract system, and introduce easier and better working conditions. If men are prepared to work the machines, the output will be increased. Mechanization not only assists to produce more coal but also has a vital bearing on safety precautions. Mr. Justice Davidson stated that the charge that the use of mechanical loaders of all types in pillar working increased the risk of accident was refuted by the experience in one of the large mines in New South Wales. In my opinion, hundreds of thousands of copies of Mr. Justice Davidson’s report should be distributed throughout Australia. I am sure that the document would be widely read. Mr. Justice Davidson bears out the contention that ‘pillar extraction with machinery will enable the recovery of coal which otherwise will be lost. In His Honour’s opinion, the mechanical extraction of the pillars is a safe method.
I wish now to comment on a section of the report in which the statement is made that the management should have the right to place the men in mechanized mines. When the Burwood colliery was mechanized and the horse-skips were displaced by skips, drawn by electric locomotives, the management .naturally chose the most competent of the younger men, who had some mechanical knowledge, to drive the new electric locomotives each of which cost about as much as a Bolls Boyce motor car. The policy adopted in the Burwood colliery proved to be effective, for satisfactory work was done; but when other collieries were being mechanized the miners’ federation claimed the right to name, on a seniority rule, the men who should drive the locomotives. These men were naturally the older men in the colliery, and many of them had little or no mechanical knowledge. That system proved entirely unsatisfactory and it was doomed to failure from the beginning. It would be ridiculous, for in- . stance, to choose pilots for aircraft on a seniority basis, irrespective of ‘their aptitude. I am- glad that Mr. Justice Davidson has recommended that colliery managers be authorized to choose the men to put in charge of, and to work, mechanized equipment.
My next point has relation to Government weakness and interference in connexion with this industry. I invite con,sideration of the. nature, of the tribunals that were established under the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944. Undeniably a peculiar procedure was adopted. A central reference board and local reference boards were appointed. The chairman of the Central Reference Board was Mr. Willis, a former secretary of. the miners’ federation, and all the men appointed to the local reference boards were members or former members of the federation. Moreover the Minister for Mines in New South Wales, Mr:. Baddeley, who had considerable responsibility, was at one time president of the federation. How could such a set up give satisfaction? If all the appointees to these boards had been mine managers or superintendents it is most unlikely that the workers in the mines would have been satisfied. It should have been foreseen that with boards so constituted the miners would be looking constantly for reasons for approaching the various tribunals, in the hope of obtaining concessions from individuals who were formerly associated with them. Undoubtedly the constitution of these boards had a considerable influence on the industry and contributed in no small degree to the dislocation that occurred. In this connexion Mr. Justice Davidson reported as follows :-
It is equally as unjust to appoint to the position of central or local industrial boards or authorities or as their chairman former officials or lodge officers of the Miners’ Federation or’ other mining unions or mine-workers as it would be to appoint former superintendents or managers of .the mines.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to the fact that in many instances fines imposed upon miners for disciplinary reasons had been remitted. This also encouraged a disregard of more or less elementary disciplinary measures.
Dealing with penalties His Honour made the- following observations : -
As discipline must be maintained, the only existing method of gaining that end is by the imposition of penalties by regulations or by statute or by an independent arbitration court consisting of legally trained members with power and Government support to enforce its rulings.
It cannot be denied that ministerial interference has done the coal-mining industry a great deal of harm, quite apart from the unfortunate practice that has been adopted of remitting fines imposed upon individuals for unsatisfactory conduct!
In regard to mechanization, Mr. Justice Davidson said, referring to the Minister for Mines in New .South “Wales -
The policy enforced by the Minister under statutory powers resting in him, of exercising sole discretion as to the use of mechanical loaders in pillar extraction is causing infinite harm to the industry.
Unquestionably, this is a technical matter, yet the authority of the management and of the mine superintendents is being overruled. Mr. Justice Davidson also said on this point -
Under the guise of arguments based on questions of safety, managers, against their will, have been forced into bad mining practices under fear of industrial dislocation, and progress of mechanization has been retarded until the mines in New South Wales in this respect are the most backward in the world.
He went on to make some significant observations in regard to check inspectors. I quote the following passage from his report on this subject: -
Some of these officials, although lacking equal qualifications in every respect, compared with superintendents and managers, and at times without any qualifications whatever, assume the attitude of dictating to them upon the mining methods that should be adopted and, failing compliance, cause stoppages of work by advising the workers not to enter the pit.
It must be quite obvious that in the circumstances that I have outlined coal production must be unsatisfactory. The miners’ organization is under the control of Communists, whose objective is not peace but anarchy. Mechanization has been retarded because of the attitude adopted by the Government. So far as I have been able to learn, no money has. been provided to assist in the provision of mechanized equipment for the mines. It must be recognized that coal is the basis of a successful peace-time industry, just as it was the basis of a successful war effort. To-day the’ Government is spending large sums of money on the manufacture of Lincoln bombers in Victoria, though for what reason I do not know. It is also expending about £13,000,000 on arms, armaments and munitions, and £17,000,000 on aircraft equipment and stores, though we do not know where, or how, the money is being expended. Surely men could be better employed operating mechanized equipment for coal mines in order to stimulate coal production which is so necessary for secondary industries, and for the transport of all classes of primary products. The Government has interfered in an entirely unjustifiable manner on the technical side of this industry and that has caused considerable trouble.
In my opinion the difficulties that the industry faces are simple, not complex. We must get men to work, and’ must provide them with satisfactory, modern equipment, but we must also introduce proper disciplinary measures. It should not be difficult to do this, and it must be done before we can hope to fulfil the great destiny that awaits us as a people.
Another subject that calls for immediate attention is an improvement of the relations between the workers and the’ management. Unfortunately, in the course of the years, contacts between -the employers and employees have gradually deteriorated. This is true not only of the coal-mining industry, but also of other industries. No doubt the coming of the joint-stock company on the one hand, and the intensive organization of trade unions on the other, has tended to drive a wedge ‘between workers and their employers. It .is a strange paradox that, although business executives are able to converse with business executives thousands of miles distant across the ocean, they rarely meet their own employees at a. conference table. Personal relations in industry generally must be improved. Managers and operators need to come together. .This is an urgent need. Coal must be regarded as a number one priority for production generally. Industrial conditions must be improved. We should never forget that, in spite of all technical improvements, production in the last resort is dependent upon the men and .women who work the machines that science has provided. Until there is a better, spirit between the men and their employers, problems will continue to arise. I do not say that all the difficulties occur on one side. I consider that mine-owners and managers should make a. new approach to employees. If the first approach does not result, in an improvement of relations other approaches should be made. Every effort should be made also to improve amenities in the industry, if it is to be placed on a better basis.
In the first part of his report, Mr. Justice Davidson dealt with industrial instability and fluctuations in employment. We must do our utmost to see that we avoid the position that we found ourselves in at the end of the first war. Rising costs in the coal industry increased the demand for alternative fuels ; ‘ consequently production fell, and unemployment was rife. My time will not permit me to develop this point,- but I ‘emphasize that stability in the industry generally depends largely upon costs of coal production and continuity of supply. The miners in particular, are adopting the most foolish policy imaginable, because, all over the country, a search is being made for substitute fuels.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I propose to reply to some of the statements that have been made by honorable members opposite. The object of the bill is more or less to provide a new deal for the miners of this country. Members of the Opposition have criticized its provisions, and have vigorously attacked the coal-miners, but have not made any constructive suggestions. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) mentioned a nebulous electrification scheme, to which he has referred on many occasions. The problem in relation to coal is urgent and pressing, and perhaps is the most vital economic and social problem that confronts .us at the moment. After listening to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and his supporters, one would imagine that theminers are the root cause of all the troubles in the coal industry. An examination of the position discloses that that is not true. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has a “ Commo “ complex. According to him,, the “ Commos “ are “ white-anting “ every industry. I am not a “ Commo “, nor do 1 sympathize with or hold any brief for the “ Commos “, but I am made to feel sick when I hear decent men charged with being “ Commos “ simply because they are militant in their outlook and are forced by those by whom they are employed to take certain industrial action. The “ Commos “ have only just come into the picture. In reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made an examination of the history of the coal-mining, industry, in which he dealt with the struggles, the bitterness, and the hostility that have been associated with it over the years and have been the means of dividing the owners and ‘the miners. The charge is made that the “ Commos “ want to createanarchy in industry. After listening to, the Leader of the Opposition, one would think that the coal-owners are “ lily-whites “, and that the miners alone- are blameable. It is admitted, by all that the conditions in this industry have been improved. But those improvements have been effected only after the most bitter industrial strife. In the days of prosperity, the mine-owner took practically all the “ cream “ out of the industry, leaving almost’ nothing for those whom he employed, and the miners were forced to resort to industrial action to obtain redress. This hunger for profits has widened the gulf between the owner and the miner. Because of the industrial conditions that prevailed after World War I.., particularly on the coal-fields of New South Wales, bitterness and hostility flared up so violently that the miners were locked out for 16 months. The mine-owners endeavoured to reduce by 12^ per cent, wages that had been fixed by an industrial tribunal. They were able to keep the mines closed, because there were stacks of coal at grass. I propose to furnish reasons. for the industrial unrest on certain coal-fields in New South Wales, by making a comparison between their conditions and. of those on the- coal-fields of Queensland. At the outbreak of World War II., approximately 3,000 coal-miners were employed in Queensland. This number was reduced to 2,500. There were reductions also in the number of miners employed in New South Wales and Victoria. During the war, the only strike in the coal industry in Queensland was that which occurred in 1940. Recently another strike accompanied the strike of the meat workers in Brisbane. There must be some reason for the peace that has existed in the industry in Queensland whilst discord and industrial unrest have been almost endemic in New South Wales. According to press reports; there are “ Commos “ in Queensland as well as in other States. Only yesterday, the Brisbane press published the information that an election for the appointment of the general secretary of the coal-miners organization in that State had resulted in a “ non-Com “ securing a pproximately 1,200 votes, whilst another candidate described as a “ pro-Corn “ secured 722 votes, and two other candidates received only a few hundred votes. If the “ Commos “ have caused the trouble in New South Wales, it is only natural to assume that they would adopt the same attitude in Queensland. The right honorable member for North Sydney .- (Mr. Hughes) claimed that apathy had played an important part in the .capture of the miners’ organization in New South Wales by certain individuals. Generally speaking, the New South Wales coal-miner is no more apathetic than is his Queensland counterpart. The root cause of the trouble goes a little deeper than that. The mine-owner in Queensland is always ready to meet representatives of the miners should an industrial dispute arise. To my way of thinking, that is one of the principal reasons for the existence of .peace and harmony on the Queensland coal-fields throughout the war period, with the exception of the breach of it in 1940, and that which occurred recently, when the miners ceased work because they contended that the vital industrial principle of the last on being the first to go was at stake. Apparently, the root cause of the industrial trouble in New South Wales is not so much the influence of the “Commo” as the failure of the mineowners in that State to co-operate with and meet in conference the representatives of the miners who wish to confer on any disputes that may arise.
The purpose of the bill we are now considering is to provide machinery for giving a new deal to the coal-miners in Nev/ South Wales. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde”) has referred to the Blair Athol coal-field. It is in the electorate which I represent. I mention it now because at Blair Athol there is one of the largest deposits of coal in the world, the seam averaging 90 feet in thickness, with an overburden of about 60 feet. As the Minister for the Army said to-day, the deposit is estimated to contain 280,000,000 tons. The coal is of fine quality, non-smoking, and with a low ash content. At present the field is being worked by an open cut, and also by the ordinary method through two tunnels. On this field the management and the miners co-operate in every way, even on the field of sport. I myself have been on the golf links there, and seen a miner going out to play with the mine manager. In New South Wales, such a thing does not happen. The mine manager would not play sport with the ordinary employee.
This bill will ensure that certain amenities shall be provided for coalminers, and for the improvement of their living conditions and their general outlook, and will ensure a state of affairs similar to . that which prevails on some of the mine-fields in Queensland. A few years ago, experts from Broken Hill were invited to visit Blair Athol for an investigation, and they made a voluminous report. A copy of the report was handed to me, and I sent it to the Minister forPostwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) with a view to having the matter examined by his department. Seeing that Blair Athol is to be discussed at the next Premiers Conference, I hope that the representative of the Commonwealth at the conference will turn up this report, because it contains all the details he will need. The Government of Queensland has appointed a committee of inquiry, which has conducted an extensive survey of the Blair Athol field.
There undoubtedly exists a coal problem to-day, and it will be much more acute a few year’s hence if industrial expansion continues at the present rate. We should do everything possible to develop the coalmining industry. If enough coal cannot be produced by the ordinary methods, the Government should consider the largescale development of new fields. The experts from Broken Hill recommended the construction of a railway line from Blair Athol to the coast through grazing country which, with the provision of better transport, could become dairying country. The construction of the line presents no engineering difficulties. The coal could be taken down to the coast, and from there shipped to southern ports. Water is plentiful, and not very far from Blair Athol a hydro-electric scheme could be developed which would supply Central Queensland towns with light and power.
I have explained how it is possible for a twelve-day fortnight to be worked in Queensland, and how a spirit of- cooperation exists which makes for a condition of industrial peace that is not found in New South Wales. If the management and the miners in New South Wales are not able to control the industry properly, the parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the State must step in and set up tribunals or authorities to adjudicate between them. Under the coal-mining award made by the Queensland Industrial Court, there was provision for the appointment of a conciliation committee, over which the Under-secretary of Labour presided, and upon which sat representatives of the . owners and the miners. This committee discussed disputes as they arose. If no agreement could be reached, the dispute was referred to the industrial tribunal ; but, because the parties could meet around the table immediately in a spirit of co-operation many incipient disputes did not develop: In the framing of this bill the Government has made a new and refreshing approach to a difficult problem, and its action compares favorably with the failure of previous governments to deal with it.
In conclusion, I quote the following letter which was sent to me by a friend in reference to the reply of the Prime Minister in the House to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on this bill :-
I listened to Mr. Chifley, Prime Minister, on the wireless last evening, and it was the most practical, logical and accurate address I ever heard from the Commonwealth Parliament.
What struck me most, and my wife agrees with me, was the plain, simple, straightforward expression- of fact with the “ hallmark “ of true sincerity. ‘
He was humane, understanding, moderate, considerate of the troubles of others, and yet his advice was a definite instruction to both parties to be honest, genuine and earnest to seek the nearest to a fair deal in the solution of the coal production business. He Was thorough, too, and did not forget what we “ inherited “ along the years of the past, coupled with the temperament of interested parties aird the incentive to serve self first, with the insinuated acceptance of the fact that- both sides do not expect absolute perfection but are resigned to do the best with a minimum of imperfection in the whole business. It is an afterthought and an inspiration .for me to say this and without special motive other than that it is perfectly true.
If I judge on that address, and I am sure T can, then T have no difficulty in predicting that j. B. Chifley will go down as the greatest Prime Minister that ever occupied that position.
– It was not my intention to speak on this measure, but after listening to the wordy member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), I arn compelled to say something in reply. The honorable member’s speech reminded me of what one might expect a criminal, with the noose around his neck, to say when appealing for mercy. Whatever I have to say about the coalminers and coal-mining applies to New South Wales, because there the miners are led by Communists and other extremists. The record of miners in Queensland and in States other than New South Wales is an honorable one. During the war, they worked excellently, and since then they appear to be prepared to do their duty as are other members of the community. The Government claims to have introduced a bill which will make the miners do something that they do not want to do - that will, in fact, discipline them. The only part of the bill which the miners do not like is the part containing the so-called disciplinary clauses. During the war, the !miners of New South Wales were the only section of . workers which did not play the game, and now they are carrying on a war against the rest of the community. All sections are affected. Tram services are restricted, fewer trains run to the suburbs, mail services have been cut down, and even the capital city, Canberra, does not receive mail as regularly’ as in the past, ft is not that the miners are not receiving good wages, or that their conditions are bad, but that they are determined to break down our national economy. Peop’le in the cities who have to travel to and from their work are greatly inconvenienced because of the restriction of tram services. Country dwellers are inconvenienced because services out of the city have been cut from seven trains a week to three, and the trains remaining are greatly overcrowded. Those who wish to travel from Sydney to Brisbane must sit up all night. Surely the public will hot endure such conditions indefinitely.
– What cure does the honorable member prescribe?
– Th That the Government should govern. The laws are applied strictly enough to butchers and hospital nurses. They are prosecuted and fined when they break the laws,- but not so the miners. Under the bill,, a miner who absents himself from duty unlawfully may be fined £100. Does any one seriously suggest that the Government has the slightest intention to impose fines on striking miners? One lias only toconsider its abject capitulation to the miners’ demands during the war. It is true that some miners were drafted into military camps, but within a week, they bad returned to their former employment. They hid themselves in a sheltered occupation during the war, .otherwise they might have been called up for military service. Now that the Avar has ended many of them have left the coal-mining industry and found more congenial occupations. Does any one seriously claim that the record of the coal-miners of New South Wales is one of which they may be proud ? I have never heard anything more pathetic than the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) when introducingthis bill. I squirmed at the reading of the honorable gentleman’s speech and was amazed, to hear the greater , part of it devoted to abusing the mine-owners. Yet the chairman of the Commonwealth Board of Inquiry into the mining industry, Mr. Justice Davidson, expressed, the opinion in his excellent report that the mine-owners could be exonerated from at least 98 per cent, of the troubles that have beset the industry. Honorable members opposite can see nothing in the action of the coal-miners that merits blame. They must be aware that throughout the’ length and breadth of Australia primary producers and people in country towns and provincial centres are unable tocomplete their homes because of the shortage of galvanized iron, brought about solely by the series of disastrouscoal strikes. Galvanized iron, barbed and plain wire, and wire netting are in short supply in most of the States, not because their production has dropped in volume, but because there is insufficient, coal- to enable the railways to transport goods to country centres. People throughout Australia are suffering unnecessary hardships, merely because the coalminers have allowed ‘ themselves to become firmly in the grip of a merehandful of Communists.- Tet the Government has nothing but apologies for the- miners and is prepared to go to any lengths to shelter them from well-merited rebuke. The Minister would have us believe that the measures now being taken by the Government will ensure that the coal-mining industry will in future be free from strikes and disturbances. Unless the Government is prepared to enforce the penal clauses in the measure it will have no greater success than has earlier legislation introduced by the Government in its feeble attempts to bring about peace in the coal-mining industry.
– I intensely dislike speaking at this late hour, and I would not do so but for the distressing news that 20,000 men were thrown out of employment at 8 o’clock this morning in South Australia because some people in New South Wales refused to mine coal. The time is ripe for plain speaking. Certainly there is no law on the statute-book to compel a man to mine coal if he does not wish to do so; but if a miner does not want to work at his calling he should get out of the industry and allow some one else to take his place. The Government has been in office for nearly five years, but listening to honorable members opposite one would imagine that it had assumed office only at five o’clock this morning, and therefore had not had time to do anything to bring to an end the unfortunate stoppages in the coal-mining industry which have so dislocated the economy of the nation. Honorable’ members opposite have spoken of the depletion of coal reserves. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to state what were the reserves of coal when he assumed office. If an examination of the figures relating to coal stocks were made, we should find that ‘ coal reserves diminished month by month during the tenure of office of the Curtin and Chifley Governments. It is obvious that the policy of the miners’ federation is to ensure that no reserves of coal shall ever again be established in this country; it believes that while that state of affairs exists it can hold the country to ransom whenever it desires to do so. That is a position which the country will not tolerate. The miners’ federation desires to take to itself power to determine whether or not industry shall function.
However, the day is not far distant when it will learn that, despite its efforts to disrupt industry, another government will shortly assume office which will quickly relegate it to its proper place in the affairs of the nation. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction must appreciate what a serious position his own State has reached by the fact that the Victorian Railways Department is converting more than 50 locomotives to oilburning, because it cannot obtain sufficient sioners are doing likewise. In- an endeaSouth Australian Railways Commissioners are doing likewise. In an endeavour to minimize the effects of the disastrous coal strikes in New South Wales on the economy of South Australia the State Government is developing Leigh Creek field and, according to press reports, is even proposing to develop a coal-mine in my own electorate. So, iri the not distant future, I may find myself entering into competition with my coal-mining friends opposite as an authority on the coal-mining industry. If the coal-miners do not want to mine coal, let them be honest and say so. It is a tragedy that in this country, which has such ample resources of good coal, our railway authorities should be forced to convert locomotives to oil-burners and have to import the fuel to operate them. . Is it believed that this bill will achieve the purpose for which it was intended? The best speech on the bill so far was made by the honorable member for .Warringah (Mr. Spender) whom I compliment, because he showed that the measure is nothing more than a political stunt. It is a repetition of what is already on the statute-book. I have looked up the debates on the Coal Production (War-time) Bill in February, 1944, and I do not think one new word has been ‘ said in this debate from the Government benches. Certainly nothing has been said so drastic as was said then by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, about what he intended to do if certain people did not get to work and produce more coal. I do not expect, and I am sure that you do not either, Mr. Speaker, one more ton of coal to be produced as the result of this legislation, but the Government hopes that it will have electioneering value. I assure the Minister in charge of the bill and, through him. his colleagues,’ that the people of South Australia are pretty sick of the treatment that they have received from Newcastle. On. the 30th May, I think’ it was, J attended a reunion of the members of my old battalion. Among them were members of the South Australian railways staff who came to me and to the gentleman who is now Commonwealth Coal Commissioner complaining about the position that they are faced with. The main’ complaint of locomotive firemen is the “ crook “ coal that they have been getting from New South Wales. They are asking for extra pay because of the extra work entailed in handling the rubbish with what they are asked to fire the boilers. I am’ not an authority on coalmining
– Or anything else.
– That may be so, but I have the Minister for Immigration to keep me company. It is high time the Government did something about this coal business instead of talking about it. We heard from the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), to-night a speech that might have been interesting but for the fact that he has made it so many times. If he ever takes ill when he wants to make it again I shall be willing to go to his place in the House and make it for him, and I will not slip on a word, although perhaps I shall not be able to reproduce his inflections. I know it by heart. Dozens of times before we have heard him trying to slate the Opposition in identical terms. He talked about Statutory Rule No. 77 of 1942. I remind my many socialist friends opposite - not all of them are socialists; they would faint if they came face to face with a real socialist - that the former member for Bourke, the late Mr. Blackburn, moved to disallow Statutory Rule No. 77 of 1942, and that I seconded the motion, which, on a division was supported by seven honorable members, six, of whom sat on this side of the House.
– Where are they now?
– I am here anyway ; but it is a pity that the honorable gentleman, is here, too. A lot has been said about the famous “ slush “ fund. There is a lot of slush in the reservoir from which the Minister for Transport drew the words for his oftrepeated epic speech to-night. If the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was able to get coal production in 3941 by the use of £300, 1 would not kick up much row about it. If- the Minister in charge of the bill could ensure coal production, as I know the Government wants to do, with £3;000, he would be a very lucky Minister, and I do not think that either he or the Government would be fastidious in their methods if they could keep the coal-mines operating.
My next point is: Has the Government any policy on coal ? My view is that it has riot and thai this bill is intended as a smoke screen behind which to hide its inefficiency, in fact its political nakedness of achievement. If Government supporters faced the electors without it they would be absolutely naked. The’ Minister can go to any State and he will not be able to get away from the fact that until some one in New South Wales is prepared to hew coal and smelt iron, and remove the accumulation on the wharfs, we shall not .have a housing programme in any State. There can be no such thing as economic rehabilitation in the Commonwealth until the industrial workers of New South Wales are prepared to live up to their name and work. I am confident that the people have decided that the time ha? come when they should have a little more than . bills and promises from the Commonwealth Government. A lot has been said about the conditions of the coal-miners. In my life I have been down only one mine. I went to the depth of 2,600 feet. I do not doubt that some of my friends opposite wish that I had never come up again. But I did. Hence I am here to confront them with their shortcomings as administrators. The mine I went down was at Broken Hill. It was a couple of years ago. While I was in the city I was shown the best workers’ homes I have ever seen. They were built for employees by the Zinc Corporation. I was told by officials of that company that at first they had the devil’s own job to get any one- to live in them because of their employees’ suspicions that if the company was prepared to provide them with such elaborate accommodation there must be something “ crook “ going on. I can understand the difficulties that exist on the coal-fields. I have been there once or twice. Some of the worst houses I have ever seen or could ever imagineare there. Unless I am sadly misinformed the miners’ hours of work are lower than in most industries in Australia and their wages are higher. But the conditions under which they live are not a credit to them. I have seen better conditions out in the bush, where water is scarce, than I have seen in the good rainfall country on the coast of New South Wales. Little attentionis paid to gardens and other improvements. There has been much talk about mechanization of the mines. If mechanization of the mines is lacking there is no lack of mechanization on the dog courses, and perhaps that has been installed with a good deal of Government assistance. But they have got away with it. Honorable gentlemen opposite talk about developing a new spirit in industry. I think the outlook on the coal-fields is hopeless.
– Let us have a vote.
– Physician heal thyself ! If the honorable member cannot stand the racket let him go to bed. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) went back to1842 in his speech. One or two of us on this side who are really historically-minded can go back a lot farther than that.
– Hysterically minded !
– I could never reach the hysterical heights of my friend the Minister for Immigration. I am not noted for it. If he continues to provoke me, I can go on for a long time yet.
– Order! I will not continue to direct the attentionof the Minister for Immigration to the fact that he is disorderly. I ask him to desist.
-I do not want to prolong the debate, but conditions in my State are so bad as the result of the lack of coal that I cannot refrain from saying something. I understand that four Commonwealth Ministers will visit South Australia during the election campaign. Whether South Australia has coal or not, they will receive a very warm reception. The less coal there is, the hotter their reception will be. The Ministry will have to do more than produce a bill to placate the people of South Australia. It will also need to do more than the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) did when he replied to the Leader of the Opposition that this was a long-range plan and that he was looking ten years ahead. In Adelaide the people are looking ten hours ahead. They are interested not in the contents of this bill, but when the next collier will reach Port Adelaide. People are not very interested in longrange plans for the coal industry when the employment of 20,000 people hinges on whether a colliercan make port through a gale. In concluding the debate on the bill in 1944, the late Mr. Curtin said that the bill would cut the Gordian knot of the coal industry. It did not do anything of the sort. In this bill, the Government has not produced the Alexander ofMacedon who can cut a Gordian knot of the coal industry. This bill will not be the weapon that will accomplish that very desirable operation. Having said that, I am prepared to allow the bill to go into committee.If I may give the Minister some advice, which I do not think he will take, it is this: If he has nothing better to say in reply than he had in introducing the bill, this is oneof the times when silence is golden.
– I will take the honorable member’s advice.
That the bill benow read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ coal “ includes coke and such other byproducts and derivatives of coal as are prescribed; “ industrial matter “ means any industrial matter in relation to the wages, rates of pay or terms or conditions of employment of members . of the Federation in the coal-mining industry, other than members of the Federation accepted by the Board by order ;
– I move -
That the definition of “ coal “ be left out.
The definition, as it stands, would leave it open to the Joint Coal Board to exercise control of the manufacture of coke by an undertaking such as Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for use in its own works, or coke made by a gas company in the course of its operations. The inclusion of by-products and derivatives of coal in the definition would result in control being exercised in respect of numerous by-products such as. benzol. I do not know whether the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Dedman) desires that derivatives of that nature should be covered by this clause.
– I do.
– Then the definition is likely to confer- on the board undue control over the large number of by-products of coal. In my opinion, the Government proposes to take an undue advantage of this bill in order to obtain complete control of industries that are not necessarily connected with coal-mining proper. This policy, if pursued, will grossly interfere with production. It is the first step towards the nationalization of industry.
– I cannot accept the amendment. Coal is defined to include coke, the production and distribution of which are closely associated with the distribution and use of coal. A satisfactory rationing scheme for coal would also involve control of the distribution of coke. Provision is made for by-products and derivatives of coal to be included in the definition of . “ coal “ by regulation, if desirable, in the -future. That is intended as a flexible provision to cover the possibility of developments on the coal-fields, such as underground gasification of coal, and the extraction of oil from coal.
– Regardless of the merits of the proposals put forward by the Opposition, the Government has issued an edict against the acceptance of any amendments. Nevertheless, the people should know that this bill contains evidence of careless drafting and that, if passed in its present form, it will grant to the Government a most extensive power to control many industries’ in Australia. This definition is an extension of the definition contained in the Coal Production (Wartime) Act of 1944, and slyly confers upon the Government authority over numerous industries. Under this clause, the Government could control gas, or steel, as derivatives of coal. I have referred to tin American scientific encyclopaedia .for the purpose of discovering what are by-products and derivatives of coal. The list contains a large number of items. In the future, coal will probably prove to be one of the most fruitful sources of’ different manufactures. At present, certain textiles and fertilizers are made from it. If this bill be passed in its present form, its provisions will extend to a large section of the chemical industry and to many derivatives of coal which I need not now mention. I object strongly to the inclusion in this definition of the words “such other by-products and derivatives of coal as are prescribed “. If, in the future, the Government considers that control should be extended to some things other than coal and coke, it should submit its proposals to the Parliament. I am not prepared, except under protest, to allow the ‘ Government to extend the operation of the bill over such a vast field as is covered by the by-products and derivatives of coal.
– Does- the honorable member fear that the definition will cover synthetic rubber?
– Synthetic rubber cannot be made commercially from coal. J. understand that the real purpose of the bill is to increase the production of coal. If that be so, its provisions should not he extended to include by-products and derivatives of coal. If any specific reason exists for that extension, the Minister should inform, honorable members. I support the amendment.
– When declining to accept the amendment, the Minister referred only to coal and coke.
– No; I referred also to the derivatives.
– The , honorable gentleman mentioned gas and coke. If he included the derivatives, he should inform honorable members what he has in mind. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) stated that the number of derivatives of coal is considerable. Not long ago, an exhibition of the byproducts and derivatives of coal was arranged in the King’s Hall. Among the articles were beautiful materials and . textiles of all descriptions. Nylon stockings and sulphate of ammonia are derivatives of coal. Does the Minister propose that sulphate of ammonia, a product of the gas companies, which is used extensively as a fertilizer, shall be conti oiled by the coal board? Honorable members should be informed exactly what kind of articles-, the bill will cover. The Government and its supporters have appealed to the Opposition for its assistance in the passing of this measure, but if the Minister in charge of the bill rejects amendments which are clearly the right of the Opposition to move, and refuses to give the information asked for-
– I have given the information.
– The . Minister has given a point-blank refusal to accept the amendment. If it is the intention of the Government to control products other than coal, the Minister should let us know what those products are. As no derivatives of coal were included in the legislation which conferred powers on the Coal Commissioner, I should like to know’ the reason for altering the definition in this bill. I do not know that the Government has at any time expressed its intention to take control of other industries, such as the iron and steel industry, under this bill, but I may be doing it an injustice if I express the view that it has no intention to do so. The Government may not mean to deal with any products other than coa] and coke under this bill, but knowing the socialistic tendencies of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), I cannot be sure what he has in his mind. Therefore we must take all steps possible to have the definition made perfectly clear.
.The Government should accept the amendment because, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), derivatives of coal include many important substances and materials. Among such derivatives are aromatic compounds, benzine, toluene, naphthalene, carbolic acid,: paraffin, petrol, coal-tar dyes, medicinal chemicals, high explosives, perfumes, nylon stockings, fertilizers and plastics. Does the Government propose to control all these derivatives? It could do so under the bill in its present form.
.Clause 4 makes provision for the inclusion of coke and other by-products and . derivatives of coal. I am interested in those by-products, particularly when I reflect that when war broke out in 1939 supplies of oil from other countries were seriously curtailed, and many restrictions had to be imposed. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has mentioned a number of derivatives of coal, but there are many others. Altogether, there are about 150 by-products of coal, many of which are most useful. During my recent trip overseas I saw many processes for the extraction ‘of oil from coal such as the hydrogenation process, the low- temperatures process, and the Fischer - Trospsh process. The last-mentioned ‘ seems to have the greatest possibilities. There is a probability that within 40 years Australia will be without oil, and in the meantime it would -be well to develop other means of obtaining oil for internal combustion engines. I support the clause because it makes provision for the development of the by-products of coal. Data obtained from Germany show that in the last stages of the war that country relied upon oil from coal. Australia is a considerable distance from natural flow oil wells, and therefore the extraction of oil from coal is a matter of vital importance, to this country. We should also be interested in such by-products of coal as synthetic dyes and plastics. Although many geological surveys ‘have been made we have not yet discovered flow oil in Australia. That is all the more reason why we should develop the. production of by-products from . coal.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), are extraordinary in that they disclose the Government’s real intention under this measure. The measure is described as -
A bill for an act to provide means for Securing and Maintaining adequate Supplies nf coal throughout Australia and for providing for the Regulation and Improvement of the Coal Industry in the/ State’ of New South Wales, and for other purposes.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has not told us the reason for adding to the definition of coal the words “ and such other by-products and derivatives of coal as’ are prescribed “. He has merely said’ that they are necessary to cover the production of oil from coal. However, there are hundreds of derivatives from coal, including by-products used in primary industries, such as, fertilizer and sulphate of ammonia, those used in the clothing trades, tar, benzol, moth balls, and various by-products used iri the manufacture of explosives. On a previous occasion the Minister said it was His intention to convert this country into a new Jerusalem. Possibly, he would like to turn it into a Jerusalem like that in which .the King David Hotel was recently destroyed in a bomb outrage. Clause 13, which deals with declared powers and functions of the proposed board, provides in sub-clause 2 (c) for “ the introduction, modification, replacement and operation of machinery, plant and equipment for use in connexion with the production and distribution of coal . . .”. If all of. these additional meanings are. to be read into the definition of coal, I can only describe the measure as a cunning device designed to. enable the Government to get control of many more industries. It will enable the Government to interfere in the establishment of new factories which are being set up for the manufacture of artificial fibre, and many other industries. On many occasions, honorable members on this side of the chamber have drawn attention- to the Government’s habit of taking matters completely out of the hands of the Parliament and giving sole power to the Executive. Who is to prescribe “such other byproducts and derivatives of coal as are prescribed “ ? The Government certainly will not allow Parliament to prescribe them. They will be prescribed hy the Executive, the bureaucratic hidden hand which rules the Government. Dozens of industries may be interfered with under this hill -which is brought down ostensibly to enable the Government to increase the production of coal. As I have already said, the measure’ is a cunning device to give to the Government wide powers over many industries. The Minister should explain why the Government has departed from- the previous definition . of coal, which simply defined’ coal to include coke.
.- I can foresee many anomalies arising under the definition set out in the hill. If, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has said, the bill is to enable the Government to control all derivatives “of coal, >and the Government proposes to set up a plant for the extraction of -oil from coal, and to control all such by-products, why does not the Government frankly state its intention? If the Government persists with this definition, the proposed board may control the manufacture by private companies of coke for their own purposes. By this means, the Government will obtain a stranglehold .upon any industry to which it may turn its attention, such as industries requiring to use derivatives of coal, including the manufacture of medicines, clothing, plastics, dyes and explosives. Under the bill, the Government will be given control over all by-products of coal which are .the lifeblood of new industries now being established in this country. This provision will give rise to a fear complex in the minds of those who contemplate establishing new industries. If the Government intend to control only the derivatives of coal, which may be produced when it embarks upon the production of oil from coal, it should clearly say so.
The arguments advanced by honorable members opposite are typical of the shadew-sparring in which they have indulged during the debate. They are sparring with phantoms, talking about industries which do not exist. The honorable, member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) spoke about the dead hand of the Government. The dead hand of private enterprise has been placed heavily on the coal-mining industry in the, past. Regardless of the number of derivatives of coal, the fact remains that under the present wasteful methods of production, tho.se derivatives are now being allowed to go up the flue. Private enterprise has not developed the coal industry, or the manufacture of by-products of coal. The Government should develop such industries rather than leave them uncontrolled and thus give to certain individuals the opportunity to float companies, and pos sibly, provide briefs for the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender).
– Could it have been imagined that an honorable member possessing any knowledge of the coal industry, or even the most ignorant layman, would say that the by-products from coal to which honorable members have referred are imaginary, and are at present being wasted because they “go up the flue “ ? Let us consider some of the most obvious by-products of the coal industry. Is any tar made in Australia ? If there is, what is the source of it? . Is it a by-product of the coal industry? Then there are heavy and light naphtha, benzine, pitch, carbolic oil, creosote oil, and fertilizers. We know that at the very foundation of the fertilizer industry, in Australia there is a by-product from coal which is recovered and commerciallized. It is with the fertilizer industry that the Australian ‘Country party is most, concerned. We know very well that during the war very many rural industries, particularly the wheat industry, suffered enormously on account of their inability to obtain sufficient supplies of fertilizers. The prospects of the fertilizer industry in Australia are excellent. Does the Government intend to take means to control that important industry?. This definition appears to be innocent, but it must be’ examined critically by honorable members on this side of the chamber. One could mention other important by-products. I need refer only to fertilizers,, tar, dyes, disinfectants and explosives. Other synthetic products could be related to by-products from coal. We are not prepared to” hand over to the Government the control of these important industries, by accepting this apparently innocent definition.
– This is a matter of principle, upon which we should like to hear the views of the Government. The only arguments advanced by ministerial supporters have related to the production of coal. We do not dispute the’ propriety of including coke in the definition. There must be some reason for the addition of the words “ and such other byproducts and derivatives of coal as are prescribed “. It is obvious that many by-products and derivatives could be prescribed by a Minister, and having been prescribed they would cope within the scope of this legislation. I need mention only a few industries which, by the stroke of a pen and without any argument ‘being adduced to this Parliament, could be brought within the operations of this very drastic measure. They are : synthetic resin, explosives, chemicals, creosotes, road tar, pitch, motor spirit, plastics and gas. We do not dispute the need for some control of the coal industry. But no case has been made out for the control of the chemical industry. If I may say so, with a great deal of respect, the honorable member who spoke about by-products “going up the flue “ has no knowledge of the matter. The chemical industry is one of the most efficient industries in this country. It is well to observe the powers that are to be conferred by clause 13. At the second-reading stage, the exceedingly extensive character of those powers was stressed. The Parliament is entitled to know why such wide authority is to be given to the Government. I am not prepared to give it. The Government has been telling the people for a. considerable time that, the war being over, there is to be an end of regulation; yet here is one of the worst examples of regulation. By a mere order signed by a Minister, control may be obtained over an industry in respect of which no case for control has been made out. This is a further example of the way in which the Parliament is being by-passed. Yet members of the Labour party remain dumb in their seats, and are not prepared to defend the rights of the Parliament. If the Government were genuine in its professions, it would say that if it wanted to obtain control of an industry it would place the matter fairly and frankly before the Parliament and have legislation enacted in respect of it. It is saying one thing and doing another. With deliberation I say that I do not trust the Government when it announces that’ it proposes to consult the Parliament. To ask for such a wide authority is to insult the Parliament. In all the circumstances, we should resist this attempt to obtain control of a number of industries.
– It is not a pleasure, at this hour of the morning, to discuss at length the definitions in clause 4 ; but, because of the importance of the matter that has been raised, the committee, and particularly the Opposition, would fail in its duty if it did not try to extract from the Government a clearer statement of its purposes and intentions than has so far been given. I have before me the Coal Production (War-time) Act. 1944 and the present bill. In all other respects, the definitions in each of them are practically identical. For example, in the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944 “ the court “ means “ the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration”. In the bill, the same words are used. In the act, “ the federation “ means “ the Australian* Coal and Shale Employees Federation”. In the bill, the terms’ of the definition are the same. “The Commissioner “ is defined in the same terms in both the act and the bill. There has been an addition to the definition of “ industrial disputes “. But “ coal “ in the old act is defined as “ coal includes coke “, and nothing more. It is a straightout, simple and honest definition, but the definition in this bill is so ambiguous as te merit the description dishonest.1 It can mean anything which the Government says it means in the future. If the Government means, to take control of’ industries, such as tar, fertilizers, benzol, &c, it has the authority and the numbers to do so, and it ought to state its inten-, tions clearly. The people .who will be affected by the legislation are entitled’ to know exactly what is meant by the definition, and ambiguity should be avoided. We are becoming used to the ‘ attempts of the Government to slip in a few little words which alter the whole character of a bill. This was done in the case of another measure, and it gave the Minister complete control. Something of the same kind is being attempted here. The Minister declined to give a reasonable explanation; his attitude is “ take it or leave it “, and later he berates the Opposition for lack of co-operation. If he wants the co-operation of the
Opposition in Parliament, and practical assistance in the committee stages such as we are accustomed to give, we are entitled to a little more courtesy from him.
Question put -
That ‘the definition proposed to be left out (Mr. Harrison’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (THE Chairman - Mk. W. j. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment . (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, in the definition “ industrial matter “, the word “accepted” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “excepted”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Civil Aviation - A. F. Kurrle.
National .Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 11)4(1, No. 125.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 194G, No. 118.
House adjourned at 2.55 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, Upon notice - . ,
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : - 1.Yes.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Department of Health has no knowledge of any such questionnaire.
e.- On the 25th July, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked a question concerning the reprinting in Australia of American magazines. I have conferred with the Minister for Trade and Customs and now inform the honorable member as follows:-
l. - On the 30th July, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) asked a question in the following terms : -
In portion of theBrunswick and Coburg exchange area many people have been waiting for five years or more for the provision of a telephone service. The underground cable position there has been acute since 1930 and nothing has yet been done to improve it. What is the prospect of applicants in the area being provided with telephones in the near future?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
A new exchange building at Coburg, which wasplanned some considerable time ago, has recently been completed, and automatic equipment is now being installed therein. The new exchange will provide initially for 700 lines and is expected to be ready for service in about four months’ time. When completed, it will afford substantial relief to underground cable plant in the Brunswick and Coburg districts. The plans of the Postal Department also provide for the laying of additional underground cable in the area as soon as supplies of this material become available.
Primary Products: Prices.
y. - In connexion with a question asked by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) on the 26th July regarding prices of primary products, I have conferred with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and understand that the negotiations at present being undertaken with the Government of the United Kingdom, concerning prices of meat, butter and cheese, are proceeding satisfactorily. There are no further negotiations in regard to other primary products. An announcement of the result of the negotiations will be made at the appropriate time. However, the honorable member for Bendigo mustbe aware of the ‘action already taken by the Commonwealth Government in regard to prices paid to dairy producers, and of the further decision by the Government to purchase meat, surplus to the ration in the States of the Commonwealth at prices related to the existing ceiling prices. I suggest that, in these circumstances, the interests of the producers are being ‘ and will continue to be adequately safeguarded.
s asked the Minister representing . the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has the Government prohibited the importation of oregon into Australia; if so, why?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
There- is no prohibition .on the importation of oregon. Licences have been and are being issued for importation from North -America on production of evidence that the timber is available for shipment within a reasonable time.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the opening of the Peace Conference, nill he inform the House of the Government’s views of the following points, before any press statement is made from the conference : -
Will the peace terms with Germany and Japan be discussed at this conference, and has agreement been arrived at between the United Kingdom and all the dominions on the main terms of peace desired.
Is the Australian Minister for External Affairs acting as the representative of an integral part of the British Empire at this conference, or as a mouthpiece for the smaller nations? If the latter, are Holland and the republic of Indonesia included amongst the smaller nations for which he speaks?
Will the question of the future position of Egypt, Palestine and India come up for discussion nt Hie Peace Conference nr is th;s an Empire matter? If so, has there been Empire discussion on the problems of these three countries and is there general Empire agreement on the policy being adopted and its effect on the future of the Empire?
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 August 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460801_reps_17_188/>.