17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate whether quantities of soft lead are being exported from Australia? If that be a fact, has the exclusive right’ to export such material been granted to Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited or any other Broken Hill company ?
– It is a fact that some lead has been exported from Australia, but no individual, company has had an exclusive right to export it. Licences are granted in the usual manner on an assurance being given that the material is needed in the country to which it is to be sent. A considerable quantity of scrap lead and some pig lead has been exported, and the Department of Supply and- Shipping and the” Department of Trade and Customs are now promulgating regulations that will prevent the export of lend in future without due- consideration being given to the needs of the country to which it is to be sent.
– by leave ~*On (lie 19th June, Senator Leckie asked me a question without notice concerning the granting of import licences for refrigerators. I promised to obtain the information for the honorable senator, and I have now ascertained that no licences hove been issued recently for the importation of refrigerators. Possibly, the honorable senator has in mind the licences which were granted in 1945 for the importation of a quantity of sealed mechanical refrigeration units for use in the production in Australia of an improved type of mechanical refrigerator. These licences, with the exception of two in respect of which firm contracts had been entered into with the overseas sup pliers- for reasonably early delivery, have since been cancelled. The question as to whether the granting of further licences for the importation of these sealed units is or is not in the national interest was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and ‘ the Board’s report, is. now under consideration.
– In view of the fact that there is fourteen months’ supply of tobacco leaf in Australia, and that there is a shortage of tobacco supplies for the public, causing great inconvenience to the workers, and also an increasing shortage of cigarette papers of fair quality, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping investigate -the matter and make a statement to the Senate about it la:er’
– I am not in a position to make a statement on the. subject, but I- assure the honorable senator that it is receiving attention-. The Minister for Trade and Customs has already directed that an inquiry be. made regarding the shortage of cigarette papers. The shortage of cigarettes will also be investigated.
– by leave. - On the 19th June Senator Gibson asked that steps be taken to issue licences to wheat-growers immediately. I now advise the honorable senator that, licences Iia ve been issued in all States. Any growers who have not yet applied should do so. without delay. Licences will then be forwarded to them immediately. Growers have teen informed that licences will be granted for any area they wish to plant.
– Oan the Minister say whether a farmer who holds a licence to grow wheat may grow wheat on land which is part of an unlicensed farm?
– I admit that I have no details of the licences at the moment. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. .
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether it is a fact that the Government is at present experimenting with hydraulic stowage in coal mines, and can. he say whether, as reported, the saving is likely to be 700,000,000 tons of coal? If so, can he inform the Senate how long the test will take?
– Experiments are being made with the hydraulic stowage of coal, but I do not know whether a saving of 70,000,000 tons of coal is likely. I shall have inquiries made, and let the honorable senator know the result.
ApplesandPears - Potatoes - Shipping Space.
– Can the Minister representing the Acting AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether any action is contemplated against two members of the. Legislative Council of Tasmania who took from the Huon district fruit which is reported to have been the property of the Apple and Pear Acquisition Board, and distributed it in Hobart, not to needy persons but to all and sundry, including persons with motor cars?
– I have knowledge of the matter to which the honorable senator has referred, but I do not knowwhat steps have been taken, or are contemplated, by the Acting AttorneyGeneral in connexion with it. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice paper, I shall ask that a report be furnished on the subject.
– May we regard the Government’s decision to discontinue the operations ofthe Apple and Pear Acquisition Board, which is causing great concern in Tasmania, as an indication that, the Government has made, or will make, arrangements with overseas shipping companies to provide ample shipping space to enable growers now operating under the scheme to export their surplus fruit?
– It is not usual to make statements of government policy in answer to questions. I remind the honorable senator that a referendum will be held, soon, and I suggest that, in order to give the Government the necessary powers to control marketing, he should support the Government’s proposals.
– Will the Minister state whether the Government intends to use the powers which it has already exercised to provide a guaranteed price for the forthcoming potato crop to dispose of fruit?
– If the honorable senator would urge the people to grant to the Commonwealth Government the necessary power to do what he suggests, I have no doubt that the fruit growers and the Government would devise a planto overcome all the difficulties that hehas mentioned.
– If, as the Minister says, the Government has not the power to fix prices for the products mentioned by Senator Herbert Hays where does it derive its authority to fix the prices of potatoes at present?
– The honorable senator’s question involves government policy, and. it is not the practice to deal with matters of policy in answer to questions.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping prepare plans with a view to ensuring the provision of. refrigerated space on vessels for the transport of our surplus primary products overseas, particularly apples produced in Western Australia? The apple trade is vital to that State. I am aware of the present shortage of shipping, but will the Minister investigate this matter with a view to ensuring adequate provision of refrigerated space in the future?
– The Shipping Board is already investigating future shipping requirements of this country, and clue consideration will be given to the provision of adequate refrigerated space for the export of primary products.
– I ask the -Leader of ‘the Senate when the latest report of the Auditor-General will be printed and made available to honorable senators?
– I have no idea when printed copies of the report will he available, but I shall make inquiries and supply the information to the honorable senator.
Proposed Regional Agreement
– Has the Leader of the Senate seen in to-day’s press a report emanating from America, which states that the proposed Pacific Regional Defence Agreement has been rejected by the United States of America and that the Americans do not like the definition of “ reciprocity “ given by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) ? If the report be correct, will the Minister consider making a report to the Senate on this very important matter before the resumption of the debate on the statement made by the Prime Minister in connexion with the defence of Australia, amongst other things?
– I do not propose to make a statement on any matter of government policy arising from reports published in the press, because such reports are not always reliable. If any relevant documents come to hand, and if it is considered desirable that a statement should be made on the subject to the Senate, a statement will be made.
Invitations to Visit Australia
– In connexion with the invitation that has been extended to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, to visit Australia in the near future, will the Leader of the Senate say whether it is also the intention of the Government to invite Mr. Winston Churchill, the British war-time Prime Minister, to come to Australia at the same time so that we may render to him due homage for what he did during the war and welcome him as .warmly as Mr. Attlee will be welcomed?
– The invitation extended to Mr. Attlee and the suggested invitation to Mr. Churchill to visit Australia are matters with which the Prime Minister will deal. I am not in a position to express an opinion in regard to them.
– Will the Minister for Health inquire what investigations are being made in Australia into the production and uses of the drug tomatin, which is claimed to be more effective than penicillin ? Will he inquire from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research whether it is possible to make such investigations in the near future with a view to producing this essentia] drug in Australia?
– The drug mentioned by the honorable senator has not yet been brought to my notice. I shall have inquiries made as to its nature and uses. If it is, not competent for the officers of my department to investigate the matter fully, I shall bring to to the notice of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who is Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The honorable senator’s question is timely because at present my department is contemplating making extensions to the Serum Laboratories at Royal Park, with a view to producing penicillin upon a much wider scale so as to make it available in greater quantity and at a greatly reduced price.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether he has read a report published in the Melbourne Herald last Tuesday under the heading “ New Zealand Servicemen get a good deal “, in which it is pointed out that among other concessions to ex-service personnel the Government of that Dominion has decided to loan free of interest to purchasers of war service homes the sum representing the difference between the cost of building a home in 1939 and at present? Will the Minister investigate this subject with a view to granting a similar concession to Australian ex-servicemen? The Government has admitted the difference in cost to be as much as £350 in respect of the average home?
– My attention has not been drawn to the paragraph to which the honorable senator has referred, but I undertake to submit the question to the Minister for Repatriation and ascertain his opinion on the matter.
FORMAL Motion for Adjournment.
– I have received from Senator Foll an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The critical state of Australia aa the result of the failure of the Commonwealth Government to ensure adequate supplies of fuel for industrial and public requirements.
.- I move - 1’hat the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow at 10 a.m.
– Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senator’s having risen in support of the motion.
– I make no apology for moving the adjournment of the Senate to discuss this matter in view of the critical stage that has been reached in this country. It has been quite apparent to all of us and to the community at large that the coal-miners’ have been waging an industrial war with the rest of the Australian people for a number of years, including even the years when this country was fighting for its very existence. No self respecting community could continue to allow a mere handful of individuals to retard development in the ‘way it is being retarded at present. There can be no rehabilitation of Australian industry until this hand-to-mouth production of coal is brought to an end. If there are insufficient men in the coal-mining industry, as has been suggested from time to time, and if there are not in this country more men prepared to work in the coal mines, the Commonwealth Government has a solemn obligation to the Australian people to arrange immediately for the migration of coal-miners from Europe. I understand that arrangements are being made now for the migration to Australia of 1,000 men to work in the building industry. Is it not just as essentia] that the coal mines should be fully supplied with labour? I suggest further that if it is not possible to secure sufficient coal in this country for the carrying on- of industry and transport, the Government should, in the interests of Australia’s development, seek means by which the use of alternative fuel could be promoted. It should build up large supplies of fuel oil which could be made available to industrial undertakings and transport organizations. If it were decided to use oil instead of coal in connexion with the transport system of Australia, the conversion would be a comparatively simple operation.
We had a striking example last week-end of the way in which the coal miners are holding the people to ransom. Normal means of transport were denied to. them. Supplies of coal for heating and cooking purposes have been seriously curtailed in some of the States, and apparently a similar curtailment will occur in other States. As the result of these sacrifices a considerable quantity of coal was saved, in the hope that increased, supplies would be available this week; but what was the answer of the coal miners, particularly those on the northern fields of New South Wales ? Immediately seven coal mines were closed down. The miners were on strike yesterday, and the loss of production was many times greater than the quantity of coal which was saved by the people’s sacrifices. Evidently there is a plot by the leaders of the employees in the coal-mining industry to keep other industries on a daytoday allowance of coal. By this handtomouth process they hope to remain masters of the. industrial situation.
Honorable senators know of the holdup of industry in Queensland. Although there has not been so many strikes in recent years, in Queensland, as in other parts of Australia, only sufficient coal has been permitted to be produced by the miners in order ‘to keep the wheels of industry moving. The position in Queensland is clue to the darg system, and industries in that State have always been subject to the danger of interruption of their coal supplies. The quantity produced in Queensland, even if the miners were now back at work, would be only just sufficient to meet the demands of industry in that State, and no provision has been made for new enterprises or the expansion of existing industries. Many more men could be employed in the mines were it not- for the darg -system. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, has declared within the last few days that he intends to take strong action in the matter, unless something is done to improve the undesirable position obtaining in that State. I wish to know whether Mr. Hanlon has received an assurance of support from the Commonwealth Government in whatever action he may take.
It is most unfortunate that in a country like Australia, with natural deposits of coal, we should find it necessary to dis-r cuss whether our industries should turn to an alternative fuel to enable them to carry on their operations; but obviously, we cannot allow a handful of extremists and irresponsible men such as those’ engaged in coal production to hold the whole of the country to ransom. The use of oil fuel instead of coal is not new. Oil was used in steam locomotives as far back as 1889. In Great Britain and the United States of America to-day fuel has proved a practicable and in some instances an economic proposition.
– Are there not coal disputes in other countries?
– Yes, I was in the United States- of America when the recent upheaval in the industry in that country took place, but, once the two parties came to an agreement as to what constituted a fair basis of production, the miners went back to work and remained at their job. They immediately got back into full production. They did not behave like the miners in Australia, who, after returning to work, go on strike again immediately.
A test carried out. by the London and North Western Railways Company many years ago met the requirements of speed and the time schedule with a consumption of 30 lb. of oil a mile, as compared with 70 lb. of coal previously used for a train weighing 300 tons. Other English records show a consumption of 9.25 to 10.88 lb. of oil a 100 ton miles, as against 23 lb. of coal. There is n ravine: in the cost of handling fuel, due to the lower ‘weight of oil required to do the same amount of work, and the tenders can carry a greater quantity of oil than coal. No losses occur in handling fuel oil, whereas it has been estimated that from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent, of coal is wasted between shipment and consumption. Ash disposal and much labour are eliminated. Sufficient fuel oil can be carried for a journey double the length of that possible with one loading of coal. The steaming capacity of the boiler can be increased as much as 15 per cent, by the use of oil. The fireman’s work is so much lighter as no effort other than the turning of a valve is necessary to operate the burner. Oil burners can be instantaneously adjusted to suit the load. The perfect control does away with the smoke and dangerous spark nuisance. With greater rapidity in raising steam, engines can move more quickly ‘ under their own power. Firewood for lighting up is eliminated. After the day’s work there are no fires to be raked out, or smoke boxes or flues to be cleaned, and no coal to be stacked. Saving in the cost of equipment is represented by the absence of fire rakes, flue brushes and shovels. Engines engaged in shunting operations frequently have to stand idle under steam for hours. In this case the burners can be cut down tr a minimum, as the boilers always retain sufficient steam to operate the burners. The absence of smoke and cinders add materially to the comfort of passengers when oil firing is used, and there is an undoubted saving in cleaning costs. The alteration to locomotive fire boxes presents no great difficulty, and the cost is small. Oil tenders easily take the .place of the conventional coal tender. Engines use their own steam pressure for atomization and are usually started up in. the yards by compressed air, until a sufficient head of steam is available for the switchover. Coal is the cheaper fuel. The cost of oil burning would be approximately throe and a half to four times greater, but the other savings and advantages must Le taken into consideration.
Already one State has converted to oil fuel a number of its locomotives. Honorable senators opposite ask whether this is a matter for the- -Commonwealth Government. I say definitely that if thepresent state of affairs in the coal-mining- industry is likely to continue, the Commonwealth Government should arrange for the storage of large stocks of fuel oil to be made available to industry and transport authorities in the event of supplies of coal being inadequate. It is the duty of the Government to ensure the continuation of industry by the supply of the necessary fuel. If those engaged in the production of coal are not prepared to recognize their obligations to the community it is the duty of Commonwealth and State Governments to provide alternative means of keeping the wheels of transport and industry moving. From the 1st January to the 8th June this year there has been a loss of production because of strikes amounting to 551,603 tons of coal. Statistics show that although the number of men engaged in coal production in 1945 was nearly a thousand more than in 1939, and notwithstanding that the wages paid in the coal-mining industry increased considerably during that period, 17,317 men produced only 10,176,254 tons of coal in 1945 compared with 11,195,832 tons by 16,5S1 men in 1939. The falling off has occurred despite higher wages, better working conditions, and the existence of various tribunals to control the coal-mining industry. The Australian output of coal per man has steadily declined in recent years, and is far below the output in such countries as the United States of America. In that country each man’s annual production rose from 739 tons in 1939 to 1,295 tons in 1944, whereas in Australia the corresponding figures ware 675 tons and 591 Ions. In other words, the output per man in the United States increased, whereas in Australia it decreased. Obviously a “ go slow “ policy has been in operation in the industry in Australia, despite the better conditions and the special tribunals to deal with the problems of the industry to which I have referred. Australia’s need for coal is greater to-day ‘than ever before; coal is needed for the rehabilitation of established industries and the creation of new industries to absorb men discharged from the fighting services. It is estimated that 12,750,000 tons of coal could be produced. annually in New South “Wales after allowing for S per cent, loss on account of strikes and absenteeism.
According to Mr. Justice Davidson who investigated the coal-mining industry inthat State, that production could bc doubled by the introduction of a second shift. Unless the production of coal bc greatly increased, this country’s industrial development will be retarded, and weshall continue to suffer the inconvenience and dislocation which now faces ‘us. According to the New South Wales Minister for Mines, the daily output of coal per man decreased from 3.40 tons in 1940 to 3.09 tons in 1944. Those figures i«re more remarkable when we reflect that in the same period salaries and wage* paid in the industry rose from £3,947,79r>. to £6,337,309. If Australian coal-miner? did not produce sufficient coal to meet requirements under the stimulus of patriotism during the war, and when almost, every demand made by them was granted, there is justification for apprehension as to whether our minimum requirements will be met in the future, whatever action may be taken to appease them. If Australia is to take its share of the great export markets that will bc available when conditions in Europe become more settled, industries in thi, country must, be assured of ample fuel. Otherwise, this country will go backward not forward. The present set-up in the coal-mining industry is not likely to win sufficient coal unless there is with it a new spirit among the coal-miners and nil concerned with the production of coal.
In all branches of mechanization under-ground Australia is more backward than is almost any other important coal-producing country. If coal-mining companies are to avoid insolvency, it is generally agreed that Government assistance must be made available to them if mechanization of coal-mining is to !.» introduced. .Although, under a proper scheme of mechanization, the work of the miner is made easier, and many of the disabilities associated with coal-mining disappear, there has been a good deal nf opposition on the part of those engaged in coal-mining to the introduction of modern mechanized methods which in other countries have increased production. This objection is insane. The same sort o.f objection was raised by people who used horses and carts against the steam engine when railways first came into operation, and when motor cars took the place of other forms of transport. It is stupid to believe that we can continue with old methods of co’al-mining when every other country is mechanizing the industry along the most modern lines. We know that the miners’ federation consistently opposed the introduction of mechanized methods until recently. Senator GRANT. - For what reason?
– For various reasons. One reason given was that mechanization would cause unemployment and that some miners would become superfluous. Unemployment is not the outcome of progress. Similar, arguments were adduced by the men who drove bullock teams when we first began to transport wool from the western plains to the sea-board by motor vehicle. The development of scientific methods of coal-mining would mean that the life of the individual engaged in coal production would be made easier and that other kinds of work of a more congenial nature would become available. I am confident that there is a great deal more behind the present hold-up than the desire of the miners to oppose mechanization and the improvement of conditions in the mines. This holding to ransom of the Australian people by denying supplies of coal is the result of Communist control of the miners’ federation. It is unthinkable that conditions such as those reported in the newspapers to-day should be allowed to continue. The chairman of the Sydney County Council announced at 10 o’clock this morning that the great Bunnerong power plant in Sydney had only sufficient coal to enable it to operate until 1 o’clock this afternoon. At 1 0.Clock he announced that a few more truck loads of coal had arrived to enable the plant to operate until 4 o’clock. It -is not reasonable to expect the public to tolerate this sort of thing for all time. Throughout the past few weeks, as the result of coal shortages, electricity supplies for factories have been cut off without any warning. One instance, which came to my notice only a few hours ago, was that of a big flour mill. The mill was working at full capacity producing badly-needed flour when electricity supplies were cut off for a considerable time. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) knows that this sort of thing has been happening constantly during the last few weeks. I believe that this trouble in the coal mines is the outcome of a Communist plan to strangle Australian industry and prevent the development of the nation in the way that we want. In support of my argument, I quote from statements made by leaders of the miners. Mr. H. Weils, president of the miners’ federation, said, on the 11th September, 1945 -
Malicious and stupid suggestions that the federation proposes to abandon the strike weapon and embrace arbitration have no foundation.
Mr. L. Sharkey, president of the Australian Communist party, stated -
Further good work will finally convert the millers’ organization into a really revolu-‘ tionary union and a firm support for the struggle for socialism.
Mr. William Orr, one.time secretary of the miners’ federation, said -
Every factory, every ship, every mine - a fortress of revolution.
In April, 1944, Mr. W. Crook, president of the New South Wales Northern District of the miners federation, stated -
I know that the act (Coal -Production Act) is the law, but if the law cuts across our conditions, then I will buck the law, and I will expect the support of the men.
In his report on the coal mining industry submitted to the Chifley Government in 1946, Mr. Justice Davidson stated -
Especially iri the northern and southern districts of New South Wales, discipline is almost non-existent among mine workers who are members of the miners’ federation and are within its immediate sphere of influence. Discipline is observed by mine workers who are not members of the federation or are remote from its influence.
The present disruption is probably part of a plan to enforce nationalization of the coal-mining industry. Senator Leckie will tell the story of nationalization later in the debate; and therefore I shall not deal with it now. However, it is obvious that, for a number of years, and particularly for the last twelve months, there has been a determined effort by the Australian coal miners to ensure that no section of the community shall be allowed to have coal or heat, except as they dictate.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– At one stage I thought that Senator Foll might bring to this chamber some new line of thought about this bogey of Communist control, this socialist “ tiger “, which he trots out from time to time, but I was dismayed to find that he merely repeated his stock story, that everything that happens on the coal-fields arises from the machinations of a few “ Reds “. The honorable senator’s trip overseas should have broadened his mind and enabled him to bring some new light ro this subject, which affects not only Australia but also most other countries. People who understand the coal-mining industry in Australia have been hammering at the Commonwealth Parliament and the Parliament of New South Wales for many years in an endeavour to secure improved conditions in the industry. These people forecast that, unless satisfactory action were taken, the nation would be faced with the problem, which exists to-day. The trouble is that the coal resources of Australia have been exploited by private enterprise to such a degree that now it is not possible to keep up with the demands of the nation. It is regrettable that industry must be held up before the people of Australia will take the action necessary to put the coalmining industry on a proper footing.
– The present Government has a majority in both Houses and should be able to do something about the matter.
– The Government is framing proposals which, I hope, will solve the problem. I ask honorable senators opposite to give the Government a chance to do so when the referendum i.3 put before the people on election day. A Labour government could have solved the problem- not long m ago had it been supported by the Opposition on that occasion. It is very easy to decry the Government, and say that it should do this or that, when honorable senators opposite know very well that the Commonwealth does not possess power to do the things which they say should be done. The Government has taken over some mines and has been able to .do certain things; but this is not a problem of one pit. It is a problem of the industry as a whole, .and it has been confronting this country for many years. Let me retrace the history of the problem. In Australia we have vast deposits of coal. The people of this country were content to allow private individuals to purchase these deposits and use them in whatever way they deemed fit. The people were prepared to say to these individuals, “ The coal is yours. Do what you like with it. When you have brought the coal to the surface we will purchase it from you “. The deposits in northern New South Wales are of the best quality in the world. I venture to suggest that in the Greta, seam alone not more than- 30 or 35 per cent, of the coal has been actually taken out where the seam has been worked. The balance has been left in the ground and lost to the country for all time. The mine-owners are simply picking the eyes out of the seam. Huge pillars are left behind simply because their extraction would involve a little greater cost. For this reason these pillars are discarded, and the pit eventually is abandoned with the result that 70 per cent, of the coal is lost to the nation.
– Is there any difference between the method employed in privatelyowned mines and in Governmentowned mines?
– Very few mines are Government-owned. However, this problem is based upon the huge quantity of coal won by private enterprise. In addition to the coal which has been lost due to wasteful methods of extraction, numerous collieries in northern New South Wales have been mined in such a manner that swamps have been allowed to seep into the pits resulting in the mines being abandoned. Tremendous quantities of coal have been lost to the nation because of wasteful methods of extraction employed by the mine-owners.
– Those methods are followed under the direction of the Minister of Mines.
– No; the mineowner has the right to say where the. coal shall be extracted. I remind the honorable senator that it is only within the last few years that the Government has -had any say in the matter; and government intervention was brought about because of the callous disregard on the part of the mine-owners for the welfare pf the men who won the coal for them. Now we are faced with the problem that the nation cannot obtain sufficient coal for its requirements. In such circumstances) of course, the easy thing to do is to blame the coal-miner ; and honorable senators opposite make the miner the butt of their abuse, and ridicule.
– That is not, so.
– During the numerous debates upon the coal-mining industry to which I have listened in this chamber for many years I have not heard any honorable senator opposite say anything except in condemnation of the miners. However, very little is said about the waste for which the owners are responsible, or about the failure of the owners some years ago to mechanize the mines when it was possible to do so. As the result of this failure, miners in some pits are now obliged to walk 3 miles to the coal face, whereas this waste effortcould have been prevented by the sinking of new shafts or by proper transport and the adoption of more effective methods of extraction.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of mechanizing the mines?
– Owing to the unfortunate history of the industry, the miners have for a long time opposed mechanization. Honorable senators opposite now say that there should be a new spirit in the industry.’ I agree that there should be a new spirit in the industry, but -i he fault is not all one way. I recall that in 1929 the mine-owners on the northern coal-fields locked out the miners for fifteen months. That dispute did not originate with the miners; it was caused by the action of the owners in reducing wages by 12% per cent, without reference to the Arbitration Court. Yet we hear a lot to-day from honorable senators opposite about arbitration. In 1929, when the owners were not prepared to agree to arbitration and locked out the miners for fifteen months, little was said about the need for a good spirit in the industry. There should be a new spirit in the industry to-day. Just as we ask the miners to win more coal we also ask the owners to give more consideration to the welfare of the miners. Only a few weeks ago, in company with an honorable member, I visited the Elrington colliery to investigate a stoppage of work. At that, colliery the men had to descend 1,000 feet underground. They discovered that a hauling cable had become frayed, and one strand was broken. However, the inspector, after looking at the cable, said it was all right. The miners worked that day ; but the next day seventeen strands were found to be broken, and the men refused to go down the pit. Surely, that was an occasion when .the owners should have foreseen danger and taken immediate steps to repair the gear. But, rather than do that, they said that the Coal Commissioner should decide what should be done. The commissioner engaged a rope expert to inspect the gear, and he made certain recommendations which were finally carried out. In the meantime the pit had been idle for days ; and the press of this country eagerly reported that there was another strike at the mine,, and that the men refused to work. When those men knew that so many strands had been broken it was criminal to ask them to go below; but because they said they would not risk their lives in that way the press merely reported that they were on strike Again. The co.al-miners have been the forgotten people of this country.’ I know of young men who went to this war from the coal-fields who had not had a job since they left school, yet. to-day, when they are employed and’ a stoppage occurs, the press puts forth the cry that they are unpatriotic, while refusing to say anything about people engaged in other occupations who refuse to work. I have in mind professional men in the town 1 come from, lawyers and accountants, who recently determined to work a five-day week. They put up a notice stating that their offices would be closed on Saturday morning. Last Easter they decided to have ten days off. These people determine for themselves the hours they will work, but they are not criticized by the press; but when the coal-miner absents himself for a day, or a pit closes down- for a day for some very good reason, the press cries out that the miners are again on strike. In this chamber, honorable senators opposite never miss an opportunity to say, “ the miners are on strike again. They have no regard for the laws of this country.”
– Is that not true?
– There is some truth in it certainly, but it is a matter of degree. If the workers in this industry had been prepared over the years, to rely solely on our arbitration machinery, and had been a completely law-abiding community, I hesitate to think of the conditions under which they would be working to-day.
– The honorable senator knows that the miners have had their own tribunals.
– I do not deny that. The Leader of the Opposition in’ the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) was instrumental in setting .up a special tribunal to promote peace on the coal-fields. I have a great appreciation of what has been done in that direction, but I point out that that tribunal was not constituted until the coal-mining industry had reached a position of such national importance that the ordinary methods of settling disputes that had operated in the past were no longer considered adequate. “When the coal-mining industry was not so important in the national economy, miners were dismissed freely because they could be replaced quite easily from the pool of unemployed.
– The same may be said of almost, every other industry.
– Of course.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time .has expired.
– In the present coa! situation, one thing that stands out crystal clear, is the utter futility of the Commonwealth and State Governments expending any more money or wasting any more time discussing the provision of £200,000,000 for the standardization of railway gauges, and the construction of new railway lines linking the northern part of Australia with the southern States, until such time as it is apparent that abundant supplies of coal will be available to operate these lines. In justification for expending £200,000,000 on this work, we are told that the standardization programme, and the provision of new lines is necessary for defence purposes. I have some doubt about that claim; but in any event, judging by the situation to-day, it may well be that should a period of national emergency again occur, we shall find ourselves fighting an enemy within our shores as well as foes overseas.
In supporting this motion, I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to the coal position as it affects Victoria, and to direct the attention of the Government, through the Minister, to the manner in which primary production is being retarded, secondary industries dislocated, and the building of homes urgently required for ex-servicemen and others delayed. Also of vital importance is the effect of the coal shortage upon unemployment, and the rehabilitation of ex-service nien and women. Transport facilities in Victoria are in a state of chaos as the result of the Commonwealth Government’s inability adequately to handle the coal situation, and its lack of courage in facing those few individuals who arc creating anarchy in industry to-day.
There is no need for mc to recapitulate the facts leading up to the present position. Much publicity has been given to them, and they are well known. For my purpose, it is” sufficient to say that as the result of stoppages on the coal fields over the last few years, shipping hold-ups and other similar factors, coal stocks available in Victoria are now more than dangerously low, and both transport and industry are dependent, upon the arrival of coal from day to day; Because of the position that has been created, it has been necessary for some time for Victoria to arrange for coal supplies to be transported overland instead of by sea, and the added transport costs amount to not less than £250,000 a year. That in itself is a serious handicap- to the taxpayers of Victoria.
– But a subsidy is being paid by the Commonwealth Government.
– Then it is a serious handicap to the taxpayers of the whole of Australia. Most of the coal going overland is for the Victorian Railways Commissioners, and the fact that this huge additional cost has to be met is due to the urgent need to get coal quickly to the southern State?. Because of the low state of coal stocks the Victorian Railways Commissioners have been unable to provide a normal country train schedule for many months. Consequently, passengers have been forced to travel in over-crowded trains under conditions that are far from satisfactory. Much hardship is being imposed unnecessarily on country travellers, particularly those who are compelled to make long journeys. In respect of women, particularly mothers with children, conditions are appalling. Not only compartments but also corridors are over-crowded. In addition to the passenger travel difficulties, the Victorian Railways Commissioners are not able to supply an adequate goods train service, with the result that primary producers are experiencing considerable difficulty in arranging for the transport of their livestock and produce to market, and merchants are finding it equally difficult to arrange for the despatch of commodities to country centres. Fertilizer companies can obtain only a percentage of the trucks they require. Therefore, the delivery pf superphosphate to country areas is much behind schedule, and the sowing of crops has been delayed. Farmers are being handicapped unnecessarily because of the shortage of manures, “and many acres of land will remain unproductive unless farmers can obtain fertilizers in time for sowing.
In secondary industries the position is. equally serious. Manufacturers are carrying on from one day to the next. They are not able to plan ahead, and the opportunities that should be forthcoming for the employment and rehabilitation of returned service men and women are not available. During the past two or three weeks, many workers have been stood down. The people most affected are wage-earners, housewives and pensioners. These people are being called upon to suffer considerable hardship simply because of the inability of the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the coal necessary to allow normal community life to function is available.
In the building trades similar conditions exist. Cement, brick and tile manufacturers are not able to obtain the fuel they require. Consequently, their output is limited and the result is that the building of homes is being seriously delayed. This, of necessity, causes further unemployment, and also increases costs. Because of the inability of Victorian Railways Commissioners to provide the trucks required, much firewood required for domestic purposes and for industry has to be carted over long distances by road. This cartage has to be subsidized, and the result is a further burden on taxpayers. Also, supplies of firewood coming to hand are not sufficient to meet requirements, and many people, especially the poorer sections of the community, are experiencing difficulty in obtaining fuel not only for heating purposes, but also for cooking meals. The cartage of firewood and other commodities by road over long distances - transport that should be undertaken by the railways - not only increases expenditure but also necessitates the use of large quantities of liquid fuel, and, in addition, there is much unnecessary wear and tear on tyres and road transport equipment.
The coal position to-day is far too serious to be discussed on the basis of party politics. My reason for speaking to-day is to tell the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and through him the Government, that the people of Victoria expect proper action to be taken to ensure that coal supplies required for transport and industry shall be forthcoming. I know that the Minister will reply that the matter is under consideration. He will point out that from time to time conferences have taken place between ‘ himself and members of the Victorian Government. He may say also that conferences have taken place between himself, the leaders of the industrial movement, and representatives of the coalminers. We. know all that; but the position remains unchanged, and it is too disturbing to be permitted to continue. If one is to be guided by the press, it appears that members of the Government who have a close affiliation with the industrial movement have suggested to the miners that a continuance of their stopwork tactics is likely to have a serious effect upon the Government at the next general elections. In my opinion, however, it is the inability of the Government to handle the situation that will bring about its downfall. I trust that whilst I am in public life, I shall always be tolerant of the views of others, and that I shall view with sympathetic understanding the needs of the less fortunate section of the community. Whilst I am prepared to agree that all sections, including the miners, wharf labourers and seamen, have their rights, they also have their responsibilities, and in a democracy such as ours it is wrong for any one section to impose hardship and suffering on others. The few people who are responsible for the present state of .affairs must be told plainly that it cannot continue.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– If the Minister listens patiently he may hear the answer. If we elect to live in a civilized community, then we must be prepared to abide by the laws of society, for the whole structure of democracy rests upon the sympathetic understanding of individuals one towards another. If the present, situation is allowed to go uncurbed, we shall find other sections of the community desiring [to adopt similar tactics.
What would happen if those who are concerned with the production of food commodities were to go slow, or hold up supplies? Whether or not New South Wales coal-miners have claims that should be adjusted, perhaps I am not competent to say. But the Constitution is wide enough to allow for the adjustment of these matters by constitutional means, and there is no possible justification for the methods that are now being adopted in the industry. The conditions in the coal, mines in New South Wales are much better than those at Wonthaggi, Victoria, hut the Wonthaggi miners, by comparison with the miners of New South Wales, have an outstanding record for continued and sustained, production. It may well be that the miners, themselves, and not the Communist element, are in control at Wonthaggi, and this may account for the better results. I believe, too, that many of the miners working at Wonthaggi are from England, Scotland and Wales, and for this reason they may have a better appreciation of the suffering of their relatives at home and other residents of the British Isles. No doubt they are also mindful of the starving millions inEurope.
Never was there a greater need thaI to-day for increased production throughout the Commonwealth. The people of Great Britain, to whom we owe much, are on meagre rations, and the Government of Great Britain is appealing to us for a greater supply of foodstuffs. Perhaps because of their close proximity to Europe, notwithstanding their present meagre rations, people in Great Britain are now facing up to further privation for the purpose of making foodstuffs available to starving Europe. Any Australian who does anything that retards production at present is, to my mind, guilty of a most serious crime. Had it not been for the courage pf the people of Great Britain and the sacrifices made by our own fighting forces and our allies, which brought the war to a successful issue, many of those who are now bringing about chaos in industry would have suffered a heavy penalty.
– I rise to order. lc the honorable senator in order in reading his speech? We want to hear the opinions of the honorable senator himself, and not what somebody else may have written for him.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Courtice). - I have been paying close attention to the debate, and I consider that the honorable senator is in order.
– At present we have an opportunity for industrial development which may never occur again. All our efforts should be directed towards increased production, so that we may take advantage of the markets now available to us. In Victoria steps have been taken to increase the production 6i brown coal. Railway engines are being converted from coal to oil burners, with the object of making Victoria more independent than at present of New South Wales coal supplies. Unless Victoria can get an assurance that an adequate supply of coal willbe forthcoming for the purpose of meeting domestic and industrial requirements, many New South Wales coal-miners may, in a year or two, find themselves out of employment. Then we should be leaving in the ground undeveloped resources, whilst money will be going out of the country for the purpose of purchasing other fuels. I hope that the Minister for Supply and Shipping will be able to give an assurance that theGovernment will show more courage in handling this problem in the immediate future than it has done in the past, and that steps will be taken to ensure that adequate supplies shall be made available to Victoria immediately.
The Government should show far more courage than has been displayed hitherto in the handling of the coal situation. Any proper action that it may take in this direction will have my support. I am not in favour of a policy of appeasement, and the suggested nationalization of the mines does not supply a solution of the problem. What is required is a display of tolerance and confidence on all sides. Quicker results would be obtained if the Government would, when arranging conferences with certain sections of the industry, invite representatives of all parties to attend. The action of the Government in meeting representatives of the miners behind closed doors is not likely to stimulate public confidence in the decisions reached as a result of such meetings. Better results would be obtained from open conferences, and the Government should arrange for the representatives of all sections of the community to meet the miners’ representatives in open and frank discussion. If tolerance and understanding were displayed the coal position in Australia would be much more favorable in the near future than it is to-day.
– I thought that the Opposition would have advanced tangible proposals for overcoming the impasse presented by the coal position, but not one suggestion was made by Senator A. J.Fraser as to how the present difficulty could be overcome. Senator Foll stated that oil burners should be used. That would involve the importation of fuel oil from foreign countries, and it would be necessary to provide foreign exchange. In other words Senator Foll, has more confidence in the waterside and other workers of foreign countries than he has in Australians, from the point of view of continuity of production.
– The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is not a foreign company. The Commonwealth Government has shares in it.
-The honorable senator knows that there are no oil wells in Australia capable of producing oil in quantities that would be of real assistance. If oil-burners were to be used on the railways and in the factories, in order to replace coal-burn ers, it would be necessary to have many oil-tankers trading from other countries to Australia.
– Australian tankers could be used.
– But we should still have to obtain oil from other countries, and provide foreign exchange for that purpose. When industry is proceeding smoothly, the members of the Opposition invariably cry, “Hands off State autonomy ! “ ; but immediately the States get into difficulties through the action of private enterprise, as is happening to-day with regard to coal, the Opposition shouts, “ What is the Common wealth Government doing? Why does it not take control ?”. I have not heard a better “ Yes “ speech with regard to the proposed alterations of the Constitution, on which the people will be asked to vote at the forthcoming referendum, than tha t made on this motion by Senator Foll. He furnished all the reasons why the industrial power to be sought at the referendum should be granted. He knows that coal production is under the control of the States. Except in one or two isolated instances, it is carried on by private enterprise. All the criticism heard this afternoon about lack of production of coal is a criticism of private enterprise for its failure to do the job undertaken by it.
Senator Foll referred to coal production in other parts of the world since 1935; but, before making such comparisons, he should have told us the width of the coal seams in other countries, and the methods of .production adopted as compared with those used, in Australia.
– -Also the depth from which the coal is obtained.
– Yes. Senator Poll has never worked in a coal mine. It may cost 5s. a ton to obtain coal when a mine is opened up, but it may cost 15s. a ton to produce it when it has to be conveyed, for long distances underground. In some instances the miners take from three-quarters of an hour to an hour to walk from the bottom of the shaft to the point at which the coal is hewn, and the best part of an hour is occupied in walking out at the conclusion of their day’s work. The system under which the miners have to work to-day is due to lack of transport and up-to-date facilities, and thus the cost of production has been increased. Senator Foll attributed the whole of the loss due to stoppages, lock-outs,, breakages of machinery and everything else that has caused a. reduction of coal-production to the coal-miners themselves, but the miners should, not be held responsible for the break-down of machinery or the pinpricking tactics of the mine-owners. I do not say that the miners are not sometimes at fault, but I do not agree that they are entirely responsible for the loss of production. Some mines are idle because of machinery breaking down, and others because the employers adopt pin-pricking tactics. Some mines may be idle through the stupidity of a few irresponsible employees. “What power has the Commonwealth Government to take action in all States which are producing coal? What a cry there would be if the Government took over some of the privately-owned mines which produced coal steadily through-tout the war years?
– That has not been suggested.
– We must not differentiate between the’ States in this matter. Any legislation with regard to coal production must have a Commonwealthwide application. The honorable senator forgets that, when the war was in progress, not a single coal mine in New South Wales was in production at one stage. When the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister, he addressed the coal-miners on the northern fields. He could not induce them to return to work; but he took no action at all against them, and honorable senators opposite, who sat behind him like dummies, were silent. A considerable quantity of coal is being produced to-day, but the demand is greater than ever before. Whenever the Government suggests taking over the coal mines there is a great hue and cry by the Opposition, yet when a few mines are idle, and there is consequently some loss of coal, the cry is, “ Why does not the Government act?” The Government would welcome any constructive proposal by. any member of .the Opposition for improving the output of coal. In my opinion the most effective way to remedy the existing, state of affairs would be for honorable senators opposite, instead of making speeches like that which Senator .Poll made to-day, to urge the electors to amend the Constitution to give greater powers to the Commonwealth to meet such a position as has arisen. Until the Commonwealth has greater powers there will be trouble in the coal-mining industry. Under the existing legislation a dispute must extend beyond the limits of a State before the Commonwealth Government can intervene. Senator A. J. Fraser referred to the State coal mine at Wonthaggi, in Victoria, and the cost of winning coal, there. The honorable senator did not say that son.’ of the seams at Wonthaggi are only two feet, or even 1 foot six inches thick, whereas in other parts of the world with which he compared costs, the seams are from 20 to 30 feet thick. The honorablesenator went on to refer to the time taken by miners to get from the pit-top to the working face. I know that in Victoria the time required to reach the working face after entering the mine i.as much’ as three-quarters of an hour. Getting back to the pit-top sometimes takes longer because of the up-hill grade. If Senator A. J. Fraser will read in Ilansard a previous speech of mine he will see some of the causes of stoppages in coal mines. In many instances, the cause is due to mismanagement. As private enterprise has failed to produce coal in sufficient quantities the only remedy is for greater powers to be vested in the Commonwealth, so that, should it desire to do so, the Commonwealth
Government may take over the whole of the coal-mines of Australia or open up new mines in any State. The speeches of honorable senators opposite show clearly that in the coal-mining industry private “enterprise has failed, and that as a consequence Australian industries’ Iia ve been let down badly.
– On several occasions honorable senators on this side of the chamber have directed attention to the unsatisfactory state of the coal-mining industry, their object being to goad the Government into action, so that Australian industries shall not be without the fuel necessary for their continuation. However, the position has gradually become worse, because the Government has done practically ‘ nothing in the matter. We hear a great deal about the need for greater powers being given to the Commonwealth, but we are still waiting for the Government to exercise the powers which it now has. The debate this afternoon has not brought from the Government benches anything that we have not heard in this chamber before. We are still waiting to hear what the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) has to say. Government supporters have reminded us again this afternoon that during the regime of the Menzies Government there was a strike in the coal-mining industry which lasted many weeks. That is true; yet we are now being told that the present dislocation of coal supplies is being encouraged by the Opposition with a view to defeating the Government at the forthcoming general elections. We have been reminded, too, that some years ago the coal-owners locked out the miners for a considerable time, when fairly large stocks of coal were held throughout the country, and that the miners are determined that that state of affairs shall not exist again. It is not correct to say, as has been said this afternoon, that more coal is being produced in Australia to-day than ever before. Another reason given for the present discontent among coal-miners is that they are trying to get even with the coalowners for alleged injustices done to their ancestors.
– How would the honorable senator solve the problem?
– To begin with, I would put the existing law into operation.
– Would the honorable senator have all the coal-miners arrested?
– If good reasons exist for dissatisfaction, the coal-miners may apply to the Arbitration Court to redress their grievances.’ Instead, they resort to strikes on the slightest pretext. It is the duty of the government of a country to enforce the law. There has been mention to-day of mechanization, but I, remind honorable senators that in the past the miners have not been agreeable to the mechanization of the coal-mines. The Government is trying to side-step this question, but it will not succeed in diverting the minds of the public from this important subject. In an attempt to forestall this motion, the Minister for. Supply and Shipping, as reported in the press, said that it was time to cease calamity howling and do something to improve coal stocks. He went on to say that, in his opinion, power stations should be erected on the coal-fields and that water supplies should be provided at such places. I take it that the Minister referred to the Bunnerong power station, but I point out that even if power stations had been erected on the coal-fields, no more electric power would be available for use than is available to-day. From some points of view the Minister’s suggestion- may be a wise one, but it would not improve the existing situation. Senator Aylett referred to the distance which miners have to travel from the pit-head to the underground working face, but I remind ‘him that they are paid ou the basis of “ bank to bank “. I recall that on one occasion the present Minister for Supply and Shipping is reported to have said that certain coal-miners had to walk 2 miles to reach the coal face, and that the distance from the coal face back to the pit-top was 3 miles.’ I do not know whether he suggested that in their day’s work they had extended the tunnel a mile. We have heard a good deal of the -arrangements made by the Government to ensure supplies of coal because, as was pointed out by Senator A. J. Fraser, it realized the importance of coal in maintaining production. In his introduction to a valuable report presented to the Parliament Sir Harold Clapp said that one advantage possessed by railways was that they did not have to import fuel. That statement is interesting in the light of the fact that to-day it is more difficult to get fuel in Australia for railway purposes than to import it. There was a time when coal had to be imported from Britain in order to keep our industries going. “We hear a great deal about nationalization of the coalmining industry. Some people think that it is the panacea to cure all our ills. However, Government control of some Australian coal mines proves that this is not so. The Coalcliff mine has been completely under Government control since early in 1944. During the year 1944-45, the mine sustained a financial loss of £28,350. The following year the loss was £27,650, making a total of over £56,000 in two years. In view of these figures, honorable senators will doubtless agree with me that the nationalization of coal mines would not be a solution of our present problem. The loss sustained at Coalcliff was largely due to absenteeism. In 1944-45, 22 per cent, of the loss sustained was due to absenteeism, and in the following year, 34 per cent, of the loss was due to the same cause. Therefore, I believe that nationalization, rather than being a means of overcoming our difficulties, would make the position go from bad to worse. There can be no doubt that there is an abundance of coal in Australia. Therefore, some people argue that our troubles are due to lack of labour on the coal fields. I do not agree. To support my view, I refer to an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of tie 31st June, 1946, which states : -
Miners’ claims that there had been a serious drift of labour from the coal industry were denied last night. The secretary of the Southern Colliery Proprietors’ Association and of the Western Coal Association, Mr. W. J. McN.-i.lly said the miners’ claims were not supported by official statistics. The number employed in the New South Wales industry in 1039 was ] 6,581 with a production of 11,105,832 tons, hut the number employed in 1045 was 1.7.427, with a production of 10,237,880 tons’, he said.
The figures expose the fallacy of the argument that our troubles would be overcome by employing more men on the coal-fields. In order to clarify my point, 1. refer to the following table of figures published in the same article: -
New South Wales figures of numbers employed and of production since 1939 were: -
There are two factors which should have tended to reduce the number of men employed on the fields during the period covered by those figures. In the “first place, the New South “Wales Parliament enacted legislation providing that every man employed in New South “Wales coal mines must retire at the age of 60.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– When Senator Poll submitted his motion, I hoped that he would say something that might help to solve the vital problem of inadequate coal production. However, as the honorable senator proceeded with his remarks, I was in a quandary. I could not decide whether this was a belated effort on his part to bring to the notice of the Queensland electors the fact that he still represented Queensland in this Senate, or whether, during his recent trip overseas, he had come in contact with certain oil interests anxious to exploit the Australian market for the sale of their product. The greater part of the honorable gentleman’s speech was taken up with advocating the use of substitute fuels in place of coal, with particular reference to oil. I come from Victoria which is suffering greatly from the present coal shortage. Senator A. J. Fraser, who accidentally made his appearance in the Senate recently, also comes from that State. However, he has not contributed very much towards finding a solution of this problem, which was being discussed in earnest in the Senate when I entered the chamber seven years ago. The shortage of coal is not new. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister when I became a member of the Senate, and, at that time, coal was not being produced in New South “Wales. The problem of under-production of coal has continued from then until now with this very notable exception - that during the war years, Australia produced its requirements of coal. For some time Australia was the base from which the Allied offensive in the Pacific was conducted’ and, in addition to supplying the requirements of the great war-time expansion of industry, it had to supply the Allied services which were dependent upon it with their needs. Now that the war is over, a crisis has occurred. One would imagine from the speeches of honorable senators opposite that the position arose merely from the failure of the miners to produce the necessary quantity of coal. However, there is another important reason which honorable senators opposite conveniently overlook, namely, that during the war years Australia’s industrial expansion was such that, even if the miners were able to maintain the record output of 1942, production would still be insufficient to satisfy the nation’s needs. Eighty per cent, of the total production in New South Wales is needed to meet the requirements of that State alone. Of the remaining 20 per cent., Victoria consumes about half, leaving the balance for the other States, which are dependent, upon New South Wales coal. When we analyse the position and consider it fairly, we find that the problem does not call for the use of a whip against the coal-miners, as honorable senators opposite suggest. We should study the problem from an Australian point of view. I know that miners are capricious at times and may knock off work for some reason which, to the uninitiated, may appear to-be merely vexatious. But it is necessary to ‘ understand the history of the industry if we are to .appreciate the cause of its troubles. Prior to the war, the coal-mining industry in New South Wales virtually collapsed. There was over-production as the result of the miners’ efficiency. Consequently, many thousands of miners were thrown out of work. I recommend honorable senators opposite, and those who are interested in the coal-mining industry, to read the Australasian Business Conditions Bulletin published in December, 1945, which contains special reference to the problem of coal production. It states -
The collapse of the industry pre-war is indicated in the following table, which relates to the northern field in New South Wales: -
That illustrates the uncertainty of conditions in the industry. Because of uncertainty of employment, there is little tendency for youths in the coal-mining areas to follow in the footsteps of their fathers. Fi’.om what honorable senators opposite have said, one would imagine that coal-mining is a most congenial occupation, that there are no risks in it, and that’ the amenities associated with it are such that the workers should be anxious to enjoy them. In fact, conditions in coal-mines are some of the most obnoxious that can be found in industry.
– Everybody recognizes that.
– Yes. but honorable senators opposite and their supporters do not mention it. Anybody who wishes to make a stalking horse of the coal-miners for some petty political purpose ignores their conditions of work. In recent weeks when the miners in New South Wales have been increasing production, how was that fact reported in the newspapers? If recorded at all, it wa3 reported in some obscure part of the newspapers. But yesterday when one mine was idle, this fact was printed under conspicuous headlines. The press makes a practice of drawing attention to any stoppage of work on the coal-fields, hut almost totally disregards the industry when production is increasing. The problem of coal production will not be solved by taking up the attitude, adopted by honorable senators opposite. They suggest that the Government be firm, that it should do this and that. But what did previous governments which they supported do about this problem ? Did those governments put any miners, or their leaders, in prison when stoppages occurred on the coal-fields ? No ; because they knew that such action would bring about a complete cessation of production. They realized that coal is vital to industry. But, to-day, honorable senators opposite ask why the Government does not gaol the miners. Of course, they would like to see the Government do that. They would like to see the Government imitate the Gregory-Wade Government of New South Wales when it sent miners to gaol. That action had disastrous effects upon the industry. Honorable senators opposite can speak only of the use of force and oppression of the miners when addressing themselves to this problem, i am still waiting to hear them propose a genuine solution of this problem. It is partly true, as they say, that the miners have objected to mechanization, particularly for the purpose of extracting pillars of coal which have been left in the pits. The miners fear that mechanization would throw them out .of work. Naturally they object to any method which threatens their economic security. But when the miner, or any other worker, is convinced that the introduction of improved methods of production will not adversely affect his employment he is prepared to accept them.. He will not object to mechanization provided provision is made to enable him to .obtain some benefit from it. Mechanization, for instance, should enable him to obtain a shorter working week. However, honorable senators opposite do not advocate the provision of any safeguards for the miner when they advocate the mechanization of the mines. But the worker has not been the only objector to mechanization. The mine-owner has not been very anxious that his asset should be removed by more rapid means. He recognizes that one ton of coal cannot be mined twice. He wants his asset to remain for as long as possible so long as he obtains a good price for coal or a dividend for hi? investment in the industry. That attitude on the part of private enterprise is the main cause of the industry’s troubles. Contrast that attitude on the part of the mine-owner with the attitude, for in stance, of the Victorian Government in its plans for the exploitation of brown coal. I commend the Government of Victoria upon the manner in which it is developing brown coal resources in that State’ in order tq meet the demands due to the expansion of industry. It is not deterred from adopting modern mining methods by any fear that it will lose an asset, because side by side with the popularizing of brown coal for use in steam production it is developing hydro-electric schemes. Had the war not intervened hydro-electric schemes in Victoria would be developed to a greater degree than they are to-day. A similar policy has been pursued by a Labour government in Tasmania. Whenever forces for generation of power are controlled by the State we do not find the conservatism of private enterprise which in the main is responsible for diminishing production. Like Senator Poll, I was abroad recently and had an opportunity to see the difficulties facing the people in other countries. Coal production is one of the greatest problems confronting Australia. This problem is not peculiar to Australia, but is one affecting all coal producing countries.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– This subject has been discussed from time to time in this chamber, but with little worthwhile result. It is all very well for Senator Sheehan to harp about things which he alleges were done years ago by Governments supported by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. It is abundantly clear to every honorable senator that the coal-mining industry at its present rate of production cannot supply sufficient coal to meet the requirements of industry and the community generally. In such circumstances, the community turns to the Government of the day for a remedy. That is the Government’s responsibility, and with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament it must accept it whether it likes it or not. It must ensure that essential community services shall be maintained. No honorable senator on this side ‘of the chamber has condemned the Government. We have simply brought this matter of urgent public importance to its notice, because it is the only authority by which the problem can be solved. I am astonished to hear Senator Sheehan apologise for those coal-miners who deliberately refuse to produce coal when we cannot obtain sufficient to meet the essential needs of the community. It Ls untrue to say that honorable senators on this side of the chamber have hampered the Government in its efforts to increase production. We have invariably recognized the hazardous conditions under which the coal-miner is obliged to work; and whether we have been supporters of the Government in office or in opposition we have never raised our voice against giving to the’ coal-miner increased pay or improved conditions of employment. However, we say that such matters should be determined by a competent body. For this reason, governments which we have supported set up, not only the Arbitration Court, but also special tribunals in order to enable disputes in the industry to be dealt with expeditiously. It is idle for honorable senators opposite to allege that we failed to do certain things in the past. Whatever we may have failed to do, the fact remains that this problem is the responsibility of the government of the day. In dealing with it the Government can rely fully upon the co-operation of honorable senators on this side of the chamber to ensure that these men are enabled to work under the best conditions . that can possibly bo given to them. But these matters, and the subject of wages in the industry, must be referred to a properly constituted tribunal for determination. It is about time, that honorable senators opposite desisted from indulging in “ eye-wash “ by talking about pin-pricking on the part of the mine-owners. No doubt Senator Arnold, who lives in the northern coal-field area, understands the hazards of the industry; but during his speech he did not offer a remedy. It is all very well for Ministers to laugh. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber will cooperate fully with the Government in doing anything that will encourage the miners to increase production in order to meet the essential requirements of the community. On every occasion in the past when opportunity offered” I have supported this Government and previous Governments in every endeavour they made with the object of giving the miners the best possible conditions of employment. Is it just a coincidence that in the three key industries - coal, steel and shipping - trouble exists only in New South Wales? The coal-miners and the seamen and waterside workers in every other State are working without stoppages. In Victoria the coal-miners are working as they have never worked before.
– What does the honor- able senator want the Government to do ?
– It is not for me to indicate what the Government should do.
– The honorable senator could indicate a remedy.
– I have no knowledge of the intricate workings of the industry. These are matters which should be considered by a tribunal representative of the coal-miners and others interested in coal production in order to see whether the problem cannot be solved. The question of wages has never been mentioned as ah important contributing factor to industrial unrest amongst the coal-miners. We on this side of the chamber have been asked why we do not support a 40-hour week. The answer is that that matter has never come before this chamber for discussion. There are special tribunals- for determining hours, wages, and conditions in industry. It may be sufficient ‘ for the coal-miners to work 35 or 36 hours a week, whereas in another industry 44 hours may be reasonable. That is a matter for determination by the authorities properly constituted to handle these matters. Senator Sheehan suggested that Senator Foll, who has advocated the substitution of oil fuel for coal, might be an agent of one of the American oil combines; but what is the position to-day in regard to the use of oil in ships ? Are there any new ships in the overseas trade that are coalburners? And what about the Royal Australian Navy? Do any of our naval vessels burn coal? No. They are all oilburners, and oil fuel has to be imported for them. There is no reason why we should be suspicious of any honorable senator who recognizes the fact that the use of oil fuel must increase. Surely it is abundantly clear to every honorable senator that the use of coal is declining, and that the diesel engine and other means of utilizing oil fuel will come more and more into their own. . Statements by honorable senators opposite, including Ministers, that we on this side of the chamber have always been opposed to the workers, do not assist in the solution of this problem. The suggestion is quite untrue. Governments formed by the parties now in opposition have made a substantial contribution towards increased wages ‘and improved working conditions.
It is essential that matters such as this should be debated fully. The drawing of public attention to important national issues is not an innovation. In fact, it was done much more frequently by honorable senators opposite when they occupied the Opposition benches, than it has ever been done by us. After all this is the only manner in which we can direct the attention of the Executive to a wrong that should be righted. “Without claiming t;o speak with authority for honorable senators on this soide of the chamber, I venture to say that the fullest co-operation would be given by the Opposition to the Government in whatever reasonable measures it proposed to take to solve this problem. If the costs of winning coal have become excessive, obviously those who carry on industry will be the ones who will decide whether, or not the use of substitute fuels is warranted. A decision on that matter will be governed by what each individual industry can afford. This is an age of evolution. In Tasmania to-day everybody, rich and poor alike, can enjoy the benefits of cheap electricity provided by the vast hydro-electric scheme, operating in that State. Senator Sheehan claimed that the Labour Government of Tasmania was taking steps to develop Tasmania’s hydro-electric potentialities; but I point out that that has never been a party issue. The policy for the development of hydroelectric schemes is a long-term one, pursued by the Hydro-electric Commission irrespective of the political complexion of the government in office.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have listened attentively to this debate. Senator Herbert
Hays has said that it is a coincidence that all the trouble on the coal-fields is confined to New South Wales. It is also a coincidence, and a rather remarkable one, that production delays on the New South Wales coal-fields can paralyse industries in every other ‘State. The result is, of course, that employers in New South Wales, in a deliberate attempt to discredit this Government and to induce the people of Australia to return an antiLabour government to office at the next elections, are deliberately pin-pricking the coal-miners so that they will stop work and cause widespread dislocation of industry. The whole objective of these people is to discredit the Labour Government.
– That is what this motion is for.
– Yes ; but it has even greater significance than that. There are in this chamber men who periodically make trips overseas to further their own business interests, regardless of the interests of the people whom they are supposed to represent in the Parliament. When they return to this country they do their best to achieve prominence and to let the electors know they are back. One of these, of course, is the mover of this motion, Senator Foll, who controls one of the biggest political news agencies in Australia. No doubt, we shall find in to-morrow’s press wide publicity for the charges that the honorable senator has levelled against the Government to-day. Senator Foll has gone so far as to suggest that we should obtain supplies of fuel oil from the United States of America to carry on the industries of this country. So far, Senator Herbert Hays is the only one who has mentioned the possibilities of our hydroelectric schemes. Whilst L have no sympathy with people who engage in unnecessary strikes, I have worked in industry in this country and there have been occasions on which I have “ bucked I know some of the tactics to which employers resort. I have seen prosecutions launched against innocent men in an effort to discredit the trade union movement. ‘On one occasion I was fined for striking a man, when actually I was a quarter of a mile away from where the- incident occurred. Witness after witness went into the box and said that I had been at the scene. To-day, honorable senators opposite are using the “ leftists “ in this country in an endeavour to discredit Labour, but they have little hope of achieving their objective. Senator Foll quoted certain figures relating to coal production in the years 1939 to 1945; but figures can be used to prove almost anything. I could cite figures to disprove Senator Foil’s case. For instance, I could show that in 1924, when there were 22,000 men in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales alone, production was 1,000,000 tons less than it was in 1942, when there were 5,000 fewer in the mines; but that does not prove anything. Do honorable senators opposite imagine that by attacking -the coal-miners they are assisting to bring about an increase of coal production? What is the use of talking about the importation of oil when it is quite clear that sufficient shipping space, cannot be provided to bring Australians back to this country, or to carry produce from Australia to starving countries overseas? Why, Senator Foll himself became involved in a quarrel in the United States of America because a berth could not be found for him on a certain ship sailing f or this country.
The consumption of electricity in this., country is increasing enormously, not only in the industrial sphere, but also in the domestic sphere. Gas production is also increasing, because more is being used in homes. Almost every house that is being built throughout. Australia is being provided with a gas or electricity supply. How can Our present difficulties possibly be overcome by installing some subsidiary plant using oil fuel? That is not the remedy. To my mind, hydroelectric power can make the biggest contribution to the solution of the fuel problem. The Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the Governments of the States, have introduced housing schemes, and this will necessitate increased supplies of coal for domestic purposes. New industries are being established in country areas, because the present Commonwealth Government favours the decentralization of industry. Senator James McLachlan was not pre- pared to tell the Senate what is being done in South Australia to relieve the coal shortage by means of a national plan for the production of power. A longrange plan will lead to the mechanization of coal production and help to establish many new industries in South Australia.
Senator Sheehan referred to the extra demands on the coal-mining industry be- . cause of the recent world war. At the conclusion of hostilities we began the work of repatriating the members of the services, and an enormous quantity of coal is still being used for shipping purposes, with the result that industry has not been able to obtain as much coal as it would normally receive. If the annual production were now 15,000,000 tons, that would be a far greater output than in 1943, but Australia would still be short of coal. Thousands of tons of coal are being sent to Adelaide from Leigh Creek, and a new source of power must be tapped if sufficient power is to be available to industry. The only solution is the utilization of hydro-electric power.
When honorable senators opposite contend that the coal-miners should be forced to accept compulsory arbitration they speak with their tongue in’ their cheek, because they know that the Commonwealth could apply that force only as a war-time measure.
– Did not the Opposition, when it was in power, compel the miners to accept arbitration?
– It was unable to deal with the industry through the arbitration machinery, except through power exercised under the National Security Act, but a: permanent solution of the difficulty is required. There must be a long-range plan with respect to coal production. The contention is advanced by the Opposition that the miners object, to mechanization of the mines, but that has been opposed because of the necessity for safety measures.
– .The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– It was inevitable that a protest would be lodged, either in the Sena’.e or the House of Representatives, against the non-delivery of adequate coal for transport and industrial purposes. Senator Foll is to be congratulated upon having tabled this motion, and I deprecate the allegation that he ‘ was actuated in his protest by his regard for foreign oil companies. He made a comparison of the cost to railway companies in Great Britain of conversion from coal-burners to oil-burners, presumably using British oil, so to suggest i hat he had an ulterior motive would be quite wrong. The fact that New South Wales produces S2 per cent of Australia’s supplies of hard coal is reflected on industry in every State. Even in Western Australia our industries depend on shipments of coal from New South Wales. We all recognize that coal-mining is an uncomfortable and dirty occupation, but, as far as is humanly possible, legislation has been enacted to alleviate the conditions of the miners, particularly in New South Wales. During the discussion on the second reading of the’ Coal Production (War-time) Bill 1944, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, on the 23rd February, 1944, used these words: -
With’ the existing legislative machinery, there can be no reasonable excuse for the great majority of stoppages which have occurred on the coal-fields of New South Wales. The State Government of New South Wales has provided by legislation a comprehensive code of rules and regulations governing all matters relating to the safety and health of employees in and about the collieries, whilst various tribunals have been appointed in enable industrial disputes to be determined quickly in the areas in which they arise. Despite repeated promises by organizations of employers and employees that maximum output would be ‘ maintained, incessant and disastrous interruptions to production continue. Whatever may be the real reason for past occurrences, one thing is obvious, and that is that in a democracy no group of workers, just as no group of employers, can he permitted to arrogate to themselves the right to dictate to the Parliament, and so to the Government, as to the means of conducting the defence of the Commonwealth, and of carrying on to their maximum capacity all those services and industries that are incidental to that purpose.
Those statements can be applied with equal, justification to the present hold-up of industry in Australia. The conditions of the coal-miners are no worse than, if as bad as, those of the miners engaged in the production of gold. Gold-miners have to contend with silica dust, which is more harmful to the lungs than the dust experienced in coal-mines. Coal- miners do not suffer to the same degree from silicosis and pneumonocosis as do the gold:miners. The main reason why we are not getting sufficient supplies of the coal which is urgently required is that many miners have lost the incentive to profit by their labour. One of the factors responsible for the removal of that incentive is the high rate of income tax. It is well known that coal-miners object to certain shifts. They contend that the production of more than a certain quantity of coal by them means working not for themselves but for the Commonwealth Treasurer. Until the tax burden is eased, irresponsible and ridiculous strikes will be fomented. In many cases they result from the action of unthinking lads. A method adopted in the gold-mining industry for increasing production could be used profitably in the coal-mining industry. Gold-miners take contracts for the extraction of certain quantities of ore, and this system has produced good results. The miners earn more money under the contract system than they would otherwise get. Provided the coal-miners got the benefit of extra efforts by them in the production of coal by a reduction “of their income tax, they would have an incentive to increase the output.
Silting suspended from 5.-45 to S p.m.
– To say that I am disappointed at the speeches made by, honorable senators opposite this afternoon on the important subject of coal would be to express my thoughts mildly. I do not intend to be personal or offensive in my remarks, but I think that all honorable senators will agree that the speeches of the critics of the Government in this chamber to-day will not result in one additional pound of coal being mined. I shall answer some of the charges made by the Opposition as fully as time will permit. Senator Foll, who made the motion, said that the coalminers had been waging an industrial war with the people of this country for a number of years.
– That is true.
– If that be true, then governments of which Senator Foll was a member and which Senator Sampson supported must accept some responsibility for the existing state of affairs.
– Previous governments had their troubles just as the present Government has its troubles.
– Previous governments also failed to solve the difficulties associated with the coal-mining industry, and they must accept some responsibility if they now charge the present Government with failure to control it. From the speeches made this afternoon, one would think that only in Australia is there any trouble with coal-miners, whereas the fact is that coal-mining is a turbulent industry wherever it is found. There are reasons for that. I remember that in the interval between the war of 1914-18 and the war of 1939-45 it was a common experience on the coal-fields for men to await information each evening as to whether or not the whistle would blow to summon them to work the next day. They thought themselves fortunate indeed if they obtained two days’ work in a week, and thereby were able to do something towards maintaining their wives and families. There are other reasons for the conditions which exist in the” coal-mining industry. Those who condemned the miners to-day made no mention of the hazards associated with their work, or the unhealthy conditions of their employment.
– I referred to the hazardous nature of the coal-miners’ work.
– Certain diseases are closely associated with coal-mining. Large numbers of men have, at an early age, contracted diseases which have condemned them to a lingering death. During the debate it has been said that, despite the employment of a greater, number of miners than in previous years, less coal has been produced. For generations it has been a tradition among coalminers that sons follow their fathers into the mines. That is not so to-day, because of the hazards inherent in coalmining and the unhealthy conditions of employment in the mines. To-day, fathers do their best to prevent their sons from following in their footsteps.
– That is a good argument for an alternative power supply.
– To-day, there is plenty of employment available, and consequently young men will not work in the mines, preferring to earn their living in industries which offer better conditions and where they can enjoy more of the sunshine which is denied to underground workers. Over the years little or nothing has been done to improve working conditions in the mines.
Another point raised by the Opposition to-day was the objection of coal-miners to the mechanization of the mines. Employees in the industry fear, mechanization because they believe that its introduction would jeopardize their means of earning a livelihood. It is estimated that the complete mechanization of a colliery may reduce the number of employees in it by 25 per cent.
– That would be a good thing if men do not like working in mines.
– As a large percentage of coalminers own the homes in which they live it is only natural that they should view with disfavour the introduction of machinery which might deprive them of employment and cause them either to lose their homes or be forced to seek employment away from their families. No section of the community is more loyal to its fellow workers than that section consisting of miners.
– They should be repatriated.
– -Reasonable men will agree that there are grounds for the fears of the miners as to the effects of mechanization. They also have strong objections to the mechanization of collieries because of the great danger to their health from the dust caused by machines working on the coal face. Reference has been made to the objection of the men to the use of machinery for removing pillars. That is understandable if one reflects that the pillars remain because men have driven tunnels into the coal seams using picks and shovels and explosives for the purpose. Some mines extend’ over 10 to 20 acres. In the course of time the pillars become softer and, therefore, easier to work. It is only reasonable that men who have worked under the most laborious conditions possible to provide the pillars should raise objection to their removal by the easy means which mechanization provides. Whatever ‘ I may say in reply ing to the charges levelled against the Government, I shall not indulge in recriminations. That will not help us to solve the problems which face us. In an endeavour to overcome the difficulties associated with coal -mining and bring about an increased production of coal, I have given much thought to this industry, as has also the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Previous governments faced similar problems, and in an attempt to solve them a non-Labour government appointed a coal commissioner, who later took over the control of the Coalcliff colliery in the South Coast district of New South Wales.
– After the Curtin Government came into office.
– That is so. Under him, a number of experiments were conducted. The Coalcliff colliery is one of the worst collieries on the South Coast for dust. So bad are the conditions in that mine that compensation costs represented about 13s. 8d. per ton. In his report on the coal-mining industry, Mr. Justice Davidson, referring to the Coalcliff colliery, said that substantial monetary assistance by way of subsidy would have been essential to enable the company to carry on its operations without governmental control. That report was cited this afternoon, but the honorable senator who quoted from it was not generous enough to add that paragraph. When information is supplied to an honorable senator in reply to a question it is not right that only a portion of the reply should be used. Some indication of the world-wide tendency of young men to drift away from the coal-mining industry may be obtained from the following statement made by the British High Commissioner in Australia, Mr. E. J. Williams, which was reported in to-day’s newspapers : -
Social welfare schemes had not attracted men into the British coal-mining industry, said the British High Commissioner (Mr. E. J: Williams) to-day.
Mr. Williams said that provision of full labour for mining and other staple industries was a major world problem.
In Britain employees in the mining industry had dropped from 1,220,000 after World War I. to 009,000 at present.
Seven hundred and twenty thousand was the minimum requirement.
Miners had bitter memories of the depression years.
Mr. Williams said that nationalization of the coal and steel industries was a lifeordeath matter for Britain.
Mine-owners had not offered great opposition to nationalization.
Criticism in this debate has been directed solely against the miners in regard to loss of production-
– No, against the Government.
– No, there was general condemnation of the miners. No acknowledgment was made of the fact that there is a greater demand for coal in Australia to-day than there ever has been. Senator A. J. Eraser, whilst condemning the miners generally, made some laudatory references to the miners pf Victoria. I suppose he wants them to look after him at ‘ the coming Senate elections. They will not do so if they have any sense. Whilst coal production in New South Wales has declined considerably over the last few years, the same thing has happened in the black-coal mines of Victoria. In 1942, 311,000 tons of black coal were produced in Victoria. In 1943, the total was 286,000, in 1944 it was 256,000, and in 1945 it was 245,000 tons.. That represents a produc-tion loss of 66,000 tons between 1942 and 1945. Thus, the decrease of production is not limited to New South Wales; it applies in all States. I referred earlier to the fact that men will not. enter the coal-mining industry. The mine-owners. have not been helpful in that regard. The coal-mining industry, in common with other industries, has been subjected to the war-time wage-pegging regulations, except in instances where anomalies exist or changes of circumstances have arisen. It has been a common practice in the industry over the years that, when a wheeler is absent for a day or a couple of days, a miner is taken off the coal face’ to take his place wheeling. However, the scope of this practice has extended until to-day, so I am informed by officials of the miners’ federation, some men are taken off the coal face, where they earn £2 or more a day, and put on wheeling, at £1 8s. a day, for as long as six weeks. The difference of pay between the two rates - and some men earn considerably more than £2 a day on the coal face - naturally causes dissatisfaction. The men applied to a tribunal - a reference board appointed by an anti-Labour government - to have the position rectified, but they were given an adverse decision. I .consider that it was not a just decision. I caused an investigation to be made, and asked the chairmen of the reference boards in the northern, southern and western districts to ascertain how many men were removed from the coal face and for what periods, in 1939 or 1940. The information has been supplied by the chairman of the Northern District Reference Board, but the chairmen of the reference boards in the southern and western districts have refused to supply it. My object was to obtain figures for the past six months and make a comparison with those of 1939 or 1940. This would have enabled me to show that there has been a change of circumstances, because men are to-day being removed from the coal face to undertake less remunerative work for longer periods than in 1939. Senator Foll referred to a statement which I had. made regarding establishment of auxiliary power houses on the coal-fields. The establishment of such power houses would be advantageous to the community generally. By .having the power houses situated near where the coal is produced, there would be a considerable reduction of the cost of power. Coal has to be transported for at least 100 miles from the northern fields and the western fields at present. The elimination of this haul would possibly cut the cost of power in halves, because I understand that at present the cost of transport is equivalent to the cost of production of the coal. That was one of the main reasons why I made the statement. I pointed out that siu h power-houses could have transmission lines to Sydney and could help to boost the Bunnerong output in times of crisis.” One of the chief complaints of the Sydney County Council is that it cannot obtain the quality of coal that it desires for the Bunnerong power house, with the result that it is not able to meet the demand for power. In this recent crisis, when there has been a threatened shortage of coal - there has been no actual shortage - the power has been cut off from certain districts.. . It has been cut off at Randwick and Coogee, where there is no industrial production and where little economy could be effected by cutting off the supply. It has also been cut off from industrial areas such as Bankstown and Botany. It was not until last week-end that newspapers exposed the fact thai power had been cut off deliberately in these instances. Previously, it was believed that the restrictions had been the result of breakdowns, and information to that effect had been published in the newspapers. I am amazed by the admission of Councillor Cramer of the Sydney County Council that power was deliberately cut off. In order to give some indication of the increased demand for coal to-day 1 refer to the Sydney County Council’s consumption of coal in recent years. In 1942, the council’s needs were based on an estimate of 520,000 tons a year, with a winter consumption of 48,000 tons a month. From then on, the demand gradually increased, and in 1945 consumption reached a total of 631,000 tons, with a winter consumption of 60,000 tons a month. Thus, in three years; consumption increased by 111,000 tons annually.
– There were years of black-out, when less power than Usual was required.
– I agree that there was a. black-but. There have been threatened shortages of coal as the result of what have been termed “ trivial “ stoppages. I say at once that I do not condone trivial stoppages, and I have gone to. the coal-fields and told. the miners so. But many of the causes of stoppages are not known to us or to the newspapers. Considering the nature of the work of coal-miners and the conditions under which they work, I find it hard to imagine any honorable senator going into a coal-mine and tolerating such conditions.
– We would not do it.
– Not one of us here would do it. I repeat that I do not condone trivial stoppages, but an- investigation of “the causes of many stoppages shows that the men have been justified in their actions. “We hear of stoppages on account of the working conditions of pithorses and other things, but we frequently do not hear the full story. Many stoppages are justified. New .South Wales produces over SO per cent, of Australia’s coal supplies. The Commonwealth Government has reached an agreement with the Government of New South Wales for legislation to be enacted. I am confident that as the result of that legislation which ‘will be introduced this session, not only will the production of coal be increased, but conditions in the industry generally will also be improved.
.- I have been sitting here for three rather weary hours while the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) coyly sat at the table preparing a reply to the debate. I thought that the Minister would have replied immediately after the mover of the motion had concluded his speech. However, after waiting’ three hours all we have received from the Minister is an attempt to justify the action of the coal-miners in holding up the community. It is clear that the Government has not come down to earth in dealing with this problem. ‘ Does the Government deny that the nation is now facing one of the severest industrial “ crises in its history, that the shortage of coal is causing untold misery to many people during one of the coldest winters we have experienced, and that thousands of men are being thrown out, of employment because industries have not been able to carry on for lack of coal? No. But the Minister justifies everything the coal.miners have done. One cannot place any other interpretation upon his remarks. Under the Standing Orders the debate will be interrupted within seven minutes; but I could speak for very much longer upon this subject. I emphasize that horse-power in a country means prosperity; it means employment. But I have not heard one word from any Minister or honorable senator opposite as to how the Government is going to provide adequate horse-power. It has failed to obtain increased production of coal. It throws up its arms and says, “ We are helpless. We cannot do anything about the matter”’. But the Government has’ no alternative. The nation must have horse-power. Honorable senators opposite merely answer us by saying, “ What would you do?” They simply blame previous governments. I do not want to go into history so. far ais the coalmining industry is concerned, hut I shall give some figures which will tell their own story. In 1941, when the Government of which I was a member was in office, the reserve of coal in Victoria was 320,000 tons. In 1942, after this Government came into power, that reserve had fallen to 240,000 tons. In 1943 it fell to 1S6,000 tons, in 1944 to 65,000 tons, and in 1945 to 62,000 tons; and this, week Victoria had a reserve of coal of less than 20,000 tons, or less than sufficient for a week’s requirements. Yet Government supporters talk what occurred in the past. Let us talk about the present and the future, and let the Government say what it is going to do about this problem. The whole effect of what has been said by honorable senators opposite is that the coal-miners are perfectly justified in what they have done, and the Government is doing nothing about the matter at all: I would have thought that honorable senators opposite would have made alternative suggestions such as the development of the Snowy River power scheme, under which, by diverting waters into the Murray River 500,000 kilowatts could be provided, and an additional 3,000 kilowatts provided by diverting water into the Murrumbidgee. I thought that the Government would have done something to induce the hard-worked coal-miners, whom they say are so miserable, to do some work. I thought that it would have attempted to reward the miners in some special way for extra work by the payment of a bonus for all coal produced in excess of a certain amount. The nation is desperately in need of coal. Advertisements in the daily press show that factories are being forced to close down because of the shortage of coal; but the Government is absolutely callous to the misery of the people. The people of Australia have never been in a more uncomfortable position than that in which they find themselves at present. There has never been a time in the history of Australia more fraught with danger and misery than the present. But what does the Government propose to do ? Nothing.
I sat patiently for three hours waiting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping to make some statement as to what the Government intends to do in order to relieve the position. What is it going to do to get the men back to work and relieve the plight of women and children who are threatened with death by freezing?
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 64.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will the ‘Minister countermand the eviction order, given on the 20th June, against three ex-service men and their families from three small cottages which have not been occupied by naval or any other personnel. at Cape Banks, Botany Bay, for over five months?
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied -the following answer: -
No eviction order has been issued. I am having the matter investigated; meanwhile no action is being taken to evict the three families concerned.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. In the absence of details of the particular cases the honorable senator has in mind it is not practicable to reply specifically to these questions. The general position is, however, that with a view” to assisting the man on the land, particularly those in outback areas, more liberal terms for the provision of telephone subscribers’ services were introduced in October, 1945. Previously the maximum amount expended by the department in constructing a telephone exchange line was £50. but under the revised conditions, in cases where there is.no existing pole route in the direction of the premises of an applicant, the Post Office will erect a new pole line for a distance of CO chains along a public road. Where departmental polo construction is already available the Post Office will incur expenditure, not exceeding £100 per exclusive or party line service, this sum representing the average cost of erecting 00 chains of poles with one pair of wires thereon. Where the cost would exceed the allowable maximum expenditure the Applicant is required to make a cash contribution towards the total cost of providing the service, supply poles and/or labour to reduce the cost to the department to £100 o.r erect and . maintain portion of the line at his own cost, according to the particular circumstances, the latter alternative being followed in cases when a substantial amount of new pole construction is required and the cost of providing a wholly departmentally erected service would greatly exceed the sum of £100. Where a cash contribution is made by a prospective subscriber it i? regarded as .part payment of rental in advance, and each year during the currency of the service a substantial portion of the rental is rebated until such time as the full amount of the contribution has been liquidated. If the honorable senator will be good enough to furnish me with the names and addresses of the particular applicants concerned I will be glad to have the cases reviewed with the object of ensuring that the most generous terms possible within the limits of the existing basis governing the provision of telephone subscribers’ services are extended to them.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
In view of the increased tonnage of cargo now going to the port of Esperance, will the Minister, in the interests of that port, which is the natural outlet for a vast agricultural and rnining area of Western Australia, have inquiries made into’ the possibility of lifting immediately the surcharge of 5s. a ton?
– The reply to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The question of the freight rate on the carriage of cargo to the port of Esperance from the eastern States is at present under consideration by the Australian Shipping Board. Appropriate advice will be conveyed to the honorable senator and other interested parties when a decision is reached.
Treatment of Deserters
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will the Minister make a full statement of the circumstances associated with the alleged granting of certificates of discharge to members of the Australian Military Forces said to be illegally absent from their units when on active service.
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
The order was issued by the Army authorities as a normal administrative act, on the disposal of illegal absentees from the Army. During the “war, it was necessary -for the Army to maintain in each Military District, an investigation ami provost staff for the apprehension of members of the forces who were absent without leave. With the rapid demobilization of the forces -maintained during the war, the Army authorities had given consideration to the action that should be taken in relation to 7,879 members of the forces who had been declared to be illegal absentees during the years 1939 to 1945. As a result of a review, the Army authorities decided that action be taken in respect of those members who absented themselves without leave and were declared to bc illegal absentees prior to 1st January, 1946, and had not surrendered or been apprehended, to discharge them in absentia immediately. There has been some criticism of this action on the grounds that what has been done by the Army authorities gives those who went absent without leave before 31st December, 1945, an honorable discharge with all rights of war gratuity and other benefits accruing to the returned soldier. That is not correct. The records of such members will be endorsed to the effect that their discharges were made on account of misconduct during service. The discharge certificate when issued will bc endorsed to indicate that the member’s discharge was effected “ in absentia “ because of illegal absence. Discharge under these conditions automatically precludes the member from eligibility for war gratuity under the provisions of the War Gratuity Act 1945, which provides that any member who has been discharged for the reason that he has been guilty of misconduct will be disqualified for war gratuity. A discharge of this nature also renders the member ineligible for war medals, and rehabilitation benefits and war service homes. Under the instructions issued by the Army authorities., a discharge, certificate will not be issued to the member unless he makes personal application therefor. The procedure which had been followed by the Army authorities in this instance is in accordance with the action which was taken on the termination of hostilities in the last war, when an order was issued by the Governor-General in Council discharging from the First Australian Imperial Force all soldiers who had been continuously absent without leave for three calendar months immediately prior to 31st July, 1920. As a result of the issue of this order, members of the First Australian Imperial Force concerned, forfeited their right to repatriation, service medals, leave and gratuity money.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. No request has been received for assistance.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
In view of the acute shortage of skilled labour in primary industries, will the Government give consideration to the establishment of training centres in various country centres enabling the education of youth in these industries?
Senator J. M. FRASER__ .The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer: -
Rural training of youth is a matter for State government action. The only aspect oi
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice-
– The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Export of Mutton and Lamb
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Air has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : - 1.It is not the practice to disclose government policy in reply to a question.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the Government’s attitude towards the seven strikes at present in operation in the metal trades?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
Certain disputes in the metal trades are at present receiving the attention of the appropriate industrial tribunals. The Government’s general attitude is that strikes and disputes should be settled by these tribunals.
The following papers were pre- sented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules.1946, No. 100.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Departent of External Affairs - A. H. Loomes.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Control of cotton materials - Revocation.
National Security ( Internment Camps ) Regulations - Order - Internment camp (No. 12).
National Security (Prices) RegulationsOrdersNos. 2517-2542.
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations- Order - Prisoners of war camp (No. 16).
National Security (Shipping Coordination ) Regulations- Orders - 1946, Nos. 15, 16.
Regulations Statutory Rules 1946, No. 98.
Patents Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946 No.91.
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1946, Nos. 57, 85.
Senate adjourned at 8.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 June 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460626_senate_17_187/>.