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Tuesday, 19 May 1942
Page: 1337

Mr JAMES (HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the Prime Minister seen the press report that Mr. Connell, chairman of the Local Reference Board in Newcastle, has severely criticized the chairman of the Central Reference Board for setting aside his, Mr. Connell's, finding in connexion with the Millfield colliery dispute, and for inflicting coolie conditions on the employees ? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the Bellbird company, which has been operating collieries in Australia for 70 years, has negotiated an agreement giving the men better conditions even than those prescribed in the Connell award? Will the Prime Minister set up a committee of inquiry such as he promised on Friday last to consider, in an endeavour to bring about the smooth working of the coal industry; and last, but not least, to sheet home to the real culprits the blame for the trouble which is occurring in the mining industry?

Mr CURTIN - I am this afternoon having an interview with the representatives of the Miners Federation, and I have no doubt that they will make submissions to me. I can only say that I shall weigh them fairly and fully. I have no doubt that various tribunals do arrive at different assessments, but it is not the province of a government to set aside the decisions of properly constituted tribunals. The Government must leave the law to take its course, and the decisions of competent authorities must be respected. At the same time, I am satisfied that events on the coal-fields cannot be explained in terms of ordinary industrial disputes. Some of the stoppages cannot' be explained by anything hitherto, known in the history of industrial relations, and I am most anxious to discover the. cause. To. this end, I shall be glad to avail myself of any help I can get. I shall consult with the representatives of the employees this afternoon. I shall, also be quite willing to hear what the owners have to say; but I. put it to the owners and to the workers, and to the country generally, that anything which has to be suffered at the present time, in order to- ensure the maximum! production of coal, is worth suffering, and must represent a smaller' disability to those who suffer it than would be the consequences of not continuing1 to- produce coal. I say deliberately to the owners that it is their business to assist the Government to remove those irritations and exasperations- which,, in their knowledge: of the industry, lead to stoppages:; and,, on the other- hand, I put. it to. the miners that it is .their duty not to beeasily provoked into creating stoppages. I know enough about, this business to understand that all the fault is' not on one. side. It, never has been, and. it is not so to-day. Therefore,, I ask. those associated with the industry, employers and employees alike, to put, aside their own sectional outlook,, and have regard to. the needs and welfare of the nation-.

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