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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2492


Senator CHANEY —I address a question to the Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister representing the Minister for Trade. I ask whether he is aware of a telex sent by coal industry unions to the Japanese steel mills threatening disruption of exports and including the following paragraph:

This committee condemns the bastardry of those Australian coal producers whose refusal to abide by Federal Government parameters in price talks not only threatens even more mine jobs, but is tantamount to treason in selling out the Government, mineworkers, the coal industry and Australia.

Was the Government aware of this inflammatory message from the unions to one of our most important coal buyers? If the Government was aware of it, did it immediately dissociate itself and Australia in general from the contents of the message? If it was not aware of it, what does this say about its special relationship with the unions? Does the Minister agree that such Actions by a trade union can only damage Australia's trading relationships? Will the Government now dissociate itself publicly from this telexed message of the coal unions?


Senator WALSH —I am not sure when the alleged telex was sent.


Senator Chaney —Some time in May.


Senator WALSH —Senator Chaney tells me it was some time in May. I certainly was not aware of it. I do not know whether the Minister for Trade was aware of it at the time. As he is now out of the country, I will not be able to find that out for some time. If Senator Chaney has quoted fairly from the telex and not quoted unduly out of context, it certainly seems that the language is strong, to say the least. But I will have a look at that telex. When the Minister for Trade returns I will also ask him to look at it and see whether we will make a statement about it then.


Senator CHANEY —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I am somewhat surprised that the Minister has not seen the telex because it was published in full in a newspaper. Certainly, I saw it some time before that. If I provide the Minister with a copy of the telex, will he provide a considered reply to the questions I have asked about a matter which is of very great significance to a major Australian export industry?


Senator WALSH —I apologise if I should have seen the telex and I did not. I am expected to look at quite a lot of papers. The Miners Federation has over- reacted on at least three occasions in my opinion in the last 12 months in circumstances roughly comparable to those to which Senator Chaney referred. I have in the past contacted officials of the Miners Federation and given them my view on that.