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Wednesday, 18 August 1920

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- I have taken this action in order to impress upon the House the gravity of the situation that confronts South Australia at the present time in respect of her supplies of coal. The shortage of coal is so serious that the industries of the State may be suddenly brought to a standstill. Representatives of South Australia, no matter on what side of the House they may sit, are, I arn sure, fully seized with the importance of this question. The Premier of South Australia (Mr. Barwell) has again and again emphasized the point that definite action will have to be taken to facilitate shipments of coal to that State if its industries are not to be held up at an early date. The actual shortage in the supply of coal delivered at Port Adelaide for the fourteen weeks ending 31st July last amounted to 73,000 tons. That "was the shortage in respect of arrivals at one port alone, and Commander Bracegirdle, Chairman of the State Coal Board, states that if supplies do not come to hand in larger quantities it will be impossible to avert an industrial crisis. South Australia in. this regard does not stand in an isolated position. Victoria, as pointed out by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) last week is also suffering from an acute shortage; but the position in South Australia is even more serious, and it is with the object of impressing this fact upon the responsible authorities, and securing sufficient supplies to keep the wheels of industry going that I have taken this action.

Quite a number of excuses are forthcoming, and it might be well this afternoon to analyze some of them. "We aretold in the first place that the shortageis due to decreased production. Then, again, it is said to be the result of increased exportations. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has suggested that the shortage is due to abnormal circumstances that have prevailed in this country during recent years, and among these he includes the influenza epidemic and industrial unrest. Others again claim that the shortage is due to lack of shipping facilities; while, lastly, we have the statement made by a prominent coal merchant in Victoria that it is the result of Government control and interference with the distribution of supplies. Let us deal, first of all, with the allegation as to decreased production. This will naturally impress some people as the reason for the shortage at the present time, and, as a consequence, this responsibility will be focussed by public opinion on those directly employed in the coal industry. But, according to Mr. J. M. Baddeley, the president of the Coal and Shale Employees Federation -

Notwithstanding that the Commonwealth Government had about 800,000 tons of coal at grass at Newcastle, he had known ships to be kept there a fortnight, and it was nothing i or thom to be held up for a week.

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