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Wednesday, 25 February 1942

Mr HOLT (FAWKNER, VICTORIA) - Under regulation No. 10,

National Security (Coal Control) Regulations, it is provided that the owner of a coal-mine in which employees refuse to work after having been directed to do so by their appropriate organization shall have power to notify the Coal Commissioner to that effect, and that the Commissioner may, in turn, remove names so notified from the list of those inreserved occupations. . I ask the Minister for Supply whether any owner has notified the Coal Commissi oner to this effect, and, if so, what actionhas been taken?

Mr.BEASLEY. - by leave - The action provided for in the regulation has not been taken. Representatives of the Government have had long conferences with the owners and miners in an endeavour to reach an understanding for the peaceful carrying on of the industry, at least for the duration of the war, so that production may be not only main- tained at its proper levelbut also increased to meet the additional needs arising from the war. We felt that we had succeeded until, on Monday last, we found that more mines had become idle, four on the South Coast, and three on the northern field, making seven in all. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who had been deputed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) to attend to matters of this kind, consulted directly with representatives of the mine lodges in the northern and southern district, and also attended mass meetings of the miners. I am happy to be able to say that to-day all the mines are working with the exception of one at South Clifton. This mine is not working because of a dispute connected with the pensions scheme instituted by the Government of New South Wales. The District Delegate Board on the South Coast, which met this morning, heard representatives from the South Clifton mine, and afterwards carried the following resolution unanimously : -

Owing to the serious war position, this District Delegate Board, representative of every miners' lodge on the South Coast, cannot stand for South Clifton or any other miners' lodge laying idle in the Southern District, and any lodge or individuals not prepared to work and allow their grievances to be dealt with either by the Lodge Executive, Pit Top Com mittee or tribunals that this District Board considers, they are doing everything in their power to assist Fascism and the Japanese menace, and that we will consider them no longer members of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation.

Notwithstanding the criticism that may be levelled against the Government for not taking a more direct course in this matter, we are mindful of the fact that it is coal that we need, and that there is not a great number of men in Australia competent to go into the pits and mine coal. At the risk of criticism, we sought means to induce the Miners Federation to take the step which it took to-day. This decision has been approved by the general president and general secretary of the Miners Federation, which is the central council of the employees. During the week-end, the miners on all fields will be called together at mass meetings, and will have explained to them the plain facts regarding the Japanese menace toAustralia. As a result, I am hopeful that the production of coal will be maintained and increased, and that it will not be necessary to invoke the National Security Regulations.

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