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Thursday, 30 April 1942


Mr GUY - They would be applied only as a last resort.


Mr ABBOTT - Yes; and they can only he used in the defence of the Commonwealth and its territories. This power will not be used needlessly, or capriciously. I come now to the application of these regulations to the coal-miners. Listening to some honorable members one is led to believe that the miners are as black as the coal they mine; and, listening to other honorable members, that they are as white as snow. Neither conclusion, I suppose, is correct; the miners are human like ourselves. However, when coal-miners, or any other workers, go on strike, they do not help our war effort, or do anything to assist in the salvation of this country. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) declared that the coal-miners are a class within the working class itself; they are a class apart from ordinary workers. If they are prepared to accept the protection of the Government and the flag of Australia, and the protection of our armed forces, they must also accept with these privileges the obligations of citizens of the Commonwealth. When they are ordered by the Government to return to work, they must do so. If they cannot obtain redress of their grievances, they must take up that matter with the Government with a view to obtaining an amendment of the law in the way they desire. I am not a lawyer, but simply a grower of wool. However, 1. have often wondered why we cannot utilize the structure of our civil law in order to enable arbitration magistrates and arbitration courts of petty sessions to deal on the spot with disputes that arise on the coal-fields.


Mr Watkins - There is arbitration.


Mr ABBOTT - I favour taking arbitration right to the pit mouth, instead of forcing coal-miners into the awesome legal atmosphere of bobbed wigs. There is quite a lot in that suggestion. I repeat that if the miners accept the privileges of citizenship in this country, they must also accept its obligations. The honorable member forReid (Mr. Morgan) said that so long as the coal-mines are controlled by private enterprise, the difficulties now peculiar to the industry will never be settled. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), as I have already said, gave certain reasons for the strike which occurred recently at the State coal-mine at Lithgow. There have been strikes at the State coal mines in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.


Mr Holloway - The Wonthaggi State coal-miners are not striking at present.


Mr ABBOTT - I admit that they are doing a good job, but I do not think that the nationalization of the coal-mining industry is the panacea for all the ills mentioned by the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Reid. One deadly result of strikes in coal-mines is that they are retarding the aggregation of adequate coal stocks in the various States.







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