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Thursday, 7 May 1942

Mr HUTCHINSON (DEAKIN, VICTORIA) -Has the Prime Minister read in to-day's Sydney Morning Herald the report that the seventh stoppage on the northern coal-fields since the visit of the Minister for Labour and National Service, just overa fortnight ago, occurred yesterday, when the MillfieldGreta miners, for the fourth time in ten days, went on strike? Has the right honorable gentleman, seen the further report that 'the secretary of Northern Collieries Limited has forwarded to the Coal Commissioner the names of the . Millfield-Greta strikers, with the request that action be taken against them under the National Security regulations which render them liable for labour service under military discipline? What attitude will the Government adopt towards this request?

Mr.CURTIN. - I propose to make next week a complete statement covering the whole of the coal situation. The Government knows whatis occurring on the coal-fields. A report in regard to Millfield came before the federal executive of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation at its meeting yesterday. That is the executive government of the union throughout Australia. It ordered the men to resume work. I am not in a position to state authoritatively what has happened to-day, but I believe that the men did not commence work. The federation was to have dealt further with the matter this morning. What I propose to do in respect of the whole problem will be indicated next week. Millfield is one mine at which production has ceased by reason of an industrial dispute. Another mine has ceased to produce today because the men insist that means shall be provided which would enable them to enter the adjoining mine in the event of a shaft in the mine being so damaged by an air raid as to make it impossible for them to escape from it. Some little time ago, the workers employed in the mine which it was proposed to enter objected to this being done, on the ground that it was contrary to the mining law of New South Wales. That is correct. Those are the only mines which to-day are not working because of what may be described as industrial disputes. I am conscious of all the difficulties, and understand the situation thoroughly. I accept the responsibility of the Government to obtain supplies of coal. In respect of that aspect of the matter, I have to say that more coal has been produced during each week since I acted in the matter than was produced during any week in the previous ten years, f ask the House and the country to bear with me. I am doing my very best, and my best is not inferior to the best that any one else has done.

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