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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Prowse - The honorable member must not criticize members of the judiciary.

Mr JAMES - -The present dispute about which the Prime Minister proposes to invoke regulation 168 was brought about by a decision of His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman. For twelve months the men have been patiently awaiting the award, which was a review of an award issued by the chairman of the Local Reference Board, Mr. Connell, a man who understands coal-mining from A to 7j. Nothing could be more irritating to Hie miners than for the chairman of the Central Reference Board to say that the delay was due to stoppages of work, His Honour's illness and other causes. The chairman continued -

This delay has also all been in favour of the men; they have had the benefit of the decision of the Local Reference Board, now under review at the instance of the employer, during the whole of that time.

HisHonour showed how callous some people can be, when he said that the men shall no longer enjoy the decision of the chairman of the Local Reference Board. His Honour has created an anomaly to which I have already referred. "Why should all this trouble be blamed on the miners, when it must be freely admitted that the referee, through his gross ignorance of the coal-mining industry, has made the error that appears in the award. U any honorable member were performing similar work to that of another man, would he not resent being paid 3s. 8d. a day less than that other man received ? Would not any man kick against such a decision? He would not be a good Australian if he did not. A man named Miller who owns the collieries at which the dispute occurred employs an advocate named Mr. Gregory Foster. That advocate when applying for the job was asked a question about his experience in coalmining. He replied that he had worked at a mine on the coast of New South Wales. He was then asked, "What lights did they use, safety or naked lights?" He replied, "Oh, I worked on the day shift ". He was so ignorant of the industry that he thought that men thousands of feet below the surface would be working in daylight! And he is the advocate for the owners. Some honorable members will remember that Mr. Miller, during the last general coal strike, defied the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), who was then Prime Minister, and said that he would not allow his mine to resume work under the terms of the settlement arrived at because he wanted something different. That is the mine-owner whom His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman is championing in this case. No one can deny the ability nf Mr. Connell, who understands mining. But because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) asked me to preside at miners' conferences, or has presided at conferences himself, His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman said that if there was any more of it he would walk out of the job. I congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service on his good work. He has called a compulsory conference of miners and mineowners for to-morrow, at which he has asked Mr. Connell to preside. The man whose decision has been the subject of review will take the chair at this compulsory conference, and I hope that Mr. Connell will stand by his previous decision, that he will upset the unjust award of Judge Drake-Brockman, and that His Honour will carry out his threat to walk out of the job. We would welcome his leaving.

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