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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Mr FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Opposition) . - I direct the attention of the Government to a matter associated with a strike in the coal industry. I regret that I am compelled to take advantage of the Standing Orders of the House to make this statement in the unavoidable absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who, I am aware, is away on important Government business. I should have preferred him to be in attendance while I make this speech. I take the opportunity to express my appreciation of the frankness with which the Prime Minister dealt earlier to-day with the position in the coal industry. Opposition members and all other responsible people of Australia will welcome the Prime Minister's emphatic declaration that if the miners do not return to work the Government will invoke all its authority to compel them to return. Indeed, this war is being waged as a fundamental necessity to maintain, retain and sustain constitutional authority. The Prime Minister this afternoon said that the Government had directed that the men who submitted their dispute to the tribunal established for the settlement of disputes should abide by the finding and go back to work. He said that they should go back and produce coal in accordance with the decision of the umpire. Again, the right honorable gentleman has the wholehearted support of Opposition members, and we shall cooperate with the Government to the fullest extent in this matter. Opposition members will also associate themselves with the disciplining of mine-owners should they do anything that is not in the best interests of Australia.

Mr James - Opposition members did nothing like that in 1929, when they were on the treasury benches.

Mr FADDEN - In the light of the Prime Minister's statement 1 was surprised to hear the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) confirm advice which I have just received from Sydney that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has instructed the chairman of the Maitland Local Reference Board, Mr. Connell, to call a compulsory conference for tomorrow.

Mr James - Hear, hear !

Mr FADDEN -The secretary to the Northern Collieries Association, Mr. Gregory Foster - whose name was mentioned previously by the honorable member for Hunter - to-day received the following telegram from Mr. Connell: -

In pursuance of ministerial direction you are hereby summoned to attend a compulsory conference at11 a.m., Thursday 14th, at 3rd Floor, C.M.L. Building, 72 Hunter-street, Newcastle.

In view of the emphatic declaration of the Prime Minister setting out the decision of the Government this Parliament, as the responsible constituted authority for the adequate government of Australia, must face the following facts: The chairman of the Central Coal Reference Board made his award on Monday, the 4th May; on Wednesday, the 6th May, theMillfield-Greta miners criticized the award and went on strike. The Government on Monday last, through the instrumentality of the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Norman Mighell, invoked Statutory Rule No. 168. To-day, we heard a clear, unequivocal declaration by the Prime Minister on this subject. I should like to ask the Government, through the representative of the Prime Minister at present in the chamber, whether he is aware that a compulsory conference has been called by Mr. Connell for to-morrow morning by direction of the Minister for Labour and National Service? By what authority does the Minister resort to what appears to be an action deliberately designed to overcome the finding of His Honour

Judge Drake-Brockman, and the Prime Minister's own emphatic declaration of to-day, which, I repeat has the wholehearted support and co-operation of the Opposition?

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