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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under what authority did the Minister for Labour and National Service summon the compulsory conference to-day between the management and employees of the MillfieldGreta mine?

Mr WARD - I am at a loss to understand who advised the honorable member that I had convened a compulsory conference. I can suggest to him that he should not take for granted what appears in the newspapers or what the mine-owners may advise him by telephone.

Mr HOLT - The Minister referred to the compulsory conference on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night.

Mr WARD - That is not correct. The facts are that I convened a conference of the parties, and when I was informed that it was unlikely that the mineowners would attend, I announced that the Government would take a very serious view of any failure on their part to be present. I have used the powers which are vested in me under regulations to convene a conference of the parties to a dispute, because the policy of this Government is one of conciliation as well as arbitration. . I was of opinion that if we were able to bring the parties together we could settle the dispute. I owe apology to nobody for the action that I took, and the honorable member can always rest assured that any decision which I make is in complete conformity with the powers that I possess.

Mr FADDEN - Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform me whether the miners at the Wongawilli and Pelaw Main collieries are on strike? What is the position regarding strikes at other mines on the northern coal-fields?

Mr FORDE - I mentioned earlier that this matter does not come within the ambit of my work as Minister for the Army. I have been fully occupied since 9 a.m. to-day with many matters, and no report on the position on the coalfields in New South Wales has been presented to me. However, I am assured that one mine which was idle yesterday is working to-day. I believe that is the Millfield-Greta colliery.

Mr McEwen - Two other mines have ceased work.

Mr FORDE - The attitude of the Government was emphasized by the Prime Minister yesterday. His statement has the backing of the Government and the law will prevail.

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