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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Mr JOHNSON (Kalgoorlie) .- I should not have participated in this debate had I not wished to support certain suggestions which have been made to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), and to which I hope that he will give serious consideration. I strongly support the contention that local knowledge should be availed of in dealing with the man-power problem. Recently the Government decided that most of the men engaged in the goldmining industry should be transferred to more important war work. The trouble is that if the gold-miners be taken haphazardly from this industry the results will be disastrous. All gold-mines cannot be treated alike. Should a mine be well developed and thoroughly protected, it may remain in a good state of preservation for quite a long time, even although it is not in active operation, but, if a mine is not well developed, any substantial decrease of the number of operatives will cause it to deteriorate quickly, and the chances are that if it remains idle for any considerable period it will be ruined, and will never be re-opened. Therefore, I suggest that when the withdrawal of man-power from the goldmining industry is being considered, the co-operation of experts who know the mines and the districts in which they are situated should be sought. The Government of Western Australia has a State Mines Department to which are attached mining engineers whose advice would be of great value in ascertaining the number of employees that could be withdrawn safely from various mines. The same thing applies to a large degree to the pastoral industry in Western Australia. That State has just passed through one of the most devastating droughts in its history. The drought lasted for six years, and reduced many pastoral districts to areas of scorched earth. Now the drought has broken, and the sheep that have been saved will have to be shorn immediately. Unless sufficient labour be made available, heavy losses will be experienced owing to the blow-fly menace. Therefore, the industry should not be hampered until shearing is completed. When the Minister visited Western Australia, I introduced to him a deputation representing the Pastoralists Association and the Australian Workers Union. As the result of his efforts, a number of shearers was temporarily released from the Army for the purpose of relieving the acute man-power position in the pastoral industry. The Minister appreciates the problem, and I urge him to give earnest consideration to it.

The farming industry is in a similar plight. As the result of heavy enlistments in the fighting forces, farmers are now struggling to work their properties without sufficient labour. If the Army indiscriminately calls up men in the age groups without regard for the part that they are playing in this industry, disastrous results may follow. I welcome the suggestion that a person with local knowledge of the requirements of an industry should be co-opted by the manpower committee to advise it when employees are being withdrawn. If that proposal were adopted, some of the hardship would be alleviated. I sympathize with the Minister, because his task is most unenviable. Our perilous situation necessitates the calling up of men for military service, and this is not the time to raise bogies and obstacles that increase the difficulty of administering the department. In conclusion, I appeal to tha Minister to give sym pathetic consideration to the requirements of the gold-mining, pastoral and farming industries.

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