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Thursday, 1 August 1946

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) . - I have listened with some interest to the fiery "Yarra bank" effort of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), who has just resumed his seat. Instead of debating the matter before the House, he saw fit to attack one honorable member after another, on the ground that he had done or had failed to do something. Then, being still unsatisfied, he devoted the bulk of the remainder of his time to abuse ofthe coal-owners.

The matter of coal has been before this House every session in the last three years, on motions for the adjournment of the House and in special legislation. This has been necessary, because the Government and its supporters have hot been prepared to face the problems with which the industry has been confronted. Every ministerial member who has spoken during this debate has evaded the issue. I commend for their consideration speeches in which the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, put his finger right on the problem in the industry, and pointed out that the lack of discipline by the Communists in control of the miners federation was mainly responsible for the disorganization by which it was afflicted. Again and again, regulations of all descriptions have been brought down; and these have been supplemented by legislation which, in the main, did no more than implement them. The measure we are now considering is practically identical with the act passed in 1944. Neither acts nor regulations have produced more coal. Unfortunately, the greater the volume of legislation and regulations, the lower has been the production of coal. No legislation of this character will produce coal. Nor will a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a spirit of co-operation between the mine-owners and the miners. Above all, when legislation is brought down the Government must have the courage to enforce it. Those who are in control of the miners federation in New . South Wales to-day well know . that the Government has not the slightest intention of enforcing its legislation. The act passed in 1944 has been a " dead letter ". [Quorum formed.] That a quorum has had to be formed twice in the space of a few minutes proves that Government supporters have little of that practical, sympathetic interest in this legislation which this House and the country have everyright to expect them to show. It is the function of the Government to maintain a quorum with the Opposition. The policy of appeasement adopted by the Government towards malcontents and extremists has been the basic cause of the troubles in the coal industry. In this respect, I cite an outspoken authority . In Ilansard, volume 179, at page 414, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, is reported thus -

I acknowledge that from time to time representatives of the unions have made representations to the Government that certain things be done to improve the conditions of the workers in the coal-mining industry in order that increased production might result. I have succumbed to those representations. I acknowledge quite frankly that ' the union, from time to time, has requested me to do certain things or not to do certain things, and that I have acted in accordance with my judgment, in order that the output of coal might be increased. I acknowledge that I have tried what has been called appeasement.

Every effort to increase the production of coal has failed. While the Government follows a policy of .appeasement, this country will not get. the coal that it needs, nor will peace be restored to the coal industry. I regret exceedingly the introduction of this measure. The Government has failed dismally to give effect to the recommendations that were made by Mr. Justice Davidson, an experienced and competent jurist, after an investigation of the industry which lasted for fourteen months, in a carefully considered and valuable report. The more important of his recommendations have been completely ignored. Yet the Government claims to have based its. legislative proposals on the recommendations of His Honour. I protest against having to discuss these proposals without being able to examine .the report, which has not yet been printed. .We have had to try to inform our minds as to what the report contains, without -having the document before us. That . is a distinctly wrong practice,..which the Government is adopting all too frequently. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) frowns on that statement. I remind him that some time ago members of the Opposition pressed the Government to improve the conditions of dairymen in this country. We sought a subsidy to increase the price received for butter by the dairy-farmers.

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