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Thursday, 1 August 1946


Mr WARD (East Sydney) (Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories) . - I deliberately waited until a. number' of Opposition members had addressed themselves to this measure, so that I could learn first, what criticism they had to offer of the proposals of the Government, and, secondly, what constructive proposals they had to make as to what the Government should do to overcome the difficulties that are now associated with the production of coal. With the exception of the honorable member for. Warringah (Mr. Spender), who has just resumed his seat, I have listened in vain. I do not take that honorable member's suggestions very seriously.- But for some speeches that were made by the late Prime Minister, Mr.- Curtin, and Mr. Justice Davidson's report, every member of the Opposition would have been incapable of making any contribution to this debate.

In my opinion, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who introduced the bill, dealt very effectively with the problem that confronts this country to-day. That problem is not one which arose only yesterday or last year, lt has confronted governments in this country for a number of years. If honorable gentlemen opposite know the solution of it, why did they not apply it when they occupied the government benches in this Parliament? Beyond attempting to make party political capital out of the present difficulties of the nation, they have not had a word to say.

The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction drew attention to the fact that the demand for coal has increased enormously, and will increase as the years go by. In connexion with electricity, the consumption of coal was 1,163,000 tons in 1939, and 1,675,000 tons in 1945; with gas it was 578,000 tons in 1939, and 772,000' tons in 1945 and with the railways it was 994,000 tons in 1939, and 1,328,000 tons, in 1945. It is true that the demand for bunker coal and coal for export has decreased, and that in some degree has relieved the situation. It is evident that private enterprise, in its. control of this industry, has completely failed. Not one member of the Opposition has endeavoured to argue that this is an efficient industry. All of them have admitted that it requires re-organization. Even the honorable member for Warringah said that a board should.be constituted, and that there should be a new organization to control the industry. Not one of. them has defended those who are at present in control of it. The admission Ls general that the industry is inefficient, and that those in control of it are incapable of properly organizing it. Therefore honorable members argue. there should be some change. But, they say, the change should not be in the direction proposed by the Government. Private enterprise, as I have said, has failed dismally in its control of the industry. Wasteful methods of production have been employed, and the welfare of the workers has been neglected. Listening to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), one would imagine that going down into the bowels of the earth and winning coal for the nation is quite a pleasant occupation. I should like the honorable gentleman to tell the people of this country why, if the conditions are so good, 2,000 men have left the industry in the last twelve months. During the war years, many more men would have left it had they had ' the opportunity to do so. Honorable members will well, recollect that when action was taken to exclude certain men from the industry, they were no sooner out of.it than some honorable gentlemen opposite lent their support .to the representations to have them released from the armed forces so that they could return to the industry to win more coal.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made some reference to pillar extraction. That has been a very live matter in. the industry for many years. All honorable members opposite .have quoted from various reports of the investigations that have been conducted by different persons. I propose to show 'that the present methods of production are distinctly wasteful, and that those in control of the industry are destroying a national asset which, should be preserved as such. On the subject of the bord and pillar method of extraction, Dr. Moulden, in his book, Economics from Australian Coal, has this to say -

The bord and pillar method has as its objective the low cost extraction of the best coal first. Competition for the existing market dictates this policy for the colliery proprietor.

Mr. JusticeDavidson in his report on the industry in 1929, said this -

Many of the thickest seams in New South Wales were being inefficiently mined and existing methods of production would result in a loss of 6G to 80 per cent, in the available supplies.

This waste could be avoided if the proprietors were prepared to introduce the system of hydraulic or pneumatic stowage. It is estimated that in the Cessnock district alone 700,000,000 tons of coal has been permanently lost by inefficient methods of working. It will be seen, therefore, that on a consumption basis of about 14,000,000 tons a year, coal has been wasted that would have kept our industries going for a great many years. ' At Aberdare Extended the new method is being tried, but the proprietors have been very slow to introduce new ideas' when it is a matter of benefiting the nation rather than themselves. At Broken Hill, the method of hydraulic stowage 'has been in operation for years, and there is no reason why its use should not have been extended to the coal-fields.

The Leader of the Opposition questioned the attitude of the miners' federation to the mechanization of the mines, lt is not true that the federation, or the miners themselves, have opposed mechanization. What they have argued, and rightly so, is that mechanization should bc-, introduced scientifically, with the idea of increasing production, rather than of increasing profits. What have the proprietors done in regard to mechanization? Official figures show that at Abermain No. 2 and at Richmond Main,' although the mines have been mechanized, production has declined. The most important result of mechanization is that fewer men have been employed. The colliery proprietors were concerned only to -benefit themselves, and had no consideration for the needs of the nation or for the welfare of the miners.

Let us consider the numerous fires and floodings which have occurred in various mines. A fire recently threatened the complete destruction of one of the most valuable coal seams on the northern coalfield of' New South Wales. All of them have been due to the fact that the proprietors have concentrated on winning coal quickly, and thus making more profit, rather than on taking the precautionsnecessary to protect the nation's asset against flood or fire.

The welfare of the miners has been consistently neglected. Statistics show that the fatal accidents in coal mines in New South Wales from 1S90 to 1946, have totalled 1,116, or an average of twenty each year. Evidently, coal-mining is not the pleasant occupation which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) would have us believe. In 1887, 81 lives were lost in the Bulli disaster. In 1902, at Mr Kembla, 95 lives were lost, and in 1921, at Mr Mulligan, 98 lives were lost. In Great Britain, from. 1893 to 1914, 23,325 miners were killed, an average of 1,111 a year, a casualty rate such as would be suffered in a major military operation.

Reference has been made to the dust menace in mines. Here is a statement by an officer of the miners'federation -

Of 3,000 men in the South Coast last year we put 120 men off work totally incapacitated who will never work again, including a' man and his' two sons about 30 years of age, the man 57, because ' their lungs were saturated with coal dust.

The only effective attempt to deal with the dust menace has been at the Coalcliff colliery, while under government control. At South Bulli, of 430 underground workers, 77 have retired since 1935. Mr. F. Lowden,' president of the southern miners, has stated that a proper examination would show that 50 per cent, of south coast - miners are suffering from the effects of dust in some form or other. If I continue to quote the opinions of mining union officials, as to working conditions in the coal pits, honorable members opposite may' say that I am giving a one sided picture of the position. Therefore, I quote the opinion of Mr. Jack secretary of the Coal Commission, who has been cited as. an authority many times by honorable members opposite. Discussing conditions of employment, Mr. Jack said -

Although it may be difficult for you to believe that in 1945 such conditions should exist, I found miners coal-getting in temperatures of 123 degrees fahrenheit dry bulb, with a wet bulb reading of 11,5 degrees. The conditions were foul, ni,d the flame of an oil safety lamp was extinguished within ten yards of tlie face. In the same pit miners were working naked, one man with a hose playing water on his mate while he was working. When I inquired what it was all about, the miner directed a hose onto the coal face and the party were enveloped in a cloud of 'steam.

Those are the deplorable conditions under which the miners have to work. The sooner honorable members opposite realize that the only persons willing to go into the bowels of the earth and win -coal for the nation are the members of the miners' federation, the better, it will be. "We have been, told that the owners of the collieries cannot afford to provide better conditions. Here is an illustration of the profits which some of the proprietors have taken from the industry. In 190S the Bellambi Coal Company had a capital of £225,000. In 1930 repayment of capital had amounted to £520,000. Then the company was reconstructed with a capital of £130,000, and with reserves amounting to £118,000, a total of £248,000. Thus, after paying back £520,000 on an- original capital of £225,000 there remained a total of £248j000. That method of accounting is one which no doubt will commend itself to the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). It should, therefore, be clear that those who put capital into the industry were well able to- afford the- necessary improvements. During the depression, as well as in other years, the Bellambi company never ceased to pay dividends, which were sometimes :as high as 17-£ per cent. The principal shareholders in the company are Burns Philp and Company and Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited. I have here the report of Mr. Justice Campbell, in which he discusses the profits made by the collieries, and he says that profits as high as 155 per cent, were earned on capital. Why did not honorable members opposite quote those reports when discussing the profits of the coal-mining industry? They w.ere studiously silent regarding passages which they thought reflected upon the coal owners.

Honorable members opposite have argued that if we could only eliminate stoppages in the mines all would be well, and we would have all the coal we need. I know something of the coal-mining industry, and of the industrial disturbances which have taken place in it. In 1909, there was a Liberal government in New South "Wales. It is a strange coincidence that there should once more bo a Liberal party which advocates the application of the same methods as those employed by the New South Wales Liberal government in 1909. That was the year in which Peter Bowling was paraded through the streets in leg-irons. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) knows the circumstances well. Indeed, it is probable that if he had not run away to Victoria, he would have suffered the same fate.

Honorable members opposite say that in industrial matters the miners should never argue with the referee; .that they have arbitration machinery, and should accept the findings of the Arbitration ' Court. There was a dispute in 1929, and it was not because the miners defied the authority of the Arbitration Court, but because the owners issued an ultimatum to the federation demanding that rates of wages be reduced by 12^ per cent. That decision

Avas made solely by the private coalowners, and was never referred to an arbitration authority. The miners- resisted, and for over twelve months the whole coal-mining industry on the northern fields of New South Wales was tied up.

Let us now pass on to 1940, when the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister. In that year there was a disastrous coal strike at a time when the country was actively engaged in war, and fighting for its very existence. What methods did the right honorable gentleman employ then? He went to the coal fields and appealed to the miners, but they bad no confidence in him, and his pleas were of no avail. As the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has pointed out, it was because of that disastrous strike that the country's coal stocks were depleted, and that the position is now so grave. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) argued that the colliery proprietors had been completely exonerated from any responsibility for the strikes which have occurred in recent years in the industry by the report of Mr. Justice Davidson, and by other competent authorities who had carried out investigations. Here is an illustration of how the proprietors can provoke men to down tools. The Bulli company recently varied a practice which hadbeen followed for many years, namely, the practice of supplying to employees on the south coast coal for domestic use. The directors of the company decided that men awaiting the completion of compensation claims were no longer entitled to this concession, a decision which led to much irritation and unrest. Pin-pricking tactics of this sort by the proprietors are the cause of most of the trouble which frequently occurs in the industry. I was Minister for Labour in the first Curtin LabourGovernment, and had some experience in dealing with both the colliery proprietors and the officials of the miners' federation. I say without fear of contradiction that at least 90 per cent. of the disputes that occurred in the pits during my period of office werethe responsibility of the colliery proprietors and not of the members of the miners' federation. I cite two instances. While I was Minister for Labour I read in the lying daily press that a dispute had occurred in the Vale of Clwydd pit in the western district of New South Wales because the miners' federation was demanding that a staff man employed at that pit for a number of years should join the federation. Whilst I did not believe that that was a proper ground upon which to hold up production, I did not accept the view expressed by the newspaper. I went to the district, summoned a meeting of the miners' lodge, and discovered that the question of the federationmembership of the man concerned had not arisen until after the stoppage had occurred. The real reason for the stoppage was not mentioned by the newspapers. The men working at that mine were contract miners who were paid according to the quantity of coal they produced. They formed the opinion that the weighbridge on which the skips were being weighed was not functioning accurately and they had demanded that it be tested. After lengthy negotiations with the management a test was made, and it was then discovered that the weighbridge was weighing every skip of coal a half cwt. light. The men were reasonable ; they did not suggest that the management was responsible for the inaccuracy of the weighbridge; they realized that it might have been due to some mechanical fault, and they interviewed the management because they wanted production to continue. They said they were prepared to go back to work on the basis that they would be paid so much for a coal skip filled to water level. All they asked by way of compensation was that theybe credited with a half cwt. for every skip that had been put on the weighbridge on the day it was discovered to be faulty. The management would not agree. I called a conference and the dispute was rapidly settled on the basis of the proposal made by the miners. Another instance occurred on the northern coal-fields' of New South Wales. While I was visiting that area as Minister for Labour, a secretary of one of the miners' lodges informed me that a stoppage was to occur at a pit on the following morning. He said that the reason for the stoppage was that the management would not agree to the exchange of places by two workers. Following the quarterly cavil, it was discovered that one of the miners, an elderly and sick man, had drawn one of the most difficult positions in the pit where the timbering was bad and working conditions were consequently heavy and dangerous. The man concerned realized that unless a change were effected he could not continue at work. He conferred with another lodge member, a young, physically fit man, who was employed as a brattice hand, a comparatively light job. They agreed to exchange places, but the management would not give its consent. A sensible attitude would have been to have allowed the physically fit man to exchange places with the sick man so that greater production could be achieved and the likelihood of a dispute averted. The management, however, remained adamant, taking the point that the miners' federation had always insisted that the men should take the places allotted to them at the cavil. I was anxious to keep the pit working so I telephoned the manager. What I said to him on the telephone cannot be repeated in this House, but the stoppage was averted.

Honorable members opposite have quoted from the report of Mr. Justice Davidson, chairman of the Commonwealth board of inquiry into the coal industry. I am well aware of what honorable members opposite did in .connexion with this industry when they were in office. I have already recounted how the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) went to the coal-fields with a policy of appeasement, the very policy which he now charges this Government with following and denounces as being the principal cause of the present coal shortage. The Government supported by honorable members opposite also tried other methods. As a matter of fact Mr. Justice Halse Rogers conducted an inquiry into certain activities of Ministers and supporters of the Government respecting the coal industry, yet not one honorable member opposite has mentioned a word about his report.' In 1941, the anti-Labour Government, following an attack by the Labour party in the House, appointed Mr. Justice Halse Rogers a royal commission to inquire into the circumstances in which certain public moneys were utilized, to whom they were paid, and the purposes for which they were expended. That commission has often been referred to as the' inquiry into the " slush fund ". Let us examine the purpose for which the fund was established. Out of that secret fund the then Government financed the Australian Democratic- Front, which was formed in the vestibule of the Sydney Town Hall on the 14th February, 1940. The inaugural meeting of that body was addressed by the right honorable memberfor North Sydney. On page 5 of his report Mr. Justice Halse Rogers said -

Before that date Mr. George -Christie had discussed its formation with Mr. Hughes, with the approval of Cabinet.

Mr. Christiesubsequently became an officer of. the Australian Democratic Front. That shows' clearly that the responsibility for the establishment of that organization rests equally upon every honorable member of the Opposition. And this is the purpose for which the moneys were used - a rather peculiar arrangement, particularly in view of the fact that the Opposition has accused this Government of dishonest methods. Mr. Justice Halse Rogers found that the moneys from the special cabinet fund were, with the authority of the Commonwealth Treasurer, transferred to the account of Sir George Knowles, the then Commonwealth Solicitor-General, and that from Sir' George Knowles's account a sum of £4,995 had been paid into an account in the name of G. A. Watson, Deputy Crown Solicitor, Sydney. From Mr. Watson's account it was paid to the Australian Democratic Front. If everything had been fair and above board why were not the payments made direct to the organization? It is obvious that they were passed through a number of accounts in an attempt to hide the source from which they came. Cheques Were drawn on the fund and paid to individuals for various purposes. Mr. Justice Halse Rogers said, on page 7 of his report -

We have an extraordinary series of contradictions. In some cases recollection only is involved, in others there must be deliberate perjury . . . There is no doubt that one or more witnesses lied valiantly. One of the great difficulties in the case from my point of view as Commissioner is that some of the Witnesses had given definite answers on matters of recollection and later, when their attention has been directed to certain other evidence and to certain proved facts which arc inconsistent with their testimony, they have been forced to admit that what they had previously sworn could not he correct.

He went on to say -

I pointed out that both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fadden had been asked many questions on matters of detail, and in several instances had given replies which were, subsequently shown to be incorrect. -s

On page 8 of the report he said -

Consequently he- referring to Mr. Hughes - made several mistakes. Mr. Fadden possibly' made more. Their testimony as to matters incidental to the transaction cannot be relied on: They have increased the difficulties of counsel appearing before the commission, and of myself, because they have made harder the .task and caused greater difficulty in piecing together a connected narrative.

I now deal with the evidence given by Mr. Watson, the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney. Mr. Watson asked Mr. Fadden, " What is the nature of the payments ? " Mr. Fadden replied -

They have relation to the promise by executive officers in the coal industry that there would be freedom from further strife during the war.

That was a display of very strong action on the part of honorable members opposite when they formed the Government. As one honorable member has said, it was not a policy of appeasement, it was worse; it was an attempt to corrupt the miners' leaders so that they would betray the very men whom they were elected to serve. On page 13 of his report Mr. .Justice . Halse Rogers went on to say-

The case is the worst I have ever struck. To me the principle of making a scape-goat of any one is absolutely abhorrent. In-the transaction which has been under investigation many persons have taken a more or less prominent part. If the transaction which has been carried out is discreditable, I think that all concerned should bear some share of the discredit.

Mr. Monahan,K.C., who was .assisting the commission, asked that the evidence of the right honorable member for North Sydney and the Leader of the Australian Country party be rejected. He claimed that it could not be relied upon because it was contradictory. In regard to that request Mr. Justice Halse Rogers said -

I pointed out that Mr. Monahan was, in effect, asking me to reject the evidence of Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fadden as to the purpose, for winch the money was made available and that he (Mr. Monahan) was making the most serious possible suggestion against both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Fadden. . . [n view of these circumstances I suggested that these gentlemen might wish to" be represented before the commission. Thereafter, Mr. Dovey, K.C., and Dr. Louat, obtained permission to -appear on behalf of Mr. Hughes, and Mr. Spender, K.C., and 'Mr. Barwick for Mr. Fadden.

Following that, His Honour granted an adjournment of the hearing so that these two gentlemen could confer with their counsel, and have time to reconsider the evidence which they had already given. Yet these are the people who say that they can show this Government the way in which to solve the problems of the coal industry.

It has been said repeatedly in this debate that the officers of the miners' federation have no control over their members, and that their members disobey them and will not recognize their authority. Who is responsible for that position ? Prior to the inauguration of the " slush fund " and the payments made from it, the miners' officials had some control over their members; but the machinations of honorable members opposite undermined and destroyed the confidence of the rank and 'file of the miners in their own. leaders, and, accordingly those honorable gentlemen are responsible for a great deal of the unrest and dissatisfaction that exists in the industry to-day.

I have said that no honorable member opposite, with the exception of the honorable member for Warringah, has made any suggestion as to how we should handle this industry. The honorable member for Warringah, who changes .his policy to suit the political wind - he is an Independent one day and a Liberal the next - made a statement regarding the problems of the coal-mining industry, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 2Sth May last. That statement is at complete variance with his speech to-night. The newspaper report of his statement is as follows : -

The rule of law- and that appears to be a great phrase of the honorable gentleman - in respect of illegal industrial stoppages must be maintained. All strikes not first authorized by a majority of the members of a union must be adjudged, illegal.

Mr. Spenderurged that if the fact that a strike was illegal was established on application to a specified court, the funds and assets of the union concerned . should be " frozen " and vested in an official receiver. If a strike has been declared illegal and if the union failed to comply with a notice to resume work, a substantial fine, recoverable against its frozen assets should be imposed. Mr. Spender said that a union official who refused to carry out any order of the court should be removed from office and disqualified from holding office for a stated period.

The honorable gentleman did not continue his plan far enough to tell us how they would elect successors to the displaced officers, and I can only assume that he would adopt the same method of appointing new officers of the organization as he adopted when as Minister for the Army he appointed himself a lieutenantcolonel in the Menzies Government. He would adopt dictatorial methods. ' I have often listened to the honorable member's speeches and ho shows many characteristics of a dictator. Actually, he has a great physical resemblence to Hitler. So I am not surprised at -his attitude.' One argument advanced by the honorable gentlemen opposite is that the miners are " going slow ", that whereas there are more men in the industry than in earlier years they are now producing less coal. It is difficult to determine, merely on production figures whether or not a greater effort is being made to win coal, because circumstances in pits vary from time to time. The years quoted are, therefore, of the utmost significance.. Since honorable members opposite like figures so much, I point out that in 1927 more than 11,000,000 tons was produced in New South "Wales by 24,500 employees and that in 1942 more than 12,000,000 tons was produced by 17,500 employees. So, in the later year, the miners produced more coal per employee than formerly. But I do not accept production as a reliable basis on which to determine whether the men are doing an honest day's work, because conditions vary from pit to pit and from year to year. I do know, however, that official figures disclose that coalminers in the United States of America produce about five times as much per man as they do in Great Britain. Honorable members opposite, who are so fond of contrasting the ' production of Australian and British coal-miners, might well argue on these figures that the British miner is not doing his best to produce coal, whereas, it is well known that the depth of the seam and the distance of the coal face from the pit top, and all the difficulties of the industry, must be taken into account in determining whether miners are getting a proper return or not. When the Leader of the Opposition dealt with absenteeism he was not fair. He grouped all causes of absenteeism under the one heading and did not refer to the fact that a great deal of absenteeism is caused by sickness. He did. give the figures from 1942 to 1945, the latest year for which they are avail able regarding the amount of working time lost from various causes. I was Minister for Labour and National Service in 1942. That was the year when Statutory Rule No. 77 was brought into force. Honorable gentleman opposite screamed for the provisions of this regulation to be applied against the coalminers. I refused to do so, because I believed such methods to be abhorrent and also because I realized that one could not force production of coal by that policy. In that year fewer strikes and less absenteeism occurred than in any other year since. That proves that a sympathetic approach to the miners' problems brought the result that this country .urgently wants, namely, more coal. About midway through his speech the Leader of the Opposition decided that he ought to say something about the good men in the coal industry, but the only thing that he could think to say was this -

I turn now to consider some of the vital facts that surround this 'problem. The first is the deplorable record, indeed, the wicked record, of New South Wales coalminers in the matter- of absenteeism, from whatever cause. When I say that let it be understood at once - because every one in" this. House knows that the average coal-miner in New South Wales is a decent enough man - that the high incidence of absenteeism is due to the absurd system of " one out, all out ".

Let us examine his own attitude to the policy of " one out, all out ". During th° war we had a body, known .as the Advisory War Council. The right honorable gentleman was a member representing the Opposition. He suddenly decided to apply the "walk-out" policy when this country was battling for its very existence, but he was not satisfied with walking out alone, and he determined that the right honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Warringah, who were alsoOpposition members, should also walk out. He believed in the "one out all out." policy, and when they, refused toohey bis command to resign, he had them expelled from the Opposition political party, thus showing the inconsistency of Ids statement during the discussion.

I say in fairness to the miners and. their organization that a great deal. is needed in their industry to improve their working and living conditions. This Government is the only one that has made a real approach to their problems. The others have talked a lot but done nothing. The miners, prior to the advent of Labour to the treasury bench, depended on their own efforts to get from the controllers of the industry conditions at least a little better than those that operated in it in bygone years. The Government is following a course different from that which Great Britain is following. That is because some doubt has been expressed about the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. I hold the opinion that the Labour Government should have attempted to nationalize the coal-mining industry, that we should have tested the Constitution on that issue, because I have heard varying legal opinions as to what our powers may be. But in Great Britain, where there are no constitutional limitations upon the authority of its Parliament, and where there is greater experience of the industry than in Australia, the Government has decided ,to nationalize, not only the coal mines, but also electricity plants and coke ovens, and other associated activities. Mr. Shinwell, British Minister for Fuel and Power, in introducing the bill to nationalize the industry, said -

It cannot be denied that frequent efforts have been made in the last twenty years to devise a remedy. I can hardly recall a session in Parliament in that period without either a coal debate or a coal crisis, yet every treatment prescribed to cure the malady, whether by Sankey Samuel, or Coal Tie-organization Commission, has resulted in failure.

The Government of New Zealand has taken over and is operating successfully a number of mines. The anti-Labour Government of South Australia is operating the Leigh Creek coal deposits with Commonwealth assistance. They were not 'handed over to private enterprise to- develop.

I now come to the matter of cooperation. This bill gives great powers to the board. If those powers are wisely and well used great good can be clone, but if they are used unwisely great harm and industrial turmoil can be caused, because it is evident that there is no way in which authority can be efficiently exercised in any industry without the good-will of the men employed in it. Mr. Shinwell has recognized the truth of that, because, in introducing the bill to nationalize the British pits he said -

I have not provided in the bill for statutory consultations with the workers employed in the industry. Such consultation is certain, and statutory provision is superfluous. It would', indeed have been extremely difficult to provide for statutory consultation with all the different bodies, who represent the workers in the varied and far-reaching activities which would bc carried out by the board. But consultation with the workmen's representatives is inevitable, if the board is to achieve that degree of co-operation which is essential for its success. The board must provide for the continuance and stability of pit production committees, and for consultation on all those matters which concern the personnel of the industry.

If the bill now before this House fails the only course left to "bring stability to the industry will be nationalization which will make the industry completely governmentowned and controlled.


Mr Hughes - I desire to make a personal explanation. I understand that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), while I was out of the chamber, made some reference to a matter that was also raised by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). I sought to obtain a copy of his speech, but I have not been able to do so. If I find that, what I am about to say is insufficient, I shall ask you, Mr. Speaker, to allow me to make a further personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER - Do I understand the right honorable member to say that he does not know wha t the honorable' member for Robertson said ?


Mr Hughes - I did not hear, what he said, but I have been told, and I did hear what the Minister for Transport said.


Mr SPEAKER - The right honorable gentleman may refer to that, but I think it would be unwise, until he confirms his belief of what the honorable member for Robertson said, to refer to that. If he. deals only with what the Minister for Transport said, he will be quite in order.


Mr Hughes - The Minister for Transport has said a great number of things in his usual way. Amongst other things, he sought to attach to me and some of my colleagues in a former government the charge of having acted improperly in the disbursement of public funds. In his speech the facts were distorted and a sinister and entirely improper construction was put upon them. I want to state what the position was. During the regime of the Menzies Government the inquiry to which the Minister referred was launched. Mr. Justice Halse Rogers was appointed a royal commissioner. After he had been appointed a change of government occurred, and the new government carried on the inquiry which the Government of which I was a member had instituted. The inquiry was into the "circumstances under which public moneys were used for or in connexion with the activities of the Australian Democratic Front, and to whom and for what purpose such moneys were paid ". The inquiry was held. From what the Minister said one would imagine that there was in the judge's findings some reflection upon me and my colleagues. His Honour's finding, on the other hand, reflected very gravely upon the president of the miners' federation.


Mr Ward - I rise to order. I submit that the right honorable member for North Sydney is permitted to make a personal explanation on the ground that he had been personally misrepresented. By now reading a portion of His Honour's finding which does not refer to himself, the right honorable gentleman is continuing the debate.


Mr SPEAKER - -Undoubtedly, there is substance in the point of order taken by the Minister. The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member who considers that he has been misrepresented by another honorable member, shall have the right to make a personal explanation, but he may deal only with the alleged misrepresentation. Therefore, the right honorable gentleman would not be in order in introducing matter to which the Minister did not refer.


Mr Hughes - His Honour came to the following conclusion: -

For the reasons given I am driven to the conclusion that I should find that the moneys in question were paid out of the account established -in the name of the Australian

Democratic Front by Mr. Watson ' under the instructions of the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, with" the approbation of the Acting Prime Minister, Mr. Fadden; that the moneys were paid out through- Mr. Winkler to Mr. Nelson in accordance with the instructions of the Acting Prime Minister; that the purpose for which the moneys were paid was that indicated in the receipts and in the letter from Mr. Watson to Sir George Knowles already referred to, that is to say that it had relation to the promise of the executive officers in the coal industry that there would be freedom from further strikes in the coal industry during the war and that it was meant for a campaign in support of the declaration of Mr. Nelson and Mr. Kellock. I find that such a campaign was not in effect conducted and there is no evidence before me as to what happened to the money after it was received by Mr. Nelson; and I find that on the facts proved in evidence there is nothing to implicate any other member of the Coal Miners Federation or the members of the council with the transaction.

Now, in the face of that finding by His Honour, I ask honorable members and the people of this country whether they believe that the charges made by the Minister have any foundation?


Mr Ward - What did His Honour say about the evidence given by the right honorable gentleman ?


Mr Hughes - His Honour dealt with the case on the evidence. After he had read the evidence which the Minister did not hear, which he has never read, and which, if he did read, he would not under. stand, His Honour made that finding. The Minister suggested that the fund was secret, and was used by the Government of which I was a member in an improper way, and that there was, something unusual in the Government having control of a fund for that specific purpose. The evidence revealed, since reference has been made to the evidence, that such a fund had been under the control of the government for' many years. A few days ago, it was disclosed that such a fund was controlled by this Government. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked what the Government had done with the money, and whether it had been used, let us say, for the welfare of the country, for the suppression of evidence, or- for the arrest of persons engaged in subversive activities, and he did not receive an answer.

In conclusion, I point out that the inquiry to which the Minister referred was initiated by the Government of which I was a member. The investigation was conducted by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and he found without any doubt that the only person who had used the money improperly was the president of the miners' federation.







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