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Friday, 2 August 1946

Mr ABBOTT (New England) . - The reason given by the Minister for the Government'srefusal to accept the amendment was an extraordinary statement. The honorable gentleman said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is determined that the board shall be an independent authority. What the Minister did not say was that Prime Ministers do not live for ever. The present Prime Minister might die, alter his mind, or be instructed by caucus to alter his mind as the result of pressure exerted by the miners federation or some other outside organization.

Mr Spender - After the forthcoming elections, he might not be Prime Minister.

Mr ABBOTT - Of course I believed that the Minister would be glad to accept the amendment, because after the elections, the Labour party would fear that the incoming government would swamp the Joint Coal Board with persons unacceptable to it. The Government has not attempted to make of this a balanced clause. For example, any person associated with the management or control of any coal-mine or any company owning or controlling a coal-mine or engaged in the handling or distribution of coal shall not be eligible for appointment to the board, but other persons will not be disqualified by reason of the fact that they are members of industrial organizations. As Mr. Justice Davidson reported, the coal-mining industry has been brought to the verge of ruin by the leading officials of the miners federation. The president of the organization, Mr. Wells, is a Communist, but neither he nor any other member of the union will be disqualified from appointment to the Joint Coal Board. In the interests of justice, the representation on this board should be equal. As the clause is now drafted, the representation may be one-sided and the board may be an ill-balanced body. Representatives of the miners federation have followed this debate intently, and the newspapers this morning reported that attempts had been made to exert pressure on the Prime Minister to amend the bill in a certain manner. Repeatedly, the Prime Minister has wilted under pressure. If the Government will accept this amendment, it will be able to resist that kind of pressure.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment (by Mr. Harrison) negatived -

That, in sub-clause (2.), after, the word " company ", the following words be inserted: - " or a member of any such union, association or organization of employers or employees ".

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 -

Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act-

(a)   Where under the CoalProduction (War-time) Act 1944 the Commissioner has . . . made any order, or requirement, given any direction, or taken any action and that order, requirement, direction or action is subsisting or in course immediately prior to the coming into operation of this section, that order, requirement, direction or action shall, until amended, revoked or terminated by the Board, continue to be subsisting or in course as if made, . given or taken by the Board.

(b)   Any right, power, obligation or liability conferred or imposed on the Commissioner by the Coal Production (War-time) Act l944 . . . shall, to the extent to which the right power, obligation or liability is affected by section nine of this Act, be deemed tobe vested in or imposed upon the Board.

(c)   Any . . . reference to that Commissioner or other authority shall be deemed to be a reference to the Board.

(d)   Any privilege or immunity conferred upon any person under the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944 . . shall, where the power of the Commissioner to take that action is terminated by section nine of this Act, continue for the period during which the effect of such action operates.

Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -

That; in paragraph (a) the words "until amended, revoked or terminated by the Board, continue to be subsisting or in course" be left out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - "have effect".

Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -

That, in paragraph (b), the word "nine" be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word " ten ".

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