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Friday, 2 August 1946


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - Having regard to the present attitude of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), member? of the Opposition are not likely to obtain much enlightenment on clause 13. It is the most unusual clause, which covers two and a quarter pages' of the bill. Subclause 1, paragraph a of the clause reads like the resolve of a man on the morning after the night before. It is as follows : - lo provide, and to assist others to provide or obtain, advice, technical services, equipment, and other facilities and aids to efficiency and economy

Under the Constitution, the Parliament of New South Wales has complete power, in regard to the production of coal in New South Wales.- There is no need for the Government of New South Wales to come to the Commonwealth for any reinforcement of its powers, because all power not in the hands of the Commonwealth by virtue of the Constitution must necessarily reside with the Government of Vew South Wales.


Mr James - How about coal for the other States?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - It must be mined in New South Wales. There is nothing in the whole of the clause which cannot now be done by the Government of New South Wales if it is so minded. I should like to know whence the Commonwealth Government obtained power to regulate prices under paragraph g of subclause 2. I always understood that in peace-time the Commonwealth had no power to fix prices. The position in regard to this bill is much the same as it was in regard to the- Wheat Stabilization Bill. It is obvious that certain legislation complementary to this measure will have to be passed by. the Parliament of New South Wales, but this House is asked to pass this bill without seeing the New South Wales bill. Does New South Wales propose to surrender to the Commonwealth the necessary constitutional power to regulate prices in that State.


Mr Dedman - That matter is to be referred to a board.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - If the power is to be exercised by a Commonwealth instrumentality, the Parliament of New South Wales must first refer the power to -.the Parliament of the Commonwealth. There is no other way' in which it could be done.


Mr Dedman - It will be exercised not by the Commonwealth but. by the board.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The board may be the Commonwealth's instrumentality. If the New South Wales

Government refers powers of any kind to the Commonwealth they should flow to the Commonwealth Parliament and not to a board established by the Commonwealth.


Mr Dedman - The board is to be a joint control board.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Tha t does not affect the issue. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) had something to say about paragraph j of sub-clause 3. The wording of that paragraph reminds me of Alice in Wonderland who, on being asked, " What does it mean?", replied, ""It means what I mean it to mean; no more and no less". The paragraph provides that the board may terminate, suspend, vary or modify any contract or agreement relating to or affecting the production, supply or distribution of coal, including its sale, transportation .by land or sea, loading, discharge, delivery, storage and use. Under the powers to be vested by that paragraph, coal sent to South Australia for a specific purpose may be diverted by the board to another purpose. That provision will not assist in bringing about harmonious relations between New South Wales and the other States. Sub-clause 4 provides that the board is to have power at any time to rescind, terminate or vary any order, direction or requirement made or given by it. A wider power than that could not be imagined. The only other occasion I can remember such a power being given to any authority was when, under the National Security Regulations, the Director-General of Allied Works' was vested with power to override the decisions and determinations of the Arbitration Court. I am not sure that the board could not do likewise under the power proposed to be conferred upon it.


Mr Breen - Could the DirectorGeneral of Allied Works have exercised such -a wide power except under the authority vested in him under the National Security Regulations?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - No, and' that power was to be exercised solely to meet war emergencies. There seems to be no reason why such a wide power should be vested in a body which will operate in peace-time. The board's powers should be vested in it by the Commonwealth Parliament and not by the parliament of a State. If power is derived from the State the only reservoir into which it should flow is the Commonwealth Parliament, which has legislative responsibilities for its utilization. Paragraph a of sub-clause 1 provides that the board is to ensure that coal is produced in New South Wales in such quantities and with such regularity as will meet requirements throughout Australia and in trade with other countries. However, no less a personage than the Prime Minister has said that even with the passage of this legislation we shall not have coal unless the miners produce it. Thus clause 13 is the real kernel of the bill. In present circumstances no industry in any part of the Commonwealth, including New South Wales, can be assured of obtaining sufficient quantities of coal. In this morning's press it was announced that the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales propose to convert 100 freight locomotives to oil burning. We shall shortly have the Gilbertian situation in which oil-burning locomotives using fuel oil imported from California and Persia, will be hauling coal for use in other States or for export overseas. The policy adopted by the coalminers in New South Wales will drive industrialists in all parts of the Commonwealth to seek substitute fuels in order to keep the wheels of industry moving. There can be no doubt that in the future the demand for coal will lessen rather than increase. Mr. Justice Davidson showed clearly that if the miners were prepared to work a second shift the output of coal * could be doubled. Unfortunately, however, there does not seem to be any inclination on the part of the miners of New South Wales to work even one shift. The sooner the recalcitrants get out of the industry and make way for those who are prepared to work, the better. The story that before one is fitted to go down. a mine one has to be a direct' lineal descendent of a Welsh miner is stupid.


The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause which deals with the powers of the board.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The board is empowered to ensure that supplies of coal shall be available to meet requirements. If the miners refuse to mine coal, how does the. Government propose to ensure that supplies shall be available? The salient fact is that the miners' federation is determined that never again will reserves of coal be built up in. Australia ; it desires the continuance of the present state of affairs which enables it to hold industry to ransom. The Government has made no attempt to deal with thisform of dictatorship and this legislation will not have any beneficial result in that direction. We should be given an opportunity to examine advance copies of the bill proposed to be introduced into the New South Wales Parliament before we are asked to pass the bill now before us.







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