Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 2 August 1946

Mr MORGAN (Reid) !- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has 2Jointed out that under the Constitution, the owner of any property acquired by the Commonwealth is entitled to compensation on just terms. Previously, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that clause 13 represented an attempt to evade that provision of the Constitution. He even made the dramatic statement that he would stake his reputation on the accuracy of his charge. There was no need for any such gesture by the honorable gentleman. If his contention be correct, then any person who considers himself to be aggrieved by any action of the Commonwealth under the terms of the bill may appeal to the High Court. The honorable member for Warringah knows that no provision of this bill, or of any regulation promulgated under this bill, can override the Constitution. If this clause be invalid, the mere fact that the words "just terms" are omitted will not prevent justice being done. As the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said, clause 57 makes ample provision for the payment of compensation for any damage that may occur as the result of the acquisition of a mine. A claim for compensation may be lodged with the Joint Coal Board, and, failing agreement in that case, with any court of competent jurisdiction. If the Commonwealth controls a mine and increases its profits, it is entitled to a reasonable return for its service. As there Li no acquisition of property, no compensation is payable. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that the Opposition will oppose with all its power and might the passing of this clause. That attitude is only consistent with the stand that the employing classes, which honorable members opposite represent, have adopted for many years. They have always opposed reform, or the improvement of conditions of the coalminers. The honorable member for Wentworth also said that this clause provided a complete answer to the Government's policy of nationalization. I remind him that this bill does not contain any proposal for the nationalization of the coal industry, althoughI admit that nationalization could be effected in certain circumstances. The bill provides for four methods of operating the mines. First, the present method of operation under private ownership could continue. The national security regulations applying to the coal industry, which are being continued in this measure, did not remove private ownership during the war. If private ownership provides proper working conditions for the employees and efficient methods of production, the Government will not interfere with it. This legislation, and the creation of the Joint Coal Board, will be a salutary deterrent to the continuation of inefficient methods and unsatisfactory working conditions, just as the provision to empower the board to suspend persons will be a salutary deterrent to those whose conduct may be prejudicial to the efficient operation of the mines.For that reason, the bill has been wisely drafted. The second method is control by the Commonwealth without actual acquisition. The third method is to encourage a co-operative method of mining between employer and employees. Many of the more liberalminded owners recognize that the employees must be taken more into the management, and given a voice in the conduct of the industry and a share of the profits of their labour. The fourth method is outright government ownership or nationalization, which may take place under certain conditions. 1 should like the Opposition to define its attitude towards paragraphs h, i, j, k andl of sub-clause 2, which empower the board to make provision for -

(h)   the health and, subject to this Act, the safety, of persons engaged in the coal industry, including the regulation of conditions in the industry with respect thereto, and the enforcement of measures for the abatement of dust in mines; (i)the establishment of sound industrial welfare practices including the provision of amenities for employees in the coal industry;

(j)   collaboration with other persons and authorities in the establishment and. provision of amenities and of health educational, recreational, housing and other facilities for communities of persons in coal-mining districts, and in the promotion of the development and diversification of industry and of town and regional planning in such districts;

(k)   the regulation of employment and recruitment to the coal industry, including the control of the manning of mines and the promotion of stability of employment;

(l)   the training, efficiency, and competency of persons engaged in the coal industry;

Such provisions for safeguards and amenities have been sadly lacking in the past. The owners neglected to provide suitable amenities and housing conditions for the miners. That was admitted by Mr. Bernard Kirton, who is the chairman of the Excelsior mine on the south coast of New South Wales. He stated that proprietors should take an interest in the housing conditions of the workers. Mr. Kirton lives in an elaborate mansion on the mountain-side near his mine, and the employees' live not far away, many of them in hovels. Yet the colliery proprietors in the district have thousands of acres of beautiful land, ' with fertile soil, which could have been made available to their employees so that in their spare time they could have engaged in gardening and other useful and healthy occupations. The bill will make up for some of those deficiencies of the past, and, therefore, I am surprised that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr.

Harrison) declared that the Opposition would oppose this clause with all its might.

Repeatedly, honorable members opposite have deprecated what they described as the " maudlin sentimentality " for those miners whose health has been destroyed by coal dust. Recently, the Sydney Daily Telegraph published under the heading " Lung-dusted Miners Die a Thousand Deaths ", a letter from a person who had contracted pneumonoconiosis. The Sunday Telegraph sent an impartial investigator to the south coast to obtain first-hand information about the sufferings of the men who have contracted miners' phthisis and he wrote, inter alia- - " There will be no miners on the south coast in ten years." This is what they say at Wollongong, where all miners on the south coast met last week to discuss the recent deaths of three men from dust on the lungs.

Of the two articles written by the special investigator, one is entitled, " Why the Miners Fear the Dust so Much ", and the other, " Twenty-five Years in the Pits, Now Among the ' Walking Dead' ". He described the lives of some of the coal- miners. The Daily Telegraph summed up the situation in a leading article, as follows : -

We have attempted to lay bare all the facts of the South Coast mining trouble.

It is clear that this is a special problem, dissociated from the ordinary type of coal- fields dispute.

We must have coal - but we cannot expect to. get it at the sacrifice of men's lives.

The evidence shows that the South Coast mining conditions are particularly unhealthy. The local president of the Miners' Federation asserts that 50 per cent. of the southern miners are affected by nodular fibrosis, a chest disease which the miners refer to as " dust ".

This is a progressive disease for which, apparently, science has not yet found the cure.

Meanwhile men are naturally drifting from an industry which they consider dangerous.

And this is occurring when we need more coal than ever before.

Accepted preventive measures include methods of laying dust by water. The men demand high-pressure infusion of water into the coal seam.

It is not established beyond all doubt that this is entirely effective.

But it appears to be the best known means of reducing the incidence of the disease.

To retire and compensate affected workers is not enough.

The latest known devices for preventing the disease must he used.

With the consent of honorable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard the remainder of the article.

Mr Archie Cameron - I object. It is a newspaper article.

Leave not granted.

Mr MORGAN - The leading article continues -

And we must set out to reduce underground labour to the absolute minimum by such mechanisation as is possible.

Unfortunately, none of these various remedies are easily applied because the industry has inherited prejudices, customs, and hates which overwhelm reason.

I ask leave of the committee to incorporate in Hansard two further articles on the dust menace.

Mr Archie Cameron - I object -

Leave not granted.

Mr MORGAN - I shall now read the articles. The first is headed " Why miners fear the dust so much ", and is as follows : -

The menace of dust on the lungs has caused a near-panic among miners on the South Coast of New South Wales.

Three of them died last week. None of them know who will be next. But they're all afraid and by the weekend their fear had spread right through the Illawarra District.

Dust is almost the only thing they talk about in hotels and shops, in the homes, and on street corners.

Barmaids told me that even youths just beginning work in the mines talk nothing but dust and " compo " - compensation.

The men admit they're . scared, aren't ashamed to say that three deaths recently have made them realize the dust menace is assumingunsuspectedproportion.

Dust is worse on the South Coast than elsewhere because South Coast coal is extra soft and pulverises easily, so that when it is being extracted from the seam clouds of coal dust surround the men.

A miner told me last week that at Corrimal dust was so thick he often could not see his mate loading coal on the opposite side of a skip, five or six feet away.

Even surface workers who have never been below have been found to have dusted lungs.

These dusted lungs result from the dust settling on the chest, then gradually forming a gritty coating in the air passages.

Mr Harrison - I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in making a second-reading speech with regard to the dust menace in coal-mines?

Suggest corrections