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Friday, 2 August 1946


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Guy (WILMOT, TASMANIA) - This clause is so comprehensive, particularly paragraph h of sub-clause 2, which .gives power ro the hoard to adopt measures to safeguard the health of employees in the industry, that the honorable member is in order in discussing the necessity for protecting the. miners against the dust menace.


Mr MORGAN - Paragraph h specifically refers to " the enforcement of measures . for the abatement of dust in mines ". The article which I was quoting continues - . .

Badly dusted lungs in the final stages of t lie disease resemble pieces' of . coke. Postmortems have revealed that some miners', lungs are so hard after death that they could lie cut only with a hacksaw.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.i he honorable member's time has expired.

Mr. HUGHES(North Sydney [2.49]. - -Whatever we think of the bill, we may be certain that the miners will welcome it. Ostensibly intended to deal out evenhanded justice, it pushes the mine-owners around and loads the miners with gifts. Some clauses in the bill foreshadow and provide for improvement of the miners' working conditions, the introduction of mechanization, the removal of the dust conditions to which the honorable member for Reid (Mr.- Morgan) has referred, and generally brighten the drab conditions in the mines. There are, of course, other provisions which empower the hoard to increase wages to a point which i! conceives to be compatible with the miners' well-being and the necessary production of coal. The board can fix the price of coal. To these proposals I agree., r am not concerned as to how much it will cost to improve the working conditions. Australia, which aspires to lead the world in industrial conditions, cannot rest tamely under the charge of not only tolerating, but also encouraging, conditions which have their roots in the bad years of long ago. This measure, so the Minister tells us, is intended to benefit both the miners and the people of this country.

The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who has had an incomparably greater first-hand experience of coal-mining than has any other member of this chamber, has referred over and over again to nationalization. He says that the mines belong to the people. Of course they do, but he wishes us to adducefrom that portentous deliverance that,-' if the mines were nationalized - that is. taken over by the people who own them, and have leased them- to the mine-owners - there would be peace in. industry. Nothing is farther from the truth than, that. The honorable gentleman does noi appreciate the fact that what the miners" leaders, desire is not government control and operation of the mines by the people, for the people. That is the last thing they want.. They wish to get control of the mines for the benefit of the miners, and them alone. They want to fix their own wages, charge .their own prices, andgive to the people just as much coal asthey feel inclined to do. I do not lay that charge against the bulk of the miners,. because, as Mr. Mighell has pointed out, the conditions in the industry, are nor the result of deliberate determinationsby the great majority of the employees, but are due to the decisions of the mere handful who roll up to meetings. My experience is that gatherings at which decisions are made regarding strikes, stoppages, and the like are usually attendedby from 5 per cent, to 10 per. cent, of the persons affected. The great majority of the miners stay away from the meetings. Those who attend are ' overawed by the mob that act on written instructions from Moscow. Do honorable members think that Mr. Wells, who talks of nationalization of the mines bringing peace to the industry, really wants peace ? If there were peace in. the coal-mining industry, his job would be gone. He thrives on unrest as do the leaders of other trade unions who take their ordersfrom Moscow - I refer to the Waterside Workers Federation, the Seamen's Union and the Iron Workers Union. They would perish if there were peace.

What is the reason for the introduction of 'the bill? There is an acute, shortage of coal. The production per capita has steadily fallen. But will this measure increase the output ? The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has referred to the wasteful method by which coal is extracted. As I said last night, the father of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) and I took part in one of the biggest strikes in this country. We were opposed to the "dog-watch" - the. second shift - and the introduction, of the machine. The miners have been opposed to the introduction of mechanical means for handling coal. It is true that, when challenged, they deny this. Mr. Wells says, " We are for mechanization - in a planned and orderly way; and we are the persons to plan and order it ". All that I can say is, that if there is no mechanization now for pillar extraction it is because, as Mr.- Justice Davidson pointed out -

Mechanization in pillar working, which at present is prohibited under legislation and by rulings of the Minister of Lands of the State of New South Wales, would substantially increase productive capacity, and lessen the fearful waste of an almost priceless asset that is now occurring. During my experience, which has been considerable, the miners have always opposed the introduction of the machine. There is nothing in this bill which promises any different approach by the miners to this problem. They do not recognize their responsibilities as citizens. They, look at the matter from their own individual stand-point.- They, pf course, are a' body apart. I remember Judge Heydon saying that it was as futile to talk about putting non-union labour into a mine as to talk of invading an enemy territory. The miners live together. They work in couples in the 'mine. They and their families are housed together when outside the mine. They are thrown back upon themselves, all the time. I welcome everything in this bill which promises to give to the miner a chance to mingle with his fellow citizens on equal terms. Coal-mining is a drab uninviting industry. The question whether they get more than other workers does not influence me in the slightest degree. They do not work any harder than shearers or cane-cutters, but. they work under far different and much worse conditions. What we are here to do is to bring about peace in the coal industry. This bill will not do that. I pointed out last night that Mr. Justice Edmunds was appointed by me because the miners would not attorn to the jurisdiction of the court that was then in existence. He awarded them eight hours from bank to bank, but this great concession did not bring peace. I then appointed Mr.

Charles Hibble, and he functioned on the tribunal for years. But strikes went on. Mr. Justice Edmunds resigned his position because the miners treated his awards with contempt. They will take everything with both hands, but will give nothing in return. This bill has been brought in to increase the output of coal. It will not achieve that object unless discipline is observed; the miner must realize that. I know that it is of no use to talk about the enforcement of discipline. You have to get the miner to realize that discipline is in his interests as well as in ours. I repeat what I said last night, namely, that from 75 per cent, to 80 per cent, of the miners in the northern, southern and western fields are in favour of continuity of operations. Strikes are causing them to lose money, and they are building up for themselves a body of resentment. We were told in the press this, morning that there is a possibility of wholesale unemployment in the great secondary industries of New South Wales and Victoria because there is no coal. A worker in any other industry is as much entitled to consideration as is the miner. The miner is entitled to justice, but not to any greater degree than the average citizen. If we agree that the workers of this country are to all intents and purposes organized in unions, then this is a fight by this one union against every other union in the land. Let us have a fair deal all round. We have handed over to the miner the key industry, upon which all other industries depend. Other unionists .cannot do a day's work except by permission of the miner. This is a machine age. Without fuel industry cannot function. In this country this means that it must have coal. Our transport system depends upon coal. The train and tram services are disorganized, rationed, reduced to a mere skeleton, because, even though the tribunals that have been functioning during the Avar have conceded practically every demand the miners have made, there is an ever-increasing decline in the output of coal. In the United States of America, the output of coal per employee per annum before the war was 739 tons, and in 1944 it was 1,295 tons. In Australia, the output has declined from 675 tons per man in 1939 . to 591 tons in 1940. It is of no use to talk about England. There, the seams are narrow and the miners have to get the coal while lying on their stomachs. But in the United States of America the coal seams are comparable with ours. Why can the output in that country be 1,295 tons per annum per man against 591 tons in Australia? The reason is, that America has continuity of operations, mechanization, and no government control. I do not intend to talk about government control. All that I say is that the people of this country must have coal, and that there must be peace in this industry.


The CHAIRMAN - The ri'ght honor- . able gentleman's time has expired.







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