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Tuesday, 6 August 1946

Mr SMITH (Wakefield) .- I shall not lead the committee to believe that I am an expert in respect of the coal industry. Nevertheless, there, are some observations that I should like to make. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have admitted, that the . industry presents not only a Commonwealth but also a world problem. I noticed with interest that the Australian press, a short while ago, had seen fit to send a special representative, E. W. Tipping, to the coal-fields, to make investigations and publish his impressions. The articles that he published were most illuminating. Those who have read his first article will have noticed in it the statement , that if he were offered ?100 a week he would not w ork on a coal-field. In his final article, published in the Melbourne Herald, he said this -

Cursing the miner, will not get industry one stray ounce of coal, hut the public, the Government, the directors of the colliery companies and- the miners themselves all agree that the farce must end.

Referring to Mr. Justice Davidson's, report, he said this -

Mr. JusticeDavidson recommended a federal authority, with power to grant a bounty to owners willing to work under it. He insists on enforcement of the law and maintenance of the sanctity of agreements.

On the 2Sth July, the Sunday Telegraph published an interview which its representative had had with Mr. Thomas E. O'Byrne, a member of the New Zealand Parliament, who' has had considerable experience. I make this quotation from the interview -

Mr. O'Byrnewas diffident about advising Australia how to solve its industrial problems. " A country must work out its own troubles in its own way ", he said. " What goes in one place mightn't go in another. " I believe we're a jump ahead of you in New Zealand in most ways, and that's one reason we have less trouble. If you give the people good conditions, there's not much left for them to strike for."

Mr. O'Byrnewent on to say ;

I believe .there must be production with the greatest possible economy, and distribution with the greatest possible justice. If you've got that, you won't have much in the way of industrial trouble.

Australia is a rich country. You need population and irrigation. You can get both if you're prepared to spend as much in peace as you did in war. And if you get those things, together with decent working and living conditions, you won't need to worry much about strikes.

I believe that this bill aims at those objectives. Honorable members of the Opposition,, both at the second-.reading stage and during the consideration of the- bill in committee, have traced the progress of the industry over a number of years. They have painted very dull pictures of what has occurred in Great Britain and other- parts of the world. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that he could paint a worse picture than had been painted by either the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). What we have to face are the changing facets of the problem, which is identical in Australia and Great Britain. ' The United Kingdom has grasped the nettle more firmly than has. Australia, because it has nationalized the industry. Up to the present, control of the industry has been exercised exclusively by private enterprise. Private enterprise has failed to produce enough coal in Australia and the other parts of the world. We should not- allow so important an industry to be controlled by either "the miners or the mine-owners. In a civilized country employers and employees should be able to come together and reason their way out of difficulties. I have been an employer of labour for many years, and I know that when difficulties arise they can be overcome by discussing matters with the men. That is the only way in which to obtain peace in industry. There is no reason why coal-mining should be different from any other industry in this, respect. The Prime Minister said that the bill represented a practical approach to the problem. Because there have been failures in the past, we should not be discouraged from making another attempt along the lines laid down in this bill. If we can achieve peace in this industry it will be in the best interests of those engaged in it, and of industries dependent upon coal. 1 hope that' the Government of South Australia will co-operate in the working of this legislation.- In that State there is the only Liberal government in Australia ; it is the only one which has nationalized the coal-mining industry. The coal deposits at Leigh Creek were opened up by private enterprise, which made several attempts to work them, but they were abandoned. The mine was taken over by the Government of South Australia under ' a bill which was introduced by the Premier of that State, and carried through Parliament against the votes of his own supporters, but with the support of the Labour Opposition. That is to the credit of the Premier of South Australia. The State did not have the resources for working the deposits, so the Premier (Mr. Playford) approached the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance, and obtained a grant of £100,000. Later, he received a further grant of £50,000, and I understand that he was in Canberra recently with a proposition that the Commonwealth should advance another £5.0,000 to enable South Australia to become self-sufficient in the .production of coal. Anything .which I can do while a member of this House to assist in the successful working of the Leigh Creek mine, and to promote co-operation between the Governments of South Australia and the Commonwealth, I shall do. Just before Japan entered the war it was proposed to establish a power plant at Port Augusta, at. a cost of £1,000,000, but the project was held up because of the war. I can see- great possibilities in the way of power production by means of proper co-operation between the Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia. I believe that the . Premier of that State, if he sees that a proposi-. tion of this kind would be of benefit to his State, would be big enough to co-operate with the Comm021 wealth Government in the establishment of a power plant at Port Augusta, or Port Germein, or, preferably, on the coal-field itself. However, I understand that there might be difficulty in obtaining enough water at the coal-field for this purpose.

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