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Tuesday, 6 August 1946

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) . - The Opposition attack on" this clause has been distinguished by two features, an excessive zeal for the mine-owners and a fiery zeal to .chastise the mine-workers. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) sought to imply that there is something sinister about this clause and that it is in some way or other connected with the withdrawal of Part IV. of the bill. I find it difficult to follow the logic of the honorable member for Warringah and other Opposition members. I find it very difficult to reconcile the arguments- of one member of the Opposition with those of other members. The honorable member for Warringah, said, in effect, that the withdrawal of Part IV. was a sign of the weakness of th» Government because it weakened' and narrowed clown the bill, but the Leader of the Opposition, in his second-reading speech, which he made just after I had Announced that Part IV. of the bill would be withdrawn, said, exactly the opposite^ for- he said that the withdrawal of Part IV. would actually make the bill more drastic.

Mr Spender - That is exactly what I said.

Mr DEDMAN - Hansard will prove that the honorable gentleman said something entirely different from what he now claims to have said. The honorable member and others have sought to imply that . something sinister is' being done, that an injustice is to be done to the mineowners, that, instead of compensation being paid for something that the joint board might do, confiscation would occur. Opposition members have urged that provision should be made in the .bill for compensation to mine-owners for loss or damage, including loss of profits, suffered as a result of directions given' or control exercised by the board. Let us examine ' just what losses or damage may be incurred by the owners. There will be three different classes of mines in the future. There will be mines worked by the joint board itself. The argument of honorable gentlemen opposite has nothing to do with them. There may be compensation in relation to mines taken over by the board, and' there may be matters relating to losses or damage in mines controlled by the authorities, that is mines concerning which the joint board will have given directions that certain things be done. No . provision is made in this bill for compensation to be paid to the owners of mines acquired by the authority, because that provision is to be made in the bill to be introduced soon in the Parliament of New South "Wales. The Commonwealth Government has" no constitutional authority to acquire mines, for it has no general powers over production, of coal. The- only government that has the power to acquire coal-mines for and on behalf of the Joint Coal Board is the Government of New South Wales.

Mr Harrison - Then why is paragraph g inserted in clause 13?

Mr DEDMAN - Let me proceed with my argument. The honorable member can have his turn later. Provision for acquiring mines will be made in the complementary legislation when it is introduced in the Parliament of New South Wales. Therefore, the matter of compensation for acquired mines does not arise in this bill. The only point at issue is the matter of loss or damage resulting from directions issued by the Joint Coal Board to mines which are commonly called " controlled mines ". Losses can occur only as the result of certain costs incurred by the owners of a controlled mine. What may those costs be? They may be the result of the termination of some contract or the suspension or variation of some agreement, which the owner of the controlled mine had entered into. Compensation in regard to those matters is provided for in clause 57. That is perfectly clear and distinct.

In what other circumstances may the owners of controlled mines suffer loss? As I said, the owner of a controlled mine, to suffer loss, has to incur costs of some kind. Those costs may be the result of a direction issued to him to take adequate safety precautions .and make proper provision for the health and welfare of the workers in a particular pit. Is it suggested that the owner of a controlled mine, to. whom such a direction has been issued, should be recouped for his costs incurred in regard to that matter? Certainly, that would be entirely wrong. It is not done in any other industry. In plain fact, of course, a cost such as this, and, indeed, any other costs which may be incurred by the owner of a controlled mine with the exception of those which are dealt with in clause 57, will be taken into account when the .price of coal is fixed. The Joint Coal Board will fix the price for coal; it will also fix profits. When the board fixes the price for coal sold by a controlled mine, it will take into account all the costs incurred by that mine. Therefore, a controlled mine is. not in any different position from any other type of. mine. The Joint Coal Board will fix the price of coal at all mines, whether they are controlled mines or not, on the basis of costs. If that argument is not acceptable to honorable members opposite, the only argument that they can fall back on is that the Joint Coal Board, in fixing the price of coal at various pits, will fix it so low that the controlled mine will not be able to carry on operations. But we have to assume that those who fix prices, whether it be the Joint Coal Board in fixing the price of coal, or the Prices Commissioner in fixing the prices of other commodities, will have a sense of responsibility. If it is to be accepted that the Joint Coal Board will fix the price of coal at a figure so low that the owner will not be able to meet his costs, equally well an argument may be adduced that the Prices Commissioner could fix the price " of every article in the community at a figure so low that nobody in the whole field of industry could carry on business. The matter of compensation, as far as this bill applies, is adequately met in clause 57.

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