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Thursday, 11 April 1957

Mr DEAN (Robertson) .- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in moving his motion this morning, referred to the loyalty of the coal-mining community as a whole. I quite agree with him. 1 have had the opportunity of growing up in a coalmining area, and of going to school with many who are now coal-miners. I agree with the honorable gentleman regarding their service in World War 1., and 1 had the privilege of serving with their sons, in World War II. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, the community effort of the coal-mining people is not the question to be decided in this debate.

As I understand the motion, it is suggested that because of alleged lack of leadership from this Government, the industry finds itself in its present position. Nothing is further from the truth. Certainly, the industry finds itself in a change-over period after a long series of difficulties resulting from lack of leadership. But that lack of leadership is to be found in the miners' federation. That is the great tragedy of the Australian coal-mining industry. For many years it has suffered from bad leadership within the miners' federation itself. For instance, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) referred to the Davidson report, made in 1946, when the Chifley Government was in office, and the honorable member for Hunter himself was coal liaison officer. The report stated -

A stage has been reached in the industry which borders on disaster, and the threatening crisis demands bold measures.

The industry was in such a bad state that the Chifley Government, in conjunction with the New South Wales Government, decided to set up a joint coal board; but that board did not come into its own until this Government took office in 1 949. After that, as a result of the measures that were taken, the industry did become stabilized. To support my argument about bad leadership in the miners' federation I remind honorable members that in 1949, during the regime of the Chifley Government, and when conditions had reached their worst, Mr. Justice Foster, in addressing Messrs. Williams and Grant - the two chief miners' leaders - during contempt proceedings, said -

You two gentlemen and your organization have set yourselves against the law, as personified by this Court and by your Parliament. You have professed the loyalty to your own members against the interest and welfare of all other workers in Australia, against the community as a whole and against all law and the Government. That is a big thing to do. It is ais.) a terrible thing to do and should not lightly bc undertaken. There are institutions in this country set up by the will of the people, which il is commonly believed are competent to solve the problems thai you two gentlemen and your organization are anxious to solve. They can be solved without hardship to you or to the great mass of people. You not only have refrained from pursuing that course, hut you refuse to follow it, and so you impose upon the community for whom 1 speak the great distress and hardship that you have inflicted on them.

This bad leadership accounted for the terrible conditions that existed in the industry at that time. The Minister for Supply told us again this morning of the progress that has been made through the coordinated efforts of this Government and the Joint Coal Board. The Government has provided a far better atmosphere for stability and progress in the industry. I remind honorable members that when the honorable member for Hunter and his colleagues were in government there was very little investment or progress in the industry, but the confidence engendered by the leadership of this Government, in co-operation with the Joint Coal Board, in introducing more modern and efficient methods of coalmining, has resulted in far more investment than hitherto. For example, in 1953-54 it was £3,991,000. In 1954-55 it was £3,672,000; and in 1955-56 it was £5,079,000. That is merely another example of the effect of the good leadership shown by this Government.

The conditions which have been described as characterising the change-over period are not new. They have been present for some time. One wonders why the Opposition should suddenly decide to put this motion before us. it is common knowledge, of course, that next Saturday there is to be a State by-election in Kahibah. The Opposition is trying to obtain some benefit by highlighting the troubles of the coal-mining industry, which no one denies, for the sole purpose of trying to make some political capital and obtain a few more votes.

The important thing to realize is that the leadership of the democratic socialists who sit opposite is going closer and closer to the left. One has only to look at the miners' own paper, " Common Cause ", to see their solution to this problem. It is given on page 5 of the issue on Saturday, 6th April, 1957 - " Nationalize mines! Introduce 7 hr. Day! "

Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!

Mr DEAN - 1 hear approbation from honorable members opposite. They have the answer completely within their own power. The sovereign State of New South Wales can nationalize the New South Wales mines if the government so desires, lt is also common knowledge that the mention of nationalizing the coal mines made hy the New South Wales Government is only a gesture to the leaders of the miners' federation, who desire it. It is well known that the New South Wales Government has no desire and little intention to nationalize the coal mines within New South Wales.

To support my point regarding how much closer to the left the leaders of the democratic socialists are, 1 mention thai on the same page 5, immediately after " Common Cause " asks for the introduction of a 7-hour day in Australia, I find the announcement that hours in Russia have been reduced and that Mr. W. Parkinson, the general president, has received a letter from Mr. Paul Plikhin, president of the Soviet Coal Miners Union, which concludes b> saying that Mr. Plikhin hopes " that this exchange between our organisations will, in the near future, lead to ' establishment of direct contacts and exchange of delegations which will be a further contribution to strengthening friendly relations between miners' trade unions of Australia and the U.S.S.R.'" I feel that it is wise to bring that matter to the notice of the House and of the people, especially at the present time when certain people within the Australian electorate are being called upon to make their choice between candidates offering from one side or the other.

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