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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - When this matter was first brought under my notice I approached it with a good deal of doubt. I realize the vital importance of providing our own requirements, more especially for defence purposes, so that in the event of war we would not be dependent on oversea supplies. Even if we were fully equipped with artillery and rifles, our position would be hopeless without an adequate supply of explosives of the highest standard. I. feel, however, that a good deal could be said on the other side, and my doubts were quickened by the earnest speeches delivered by SenatorHenderson and Senator Gardiner. The former is a practical miner, and when he was graphically depicting the dangers arising from the use qf inferior explosives, which might cause aflash, and set on fire the gases in a mine, resulting in the death of hundreds of miners and the destruction of the property, I felt it to be the duty of those advocating increased rates to prove that the Australian explosives had had a sufficient trial to prove their quality. If it could not be shown that their quality is satisfactory, I would oppose increased duties; but I find on investigation that the Australianmade explosives - the product of the Deer Park factory - have been very extensively used in Australia. I have been furnished with a" list of the mines, and the quantities they are using, and I propose, in order to relieve the doubts and fears in the minds of some honorable senators, to give the names of the companies and the quantities they utilize, It is the coal miners to whom we have to give consideration because the risk of explosions in collieries is much greater than in other mines. This is the information that has been given to me : -

Users of Australian-manufactured coal explosives: -

New South Wales.- Tons per month - Caledonian Collieries, l½; Aberdare Collieries, 3; South Greta Colliery, 1; Newcastle Coal Company, 2; Preston Colliery, 1; South Teralba Colliery, 1; Hebburn Colliery, 1; Seaham Colliery, 1 ; Pacific Colliery, 1 ; Gunnedah Colliery, J; Ashtonfield Colliery,½; New Greta Colliery, 2; Abermain Colliery, 2; Dudley Colliery,1½ Excelsior Colliery, North Bulli Colliery,½; Metropolitan Colliery, 1; Neath Colliery, 3; Rothbury Colliery, 2; Bell Bird Colliery, 3; Stockton Borehole Colliery,½; Newcastle Wallsend Colliery, 2; sundry small collieries, 8.

Queensland.- Tons per month - Ipswich Collieries, 7½ Mount Mulligan Colliery,

Victoria.- Tons per month - State Coal Mines, Wonthaggi, 4; Powlett North Woolamai Colliery, 1; sundry small collieries,1½.

New Zealand.- Tons per month - Taupiri Collieries, 3; Westport Collieries, Stockton Colliery,1½; State Coal Mines, 2½; sundry small collieries, l½.

The point has been Taised that it is not in the best interests of metalliferous mining in "Western Australia that the miners should be forced to use Australian explosives at, possibly, an increased cost. It has been claimed that the mining interests of Western Australia are well satisfied. with the imported explosives which they are using. But practically the whole of what is used in those mines is the product of this same Australian company.

Senator Lynch - What is the honorable senator's authority for saying that?

Senator DUNCAN - I have the authority of the company itself - a statement made deliberately and publicly, and which can be easily refuted if inaccurate.

Senator Drake-Brockman - The statements of that company and of the South African firm are diametrically opposed.

Senator DUNCAN - Naturally, one may say! I might not have been prepared to take the word of the local people if it had not been backed by such substantial and obviously irrefutable proof as has been furnished to me.

Senator de Largie - Can the honorable senator tell me one coal mine in Queensland which uses any kind of explosive at all?

Senator DUNCAN - I have just quoted the fact that the Ipswich Collieries use 7½ tons a month of the local product, and the Mount Mulligan Colliery half a ton a month. Not only are the particulars which have been given me open to public criticism, but the fact is that the employees actually using Australian explosives in the collieries of the three States mentioned are satisfied to use them, and evidently have no objection on the score of danger. But for the statements which I have been able to place before the Committee I must admit that I would have been ready to take the word of Senator Henderson and of Senator Gardiner. I would have hesitated to give a vote which might have forced upon the coal miners of Australia a material in which, so far as I knew, they had no confidence, and the general use of which might have resulted in grave accidents.

Senator Gardiner - Why is not Senator Duncan prepared to take the word of the coal miners' direct representatives in another place - good Protectioniststhat they are, too?

Senator DUNCAN - In opposition to what those representatives have stated in Parliament, there is the fact that thousands of our coal miners are using Australian explosives to-day, without prejudice. I am not aware that the percentage of accidents is any higher in those collieries where the local product is used than in any other mines. Indeed, I am quite sure that if anything detrimental could be proved by its competitors, the public would very quickly hear of it. . The miners themselves would be the first to complain ; they would have taken action long ago.

Senator Gardiner - They have taken action in connexion with this very Tariff.

Senator DUNCAN - I have not heard of one hostile resolution by any of the coal miners' lodges in New South Wales.

Senator Drake-Brockman - The statements placed in the hands of Senator Duncan are, after all, ex parte, and have emanated from interested sources.

Senator DUNCAN - I repeat that the particulars were supplied for public information, and that if they are incorrect they can be challenged to-morrow. My objection to the imposition of higher duties has been almost entirely removed by them . For sonic time, of course, the effect may be to cause a small increase in cost to the mining interests, but that will not amount to more than1d. per ton on the coal produced. Meanwhile, assistance will have been given, not merely to the building up of a great industry in Australia, but also to rendering more secure the defence of our great country.

Senator Keating - The honorable senator is advocating the expansion of an interest which the Defence Department will have to buy out at a later date.

Senator DUNCAN - Possibly; but if Australia is to wait until the Defence Department is prepared to establish its own munition works-

Senator Pearce - We have our own Explosives Factory already. Perhaps the honorable senator does not know that we are supplying India to-day.

Senator DUNCAN - I am, fully alive to the fact that there is a cordite factory at Maribyrnong, but Senator Keating's interjection suggested that the whole of the explosives for use all over Australia in all the mines should be manufactured in a Government factory. I do not favour that at present. I know that the local explosives works are a branch of a great Combine. It was that fact which accounted for my hesitation. I have been tardy in giving the local interest my support for the reason that the Combine once attempted to throttle the mining industry of Australia. It was that effort which caused the De Beers Company to enter Australia upon the advice, and with the co-operation of, certain leading mining companies - among them the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. To-day, however, there is a, factory established in Australia, and it is very largely within our own control.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order ! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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