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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Senator KEANE (Victoria) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - I have listened with interest to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator A. J. McLachlan ; butI have yet to learn that this regulation is of sufficient importance to take precedence over other urgent business which should now be occupying the attention of all of us. Almost down the ages, one might say, trouble has occurred in the coal-mining industry. In bringing down this regulation the Government has, in effect, sought to grease the skids for the more effective working of the industry. Regulation 27a provides certain penalties in respect of breaches by the employers. The Leader of the Opposition has objected to regulation 27b on the ground that it treats the employees leniently. I point out that regulation 27b provides for two penalties in respect of employees. One of those is most severe as any honorable senator who knows anything at all about trade unionism will recognize. As members of a trade union, the men elect a committee of management to deal- with the operations of the colliery in which they work. If no such committee existed, with whom would the management confer in the event of a hold-up in any mine? Obviously, in drafting this regulation, the Government has been guided by the scheme actually in operation in the mines, so far as dealings between the miners and the owners are concerned. In addition to incurring the penalties prescribed by the act, any miner who commits a breach of this regulation becomes liable to the greatest degradation that can be placed upon a trade unionist, namely, expulsion from his union. Those who declare that the regulation is unfair have not examined it. As all of us know, the coal industry is a troublesome industry. Recently we have effected some improvements in it, but the history of the industry is, to say the least, malodorous.

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