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Thursday, 5 March 1942


Senator FOLL (QUEENSLAND) - Has this regulation been gazetted in order to enable the union to get rid of certain undesirable? in the industry?


Senator KEANE - I do not know; but it has been enacted in order to place some effective check on people who hold up the industry unnecessarily. Honorable senators generally know that I stand 100 per cent, for unionism. At the same time I have invariably preached and practised efficiency in trade unionism. In war-time the trade unionists are prepared to stand beside the nation. The ex-Ministers for Munitions and Aircraft Production will agree with that statement. The coal industry to-day is contributing more than its normal share to the welfare of this country. We realize that fact when we remember that the miners are working longer hours than they have ever worked before. That, of course, applies to the workers in many industries, of the majority of whom we hear nothing. We hear very little, for instance, about the efforts of our railway men ; but they are probably doing more than any other section for the success of our war effort. As the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues are represented on a body which is assisting the Government to prosecute the war, it is wrong for them to intrude this matter in this way. When I and my colleagues were in opposition, we gave full support ro every measure brought down by the government of the day. I was going to =ay that the Opposition, apparently, does not want any regulations; but I do not really believe that that is so. However, I remind the Leader of the Opposition in reply to his advocacy that every regulation should be fully considered by this Parliament, that when we made the same request to the Government of which he was o member, no notice was taken of ns. At that time, Parliament did not meet regularly, because Ministers had a full-time joh in attending to their respective departmental duties. At the same lime, hundreds of regulations were enacted without Parliament being given mi opportunity to consider them. This regulation was gazetted on the 9 th January last. I urge the Leader of the Opposition to allow it to stand. Should the position in the industry worsen, we shall then consider the framing of a more effective regulation. This regulation was il rafted with the sole intention of enabling the industry to work more smoothly. Probably it has not, been so successful as we had hoped ; but in those circumstances I take the human point of view. Any honorable senator who has studied the industry realizes that it has many, annoying hold-ups. That is the experience of the industry throughout the world. At the same time, it is difficult to find a more courageous class of men than coal-miners. That fact is demonstrated in every mine disaster. T do not know of better Australians who have a dirtier or a harder job. I say that, not as a coal-miner, but from my general industrial experience. Indeed, if any one wanted me to dig for coal, they would have to pay me five times as much as coal-miners now receive. Experience has shown that any legislation which prescribes penalties, whether it be enacted hy a Labour or a non-Labour government, i.s never effective. Penalties aire prescribed in this regulation, but the direst penalty is placed not on the owner, but on the miner. Any miner who absents himself from work renders himself liable to expulsion from his union. The Leader of the Opposition declared, and, to my amazement, Senator A- J- McLachlan supported his statement, that this regulation runs counter to our arbitration law. I have heard nothing in this debate to show that this is the case. Honorable senators must be aware that the committees prescribed do not have the final say; that disputes may ultimately be referred to a tribunal. This regulation consequently does not run counter to our arbitration law. I challenge contradiction on that point. In the first place, the coal-miners at no time came under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. They have a special tribunal dating back to the last war. The Hibble tribunal was formed in 1918 to fix wages and conditions in the coal-mining industry, but it was not on the same lines as the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It was found inadequate to deal with disputes in war-time. To-day both Federal and State machinery exists for dealing with disputes, and there is no warrant for any hold-up in production. Let us retain the arbitration machinery now in operation in the mining industry. To my mind, regulations such as this do not interfere with any principle of arbitration. The trade union movement has made huge concessions m the past two years to me*>* the pressing needs of the war. On that point I challenge any contradiction. Never for a moment did I think that I should live to see the day when there would be dilution of labour and other such tremendous changes, but these things have come to pass, and rightly so because they are necessary in the interests of the people.

In conclusion, I strongly urge that this regulation be not interfered with. It is one of a series of regulations and there has been no complaint from the coalowners. In fact the production of coal is on the increase, and I believe that difficulties in the mining industry will solve themselves in the face of the deplorable prospect now confronting us. Probably in the near future the Leader of the Opposition and myself will not be talking of industrial disputes, but rather of going the whole hog, and seeing that this country is protected 100 per cent, by means of co-operation between employers and employees in this industry.







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