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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesPostmasterGeneral and Minister for Information) . - I am in complete accord with the remarks made by Senator Johnston in regard to the motion now before the Senate. The honorable senator's speech has had a remarkable effect on honorable senators opposite. They all look as though a powerful anaesthetic had been administered to them. They were quite silent during the whole of Senator Johnston's speech, and -no attempt was made to interject. When moving the motion, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) took objection to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) holding conferences with the miners' executive, but I remember many conferences taking place between the miners' executive, the former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the former Minister for Labour and Industry (Mr. Holt). No objection was taken then. Like the present Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister was trying to bring about full production in the mining industry. It is not right for the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber or any one else to suggest that, while the con- ferences between the former Prime Minister and. the miners' executive were held in an atmosphere of purity, conferences between the same executive and the present Prime Minister have some sinister significance. The result of the many conferences between representatives of the previous Government and the miners' executive was the setting up of the Central Reference Board, and local reference boards in an endeavour to bring about peace in the coal-mining industry and to increase production. Those boards were appointed because it was believed to be necessary to deal with industrial disputes at their source. This Government has gone a little farther, and [ appreciate the statements made by Senator this afternoon in regard to the loyalty of the miners and their desire to bring about full production. However, I should like to point out that, although Senator A. J. McLachlan and other legal luminaries in thi? chamber have endeavoured to pull this regulation to pieces, the use of the management committees of unions provided for in this regulation is merely an extension of the present practice. I admit that only the miners are represented, hut there may be a reason for that. I point out that there are several .raft unions connected with the coalmining industry. There is the Engineers Union, the Blacksmiths Union, and so on. All the trouble does not emanate from the miners. One of those craft unions may be concerned in a dispute that will stop the operations at a pit. When the men arrive at work something may occur to prevent them from getting on with their jobs. For instance, there may be an inspection, and the miners' representative may deem that certain portions of the mine are unsafe - there can be many different opinions regarding safety in a mine - or the boys on, the skips, or the engineers, may have a grievance. The powers granted to a management committee allow it to deal with such grievances on the spot, and they even go further and give it authority to discipline members. Therefore, if a minority of members are unwilling to go to work, the management committee has authority to tell them that they must work. I see nothing wrong with such a power if it has the effect of keeping the wheels of industry turning, and that is the only intention of the regulation. Much time has already been wasted in this debate, and I shall not delay the Senate longer. I only wish to make it clear that the purpose of the regulation is to give the management committee power to discipline the men.

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