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Thursday, 5 March 1942


Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) . - I have listened closely to the debate on this motion, and the remarks made by certain honorable senators opposite display a lamentable ignorance of the subject. Obviously, they do not know anything about the industry. I feel confident that, in moving the motion for the disallowance of regulation 27b, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is not acting entirely on his own initiative. It is more likely that this matter has been thoroughly discussed by the Opposition parties. The disallowance of this regulation would have a very important effect upon our war effort. The coal-mining industry is a key industry. Many people are inclined to blame the coal-miners for everything, but that is hardly a fair attitude. I believe that the Government's sole object is to expedite the settlement of disputes. How many honorable senators opposite who are supporting the disallowance of this regulation know what it is to work at the face in a mine? In New South Wales, before a man is regarded as a practical coal-miner he must work for two years at the pit face alongside a practicalminer. To become a mine manager, a man must work in or around a mine for at least five years. However, by means of a little bit of study at a technical college, and the passing of examinations, it is possible for a man who has been a clerical worker at a mine to get a mine manager's certificate without practical experience at the pit face. The result is that some mine managers know very little about the actual work in the pits, and when they give orders to practical miners who have been years in the job disputes frequently arise.For instance, a man in a mine might be working with a. horse whose shoulders had been rubbed raw. Next morning the mine manager might instruct the man to take the horse into the pit. The man, being a humanitarian and totally different from members of the Opposition, might refuse to do so. A discussion would follow, such as I have witnessed repeatedly, and the mine manager might direct that the whistle be blown and that no work be done. The regulation provides for nothing different from what has been done in coal-mines for years past. If a dispute occurs in a mine, the matter is discussed by the miners' lodge committee. If that body cannot reach a decision, it refers the dispute to the executive officers, who have been appointed by their organization. That procedure has been followed for many years. The Opposition wants to do away with this system and allow the mine managers to refer disputes to the commissioner mentioned by Senator Spicer.


Senator McLeay - Senator Spicer referred to the commission.


Senator ARTHUR - In the regulation the word " commissioner " is used.


Senator McLeay - That has been altered by the present Government, which has appointed a commission.


Senator ARTHUR - Thecommissioner is supposed to be impartial; a commission is composed of representatives of both parties to the industry.Regulation 27b states -

When a coal mine is open for the purpose of its operation in the manner in which it is usually operated . . .

At starting time one morning, one of the bookworms who calls himself a manager may say that a man shall be transferred to some particular operation.


Senator Foll - Does not a manager have to have a certificate?


Senator ARTHUR - Yes. I have a first-class certificate, and I know what I am talking about. If a dispute arose as the result of a manager's decision to transfer a man from one operation to another, the committee of the miners would discuss the matter, and afterwards would refer it to the district executive or board of management of the district. The law provides for that procedure, and this regulation goes further and provides for the imposition of penalties if men refuse to work. Apparently the Opposition wishes to do away with this provision. It has no desire to penalize men who impede the war effort. Whether it wants the war effort to be held up or not is another matter. The Government did the right thing when it issued the regulation. I believe that its action has the approval of 90 per cent. of the coal-miners of Australia. The regulation provides a means of dealing with recalcitrant workers. For instance, a young boy working on a mine ventilation system might not be doing his job efficiently. The brattice might not be held up properly and therefore not carrying the air into the mines. The boy might be reprimanded and might thereupon refuse to work, with the result that the operations of the entire mine would be held up. This Government has rightly said that such employees must be penalized for their actions. Apparently the Opposition wants to prevent that.


Senator Herbert Hays - If this provision is so beneficial, why was it not introduced before?


Senator ARTHUR - Because the present Government, which is composed of practical men, has only recently come into office. It had to clean out the stable before it could get to work properly.


Senator Herbert Hays - The coalminers have never recommended this system.


Senator ARTHUR - The miners have not objected to it.We do not know exactly where the objection which the Leader of the Opposition is voicing originated. I believe that disputes in the industry arise from the operations of interlocked monopolies which virtually control this country. What will happen if this regulation is disallowed ? Does the Opposition suggest that something should be put in its place? Senator Spicer and Senator A. J. McLachlan suggested this afternoon that the commission should direct the men whether they should work or not. Under that system, disputes would have to be referred to the commission. Why should this be necessary when there is in existence machinery that has been operating for years? The coal-miners arejust as anxious to produce coal for the war effort as others are to assist in other ways; in fact, they are probably more concerned about the war effort than those persons whose chief interest lies in profits. The men will do their job. They know what they are doing, and they are anxious to help the nation. But if they should refuse to do their job, they should be compelled to work. This regulation provides for the imposition of fines, and, in certain circumstances, expulsion is provided for. It operates in the best interests of the nation, and it should be allowed to continue.







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