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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Senator COLLETT (Western Australia) . - I am grateful to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) for the statement which he has just made. Nevertheless, I think that Senator Allan MacDonald was entirely justified in bringing before the Senate the position confronting the gold-mining industry. As honorable senators are aware, goldmining is of great importance to Western Australia, as the figures supplied by Senator Allan MacDonald have made clear. A stoppage of gold-mining would greatly contract the industrial life of that State. We all recognize that the war is making great demands on industry generally, particularly on labour; but I emphasize the importance of the goldfields to Australia. I point out also that in other industries labour is not being used to the best advantage. Men who work only four or five days a week, could have their working hours extended with advantage to Australia, and strikes which hinder the war effort and make more difficult the task confronting the Government should be eliminated.

Recently, a deputation waited on the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in regard to the gold-mining industry, and it is to be regretted that no supporter of the Government was able to attend. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) was in the building, but he could not attend because he was awaiting a telephone call. On that occasion, the Treasurer waa not frank with those who appeared before him on behalf of the gold-mining industry. Although Mr. Johnson was sent on a special mission to Kalgoorlie, we have not yet been apprised of the nature of that mission.

Senator MCBRIDE - The Leader of the Senate knew nothing about it.

Senator COLLETT - The honorable gentlemen's statement will require a good deal of explanation. I have placed on the notice-paper a question on this subject to which I hope to receive a satisfactory answer. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has been placed in a most awkward position through things being done without his approval. At least, that appears to be the position. The effect of any interference with gold-mining will be most severe in Western Australia. The State has done its share towards Australia's war effort.

Senator Allan MacDonald - It has done more than it's share.

Senator COLLETT - The people engaged in gold-mining will respond to the Government's appeal more quickly if they are treated with candour and frankness, and if the views of the Government are placed clearly before them by men authorized to speak on its behalf.

Senator Allan MacDonald - It must not be forgotten that Western Australia has its own State Government.

Senator COLLETT - That is so, and it is composed of men belonging to the same political party as is in office in the Commonwealth. I admit that the situation confronting the Government is complicated and difficult, and therefore I ask that the Government will give to this matter its most serious attention. I hope that in any statement which may be made on the subject, all the points which have been raised this afternoon will be covered.

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