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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) . - I am firmly convinced that the action taken in the Senate to-day is merely a continuation of the PackerTheodore - coal-owner - Bulletin - Opposition vendetta against the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), and that nothing of the kind advocated by Senator McBride is required to adjust the coal difficulty. I am convinced that the campaign against the Minister for Labour and National Service has been continued for a long period, and that the coal-miner has been used as the stalking-horse to obscure fie facts. That is obvious when we find the Daily Telegraph publishing this statement, "Ward defies his own Government on strike issue. Won't use rule 77 against workers; Cabinet row likely". The paper quoted the Minister as saying that he would never use rule 77 against the workers, and it quoted the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) as saying that the rule would be used against fifteen wheelers who had struck the previous day at Wongawilli mine, on the south coast. The statement added that the men were back at work. Those fifteen men who were on strike at Wongawilli were not proceeded against; but, according to Mr. Loudon and the Prime Minister, the stoppage waa caused by provocation by the management. It was not caused by the miners. Nevertheless, the mineowners, the members of the Opposition, the Daily Telegraph, and other persons and organizations that dislike the Minister, are prepared to do anything to cause his colleagues to oppose him.

The Daily Telegraph, along with Senator McBride and other Opposition members, must be very disappointed because the coal-miners are not on strike to-day. The Daily Telegraph wept yesterday when it published a statement that there was no strike, but that two mines were idle. It was evidently sorry that, in the circumstances, it could not further abuse the Minister for Labour and National Service and disparage his good work. A member of any government who could go among the miners of Australia and arrange that 22,000 of them should work to a degree that must impose a strain on them, deserves commendation. The men had refused^ to work because of the tactics of the mineowners, but to-day, thanks to the Minister, they are hewing coal for the war effort. What a stupid statement it was that fifteen men out of 22,000 were idle ! More men would be found to be idle in any section of industry where 22,000 were employed. I believe that no man has done better work for Australia than the Minister for Labour and National Service has done, and this Senate ought not to be discussing a motion such as this unless with the object of paying a tribute to him.

Senator McBridesaid that the stoppages could not be tolerated, and that they were "frivolous". The Daily Telegraph has found some one to say that a horse had been the cause of a strike 'because it was too fast. I do not know how the animal was quietened, but I do know that such a horse would be a most dangerous animal in a pit. When hauling skips to the wheeler, or from the wheeler to the miner, the horse might tear up the rails, pull the skips off the rails, and crush the driver or wheeler against the rock face and kill him. Worse than that could happen, because he might tear down the pit props, as a result of which rock and earth might fall upon the men and crush them. That, however, does not matter, according to the Daily Telegraph. Any man who works in a mine would agree that an objection to the use of such a horse was not a " frivolous " matter, as the Daily Telegraph alleged. The miners of this country are doing good work, and if members of the Opposition were employing themselves in th<ยป war effort as well as the miners are doing, the result would be better for Australia. Senator McBride has admitted the justice of some of the complaints about the shuffling of trucks. It has for many years been the practice of the coal-owners to stop a pit at their own will. They are doing it to-day, because they can make more money by taking the coal from one mine than from another. That is why some mines are starved for trucks, and, of course, if there are no trucks the coal cannot be transported. Because of these tactics, the Daily Telegraph and members of the Opposition say that these terrible, uncontrollable miners should be disciplined. Yet the 'best story they could find on which to spill their ink was that fifteen men out of 22,000 were on strike. I am whole-heartedly with the Minister for Labour and National Service in his contention that the licences of the owners of the coalmines should be revoked, and that the men should be employed direct by the Government. The tactics employed by the owners and the managements in the past should not be allowed to continue. Under government management there would be, not greater efficiency, but better conditions for the miners than those existing to-day. It would ensure full production if the mine-owners had their licences withdrawn.

Senator Spicer - Greater efficiency was not achieved by the New South Wales State mine.

Senator AMOUR - The State mine was operated successfully until trouble arose, not between the miners and the employers, but between various 'organizations within the coal-mining industry. However, that trouble has now been adjusted. The Minister for Labour and National Service has had all the difficulties ironed out. lt is cowardly to make an attack upon men such as the Minister for Labour and National Service, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), who have done excellent work in eliminating production troubles in the mining and munitions industries. The achievement of the Minister for Labour and National Service was creditable, and I, as an Australian, shall not hear him vilified. Such attacks make one wonder what would happen if an invasion of Australia actually took place.

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