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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Senator DARCEY (Tasmania) . - I have never -worked in a coal mine, but I have a family interest in mining. I had three brothers who were miners, and they were men of magnificent physique. The first one was killed at 38 years of age, the second one worked underground for 30 years, and the third one is broken in health. The two who are alive are suffering because of the unhealthy conditions of their work. A party of parliamentarians went to Lithgow about two years ago, and were taken down the State coal-mine. I said to the manager, " How far is it to the face ", and he replied, " I should not advise you to go there ; it is about a 2-mile walk ". Yet Senator McBride objects to the miners being paid for the walk. Senator Aylett showed how difficult it was to walk those 2 miles, and explained that the miners would rather be working at the face than walking. I am glad that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) drew attention to a statement made by Senator McBride about women in mines. Senator McBride evidently approves of women working in mines. I remember a commission that made investigations in England years ago, when action was taken to prohibit women, stripped to the waist, working in the mines.

Senator McBride - I merely read the statement; I made no comment on it.

Senator DARCEY - The honorable senator put the statement forward as a reason why such things should be done. Some years ago a doctor, who was also a psychologist, gave evidence before a commission in England to the effect that men who worked underground year after year, out of the sunlight, suffered in health, and that they took a different view from that taken by men who worked in the sunlight. That furnishes a strong reason why the miners should be allowed to bring their grievances forward. I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service did all he could to bring about continuous production of coal. It has been said that the application of Statutory Rule No. 77 might have caused a complete stoppage in the coal industry. Miners are loyal to one another, and a sympathy strike could have stopped the coal supply. If it is possible by interviewing the owners and the miners, and by listening to the grievances of the men, to bring about a reconciliation, such action should be taken. The Minister for Labour and National Service induced the men to go back to work. There has never been proof that the faults are all on the one side ; the evidence in New South Wales is to the contrary. I believe that the men have just grievances from time to time. They do not fail to realize that if we do not win the war they will lose all their industrial advantages, and they are not such fools as not to know that if Japan succeeds they will lose all the trade union privileges for which they have fought hard. I give them credit for realizing that, although members of the Opposition do not do so. I think that it would have been better had we adopted the suggestion made by the Leader of the Senate, and allowed all the talk in regard to this matter to come from honorable senators opposite. In the course of this debate Senator McBride has been smiling, but I cannot sees anything to laugh about in the war position to-day. However, smiles, laughs and jeers are all that I have had in this chamber since I came here four years ago. Apparently the honorable senator does not realize the importance of matters such as this. He is the most irresponsible man in the chamber. I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service went about this task in the best way possible, and that he did contribute largely to the establishment of peace on the coal-fields. It was only right that, by means of conferences with the men and the owners, he should do his best to secure maximum production of coal which is so essential at present.

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