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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - In this chamber some days ago, Senator Leckie remarked that the Leader of the Senate (Senator

Collings) would be perfectly happy if the Senate were a kindergarten and. he were the schoolmaster, but I am pleased to see that honorable senators opposite did not accede to their leader's appeal not to debate this motion. They have their own opinions and they are entitled to express them.

In the course of this debate a good deal has been said as to who is responsible for the stoppages on the coal-fields, and, in turn, first one side and then the other has been blamed. But the question before the Senate to-day is not who is to blame for the strikes, but whether or not the Government has done everything possible to avoid these disputes. "We have a Commonwealth Arbitration Court and any infringement of awards, either by employers or employees; or in fact any trouble between coal-miners and the mine-owners is entirely a matter for that court. But I ask honorable senators whether or not the Government has done everything in its power to see that the law of the land as laid down by the Arbitration Court has been observed by both the employer and employee? Apparently early this year the Government believed that the Arbitration Court's rulings were not being observed by all sections of the coal-mining industry, because, on the 9th Januarylast, regulations were promulgated setting out what should be done by the coal-miners and the mine-owners, and stating that action would be taken against any one who did not comply with the Arbitration Court's awards. This afternoon Senator McBride pointed out that the Government, although it realized that stoppages were occurring in the industry and that somebody was to blame, had not exercised the powers which it possessed under these regulations to ensure that the awards were enforced. There can be no doubt that the Government is to blame for the continued disputes in the coalmining industry, irrespective of whether they have been originated by the coalminers or the mine-owners, because under the regulations to which I have referred action could have been taken against either party.We have heard to-day that certain action was taken, but if that be so, it could have been only of a minor nature and hardly worth mentioning. Between the 9th January, when the regulations were issued, and now there has been ample opportunity to use the new powers, but no such action has been taken. Naturally enough we in this chamber are anxious that the coal-mining industry should continue to produce sufficient coal to meet this country's requirements, especially in view of the fact that coal is so vitally important in our war effort. Another good point which . was made by Senator McBride was that it was ridiculous to haul coal 150 miles to areas in which an ample supply of coal existed.

A great deal has been said in recent months about coal production and about the alleged benefits accruing from the visit of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) to the coal-fields. It has been suggested that the Minister returned from his trip satisfied that he had found a solution of the problems. Personally I believe that the Minister returned from the coal-fields with nothing more than he had when he went there. I am reminded very much of an argument which I once heard around a camp fire at a place 250 miles beyond Oodnadatta, and allegedly on the direct route to what is known as Lassetter's Reef. Some time previously a party had gone out to search for the reef, and there was considerable speculation as to what had been found by that party. In the course of the camp-fire discussion one man said that he knew that the search party had found gold because he had seen members of the party returning with specimens. However, another speaker said that he knew perfectly well that the party had not found anything, because he had seen members of it go out, and they had the specimens with them then. The same can be said of the Minister's visit to the coalfields. He had all the information with him when he went; he did not get it when he arrived there.

Senator Ashley - That is incorrect.

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