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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am merely expressing my own opinion.I do not think that the Minister can be regarded as an authority on this matter because I understand that on one occasion at least he and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) were not allowed to accompany the Minister when he attended a meeting at Lithgow, but had to remain outside while the discussions took place.

We have heard a great deal about the wonderful production of coal that has been achieved during the last few weeks. However, I have here an extract from a report published in a reliable newspaper of a statement made by the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell. It reads -

Australian coal production during the past eight weeks has fallen below the rate of consumption, with reserve stocks rapidly being depleted, said the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner, Mr. N. Mighell, to-night.

The greatest contributing cause to the production lag was undoubtedly the compulsory retirement of 2,000 men who reached the retiring age under the New South Wales miners' insurance scheme, Mr. Mighell added. Lost production from this cause was estimated at about 30.000 tons a fortnight, about 750,000 tons a year. Many of these men were ready, anxious and fit for work.

I think it tragic that a State law should be permitted to force to idleness experienced men from an industry on which perhaps the very safety of this Commonwealth depends. None of these retired miners has gone back to the mines, although the Miners Federation has now agreed to the slack in man-power being made up from their number.

The question before the Senate is not whether this state of affairs is the fault of the miners or the fault of the owners. The blame rests entirely with the Government. If the Government was of the opinion that the coal-mining industry was operating satisfactorily, why did it issue regulations? But, having issued regulations to control the industry, it should have taken action under them when the need to do so arose.

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