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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Senator ARTHUR - He must have been thinking of the profits made by the mine-owners. The honorable senator went on to say that the Government had; before it the facts necessary to remedy the position.

Senator McBride - I did not say that.

Senator ARTHUR - If the Government had those facts we should expect it to make use of them, but the honorable senator did not indicate what the facts were. The honorable gentleman spoke of the conditions of the sweated slaves of the mining industry, and said that their rates of pay had been increased by 27 per cent. I should like the honorable gentleman to tell me of one instance in which the miners have been granted an. increase of the hewing rate. All of this work is done on contract. let us examinethe position of the coal-mining industry in 1915, when the same conditions asapply to-day were operating under avaricious owners. At that time, we thought that we were fortunate if we earned £4 10s. for a full fortnight's work of eleven days. To-day the miners are working fairly constantly and earning a little more than they were a few years ago, because they have not worked somuch since the depression, when many of them were obliged to accept the dole because of the way in which orthodox financiers, particularly bankers, carried on the affairs of this country. But the usual thing is for the owners, through, their bookworm managers, to set out each, fortnight what they consider to be a fair amount for the miners to earn. I speak in earnest when I refer to mine managers as bookworms. I shall explain why I use that term. In order to be a practical miner, a man must work for two years at the coal face with a qualified man. Until he has completed this term, he is not entitled to work by himself. That is provided by the law of New South Wales.

Senator McBride - All mine managers have to be certificated men. That also is provided by the law of New South Wales.

Senator ARTHUR - In order to become a mine manager a man must work for five years in or about a mine. Under that provision an owner could take a man of the same intellectual capacity as Senator McLeay and put him to work in the office adding up figures, collecting the wages tax from the miners, or putting tickets on coal trucks, and, with a little study and some attendance at a technical college that man could obtain his manager's certificate without having been underground. Many mine managers have obtained their certificates by that means, and that state of affairs is the root cause of the trouble. It is further aggravated by the actions of the financial councils which are interested not only in coal mines but also in interlocking concerns, such as shipping companies, iron and steel works, banks and the newspapers. Take for example the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited. Senator McBride could have told us about that firm's financial interest in coal-mines. The affairs of Howard Smith Limited and other companies are also worthy of investigation. Senator McBride said that the miners earned 40s. 2d. a day. He did not state that that was the average figure.

Senator McBride - I said that it was the average for the period which I mentioned.

Senator ARTHUR - I challenge the honorable senator's statement; it was definitely wrong. He may have picked out a particular mine where men averaged that rate for a fortnight because the railway trucks were there to be filled, but he omitted to refer to the increased price of coal paid to the owners at the pit mouth. He said that the miners' rate had increased by 27 per cent. He should have pointed out also that the price of coal has increased by 70 per cent. since the beginning of the war.

Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 64.

Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 8 p.m.

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