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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator ASHLEY - The honorable gentleman implied that, owing to industrial disputes on the south coast, certain war industries were unable to maintain production, and that, in consequence, 5,000 tons of coal had to be transported weekly from the north to the south coast. While I am referring to this matter, I point out to the honorable senator that a coal mine at Lithgow, which is producing S40 tons of coal weekly, sends 740 tons of that quantity to the south coast. Until recently the entire production of the mine was sent to the south coast, but, as the result of a request made by the chairman of the Coal Commission, a daily quota of 100 tons was allotted to the Railways Department for use in the western part of the State. I repeat that Senator McBride's statement was entirely wrong. I do not believe that the honorable gentleman knew that it was incorrect; in fact, T am sure that he was misled. I further direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that Senator McBride used exactly the same figures in his speech on the coal-mining industry last week that were used on another occasion by Mr. T. Armstrong, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. Senator McBride said that £5,324,290 had been invested in the coal-mining industry, and that, had that money been invested in war bonds, it would have produced a greater return to the shareholders.

Senator Arthur - He said that the return would have been £2,000,000 greater.

Senator ASHLEY - That is so. The same statement wa3 made by Mr. Armstrong in the New South Wales Parliament in August last.

Senator McBride - What is wrong with that?

Senator ASHLEY - This is part of a campaign that is continually being waged. Mr. Armstrong's statement is reported on page 505 of the New South Wales Parliamentary Debates of the second session, 1941. He said that, from 1931 to 1940 inclusive, a period of ten years, twelve collieries mentioned in the list operating in New South Wales had a combined capital of £5,324,290. Senator McBride quoted the same authority and used the same figures.

Senator McBride - Does not the honorable senator like to hear the truth?

Senator ASHLEY - There is a great discrepancy between the figures, and I want to show where it occurs. Last week Senator McBride referred to the disabilities under which the coal-mine proprietors laboured. In effect, he said that their industry was a wasting industry. I agree with that, but the figures which he used were inaccurate. He said that 100,000,000 tons-

Senator McBride - I said approximately.

Senator ASHLEY - No. Mr. Armstrong, M.L.C., who has been engaged in the coal-mining industry for many years and who represents certain colliery proprietors of the northern mining district, said that it would be reasonable to say that the asset value of the twelve companies mentioned had been reduced by at least 35,000,000 to 40,000,000 tons. Senator McBride said that the reduction had been 100,000,000 tons. That is 60,000,000 to 65,000,000 tons greater that the estimate given by Mr. Armstrong. That proves that the honorable senator's statement, which I challenged at the time, was made on behalf of the Colliery Proprietors Association. I make this statement now in order to clear the position. It is not fair that such charges should be published, because a great deal of credence is given by the public to the statements of members of Parliament, who, at all times, should endeavour to be accurate. Senator McBride's statement was published in most of the newspapers of Australia, because, at present, the position of the coal industry is very much in the public eye. Misstatements such as be made do not help the Government, or anybody else, to bring about peace in the coal-mining industry. I hope that in future when members of the Opposition make statements, they will, in the national interest, ensure that they are correct.

Senator Leckie - I ask you, Mr. Predent, for guidance. To-day three honorable senators obtained leave to make statements, and two of them at least made speeches on controversial subjects. Other honorable senators have no opportunity, unless they be granted leave by the Senate, to reply to those statements. I am aware that any honorable senator can object-

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