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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) , I should have gone straight on to the subject which principally occupies ray attention, namely, the shortage of labour in rural industries, particularly in the dairying industry. The honorable gentleman's speech, however, prompts me to say that most honorable members and the great majority of the people of this country realize that nothing will ever satisfy the miners, or, at least, their leaders, or make them realize that we are at war. There is ground for belief that a charge of sabotage could be proved against many people engaged in the coalmining industry. There can be no argument that those who work in, but do not own, the mines would like to take them over from those who do own them. It is human nature that the miners should want to nationalize the coal-mining industry. Two mines have been nationalized in Great Britain. The British Government had its own reasons for nationalizing them, hut they did not include a refusal by the miners to hew coal unless the mines were nationalized. The coal-miners in New South Wales want tramways to carry them underground to the coal-face and lorries to carry them to pit-heads. They want to save themselves a walk of 3 miles, for which, I understand, they are paid.

Mr James - They are contract workers and are not paid for travelling time.

Mr BERNARD CORSER - Even so, they are not the worst off people in the land. Our lads in the forces, both in this country and overseas, sometimes have to march day and night, and what do they get? Can the miners not realize that when the country is at war is not a time for pinpricking? Can they not realize that now is the time when, in common decency, they ought to accept their share of the war burdens? The Government ought to take strong action to end these continual strikes in the coal-mining industry. It would be better to take action now than to allow the miners to go their own way, and possibly hold up production in this country when it was being invaded. The Government's inaction indicates that it is not prepared to do anything, but what a serious blow it would be to the war industries of Australia if the coal-miners went on strike when the country was being invaded because of the lack of provision of some convenience or other or because the breath of a horse was bad, or because one man was not being paid quite so much as another for wheeling coal out of the mines. Australian governments have been generous to the coal-miners. They have conceded more than they ought to have conceded, because of their desire for peace in the industry. The way in which the coal-mining industry has been treated contrasts strangely with the way in which equally important primary industries have been depleted of their labour. The primary producers have been severely hampered by the man-power authorities. In a great many instances, not one male is left to work the farm. That applies particularly to the dairying industry. In spite of declarations by Commonwealth Ministers that men already in the Army will be released and that others not yet called up will have their enlistments deferred or cancelled, two cases came to my notice last week of the last men on the farms being taken into the Army. In the first case, the wife of the young owner is left to carry on a farm of 26 cows without assistance, except that of a lad. In the second case, the wife has been left with the assistance of a boy of thirteen to conduct a farm of 80 cows. I should like to know when the Government's policy that primary industries shall be provided with sufficient labour will be applied. Only last week we learned that so great is the realization of the Government of the United States of America that foodstuffs must be produced that it has decided- to recruit an army for agricultural purposes alongside that enlisted for war, and 350,000,000 acres is to be sown in order that the United States of America may produce foodstuffs for the United Nations. That contrasts sharply with the policy applied in this country, where primary production is being curtailed. If that policy be persevered with, the dairying industry, to say nothing of other important primary industries, will not be able to produce sufficient for our requirements. The dairying industry, particularly, is not able to compete with other industries for its labour, because the return to the producers is so small as to leave them unable to offer sufficiently high wages. The suppliers of milk for the metropolitan area of New South Wales have been helped by the State Government of New South Wales. They now obtain 61/2d. a quart for their milk, but the dairy farmer who sells his milk to the butter factories receives only 61/4d. a gallon. The Government should evolve a scheme whereby the dairy farmers of this country will come into the one organization and under the one control; but, above all, the industry should be provided with sufficient labour to enable it to meet demands.

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