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Thursday, 27 June 1946

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ministers, but that sympathy is tinged with a great deal of disgust, for whilst they are sworn to uphold the law, when they are called upon to face up to a national- crisis of this kind they are recreant to the trust reposed in them. I refer particularly to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) who represents the Minister for Supply in this House. He asked what we would do and, when the Leader of my party advised implementation of the Davidson report, the Minister fell back again upon his customary falsification of the position. When he says that there are- constitutional difficulties in carrying out recommendations made by Mr. Justice Davidson, he knows that three State parliaments, including the Parliament of New South Wales, have transferred certain powers to the Commonwealth. New South Wales produces about 90 per cent, of the coal. Therefore, that transfer of powers gives the Commonwealth Government authority to legislate effectively to control the coal-mining industry, if it chooses to do so. The technique to-day is the technique of all Labour Ministers since the inception of the Labour party's current term of office. The late John Curtin, as Prime Minister, denounced the coal-miners with all the fervour that he felt, and then immediately appeased them. When he succeeded to the Prime Ministership, the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) similarly denounced them. Now he appeases them. The Minister for Post-war Beconstruction encourages their lawlessness when he says that, notwithstanding what Mr. Justice Davidson said in Lis report, the Commonwealth Government is powerless. All the Minister seems capable of is pious hopes like " We hope to get coal, we may succeed in doing this ' or that ". Notwithstanding . the declarations of the Prime Minister that coal must be mined to keep- industry going, all that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator. Ashley) can say is that no matter how much coal is given to the Bunnerong power-house, it cannot produce the power necessary to keep industry going. To that wild statement the Chairman of the Sydney County Council, Councillor Cramer, replied that the maximum load at Bunnerong would not exceed 300,000 kilowatts, that if the coal supply was of satisfactory quality Bunnerong would have a capacity of 275,000 kilowatts, that Pyrmont powerbouse could supply 48,000 kilowatts, and that 10,000 kilowatts was available {rom sub-stations in' the city, making a total of 333,000 kilowatts, and that, but for the delay of the State Government in approving of the installation of a 50,000 kilowatt generator at Bunnerong, the total capacity of the power house would have been brought to 383,000 kilowatts. That statement was made by the man charged with responsibility for the generation of power for Sydney. Yet the Minister for Supply and Shipping says that Bunnerong cannot supply the necessary power, regardless of what quantity of coal is supplied to it. The Minister for Supply aud Shipping also said that we had lost our coal reserves in the 1940 strike, but let us examine the position. In 1939, 1.6,588 coal-miners produced 11,195,832 tons of coal. In 1945, the number of miners had increased by 736 to 17,317, but they produced only 10,176,254 tons, or 1,019,578 tons less than in 1939. That decrease will require some explaining. It is obvious that as long as the Government encourages strikes and absenteeism and concedes all the miners' demands production will fall. If we were .producing to-day as much coal as was produced in 1942, when the output of the New South Wales mines was 12,280,717 tons from 17,101 miners, we should have coal reserves. The output has declined since 1942, to which honorable gentlemen opposite point proudly as the peak year of coal pro duction, because of the failure of the Government to enforce the law and to ensure that the miners continue at work. Because of the Government's laxity in enforcing the law, industry cannot function and the necessaries of life cannot be produced, to s'ay nothing of the other commodities that contribute to comfort. I do not blame the ' miners so much for this deplorable situation as I blame Ministers for having failed to honour their oath to observe the law. It is because of their failure in that respect that industry is languishing for lack of coal. Mr. Justice Davidson said in his report -

A stage has been reached in the industry which borders on disaster. The coal industry in its major fields is a tottering industry.

If that is true, it is equally true that the whole of Australia's economy is faced with utter disaster. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction referred to production, and it would be as well, since he is so fond of citing figures, to consider these figures -

Stoppages of work on the New South Wales coal-fields in the last quarter of 1945 caused the loss of 1,250,415 working days. The total of working days lost throughout the year was 1,923,000 working days, indicating the way the industry suffered as the result of disputes in the last three months of 1945.

That is why Australia is losing the production upon which its economy depends. If this Government hopes, to survive the next general elections it must solve that problem. I direct the attention of Ministers to what was said by the Minister for Mines in New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, himself a former coalminer, aware of the problems of the coal-mining industry, and a Labour stalwart -

Between 1940 and 1944 the coal output per mau decreased from 3.40 tons to 3.09 tons per man-day. In the same period wages rose from £3,047,095 to £G,337,309.

J.n other words, for less production wages almost doubled. Yet Ministers mouth pity about the hardships that miners encounter. No wonder Mr. Justice Davidson said-r-

The time has arrived when a note of realism should be struck in order to dissipate the cloud of maudlin sentimentality that is everlastingly spread over the industry with every _ bad effect.

If honorable members compare' the improved conditions and increased wages that the coal-miners are enjoying with the reduced production, they can only conclude that Ministers who talk about the difficulties that the coal-miners have to contend with are guilty of the maudlin, sentimentality referred to by Mr. Justice Davidson. This Government is too weak to combat the pressure put upon it by the miners' leaders. Kern ember what the general president of the miners federation, Mr. Wells, said -

Malicious and stupid suggestions that the federation proposes to abandon the strike weapon and embrace arbitration have no foundation.

That was in 1945.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member's time has expired.

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