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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - In the earlier part of the evening I dealt very briefly with this question and its bearing on the safety of men working underground. I refuse to discuss it from any other stand-point. If it were not such a serious question I should have been highly amused by Senator Duncan's speech. But for the fact that the representatives of the miners in another place will have an opportunity to confute his statements, I should deal with them fully at this stage. When this item was before another place, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), acting leader of our party, and the honorable memiber for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), two most earnest and sincere

Protectionists, put the case for the free admission of this commodity on the ground that the lives of the men working underground depended upon the use of safe explosives.

Senator Elliott - Was not that mere camouflage ?

Senator Henderson - No.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Elliott, as a lawyer, may indulge in camouflage in the Courts, but men like Mr. Charlton and Mr. Watkins would scorn to do anything of the kind. They are sincere and deadly earnest men, who say and do only that which they know to be right. Will any one question the sincerity, honesty, and earnestness of Senator Henderson, who has also opposed this request? I think not. The only basis upon which this question can be argued is as to whether or not we should be taking an undue risk by shutting out explosives from abroad. Senator Duncan rather amusingly states that he prefers to accept the information obtained by him from the local company than the statements of the miners and their representatives in this Parliament. The miners would naturally expect him to do so.

Senator Duncan - The miners are using Australian explosives.

Senator GARDINER - That point was dealt with fully in another place. The question whether the Australianmade article isdangerous should be left to the miners themselves to determine. Honorable senators may make experiments with Protectionist principles in the open, but I object to this experiment, affecting, as it does, the safety of. the men in our mines.

Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow - The miners will decide the question.

Senator GARDINER - They should be allowed to do so, but, apparently, some honorable senators have resolved that the miners shall be called upon to pay a higher price for the safe article. We may have a thousand mining men ready always to do the fair thing, and to use only a safe explosive. But it needs only one to employ a dangerous explosive for a great disaster to occur. I am guided in this matter by the opinions of the representatives of the miners in another place. Mr. Charlton and Mr. Watkins, like Senator Earle, are sincere Protectionists. Senator Earle is the only real Protectionist we have here; he has stuck to his guns throughout the consideration of the Tariff schedule. I ask honorable senators ' to consider for a moment what may happen if we render it impossible for our miners to obtain a ¬ęsafe explosive except at an enormously increased price. Consider for a moment the awful results that would attend an explosion in a mine. If honorable senators will keep that in mind they will not be likely to sleep better than they have been doing.

Senator de Largie - Imagine another Bulli or Mr Kembla disaster !

Senator GARDINER - Are honorable senators trying to bring about another Kembla disaster? It was the knowledge that this question was to be determined that brought me back this week. I could not stop away with the haunting thought in my mind that a wrong decision might be arrived at.

Senator Duncan - The Bulli and Kembla mines use imported explosives.

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator may believe that if he pleases. Mr. Willis, the secretary of the Miners Federation, assures me that this is a matter of supreme importance to the men, and I take my cue from the miners' representatives in another place - Mr. Charlton and Mr. Watkins - in opposing an increased duty.

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