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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) - I need not repeat any of the arguments already advanced in favour of the general, principle of protection; but those who have urged as a reason for opposing the request that the locally made explosive is dangerous have given me cause for much thought. I am a practical miner, and have used both the Australian and the German Nobel product. . As far as I am able to judge, there is very little difference between their breaking force and general effectiveness in mining operations. I am not able to speak with authority as to the class of explosives that should be used in coal mines, where there is a danger pf firedamp, and when an honorable senator states, apparently on the authority of the representatives of the coal miners, that the Australian-made explosive is dangerous for such a purpose, it sets one thinking. Since that state ment was made I have been hurriedly looking through the reports of the- debate on this item in another place, but I have not found in them any definite statement by either Mr. Charlton or Mr. Watkins that the Australian-made explosive is dangerous for use in coal mines. I hold so high an opinion of Mr. Charlton that if he said that the locally-made article was dangerous, my vote would be given against its protection.

Senator Duncan - So would mine.

Senator EARLE - While Mr. Charlton was speaking on this question in the House of Representatives he was interrupted by Sir Robert Best, who asked, " Does the honorable member challenge the quality of the article?" He replied, "lam told that it is very inferior." It will be noticed that Mr. Charlton was relying, not upon his own experience, but on statements made to him.

Senator de Largie - He has not been actually engaged in coal mining for many years.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nor has Senator Henderson.

Senator EARLE - He is quoted as a representative of the men who are most concerned, and if the use of this explosive were dangerous, Mr. Charlton would have said so, but he did not. I have the assurance of those interested in the industry - of course, it might be said that their opinion is prejudiced - that the local explosive is not dangerous, that, on the contrary, it possesses all the qualities of the most carefully-tested explosives produced in England, and is being used successfully, and with perfect safety, in the combustible mines of Australia, "where a lingering fire would be extremely dangerous. In view of these facts, I cannot attach very great importance to what might be regarded the irresponsible statement that it is dangerous to human life. If we had any reasonable evidence pointing to that possibility, I would not only refuse to assist the industry but would agitate for its abolition. We have had some scare speeches on this subject tonight. The industry, I think, ought to be discussed on its merits. I am as strong in the matter of encouraging this industry as any other. I want to see all such industries established in Australia, and believing as I do that the local explosive is quite as good as the imported article, 1 am going to vote for the increased duties.

Senator GARDINER(New South Wales [9.18]. - I am sorry again to take part in the 'debate, but Senator Earle has just handed me the Hansard report of Mr. Charlton's speech on this subject in the other House, and I want to make this short quotation from it -

This monopoly charged considerably more for their explosives in Great Britain than they charged for them in Australia, in consequence of there being competition here at that time. The next reason I submit why explosives should be admitted free is that in the interests of life and property, which ought to be paramount, those manufactured in Australia ought not to be permitted to be used in the mines.

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