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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) (1:12 AM) . - This morning, the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) commented on a statement which I had made in this chamber about the coal position. He cited figures relating to the transport of coal from Newcastle to Port Kembla. In doing so, he mentioned that for some time, coal was being sent from Newcastle to Port Kembla at the rate of 7,000 tons a week and that at the present time the deliveries totalled 4,500 tons a week. I do not question those figures; they simply substantiate my former statement. I had said " something of the order of 5,000 tons ", and honorable senators will agree that 4,500 tons, which the Postmaster-General mentioned, is " something of the order of 5,000 tons ".

Senator Ashley - Yes, I do not question that.

Senator McBRIDE - The Postmaster- General then proceeded to state that 3,000 tons of coal is being shipped each week from the south coast of New South Wales to Newcastle for coking purposes. I know nothing about that transaction and I did not mention it in my statement. Consequently, it does not affect my contention that coal, which is being carried by rail from Newcastle to a port on the south coast of New South Wales, could be produced by the mines on the south coast. I do not desire to mislead the Senate, but I have obtained authoritative information to the effect that if the miners would work full time and the mines on the south coast were re-organized, the 4,500 tons of coal which is now being brought by rail from Newcastle could be produced in the Port Kembla district. That would obviate the necessity for using rolling stock and manpower which are now engaged in transporting that coal from the northern fields.

The Postmaster-General suggested that I had misled the Senate when I referred to the reduction of coal reserves in New South Wales during the ten-year period 1931-40 inclusive. I have referred to my speech in Hansard and I am not questioning, at this stage, the accuracy of the report; but I find that I said that during the ten-year period coal reserves were reduced by approximately 100,000,000 tons. I have my notes to substantiate my remarks, and I did not refer to any specific twelve coal mines in New South Wales. The Postmaster-General said that Mr. Armstrong had stated that the asset value of the twelve companies - I do not know which ones - had been reduced by 35,000,000 tons of coal and he suggested that my figure of 100,000,000 tons, had reference to those specific mines. 1 point out that my figures did not refer to them. I have endeavoured to ascertain from the Commonwealth Year-Book the quantity of coal hewn in New South Wales during that period, but I have been unable to trace the production for the years 1939 and 1940. However, the values of the production in those years are available, and I find they were greater than the value in 1937, when the production was 10,051,519 tons. On that basis, we are justified in estimating that 10,000,000 tons was excavated in 1939 and 1940. The total tonnage excavated in New South Wales during the period was 85,728,000 tons. I admit the discrepancy between that figure and 100,000,000 tons, but the actual quantity greatly exceeds the 35,000,000 tons which the Minister quoted. I hope that the Senate will accept my assurance that I did not mention the figure of 100,000,000 tons with the deliberate purpose of misleading the chamber. At least, my statement was more accurate than that of the Minister.

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