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Tuesday, 11 May 1965

Senator SCOTT (Western Australia) . - I rise also to support the Bill. I noted with interest Senator Ormonde's statement that the Opposition does not intend to oppose the measure. The honorable senator referred to the coal industry and its importance to Australia's economy and the earning of export income. It is interesting to note that in the last 15 years the production of coal in Australia has increased by 800 per cent.

Senator Benn - To meet the export demands.

Senator SCOTT - Not altogether. The export demands are at this moment for about five million tons annually whereas, before the present Government took office, we were net importers of coal. The honorable senator may remember that immediately after World War II the Government experienced great trouble in controlling the coal industry. A terrific number of strikes occurred, including in 1949 the largest strike we have had in this country. Lockouts also occurred at that time when we needed large amounts of coal to get our industries functioning after the effects of the war. When the present Government came into office Australia was importing coal. In one year from South Africa we imported over one million tons to meet our requirements until the Government could legislate for the provision of the machinery needed to mechanise our coalfields.

I had the opportunity one weekend to go down some of the major coal mines in Newcastle. Those mines were mechanised. Because of my realisation that the coal producers - which includes the miners - are facing very heavy competition from the oil industry, I was interested to learn that some mines were so highly mechanised that the cost of production had been reduced by about £1 a ton. Loading facilities underground and coal winning equipment had been highly mechanised but the Miners Federation would allow its members to man the new equipment for only one shift daily. That limitation has not helped the coal industry in its attempts to defeat the competition from the oil industry. Over the last four or five years the Government has installed or helped to install coal loading facilities in New South Wales and Queensland. As a result the industry has been able to export increasing quantities of coal each year. Our present exports are between five million and six million tons annually. I understand that the demand for coal is increasing.

The Bill before us is designed to give to the Joint Coal Board authority to operate accounts at a bank or banks approved by the regulations. In the absence of this authority the Joint Coal Board has been operating illegally. This legislation and similar legislation introduced by the New South Wales Government will correct the position. A new section 19A is proposed for the principal act to authorise the Joint Coal Board to maintain an account or accounts with an approved bank or approved banks. It is a minor section which will allow the Board to function legally. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.

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