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Tuesday, 11 May 1965

Senator BENN (Queensland) .- The purpose of the Bill is to authorise a practice which has been in operation for a long time and has given satisfaction to all concerned. Nevertheless, what was being done was outside the law and the purpose of the Bill is to straighten matters out, for the Audit Branch, no doubt, and for the Department of the Treasury. I do not think that the Joint Coal Board will be any better off as a result of the arrangement. I have very little to say this afternoon on this question but I am taking the opportunity to discuss the trends of the coal industry in the Commonwealth. The industry was far more important only a few years ago.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order! I think that the honorable senator should restrict his remarks to the Bill.

Senator BENN - I am.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I am just warning the honorable senator.

Senator BENN - I am sticking strictly to the title of the Bill. It is a matter of money. You, Mr. Deputy President, no doubt know that in Queensland there is a board known as the Queensland Coal Board. Its establishment was agreed to by the coal authorities in Queensland during the war period. It is functioning as a coal board, but I do not think that it has the financial problems which the Joint Coal' Board has. I did want to mention production. This restriction of debate is crippling in the Senate, which has not done anything for the past two or three weeks. Why the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), who is in charge of the measure, is so sensitive about this matter is beyond me. I come from an important coal producing State. No doubt the Minister has engineered a stifled debate upon this- matter because he is not au fait with the coal industry, but surely I am entitled to mention the Queensland coal production figures over the past 12 months. I shall not be very far out of order if I mention that matter, surely. Last year 3,813,535 tons of coal were produced in Queensland. The quantity used amounted to 2,756,973 tons and 1,039,602 tons were exported. Arrangements are being made at the present time for what is known as Moura coal to be exported to Japan, where a ready market for it has been found. The point I am concerned about is employment in the industry.

Senator Paltridge - Contrary to what the honorable senator has suggested, I do not desire to stifle debate on the Bill, but I suggest that his remarks on Queensland coal production are entirely unrelated to the measure. The Joint Coal Board is an organisation comprising representatives of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales. The Queensland Coal Board is purely a State body which has nothing at all to do with the Bill before the Senate.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the Bill.

Senator BENN - I shall confine my remarks to the Bill. The Opposition does not oppose the measure.

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