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Wednesday, 11 August 1920

Mr LISTER (Corio) .- It is rather a remarkable coincidence that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) should have asked a question very similar to one which I intended to address to the Prime Minister, and which I handed to him in writing in the following terms: -

In view of the remarks by the honorable member for Hunter and other honorable members, and also of the statements in the press that colliery proprietor's areeither directly or indirectly exporting coal overseas to the extent of many thousands of tons, will the Government give immediate consideration to the advisability of placing an embargo on the export of coal beyond the Commonwealth until such time as local requirements are being fully met?

Mr Charlton - I have never asked such a question.

Mr LISTER - No ; but last week the honorable member said that a considerable quantity of coal was being exported overseas; and at the present time many industries in my electorate are finding it exceedingly difficult to keep going, or are at least greatly handicapped for want of coal, and it is the same in other parts of the Commonwealth.

Mr Fleming - Is it not evident that an embargo on the export of coal would throw thousands ofmen out of employment?

Mr LISTER - That is not evident to me. When writing out my question, I had in mind the fact mentioned this afternoon by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the Government has a large quantity of coal at grass. In the interests of those in the manufacturing industries, as well as of the coal miners, every available man should be kept in constant employment; but I cannot see how an embargo on the export of coal would affect the miners while local requirements are not being fully met. In my opinion, such an embargo would not affect the miners at all. If we could increase the Australian consumption of coal, the Commonwealth would be a gainer. We should always study our own people first. I appreciate the importance of not upsetting contracts which have been made with persons overseas, but our first duty is to our own people. It was for that reason that I determined to ask my question. I am satisfied with the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter. Last week he delivered a very illuminating speech, one of the finest that I have listened to from that side of the House, and one that might very well be circulated throughout Australia, because it puts the miner's position in a very different light from that in which the people have hitherto been allowed to see it.

Mr Prowse - The honorable member for Hunter does not hold the views that the honorable member is expressing now.

Mr LISTER - The honorable member differed from me only, I believe, on the subject of an embargo.

Mr Prowse - A very important difference.

Mr LISTER - The Government must consider the people of Australia first, and they are not doing that when they allow thousands of men to be thrown out of employment for the want of coal.

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