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Thursday, 1 August 1946

Mr BERNARD ' CORSER (WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND) - Th That the Government should govern. The laws are applied strictly enough to butchers and hospital nurses. They are prosecuted and fined when they break the laws,- but not so the miners. Under the bill,, a miner who absents himself from duty unlawfully may be fined £100. Does any one seriously suggest that the Government has the slightest intention to impose fines on striking miners? One lias only toconsider its abject capitulation to the miners' demands during the war. It is true that some miners were drafted into military camps, but within a week, they bad returned to their former employment. They hid themselves in a sheltered occupation during the war, .otherwise they might have been called up for military service. Now that the Avar has ended many of them have left the coal-mining industry and found more congenial occupations. Does any one seriously claim that the record of the coal-miners of New South Wales is one of which they may be proud ? I have never heard anything more pathetic than the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) when introducingthis bill. I squirmed at the reading of the honorable gentleman's speech and was amazed, to hear the greater , part of it devoted to abusing the mine-owners. Yet the chairman of the Commonwealth Board of Inquiry into the mining industry, Mr. Justice Davidson, expressed, the opinion in his excellent report that the mine-owners could be exonerated from at least 98 per cent, of the troubles that have beset the industry. Honorable members opposite can see nothing in the action of the coal-miners that merits blame. They must be aware that throughout the' length and breadth of Australia primary producers and people in country towns and provincial centres are unable tocomplete their homes because of the shortage of galvanized iron, brought about solely by the series of disastrouscoal strikes. Galvanized iron, barbed and plain wire, and wire netting are in short supply in most of the States, not because their production has dropped in volume, but because there is insufficient, coal- to enable the railways to transport goods to country centres. People throughout Australia are suffering unnecessary hardships, merely because the coalminers have allowed ' themselves to become firmly in the grip of a merehandful of Communists.- Tet the Government has nothing but apologies for the- miners and is prepared to go to any lengths to shelter them from well-merited rebuke. The Minister would have us believe that the measures now being taken by the Government will ensure that the coal-mining industry will in future be free from strikes and disturbances. Unless the Government is prepared to enforce the penal clauses in the measure it will have no greater success than has earlier legislation introduced by the Government in its feeble attempts to bring about peace in the coal-mining industry.

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