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Tuesday, 6 August 1946

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) .- Clause 13 is the most important provision in this bill. I regret that the Minister (Mr. Dedman) has not seen fit to deal more adequately with the points which honorable members on this side of the chamber have raised. The honorable gentleman has handled this bill very badly. First, copies pf Mr. Justice Davidson's report were not available to honorable members, although His Honour had spend fourteen months investigating the problems of the coal industry, and it has been alleged that the bill was drafted to implement his recommendations. Secondly, after we had thoroughly analysed the bill, the honorable gentleman did not reply to the second-reading debate. Now, we are forced to extract information from him as a dentist extracts teeth one by one. When we have asked the Minister to' clarify various matters, his explanations have been " as clear as mud " ; but I am hopeful that, as the result of our persistence, he will elucidate some of the problems instead of adroitly avoiding them. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) declared that all the difficulties of the coal-mining industry were caused by the coal-owners' lack of consideration for their employees. I am not here to defend, the owners, hut I desire to be fair.

Therefore, I direct the attention of honorable members opposite to the report of Mr. Justice Davidson, who said -

Practically none of the strikes during the war have.been due to impropriety of any kind on the part of the owners or management.

That is an unqualified tribute to the mine-owners and management. In another part of his report, His Honour complimented the mine managers on their efficiency. He described them as a competent body of men who had done 'a remarkably good job. He stated -

Managers of coal-mines, especially in New South Wales, hold highly responsible and very difficult positions.

Owing to the industrial unrest, the attitude of some union officials and sections of the mine-workers, the activities of numerous industrial authorities, and the mass of awards and statutory regulations, the effort to fulfil efficiently the duties of the office of manager is in many instances nerve-wracking and almost intolerable.

Of superintendents, His Honour said -

The superintendents obviously have won by sheer merit the positions they occupy. It is apparent to any unbiased investigator that in the knowledge and experience they possess of all 'phases of colliery management, including mining engineering, mining practice, the design, development and administration of pits and groups of pits, the superintendents are the most capable and efficient men in the coal industry.

Yet the honorable member for Bourke attributed all the problems and difficulties of the coal-mining industry to the coalowners, mine managers and .superintendents. In fairness to them, I direct the attention of honorable members opposite to those passages of the report. If further evidence be needed in support of my remarks, I refer honorable gentlemen to a statement by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin. After having paid a tribute to the way in which coal-owners had worked during World War II., he said -

I have told the owners that they appeared, according to all the records,, to' have observed the decisions of the umpire.

That is an unqualified tribute to the coalowners. Yet honorable members opposite waste the time of this chamber by stating that the difficulties of the coal-mining industry are caused by the coal-owners, superintendents and mine managers. Sufficient evidence has been adduced since the introduction of this bill to prove that the troubles of the industry result from the Communist-controlled leaders of the miners' federation. The opinions of the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, and of Mr. Justice Davidson leave no doubt as to where the responsibility for the difficulties of -the industry lies.

My principal purpose in speaking on this clause is to direct the attention of the Minister to paragraph d of sub clause 1 and paragraph i of sub-clause 2. Paragraph d provides that the powers and functions of the board shall include the taking of such action, as in the opinion of the board, is necessary or desirable - to promote the welfare of workers engaged in the coal industry in the State.

Paragraph i provides that the board shall have power to make provision for - the establishment of sound industrial welfare practices including the provision of amenities for employees in the coal industry.

The purpose of this bill is to provide means for securing and maintaining adequate supplies of coal throughout Australia and for providing for the regulation and improvement of the coal indus- try in the State of New South Wales. The bill does not make provision for the coal-miners of Queensland. On their behalf, I appeal to the Minister and the Government to ensure that they shall be granted the amenities which this legislation will grant to the miners of New South Wales.

Mr Calwell - When did the honorable member become a miners' leader?

Mr FRANCIS - I have always been a miners' leader. The coal-miners of New South Wales were described by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, " as saboteurs of the national war effort " and as being " contemptuous of the orders and directions " of the Government ". Yet those men are to receive the benefit of the amenities which this bill will provide. According to my information, the initial cost of those amenities will- be £500,000, and the complete programme will cost an additional £1,000,000. Unfortunately, the coal-miners of Queensland, who have been engaged in the industry for a long time, have been forgotten. For 25 years, no major stoppage occurred in the coal mines of that State. Only recently, when the president of the miners' federationMr. Wells, and another of his kind, prevailed upon them to go on strike in sympathy with the meat workers, did they break their excellent record of production? According to the press, Mr. Wells assured the miners of Queensland that tens of thousands of pounds would be made available as strike money if they stopped work. They heeded his remarks ; and that is the first major stoppage in the industry in Queensland for 25 years. Throughout the war, those miners produced more coal than formerly. For comfort and amenities the coal mines of Queensland do not compare with those of New South Wales. Our coal seams are poor ' in comparison with those of New South Wales. In some places the Queensland miners worked under almost intolerable conditions in order to produce coal for the war effort. Now this Government has by-passed them. Not one penny has been made available to provide them with amenities or to improve their welfare. Why should not the miners of Queensland, who have served the nation so well for so many years, be entitled to the benefits which this bill will confer upon the miners of New South Wales? Why has not the Government extended the provisions of the bill to the coal-mining industry in all States? Increased coal production in any or- every State is a matter of national importance. Why is the Government toying with the problem, giving amenities to the men whom the late Prime Minister described as " saboteurs of the war effort," and disregarding the welfare of those who " pulled their weight " during the war and did not lay down on the job? In my second-reading speech, I asked the .Minister to extend the provisions of this bill to all States. The honorable gentleman avoided the issue. Contrary to the usual practice in this chamber, he did not reply to the secondreading debate. I demand an explanation why the Queensland miners, in view of their excellent record of production, will not be entitled to the benefits of this bill. If I had more time, I should read the tribute which the late Prime Minister paid to the miners, of Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia .who rendered excellent service to the nation during the war. In response to his appeal for more coal they stepped up production. They stayed on the job while the coalminers of New South Wales laid down their tools and caused many industries throughout Australia to close down. To-day, thousands of men in various industries in New South "Wales, Victoria and South Australia are out of work because coal is not available. According to some Labour leaders it will not be long before the number is increased to hundreds of thousands. All this unemployment is being caused through the action of the Communist leaders of the miners' federation. "Mr. Calwell. - We are not " on the air " to-day !

Mr FRANCIS - I am not concerned about that. I ask for ari assurance from the Government that provision will be made in this legislation for amenities to be made available to coal-miners in Queensland as well as those in New South Wales. Some honorable members may not be aware of the fact that I represent about 60 per cent, of the coalminers of Queensland. I have fought their battles and I have been straightforward with them all through the years. I have not been afraid to tell them where I have thought them wrong, just as I have not hesitated to tell honorable gentlemen opposite where I consider them to be wrong. I can see no. reason why the coalminers of New South Wales, who were described by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, as saboteurs- of the war effort and men who were contemptuous of the orders of the Commonwealth Government during the war, should be provided with all kinds of amenities which are likely to cost the Commonwealth as much as £1,500,000 and be treated in a more favoured fashion than the coal-miners of other. States who, during the war, did their best to provide the nation with the coal that it so urgently needed. I see that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr, Holloway) is now sitting on the treasury bench. I ask him whether he is aware that provision is being made in this bill for only the coal-miners of New South Wales? The honorable gentleman has gained a reputation' for fair play and honest dealing in this country over a long period of years. Does he not think that the of all States should be brought within the provisions of the bill? .

Mr Holloway - This is a bill relat-ing to the coal-mining industry of New South Wales.

Mr FRANCIS - Has not the Minister a desire for a bill to cover all States ?

Mr Lazzarini - The Queensland Government could enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth Government and get- the same conditions.

Mr FRANCIS - Does the Minister for Works and Housing say that similaramenities and welfare funds would be available to the coal-miners of Queensland if the Government of that State made an agreement with the Commonwealth Government on the subject?

Mr Lazzarini - I gave -the honorable gentleman that information during the second-reading debate, but he would not listen to what I was saying.

Mr FRANCIS - Well, at. least we have gained something from a Minister. After days of debating the Government is now yielding to our importunity. I take it that the Minister is saying on behalf of the. Government that if the Queensland Government enters into an agreement with the Commonwealth Government similar terms- will be available for the coal-miners of that State.

Mr Lazzarini - That is true.

Mr FRANCIS - I am happy that something has been gained after several days of ' effort by the Opposition. Appeals were made to the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Dedman) during the second-reading debate, but without avail. We have now been able to secure an assurance from the Minister for Works and Housing as the result of an appeal made to the Minister for Labour and National Service who, as I have said, has a reputation for fair play ' throughout the Australian community. I am satisfied to have gained the assurance that has been given, even by this indirect means. I take it now that if the Government of Queensland is prepared to enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth Government' the full amenities which are to be provided for the miners of New South Wales under the provisions of clause 13 will be available to the coalminers of Queensland.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member's- time has expired.

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