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Tuesday, 6 August 1946

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- The speech of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), to which' we have just listened, is a reflection of a " balancesheet mentality ", which is the . last variety of mentality with which we should approach the consideration of this bill. If we are to speak of losses in the coal industry, we should look, not at the balance-sheet of any one mine, but at the losses inflicted on the economy of the whole country by continual industrial unrest in the coal industry. "Whenever there has been a wave of industrial unrest, honorable gentlemen opposite have stressed the. resultant unemployment, interruption of production, and other- disabilities suffered by the community. If this legislation, the core of which is this vital clause, can prevent such disruptions of the life of the community as a whole, the fact that one mine, or any number of mines, may show a balancesheet loss, will be of no importance compared with the continuance of production in other industries. I am glad that, for ' the first time, legislation has been introduced which does not reflect the balancesheet mentality displayed by the honorable member for Flinders.

Mr Ryan - "What about the matter of compensation?

Mr BEAZLEY - The honorable gentleman was quite out of order in dealing with the matter of compensation, because it is not dealt with by clause' 13. That clause gives to the board that is to bo set up the power -

To ensure that coa] is produced in the State in such quantities and with such regu larity as will meet requirements throughout Australia, and in trade with other countries: a power with which, I am sure, all will agree -

To promote the welfare of workers engaged in the coal industry in the State.

The introduction, modification, replacement and operation of machinery, plant and equipment for use in connexion with the production and distribution of coal, . . .

Before the war, attempts by the coal industry to modernize itself were not one of its characteristics, and the obsolescence of its technique and equipment is one of the problems which the Government is facing and endeavouring to overcome. The vitally important feature of a. sound community balance-sheet is this -

To ensure the health and, subject to this act, the safety, of persons engaged in the coal industry, including the regulation of conditions in the industry with respect thereto, and the enforcement of measures for the abatement of dust in' mines;

The establishment of sound industrial welfare practices including the provision of amenities for employees in the coal industry;

Collaboration with other persons and authorities in the establishment and provision of amenities for healthy educational, recreational, housing and other facilities;

The regulation of employment in and recruitment to the coal industry, . . .

That last-mentioned provision is vital, because the industry is not at present attracting recrui ts . If a mine's balancesheet shows that a profit has gone; to some private individuals such a profit is of no benefit to the community if it has been obtained by methods of working which drive men out of the industry. "We -have to face' the fact that labour is essential in this industry; therefore, the conditions in it must be such as will attract labour. Other requirements are -

The training, efficiency and competency of persons engaged in the coal industry;

The publication of reports and information of public interest; and

Any matter incidental to all or any of the foregoing matters.

Clause 13 is one of the most humane and wise that I have seen in any bill that has come before this Parliament. The balance-sheet mentality has dominated Australian industry for many years. "When the conditions in the coal industry were depressed, no effort was made to re-train coal-miners for any other occupation. There was no effective selection of the persons entering the industry. This is a humane attempt to place the industry on a rational basis. Sir William Beveridge, in one of his social essays, pointed out that capital has quicksilver mobility; it can be switched from one channel to another ". Labour . has not quicksilver mobility. When the conditions in the mines were depressed, the miners were geared to one occupation. For years, those engaged in the industry had not acquired any other form of skill, and they were left to rot. There was no attempt to re-train coalminers in Great Britain, Australia or any other country, so far as I have been able to learn. The' attempt is to te made to get good types into the industry. The proposed board is to be empowered to surround the industry with amenities,, and to ensure its modernization. That lias never been done' under private enterprise. I congratulate the Minister upon these provisions. Goal-mining is not a problem in Western Australia ; we have had almost continuous production,- but I was provoked into speaking on the subject by the sheer inanity of the statement of the honorable member for Flinders concerning Coalcliff colliery, and the possibility that some mine might make a. loss. If this legislation ensures continuous production,, and the price of coal rises because the- miners have been provided with amenities, it will achive all that the community will desire of it. That is all that any of us should desire of it. In some instances, profits have been made in the industry at the expense of the real wealth of the community - the health of the men engaged in the industry.

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