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Tuesday, 6 August 1946

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - The pioneers had to do it.

Mr JAMES - But the pioneers were not expected to do it forever. I know how wretched such conditions can be, for I reared a family of three children, in a, bag shanty of this description, and I am not ashamed to say so. But I have been elected to this Parliament todo something to improve the lot of the coal-miners, and I intend to do the best I can for them. If honorable gentlemen opposite can hold briefs for the mine-owners, I certainly intend to do the best I can to help the miners. It is a. pity that those who hold these- briefs foi the mine-owners do not know more about the daily life of the coal-miners. If ' they had such a personal knowledgeof the industry as I have, they would not have said many of .the things that we ' have been obliged to liston to in this dtebate, and they would be more humane in their outlook. I have seen, recently, in France some of the housing schemes that have been provided for workers there and they are worthy of the highest praise. I have also seen housing schemes in Great Britain, which have reached a considerable stage of development. If. any such schemes had been attempted by the coalmine owners in Australia our positionwould have been very different.

This bill also seeks to protect the health of the miners.. The Joint Coal Board that is to be established is to be given power to deal with the dust nuisance. I know of a father and two sons under the age of 30 years whose lives have been utterly ruined by coal. dust.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Riordan

The honorable member is- now somewhat wide of the clause.

Mr JAMES - I point out, Mr. Chairman, that the clause provides that th, board may take such action as it deem* fit to provide for the welfare of. workers engaged in the industry. In fact it covert practically every aspect of coal-mining. It is almost wide enough to justify another second-reading speech. But I donot desire to take full advantage of the broad scope of discussion that it opens. Although I am so conversant with all the details of the industry, and am apt to become emotional when I speak about it, I wish ' to keep my remarks on this occasion within definite limits. I am pleading for consideration of the welfare of coal-miners, who work hard and have never been disloyal to their country.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - That may be so, but they are not the only ones to be considered.

Mr JAMES - The coal-miners provide the basic requirement of every industry of the country.

The CHAIRMAN - I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.

Mr JAMES - If an honorable member interjects while I am speaking I like to reply to his interjection. I do not wish to runaway from the points that are raised, though that is the habit of some honorable gentlemen opposite. I believe that the coal-mining industry should be re-organized, and that this should be carried out in a spirit of cooperation. The mine-owners and the miners should get together. 'The troubles of the industry will never be solved until a proper spirit of co-operation develops between the mine-owners and the workers. "We shall not settle the problems of the industry in this Parliament. They can be settled only by the people actively engaged in coal-mining. However if we take legislative action to ensure that amenities shall be provided, we shall go a long way. to overcoming the difficulties of the present situation. I have appealed to the men working in the industry, and I appeal to them again, to overlook the many broken promises and all the harsh bargaining of the past. I notice that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is smiling. This is not a subject for smiles. I advise the honorable member to examine the pages of Hansard in order to inform his mind of the attitude that his late father took towards this industry.We need the utmost sincerity in dealing with this subject. The coal-miners are providing an essential service to the community, and this must be recognized. Only so will peace be achieved in the post-war years. It is of no use to come into this House with a brief for the coal-owners.

Mr Spender - I suppose the honor able member will not tell me that he has no brief for the miners?

Mr JAMES - The honorable member forWarringah has an elaborate brief from Mr. Gregory Forster, but it is a pity that he has not also an intimate knowledge of the industry.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member for Hunter must address the Chair.

Mr JAMES - The honorable member would accept a brief from the Fascist, Eric Campbell, of the New Guard, or from anybody else.

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

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