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Tuesday, 6 August 1946

Mr ABBOTT (New England) . -I move -

That, in sub-clause (3.), the proviso be left out.

Later, I intend to move for the insertion of an additional sub-clause, to read - (7.) An order of the Board made under this section shall not be invalidated merely by reason of the fart that it derogates from any provisions of the law of the State prescribing requirements to be observed for the securing of the safety of persons engaged in or about coal mines.

The Minister has not correctly stated the position. He has stated that the safety code of New South Wales, as it stands, is to be preserved, but that the decision of the board will have effect when a matter is referred to it, whether or not the decision is opposed to the safety code. The Minister (Mr. Dedman) must know that that could not be the position under the provisions of the bill as drafted, because the Coal Mines Regulation Act of New South Wales, ostensibly for safety reasons, prevents the use of machinery for the loading of coal in pillar workings exceptwith the consent of the State Minister for Mines.

Mr Spender - That state of affairs is preserved by the bill.

Mr ABBOTT - As the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) points out, that power is to be preserved by the bill. The State Minister for Mines has consistently exercised it so as to prevent the use of loaders for pillar extraction for purely industrial reasons. The honorable member for Warringah has read pertinent statements in regard to this matter from the conclusions and recommendations of Mr. Justice Davidson, a man of high standing in the . community, who was chosen by the Commonwealth Government to make one of the most searching investigations that has ever been made of the coal, industry. He was a trusted officer of the Government until he presented his report. Then, the Government denied him, not once, twice or thrice, but in every possible way. It went right outside his report, and ignored his recommendations. Mr. Justice Davidson said -

Owing to departmental policy and industrial pressure, pillars have been left standing too long in many mines of New South Wales, and much coal in all probability will be lost. If this coal be not lost, it will be extractable only at very heavy cost.

The reason, as I have pointed out, is to' be found in the use by the State Minister for Mines of the power referred to in the proviso to sub-clause 3, which reads -

Provided that no such order shall derogate from the provisions of the law of the State prescribing requirements to be observed for the securing of the safety of persons engaged iti or about coal mines.

That, proviso will make binding on the Joint Coal Board and the Commonwealth Government the observance of the instructions issued by the State Minister for Mines, the Honorable J. M. Baddeley, to his officers, for prevention of the use of machines in coal mines. The bill is merely camouflage, a pretence to the people of Australia that the attempt will be made to do what the Minister well knows cannot be done, under it. If the amendment be accepted, the position will be made perfectly clear. "We have had a long dissertation from both the Minister and the honorable > member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) in regard to the uprightness and honesty of the members of the proposed board. It is to be composed of supermen, of " angels ". If they are to be so highly qualified, why are their decisions not to be given effect? "Why is their authority to be whittled down, and given to a man whom Mr. Justice Davidson has said in his report, not once, but several times, betrayed his trust at a time when coal was required more desperately than it had been previously in the history of the nation, because we were at war. To-day, men and women in Adelaide are deprived of their employment because a collier has not arrived. The conditions in Victoria have been described by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). Yet the Minister obstinately refuses to derogate from the authority of the Minister for Mines in New South Wales and the political pressure under which he bends.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 15 .(Insurance).

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