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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) . - I should like to direct attention again to the man-power situation on the gold-fields, which has been the subject of recent conferences: in

Canberra. Parliament will not reassemble for several weeks, and I should like to know if, in the meantime, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who controls man-power, will advise Western Australian members of what the future holds in regard to the gold-mining industry in that State. As has been stressed in this chamber on several occasions, this matter is of great importance, and I have no intention of covering the ground again now. However, we are very much concerned with the future of this industry, because, with a further demand on man-power, the underground conditions in many workings in the Western Australian gold-mines will deteriorate to such a degree that subsidences will occur, especially in the stopes which are already worked out, and the inflow of water will cause so much damage that the future of the mines will be in danger. That is not a very happy outlook for all those men - their number is legion - who have enlisted in our fighting forces from the gold-fields and hope to return to their old jobs at the conclusion of hostilities. If present conditions be permitted to continue, they will find that the work on which they were engaged is no longer available to them. That position should be faced squarely before any further demand is made upon the gold-mining industry for manpower. I ask the Government to advise honorable senators after their return to Western Australia of any developments in regard to this matter, because we are concerned with the future of that State.

I ask the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to do his best to expedite the standardization of the railway gauge from Broken Hill to Port Pirie, or Port Augusta, whichever route the engineers consider to be the better. The position now is immeasurably worse than it was some time ago. The trans-Australian railway is carrying a load which I am sure no railway engineer ever anticipated, with the result that rolling stock is deteriorating rapidly through too much use and insufficient time for reconditioning. That deterioration is so great that in the very near future, if the vehicles in our rolling-stock yards are not given the attention which they urgently require, I am afraid that there will be a major breakdown in the transport service between the eastern and western areas of the Commonwealth. Owing to constant troop movements, the existing rolling stock is insufficient to cope with the greatly increased traffic and, at the same time, provide any semblance of a service to the people of Western Australia. It stands to reason that the Army must have priority, but I consider that provision should be made for the carriage of a certain number of civilian passengers and a reasonable quantity of goods and mail matter.

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