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Friday, 28 May 1915

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- I desire once more to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the position of the coal-mining industry in the Newcastle district owing to the shortage of explosives. Since I referred to the matter recently in this House I have been, furnished with further information, and. I think it is my duty to lay the matterbefore the Prime Minister. I have received from the secretary of the Colliery Employees Federation a statement showing the number of unemployed in the* collieries in the Newcastle and Maitland districts, and also the state of the minesin regard to the shortage of explosives. The information forwarded to me showsthat in the various mines of that district there is a total of 2,931 men unemployed or partially unemployed, owingto the shortage of explosives. The detailsare given as follows: -

These men are either totally unemployed! or partially unemployed, and, iri some cases, collieries, in the absence of explosives, have closed down altogether.

Mr Joseph Cook - Cannot explosives be made here?

Mr CHARLTON - That is the trouble, because we have no testing station. The letter goes on -

It will be noticed that some of these collieries have worked half time, and others very intermittently during the last twentyfour weeks, but having got in touch with the managers, they inform us that the prospects, ahead are anything but bright, and we can safely anticipate that from now on during this crisis we will have nothing less than 3,000 unemployed within our Federation. These figures are authentic, having been supplied by the Log secretary, and you need not be afraid! to use them.

For three or four years past, in this House, I have been urging the necessity for the establishment of a testing station, 90 that, at such a time as the present, we might be self-contained. On this point, the writer says -

Representation has been made by the Colliery Employers Federation to the Federal and State Parliaments urging upon them the necessity of a testing station being erected in the State with a view of testing local manufactured explosives.

Mr Joseph Cook - Either that or modifying the Act.

Mr CHARLTON - One thing or the other must be done.

Mr Fisher - Modifying the Act would not help us now.

Mr Joseph Cook - I think it would.

Mr CHARLTON - The letter proceeds -

Just recently a deputation waited upon the Minister of Mines, pointing out the urgency of the erection of this station, owing to the shortage of explosives at that time in the Newcastle and Maitland districts. The manager of the Westonite Company was on the deputation, and stated to the Minister that if a temporary testing station was erected he could then get on and manufacture explosives, and relieve the position that was so pronounced over the shortage of explosives.

That is local manufacturing -

We suggested to the Minister that an old tunnel could be temporarily erected whereby a test of the explosive could be made, but we have gone fully into this matter, and men we can safely rely upon assure us that a fair station could be erected for £3,000. The Minister, in reply, stated that' he had given the matter every consideration, and was very much in favour of the erection of a temporary testing station, and would recommend immediately to Cabinet the advisability of going into this matter at once. Wc would suggest, in view of this statement, that the Federal Government co-operate with the State, and ask them what they are doing to relieve the unemployed over the explosives question.

I suggest that the Prime Minister should get into touch with the States, ascertain what is required, and what is being done ; and, further, that he should communicate with Sir George Reid in order to ascertain whether explosives could not be obtained from some manufacturing companies at Home, so as to relieve the acute position here. The question of a testing station could be discussed with the representatives of the States, and it ought to be, for it is, in my opinion, a national question. There ought to be a testing station for all explosives, so as to encour age manufacture here, and, in times such as the present, render us independent of outside supplies. This is a most important question, worthy of earnest consideration. We ought, in the first place, to provide for the temporary difficulty, and then take such steps as will insure that Australia in the future shall, in the matter of explosives, be self-contained.

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