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Thursday, 30 August 1928

Mr BRUCE (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) (Minister for External Affairs) - The Government has discussed this matter with the Government of New South Wales, the State most directly interested in coal mining. The conclusion arrived at is that if a further curtailment of the sales of coal is to be avoided, it is essential in the interests of the industry that some reduction should be immediately effected in the price at which this commodity is produced and distributed. The Premier of New South Wales has been, and still is, negotiating with representatives of the industry with a view to ascertaining whether such' a reduction of production and distribution costs can be effected. Whatever may be the outcome of these negotiations, a full inquiry into the state of the coal mining industry in Australia will still be essential. We are faced with the same problem, fortunately on a smaller scale, in regard to the production and marketing of coal, as that with which both Great Britain and the United States of America have had to deal, but the Governments of the Commonwealth and of New South Wales are of opinion that action cannot be wholly deferred for the length of time that a complete investigation of the industry would occupy, and that in the meanwhile some effort should be made to bring about a reduction in the price of coal for the benefit of, not only the coal mining industry, but also the industries of Australia generally. The Contmonwealth Government has indicated its interest in the negotiations now being conducted by Mr. Bavin with representatives of the various coal interests, and has indicated that if some satisfactory basis of agreement can be reached it will be prepared sympathetically to recommend this Parliament to render certain assistance. An essential condition of any such arrangement, however, is that a complete investigation of the industry shall be held. Therefore, my reply to the question of the honorable member for Hunter is that it is the intention of the Government in conjunction with the steps that I have indicated are being taken to arrange in co-operation with the Government of ' New South Wales for an exhaustive inquiry into the industry, but that in the meantime some other steps are necessary.

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