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Friday, 24 June 1949

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In view of the national crisis that is rapidly descending upon the community because of the threatened coal strike, has the Prime Minister yet decided to accept the offer made by the Leader of the Opposition to facilitate the passage of any legislation that may be necessary? Has a secret ballot of the rank and file of the mining unions been taken on this proposal to impose severe hardships upon the remainder of the community? In view of the possibility that the strike will commence on Monday as scheduled, will the Prime Minister permit the importation of sufficient additional quantities of petrol to maintain adequate transport services ?

Mr CHIFLEY - As I stated recently, ' while there is still a possibility of sensible reflection upon this matter by the miners, I do not believe that anything can be gained by making further statements. Negotiations are proceeding. Representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions are meeting officials of the miners' federation this morning, and, in these circumstances, I believe that it would be unwise to make provocative statements about the matter. I hope that common sense will prevail, and that the miners will show some consideration for the community as a whole of which they themselves are members. I understand that no secret ballot was taken on the proposed strike. Secret ballots of course are always held at pit top meetings, and for the election of union officials. I have discussed with naval authorities and others the possibility of providing fuel oil supplies should the threatened catastrophe occur. Everything possible will be done in that direction. I have discussed petrol supplies with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and in that regard, too, everything will be done to meet the situation. However, there are limits on what can be done. Recently the Leader of the Australian Country party referred to an alleged ban that had been placed on tankers coining to Australia from Indonesia, There has never been any such ban. There is a free flow from Sumatra cf tankers belonging to the Shell Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company, which is an American organization. The right honorable gentleman's statement was totally incorrect. "Whatever petrol is available in Indonesia "is being brought to Australia by the two companies that I have mentioned, and there has never been any interference with their tankers. The whole position has been surveyed. I do not think that there is anything more that I can say on this matter at present. Con,siderable thought has been given by myself, and by the other Ministers concerned, to ways of meeting the threatened emergency, and everything possible is being done.

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