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Tuesday, 28 June 1949

Mr RANKIN (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - Before you took the Chair, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, your predecessor allowed the Minister-

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! I am not concerned with that. What the honorable member for Wakefield did in regard to munitions is not relevant to the matter which is now under discussion.

Mr RANKIN - It is impossible to manufacture munitions without coal. There is no doubt that the miners had some grievances in the past, but that remark applies to thousands of other people. For a long period the miners have been poisoned by the Communist doctrines that have been preached to them. It is a strange fact that in the last war 52 per cent, of the strength of a battalion was raised in the Newcastle area deserted or was absent without leave when due to embark for service in the Pacific Islands.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! Whether soldiers deserted or were absent without leave has nothing to do with the matter that is before the House.

Mr RANKIN - The poisonous doctrines that have been preached to those men made them behave then, as the miners are behaving now, in a manner detrimental to the interests of Australia.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable gentleman is defying the ruling of the Chair. If he does not confine his remarks to the question before the House, I shall ask him to resume his seat.

Mr RANKIN - Honorable gentlemen opposite who have tried to defend the Government by saying that Victoria and South Austrafia have not developed the production of 'brown coal to the degree to which it could have been developed, obviously do not know of the tremendous amount of : brown coal and the vast quantity of brickettes that are produced at Morwell. The Governments of Victoria and South Australia have been compelled to expend very large sums of money upon altering machinery, fitting new grates to furnaces and redesigning railway engines, because the miners in New South Wales are determined not to supply them with the coal that they require for their 1574 Coal. [REPRESENTATIVES.] Coal. industries and their people. The Government cannot deal with this dispute by saying that although it thinks that the miners are wrong, it is going to sit down and do nothing. It has got to do something. It has been said that no constructive suggestion for a settlement of the dispute has been made from this side of the House. If the Government had the necessary courage it would declare the existence of a state of national emergency and, if necessary, call up the miners under the defence powers and let them work for a while at the same rates of pay as those which were paid to the men who fought in the last war. Those men risked their lives for this country and for the miners, who are unworthy of the sacrifices that were made. We cannot allow this section of the community to " stick up " the whole of the people of Australia. We cannot allow our hospitals to go without heating or lighting. We cannot tolerate our people being forced to use the most primitive methods to cook their food and to suffer black-outs and other disadvantages merely because the Communist leaders of the miners, who have reduced' out reserves of coal to such a level that the nation cannot carry on if coal production is interrupted, now desire to smash the industries of this country and to cause ill-feeling, not because they consider that the miners are being badly treated financially, but because they want to create suitable conditions for the spreading of their poisonous, anti-British and antiAustralian doctrines throughout the country. They have got the miners into such a state of mind that they are prepared to strike and make everybody suffer.

We know that some of the miners were involved in the recent floods. It has been suggested in some quarters that only the miners were affected by them, but the farmers along the flooded rivers have also suffered a great deal.

Mr Abbott - The miners were not affected.

Mr RANKIN - Some of them were.

Mr Abbott - Very few.

Mr RANKIN - Some miners in the flood areas were affected, but the farmers suffered tremendous losses. In many instances, a whole year of their work has been destroyed and their farms will not be in production again for almost a year.. It was not the miners who suffered most as a result of the floods. I am satisfied that the people of Australia will demand that the Government shall not allow these conditions to continue and that it shall take definite action to put a stop to the irresponsible actions of the miners. The people of the cities who are suffering at the hands of this section of the community will demand a reckoning.

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