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Wednesday, 19 October 1949

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction) . - in reply - Honorable members opposite have had a good deal to say about this measure. Many of their remarks had little or no connexion with the bill before the House. To the degree that they had some connexion with it, however, my colleagues on this side of the House have answered most of the points that were brought forward. I intend to confine myself very briefly to only two points that were raised. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has said that this bill became inevitable because of the coal strike. The recent strike in the coal industry was not the first coal strike that has occurred in Australia, and this bill was not at all inevitable. In 1940, when the last general strike occurred in the coal industry the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister of this country. On that occasion the miners were on strike for a period of three months, but no bill such as that now before us was subsequently introduced into the Parliament.

Mr Spender - Uniform taxation was not in existence then.

Mr DEDMAN - That is true. The honorable gentleman can make what excuses he likes to make. The Government of which he was a member did not introduce into the Parliament a measure to reimburse the States for the additional expenditure they were involved in because of the 1940 coal strike.

Last August, the Premiers, accompanied by their financial and other advisers, attended a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Canberra. The financial experts of the States and the Commonwealth conferred together and furnished estimates of the additional expenditure by the States as a result of the coal strike. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) then suggested to the Premiers that the sum of £8,000,000 should be allocated to the States in the manner that is set out in this measure. Not one of the Premiers raised an objection to that method of allocation. If it is an unfair method, one would have thought that one or more of the Premiers would have objected to it.

Mr George Lawson - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that it was unfair.

Mr Spender - I said nothing of the kind.

Mr DEDMAN - If the honorable member for Warringah said that it was unfair, then he criticized the Liberal Premier of South Australia, who raised no objection to it.

Dr Gaha - Will the Minister explain whether this sum of £8,000,000 represents a part of the annual allocation that is made to the States under the tax reimbursement scheme, or whether it is separate from it?

Mr DEDMAN - It is quite separate from the allocation to the States under the tax reimbursement scheme.

Dr Gaha - This year the allocation is £62,000,000. Is this sum of £8,000,000 additional to that?

Mr DEDMAN - Yes. It is a separate contribution. It was not included in the allocation to the States under the tax reimbursement scheme of £62,500,000 because it is a non-recurring item. It is to be hoped that there will be no need! for the Commonwealth to make a similarprovision for many years to come.

Honorable gentlemen opposite have had much to say about the effects of the coal strike upon industry and the amount of money that it has cost this country. The Minister for Information (Mr.. Calwell) directed the attention of theHouse to the losses that were incurred byAustralia during the depression. I havemade an estimate of the losses that were incurred during a period prior to 1941 when the Labour party was in opposition. I have taken the number of people who' were unemployed from 1932 until the Labour Government came into power, and I have set a monetary value upon thegoods and services that they would have produced if they had been working during that period. The loss to the nation during that period was greater than the total cost of the war to Australia. It was greater than £2,000,000,000.

Mr McDonald - That is double the figure that was given by the Minister for Information. He said that the loss was £1,000,000,000.

Mr DEDMAN - The Minister for Information said that some one else had made that estimate. I am just as capable of estimating the loss as is anybody else. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) may make the calculation him'self, if he desires to do so. All that he would have to do would be to obtain the statistics relating to the number of man days that were lost, through unemployment, from 1932 until the Labour Government came into power, and estimate the monetary equivalent of the goods and services that those persons would have produced if they had been in employment. If the figure at which he arrives does not agree with the figure at which I have arrived, I am willing to go into conference with him about it. I made ,my calculations with considerable accuracy, and the figure at which I arrived was over £2,000,000,000.

It is to be deplored that the nation has suffered a loss as a result of the coal strike, but all the indications are that the Communist leaders of certain trade unions have learned their lesson. In a good many industries production has been maintained at a high level since the strike. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 15th October, the following report appeared : -

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