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Wednesday, 26 October 1949

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to give effect to an agreement that has been entered into between the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Tasmania for the regulation and improvement of the coal industry in that State. Honorable members will recall that in 1946 this Parliament passed the Coal Industry Act, the purpose of which was to give effect to an agreement that had been entered into with the Government of the State of New South Wales for the establishment of authorities, on a joint basis, for the regulation and improvement of the coal industry in that State. After that legislation came into operation the Government pointed out to the other coalproducing States the need for increased production of coal in the interests of the whole of the Australian community, and with that object in view, offered to conclude agreements for the introduction of legislation for the establishment of joint authorities for the regulation and improvement of the coal industry in those States. The Government, of course, has regarded it as a matter of vital national concern that adequate supplies of coal should be available to meet the requirements of consumers throughout Australia, and has considered that it should do all in its power, on a proper basis, to assist any State in which coal is produced, and which is prepared to take steps to increase such production.

The Government of Tasmania has now requested the Commonwealth to join it in the establishment of a joint authority having power to regulate and improve the Tasmanian coal industry with a view to increasing supplies of

Tasmanian coal. The Government of Tasmania has pointed out that the demand for Tasmanian coal is expected to increase steadily until in 1953 it will be approximately double that of 1948. In order to bring about the necessary expanded production correspondingly, the provision of considerable finance, organization and planning will be necessary. The Commonwealth has acceded to the request of the Government of Tasmania and has concluded the agreement with that Government set forth in the preamble to this bill. The Government of Tasmania will introduce into the State Parliament as quickly as possible the complementary legislation covered by the agreement. The legislation to be passed by this Parliament and the Parliament of Tasmania will together confer upon the proposed joint authority all the powers that .are considered necessary to achieve the objects of the proposal, each parliament legislating to confer such powers to the extent of and within the limits of its constitutional powers.

The joint legislation will authorize the establishment of a joint authority to be known .as the Tasmanian Joint Coal Board. The board will consist of the persons who for the time being are members of the Joint Coal Board established in respect of New South Wales by the Coal Industry Act 1946, and one other member. It is proposed that the additional member will, between meetings of the full board and subject to decisions of the full board on matters of policy, carry out generally the executive functions of the board in relation to day-to-day problems. The powers and functions to be conferred upon the Tasmanian Joint Goal Board are to be substantially identical with those that have been conferred upon the New South Wales Joint Coal Board, with certain exceptions which have been agreed to having regard to differences in the character and extent of the problems faced by the two authorities. The Tasmanian board will not have the power that has been conferred upon the New South Wales board of compulsorily acquiring coal mines or the special power of making an order placing the day-to-day management of a particular coal mine under its direct control. As in the case of the New South Wales board, the Tasmanian board will have full powers, not only to take steps to increase production of coal in Tasmania, but also to ensure the proper and equitable distribution and use of the coal, but also to regulate the selling price of the coal and to promote the health and safety and industrial welfare of the mine-workers and the social welfare of the mine-workers and their dependants and of communities of persons in coal-mining areas.

The joint legislation of which this bill forms a part -will also provide for the establishment of machinery to deal with certain aspects of the industrial conditions of the workers engaged in the production of coal in Tasmania. It will authorize the establishment of a special tribunal which, under the -State legislation, will have power to deal with, and settle effectively and expeditiously, intrastate industrial disputes which may arise in the industry from time to time and which might otherwise interfere with production.

The Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania have agreed to divide responsibility for financing the operation of the Tasmanian board on a basis similar to the formula that was included in the agreement for the establishment of the New South "Wales Joint Coal Board. The Commonwealth and the State will share the cost of administration equally and will make contributions on a fl-for-£l basis to the Tasmanian Joint Coal Board's "Welfare Fund. The amount which the Tasmanian board will receive each year for welfare purposes will be related to the contributions made to the welfare fund of the New South "Wales board. All other expenses, including those arising from any production or trading activities that are undertaken by the Tasmania board, will be met by the Commonwealth, which will also provide finance for capital purposes.

Debate (on motion .by Mr. Habbison) adjourned.

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