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Wednesday, 10 September 1958
Page: 1021

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I am not able to give the honorable gentleman offhand information about the method of transporting coal from Cessnock to Newcastle. I do not think that is so important a factor in the employment problem which has arisen in the area as a result of the re-organization arrangements as is the desirability of bringing the men in Cessnock more readily into contact with such employment opportunities as may be available in the Newcastle area. I understand that the transport facilities are not as good as they might be. The problem of providing a better road, which would give the men quicker contact with work in Newcastle and the outlying district, is one which has been examined, I believe, by the committee on which my colleague, the Minister for National Development, is represented. I would certainly hope that as a part of the contribution to this problem the New South Wales Government will go very sympathetically into that aspect of the matter. Over the last two years this Government has made substantial increases in the amount of money allocated to New South Wales for roads purposes. The amount has been increased from £8,400,000 to £10,200,000 in the current Budget. If the time of travel between Cessnock and Newcastle, whether by road or rail, could be appreciably shortened,I am sure there would be increasing opportunities for men from Cessnock to work in Newcastle. We believe that Cessnock can become a centre for providing labour for such mines as continue to operate. The mines in respect of which recent retrenchments have taken place are not necessarily going out of operation indefinitely. I understand that there is a strong probability that some re-organization of method and some mechanization will be taking place in those mines, which will provide work opportunities for at least some of the displaced miners later on. There is the prospect, I gather, of a new mine opening to supply the New South Wales Electricity Commission when it gets under way. Apart from that, there will be, as I have said, opportunities arising outside the area to which men from Cessnock could proceed.

As to the south coast, I indicated yesterday that my department, on behalf of the

Government, had taken a very active part - as has the Government of New South Wales - in trying to facilitate movement from the northern coal-fields to such vacancies as exist in the south. There are still 160 vacancies recorded on the southern fields. Accommodation is provided in a Commonwealth hostel on a temporary basis while the employee takes up a position and looks round for more permanent accommodation for himself and his family. The fare of the employee seeking work is paid for the first interview that he has in the south. If he gets a job and wants to bring his family down later, the fares of his family are paid also. If he moves his establishment, a contribution of £80 is made from the funds of the Joint Coal Board towards the cost of that movement. I mention these matters as illustrations of the fact that both governments are not only alert and sympathetic to the problems of displaced miners, but also are actively doing what they can to assist. In amplification of what I said yesterday, I would add only that it should not be taken that this re-organization inside our coal-mining industry is something peculiar to Australia. It is a part of what has become a worldwide attempt to enable coal to hold its place against competing fuels, particularly fuel oils. It is as a result of the steps taken in the coal-mining industry, in New South Wales in particular, that coal mining is now back in a position of assured and continuing prosperity.

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