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Thursday, 27 September 1973
Page: 1708

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - I rise tonight to express my complete concern at the way in which this House has been conducted by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) this evening. I cast no reflection whatsoever upon the Chair, but I cast a lot of reflections upon the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who has deliberately avoided debating an issue which has been of tremendous importance to the State of New South Wales.

Mr MacKellar - He misled the House.

Mr HUNT - He misled the House yesterday. He used the gag to end the debate on a matter of public importance yesterday. There was a further debate today in relation to fuel and the brown coal industry in the Latrobe district. The House was given an undertaking that it would debate that private member's motion until 12.45 p.m.; but as soon as the Minister for Minerals and Energy saw the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) go to the table the debate was gagged. He has been most evasive in answers to questions, and the revelations that have been made tonight indicate the reason why. I want to read out the letter which he wrote because I think the people have a right to know. I have a photostat copy of a letter signed by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, which reads:

I write to confirm -

Mr Kelly - To whom is it addressed?

Mr HUNT - The letterhead states: 'Minister for Minerals and Energy'. It is addressed to Mr A. S. Reiher. Deputy Chairman, Snowy Mountains Council, P.O. Box 850, Canberra City.

Mr MacKellar - What is the date?

Mr HUNT - The date is 24 September 1973. The letter states:

Dear Mr Reiher,

I write to confirm the direction I conveyed to you by telephone at about 4 p.m. yesterday to the effect that the Snowy Mountains Council should operate the permanent works of the Authority in a manner that does not run counter to the intentions of the 35 Hour Week Committee unless, in so doing, the personnel associated with the Snowy Mountains Scheme, and/or the equipment and permanent works of the Authority, are endangered.


Mr McLeay - Who signed it?

Mr HUNT - R. F. X. Connor, the Minister for Minerals and Energy. The point is that the Minister has used his statutory authority to support the 35-hour week co-ordinating committee in New South Wales and to try to stop power going into the system in New South Wales. He was not concerned with the interests or the welfare of the people of that State. He was using his position in spite of the fact that at a Press conference on Tuesday the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) gave an assurance that the Australian Government would not intervene. The Minister for Minerals and Energy did this in spite of the fact that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that he did not believe that now was the time for a 35-hour week. The Minister for Labour told the Prime Minister in this House that he could not have it both ways. I just want to touch briefly, on the dispute in New South Wales. It is clear that the people of New South Wales - and the people of Canberra, for that matter - are about to become the victims of one of the worst political and industrial intrigues in the history of the State of New South Wales.

After nearly 2 years of exhaustive inquiries the New South Wales Industrial Commission recommended to the Askin Government that there was no justification in the power generating and power distribution industry for a 35-hour week. The Government accepted this recommendation. Earlier this year we had a power blackout, during which time thousands of people - in fact, millions of people - in New South Wales and elsewhere were inconvenienced. People lost their jobs; shortages were created; costs rose; building materials particularly were affected by that stoppage, making homes more expensive for the average home owner. The Askin Government conferred at length with the Labour Council. The Labour Council in New South Wales has lost control of this situation because of a left-wing intrigue in New South Wales trying to take over the power industry in New South Wales.

Sir RobertAskin was told by the union leaders that if the Industrial Commission had examined the case of the power generating employees as a separate issue it would have been a different story. The New South Wales Government bent over backwards in agreeing to refer the single application to the Industrial Commission. The Industrial Commission then studied this fresh application for a 35-hour week in the power generating industry as a separate issue. In a 35-page report the Commission rejected the claim. Now these militant union leaders will not accept the ruling of the umpire for the second time. The workers control movement has threatened to take over and take control of the power generating stations of New South Wales. It appears that not only are they going on strike but also the strikers are going to take over the power houses of New South Wales to prevent any executives, or indeed anybody, from generating power. If this is to be the Labor Government's blueprint for the interests of the welfare of the people of this State then God help Australia.

Obviously, we are seeing an industrial blackmail by these unions in New South Wales, supported by the Minister for Minerals and Energy using his authority under the Act to stop the generation of power if it conflicts with the co-ordinating committee's objective of a 35-hour week. I pose this question because of the confusion that is being created by statements from the Minister for Labour, the actions now by the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the statement on Tuesday by the Prime Minister: Is the Labor Government falling apart or is it trying to create confusion amongst the Australian people so that it can completely socialise industry in this country by a backdoor method? For 2 days the Minister for Minerals and Energy has duck-shoved and has tried every device, with the aid of the Leader of the House, to avoid the questions and to avoid the truth in this issue. The truth has come out. The Minister for Labour is the only one who has any brains at all. At least he is honest. He told the Prime Minister that he could not have it both ways. He told the workers of this nation that now was not the time to seek a 35-hour week, but he has been stabbed in the back.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman's time has expired. I call the Minister for Minerals and Energy.

Mr McLeay - Let the strangler have a go.

Mr Sinclair - He has moved the gag twice.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I will adjourn the House if you do not keep quiet. You keep quiet. I mean it; I will adjourn the House if you do not keep quiet.

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