Tm: conditions and control of conditions in Ralph’s mine, Huntly, Huntiy immediately prior to the Disaster: violent explosion whereby Astounding 45 men on Saturday, the Negligence. 12th September last, lost
their lives, appear l-"> ha,vo been an astoundingly neglected menace to the full working strength of tho colliery. It was only by happy clmuco rather than by even reasonable precaution that the loss of life was not almost four times a« great. Tho disaster occurred on o, no-work day for howers and truckers, and fortunately only 62 men were in the death trap when tho terrific explosion of highly-inflammablc gases swept through tho comparatively deserted passages of the mine; under normal conditions about 160 men would have been employed in tho deadly area. The report of tho Royal Commission that was set up promptly at the instigation of tho Minister of Minos to investigate tho causes of the. disastrous explosion and the general conditions as to ventilation, inspection, explosives, ami the nature of the working and management of the mine discloses, after a careful inquiry into all the circumstances, a position which, it is to be hoped, is unparalleled in tho mining operations of this 1 dominion. The character and extent of tho neglect and ignorance of tho dangers from an explosion of gas in tho mine can only bo described as “ damnable.” The findings of tho Commission are, as a matter of fact, damning in ©very particular
The explosion was caused by a naked light igniting a gaseous mixture, of C.H* in the old workings. The ventilation was generally efficient, but defective in the old workings. The inspection of the old workings was inadequate, and tho absence <>f ladders in tho high borda prevented a thorough examination in such places for cis. Tho only explosive used was blasting powder. The management of .tho mine was, speaking generally, good, but as regards the prompt carrying out of the inspector u orders, tho precautions taken against danger from gas, the ordering of safety lamps, and the examination of the old workings, it was lax and unsatisfactory. The Inspector of Mines (a careful, competent, zealous, and conscientious officer) was remiss in not exacting prompt and strict obedience to his orders, in not more frequently visiting the old workings, and he committed an error of judgment in not insisting on the use- of safety lamps after a burning accident to a miner named Kelly.
Tho inspection by the workmens inspectors was infrequent and valueless. No inspection was mode. of th e old workings by any person on. the. morning of the accident, before the workmen were permitted to enter, Tho door at tho end of bord .No. 6 of section 5 (where tho explosion occurred) was not locked, nor in any other way securely fastened. If there, had bte.n no neglect with, respect to the matters mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs, th-' disaster could not have happened.
In a. word, the Commission's report proves to the point of amazement, that in all matters vitally affecting the reasonable safety of the workmen (all that can possibly be demanded in underground work) the management was inadequate, ignorant, and culpably negligent.
Tho Commission also found that the important part played by coal dust, in a coni mine explosion was known and recognised (tho Inspector of Mines, Mr Bennie, actually directed tho management to water tho travelling read in -order to mitigate danger), but tho extraordinarily inflammable nature of the dust in Ralph's mino was rmsinspected until after the accident, and was determined, not. by the management, but by two experts—Professor Dixon, of tho University of Manchester, a prominent authority who kindly placed his services and advice ub tho disposal of the Minister of Mines, and Dr Machi-uiiii, Dominion Analyst. There appears to have been a. foolish Relief in the district that Huntly was :i colliery, and on the strength of that tho system of inspection was haphazard.
In view of the probability that the negligence of the*nmnagemsnt will bo considered adequately by the authorities—the duty of the Government is clear—no more need be said here as to the inefficiency of inspection and control, and the consequent deplorable disaster. Efforts should bo made immediately to effect improvements in the lav. - dealing with inspection of mines, and more power should bo given inspectors so that they may be in a position to compel sleek companies to provide reasonable precautions against disastrous, gaseous explosions in mines. The Minister of Mines has had an important amending Bill "on the way" tq the Statute Book tor two sessions, but politicians apparently do not consider coal-mining legislation as a popular subject. They prefer to wrangle ov qr borrowing and the difference between Tweedledum and Twoedledeo. One recess in a coal mine would do them incalculable good. It is scarcely necessary to enumerate the suggestions of the Commission, and also the proposals of the Minister of Mines. The Government and the Uppedttivu kiwvv the lum.’ufc ,need of kgk-
lotion. Lot them call a truco to childish argument, and do something creditable to themselves, and something of permanent vsvlao to miners. Wo again invite tho Government to consider tho advisability of providing statutory encouragement of tiro inspectors to acquire knowledge of mining chemistry and inflammable and noxious mine gases. Tiro first moans to safety in mines is efficient daily inspection of atmospheric conditions. Tim “glorious Cause of Women, ’’ as dubiously represented in " Mrs Mala- the form of equal opporprop, M.P." tunity with men to ho-
come members of Parliament, has again been discussed with superficial sincerity in the House of Representatives. And once more, as wo believe, sensible women throughout the country will wish that their wise representatives in Parliament had devoted their time and wisdom to a consideration of subjects of more immediate value to womenfolk. The “rights of women” (to borrow a phrase now very dear to many politicians with a “glad” eye to the Gon oral Election) arc not in these days the neglected rights of members of Parliament. Women are not insistent on obtaining the privileges of elected politicians—privileges which appear to bo best exercised in nocturnal disputations much less interesting ami effective than Mrs Caudle’s famous curtain lectures. Even if women demanded the right to become member's of Parliament, it would bo the duty of men, who wore not influenced by need of votes, to remind them with gentle firmness that eligibility for election to the Legislature must first bo earned by experienced service in the public interest. This is a vital essential not infrequently overlooked by male aspirants for places in Parliament. And it is net tilting captiously at tlic dignity and utility of Parliament to say that many of its members often display a lack of the essential training afforded in enthusiastic service on public bodies. There arc occasions when Parliament is less effective! than the least serviceable of public bodies. But all the talk as to making provision for admission of women to the Legislative Council is no more than political chicanery. The proposal that women should be eligible for election to the Council was first put forward in a spirit of levity, and accepted lightly by the House of Representatives, which, curiously enough, subsequently rejected a similar proposal in respect to the election of women to the "popular’ branch of the Legislature. With characteristic inconsistency, members of the House assumed that although the presence of women would be advantageous in the Council, their ability was not required in the Lower Chamber. This is what politicians call "trying it on the dog.” Possibly the present representatives of the people knew in their hearts that their proneness to wrangling ami their preference for “late, sittings” would affront sensible women. The original spirit of levity became more serious, however. when the Council refused to accept the proposal of the House of Representatives that women should bo eligible i»»v election to the Legislative Council. Tim Council's decision endangered tin; Bid. which is the Government's " pet lamb ' tint has been paraded before the people, with a nice blue ribbon around its neck. Confronted with the dire prospect of llie strangulation of their favorite pet. the Government were compelled, in order to save it from political butchery, to accept a compromise, whereby the Conned will agree to the admission of women when and so soon as women arc eligible for election to tho House. The Council arc occasionally as astute as the House, and cun fence with the same weapons. The Prime Minister accepted the compromise rather than lose his “pet lamb. The Opposition, of course, argued that it was belter to sacrifice the "pet” than tho “glorious Cause of Women,” and supported their contention with a display of artificial indignation. The Government acted tvisolv. They have now made the way dear for tho abolition of a nominative Legislative Council. Their next, work should be the reform of the House of Repiesentalives, and much of its costly, time - wasting procedure. This accomplished, all patties can then unite cn sweet amity and provide statutory means for tho entry of women to both branches of the Legislature. By that time a progressive Government may have established the Recall, so that men who prove ineffective representatives in Parliament may be recalled, and their wives sent in their stead !
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Evening Star, Evening Star, Issue 15640, 3 November 1914