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Monday, 29 September 1997
Page: 8663

Mr HARDGRAVE(4.20 p.m.) —The honourable member for Charlton (Mr Robert Brown) was a fine land transport minister, but he is all at sea with this particu lar motion today. He has bumped a few of his colleagues into the boat and they are rowing off the end of the earth, I am sure. It is a very inspiring and emotional debate that we have had so far.

There is no doubt in mind, and it is the reason that I have joined this debate, that there is an increasing need every day for reform of the waterfront. At stake are the jobs of many thousands of Australians in small businesses. Certainly, in my electorate there are people who are struggling to meet the costs of export and import which are imposed by so many of the rorts on the waterfront. This nation is held captive by the Maritime Union of Australia. They run the ACTU and, of course, the ACTU runs the Australian Labor Party. It provides funds for elections and, of course, pre-selections. Pre-selections are probably at the top of the minds of the honourable members opposite contributing today.

They are certainly not showing themselves to be strong advocates for workers, unlike people on this side who are standing very strongly for freedom of association. We do not see any need for compulsion. We are standing up for ordinary workers, unlike those opposite who are standing up for the $80,000 to $90,000 a year club—the earning elite—who are the Maritime Union of Australia members. Ordinary workers have my support, but I am not convinced those opposite are offering support to ordinary workers in Australia. They are, instead, protesting the innocence of the real featherbedders—the people who are living off the hard work of their own grandfathers and fathers in a job that was essentially handed down to them.

I have to tell you there are workers in my electorate who are absolutely furious day in and day out with the wharfies of this country. They see an unreasonable level of extortion oriented wages paid to a bunch of people who barely work each week. Conditions and structures that are in place in jobs in my electorate are nowhere near as good as what is happening on the waterfront all because these guys have traditionally held Australians and Australian workers to ransom.

If the same conditions existed in small businesses in my electorate there would be no businesses left standing. Every one of them would have to shut tomorrow. At the same time I have a growing band of small businesses in my electorate, exporters, who want to try to send things offshore but can never be 100 per cent sure that their business plans are not going to be jeopardised by unions like the MUA.

Let us look at the benefits. The honourable member for Throsby wanted us to talk about some facts. Here are the facts. We are talking about people who are working a 35-hour week. When you subtract things like tea breaks and crib time involved in getting to and from those breaks—they shuffle to and from these breaks and that crib time is worth about seven minutes each way, that is, 28 minutes a shift—then the amount drops to 28.9 hours a week. Unlike all other workers in Australia, the wharfies are paid for tea breaks—they are probably going to get a sugar allowance next—and for the crib time as well.

Then there is the infamous nick—when people clock on and their working mates, the ones who stay, cover for them while these blokes nick off and still get paid. If you consider there are 52 weeks a year, wharfies do not get four weeks off. All up they total about 17 weeks off a year. There is a total of 261 workings days in a year. Five weeks annual leave, 10 days sick leave, four days long service leave and eleven public holidays come off that.

Mr Tanner —Nobody else gets them! They get public holidays. What an outrage!

Mr HARDGRAVE —They get 17 per cent idle time which comes to 35½ days off the 261 days each year. You blokes opposite can keep interjecting till the cows come home. You will prove to the average worker in Australia just how out of touch with reality you are. You want to be the rorter supporters; we will look after the workers.

All of this adds up to 6.25 hours a day for 175 days a year and 85.5 days absent on full pay. Those opposite are protesting here today, all concerned because if they do no not stand up for these rorters they know very well that they are going to be asked why come their next branch meeting. Labor spent $400 million to try to pay off these rorters with a retirement package worth a quarter of a million dollars. Nothing has changed. We get 14.9 containers an hour through Australian ports—Osaka, 32; Singapore, 35; Yokohama, 47. This is the world's worst practice.

People on this side of the chamber are standing up for Australian workers. We are standing up for Australian exporters. We are standing up for a fair go all round. It is only those opposite, through this quite ridiculous motion, who are standing up to perpetuate the sort of nonsense which has destroyed so much of the viability and potential viability of Australian industry and Australian export industry at that.