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Thursday, 26 March 1998
Page: 1715

Mr CAMPBELL —My question is addressed to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business. Does the minister support the intention of the Western Australian government to give a monopoly to a non-union stevedoring company on the Dampier wharf because that company has been unable to compete against the unionised work force despite cutting wages dramatically? Does this run in the face of the government's professed policy on competition? Furthermore, can the minister tell the House whether he has had any dealings with or knows of any connections between the giant foreign agribusiness company Conagra and those associated with the efforts of some people within the NFF to be involved in the Webb Dock operation?

Mr REITH (Workplace Relations and Small Business) —Mr Speaker, in respect of Conagra and the NFF, that is entirely news to me. As to the efforts of the Western Australian government in improving efficiency in the regional ports in Western Australia, they have my full and complete support. As I understand it, that has been an open tendering process. That is, however, a matter for the Western Australian government. They, of course, are required as others are to meet appropriate competition principles. But putting that issue, which is a separate issue in one sense, to one side, the fact of the matter is that the Western Australian government has been very strong and supportive of reform. When you look at the circumstances in Western Australia—

Mr Tuckey interjecting

Mr REITH —They might be keen to promote performance. Look at the circumstances in Fremantle. Fremantle container operations could be improved very significantly compared with what they are today. I know that the Western Australian government is supportive of that. But, as I say, we support their efforts with respect to Dampier and the other regional ports. They are going well in Western Australia to improve productivity. Let us wish them well for the future.