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Tuesday, 31 March 1998
Page: 1951

Mr McMULLAN —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, are you aware of allegations that in 1994 Mr Chris Corrigan proposed to strip assets from the stevedoring company of which he was then chairman so that there would be no resources to meet workers' entitlements if they lost their jobs, the so-called Cobar option? Will you contact Mr Corrigan immediately and advise him that you will condemn any such action in the event of mass sackings of waterfront workers by Patrick and that you will withdraw your support for him if he pursues such a course?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Canberra for that question. Let me make my attitude towards Mr Corrigan and the National Farmers Federation very clear. We will support to the hilt their efforts within the law to provide competition on the Australian waterfront. Within the law we will support their efforts. I applaud the attempts of anybody who is willing to bring competition to the Australian waterfront. I applaud the courage of the National Farmers Federation. I respect the courage of Mr Corrigan.

Let me say that the Australian business community, the rural sector of Australia, the consumers of Australia—in fact, the entire Australian community is desperate to have a modern, efficient, competitive Australian waterfront. It has taken the election of a coalition government to change the law to make that possible. It has taken the election of a coalition government to break the unfair monopoly on the recruitment and supply of waterfront labour by the Maritime Union of Australia. Only the election of a coalition government has made this possible. Only the election of a coalition government has encouraged people to embark upon the provision of a more productive and a more competitive Australian waterfront.

Let me repeat: we will support to the hilt anybody who is prepared to provide a better deal on the Australian waterfront. We will support them to the hilt, provided they act within the law. We are in the business of providing a more competitive Australian waterfront. We will not be diverted from the support that we have given to those who are willing to do it. They deserve the support of the Australian community and I believe overwhelmingly they will receive it.