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Thursday, 30 November 2000
Page: 23212

Mr Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Workplace Relations and Small Business, upon notice, on 30 October 2000:

(1) In the lead up to, and during, the waterfront dispute of 1998, is he able to say whether a driverless robot-operated container straddle carrier was being developed by Patricks with the specific purpose of disposing of a significant fraction of the waterside work force.

(2) Was prototype machine being tested with a dummy driver's cabin installed to mislead the workforce at the Patricks dock where the prototype was being trialed.

(3) Did a previous model of this machine that had been built in the United Kingdom have serious problems with its control system that led to the machine running out of control and driving around in circles.

(4) What would be the possible workplace consequences of a driverless robot-operated straddle carrier loaded with a 24 tonne container running out of control.

(5) Is he also able to say whether Patricks, in negotiations with the Maritime Union of Australia in 1998, denied an intention to introduce a driverless straddle carrier; if so, what is stated in the Workplace Relations Act in relations to actions of this kind.

Mr Reith (Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) to (5) These questions traverse matters which are at issue in proceedings currently in the Federal Court of Australia. In addition, they seek answers to questions about the business of a private company that should be directed to that company and not the government. For both reasons, it would not be appropriate to answer those questions.