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Wednesday, 8 November 2000
Page: 19418


Senator McGAURAN (3:23 PM) —If it is any comfort to Senator O'Brien, who is scurrying out of the chamber even though we are dealing with what he thinks is an important matter, I well and truly remember the former minister for transport, John Sharp. Though my ministerial colleague and friend Senator Ian Macdonald does not, I do because he was a National Party colleague. I think I remember him for reasons that Senator O'Brien would not want to remember him for—that is, for being a very fine minister and for being the instigator, along with Mr Reith, of the waterfront reforms. That is what I remember Mr Sharp for more than anything else, Senator O'Brien, as you come back into the chamber to hear the end of this debate. I was saying that I quite remember John Sharp for the reforms that he introduced on the waterfront. That was a very tough job, but he was a very tough man and was determined to push those reforms through. That is in comparison with another transport minister who actually resided in this Senate when you were in government—that is, Senator Bob Collins. He was the man who said in regard to waterfront reforms, `If I don't have the waterfront reformed within 12 months, I'm going to resign.' He did not have it reformed and he did not resign, in stark contrast to the determination of the former transport minister, John Sharp.

John Sharp lived through the days when our rural and regional exports were held to ransom to the detriment of the rural and regional areas, when markets were lost and strikes were prevalent, and when the MUA ruled with their rorts and schemes. He instigated the toughness of the reforms, which were taken over of course by Mr Reith. That is what I remember the former transport minister, John Sharp, for. Regrettably, he had to resign before he saw the full fruits of his particular work, but that is certainly what he put in place when he was in this parliament. Those fruits are coming to bear now. I know occasionally you will stand up in this parliament and deny that there have been any achievements on the waterfront, but you know that to be wrong. We do not have those same national strikes anymore. Where have they gone? There are no longer the grinding strikes that we had not only down on the waterfront but when all the other unions used to go out in sympathy with the MUA. We have world-class productivity in some of our ports, even in no less than Melbourne where all the trouble began. We have crane lifting rates at 42 an hour. What did we have prior to the hard work of the fine minister John Sharp that you like to quote around this chamber? Why don't you recognise that about John Sharp? Prior to him, we had 18 container lifts an hour, compared with what we are sometimes getting in Melbourne now of 42.

John Sharp was also well known for saving the Essendon airport, and in the last week it has been officially announced by this government that the Essendon airport will remain an airport. I know only too well that John Sharp had a lot to do with preventing that land from being sold for anything else other than an airport, because he had a whole policy in relation to the privatisation of airports. That is the John Sharp I know. That is the John Sharp I am quoting. That is the John Sharp I remember. I could go on and on about this John Sharp of the National Party. He was a fine transport minister. Why don't you acknowledge that? Why doesn't the next speaker get up and acknowledge that of John Sharp, instead of opportunistically plucking out a 1997 press release of absolutely trivial relevance to today's issue or politics? That press release has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at all.

As was said by the former coalition speaker, Senator Ferris, the government does not believe that there has been any misrepresentation of qualifications at all in regard to Dr Scully-Power. Senator O'Brien is trying to stir up the issue by saying that we have a problem in our aviation system. He is trying to build his career on this, quite frankly, with inquiry after inquiry and banal question after banal question. He is desperately trying to frighten the public. When you were in government, you had four chairmen in seven years, four chief executives in seven years and six heads of safety regulation. What could be more unstable than your own record? So I say to Senator O'Brien, Senator Ludwig and Senator Forshaw, who I see is chafing at the bit to get up too: stop trying to stir up trouble in a very serious industry which requires the confidence of the public. You have no point and no issue, and we reject your claims. (Time expired)