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Thursday, 17 November 1983
Page: 2891


Mr SINCLAIR(4.25) —I shall add a couple of words to those of my colleague the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife). The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Hurford) in his motion referred to the exchange of formal agreements between each of the unions at the Williamstown Naval Dockyard, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Dockyard management. As we all are aware, there was a report by Mr Hawke regarding the change in managerial practices, which report has significantly been adopted. The management upgrading , to which this motion refers and to which the Minister in part adverted, is intended to ensure that the Dockyard is able to meet the construction schedule and to complete construction of the FFGs according to contract. However, one of the regrettable aspects of the Dockyard has been its very poor industrial relations record. Some of the Dockyard's work practices have evolved not because of the actions of either the unions or management but because of neglect by both . I know quite significant steps were taken over the years-certainly during the time of our Government-to ensure that those practices were improved and the prospect of meeting delivery schedules made more likely.

It seems to me, however, that given the nature of these formal agreements and the fact that so much depends on the management, the ACTU and the Dockyard unions complying with their terms it would be appropriate for the Government to table those formal agreements in the House. We are all conscious of the difficulties involved in trying to formalise those arrangements, but time has passed. Those agreements should have been produced to this Parliament before the FFG program and the Dockyard contracts were concluded. While accepting the terms of this motion, I believe it would be appropriate for the Minister for Defence ( Mr Scholes), who has now come into the House, to table those formal agreements at the time they are concluded so that not only members of parliament but also the taxpayers, whose funds, after all, are to be spent to meet the bill referred to in the Minister's speech, will be aware of that contract and the prospects of ship construction being completed.

The general managerial practices have been referred to before. We saw in the Auditor-General's report recommendations about project management. I hope they will be implemented. Without effective project management in the Department of Defence, the Navy and the Dockyard, the capability of the Dockyard will be impaired. I am sure no member of this House would want that to take place. I hope that the recommendations of the Auditor-General are put in place and that there will be periodic reports to this House from the Minister for Defence on the progress of ship construction.

The Minister in his speech to the House today referred to a schedule. That schedule is necessary to ensure the availability of the frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. There are problems, of course, in regard to the extent to which the river class boats now in service with the fleet will need to be phased out. It is therefore essential for the maintenance of our naval capability that these contracts be completed on time. I hope that the Minister will be able to report to the House periodically. I ask that the Minister table the formal agreements in this House as soon as they have been completed and exchanged. Then we will understand the nature of them and the extent to which the parties can be held to the agreements so that the contracts can be completed in accordance with the schedule that the Minister outlined.