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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3743


Mr BARRY JONES (Minister for Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(11.59) —in reply-I do not know that the issues that have been raised require substantial reply. The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) claimed, I thought with uncharacteristic acerbity, that the bounty was just a blatant attempt to buy peace on the waterfront and to provide some incentive for unions who misbehave to extract a larger bounty allocation. I do not think he could have been serious. The ship repair industry has been of concern to the Government for some time following representations from the Australian Chamber of Shipping, the Australian ship repairers group and ship repair unions concerning the long term viability and the poor outlook facing the ship repair industry. The Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) established a working group in June 1984 to examine the industry and report on possible alternatives for assistance, rationalisation and restructuring. As the Minister pointed out in his eloquent second reading speech in the Senate-I wish you had been there to hear it, Mr Deputy Speaker-the ship repair assistance package of which this Bill is one element resulted from the Government's consideration of the working group's report.

The Government is well aware of the difficulties facing the ship repair industry, the significant excess capacity, and the failure of the industry to invest in contemporary technologies and to adopt efficient work practices. Fluctuations in domestic demand have not provided a stable employment environment and have acted as a disincentive in investment. The introduction of this package is designed to increase throughput and to provide that stable environment in which the industry can improve its efficiency.

As the Minister mentioned in his second reading speech, registration criteria to be specified in regulations would include codes of business and industrial relations practices. The Government considers it essential that these codes include the adoption by the industry of arrangements which facilitate improved work practices and labour flexibility measures to enable labour and capital to be deployed more efficiently with less demarcation problems.

An important precondition to the implementation of this bounty scheme has been the agreement by the relevant unions to end their ship detention campaign. Clause 11 of the Bill, which provides a unique power to suspend unilaterally the bounty should the ship repair detention campaign be recommenced, is designed to ensure that this agreement is upheld. There is certainly no incentive for unions, as the Opposition might say, to `misbehave' in order to attract larger bounty payments; indeed, quite the contrary, because any action which was deemed to be misbehaviour on the part of the unions may lead to the suspension of the bounty. The result is that, if no bounty is made payable for any repair work commenced during the period of the suspension, it is of no assistance to members of the union. It should be noted that, although cessation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions ship repair detention campaign is an important factor which has an impact on this industry's reputation as a repairer, it is only one element of a package aimed at assisting Australia's ship repair industry to become a viable technologically advanced and export oriented industry.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.