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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3744

Mr PETER MORRIS (Minister for Transport)(12.06) —The points raised by the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) are really a confession of ineptitude by the Opposition. The problems of the ship repair industry are not problems that arose suddenly after this Government came to office. The practices to which he referred are of decades standing. They were never addressed by the conservatives in government because it was too hard; they left them in the too-hard basket. They were aware of all the problems. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) in his way-he had bipartisan support from our side of the House at the time-sought to address the problems of the shipping industry, but the ship repair and ship building industries are very much dependent upon a viable shipping industry. In many ways the problems are interrelated. This package of measures entails an input by the ship repair industry itself; that is, investment. There has not been investment. We have an industry that in many ways is decrepit, an industry that has overcapacity, and an industry that has not for many years addressed the problems of how to make the industry efficient, how to make it competitive, and how to get Australian business sharing in the work that was quite properly available to the industry were it able to get its house in order.

Separate from that is an element of contribution from the work force itself. There has to be an improvement first and foremost in reliability of delivery of vessels placed for repair and an improvement in efficiency and productivity. This package of measures picks that up. Then, from government, comes a contribution in terms of a bounty, under certain circumstances. I make it clear that there are three parties to this new movement. First, the industry has to have the will to invest and modernise its operations; secondly, the work force itself has to recognise that there has to be reliability in delivery, in completion of work on particular vessels; and, thirdly, there has to be a commitment from government. All these things can be achieved. These measures do provide a sound base for the Australian ship repair industry to be restructured, to be modernised, to become competitive, and to give this country access to a market that it has long neglected.

I am pleased that the Opposition is supporting this measure. I understand the comments of the honourable member for Ryan but I say to him, in all sincerity, that this is not a new problem and we will do best for Australia if we address it in the way I have outlined, in the way the Minister for Science (Mr Barry Jones) has put forward and as covered by the legislation. I commend the Bill to the House.