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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2507

Mr O'NEIL(3.59) —Before the debate on the Ships (Capital Grants) Bill 1987 was adjourned on Friday, I was discussing the superb role of the seagoing union officials and the dedication and perseverance of those officials in constructive negotiations on this Bill. The unions recognise that the future viability of the Australian merchant fleet and the continued employment of their members are dependent on the industry being efficient and competitive in a very difficult international market-place. Accordingly, they have shown a keen willingness to initiate and implement changes to traditional shipboard operations and practices.

Issues which are currently being considered by the Maritime Industry Development Committee and which have strong support from union leaders include developing a teamwork approach to shipboard operations through the use of well trained and multi-skilled-integrated-ratings and new training programs to equip seafarers with the higher level of skills required. High priority is being given to the retraining of existing seafarers, particularly existing ratings, engineers, electricians and radio officers, to ensure that they are given the opportunity of remaining in the industry. Indeed, the first MIDC ships will need to be crewed by retrained seafarers because of the lead time required to train new entrants. It will also have strong support from union leaders because of the breaking down of entrenched social barriers and class divisions-for example, by provision of common catering facilities for officers and ratings-and a development of an industry-wide manpower plan incorporating the recruitment of new entrants and training and retraining requirements for all categories of seafarers.

The ultimate aim is to achieve a more highly trained and efficient work force which will provide seafarers with a greater level of job satisfaction and better career opportunities. This forward-thinking approach by the union leaders should guarantee continuing employment opportunities in the industry for existing seafarers, by opening the way for expansion of the Australian merchant fleet. Much of this, though, is unheralded-and there is more. As well as accepting lower crewing levels, the unions-the Seamens Union of Australia, along with the other unions-have also agreed to restructure completely society on board ship, to reduce the number of unions from five to two and to adopt modern shipboard management practices. The old hard lines of demarcation will be done away with, and recruitment and training, hopefully, will be common to all new entrants. The Government has agreed that, given this sort of commitment, a financial incentive will be given to new or secondhand vessels which comply with new guidelines reflecting these changes. It is now honouring that commitment. Local SUA delegates in my electorate-Les Richardson at Whyalla and Andy Thomas at Port Pirie-have been extremely co-operative and helpful in giving me sound advice on the merits of this legislation, and I acknowledge that.

It would be remiss of me not to say a few words about the Australian National Maritime Association, ANMA. It was formed in August-September 1986 as the peak council representing and promoting the Australian shipping industry. All major Australian ship operators are represented. The ANMA is chaired by Bill Bolitho, who is also Chairman of the Australian National Line. His services to the Australian shipping industry were recognised earlier this year in the Australia Day honours list when he was appointed a member of the Order of Australia, a well deserved honour for a man strongly committed to the Australian shipping industry. Indeed, he is a great Australian. The formation of the ANMA represents the coming of age of Australian shipping. The organisation gives the industry a single voice in consultations with exporters and importers, unions, other organisations and government. It is an organisation for Australian ship operators to work together to improve the efficiency and productivity of the industry.

I commend the Bill to the House. I also commend the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris). He has worked extremely hard on this important initiative, over the last four years in particular. Indeed, it is a pleasure for me to be a member of the Government's Caucus committee on transport, with such a responsible, dedicated Minister at the helm. I hope that in time the initiatives taken by the Minister in this Bill become known as the Morris shipping policy, because that is what it is.