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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2688

Mr SMITH —Is the Minister for Transport aware that a member of the infamous Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union has been charged in Melbourne for offensive behaviour for stripping naked publicly when approached by a Federal Customs officer for a routine search?

Mr Robert Brown —What would you do?

Mr SMITH —His name was not John Brown, that is for sure. Is the Minister also aware that the refusal by the Australian National Line to reinstate this union member has led to a picket line being set up by the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, which members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia refuse to cross? As this industrial action has led to over 300 lay-offs at Webb dock in Melbourne and a total paralysis in shipping to and from Tasmania, costing Tasmanian farmers and businesses millions of dollars, I ask the Minister: Will the Government condemn this irresponsible abuse of union power? What action, if any, has the Minister taken to ensure that shipping to and from Tasmania resumes immediately without further interruption?

Mr PETER MORRIS —One could gather from the thrust of the way the question was asked that--

Honourable members-Oh!

Mr PETER MORRIS —The nature of the honourable member's question suggested that in some way he condoned the action taken by the employee concerned. Certainly we on this side of the House do not. The incident involved an employee behaving in a manner that was totally unacceptable. The management exercised its prerogative and, I understand, suspended the person concerned. He has since been charged. There have been discussions and negotiations. The matter has been before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It was heard on 30 April and it was recommended that arbitration take place between the two parties concerned. The ANL, as the employer, has indicated that it will accept any decision that comes from the arbitration in respect of the matter and, at this stage, little progress is being made. The matter is of great concern to the Government.

Mr Hodgman —It is to Tasmania.

Mr PETER MORRIS —Just let me get to Tasmania. I have spoken with Mr Ferdie Foster of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association yesterday morning. He has outlined to me-and I have passed this information on to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations-the gravity of the situation. Certainly the Government deplores what has happened. It should not have happened. We have enough difficulty in trying to improve the reliability and competitiveness of our waterfront services and our trading performance generally without being saddled with an occurrence of this nature. The Government is of the view that there can be no explanation for the behaviour concerned. Still, arbitration procedures are under way, and I and my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations will be doing our level best to find a solution to the situation as quickly as possible.