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Thursday, 28 May 1987
Page: 3497


Mr ANDREW(1.05) —I rise in this grievance debate, first to commend the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) who, speaking on behalf of the Opposition earlier in this grievance debate, laid many of the ground rules for what will be an intensive election campaign. I refer to the member for Petrie because he is a Queensland member and because one week ago today-almost to the hour-I stood in the Evans Deakin shipyard in the city of Brisbane, along with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) on the occasion of the launching of the Opposition's rort task force. There, in the Evans Deakin shipyard in what was once a dry dock, now filling with stagnant water, among the rotting timber, rusting buildings, rusting steelwork and long grass, the Leader of the Opposition introduced the rort task force which he said would comprise Senator Warwick Parer as the chairman, Senator Jocelyn Newman and Senator Susan Knowles, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar), the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) and me, the honourable member for Wakefield.

Why did the Leader of the Opposition choose this desolate place in which to launch a rort task force and why did he choose Brisbane? First, Mr Deputy Speaker, he selected Brisbane because the chairman of the rort task force, Senator Parer, is from Queensland and because the Leader of the Opposition was due to be in Brisbane on that day and so it seemed appropriate to combine the two functions. But even more significantly the site was chosen because the Evans Deakin shipyard was once a great and viable shipbuilding industry which was closed principally by the actions of unions in introducing restrictive work practices. It was the action of groups such as the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union of Australia who, through a restrictive work practice-it obliged Evans Deakin to employ painters and dockers on a day by day basis and then sent the number of painters and dockers available rather than the number that Evans Deakin required-eventually forced the closure of Evans Deakin shipyard. Where once there were 1,500 full time workers and 4,000 subcontractors employed, today there is nothing but a desolate old shipbuilding site.

The Leader of the Opposition has launched a rort task force because Australian industry has been bedevilled by rorts. The best known rort of all is probably the dim sim allowances that was paid to builders on a Melbourne site simply because they said they were distracted by the attractive wafting odours of Chinese cooking nearby. When the rort task force was announced and I went on a radio talk back program in my own State, my office was besieged by phone calls from people who were aware of rorts and who thought that these should be brought to the task force's attention. I was not amused to be sitting in my office not half an hour ago and to hear the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Price), in commenting on the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill, say that the Liberal Party was in fact-and I use his words-obsessed with work practices, attacking unions and pointing the finger at the trade union movement. I remind the honourable member for Chifley and all members in this House that the role of Opposition's rort task force, and the task of the Opposition itself, is not to attack the trade union movement but to encourage Australian workers to be productive. I see myself as a unionist, as do the majority of people on this side of the House. It is easy to presume that those of us with rural backgrounds know nothing about manufacturing industry and to lose sight of the fact that our very involvement in the National Farmers Federation or the United Farmers and Stockowners and any other agricultural body is in itself involvement in a union movement but involvement in a voluntary one and that is a significant difference.

By suggesting that we were simply attacking unions and saying that as restrictive work practices had been introduced by negotiation they should be taken out by negotiations, the honourable member for Chifley failed to see that the nation is not in a position to trade restrictive work practices. We are literally going broke and the issue facing everyone in Australia-and the Australian electorate on 11 July-is the issue of productivity. Restrictive work practices are not something we can trade with but something we must root out.

Nowhere are these practices more prominent than in the shipping industry. Let us consider the sobering truth that the average Australian stevedoring gang comprises 15 men while the average stevedoring gang in the United States of America and the United Kingdom comprises four men. Let us consider the unbelievable fact that it costs 44 per cent more-more, if you please-to transport steel from Port Kembla to Fremantle than from Fremantle to Japan. It costs more-I emphasise more-to transport alumina from Queensland to Tasmania than from Sardinia to Tasmania. These costs are largely reflected in stevedoring and shipping practices. They are reflected in the fact that our container terminal employees have a 27.5 per cent annual leave loading and a 35-hour week. They are also reflected in the fact that Australian National Line vessels expect their captains to receive full table service and their vessels to be manned by two full crews so that half the year can be spent in shore time. People involved in these industries might say: `Why should we not have these privileges? After all we have negotiated them'. We cannot have them because we cannot afford them and my comment as a member of the rort task force is to say that if these people want full table service on liners, they can have it provided they are prepared to work so that Australia's productivity matches the productivity of its overseas competitors. Our port costs are 70 per cent higher than comparable overseas ports. Comparable ports in North America handle twice the number of containers per hour than their Australian counterparts and while production in our port facilities is the lowest, our strike figures on the wharf are second only to Canada.

Who pays? Every Australian pays for rorts and no one pays a higher price than the exporters. Consider, Mr Deputy Speaker, what rorts do to my farmers and to yours. Wheat terminals in the United States of America, for example, handle somewhere between 60,000 and 120,000 tonnes per man while in Sydney and Newcastle, the figure is 14,504 tonnes per man. Delay and uncertainty in the way in which export produce is handled has meant that horticultural products have been held up on the wharf when they have been perishable-held up even in airline terminals when they have been perishable and the sale has been lost. Today, 28 May 1987, the French registered vessel Capitaine Wallis is sitting at Geelong waiting to load wheat because the unions refuse to load it in a protest against what is currently happening in Fiji. I am not happy about some things that are happening around Australia but my protest would never be designed so to disadvantage other fellow Australians. The question that might be asked by Australians and by the House is; Who will tackle rorts and who has the record?

I want to use the little time left to me to remind the nation that the man who has the record of dealing firmly with the trade union movement is none other than the Leader of the Opposition, John Howard. It was John Howard who, as Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in 1977, introduced the section 45d and 45e provisions of the Trade Practices Act-those provisions which have been so important in reducing secondary boycotts, which allowed the NFF to be successful in the Mudginberri dispute, which allowed us to take on the trade union movement in the Dollar Sweets Co Pty Ltd dispute, and which allowed Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen to take on the Queensland electricity workers. It was the then Australian Council of Trade Unions President, Bob Hawke, who said, and it is on the record:

There will be blood on the streets.

In the face of that threat, John Howard introduced the section 45d and e provisions that this Government threatened to remove. He has the sort of courage that is necessary to address successive trade union demands in the country.