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Tuesday, 31 March 1998
Page: 2037

Dr LAWRENCE (10:48 PM) —Just over a couple of weeks ago, I was very surprised to receive a fax which said:

SWANDOCK is a Ship Repair and Maintenance Company that leases land from the Fremantle Port Authority.

One of the leases expires on 31st October 1998 and we had been given verbal assurance from the Authority that at that date it would be brought into line with two (2) other areas leased from the Authority.

The Fremantle Port Authority in their wisdom (and more than likely under instructions from the WA Premier)—

and that turned out to be true—

have yesterday informed us that the lease will not be renewed. They will give no reason.

Thus in effect will put this Company out of business resulting in the unemployment of 20 permanent staff and approximately 50 casual staff, all to fulfil a DREAM that our premier has, we suspect, to build a Maritime facility to RIVAL what Sydney has.

Could you please make enquiries on our behalf to find out what is going on, so I can inform my staff, some of whom have been employed by this company for over 15 years, if they have a job or not.

That fax was from Mr Rod Munro, and his suspicions were well founded. The firm Swandock has been part of Fremantle for over 50 years, since the Second World War. Swandock and the Fremantle Shipwrighting Co. employ 20 to 30 people most of the time and a significant number of casuals when the work is there.

Rod Munro and Tony Camarda were born and bred in Fremantle. They run that company. It is a family company. For the past decade or more they have run Swandock in particular. By the end of this month, they both expect to be bankrupt, unless something I have heard today changes the situation dramatically. They have probably lost their homes unless they are able to renegotiate that lease. Rod Munro is 59 and Tony Camarda is 68 so, as the local newspaper put it, they are hardly prime candidates for re-employment.

The problem is that the Fremantle Port Authority wanted them to continue. This is an active working dock. There is only one other like it in Western Australia and we certainly did not want a monopoly. It was very unexpected that the Fremantle Port Authority pulled the plug. It was very clear—and I have since had discussions that confirm this—that it was because of the Premier's grand vision to bring back Australia II to the Fremantle Victoria Quay. Everyone wants to see it back in Western Australia, but not at the expense of a working port—and they can exist side by side.

This company has done a great deal, not just for the work force in Fremantle but also for Fremantle's maritime heritage. They can exist side by side, as they have shown themselves. I obtained from them a list of some of the things that they have done in the local community. They have helped to restore and preserve historical skiffs. They carried out a free docking of the Endeavour prior to its national tour, with a value of approximately $10,000 given free to the community. They donated the timber which helped to launch the Endeavour Foundation. They donated appren ticed labour to the Endeavour Foundation during the building of the replica. They are very conscious of our maritime history, but they do not want to be set aside in the process of putting Bond's yacht on the quay. They do not want to be a museum piece; they want real jobs now.

They have also provided timber for the Duyfken. They have provided work experience for schools. They have trained 60 apprentices, and yet it would appear that the Premier's decision—and he heads the task force—leaning on the Fremantle Port Authority may prevent them from continuing. They were in difficult times. They were in receivership, but they had a buyer. The moment they were told that their lease would not be renewed, the buyer disappeared.

I am very pleased to say that, as a result of a lot of pressure that has been put on some of those people, and I hope finally on the Premier, it would appear that as of today the Fremantle Port Authority may renegotiate the lease, but it might be too late. That business may well have gone under and with it some very solid jobs. These are skilled workmen—highly skilled workers—in their late 40s and 50s, and many of them will never get another job.

If these jobs are lost from Fremantle, I will continue to protest violently at the short-sightedness of the Premier. If he has the courage to reverse the decision—and I hope he has—then Fremantle will remain an active port with a docking facility to rival any in the country. Failure to do that will turn Fremantle into a manicured museum, and none of us wants to see that.