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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2713


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(9.02) —by leave-I move:

(1) Proposed new sub-clause 11 (2), leave out ``commenced''.

(2) Leave out proposed new sub-clause 11 (3).

The Opposition supports the general thrust of the amendment which has been moved by the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes). However, we are concerned about one aspect of it. The amendment which I have moved removes the word `commenced' from proposed new sub-clause 11 (2) and deletes proposed new sub-clause 11 (3). The concern the Opposition has can be readily understood when one looks at the general history of this matter. Over a period of years maritime unions have carried out conduct which is really akin to extortion. Ships are being held up in Australia and are being forced to undertake repairs here and, on some occasions, the repairs were not required. In July of this year a fairly notorious case involved the Caltex company. The unions tried to hold up a ship and to have it repaired in Australia at a cost of almost $2m more than the repairs would have cost in Singapore. Ultimately, Caltex succeeded in having the ship released but the delay cost about $1.3m in charges. That is just a single example of a situation where Australia, a trading nation that is in a desperately difficult position about trade, is being subjected to quite unconscionable conduct.

The amendment which was moved by the Minister provides that if the Minister becomes satisfied that a voyage of a ship is being prevented or delayed by an activity of an organisation of employees for reasons relating directly or indirectly to the repair of ships, the Minister may, by writing signed by the Minister, declare that the bounty shall cease to be payable. I stress that we support that proposition. We think that certainly the bounty should cease to be payable in those circumstances. Proposed new sub-clause 11 (2) states:

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act, bounty is not payable in respect of any eligible repair commenced while a declaration is in force.

The concern of the Opposition is that one may well have eligible repairs which may have been commenced prior to a declaration being made and, indeed, may have been commenced prior to any activity of the kind that I have described by the union and then, during the course of that repair, one could get action relating to the extension of the need of repairs, the delay of the repairing operation and so on and in general, the imposition of considerable additional financial obligations could be placed upon the shipowner during the course of that operation. The amendment that I have moved on behalf of the Opposition simply removes the word commenced and that removes the entitlement for repairs which are undertaken while a declaration is in force. The amendment is not an attempt to combat the spirit of the amendment which has been moved by the Minister. Rather it makes it a tighter amendment if the entitlement to the bounty is removed with respect to any eligible repair which is being undertaken while a declaration is in force. I have moved the amendment believing that it will enhance what is the expressed desire of the Government to ensure that this sort of conduct ceases in future.