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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1491


Senator LEWIS(8.54) —I support Senator Hamer's disallowance motion. The motion is to disallow Commonwealth of Australia Navigation (Orders) Regulations Order No. 16 of 1986, Marine Orders Part II which deals with substandard ships. I am absolutely staggered at the words used by Senator Sanders, who clearly does not understand at all what the disallowance motion is all about. The Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button, has come into the Senate and is chatting up Senator Sanders because, no doubt, the Australian Democrats have agreed to support the Government on this matter. I hope that Senator Button applies his mind to the effect that this regulation will have on the export trade of this nation. One would believe that this regulation was specifically designed to do what it possibly can to hinder the export activities of Australian manufacturers. I cannot believe that Senator Button has applied his mind to this regulation. I certainly cannot believe that the Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, has even seen it because I would have thought he would have gone right off his mind considering that the trade unions of this nation should be placed in the position that this regulation puts them in. Let me explain to the Senate what I mean.

This regulation prescribes that an interested person, who believes that a ship in an Australian port is substandard, may make a complaint. Who is an interested person? Under the regulation it is a member of the crew of that ship-one can understand that-and any person with an interest in the safety of the ship, including an interest in safety or health hazards to its crew. I do not know who that is. Perhaps everyone in Australia has an interest in the safety of the ship. So on one definition I suppose anyone could make a complaint. Let me refer to the particular sub-section which I deliberately missed because I wanted to come to it last. An interested person means an official of a professional body, association or trade union. So any member of a trade union is an interested person and an interested person may make a complaint.

What happens if a complaint is made? The prescribed authority shall, not may, conduct a survey-that is what the regulation states. Where a prescribed authority receives a complaint, the prescribed authority shall as soon as practicable arrange for the ship to be inspected by a surveyor. Glory be, let us look at what the surveyor has to look at. He has to go through the entire ship examining such things as, as Senator Hamer has mentioned, whether there are clean sheets on the berths and whether there are flywire screens over the portholes. He has to check up whether the garbage cans are available in galley, pantry or mess rooms and whether the garbage cans are in a satisfactory condition. He has to check whether the electric fans fitted in sleeping rooms and mess rooms are in satisfactory working order and condition. He has to make sure that the floors are easily cleanable and that the floors are made of durable material which is impervious to damp. He has to go into the galley, storerooms and handling rooms and make sure that they are in a clean condition. He has to make sure that the galley exhaust is grease free. I have never seen a galley exhaust anywhere which is grease free but in a ship it has to be grease free if a complaint is made.

The surveyor has to make sure that the food is suitable for the intended voyage; he has to check on the lighting; he has to make sure that the crew spaces are adequately lit, that the light fittings are operable and that the light fittings are fitted with globes or tubes of the full rating of the fitting. One can not have less than the full rating of the fitting on board a ship. These are just some examples of what this regulation requires the surveyor to do. He has to go into the clothes drying area and make sure that clothes drying facilities are provided in a compartment separate from the sleeping rooms and mess rooms. He has to make sure that the drying room facility is ventilated or heated and that it is provided with racks or lines. He has to see that the sleeping rooms are not used as mess rooms. I suppose that means that if he goes into one of the sleeping rooms and finds some food in there he will say that that is an improper use of the ship. The following is a fascinating one. He has to make sure that the mess room is located as close as practicable to the galley. If this is not the case he may declare that the ship is a health hazard.

This goes on for pages and pages. There are pages of all the sorts of things that have to be surveyed if a person makes a complaint. These things shall be done-not may be done by the port authority who looks out, sees a ship and says: `That ship looks a bit of an old bucket; perhaps we ought to have a look at that'. No, any interested person-and I have already described how wide the range is-may make a complaint and, if the complaint is made, the prescribed authority shall conduct a survey. Could anything be more clearly designed to hold up or delay the exporting arrangements of this nation than to give some trade union person-it does not even say he has to be a trade union official; it could be any member of a trade union or any interested person who wants to complain-the right to make a complaint, upon which this entire survey has to be carried out at the cost, of course, of the Australian taxpayers? There is no provision in the regulation to say that the complainant ought to pay the costs of the survey if, for some reason or other, the complaint is found to be unwarranted. One can clearly see that the trade union movement, where it wants to hold up a ship for some other reason, will clearly make a complaint under this regulation.

For Senator Sanders to say that anyone who has read the book Two Years Before the Mast-although he did not admit to having read it himself-would be supportive of this regulation is an absolute nonsense. Of course, the ILO convention is already in force in Australia. We are not talking about the ILO convention; we are talking about the sorts of facilities which are already imposed on Australian ship owners. This regulation was introduced by the Government. I cannot understand how Senator Button and Senator Walsh, or any Minister in this Government who has any thought at all for the Australian industry, did not see immediately what this regulation is designed for. This regulation has nothing to do with health and safety standards. This regulation is designed as a means whereby the union movement will be able to hold up any ship in an Australian port for months and months.

Already ship owners are fearful of allowing their ships to come into this country because of what might happen while they are here; yet this Government is actually giving the union movement another weapon to create havoc with regard to Australian export trade. As my colleague Senator Hamer has asked, when will the trade union movement require that foreign ships provide their workers with six months leave of absence, which is what is required now on Australian owned ship lines? When will they require them to have first class travel arrangements and separate accommodation? Certainly, this regulation, introduced by this Government-not introduced by the trade union movement--


Senator Hamer —It's the same thing.


Senator LEWIS —My colleague Senator Hamer says it is the same thing, and one wonders when one reads this sort of regulation whether it is not the same thing. Senator Button is making some notes to respond to me. I hope he gets up to tell me what this matter is all about.


Senator Button —Somebody has to.


Senator LEWIS —I will be interested to hear what Senator Button has to say to see whether there is any sort of response about this matter. Let me give Senator Button another example. If the surveyor finds that the paint locker is in an unsatisfactory condition he can condemn the ship. So the surveyor will go along and have a look in the paint locker. Anyone who has had a look at a paint locker anywhere would know what paint lockers are like. If one looked at my paint locker one would reckon it was in an unsatisfactory condition. If the surveyor finds that the paint locker in the ship is in an unsatisfactory condition he can condemn the ship and hold it in the port for whatever period is necessary to get it cleaned up.

The surveyor has to check on the paintwork and make sure that the painted surfaces have not deteriorated such that they cannot be washed clean. Surveyors have to go wandering around the ship having a look at all the painted surfaces to see whether or not they are able to be washed clean. The surveyor has to look at the work spaces to see whether they are in a clean condition and to ensure that there is not a prevalence of oily rags. Glory be, have honourable senators ever had a look at the inside of a ship's engine room? If the surveyor wanders around and sees any oily rags around about he will conduct this survey at the expense of the Australian taxpayer because some unionists-not even a senior union official nor the port authority-has made a complaint. What the purposes of that complaint would be we do not know, but one can imagine what it might very well be.

The surveyor has to check on the berths and make sure that two clean sheets are fitted to each berth. I hope there has not been an accident the night before he goes in to have a look at the berth to make sure that the sheets are clean. He has to make sure that a blanket is available to each berth and that sufficient linen is available-he also has to go to the linen closet on the ship-to provide a weekly change during the longest leg of the voyage between ports with laundry facilities. This is absolute nonsense yet it has all been introduced by this Government and the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris)-and why? This has nothing to do with the health and safety of people in Australia. It has nothing to do with the health and safety of the ship.

Senator Sanders raved on about reading a book called Two Years Before the Mast and standing up for seamen in the past who used to be fed weevilly biscuits and all that sort of nonsense. As a result of that he says the Australian Democrats will support the Government on this matter. One has never heard such rubbish in all one's life. Clearly the Democrats have not read the regulation; yet they will vote with the Government. But we have come to expect that. Since former Senator Chipp left the Democrats have done nothing but support the Government on every issue that they possibly can. I just cannot understand how senior Ministers in this Government have allowed this regulation to go through-unless, as I suspect, it has gone through without their being aware of it. Senator Button has been in this chamber. He has heard what I have had to say, so he is now fully aware of the matter and I will be very interested to hear what his response is.