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Tuesday, 7 May 1957

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I understand that an unauthorized stop-work meeting will be held in the port of Sydney to-morrow by the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, the reason given being to protest against the amount of unemployment which is said to exist on the waterfront. It would be difficult to imagine more wasteful folly than action of this kind and under these circumstances. It is true that, as a result of a combination of factors, a good deal of attendance money has been paid to waterside workers in recent months. There has not been a full demand for their services consequent upon some reduction . of not .only shipping from overseas ports but also, quite significantly, interstate cargoes of a general character that are handled in Australian ports.

The irony arising from the situation which has been created by the Waterside Workers Federation and the proposed stopwork meeting is that the reduction in interstate cargoes has been quite notably contributed to by the course of conduct that the members of the federation themselves have pursued. Irregularity of schedules, inefficient handling of cargoes and slow turn-round of ships have all combined to drive shippers from using the interstate shipping services for cargoes and to use road transport and the railways. So to the extent that there is some unemployment on the wharfs, undoubtedly that has been a direct consequence of the actions of the Waterside Workers Federation itself. That is not the complete answer, of course. Import restrictions have had their effect also. But I do suggest that if the members of the federation desire to increase working opportunities on the wharfs, the way to go about it is not to have unauthorized strikes, but to assure shippers of regularity of movement of their cargoes, efficient handling of their goods and some reduction in costs.

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