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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1583


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The main purpose of the Bill is to extend the operation of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act 1967-1972 for a further period of 12 months. The Bill also proposes to extend the power to make regulations to include non-continuous ports and to remove some existing limitations in relation to other ports. These measures are necessary to permit the evolution and introduction of permanent legislative arrangements for the industry. The Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act was enacted in 1967 to give legislative effect to the agreement entered into by the National Stevedoring Industry Conference which was set up by the previous Government under the chairmanship of Mr A. E. Woodward, Q.C., with the object of achieving long-term improvement of conditions in the stevedoring industry.

The National Conference reported to the then Government in April 1967, and recorded agreement in principle, inter alia, on a scheme for the permanent employment, on weekly hiring, of watersiders in major ports; a pension scheme for regular waterside workers; arrangements for coping with anticipated redundancy; procedures for handling industrial disputes; and disciplinary procedures. These proposals involved significant changes in the role of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, whose functions in relation to permanently employed watersiders were to be largely transferred to the stevedoring companies.

The enabling, legislation was originally introduced for a trial period expiring on 30th June 1970, by which time it was anticipated that legislation providing for permanent arrangements in the industry could be introduced. However, before that date it became evident that a number of factors prevented the introduction of permanent legislation at that time.The most important of these were that it had not been possible for the principal parties in the industry to determine what employment arrangements would be introduced in the smaller ports, where about one-fifth of the industry's work force was still employed on a casual basis, and the fact that the structure of the industry was being greatly affected by the development of containerisation and other new cargo handling techniques. For these reasons the life of the temporary legislation was extended for 2 years until 30th June 1972.

By early 1972 no significant progress had been made to resolve these issues. Furthermore, the task of evolving permanent employment arrangements for the entire industry was further complicated by the financial difficulties in which the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority found itself. From 1970 onward the Authority has been progressively less able to meet its commitments from the levies on employers raised under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act, mainly because of a rapidly rising level of expenditure on idle time. Idle time expenditure comprises payments made to permanent watersiders in respect of full shifts for which they are available for work but are not required. The rising trend in idle time expenditure is a reflection of the progressive introduction of technological developments in the industry. Accordingly, the temporary legislation was again extended for a further 12 months until 30th June 1973.

Notwithstanding the difficulties which have prevented the introduction of permanent legislation relating to this industry in the past, I believe that it will be possible during the next 12 months for this Government to determine permanent legislation arrangements for the industry. The former government, of course, seemed to dilly dally with this matter as long as it could, never making a decision if it could possibly avoid doing so. It seemed bent on a policy of starving the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority into bankruptcy. A lot of our present troubles stem from the inaction of the former Government and its inability to understand the problems of the stevedoring industry. In contrast to the approach adopted by the previous administration, positive steps have already been taken to resolve the outstanding issues in this industry, These are steps that should and could have been taken previously by the former Government if it had only had the will to do something about the problems in the. industry.


Mr Sinclair - It had the will to do the job properly.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, or the will to do the job properly. I am obliged to the honourable, member for New England (Mr Sinclair) for the correction. The former Government had neither the will to do the job properly nor the ability to do the job properly. I have requested the Stevedoring Industry Council to supply me with its views on future permanent employment arrangements for casual ports and on funding arrangements for the industry as a whole. I have also commissioned an officer of my Department, one of the most knowledgeable men on the stevedoring industry in Australia, Mr Norman K. Foster, who was for 3 years a member of this House, to inquire into and report on certain aspects of stevedoring operations in relation to the activities of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Mr Foster is at present visiting Coffs Harbour. When he has completed that assignment he will be visiting the other States so that he may give me an on the spot report as to what is needed to be done to correct the results of the inactivity of the previous Government over the past four or five years.

Nevertheless, it will not be possible to reach finality on future arrangements for the

Industry in sufficient time to prepare permanent legislation before the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act expires at the end of June this year. After all, this Government has been in a position to legislate for only about 9 weeks since its election to office on 2nd December. In that time we have, I am proud to say, produced an extraordinary amount of enlightened legislation. We have about another 60 Bills on the stocks, ready if only members of the Opposition will get off their backsides and intelligently discuss the Bills that we want the Parliament to consider. I therefore propose that during the current session the life of this Act be extended for a further 12 months to 30th June 1974. Extending the life of the Act until June 1974 will not of course preclude the introduction of permanent legislation at an earlier date if this proves feasible. With the support and valued help of Mr Foster I am certain that it will be possible to bring in permanent legislation at an earlier date than that to which I have just alluded. Indeed, an earlier date for permanent legislation is eminently desirable. We need to have this industry put on a proper and permanent basis.

As presently framed, the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act does not have application to non-continuous ports, and places some limitations on the powers of the Governor-General to make regulations in relation to permanent and continuous ports. It is, therefore, proposed to extend the regulationmaking powers to cover non-continuous ports, and to remove existing limitations in relation to other ports to the extent necessary to ensure that any transitional arrangements for permanent employment of a different nature from that in existing permanent ports can be introduced by regulation pending the framing of permanent legislation. This involves minor changes to section 8 of the Act. Those changes will be indicated and explained at the Committee stage. I have much pleasure in commending the Bm to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.







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