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Thursday, 2 December 1976


Mr LLOYD (Murray) -Earlier speakers in this debate have indicated the purpose of the 3 Bills which are designed to extend the provisions of the present temporary stevedoring arrangements for a further 6 months. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) explained the situation in his second reading speech on 6 May when he said that the present conditions would be extended for a further six months. He laid down some of the guidelines that the Government would be looking for or working towards in its policy of replacing the existing provisions with a better, more satisfactory and more permanent arrangement for the waterfront. The new arrangements have not come in in time; therefore the extension. As other speakers pointed out, the delay is due to a very complicated situation and to the need to resolve several issues at the same time- the problem of redundancy, new control mechanisms and arrangements in any new policy, etc.

To me, the delay has certain worthwhile features about it. I refer to the information revealed at the Prices Justification Tribunal hearings. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) referred to some ofthe figures quoted concerning the commissions, the director's fees and so forth of the stevedoring company, James Patrick and

Co. Pty Ltd which is being investigated at present by the PJT. To me and to many other Australians, if not to those who are already expert in waterfront affairs, the figures have shown that there are factors in the employer area of the waterfront which are just as deserving of criticism as is the area of the employees or the unions. I believe that it is very important, because of these revelations, that any new arrangements which the Government introduces for the waterfront should control the unfair practices of employers as well as and as much as the unions or the employees if we are to have a cost efficient and effective waterfront for the benefit of all Australians.

I refer to a few examples of the information that has been revealed. Examples will be used against both employers and employees. I quote firstly from yesterday's Australian Financial Review which reported the final addresses to the Prices Justification Tribunal. I suppose one could say that certain questions were put from the employer's point of view. The questions were: Why was the man-hour divisor as low as 798 at Sydney whereas it was 1522 at Port Kembla? Why was worker's compensation charged at 28 per cent in an instance for Brisbane whereas the rate was 7.2 per cent? I could quote other points. Other questions were: Why had the cost of a gross man hour of waterside worker labour moved from $2,572 in 1962 to $7,556 in 1974, and why in 2 years it had now doubled to $15.46? These are very important questions for which the answers must be found in the formulation of the Government's policy.

At an earlier PJT hearing, as reported in the Financial Review of 25 October, evidence was given about the stevedoring industry. I quote from that article.

One Australian glass importer, Astor Glass Industries, has put these charges into a commercial perspective in terms of glass imports in the following terms:

Those terms generally are the costs on the waterfront. I continue quoting from the article:

Sorting and stacking charges for Sydney and Adelaide ports, as they stand today, represent the single largest added cost after f.o.b. value and ocean freight, for the kind of product we import.

Expressed as a nominal rate of tariff protection, sorting and stacking charges would be the equivalent of a duty of approximately 20 per cent ad valorem, whereas the general tariff rate is 15 per cent.

In other words, the waterfront provides more effective tariff protection than does the Government 's tariffs. I am sure the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) would be interested in that area of tariff protection. I quote again:

That is to say, sorting and stacking rates, as a kind of natural protection, represent a greater barrier to importing window glass than the Government intended by way of tariff protection.

As far as glass is concerned, the service we receive and pay for is for the transporting of cases from ship's side by forklift into wharf shed, and placement in upright stacks according to marks.

Total distance travelled would be rarely more than 60 metres and total time no more than 5 minutes per case (about one tonne each).

For this service in Sydney we are currently paying $18.10 per tonne.

In comparison to this we employ a carrier at the rate of $5.40 per tonne to load, deliver, receive and temporarily store our glass, which obviously involves much greater utilisation of labour and machinery than that required for wharf sorting and stacking. Yet wharf sorting and stacking costs are 140 percent higher.'

I now quote from the current affairs program- A Current Affair series 'The Australian Waterfront', part 2 and part 4, of 6 October and 8 October, the interviewers are Mike Minehan and Tony Ward. Tony Ward said:

In the recent April to June period the average earnings of a Sydney wharfie were $205 for 24 hours work. At the container terminal they were $309 for 33 hours work and at Beauty Point in Tasmania, $33 1 for 34 hours work. The average earnings over the same period for an Australian male were $ 1 7 1 for 40 hours work. Apart from their high pay rates they are paid double time for a midnight shift, double time and a half for Sundays and they also enjoy benefits such as a 25 per cent loading on holiday pay, a 25 per cent loading on long service leave, a generous pension scheme, accumulated sick leave, fully payable on termination of employment, and their three-quarters of an hour lunch break is part of their 7-hour working day. They have achieved already the 35-hour working week. But more important than that, no retrenchment. They cannot be retired before they reach sixty-five whether there is work for them or not.

I quote from part four:

When the Federal Government reorganised the waterfront in 1967 and gave permanency to employees, it was banking on containerisation keeping freight costs for our imports and exports down, and above all, labour costs controls. In reality just the reverse has happened. In the last 18 months alone, container terminal charges have risen 85 per cent. Labour represents 75 per cent of this total.

An administrator who was being interviewed said:

On 20-foot containers we are about 2 to 3 times higher. New York charges $69 a container, San Francisco $53, London $60 and m Sydney we have to pay $ 1 54.

Another administrator said:

The system here which is different from anywhere else in the world is that the 40-foot container attracts charges exactly twice those of a 20-foot container. This is completely unreasonable and anomalous because it involves no more effort to lift the 40-foot container than it does a 20-foot container.

That is the end of the quotation from A Current Affair.

I want to quote some other figures on the problems of cost created by the position on the waterfront. I emphasise that I am not apportioning blame between the employees and the employers. I would think blame rests somewhere, if not equally, between the two. I deal firstly with wool. In May 1975 the Australian Wool Corporation revealed that taking wool from a Melbourne wool store to a ship's hold cost 7.22c a kilo. For the ship to take the wool to Europe and have it delivered to a mill door cost 8.49c a kilo. The apple grower gets approximately $2 a carton for all of his labour. The cost of a carton of apples becomes $4.50 by the time the apples are picked, packed and delivered alongside a ship. It then costs $1.17 a carton just to load those apples into the ship. It now costs about $24 to shift a tonne of bagged rice from the rail truck beside the ship in Sydney into the hold of the ship. By comparison the rice mill has to receive, store, transport, mill, quality control- in fact, do everything- for $23 a tonne compared with $24 a tonne to move the stuff from the rail truck into the ship.

With the history of the waterfront and its cost to every person in this country, as shown so clearly by these figures and by other speakers today, it is tremendously important that the correct decision is made about control mechanisms and arrangements for the future on the waterfront. I believe the Minister indicated that it is the Government's intention to move out of its regulatory role, through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, rather than to move the other way- that is, virtually to acquire or nationalise the industry. When referring to some of the important areas of concern in making decisions as to how this will be accomplished, the Minister, in his 18 November speech, referred to 3 special areas. They were:

Measures aimed at securing cost restraint.

Measures to protect the interests of the staff of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority.

Measures to overcome the problems of the industry as had been identified in the report presented to me by Mr Justice Northrop.

I emphasise as strongly as I can that if we are taking this role for the future- I am in no way disagreeing with it- it is tremendously important that the Government establish, through a market force system or some other system, a mechanism which will prevent an unholy alliance between the employer and the employee on the waterfront which will be to the detriment of all Australians, particularly those who live by exports or imports.







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