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Friday, 3 December 1976
Page: 3267

Mr MARTYR (Swan) -I support the Seamen's Compensation Amendment Bill 1976 which, in company with Bills dealt with yesterday, is designed to help workers. In this case, as in the case of watersiders, they are all unionists because of the closed shop, compulsory unionism policy of the seamen and the watersiders. The Opposition keeps putting forward the slogans about union bashing. Honourable members opposite accuse us all the time of union bashing. It was done this morning. It was done on a number of other occasions. Yet we are going to compensate seamen. I think one could say without fear of cantradiction that the Seamen's Union of Australia is communist controlled. It is perhaps one of the worst unions in Australia in this regard. It has repeatedly held Australia to ransom. I think the findings of Mr Justice Sweeney in his interim report of last year proved that. If time permits, I will quote a few extracts from that. For many years this union has been one of the villains in Australia. Yet this so-called unionbashing Government is taking steps to see that seamen and their dependants are adequately compensated. It should be repeated that this is a communist controlled union. There is no doubt at all about this. I wonder how honourable members opposite will be able to keep up this lie that we bash the unions when we are prepared to take humane measures such as this.

The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), in his second reading speech, outlined the main purpose of the Bill, which is to increase the rates and amounts of compensation available under the Seamen's Compensation Act to seamen and their dependants and to ensure that the monetary rates payable are kept in line with the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1976. The increased benefits will not cost the Commonwealth Government anything. The payments under the Seamen's Compensation Act are the responsibility of the shipowners. Having been robbed on so many occasions, they are once again picking up the tab. I mean what I say. They have been robbed on numerous occasions. A few extracts from Mr Justice Sweeney's report, I think, will prove it. Probably one of the worst cases was that of Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd. I quote from page 42 of the report. This is a letter which Mr Justice Sweeney quoted:

On behalf of Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd we enclose a bank cheque of $17,669.30 which you have demanded be paid to your account number S090091, and request your receipt.

This represents the difference in money amount between rates of pay and annual leave conditions of crew members of the vessel Sevillan Reefer and Australian rates of pay and annual leave conditions . . .

Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd has agreed to make this payment to your account on the understanding that the Sevillan Reefer will be provided immediately with union services required to allow the vessel to leave the port of Sydney.

Mr JusticeSweeney reported:

This letter together with a cheque for $ 1 7,669.30 was then delivered to the SUA and tendered to Mr Elliott's secretary.

He is the communist secretary of the union. The report continues:

Exception was taken by Elliott to the final paragraph of the letter and the company advised that the letter and cheque would not be accepted with the final paragraph. The letter was then retyped, omitting the final paragraph, and it and the cheque handed to Elliott. The ban was then lifted and the vessel allowed to sail.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!I think the honourable member is straying a little wide of the subject matter of this Bill. I allowed him to proceed to illustrate a point. I think that at the moment the honourable member is making the illustration almost a major part of his speech on this legislation. The Minister when introducing this Bill said that its main purpose is to increase the rates and amounts of compensation payable under the Seamen's Compensation Act to seamen and their dependants. It is a matter of compensation to individual seamen rather than something related to the union concerned. I might suggest that the honourable member has illustrated his point sufficiently.

Mr MARTYR - Thank you for your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. I felt it was important to make the point that the Seamen's Union does not have a good record. The union consists of individual seamen. However, I will accept your guidance. I think that the Government has been very generous in legislating in the way it has. Of course the benefits proposed by the legislation are not costing us anything. Governments past and present have given benefits such as this. Usually one of the easiest things to do is to dispose of other people's money. We do not like it very much when we have to pay for these things ourselves. We have legislated to provide for increased compensation to seamen and their dependants. We have legislated to remove limitations in respect of the amounts payable for medical and ambulance services. We have legislated to remove the restrictive provisions in the Act to bring compensation practices into Une with the practices that have applied to Commonwealth Government employees since 1971. We intend to make the legislation retrospective to 1 December 1976. In conclusion, I support the Bill. I think it is really an excessive generosity on the part of this Government. I hope- it is possibly too much to hope- for some sort of contrition from the Seamen's Union in response to what we have done. But I fear that that expectation will not be realised.

Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.

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