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Thursday, 24 February 1977


Mr McLEAY (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) - I can assure the honourable member for the Northern Territory that I am very much aware of the situation in Darwin. He may remember making representations early last month, as a result of which I went to Darwin and spent a couple of days there. I met business leaders, members of the Legislative Assembly, local authorities, unions and all interested organisations. As a result of that visit the Government decided to set up an independent inquiry into the Darwin generating facilities. The chairman of that inquiry is Mr F. A. McKay, who is the north Queensland manager of the State Electricity Commission, and a very well respected officer. That inquiry is currently proceeding. We expect that it will be completed by 4 March and that the report will be received by the Government by the end of May. We shall take action when we receive that report.

We have taken out figures on the power failure situation in Darwin for the period mentioned by the honourable gentleman- in fact, during the last 13 months. Power failures have affected the average consumer on 30 occasions, totalling SO hours. Half of that SO-hour failure has been caused by the withdrawal of labour from the power house at Stokes Hill. The Public Service unions involved want to work overtime. They do not want us to put on extra staff. We are happy with that. The problem is that they are now banning the working of overtime. Because of the way in which the shifts operate- 21 shifts in a 7-day week- the twenty-first shift is an overtime shift. It is on a Tuesday. When they ban the working of overtime there is no power in Darwin that day. That is the nub of the problem. There is a dispute currently between the Public Service Board and the Public Service unions. It is currently before the Arbitrator. I am hoping that common sense will prevail and that reasonable power facilities will be restored to the people of Darwin.







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