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What has been said about Australia's waterfront.



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THE HON PETER REITH MP

MINISTER FOR WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND SMALL BUSINESS

LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

WHAT HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT AUSTRALIA'S WATERFRONT

 

"Without question there has to be improved productivity. You only have to compare with the cost of moving containers in other active industrial countries in the world - Australia is far behind.

 

"The productivity is very low. The number of stoppages and the slowness of movements can't continue...it has to change."

 

* - Chairman of international shipping company P&O, Lord Sterling, AFR, 19/2/96.

 

"The Australian waterfront has seen a long war of attrition between the reactionaries and the reformers, and strong men weep when they consider the c osts that are still involved between despatching a consignment out of an Australian factory and dragging it over the ships export rail."

 

* - Lloyds List, the international shipping newspaper, July 19, 1995.

 

"Australian ports obviously ought to be mor e efficient than they are.

 

"The movement of containers per hour is considerably lower than it is in other efficient container operations in other parts of the world.

 

"But it has slipped back again - it has slipped back quite heavily and therefore it has got to improve."

 

* - Lord Sterling on port efficiency post WIRA, SMH, 2/7/97.

 

"Much of Australia remains far from modern. The monarchy is not the only anachronism. A waterfront dispute in which the farmers are trying to break the iron grip that t he dockers' unions have on the country's inefficient ports, looks like a parody of the Britain in the aggro-Britain ridden 1970s. Compared with the frenetic East Asians and the post Thatcher Britons, Australians still prefer the easy life, but want the earnings that go with a harder one."

 

·  - The Economist, 7th February 1998.

 

"In the past few years Australians have been fond of talking about Australia joining Asia. It is becoming more clear that this might first depend on them having their dock worker s becoming part of the 20th Century."

 

* - Far Eastern Economic Review editorial, 19 February 1998.

 

"Both government and companies have put their faith in consultation rather than confrontation. That is good in principle, but bad in practice. The wate rfront's fundamental problem is that wharfies do not deliver an honest day's work for an honest day's pay and there is nothing to suggest a change of heart is imminent."

 

* - Australian editorial WIRA, 11 October, 1989.

 

"If, however, that cooperation is not forthcoming, the industries should be under no illusions about the Government's firm commitment to achieve significant waterfront reform. I will report back to Cabinet within three months on the results of the In Principle Agreement. If a satisfactory agreement is not achieved, we will pursue alternative measures to change these industries structurally."

 

* - Ralph Willis, on waterfront reform, Hansard, June 1, 1989.

 

"Unfortunately, the process of reform stalled for some time...

 

"In acknowled ging this, there are some important lessons to be learnt from why reform stalled.

 

"Where all this broke down, I suspect, was the excessive faith placed in enterprise bargaining itself to deliver on going improvement."

 

* - Opposition Transport spokesm an, Lindsay Tanner on WIRA, address to 8th Annual conference March 12, 1997.

 

"However it is useful to consider why enterprise bargaining may not have delivered the goods as some of the problems encountered will have to be encountered again (if you were to adopt Labor's approach) A list which is by no means exhaustive, would include

 

* The existence of historical hostilities and grievances between stakeholders which manifested themselves in significant industrial disputation after the WIRA period.....

 

* - A certain change weariness at the end of WIRA.

 

* - A loss of impetus for change once at the end of WIRA.

 

* - Inevitable uncertainty on the part of both unions and management in bargaining in the new environment."

 

* - Lindsay Tanner, at the s ame conference, March 12, 1997.

 

Lindsay Tanner then went on to make the telling point that:

 

"The shift to company based employment was intended to facilitate increased competition and to encourage workers to more closely align their prosperity with the success of their employer."

 

It clearly failed and that is why Australia has been left with the inefficient ports we have today and the situation where companies are now having to go through the process of restructuring the labour forces to get the elusive continuous productivity improvements that Labor's WIRA process failed to deliver.

 

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