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4 Treasury Place, Melbourne, 9 January 1998: transcript of doorstop [Maritime Union]

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REITH: (Inaudible).... written by the ACCC that they are investigating the practice of cleaning up the

waterfront in Australia. I think that most Australians felt that the extortionate practice of hold cleaning was in the past history of the waterfront with the Painters and Dockers.

Unfortunately, on the basis of complaints that have been received it seems that some people on

the waterfront think that they can get away with the extortionate practices of the past, they

can't they, shouldn't be allowed to and we welcome the full pursuit of any of these complaints

to bring an end to a practice which is wrong, which is very expensive, which is extortionate

and should belong in the dustbin of history.

JOURNALIST: What practice are you referring to exactly?

REITH: The practice that I am referring to is where some members on the waterfront say to a shipping company "we're not letting your ship go unless you pay X dollars tor hold cleaning even though the service may not be performed or where work is done its a hell of a lot less than the claim being made for payment.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

REITH: Hold cleaning is just a front for extortion where a union or union members say give us some money otherwise we won't let your ship go and when the holding costs for a ship are $25,000 a day for some people it is more commercial to make the payment to allow a ship to be released, it is called hold cleaning because that in the past has been the excuse for demanding extortionist payment and it may therefore criminal conduct its certainly potentially a breach the Trade Practices Act and that's why the ACCC has been investigating.

JOURNALIST: Have you or anyone else in the Federal Government made complaints?

REITH: Look, we've had complaints about this and whatever complaints we've had we've always passed them onto the appropriate authorities but the ACCC acts independently, it is a matter for them to ensure full compliance with the law.

JOURNALIST: Do you wish you had made the complaint?

REITH: Well where we've had complaints we've passed them on, but you know, as to the sources of complaints to the ACCC that's a matter for them and I wouldn't say anything that prejudices their investigation.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

R EITH: Well some of these investigations have been going on for some time and I think it is important that it be said publicly to those people involved in this practice that the government is not going to sit by idylly and allow it to continue, we are totally opposed to it, it's quite wrong, some of it is probably criminal activity and we will do everything in our power to stop it and I hope they get the message.

JOURNALIST: Given the failure of the mercenary exercise, is this another exercise in bashing the Maritime Union?

REITH: Well hold cleaning has been around for years and years and years and you know this is like John Coombs saying if the government says that the level of accidents is too high that is provocative. If I say we want 25 crane movements per hour, he says that's provocative. If I say your safety record is not good enough, he says that's provocative. If I say productivity levels are not good enough or reliability is not good enough, he says that's provocative. Now I mean if this is criminal activity then we have an obligation to make sure the law is complied with and these practices are stamped out. Now that makes it a joke for somebody to say this is just an attack on the Union. We are opposed to criminal activity, it is our job to be opposed to it and to ensure that anybody who is involved in it understands that the full weight of law will be brought against them if the facts and evidence so require it.

JOURNALIST: Why hasn't the government moved earlier in this regard?

REITH: Well the ACCC has been investigating this matter for some time. Now as to how far they can take it that is a matter for them to independently judge based on the evidence. But the point I'm making known is that we have had a number of complaints, where we've had complaints we've dealt with them expeditiously and appropriately by referring them to the appropriate authorities. In terms of the ongoing activities, what I am saying to anybody associated with it is that they should stop, and I'm certainly saying to the MUA which, into which the old Painters and Dockers was subsumed as a result of union organisation, I am saying to the MUA "if you know that any of your members are associated with the old practice of hold cleaning such as the old Painters and Dockers then you should expel those people and you should make it absolutely clear that the MUA will not have a bar of hold cleaning."

JOURNALIST: Can you also refer this practice the police?

REITH: Well where it is appropriate for the matters to go to the police then they will go to the police and have done so in the past, to my knowledge.

JOURNALIST: How many complaints have you passed across?

REITH: Well I don't have any more to say as to the nature of the investigations or sources of information that is a matter for the relevant authorities and I have absolutely no more to say on that subject.

JOURNALIST: If there are criminal activities (inaudible)

REITH: Well I don't have anything to say about what the police may or may not be investigating and I am not saying whether they are or are not. What I can say is what I have said that namely that the ACCC is investigating and from the governments point of view we are totally opposed to hold cleaning and we want to make that very clear to anybody who may be thinking about it.

JOURNALIST: What is your response to John Coombs' claims that your claims are actually unproved and have no credibility?

REITH: Well, you know the answer to that is that the relevant authorities have had complaints and given that they have had complaints who do you what to believe the people that are complaining or John Coombs who says that, you know there's no problem. I mean he said that there was no "nick off' too, until somebody showed him a tape on Channel 9 one day.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

REITH: These complaints have been in more than one place to my knowledge. Thank you very much.-