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Willis announces further reforms for maritime industry

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MEDIA RELEASE Minister for Transport Hon. Ralph w iiiis M.p. and Communications



7 December 1989


Reforms to the towage industry endorsed by Cabinet this week will result in a significant increase in maritime industry productivity and major savings for shippers, Transport and Communications Minister Ralph Willis said today.

Mr Willis said that under the reform plan productivity improvements will be achieved through a 30 per cent reduction in the industry labour force and through changes to work and port practices.

He said the plan, which will come into effect this month, was developed by the Towage Industry Review Committee set up by the Government as part of its program for reform of the maritime industry.

"The reform plan will reduce the towage industry work-force by 360 over three years and result in cost savings for individual tugs of up to 30 per cent," Mr Willis said.

"Because crew-related expenditure is the dominant cost item in tug operation, these reductions, which have been agreed to by employers and unions, will have an immediate impact on the industry's financial operations.

"They will result in savings to the economy of around $20 million a year.

"The Government will ensure savings are passed on to shippers by directing the Prices Surveillance Authority to monitor towage rates and to check that decreased costs lead to decreased prices.

"As well, the Trade Practices Commission is reviewing previously agreed arrangements that limit competition between towage operators in Sydney and Melbourne.

"We will also continue to work with the States on a review of port authority regulation of towage services.

"Issues under review include the number of tugs required, firewatch and emergency service arrangements and possible changes to licensing arrangements." COMMONV, EALTii

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Mr Willis said that under the plan, the Government will provide assistance in the form of payments of up to $8.7 million for early retirement packages and up to $2.3 million, on a dollar for dollar basis, for training workers remaining in the industry.

A tripartite Towage Industry Reform Implementation Committee, chaired by Mr Peter Newman, the Chairman of the Shipping Industry Reform Authority, will be established immediately to oversee implementation of the crewing, training and work practice elements of the reform plan.

Mr Willis said the towage industry reform plan was the third in a series of major maritime industry reform initiatives introduced by the Hawke Government this year. It follows reforms to the waterfront and to coastal shipping which will also result in dramatic increases in productivity over a three-year period.

"Crew reductions in the towage industry go hand in hand with the major reductions occurring on existing ships in the Australian fleet," Mr Willis said.

"Under the Government's Shipping Reform Strategy the average crew on an Australian ship will have fallen from 31 in 1986 to 21 in 1992, a level on par with the average OECD ship."

CANBERRA 7/12/89

Contact: Bev Miller 062/777200