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Time to end the levies



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JOHN SHARP MEDIA RELEASE

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GILMORE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR SHIPPING AND WATERFRONT REFORM

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: Tel 06 2 7 7 4213, Fax 06 2 7 7 2124

TIME TO END TH E LEVIES

It is time to end the levies which have propped up the wasteful stevedore labour pools at enormous cost to port users.

The Government - and the Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support, Senator Collins, in particular - have been boasting about their successes in waterfront reform, with enterprise agreements in place in the'm ajor ports. The reforms are not, however, delivering the reduced costs to the useis 'jthat are the very point of reform. The reason for this is that; despite reductions in the numbers of wharfies, the industry's inability to respond to the down-turn in trade across the docks as a result of Labor's deliberately

engineered recession has swallowed up Whatever gains have been made.

The waterfront is barely marking time as a result of the reforms, arid without the ability to regulate the labour force to trade demands, as is normal commercial· practice, port users are still paying huge levies in order to maintain a labour pool (now called a transitional list) at even more punitive costs than before the so-called reforms started.

The idle time situation has in fact got much worse during the reform period - with idle time at 28.4% of fully paid time during the September quarter. The stevedores on the newly reformed Australian waterfront were working an average of only 22 hours in a fully paid week during the September quarter, as reported by the W aterfront Industry Reform

Authority.

It is time that port users were able to see the benefits of the much-vaulted reforms in the only tangible way that means anything - cheaper costs. To do this, the pools and transitional lists must be ended - the levies that are necessary to maintain them can then be ended, bringing immediate benefits to the participants who most need them, importers

and exporters.

Once the levies are ended and the costs of getting cargo across the docks dramatically reduced, the Government can boast of success.

The costs of idle time are still just as burdensome to the shippers as they were at the outset of the reform process, however, and until that cost impact can be brought into line with market reality, no real gains will have been made. The only way to do that is to abolish the levies and let the industry adjust its labour force according to the work

available.

Ends.............. WR110/91

16-12-91

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