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Executive Director speaks about waterfront problems

PETER THOMPSON: IR, of course, is at the centre of the ANL sale and the unions walking away from P O as you've been suggesting they would, but Kim Beazley wants to keep on rowing.

PRU GOWARD: Yes. Well, there are really a couple of options. They can actually just slowly liquidate ANL or they can offer the union a bigger sweetener and encourage the sale to P O with some sort of greater advantage to the union, or they could just sell it to P O anyway, or they can restructure it along the lines that the union wants and keep it in government hands. That last option, I think, is most unlikely, but it is possible that they would find a bit more money to offer the union in any arrangement with P O, and of course, with the coffers, in some senses, in a parlous state, they could equally just be tempted to let the whole thing rot away, or literally rust away and slowly liquidate it.

But joining me, now, is Greg Bondar from the Australian Chamber of Shipping - the Australian Chamber of Shipping, of course, an organisation that would be most affected if the union movement decided to take industrial action as a result of these negotiations.

Greg Bondar, thanks for joining us. And how likely do you think industrial action is?

GREG BONDAR: Well, I think the MUA has made it fairly clear that in the event of a decision being made by the Government which does not accord with the union's thinking, it will bring the waterfront to a halt.

PRU GOWARD: But we're at least a couple of weeks away from that, aren't we?

GREG BONDAR: Oh, absolutely, and I hope we never get to it. The situation is that the Government has before it two options - as you said, restructure, sell. If the MUA does not have its thinking endorsed by the Government, I can see a stoppage at the waterfront and that's not going to be good for anybody.

PRU GOWARD: And would you agree that there is no union if there is no ANL?

GREG BONDAR: Well, I think the situation is that should ANL cease to exist, the Maritime Union of Australia would find itself with one less Australian ship to have its members represented at. So therefore, that possibility is likely but, once again, it all depends on the arrangement that ANL and P O come to as to the crewing arrangements, as to membership and so forth.

PRU GOWARD: And you plan to take legal action if the union takes strike action over this-correct?

GREG BONDAR: Not the chamber personally. What we're intending to consider at the moment is - and as has been the case in the past - that if, in the event that the strike is one of bringing the whole of the waterfront to a halt, the shipping industry - and, along with the shippers, the owners of cargo and along with anybody else - has the option before it to look at the number of actions, one of which is secondary boycott-type action under the Industrial Relations Act. It can look at damages under common law. Individuals, such as shipping lines, can look at their own action and whether that might be rescheduling of their ships or what have you. So there are a whole number of options available. I think the point we would like to make - and the chamber is certainly pushing that - that the time has come that the innocent third parties can no longer sit back and be subjected to this sort of industrial blackmail.

PRU GOWARD: So this is a threat.

GREG BONDAR: It's not a threat. It's no more of a threat than MUA's - bringing the waterfront to a halt. What it is, is that I think the time has come to look at ways of countering the continual threat and the continual stoppages on the waterfront which have disrupted trade, damaged our international reputation. And more than that, I think, it's not good for the shipping industry, including ANL.

PRU GOWARD: Greg Bondar, thanks for your time this morning. Greg Bondar from the Australian Chamber of Shipping.