Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1488

Senator HAMER(8.39) —I move:

That Marine Orders, Part 11 (Substandard Ships), as contained in Navigation (Orders) Regulations Order No. 16 of 1986 and made under the Navigation Act 1912, be disallowed.

I am moving this disallowance motion because I think the regulation is an improper use of Commonwealth power, and because it opens up the way for malicious disruption of foreign owned ships, to the great disadvantage of the Australian community as a whole. Honourable senators will remember-or perhaps some of them will remember-that last year we amended the Navigation Act to give the Government power to prescribe health conditions which could be imposed on foreign registered ships visiting Australian ports. This is in accordance with Article 4 of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 147, which says, in effect, that the Australian Government may take measures necessary to rectify any conditions on board a foreign registered ship which are clearly hazardous to safety or health.

The Navigation Act, before we amended it, gave the power to the Commonwealth only to deal with issues of safety with regard to foreign registered ships, and I accepted-as did the Opposition-that the Navigation Act should be amended to give the Australian Government the power to deal with the health issues as well. But the fundamental question is: What safety and health issues? I think the intention of the ILO Convention was to give the member countries which were visited by foreign registered ships the right to stop such ships from imposing burdens on their rescue organisations, or health risks on their general community or on their waterfront workers or other people who had to be on board the foreign registered ships. It is clearly reasonable that the country should have power to enforce suitable standards on foreign registered ships in these circumstances. This is how I believe we should approach the ILO Convention, but I am reluctantly prepared to accept that the wording of the Convention permits an interfering government to become the enforcer of ILO standards on foreign registered ships.

I do not think this is an appropriate or sen- sible role for a government, except to the extent that its interests and its own people are concerned, because many of the standards prescribed in ILO Convention No. 92, which is embraced by ILO Convention No. 147, could not remotely be described as clearly hazardous to health. For instance, one of the provisions is that mess rooms shall be equipped with tables and approved seats sufficient for the number of persons likely to use them at any one time and that sleeping rooms shall be fitted with a mirror, small cabinets for toilet requisites, a book rack and a sufficient number of coat hooks. These may be very desirable from the point of view of comfort, but it stretches the meaning of language to say their absence is clearly hazardous to health. Nevertheless I am prepared to accept that the wording of ILO Convention No. 147 probably does give the Australian Government the right to impose the provisions of the Convention on foreign registered ships. But if we are to act as the enforcer of an ILO Convention, we must be very sure that we do not attempt to enforce more than the requirements of the ILO Convention on foreign ships, for the dangers of these regulations being used as a means of disadvantaging foreign registered ships, and forcing them to accept all the many rorts which have critically damaged Australian shipping, need no emphasis.

It is notorious that the previous arrangement with regard to the safety of foreign ships has been used, grossly improperly and with no genuine regard to safety, to force foreign ships to have very expensive modifications done in Australian shipyards-the maritime workers acting as standover agents for the ship repair unions. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a brief newspaper article describing some of these campaigns.

Leave granted.

The article read as follows-


By David Leser

Industrial action by the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union has delayed more than 20 ships in Australian ports since January, causing losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars to industry and threatening food supplies to Pacific Islands.

In the past week, members of the union have boarded ships in Sydney demanding that union members carry out repairs before they are allowed to leave.

Mr Gary Young, president of the painters and dockers, confirmed yesterday that ``some work had been carried out'' on some ships but when questioned on the union's demands replied: ``I don't know nothing about anything''.

According to the agent for one ship, some islands in the Pacific will not get food deliveries for a week because of the dispute.

The General Valdez, a Filipino ship berthed at No. 10 Pyrmont Wharf, Sydney was boarded on Wednesday by five unionists who issued a number of demands, including fixing wash basins, repairing urinals, putting curtains up in the mess hall, installing televisions for the crew and the removal of all asbestos in the ships galley and bridge.

One of the more extreme demands was that the crew replace benches in the mess hall with chairs.

According to Mr Dick Bovill, a representative of Aboitz, the Filipino owners of the ship, the painters and dockers regarded the benches as ``undignified'' even though the mostly Catholic crew explained the mess hall was often converted into a church.

Mr Bovill said the repairs would cost about $250,000 and should they not be carried out, the vessel, already seriously delayed in its shipment of containers and refrigerated goods to the Micronesian islands, would not be allowed to leave Sydney.

Mr Gary Weaven, an industrial officer for the ACTU and a member of the council's ship building and repairs committee which is orchestrating the industrial action, was unavailable for comment.

Another ship, the Japanese-owned Logistic Ace, was boarded on Wednesday by members of the union who, though not authorised, demanded to inspect the carrier.

A spokesman for the ship's agents, K Asia Pacific, said the unionists had demanded information on the crew's wages and had called for a general upgrading of the ship's accommodation before it would be allowed to leave port.

He said the ship was likely to be held up for a week, which would mean that a number of islands would not get food deliveries.

One of the islands, Tarawa, in the Gilbert group depends entirely on food supplied by the Logistic Ace.

The executive director of the Australian Chamber of Shipping, Mr Llew Bowen, described the union's actions as ``industrial extortion and blackmail'' that had cost Australian industry hundreds of thousands of dollars since January.

``Australia's reputation, already in tatters, is getting worse and worse.''

Mr Bowen said the chamber had approached the ACTU and written to the federal Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Ralph Willis, but had received ``not a word of reply''.

A spokesman for Mr Willis said the department was looking at the matter.

Senator HAMER —Clause 4 of the Navigation Amendment Act states:

(1) A ship is, for the purposes of the Act, substandard if the ship is seaworthy, but conditions on board the ship are clearly hazardous to safety or health.

(2) In determining whether a ship is substandard, regard shall be had to such matters as are prescribed.

This regulation is the result. As will have been apparent, I do not think we should be the enforcer of ILO standards but, if we are, it should be the ILO standards we enforce, not the additional rorts which have been so destructive of our own shipping. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list of the items in this regulation under discussion which go beyond anything covered by the ILO conventions.

Leave granted.

The list read as follows-

Prescribed Items included in Marine Orders, Part 11 (Substandard Ships) as contained in Navigation (Orders) Regulations No. 16 of 1986 not included in ILO Convention No. 147 or related Conventions

Overloaded power points;

Defective electrical insulation;

General unsafe appearance of electrical wiring.

Garbage cans not available in galley, etc;

Garbage cans in unsatisfactory condition;

Garbage drums not located in an accessible position;

Garbage drums without properly fitting lids.

Galley exhaust fan not in working order;

Galley exhaust not grease free.

Fly screens missing for portholes, ventilators and doors to the open deck;

Fly screens exist but apertures cannot be properly protected by close fitting screens;

Fly screens exist but have gauze broken and/or missing. (Fly screens are only required under ILO Convention No. 92 for ships regularly trading to mosquito-infested ports)

Light fittings inoperable;

Light fittings not fitted with globes or tubes of the full rating of the fitting.

Paint locker with inadequate natural ventilation;

Paint locker in an unsatisfactory condition (which is not further defined);

Spillage of flammable liquid found in paint locker.

Excessive noise, if the reduction of the noise level is practicable, possible and reasonable, but no action is taken.

Work spaces, including engine room, not clean;

Prevalence of oily rags or other fire hazard in work spaces, including engine room.

Pillow and pillowcase, two clean sheets not fitted to each berth;

Blanket not available for each berth;

Insufficient linen to provide weekly change during longest leg of the voyage between ports with laundry facilities-only one change needed if suitable laundry exits aboard.

Refrigeration machinery not operating efficiently;

Refrigeration and cold room door seals defective;

Internal alarms in cold room and refrigerated stores not fitted or not operating;

Securing devices not capable of being operated from inside the cold room or refrigerated store;

Refrigerators not kept clean and defrosted;

Food improperly stored;

Gratings to cold rooms or refrigerated stores unclean or defective;

Lining to cold rooms or refrigerated stores defective.

(Store rooms and refrigerated chambers are referred to in general terms in Convention No. 68, but without this specific detail).

Senator HAMER —It is a very long list and I do not contend that any of the items in it are overwhelmingly important; but none of them could even remotely be described as `clearly hazardous to health'-the wording of ILO Convention No. 147. Nevertheless they are all irritants to foreign shipping and perhaps more importantly provide means by which foreign ships can be held up and forced to make unnecessary modifications. What has happened is that the Government has now become the collaborator of the maritime unions which are seeking to harass and injure foreign shipping, which is a very dangerous thing to do in a country such as ours in an economic crisis and heavily dependent on efficient and economic sea transport.

I will give but two examples from the list I have just incorporated of items which have been added by this Government to the ILO list. The first is that flyscreens should be fitted to all portholes. This might be appropriate in malarial ports, but no Australian ports are malarial. I was at sea for nearly 30 years and I never had a flyscreen fitted to a porthole. If this regulation is not disallowed we could hold up a foreign ship if it does not have them in our Australian ports. These flyscreens are not required by the ILO Convention, but we would require them and it is an abuse of language to suggest their absence could be regarded as being `clearly hazardous to health' in an Australian port. The second example-and it is the sort of level of importance they are-is that a ship could be held up because the light fittings were not fitted with globes or tubes of the full rating of the fitting. One can make an argument that these things should be done, but I do not think it is the job of the Australian Government to impose such conditions on foreign ships when they are not required by the ILO Convention.

By what moral right do we seek to impose such extra provisions? Worse still, this could be the thin end of the wedge, to coin a phrase, or perhaps, if I wanted to coin another phrase, the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps next, under health grounds we will be told that foreign ships should give their crews six months leave a year, like Australian crews, or that all foreign crews must have single cabins with en suite bathrooms, or that their seamen must always travel first class in domestic or international aircraft, as our seamen do-all in the name of health. Once we start going beyond the ILO Convention we have got ourselves, in my view, into an absurd position, a legally and morally indefensible one and, worse still, one that can be used by militant unions to harass and disrupt foreign owned ships, to the great loss of the Australian community.

I repeat: By what moral or legal right do we seek to impose these extra conditions on foreign ships? For that reason I have moved for the disallowance of Marine Orders, Part II (Substandard Ships), as contained in Navigation (Orders) Regulations No. 16 of 1986, which goes beyond the relevant ILO Convention, beyond the undertakings given by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) in this chamber when the Navigation Amendment Bill was introduced, and beyond what common sense dictates as reasonable for us to impose on a foreign registered ship.