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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 656


Senator SCHACHT (Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction) (4.43 p.m.) —I table the revised explanatory memorandum and move:

  That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The speech read as follows

The proposals which will be implemented by this bill are founded on outcomes of the waterfront reform process undertaken through the Waterfront Industry Reform Authority (WIRA). The bill amends the stevedoring industry levy legislative framework and the Industrial Relations Act 1988.

Current stevedoring industry legislative framework

The following Acts ("the Stevedoring Acts") deal with the stevedoring industry:

the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Act 1977 ("the SIFC Act")

the Stevedoring Industry Levy Act 1977 ("the Levy Act")

the Stevedoring Industry Levy Collection Act 1977 ("the Levy Collection Act")

the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Act 1977 ("the Termination Act").

The Stevedoring Acts establish and provide arrangements for the collection of a general levy and a special levy. The general levy was used to fund industry employment arrangements and has ceased to apply. The special levy is used to repay loan obligations entered into to finance the stevedoring employers' contribution to the special "one off" early retirement/redundancy package made available under the waterfront reform program.

In addition, Division 9 of Part VI of the Industrial Relations Act 1988 (the Industrial Relations Act) provides for Port Conciliators and Port and Federal Coordinating Committees for the stevedoring industry. These arrangements were designed to support pre-reform industry employment. There are currently no Port Conciliators or Coordinating Committees.

Waterfront reform

The waterfront reform program was based on an In-Principle Agreement (IPA) negotiated between the Government, stevedoring employers, unions and the ACTU, and implemented over a three-year period from October 1989 to October 1992, under the auspices of the WIRA.

As part of the reform of the industry framework, the IPA called for the restructuring of awards and agreements. A new award, the Stevedoring Industry Award, was ratified in November 1991. The award included a skills based classification structure which saw the former "waterside worker" classification replaced by that of "stevedoring employee", together with a wider definition of stevedoring operations.

The final report of WIRA incorporated a report on the review of the IPA conducted by the parties. The parties recommended changes to the stevedoring industry legislative framework and the Industrial Relations Act.

The changes in the industry reflected in the award, and the WIRA recommendations, have been taken into account in the bill.

Overview of proposed amendments

The bill contains a number of amendments of a minor nature which are explained in the explanatory memorandum. The key amendments proposed in the bill are as follows.

Stevedoring Industry Levies

The provision for a general levy in the Levy Act is to be abolished.

The special levy will continue to be collected and applied to meet the industry's loan obligation until that obligation is met. On current estimates the loan is expected to be paid in full by late 1995. The amendments to the current legislation are not intended to change the application of the levy arrangements. In this regard and in the light of the cessation of the registration arrangements which had applied in the industry since 1977, the bill prescribes those stevedoring employees in respect of whom the levy will and will not be payable.

The Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee (the Committee)

The Committee's primary role will be in relation to the special levy and the repayment of the existing loan. The Committee will also retain certain continuing obligations as the successor to the previous industry body.

A revised structure of the Committee will reduce the number of members from nine to four, while retaining employer, union and departmental representation, together with an independent chairperson.

The Committee is currently required to maintain registers of waterside workers consistent with the General Agreement of 1977 between stevedoring employers and the union (now the Maritime Union of Australia). These provisions were part of the industry-based employment arrangements which characterised the industry before the reform program. The provision for registers was also relevant to meeting Australia's obligations under ILO Convention No.137, the Dock Work Convention, 1973.

At the completion of the reform program, all parties agreed that the registration system incorporated in the General Agreement of 1977 would cease to apply. The bill will remove the existing requirement that the Committee maintain a register of waterside workers for the previous industry and levy collection purposes. The Committee will be required to establish a register of names of stevedoring employees, consistent with the Convention. The bill provides that the register can be constituted by prescribed records kept by stevedoring employers. For this purpose, the time and wages records which are required by the Industrial Relations Act to be kept will be prescribed. The industry parties will be consulted as to any other relevant records which should be prescribed. This approach will mean that employers will have no additional obligations beyond keeping relevant employment records up to date.

Sunset provisions

The bill inserts sunset provisions in each of the Stevedoring Acts which will ensure that each Stevedoring Act ceases to have effect when the Committee's remaining functions have been discharged.

The Industrial Relations Act: Port Conciliators and Coordination Committees

Since the move to enterprise employment in the stevedoring industry, the Port Conciliators and Port and Federal Port Coordinating Committees serve no continuing function. Accordingly, Division 9 of Part VI of the Industrial Relations Act is to be repealed.

Conclusion

The bill will have no significant impact on Commonwealth expenditure or revenue.

I present the explanatory memorandum and I commend the bill to the Senate.

  Debate (on motion by Senator Panizza) adjourned.