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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2297

Mr ALDRED —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. The Minister will be fully aware of the serious concern felt by Japan's iron ore importers at the effects of serious, long-standing industrial disputation in the Pilbara area of Western Australia. Is the Minister aware of reports of a new outbreak of disputation at the main loading wharf of the Mt Newman Mining Co. Pty Ltd at Port Hedland, where operations have been crippled for a fortnight? What steps will be taken to ensure that Australia's reputation as a reliable supplier of iron ore, already seriously jeopardised, can be regained, with the apparent failure of the new Commonwealth-State arrangements for resolving industrial disputation in the Pilbara?

Mr WILLIS —I think the dispute to which the honourable member referred occurred recently at Mt Newman over the non-payment of a strike levy by one member of the work force at Port Hedland. I understand that that dispute is now over and that it was resolved through the Western Australian Industrial Commission. The terms by which it was resolved, as I understand it, were that the Western Australian Industrial Commissioner, Commissioner Halliwell, recommended that the company suspend the person involved until an application could be brought to the Commission to see whether there was a ground on which he could be dismissed. That was the basis on which, as I understand it, the dispute was resolved. The people are now back at work and the dispute no longer exists as far as stoppage of work goes.

As far as the future of the Pilbara goes, let me say that we are greatly concerned to try to ensure that industrial relations in the Pilbara are improved . Over the years there have been periods of substantial breakdown of industrial relations in this important area-not least of which occurred fairly recently- apart from the dispute we have just been mentioning which involved lengthy stoppages. I and some other Federal Ministers, including my colleague the Minister for Trade, were involved in trying to bring some sense to the situation . As a result of that stoppage and our concern to ensure that there is no future dispute of that kind, which posed grave potential damage to future contracts and indeed, in this case, involved a loss of substantial tonnage, we have been concerned with the Western Australian Government to try to establish a system of industrial relations in the Pilbara which will be much improved in the future. In the very near future in co-operation with the Western Australian Government we will be announcing a series of initiatives relating to the Pilbara which, I believe, will open up a new area of industrial relations in that important region and guarantee that in the future we do not have the kind of substantial industrial trouble which has marked that area in the past.