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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1491

Senator SANDERS(8.49) —The Australian Democrats do not support this disallowance motion. We have looked at the issue. I have had some experience with the sea-not as much as the previous speaker, Senator Hamer, but I am not totally unfamiliar with it. Certainly in the past there was gross mistreatment of crew on ships, and I am sure Senator Hamer will agree with this. In the past we had the traditional crew person living in a leaky fo'c'sle with very little bedding and very few animal comforts-a fo'c'sle which was lit by one swinging kerosene lamp. He was fed on salt beef and weevilly biscuits. Anyone who has read Two Years Before the Mast or any other classic works of the sea is certainly aware of these matters. Over the years various organisations, various governments and various unions have gradually increased the well-being of the people who work on ships. But it took a great deal of effort not only to increase their animal comforts but also to keep them from drowning. It took a great deal of effort merely to put loading marks on ships so that they could not be overloaded. I do not think anybody could disagree that all of these advancements were met by great resistance in the shipping industry and by politicians who supported it.

Senator Hamer said that he moved this motion because he feels that `regulations open up the way for malicious disruption of foreign-owned ships to the great disadvantage of the Australian community as a whole'. Furthermore he stated:

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 a ship 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 ship. It is clearly reasonable that the country should have power to enforce suitable standards on foreign registered ships . . .

So Senator Hamer agrees with the general thrust of the Government's regulations. However, he picked out some rather absurd examples-such as fitting flywire to portholes-and I admit that they sound absurd.

Senator Hamer —I object to all the ones that go beyond the ILO Convention.

Senator SANDERS —The honourable senator says that he objects to all those regulations that go beyond the International Labour Organisation Convention. However, he has brought up some rather absurd items. He also included a clipping out of the Australian of 13 April 1985. If this is the most recent example of the things he says are going on-the delay to ships and the cost to owners-perhaps the situation has already solved itself. The Australian article points out that 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. I am certainly not here to defend the painters and dockers union but I point out that two wrongs do not make a right. While the painters and dockers may be wrong in this instance-maybe they are unnecessarily holding up ships-there are still plenty of shipowners on this earth who are trying to squeeze the last buck out of their ships. They are still squeezing crews. Many of the foreign ships that come into our ports have conditions which would not be tolerated in a civilised world. This is one of the reasons why ships sail under flags of convenience. No civilised country would allow them to treat their crews the way in which they are treated. Any mechanism that will increase the well being of crews should be welcomed and this is one mechanism.

The Australian Democrats feel that they cannot support Senator Hamer's motion. We would like to see any unfair practices stopped by any unions or anybody else who would exploit the ILO regulations for their own self aggrandisement. We would like to see the ILO regulations used in the spirit in which they were framed which is to protect the well being of the seamen who sail the oceans.