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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Yes, the officers of the Department of Labour have given a good deal of consideration to the matter raised by the honorable member. Before this session concludes, legislation will be introduced which will bear on this situation in the sense that it deals with the raising of funds to enable the current benefits and rates of attendance money to be paid. There have been adjustments of the quotas at a number of ports, but I am sure that the honorable member will appreciate that too considerable an adjustment of quotas would work hardship in particular cases, which the branches of the Waterside Workers Federation in those ports would not be anxious to see. There is, of course, a general wastage, which continues and this, together with some reduction in quotas, will have the effect of reducing the numbers regularly offering for work. In addition, it must be borne in mind that the value of imports for the current year will be about £700,000,000, compared with last year's figure of £823,000,000. This will, of itself, involve a substantial drop in import tonnage. Conversely, the easing of restrictions to permit imports totalling £775,000,000 will add considerably to the anticipated tonnage for the next year, and will afford some alleviation of the present position.

However, as I have already pointed out, to a degree it is, in the hands of the men themselves and, for that matter, of management, to come to their own assistance. A contributing factor to unemployment on the waterfront has been the decline in general - not bulk - cargoes handled around the Australian coast. Undoubtedly the reason has been the competition which has been offered by road and rail transport - a competition made the more effective because shippers of goods cannot rely upon regularity of sea transport. If the waterside workers could guarantee regular turnround of ships and reasonable efficiency in the handling of goods, I am certain that there would be an increase in the tonnage offering and, consequently, an increase of employment.

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