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Wednesday, 15 September 1971
Page: 1390

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:

(1)   Is it a fact that the wage paid to Torres Strait Islanders employed on Thursday Island pearling luggers is $20 per month.

(2)   Are these employees covered by any award or agreement; if so, what are the particulars.

Mr Howson - The answer to the honourable member's question has been provided by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs:

(1)   No.

(2)   Wages and working conditions applicable to the pearling industry in the Torres Strait are determined at an annual conference presided over by the Stipendiary Magistrate, Thursday Island.

The conference is attended by employers, employees, and/or their representatives. The Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs is also represented, acting on behalf of and with assisted Torres Strait Islanders and Aborigines.

The 1970 Diving agreement covers relative share allocation for Skipper, other Divers, First Tender and other Tenders.

In elaboration, as with most other fishing industries remuneration is on the basis of an 'incentive to earn' method of assessment. However, the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs insists on a guaranteed minimum basic rate being available to provide an allotment of funds to dependants of the employee and immediate personal moneys, but this amount is not to be taken as maximum rate of 'wages'. It is a guaranteed minimum basic rate.

General procedures of application are that each employee in the Pearling Industry is engaged through the Shipping Master at Thursday Island under shipping Articles which embody the Diving Agreement, and the full entitlement of each individual is based on a 'lay' and bonus assessment of the full proceeds due each individual vessel.

Advances are made from time to time against the guaranteed minimum rate and anticipated further income based on production. On discharge nett balance due is paid each individual before the Shipping Master, and the Shipping Master does not authorise discharge of the seaman until he is satisfied that any liability attachable to the vessel is effectively discharged over the season's employment.

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