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Wednesday, 28 March 1973
Page: 836

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Tonight we have seen another bit of electioneering by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The honourable member has always been able to present himself as a man with a fair amount of confidence in his ability to put a case. He usually looks confident even though his speeches have not always deserved the confidence that he seems to acquire when delivering them. But tonight his speech was quite poor. It was only mediocre and he lacked that ring of confidence and certainty that he usually is able to muster when he talks at this table. I was trying to analyse the change that has overcome this gentleman. I was not quite able to work out the reason for the change but I have just been informed that for the whole of the period that he was a backbencher in the Parliament he did not bother to ask one single question about the port of Portland. He never bothered to write to any of the Ministers-

Mr Sinclair - Yes, he has. He wrote to me when I was Minister for Shipping and Transport.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Did he? In that case, I have to drag the honourable member for New England into it also. I have been through all the Cabinet submissions from the Department of Labour concerning this matter.

Since the honourable member has chosen to attack me, one would assume that the Department of Labour is blameworthy or praiseworthy for whatever goes wrong or goes right in the industry. I have caused a search to be made extending back to 1964 - 8 years now - and 1 can find not one Cabinet submission from the Department of Labour that would support the views now put by the honourable member. The honourable gentleman has evinced absolutely no interest in this subject for as long as I can remember. I was here when he first came into this Parliament as an upstanding, bright, eager-eyed young man from Wannon, but never once have I heard him say anything about Portland until now when a State election is pending. Why is Portland going through the trouble that it is now experiencing? It is going through the trouble because the Government that he actively supported in Cabinet and in the Parliament was responsible for altering the Stevedoring Industry Act which this Government inherited. It is not our Act; it is the Act for which the parties to which he and the Leader of the Country Party belong are responsible and which brought about the present state of affairs. The present state of affairs could not have happened unless the law permitted it to happen. Who made the law that permits it to happen? None other than the honourable member for Wannon and his Liberal and Country Party colleagues.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - I rise on a point of order. The Minister for Labour is contradicting the remarks that he made in this Parliament a few nights ago when he said that what has been done by the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour was contrary to the philosophy of the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order involved. The Chair is not fully aware of what has been going on.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honourable gentleman who is looking around as though he made a great point ought to look this way and hear my point. He made great play of a statement made by the Honourable Murray Byrne who is the Minister for State Development and Decentralisation in Victoria and who is fighting desperately to try to win the seat of Portland from the Labor Party. So the Honourable Murray Byrne will do anything and say anything at all in misrepresenting the situation in Portland as being the result of this Goverment's failure to act in the interests of the port rather than the failure of the former Goverment, because the Act about which we are talking was not an Act that was passed by the Labor Government but an Act that was passed with the active support of the Federal member for Wannon. I decided to write to Mr Byrne on 27 th March, this is, as soon as I heard about the meeting to which the honourable member for Wannon refers. I said this:

In the present controversy over the future of the port of Portland, a number of matters have been misrepresented, and in particular, the Commonwealth's role and the Commonwealth's responsibility.

I have been disturbed, for example, to notice the statements attributed to you in the Press attacking me as though Portland's problems were of my, creation; and I was disturbed, too, on being informed that at a meeting concerning Portland which was chaired by you on Friday 23rd March, to which the Department of Labour was not initially invited-

That is how much interest the Honourable Murray Byrne had in the Department of Labour. He did not even bother to invite representatives of the Department to be officially present at the meeting, and neither did the honourable member for Wannon. So it is quite clear that all they are trying to do is to make political capital out of this matter. At this meeting to which representatives of my Department were not even invited-

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Do not carry on as if you are the only son of a wealthy Western District squatter. You have been spoilt.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - The Minister for Labour can say what he likes, but he should not be allowed to go unchallenged on a matter to which reference has become common on the Government side of this House-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member is not in order. If he believes he has been misrepresented he is entitled to take other action, but it is a frivolous point of order that he has taken.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - May I make a personal explanation now?

Mr SPEAKER - The honourable member may do so when the Minister has finished his speech.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honourable member is interrupting me because he is trying to prevent me from reading the rest of this letter.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Have it incorporated in Hansard.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I want the people in the gallery and other people to hear about it. At this meeting a motion was adopted which attempts to shift the responsibility for the viability of Portland entirely off the State Government's shoulders and entirely on to my shoulders. That resolution read:

This meeting asks Mr Cameron to make a direct approach to the AEWL and to use his influence to have the decision reversed. If no satisfactory reply is received within a week, Murray Byrne is empowered to send a representative group through Mr Fraser to see Mr Cameron.

Nothing could be more ridiculous than that. Fancy sending anybody from Portland to represent Portland's interests through the honourable member for Wannon, who has not lifted a finger to help Portland in the whole of the time he has been in Parliament. In my letter I went on to say:

Let me say that I find the basis on which the motion was adopted on Friday quite erroneous. This is because it bears no relation to the true cause of Portland's problems. I think you know that I have already asked Mr Norman Foster to investigate the situation at Portland and I expect to have his report in a few days. However, it is clear to me, at this stage, that the problems that exist at Portland have been evident for months and even years before the change in AEWL levy.

I have some news for the honourable member for Wannon. I shall be seeking leave to make a statement in this Parliament concerning the Portland situation as soon as I receive the report from Mr Norman K. Foster, who will be reporting to me, I hope, by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. My letter continued:

As I am sure you are well aware, the viability of a port is ultimately determined solely by the volume of cargo which can be shipped through it. This in turn depends upon the industries which carry on their activities in the surrounding district and the arrangements which they make to obtain their raw materials and transport their products.

The honourable member for Wannon who is the biggest and richest wool grower in the Western District sends all of his wool through the port of Geelong. Here is a man who has the audacity to pretend that he has some interest in the port of Portland and in the viability of that port. I go on to state to Mr Byrne:

For some time cargo through-put al Portland has been declining and the cause of this is the way in which local industries have chosen to operate.

The honourable member and his wealthy friends have decided to send some hundreds of thousands of bales of wool through Geelong instead of Portland. Why does he not send it through Portland which is the wool centre? That is the proper place from which to send it. I continue in the letter:

So long as through-put continues to decline, the change in the AEWL levying system is of marginal significance - of less significance, for example-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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