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Friday, 16 August 1974
Page: 1092


(   I ) After clause 2, insert the following new clause: 2a. Permanent arrangements for the stevedoring industry shall be submitted to the Parliament before 1 April 1 975. '

(   2 ) In clause 4, sub-clause ( 1 ) omit ' 1 July 1 976 ' substitute'! April 1975'.

The Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Bill 1974 is a Bill which renews for the fourth time since 1967 the provisions which now operate on the waterfront throughout Australia with regard to the employment of the workforce. As the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) stated in his second reading speech, the present proposals arise from the decisions of the national conference under Mr Justice Woodward's chairmanship which took place in 1967 and the matters concerned relate to permanent employment for the waterside work force on a weekly hiring basis, a pension scheme, the redundancy, disciplinary procedures and industrial dispute settlements, but they are of a temporary character and were expressly of a temporary character when they were first introduced in 1 967.

The first Bill lasted for 3 years and at the end of 1970 there were still unresolved problems which were referred to and debated in the Parliament at the time. So a further Bill for a 2-year period was introduced to run until 1972. At that time some problems had become apparent in the sense that a great amount of idle time is involved, which is reflected in increased costs and increased prices which required settlement. Therefore the provisions were renewed for a further year until 1973. In 1973 the present Government introduced a Bill to extend the provisions for 12 months. That 12-month period has now expired and the Government asks for the provisions to be renewed for 2 years.

The purpose of the Opposition's amendment is to ensure that the temporary provisions will continue only until April next year, and that before April next year the Government should put down and present to the Parliament the permanent arrangements which last year it said it was absolutely certain it would be able to produce. I refer to what the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) said in May 1973 when he introduced the previous Bill extending the temporary provisions for one year. He said:

I believe that it will be possible during the next 12 months for this Government to determine permanent legislation arrangements for the industry.

He went on in the light of what has happened subsequently with a sweeping brush which may or may not have been justified. He said:

The former government, of course, seemed to dilly dally with this matter as long as it could, never making a decision if it could possibly avoid doing so. It seemed bent on a policy of starving the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority into bankruptcy.

He later stated:

.   . positive steps have already been taken to resolve the outstanding issues in this industry. These are steps that should and could have been taken previously by the former Government if it had only had the will to do something about the problems in the industry.

The Minister then went on to indicate how he had requested the Stevedoring Industry Council to supply him with views and how he had appointed Mr Norman Foster who had previously been a member of the House of Representatives and whom he called 'one of the most knowledgeable men on the stevedoring industry in Australia' to inquire into and to report on certain aspects of stevedoring operations. I sought and elicited from other sources- I think it was this debate in the other place- the information that Mr Foster presented his report to the Minister, I think at the beginning of this year. Finally, the Minister in May of last year stated:

With the support and valued help of Mr Foster I am certain that it will be possible to bring in permanent legislation at an earlier date than that to which I have just alluded. Indeed, an earlier date for permanent legislation is eminently desirable. We need to have this industry put on a proper and permanent basis.

We believe that a lot of work has been done. The Minister must have his views.

Senator Mulvihill - Mr Fosteris a very efficient man.

Senator GREENWOOD - I understand that in this area Mr Foster has had almost a lifetime of experience. I do not want to challenge his abilities or what he may have said. I do not know what he said. This is a vexing problem overall. We know that it is. I think it has been accepted on all hands that the need is to have some resolution of difficult problems. Many suggestions have been offered. I think that if one looks at the report of the debate in the other place one will see that Opposition members have put forward their ideas and, certainly, Government members have not been short of ideas either. The real point is that to leave this situation in its present state for a further period of 2 years is to invite the present unsatisfactory position to continue and, possibly, to become worse. We believe that it is not at all a bad thing to put pressure upon the Government to come in with its permanent arrangements by April of next year. If, for reasons which are then made apparent, such as the state of the Parliament, the Minister cannot produce the permanent arrangements, let us deal with the situation then. If, on the other hand, under the stimulus or spur of having to take action by April of next year there is increased activity on the part of the Government, the amendment will have served that useful purpose. In the light of the Minister's confidence of last year, I do not know the real reason for the hold up. One can speculate. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did speculate on what the reasons might be during the debate which took place in the House of Representatives. The Minister has not been forthcoming as to why the confident assertions which he made last year have not been realised.

This is beside the point in terms of the need which we have to bring into the waterfront area a situation which gives security to persons who are working on the waterfront. It gives to those people a prospect of continuing employment over the years. It assures to those who depend upon a continuity of employment and service on the waterfront- that is, the shippers and the public who depend upon the ability to get goods off and on- a feeling that the system is working. We have proposed this amendment because we consider it appropriate that these provisions should operate until April of next year. We hope that by then the Government will have brought down permanent arrangements which can be considered by the Parliament.

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