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Friday, 16 August 1974
Page: 1094

Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) - I thank Senator Greenwood and Senator Hall for giving speedy consideration to this matter. The short answer to the question is that it is not practical to introduce the new scheme in the time that is proposed. Since I have been in this chamber I have taken part in most debates concerning the stevedoring industry. Honourable senators will recall that on 3 occasions the transitional powers provided in this Bill have been granted by the Opposition. The subject has been canvassed more comprehensively than is possible on this occasion. Following World War II we recall that it was not until 1965 that the first efforts were made by the Liberal-Country Party Coalition Government to bring about an arrangement with the parties which formed the basis of the 1967 agreement. In those years the former Government presented the Tait report and introduced other measures connected with the stevedoring industry. Efforts were made on about 10 occasions to get the waterfront industry operating on a reasonable basis. All of us, including the then Opposition, applauded what was done in the 1967 national agreement on the stevedoring industry. For example, for the first time the industry was brought into line with Continental and European practice. For the first time there was a system of permanency of employment.

Between 1964 and 1967 there was a minimum of industrial disputes in the stevedoring industry. After the 1967 agreement had operated for some time it was necessary to form a new agreement. We have found that every 2 years there is a fair amount of disputation on the waterfront because of the need to settle the terms of new wages and other working conditions in order to meet new circumstances. Although 755,000 man hours have been lost this year, half of that lost time is due to disputes concerning the arrangements involved in formulating a new agreement. The previous Government took many years to settle the first agreement. The agreement produced a better climate on the waterfront. After the disputes which surrounded the first agreement, there was relative peace on the waterfront for many years. Now a new agreement has to be contracted.

This Government has received a report on the stevedoring industry. It has taken Government officials, including Mr Norm Foster who has been mentioned in this debate, a period of 18 months to collect the necessary information from the employers in the major ports. The report has been presented to the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). If we reduced the time in which to introduce the new scheme, it would not result in the savings which Senator Hall mentioned because there have to be discussions between the Government, the employer, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority- the employer- and the unions. Those discussions could easily be conducted on a nonconstructive basis and produce more stoppages. The report is before the Minister. It has to be considered. We want time to consider it before tabling it and time to make a final decision on permanency.

The previous Government, in all the years it was in office, could not settle the question of permanency. Therefore we think it is reasonable that we should be given the oportunity to bring down a final report. The Minister last year said he thought he would be able to do it this year. We find now that the work of Mr Foster and others has taken much more time than was expected. The Minister has given an assurance that the structural change will be brought down in the time that has been forecast. It is a reasonable time, because the stevedoring industry is an industry that has been upset by all sorts of great differences. I do not wish to go over the matters which have been canvassed in the other place. Many important and strong interests have to be reconciled in these matters. We think it is reasonable that in our first year of office we should have a chance to consider the report and the information which is available. As to when the report might be available to Opposition senators, all I can promise is that I will ask the Minister whether he can give to Opposition senators a precis or some of the information upon which we will act.

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