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Wednesday, 1 December 1965


Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- Mr. Chairman,I could not allow this phase of the Bill to pass without adding some protest against the proposal of the Government to repeal the Australian Industries Preservation Act. It is significant, and I suppose natural, that conservative governments lean towards their friends. It is significant also that in a period of 16 years in office the Government has made no attempt to deal with the overseas shipping combines until recently when we had the admission from the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that the Government is somewhat interested in the need for the establishment of an Australian owned overseas shipping line. Sixteen years is a long time to wait for an admission of this type from the Government. But it is odd that, at a time when an admission of that type has been extracted from the Treasurer, the Government takes action in this Bill which deals with restrictive trade practices to exclude any further operation of the Australian Industries Preservation Act as such.

All primary producers in this country know, as do all statutory boards dealing with the export of primary products, that primary producers are in the grip of one of the most powerful monopolies in the world, to wit, the overseas shipping Conference lines. The only criterion of these overseas shipping Conference lines as to what should be charged for the type of primary products being exported by Australia to overseas markets is: What will the traffic bear? It is true that in the agreement between the shipping companies, the statutory marketing boards and shippers generally there appears a formula by which the charges that will be imposed on the shippers will have some relationship to the profits or the income of the shipping companies. But everybody knows that the formula is favorable to the shipowners and unfavorable to the shippers of this country. How strange it is, in view of all those circumstances and the admission of the Government that it would like to see an Australian owned overseas shipping line, that the Bill removes in toto in relation to restrictive trade practice the operation of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. As has been pointed out by my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), the High Court has indicated recently that the Australian Industries Preservation Act has some teeth. It is my opinion, after looking at the provisions in this Bill which allegedly will have teeth as strong as those in the Australian Industries Preservation Act, that the Bill has not the strength of that Act.

As an illustration of the rapacity of the overseas shipping companies, let me relate a story in which our friends in the Country Party corner will be interested. It is not many years since the Australian Wheat Board was confronted with a situation in which charter rates for the shipment of our wheat to overseas markets rose to extravagant heights. Outrageous prices were charged for the shipment of wheat. It is true that the people who own charter ships are not members of the Conference. I understand that charters are arranged through the Baltic Exchange. When the question " On what basis do the charter shipping companies fix their freight rates? ", was posed, the answer given was: " On the basis of the rates that they think the traffic will bear ".

The explanation given at that time when the Australian Wheat Board wanted ships was that the demand through the Baltic Exchange for tramp ships or charter ships to take coal across the Atlantic Ocean was so great that the owners of such ships were able to impose almost prohibitive freight rates on the Australian wheat growers for the transport of their wheat overseas. That story highlights two things: First, that we need an Australian owned overseas shipping line; and secondly, that since the introduction of a measure such as this was proposed by Sir Garfield Barwick every powerful commercial interest in Australia, including no doubt, the representatives and allies of the overseas shipping lines, have been pressurising the Government to weaken the provisions of the measure in order to make it less adequate than the legislation that was proposed by Sir Garfield Barwick.

Before I conclude I want to mention that the overseas shipping lines have become so avaricious that recently the Australian Meat Board sent a delegation to London to argue the point in their London palaces. A great nation, with nearly 12 million people, a 12,000-mile coastline and the need, perhaps more than any other maritime nation, to own and control its own shipping bottoms, is placed in the humiliating position of having to send people to London to pray to the overseas shipping lines in order to obtain reasonable freight rates for the shipment of meat which is so badly needed in other countries. Anybody who endeavours to work this matter out must realise ultimately that this Government runs true to form and always leans heavily in favour of the people to whom it is so beholden for its return to office in this Parliament.







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