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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) - by leave - The Opposition welcomes the Government's announcement of the extension of the activities of the Australian National Line into yet another overseas section of our trade. This is a form of activity that the Opposition has been advocating for many years. We have urged that the Australian National Line should be permitted to extend its activities and we hope that with this fourth extension it will continue to expand. Services are already operating to Europe, Japan and the east coast of the United States and now it is proposed to service the west coast of the United States. However I hope that the position will not be allowed to remain static but that the Australian National Line will participate to an even greater extent and will expand its activities until such time as the Australian shipping industry is carrying a reasonable share of Australia's trade.

Australia is one of the twelve largest trading nations of the world, yet countries with smaller populations than our own already have their own overseas shipping lines. I refer particularly to the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden ;.nd Norway, and to The Netherlands and Belgium. It is only in recent years - in fact, since the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made his statement on 28th November 1968 - that there has been any real move to extend the Australian shipping industry into overseas activities. I am concerned, however, that the Australian National Line could become submerged as the junior partner in some of the large foreign conferences that have been created. For example, in the AustraliaEuropean conference we have one ship out of nine, and the proportion will be even smaller than that later. On the Australia to Japan trade we have one ship. Admittedly the arrangement is for only two ships, one to be operated by the Japanese and the other by Australia.

Mr Sinclair - Another will be operated later.

Mr CHARLES JONES - Yes. I am hopeful that the Australian National Line will not be submerged in these conferences which are controlled and operated by overseas interests. I look to the day when the Australian National Line will be permitted to operate as a separate entity, not part of a conference line and not affected by the fixation of freight rates which have acted severely, harshly and to the detriment of Australian industries, particularly primary industries. I believe that there should be greater investigation and research into the type of ships to be employed so that the vessels operating in the Australian trade will be suited to our trade requirements and not so much to the trade requirements of other countries. The Japanese, for instance, have made a specialty of designing and operating ships to suit their trade. I hope that the Government will permit the Australian National Line to engage in research and, in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Primary Industry and secondary industry, design ships to suit our trade requirements. I look forward to seeing the Australian National Line functioning as an independent operator and not as part of a conference owned, controlled and operated by foreign interests.

From the limited description of the ship to be used in the west coast of North America trade it would appear that it will be suited to our trade requirements. Australian outports have suffered serious losses of trade from the introduction of new type vessels and this situation will continue and will expand in the not too distant future unless the Government is prepared to take remedial steps to overcome the problem. The wool trade has been seriously affected at a number of outports, not the least my own port of Newcastle which, to some degree, is more favourably placed than other ports like Albany in Western Australia and Portland in Victoria. The Tasmanian trade has been adversely affected. The type of vessel described by the Minister should suit our requirements and may offer some relief to the outports that have been detrimentally affected by the introduction of container ships.

If we are going to introduce new types of ships that will affect the trade at outports, the Government' should be looking to provide alternative industries in those centres to offset the loss of employment by waterside workers and the loss of income to towns and cities in those regions. The Government should not say: 'Right, let them work it out for themselves'. When the Government plans for new ships it should plan also to provide employment for displaced labour and additional income to compensate for the loss of income that some ports suffer as the result of the bulk handling of cargo in container ships and other new means of transport.

I should like to get some clarification from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) of matters that are not specifically mentioned in his statement. Are the ships to be built in Australian shipyards?

Mr Sinclair - No. they are already being built overseas and are almost completed.

Mr CHARLES JONES - This is a further example of the Government's complete disregard of the Australian shipbuilding industry which, at the moment, is going through a crisis in respect of continuity of employment in the shipyards. No industry can function efficiently without a continuous run of orders. It is no good placing another order when a ship is almost completed and labour is being dismissed because of inadequate work for the yard. There must be a continual nin of employment in shipyards in order to hold the specialised type of workers. From my own experience I know that men engaged in the shipbuilding industry must understand and be fully conversant with that industry. The methods of construction are completely different from those that are followed in structural steel workshops and in engineering workshops. I regret that the Minister has not been able to answer my question in the affirmative and say that the ships are to be built in Australian yards. The Opposition did not raise any objection to the container ship for the Australia-European trade being built overseas. We did not object to the ship for Australia- Japan trade because I made inquiries at that time and found out that no Australian shipyard was then in a position to provide the ship within a reasonable time. We accepted that state of affairs. But it is now possible for Australian shipyards to build the ships and to have them available in a fair and reasonable time.

Mr Sinclair - It would not be possible in this instance.

Mr CHARLES JONES - The Minister says that it would nol have been possible in this instance. The Government did not make the decision to enter the west coast trade overnight. It has been working on and planning this proposal. While the Government was planning this extension of the activities of the Australian National Line it could well have carried out investigations with the Australian shipyards through the Australian Shipbuilding Board to ensure that at least the National Line ship and the Elder Smith ship were built in an Australian yard. I condemn the Minister and the Government for having failed to carry out this part of the activities of the National Line. The Australian shipbuilding industry will not remain docile and accept this kind of treatment much longer. 1 would now like to say something about the manning of the Elder Smith ship. Would the Minister indicate whether the Elder Smith ship is to be manned by Australians or whether only the National Line ship will be manned by Australians? Could he give some indication of that?

Mr Sinclair - It is one ship which is to be jointly owned by Trans-Austral Shipping Pty Ltd, Elder Smith and Co. and the Australian National Line. That one ship is to be operated by the Australian National Line under the Australian flag. It is one ship only.

Mr CHARLES JONES - I accept that, Mr Deputy Speaker. Now that the Government has extended the activities of the ANL into this field there are several other matters that f shall raise because I think they should also be- examined. Firstly I refer to the import of phosphate rock. It would appear that by the middle of 1970 there will not be one ship, overseas owned but manned by Australians, operating on the Australian coast. At present 80% of the phosphate rock is carried to Australia in foreign manned ships. The other 20%, I understand, is carried in the 'Triaster' and the 'Tri-Eilis' which are in the process of being sold. When these two ships are sold there will be no phosphate rock brought to Australia in ships that either have been built in Australia or are manned by Australians. I hope that the Minister will, in the very near future, permit the Australian National Line to move into this trade with ships that are much more economical and more suited to the trade than are some of the vessels at present operating in it.

Australia imports 20.5 million tons of crude oil - 5,438,000,000 gallons of oil- a year. None of this oil is brought here in Australian owned or Australian manned ships. This is a field in which the ANL should likewise bc permitted to expand its activities. Ships designed for the carriage of oil should be built in Australia and should be manned with Australian crews.

I would like to move on and talk about stevedoring, touching briefly on a few points. The Australian National Line should be permitted to carry out its own stevedoring. The ANL is Australia's largest shipping line but yet it has all its stevedoring done under contract. There is any amount of opportunity and any amount of need for the ANL to do this sort of work itself. I hope that in the not too distant future the Minister will bring down reports similar to the one just presented to the House on the carriage of phosphate rock, the carriage of crude oil and stevedoring.

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