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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 2250

(Question No. 1773)

Mr Hawker asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 11 September 1984:

(1) Have shipping rates for Australian exporters to Asian destinations recently risen by up to 35 per cent.

(2) If so, is he able to say whether this increase was caused largely by trade union intimidation preventing open competition.

(3) Does this increase have the endorsement of the Government under section 10 of the Trade Practices Act.

(4) Will he take action to ensure that fair competition prevails in the future.

(5) What steps is the Government taking to prevent a flow-on of these new rates to shipping freight to Japan.

Mr Peter Morris —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1, 2 and 5) Freight rates for 1984 for cargoes to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines were the subject of commercial negotiations between the Australian Shippers' Council (ASC) and the Australian Northbound Shipping Conference late in 1983. As a result of these negotiations there was no increase in the scheduled freight tariff rates in these trades but some concessional rates were not renewed for 1984.

Following negotiations between the ASC and the relevant shipping conferences freight rates to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand rose by 7 per cent from 1 May 1984.

(3) Part X of the Trade Practices Act provides a framework for commercial negotiations between the designated shipper body (ASC) and shipowners engaged in the carriage of Australia's outwards cargoes. The Government is not required to endorse the outcome of these commercial negotiations.

(4) Since the development of Australia's existing legislative approach for overseas liner shipping in the 1960s there have been major changes in world shipping and over the past 18 months there has been considerable dissatisfaction expressed to me about this legislation. I have therefore decided to initiate a complete review of Australia's overseas liner shipping arrangements commencing with a detailed examination by an industry task force. The Task Force will include representatives of shippers, shipping industry and unions, and the report of the Task Force will be incorporated into a draft policy paper which will be circulated for public comment.

The terms of reference for the Task Force are as follows:

''To consider, report, and make recommendations to the Minister for Transport on matters relating to Australian overseas liner shipping, with particular reference to:

1. Whether existing legislation remains appropriate, and if not, the changes required for effective regulation of the commercial aspects of general cargo shipping.

2. Australia's requirement for stable adequate and efficient shipping services in its international commerce.

3. Commercial practices in Australia's liner shipping services, including such matters as loyalty agreements and rebating.

4. The role of national flag shipping in the carriage of Australia's international trade.

5. Relevant international developments influencing the economics and structure of international general cargo shipping services.

6. The UN Convention on a Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences and other multilateral regulatory developments.

7. Australia's bilateral and regional shipping relationships.

8. Such other matters as may be referred by the Minister for Transport.

The Task Force will be chaired by Mr John Rowland, Deputy Secretary of my Department, and will include the following members:

Mr David Asimus, Chairman, Australian Wool Corporation

Mr Max Blair, President, Australian Shippers' Council

Mr John Jenkins, Chairman and Managing Director, Overseas Containers Australia Pty Ltd

Mr Max Moore-Wilton, Managing Director, Australian Shipping Commission.

A representative of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and an academic will also be appointed to the Task Force.

It is envisaged that the report of the Task Force will be completed in mid-1985 to allow the preparation and release of the draft policy paper before the end of 1985. Any consideration by the Government of changes to the existing arrangements will only take place after full examination of the Task Force Findings and recommendations and any public comments received.