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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 542


Senator McKIERNAN —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. The Government has become aware through new economic forecasts that there is a great deal of uncertainty relating to the future viability and operation of the Christmas Island phosphate mining enterprise. Will the Minister explain the rationale behind decisions announced by the Prime Minister on 11 September in relation to the future of Christmas Island and its workers?


Senator GIETZELT —The future of phosphate mining on Christmas Island has been on the agenda of past and present governments for some years. It had been hoped that the industry would last sufficiently long to provide employment and the maintenance of the industry on the island for some years. However, the Government has been advised by the board of directors of the Phosphate Mining Company of Christmas Island Ltd as recently as a week or so ago that there is very little future for the phosphate industry on Christmas Island. Accordingly, the Government has been required to make some urgent decisions about the future of not only the industry but also the island itself. Having been advised by those who have the responsibility, the Government has therefore accepted that uneconomic operations on Christmas Island will cease before the end of 1986 and that there will be special arrangements entered into by the Government and the phosphate company that will terminate the employment of those involved in the operations, interestingly, at award rates on parity with workers on the mainland. This means there has been substantial acceptance of modern principles of industrial relations. The Government, with the local community, will look at alternative commercial enterprises. The Government has agreed to set up a working party involving the union on Christmas Island and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, together with community representatives, with a view to making recommendations to the Government on whether there is any future for alternative enterprises on Christmas Island.