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Wednesday, 3 May 1989
Page: 1710


Senator HAMER(5.21) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This Report summarises the progress by the Australian National Line (ANL) in implementing its equal employment opportunity program during 1987-88. I will not talk much about the very limited progress which has been made in the last financial year. However, I want to refer to the basic problem that ANL has because of the method of employment of ratings for ships' crews, which is one of the major concerns of the shipping industry and is crucial to the development of a proper equal employment opportunities program. In passing, I note that there were two female ANL officers out of a total of 503 at the beginning of that financial year and two female officers out of total of 393 at the end of that financial year, reflecting the decline in size of the ANL. In other words, during the year 1987-88, the ratio of females to males actually increased although the number of female officers had not increased. At this moment, the ANL has no female officers. It had two; now it has none. One left to get married and the other has gone to work for a different shipping line.

Officers are direct employees of the ANL and therefore directly under its control and subject to its equal employment opportunity program. However, ratings and the terminal operational staff are not directly employed by ANL and are therefore outside its control in terms of its equal employment opportunity program. Page 5 of the report states:

Seagoing crew employees are also not directly employed by ANL nor does ANL have a control in their selection. Seagoing crew are employed on an Industry Roster basis and they are contracted by ANL to man our vessels according to their position on the roster at the time.

I want to talk for a couple of minutes about this seaman engagement system or seamen's roster, because it is the root cause of a lot of problems in our shipping industry, not least in our equal employment opportunity program. Seamen and stevedores have a system of industry-wide employment which is unique in Australian industry. Ratings are employed by individual ships from an engagement pool. The number in the pool is determined by the relevant unions and the ship owners and selection of the individuals to make up the crew is made by the unions, not the employers. The cost of administering this system has been borne in the past by the Department of Transport and Communications. However, this is about to change and the cost will be met through direct charges on the ship operators.

In addition to the cost of administration, there is a further cost to ship operators for attendance money to eligible seamen not assigned to a ship. These provisions cost in the vicinity of $2m a year and are financed by levies on the ship operators. The Industries Assistance Commission (IAC) was sceptical about this arrangement and concluded that the attendance payments were a form of unemployment benefit and questioned the need for the industry to provide its own unemployment benefit when the Government provided an economy-wide system quite separately. Submissions from ship operators to the IAC inquiry into coastal shipping expressed a strong preference to move to company employment of ratings because they believe-I am sure they are right-that only in this way can one encourage proper training, proper involvement with the success of their enterprise and, if profit sharing is appropriately introduced, some interest in the efficiency of the organisation they work for. In particular, given that there are more technically advanced ships, the current pooling system effectively ignores the need for skills specific to these vessels and forces shipowners to take on the next seaman in line on the roster, regardless of whether he can do the job.

This is an absurdly out of date system. We must move to company employment so that a proper emphasis is given to things like the equal employment opportunity, training and involvement with the success of an enterprise. Ultimately, we will have to go to enterprise unions in the shipping industry. This is the only way that we will overcome the gross exploitation of the labour monopoly which presently exists on our coastal shipping trade. Without that, there can be no efficiency, no equity and no fairness.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator MacGibbon) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.