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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3233

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce) —Mr Deputy President, on the question of shipping and waterfront industry reform, I seek leave to make a personal explanation as I claim to have been misrepresented in some respects in an article in today's Age.

Leave granted.

Senator BUTTON —The report referred to me and Mr Kerin as having raised a number of questions in the Cabinet structural adjustment committee about proposed changes for coastal shipping and the waterfront. The Cabinet committee had a lengthy discussion on this matter and a number of Ministers raised questions and points of view on the complex issues involved. I was certainly one of them. However, a statement will be made by the Minister for Transport and Communications, Mr Willis, tonight. He is responsible for these issues. I regard the contents of the statement as amounting to a very significant reform in relation to coastal shipping and the waterfront which will improve the competitiveness of the transport system in Australia and I support the approach adopted by the Minister. I regard it as an important micro-economic reform statement, consistent with other micro-economic reforms made by this Government.

In making this personal explanation I do not dispute what the journalist in question alleged were the facts-that I had raised questions and made comments about aspects of the proposed package in the context of Cabinet discussion or structural adjustment committee discussion. The implications of the article, read as a whole, were that I would not be able to make the statement I just made, namely, that I regard the contents of the statement as amounting to significant reform.