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Thursday, 31 October 1996
Page: 4914

Senator MURRAY(3.51 p.m.) —We certainly will revisit the issue at much greater length under the secondary boycott schedule, but I think it is relevant to these amendments, particularly since they concern the International Labour Organisation standards, which we have put back into the bill. I will briefly respond to some of the issues which have been raised today.

I do want to make the point that secondary boycotts are illegal under the current law, and that situation has not changed. The Democrats' view was that it was a political impossibility to ask a coalition government to change law which had been established by the coalition and the Labor government. Whether this workplace relations bill is passed or not, secondary boycotts by maritime workers, even on environmental grounds, are illegal.

Proper concerns have been raised about the ships of shame: ships flying under flags of convenience of countries which do not comply with international maritime working standards entering Australian ports. This issue has been properly raised. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has wide powers to force ships flying under flags of convenience to comply with international maritime safety standards, including the power to detain ships and prevent them loading or unloading until environmental and safety standards are complied with.

Last year the authority inspected 2,712 foreign ships, with 247 ships having been destined for repairs. Also, it has recently received considerably increased funding—which is one of the areas in which the government has increased funding—to enable its inspection services to complete implementation of the recommendations resulting from the House of Representatives Ships of shame inquiry.

The Democrats will oppose any attempt to reduce safety standards and conditions on ships in Australian waters. We understand that these issues are in legislation which is separate from the workplace relations bill. It is shipping reform legislation that will be dealt with in due course, and we will support appropriate amendments to it when it comes before the Senate in order to maintain proper standards in Australian shipping.

The Maritime Union, as has been outlined correctly by Senator Sherry, have played a very strong role in attempting to get international standards on ships improved and also in trying to make that work, particularly in Australian waters. We have had an approach from them today—as have all sides of the house, I would hope—in which they have raised concerns about human rights abuses and their ability to deal with those.

We have answered them on matters relating to industrial action, and it is my opinion that those matters have been dealt with appropriately in the bill. But with the human rights abuses, we have asked for a briefing from Minister Sharp. Once we have that advice, we will consider how we should respond on this matter. I advise the Senate that, once we have had that advice, we will come back at an appropriate time.