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Wednesday, 26 April 1972
Page: 2030


Mr Irwin - 1 rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Sturt is not speaking to the Bill at all but is reading from a report of the Australian National Line which has nothing to do with navigation.

Mr FOSTER - If the honourable member were to look at this report he would be interested to see the number of seamen employed by the Australian National Line as compared wilh officers and whathaveyou. I draw the attention of the House to this fact although the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) waffled on and did not deal with the Bill other than to quote several passages from the second reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. So much for the honourable member's competency after he retired from the bank and came to this place! I refer now to the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which was presented in 19S9, when the honourable member's Party was still in office. That Committee devoted pages 57 to 65 inclusive of its report to the powers of the Commonwealth in respect of the Navigation Act. For the honourable member's benefit I point out that the Navigation Act is one of the largest Acts in the Commonwealth, but it says little. I think that the honourable member would know even less about it than that. The fact is that nothing has been done about it. This matter has been outstanding for many years. It is an indictment of the Govern ment and of the Minister for Shipping and Transport that this is the first time this matter has been placed before the House. I do not disagree with the Minister on that point. I agree also with the honourable member for Mitchell who earlier spoke about this situation. It is an indictment of the honourable member, as a member of the Government parties, that this is the first occasion on which this legislation has come before the House.

The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) dealt with the whole long line of broken promises of Ministers as far as 1967. He referred to the Minister's promises of meetings with State AttorneysGeneral. It is hardly necessary in the light of a changing world - hardly necessary in the light of a changing concept in relation to shipping. I will not go into what the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Barnes) said about Australian flag ships. If he wants to do what Lord Bruce did and give away Australian shipping to Lord Inchcape or his descendants, well and good; he might do that.

Let me quote one or two matters regarding the shortcomings of the Government on this. I refer to section 460 which appears on page 64 of the report from the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, 1959. The section states:

Ratification problems arise in connection with other maritime Conventions. For example, Australia was represented at the Conference which drafted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil which was held in 1954. That Convention has now come into operation, but Australia has not ratified it. Briefly, the Convention imposes obligations on contracting governments relating to ships registered in the territory of the contracting State. It seeks to prevent pollution of the sea by oil by prohibiting discharge of oil in certain prohibited zones including, apart from a few exceptions, 'all sea areas within SO miles from land'.

What has this Government done about this matter, to bring about the necessary constitutional review and changes to protect the coastline of this country from oil pollution? Bear in mind that this is 15 years old. Also, the tonnages per unit that are operating adjacent to the Australian coast today in the carriage of oil are not to be compared with those in 1957 to 1969.

There is a recommendation in the report in regard to what the Commonwealth ought to do. The recommendation sets out what parts of the Constitution ought to be altered to meet the requirements of an ever increasing and ever changing world of transportation. The honourable member for Mcpherson - if I may chip in quickly - had something to say about road transport being costly and local lines suffering losses on the coast in Australia. Has he ever thought to take time off to have a look at the management of some of these lines and to see the road transport tie-up they have? In fact, if he looked at the Australian National Line area be would see something significant in regard to someone who recently retired from a very high position. He knows I am right because this is why he is continually interjecting. There is, of course, a tie-up here of interests. So there we have it.

In addition to that, there is the farcical situation where an Australian National Line vessel lost a cool Sim last year.

Mr Irwin - Why?

Mr FOSTER - Thank you for the interjection. I must answer it, Mr Deputy Speaker, although what I have to say might be a little wide of the Bill. The honourable member asked: 'Why?'. I shall tell him. The ANL vessel was in the Japanese conference trading between Australia, Japan and Australia and was entitled to carry IS per cent of the traffic. Is that right? Get that into your head. Because the vessel exceeded that percentage and carried 19 per cent the ANL had to pay back to the conference $lm or a little more than that. That is where the $lm went - it went back to the Japanese conference. If honourable members do not believe me I suggest that they read the report which is under the signature of the manager of the ANL.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - Order! I ask the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) to cease interjecting. Also, I point out that the remarks of the honourable member for Sturt are a little wide of the Bill on odd occasions and he is being assisted in going a lot wider by some of the interjections coming from my right.

Mr FOSTER - Thank you for your tolerance, Mr Deputy Speaker. What then is required of a responsible government in regard to the Navigation Act? There ought to be a complete and absolute review of the Act. Let us get away from the old story that a meeting of Attorneys-General - they have been going on for many, many years - is needed to achieve this. I would say with a great deal of confidence that there are 3 very responsible State governments in Australia that would not haggle on this question. I refer to the State governments of Western Australia, South Australia, and now, of course, Tasmania. They would readily agree to any proper, sensible, responsible-

Mr Grassby - It is Victoria's island.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Riverina that the honourable member for Sturt needs no assistance.

Mr FOSTER - We would have no difficulty there. For too long we have had tragedies on the Australian coast in regard to anchored oil rigs and what-have-you that have resulted in the loss of life. Such incidents have been nothing, as it were, but constitutional headaches. They have been headaches for the next of kin in respect of claims for workers compensation. The payment of wages has still to be resolved. In fact, many workers have still not received adequate and proper compensation for injuries received in accidents that occurred S years ago. Is this good enough?

The Government says that it is introducing legislation to tidy up this Act. It is introducing legislation in 1972 to cover up mistakes made or shortcomings of what an Act spelt out in the 1880s. Supporters of the Government ought to be tugging their forelocks and straightening their smocks in regard to the manner in which they have brought this matter before the House.

I have not gone into an area in which a great deal of vexation and inadequacy arises - that portion of the Navigation Act which deals with loading and unloading regulations. This portion is very considerable and is in need of overhaul. In fact, any responsible navigation officer operating in any one of the ports - and I direct my remarks to the Minister - would not disagree with what I have to say. The Minister has a smile on his face. He evidently does not recall the occasion on which I suggested that he take action regarding a vessel called the 'Marlil' which was at the time in Adelaide.

Mr Nixon - I took the action.

Mr FOSTER - Let me finish. I commend the Minister for the action that he took on that occasion.

Dr Jenkins - That surprised him.

Mr FOSTER - The Minister deserves commendation because I think - having raised this matter myself, if I might say so - the lives of seamen were in fact saved on that occasion. The Minister knows that. He knows full well about the rotten, lousy state of that ship and the intolerable conditions under which seamen were forced to work. He knows of the intolerable financial burden with which they were faced because they were not being paid. He knows about the refusal of the master and everyone else to grant them the right even to go to a doctor or a dentist. He knows about the type of conditions they had to put up with. The condition of the vessel generally was absolutely shocking, to say the least, and this is not an isolated incident. Surely we as a trading nation ought to expect that we should have an Act that is strong enough to protect people who come to the shores of this country in the pursuit of trade.

I would say, so far as flags of convenience are concerned, that the statement of the honourable member for McPherson, who preceded me, was a shocking one. 1 hope that the Minister, in his reply, dissociates himself from the remarks of the honourable gentleman. What the honourable gentleman had to say went wide of the Navigation Act. It has already been mentioned, of course, that it has something to do with civil aviation.

What regard is being paid to it by this Government? There has been none, or virtually none, at all. What regard has the honourable gentleman had to the Bill other than the matter that he referred to tonight - he brought it here because he was pressured to do so on one particular aspect. What does the Government propose to do about the ever increasing types of cargo handling equipment that become available from time to time and protect people from injuries resulting from the use of this equipment? This has not been mentioned. The Government has not done any thing about it. Have a look at the safety record of this industry. I think that the Minister will find that it is one of the worst in the whole industrial scene, lt is necessary when tidying up the Navigation Act to do the things I suggest ought to be done in the interest of life and safety and also for the protection of the cargo itself.

Transgressing somewhat for the benefit of the honourable member for Mcpherson - seeing that he mentioned the point I think that I may be permitted to reply to it - the honourable member suggests that the cost of freights to the farming community has been brought about by seamen. Let the honourable member go to Tasmania and see whether the waterside workers exceeded the rate. Yet the honourable member's Government has denied the apple growers of Tasmania a bounty. Has he forgotten that? 1 raised this matter last year with the Minister and his Government did not have the courage of its convictions to help them out. It did nothing, and the grower had to export his apples at a loss because of freight rates. The shippers started as pirates on the high seas 200 years ago and they still come as pirates to this country under the protection of men like the honourable member for McPherson. The honourable member knows it. He talked about tonnages in Darwin. He knows full well that there has been an alteration in the WhOle concept of shipping into the Port of Darwin. He knows full well that the Australian National Line and the whole container system has brought more internal arguments and more line demarcation disputes overseas at Tilbury and for the Port of London Authority than anywhere in Australia. He knows that full well and it is quite false for him to do otherwise.

In addition, he should look at the troubles and problems of containerisation in Australia by comparing aerial photos of Rotterdam, which has a proper concept of containerisation. He should have a look at the conglomeration in Sydney and Melbourne - built at tremendous cost to everyone in the community. He cannot lay the blame for that in any one particular sector. I do not say they are blameless but the blame cannot be laid on the worker.

The honourable member said that because of high wages their opportunities are limited. Does he suggest that ANA and TAA are going out of the airways business because pilots receive a decent wage? In effect, that is what he says. However, I do not intend to follow up the argument put by the Tories opposite. They have been here for so long that you can almost hear their arteries hardening. They are devoid of any thought of progress. They have not produced a legislative programme in this House. In 1969 when the GovernorGeneral opened this Parliament, he took just a minute and a half to introduce the Government's programme and to deliver us into the hands of God.

In conclusion I would say to the Minister that he is responsible for the passage of this legislation and he should not forget that. I support the amendment without opposing the Bill but I suggest that the Minister should, as an act of responsibility, ensure that the Navigation Act is looked at in a proper way. I ask him to take into consideration the report of the Constitutional Review Committee of 1959 and to have a new committee further look at the subject in the light of changes that have taken place since that date. This will not be an easy task and it will not be completed within a matter of weeks. However, if some effort is put into it and there is consultation at all levels it may be found that the task is not as large as it appeared to the Constitutional Review Committee in 1959. I suggest that the Minister should acquaint himself with the industry so that in turn he may advise the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who wants to dot the i's and cross the fs, what the position really is.

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