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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 3348

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):


Mr CHARLES JONES - I thank the Minister and honourable members. Another matter with which I wish to deal in the limited time left to me - one has to gallop when one has only a quarter of an hour in which to speak - is dredging. I commence my remarks on this subject with statements which were made in Newcastle and which appeared in the 'Newcastle Morning Herald' of 17th April 1972. The article stated:

The Chairman of Westminster Dredging Australia Pty Ltd (Mr C. A. Alexander) said the

Federal Government had forced his company and other companies to build dredges in Australia.

It had then let foreign companies, which could operate at lower costs, compete for dredgingcontracts. |

This is where I condemn the Government for its decision first of all to allow foreign dredges on to the coast. To give the picture I once again seek leave to incorporate in' Hansard a table setting out the number of dredges at present laid up.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):


Mr CHARLES JONES - I thank the House. At the present time, as this table discloses, there are 13 dredges tied up throughout Australia. Approximately 500 men, who would normally have been working full time on these dredges, have been laid off. Dredging contracts in Australia have been let to foreign owned dredging companies. This is being done while we have unemployed Australians and ships, some of which were built in Australia, that are tied up on the coast. I take one case in particular, namely that of Bunbury. Some 2 years ago an acrimonious debate took place in Western Australia where the trade union movement was trying to get work in Bunbury harbour carried out by Australian dredges manned by Australian crews. But the then Liberal Government of Western Australia insisted on acceptance of the lowest tender which went to a South Korean dredging company. A South

Korean ship manned by a South Korean crew was sent here to do the work. Today that company is well behind in its time schedule. It has run into problems that Australian dredging companies knew existed. The Australian companies knew about a hard rock shelf which would present great problems. The South Korean company did not have the equipment to do the job at the time the contract was let and it still is in the same position. The result is that work that should have been reaching completion has been held up. It is well behind schedule. These are some of the things that have developed because of the Government's allowing foreign dredging companies to come onto the Australian coast to do work which should be done by Australian dredges manned by Australian seamen.

Another matter I want to deal with relates to shipbuilding. Whilst the Government has made orders available, one of the tragedies of 'the Australian shipbuilding industry is that at present the yards do not have a clear plan of continuity of employment. Once a tender for a ship has been submitted and accepted it takes about 6 to 9 months to organise the work and materials and get everything flowing. Unfortunately this Government has a stop-go programme of shipbuilding. This statement was made only recently in regard to the activities of Evans Deakin Industries Ltd in Brisbane:

The immediate survival chances of Evans Deakin Industries Ltd shipbuilding activities at Brisbane appear to depend on one of 2 tenders it has submitted to the Australian Shipbuilding Board coming to fruitation within the next few weeks.

On a sober market assessment of this happening, the chances appear to be very, slim.

Here is a large industry - the second largest industry in Queensland - which is in a position where employment for approximately 3,000 men could be lost to that State. It is time the Government did something about shipbuilding. A Tariff Board inquiry commenced in 1969. The report of the Board was presented to the Minister on 12th June 1971. It has taken almost 12 months for the Government to make up its mind on the policy that has been recommended by the Tariff Board. If it had not been for the raising of the matter of public importance this afternoon I doubt very much whether the Government would even at this point of time table the Tariff Board report. In any case, we on this side of the House look forward with interest to what the report will contain. I would like to take the opportunity of commenting on it later. At least we are going to get the report tabled this afternoon- or I hope the Minister will deal with it in a few moments.

At present there are 38 foreign built ships operating interstate and 14 operating intrastate on the Australian coast. This makes a total of 52 ships. Also there are 3 oil drilling ships and one drilling platform, all of which were built overseas. The replacement of these ships by Australian built ships would make an excellent ship building programme for Australian yards. At least if such a policy were adopted the shipbuilding yards could plan their work and get on with the job of providing employment for Australian workers. I seek leave of the Minister to incorporate in Hansard another list of ships which shows all of the ships built overseas and operating on the coast.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows): '


I thank the Minister and honourable members. Whilst the shipyards throughout Australia at the moment have current orders and work is under way, there is not sufficient work in the programme that is already under tender to keep any one of the 3 major shipyards operating in Australia fully occupied for 12 months. The tenders that are still open - even throwing in the extra 3 ships for which tenders have been called - when added to those yet to be allocated would not provide employment for one of the 3 major yards in Australia. Any number of ships built overseas are operating on the Australian coast. Replacements for these ships should be built in Australian yards. This Government should take action to do something about the situation.

The other matter to which I wish to refer deals with docks. Once again the Government has taken too long to make a decision in this case. It has received the report from the Cabinet sub-committee which is tied up with the Tariff Board's report into shipbuilding. This report should have been tabled long ago. Very strong demands have been made on the Government by the Australian Chamber of Shipping. The Government was taken to task at a transport conference held in Canberra in March 1971 when speakers from various shipping interests strongly condemned the Australian Government's failure to do something about docks, and to provide adequate docks throughout Australia so that work could be carried out by Australian companies and not be given to overseas companies. I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard a question I asked about this matter.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted (The document read as follows):


Mr CHARLES JONES - I thank the House and the Minister. We on this side of the House are strongly in favour of ships operating on the Australian coast being repaired by Australian workmen in Australian shipyards and in Australian docks wherever possible. I wrote to the Minister only this week to draw to his attention the fact that a little old ship, the liquid gas carrier 'Arago', was to go to Hong Kong for a 4-year survey although this work could be carried out in Australia. This survey will entail a good deal of work. When I heard about this I got in touch with some of the shipyards that would be interested in this work. The State dockyard in Newcastle has a slip which is available, which will be made available and on which the work can be done immediately for the company which owns the ship. The position is that these overseas companies bring to Australia ships manned with overseas crews and, as soon as a quid can be made for the Australian workman and the Australian economy from the repair of these ships, the companies want to take them overseas to Hong Kong, Singapore or somewhere else. We on this side of the House are totally opposed to this policy of allowing foreign-built ships to operate on our coast when the ships which are needed could be built in Australian shipyards. The same remark applies to ship repair work.

In conclusion I summarise the attitude of the Labor Party on the 4 questions relating to shipping that have been raised in this discussion of a matter of public importance. We believe that a reasonable amount of Australian trade should be carded in Australian ships, built and manned by Australians. I accept that countries which buy commodities such as coal, ore and other minerals from Australia have the right to transport these materials in their own ships but, in turn, we are entitled to transport in Australian ships our imports of crude oil, phosphates and other goods of that type which require a one-voyage journey. We believe that all dredging in Australia should be carried out by Australian dredges manned with Australian crews so that, at least, the work can be done to Australian standards of employment. We believe that it is time that there was a long-term, planned, shipbuilding programme to replace all foreign-built ships operating on our coast with ships which have been built in Australia. I have already provided the House with details relating to this aspect We believe that sufficient docks should be built, not financed completely by the Commonwealth but at least with reasonable Commonwealth assistance, to provide on our coast facilities to carry out the repair of ships that are operating around our coast and any other ships that could need assistance. If this were done, all this work would be carried out by Australian workmen in Australian shipyards.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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