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Tuesday, 16 February 1971

Senator BISHOP asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:

Does the recent statement by the Minister for Trade and Industry advising that the Australia to Europe Shippers'. Association has abandoned negotiations in respect of the 10 per cent increase in freight charges and that it remained for the various shipper groups representing the meat, dairying and canned fruit industries, to decide on the 10 per cent increase, mean that the Government does not intend to consider amendment to the Trade Practices Act or use its interests with the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to resist such increases?

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Government does not Interfere in. or arbitrate on, what are essentially commercial negotiations between the parties directly concerned with the commercial contracts involved - the shippers and shipowners.

The Trade Practices Act is designed to provide a framework within which these negotiations can take place between the Conference and the appropriately constituted Shipper Body- in this case the Australia to Europe Shippers Association or AES. and also to provide safeguards to ensure that the Conference provide an adequate, economic and efficient service.

In this trade, protracted negotiations took place. As a result, from a much higher overall starting point, the Conference, eventually came down to increases of 4 per cent for the predominant cargo, wool, and 10 per cent for other cargoes (excluding fresh fruit and closeweight cargoes which are covered by individual contracts). The recent increase in basic freight rates to U.K./Europe was the first since 1966. In that period there has been a weighted average increase of freights over all cargoes in the trade of only about 4} per cent. In the same period costs of all kinds outside the control of the Australian Government or of the shipping companies have risen markedly.

It has not been suggested to me by AESA that the negotiations were not conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. Nor has it been suggested to me from any source that the Conference service in question is not adequate, efficient or economic as required by the Act.

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