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Tuesday, 6 March 1973
Page: 268

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - I want to raise a matter and I hope that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) will be able to make some comments in reply. Earlier today I mentioned to him that I would be raising this matter. It concerns virtually all the non-permanent ports around the Australian coastline. This has been brought to my attention specifically because of a very serious situation which the port of Portland is likely to be in as a result of a decision of the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour. Perhaps I need to explain that up to the present time there has been a levy of 40c a man in all the Australian ports which come into this category. This has enabled the various employing authorities at the ports to make the appropriate minimum payments to waterside labour at those ports. A 40c levy per man hour based on all Australian ports has enabled the employers of waterside labour to meet the minimum at all ports. But recently the association formulated a different policy. It has now made a decision that ports should be responsible, for their own funds in this matter. There will be no averaging throughout Australia. Ports such as Portland, Albany or any of the other ports around the coastline will be responsible for making up for themselves the minimum wages of waterside labour. Clearly that will mean that in the outports, the decentralised ports, there will be very heavy increased charges if this decision is allowed to stand. I hope that it will not be. allowed to stand.

I have asked the Minister to look at the matter to see what he can do about it. I mentioned that the average charge was 40c under the averaging provisions around the Australian ports. This policy is to be abandoned. The effect of the new policy, for example, will be to reduce the charge at Geelong to 2c and to increase it at Portland to 11 Sc. I understand that these are hourly levies which will be necessary to meet the minimum award wages for waterside labour. If we look at some of the other ports concerned we find that Gladstone, Geelong, Port Augusta, Wyndham and Darwin are all likely to face relatively modest increases. The first three - Gladstone, Geelong and Port Augusta - face a payment of nil, 10c and 15c respectively to make up the minimum average. But when we come down the list we find that Launceston faces a payment of $3.90, Rockhampton $4, Coffs Harbour $4.46, Albany $4.52, Hobart $5.48, Mackay more than $7 and Cairns, Bunbury and Portland all more than $7 or approaching $8 as the weekly payment which is needed to make up the difference. These are the figures which were used as a levy m 1970-71. There is a difference in other years as a result of the workload through the ports.

But the changed situation that will arise as the results of the AEWL decision will mean that Portland, Albany and the decentralised ports will be entirely responsible for their own charges. They will have to increase their levies and charges greatly as the result of the abandonment of averaging around the Australian coastline. This was clearly a system by which the major ports, the more significant ports, would subsidise the payments for the outports - the decentralised ports. I believe that in the circumstances of waterfront labour where there are national arrangements in a national context this is entirely appropriate but unless the decision of the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour can be changed there will be very serious difficulty in the ports that I have mentioned. There will probably be a diversion of trade back towards the centralised major ports. This is not desirable in Australia's interests and it is not desirable in the interests of the ports. I believe that the Minister for Labour will recognise this and may be able to do something about it.

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