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Thursday, 15 March 1973
Page: 665

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has made an entirely political speech in response to a reasonable and calmly put view by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) who is concerned for a number of northern ports, lt is interesting to note that the Labor members who represent some of those ports have not shown any concern or interest at all. The speech of the Minister for Labour was full of falsehood. Lel me indicate just one Falsehood. He said that trade through the port of Portland had been dying and that the port is dying as a result of the Victorian Government's action and my action. This is utterly false. Let the figures speak for themselves. In 1967-68 the total tonnage through the port was 330,000 tons; in the next year, 473,000 tons: in (he next year, 609,000 tons; in the next year 842,000 tons and in the following year 922.000 tons. This is the record of expansion of the port. The Minister not only insults the honourable member for Petrie and other members of this House, he also insults the Portland Harbour Trust Commissioners who have done a magnificent job as have the harbours trust commissioners for the small ports around Australia in expanding and attempting, very often successfully, to decentralise trade.

The Minister for Labour said that the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour has acted in a way that is contrary to the philosophy of the Stevedoring Industry Charges Act - they are bis own words - under which the levies on account of long service leave, attendance money and so on are collected. These again are his own words. He said: 'Contrary to the philosophy of the Act'. The Minister for Labour has made it perfectly plain in this Parliament on more than one occasion- this is the third - that he is not prepared to apply the philosophy of that Act. One might well wonder why. Only one thing would be necessary to achieve a resolution of this particular problem and that would be a request by the Minister for Labour of the Commonwealth Government, backed by the support of his city-based Party, to members of the AEWL to come to a conference in Canberra - to tell the AEWL that what it has done is contrary to the policies of the Government, contrary to the transport interests of Australia .and contrary to the avowed objectives, which this Government will not support but nevertheless avowed objectives, to pursue decentralisation throughout Australia. That is all that this great Minister for Labour would have to do to achieve a successful conclusion of this particular matter. Amend the Act! The Minister has said that what has been done is contrary to the philosophy of the Act. This appears in Hansard of 6th March of this year.

Other factors are associated with this particular case. A meeting was held in Portland a short while ago. As a result the Portland Harbour Trust is contacting other port authorities around the Australian coast. The ports affected are all showing very grave concern. The second resolution passed at this meeting was that there be a direct request of the Minister for Labour to act immediately for a reversal of the AEWL decision and adoption again of a uniform levy. This, the Minister for Labour will not do. He does not need to collect any facts about this particular matter. The facts are known. He does not have to send Normie Foster, a defeated candidate from this Parliament, to Portland. The rules that the AEWL has made - let me give one example - will completely destroy the bagged wheat trade through Portland. Under the new arrangements which the AEWL have endorsed and which the Minister apparently condones there will be an additional levy of over $7,000 for 5,000 tons of cargo through Portland and a levy of under $200 for the same cargo through Geelong. Under those circumstances a complete centralisation of trade is inevitable. The third resolution passed at Portland was that if the Minister was unable to achieve a reversal of the AEWL decision he should convene a meeting of all interested parties - the port authorities, the AEWL, the Commonwealth and State Governments and Mr Roberts Dunstan, the Victorian Minister for Works. They would all be present to argue the matter out.

One of the interesting matters is that these 3 resolutions for action were agreed unanimously between the Portland Harbour Trust, Portland Development Committee, Portland Town Council, the Hon. Roberts Dunstan, Victorian Minister for Works, Clive Mitchell, Country Party member for the Western Province, myself, and also Mr W. J. Lewis, the Labor Party member for Portland and Mr E. J. Lewis, the Labor Party member for

Dundas. There was unanimous recognition at the meeting that it was a matter for resolution between the Commonwealth Minister for Labour and the AEWL. Two Labor members in the Victorian Parliament agreed that the responsibility lay on the shoulders of the Federal Minister for Labour.

All that the Minister for Labour can do is say that it is the result of something that occurred in 1969. If that is so, it is strange that this changed method of levying was not introduced before 1973. It was introduced only when this particular Minister for Labour assumed office in a Labor Government. He has admitted that it is contrary to the philosophy of the Stevedoring Industry Charges Act. That alone gives the lie to his charge that the change is the result of something that we might have done in 1969. The responsibility is his.

The request has been put to him through me from the Portland Harbour Trust and all those who were represented at the meeting to which I referred that he immediately contact the AEWL and express the Government's view that it wishes to support the decentralisation of sea transport and a return to the old position. When this matter was raised in a debate on the motion to adjourn the House on 6th March the Minister said that he would be writing again to the authorities concerned. He made great play of tabling letters that were not really relevant to this situation. If he had written again to Mr Craig of the AEWL I believe that he would have tabled that particular letter. Unless the Minister is prepared to rise and affirm that he has again written to Mr Craig expressing a view on this matter, I am not prepared to believe that he has so written.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You did not listen to what I said.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I listened to your abuse of honourable members on this side of the House. I listened to your abuse of members who have a genuine point to put. It is interesting to note that in this Parliament the Minister for Labour has played the game lower than any other member of Parliament in the period of almost 19 years that I have been here. He would not argue. He will not answer reasonable and rational arguments put by the honourable member for Petrie who is concerned about the effect of these changes on the decentralised ports of

Queensland which depend for their trade and livelihood upon their continued operation as ports. Instead he chose to attack the integrity, attitudes and motives of the honourable member for Petrie. In those circumstances the Minister for Labour can expect no particular sympathy from this side of the House. This sort of attitude he has exhibited in answering in this debate is the kind of attitude he has displayed over a long period in this Parliament. One hoped that having at last achieved Ministerial office he would behave more like a Minister and less like the kind of person he has shown himself to be through many years in the House.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - 1 am starting to see the secret documents now.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Secret documents? He has his own pimp service, as the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) revealed earlier today. He is using this for personal motives in a way that, is utterly unscrupulous and utterly foreign to the traditions of the Australian Parliament or any British Parliament. The Minister said many things that are completely untrue. I could describe them only in terms that would, earn me your disapproval, Mr Speaker, and would probably have me thrown out of the Parliament. I will leave that to a later occasion.

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