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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1058

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the Minister should address the

Chair. I am bit worried about all of the things of which he is accusing the Chair.

Mr CHARLES JONES - The facts are that Evans Deakin has the order if it wants to go on with it. I have word from the Santa-Fe Drilling Company that it has advised Evans Deakin that the job is its, subject to contractual discussions. That is the situation. Yet Evans Deakin has decided that it does not want to go on with this contract. The honourable member for Gippsland said that the Government has done nothing to support this shipbuilding company. Following my approach and a discussion I had with Sir Peter Abeles, this gentleman approached Evans Deakin and, on the assurance given by the Labor Government that it will pay a subsidy on 2 12,500 ton roll-on roll-off ships, the Union Steam Ship Co. of New Zealand has agreed to place orders in Australia. These are 2 ships that Evans Deakin can tender for if it wants to do so. It is a decent job and will involve about $30m, and that is not chicken feed, even for places like Evans Deakin or BHP. Why does it not tender for these 2 jobs if it is fair dinkum?

Mr Nixon - They would build them in a week-end.

Mr CHARLES JONES - Do not show your Ignorance like that by making statements that these jobs could be completed in a week-end.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! Is the Minister suggesting that the Chair is showing ignorance?

Mr CHARLES JONES - No. The former Minister knows full well that this is a decent and exceptionally good order. This order will involve about $30m. To say that Australian companies could build these ships in a weekend just shows what the former Government was burdened with.

There is to be a replacement for the 'North Esk'. Why did not the former Minister do something about getting the Australian National Line to replace that ship? The ship has only a couple of years to go. An order would not have been placed for a replacement ship for another 2 years but at my request something was done to provide work for the Australian shipbuilding industry. The same thing applies to the Department of the former Minister, which now is under my control, as it relates to the building of a replacement navigational aid ship. Admittedly, this is a small job but it still would provide work for Adelaide Ship Construction. There also is on order the 'Tolga' replacement. I have had numerous approaches from various Australian companies that are desirous of building ships in Australia so that they may take part in the Government's policy that up to 40 per cent of our trade should be carried in Australian ships. On not one occasion did the former Government give any indication of what it was prepared to do on this issue.

Honourable members should examine the shocking record of the previous Government. After 23 years of Liberal Government, .58 per cent of our imports and 1 per cent of our exports are carried in Australian bottoms. The previous Government did not have a policy of any kind with respect to providing this type of work for Australian ships, Australian seamen and Australian shipyards. If the previous Government had had a decent policy, it would have ensured continuity of employment and of orders in the Australian shipbuilding industry. Instead, the previous Government destroyed the confidence of that industry by its backing and filling on the last Tariff Board report. In the first place, it said that ships would be freely imported into Australia. Then, after I had publicly roasted the previous Government through the Press on this issue, it went to water and about 3 months later amended this decision and said that it would not allow the free import of ships into Australia.

The fact that the previous Government imposed a time limit, and it was a very short one at that, 1978 - its policy would have become effective from only about 1973 - created indecision in the shipbuilding industry and caused BHP immediately to abandon its expansion program. The company was prepared to spend $10m to $12m - I do not want to be specific on this matter; I know the amount and so does the previous Minister - on modernising its shipbuilding yard so that it could build ships in excess of 100,000 tons. But the then Government's policy of despair influenced BHP to abandon the entire scheme. Since we have become the Government, I have had discussions with the top executives of BHP and have put to them where this Government stands and what it is setting out to do. In regard to the policy of the Australian Labor Party, we have written to the Australian Chamber of Shipping and the Australian Council of Trade Unions requesting that they make known their ideas on what they believe should be incorporated in an Australian shipbuilding policy.

Of course, the former Minister for Shipping and Transport puffs and blows on the other side of the table, but is it a crime to consult industry and the trade union movement to ascertain what they believe should be incorporated in a policy? That is what this Government proposes to do. As soon as we receive that information, the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) and myself will draft the policy which we believe will create and provide stability in the shipbuilding industry, instead of the indecision which has existed up till now. I instance the time it took the previous Government to bring down the Tariff Board report. If ever a government should be ashamed of the manner in which it handled an important industry, it is the people sitting on the opposite of the House today, who formed the previous Government, who should be forever damned. They made no attempt to rationalise the industry or to introduce standardisation of ship design.

This Government will move into the heavy ship industry for the carriage of goods on our coast. You are critical of my decision to permit the Australian National Line to import 2 ships in excess of 100,000 tons. They were not brought in-

Mr Giles - Mr Deputy Speaker,I raise a point of order. You are now being accused of doing things and you have been villified by the Minister throughout this debate. I think-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!There is no substance to the point of order.

Mr Giles - I do not think you should take lt from the Minister.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! It is not a point of order. The matter already has been dealt with.

Mr CHARLES JONES - The Government permitted the import of these ships, in fact directed - I emphasise the word 'directed* - the ANL to move into this industry. This ls something which you, as the former Minister and your predecessors, prevented ANL doing, namely, moving into the carriage of oil and the bulk carriage of iron ore. The ANL has moved into this area and the conditions under which these ships will be imported are clearly laid down. At my direction, they will replace these ships with ships of equivalent tonnage. The same thing applies to BHP.

Mr Giles - Mi Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Will you care for the forms of the House by asking the Minister for Transport to address his remarks to the right source? He is consistently abusing you in your position, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I have already drawn the attention of the Minister to the fact that he should address the Chair. At the point where the honourable member for Angas took his point of order, the Minister was addressing the Chair. He was not addressing any other person.

Mr Giles - Hansard will prove you wrong, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr CHARLES JONES - Mr Deputy Speaker, will you stop this fellow from wasting my time, because that is all that he is trying to do. What I am saying is hurting him and the members of his Party because of the damage they have done to the shipbuilding industry. As I was saying, I directed ANL to take these steps and I have also given BHP permission to import the ship the company is in the processing of importing. In fact I encouraged BHP to do so. I have already requested the ANL to take the appropriate action to move into the carriage of our imports of crude oil and other petroleum products. This is something which the previous Minister or his predecessors never did.

I gave a direction to ANL to move into the field of our trade with Japan and to indicate to the operators in the Japan trade that I wanted up to 40 per cent of our trade carried by Australian shipping, which as the former Minister knows, includes the Flinders Shipping Company. I have had numerous discussions with other shipping companies about Australian participation in our trade with other countries. That is more than can be said of the former Government and the former Ministers who are responsible for raising this issue as a matter of public importance.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The Minister's time has expired.

Mr NIXON(Gippsland)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Doesthe honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr NIXON - Yes. I do not mind political vilification but I do insist upon the facts, if only for posterity and for the information of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). The Minister said that not one order was available when the former Government left office. That is not true. The Australian National Line had a sea coaster to place. That is one order of which I can think immediately. That order was still to be placed when I left the Ministry on 2nd December.

Mr Charles Jones - It has since been allocated.

Mr NIXON - The Minister said that there were no orders to be placed when I left office on 2nd December. On that point of fact I would ask the Minister to apologise.

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