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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1067

Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - The opening statement by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) was an indication of the misstatements and distortions of fact he made right throughout his speech. He talked about the gallery, which at that time was almost full, being empty while an address was being made to this House by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). 1 am sure that honourable members will have noticed how the gallery emptied while the honourable member for Griffith spoke. I would like to make him an offer. If he can get enough copies of that speech made I will take them down to the Evans Deakin shipyard and distribute them to all the employees there. I realise the honourable member does not know where the Evans Deakin shipyard is although it is in his electorate.

The honourable member's accusation that the Government is not interested in the welfare of the workers at Evans Deakin shipyard is typical of the accusations he made during the last Parliament but, of course, then he was criticising his own Government. The headline in the 'Courier Mail' on 2nd May 1972 stated 'Support for shipbuilders lacking*. The article went on to say that the honourable member for Griffith had said the previous night that Government policy on the shipbuilding industry was not being applied. The article quoted the honourable member as saying that his inquiries indicated that the policy of the Government, which should have been directed towards developing the industry - he referred to the use of imported ships on the Australian coast - was not being strictly applied and that extensions of permission to use imported vessels were frequently granted. He knew then where the blame for the state of the shipbuilding industry in Australia truly lay. As the honourable member for Adelaide said earlier, it is truly remarkable that the Opposition had the colossal effrontery to propose such a subject for discussion in this House this afternoon. I certainly agree that this is a matter of public importance and with one small alteration to the wording of the subject proposed for discussion I could wholeheartedly agree with it. It is not the failure of this Government but the failure of past Liberal-Country Party governments oyer a long period of time to prevent the closure of major Australian shipyards which is the issue.

The last Government failed throughout the disastrous 23 years it was in office to show any sense of appreciation of the vital need to develop the Australian shipbuilding industry. Not once during the long period the coalition governments were in office was the industry shown the slightest indication that it was anything more than an industry to be tolerated. Not once did the previous Government show the industry any degree of understanding of the need of shipyards to receive the style of leadership that the present Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is showing. The honourable member for Griffith quoted from a statement issued by Mr Knevitt of Evans Deakin Industries Ltd yesterday which said that his company was anxious for certain undertakings to be given by this Government so that consideration may be given te the reversal of the company's decision to close its yard. The statement suggested that the Federal Government legislate to provide a viable shipbuilding industry in Australia and stated that all unions engaged in shipbuilding, once assured of continuity of employment, would enter into an industrial agreement.

These are the very things which the previous Government could have done but failed to do. They are the things which for many years members on this side of the Parliament, while in Opposition, urged the Government to put into effect. The headlines that we have seen in recent days referring to the pending closure of the Evans Deakin shipyard are not new headlines. They are headlines which have been repeated on many occasions over the last few years. I have with me several of these headlines. On 6th May 1972 there was the headline: 'If shipyard is shut "it will not reopen" '. This, according to the newspaper, was said by the company's chairman of directors, Mr Hoare. On 1st June the 'Brisbane Telegraph' said: 'Government plans may close shipyards'. Again in the 'Courier Mail' on 10th May was the headline: 'What's killing shipbuilding in Australia'. That report went on to say:

Evans Deakin's Brisbane shipyard will have to close for good unless an early order is received, the company Chairman (Mr J. H. Hoare) said on Friday.

On and on went the condemnation of the previous Government for the situation that has developed in the shipbuilding industry today. Another statement was made in August by the chairman of the Australian Shipbuilders Association, Dr Hughes. He said that shipbuilders throughout Australia were concerned at the Government's nonchalance. The 'Financial Review' on 21st September said:

For the third time since the Government introduced its shipbuilding policy on May 31 - in a distinct departure from the terms of the Tariff Board's report on shipbuilding - the industry has again told the Government that it is completely dissatisfied with that policy.

Of course, that referred not to the policy of this Government but to the policy of the previous Government, a policy which for many years had failed to show an appreciation of the needs of the Australian shipbuilding industry. I had occasion to work in the Evans Deakin shipyard some 20 years ago and the situation today is the same as it was then. Continuity of work was never available and, consequently, the men in the yard never knew from one week to the next where their future existence lay. Rather than being critical of the present Government, Evans Deakin has been high in its praise of the action which this Government has taken since coming to power on 2nd December. In the same statement from which I quoted previously, Mr Knevitt said:

In the interests of Australian and Queensland industry, the company has tried to keep shipbuilding going - with a result over a lengthy period of a considerable cost to shareholders. Continuation of shipbuilding at a level similar to that experienced over the past, few years would inevitably lead to the collapse of the entire company.

The Federal Government through the Minister for Transport, has quickly recognised the predicament of the shipbuilding industry. The Minister has been active in promoting ideas which in the very long term would lead to a viable industry.

Mr Knevittwent on to say, and this was referred to by a Government speaker earlier, that problems amongst the unions and stoppages have caused many of the problems resulting in the decision to close the Evans Deakin shipyard in August this year. Mr Knevitt very understandably said:

Generally employees in an industry faced with closure tend to- 'string out' the final stages of a contract. This has- been a recurring problem within our shipyard previously and has been accentuated in the last 6 months.

In the last. 6 months, not in the last 6 weeks. The actions of the previous Government created in all sections of the shipbuilding industry the uncertainty that exists today. Its failure to place orders and the uncertainty amongst management and workers at the various shipyards have naturally resulted in the companies not being prepared to outlay capital for the development of their yards. The previous Government Was grasping at straws because it could not develop positive policies. During its long term in office not once did it come forward with a semblance of a decent policy to secure economic development in the industry and to guarantee the future of this vital Australian industry.

Today the Government is to be congratulated on the progress it has made towards the implementation of the policies it has determined in the short time that it has been in office. The Labor Government has already taken positive steps to inject new life into the shipbuilding industry and, given the opportunity, I am sure that the future of the shipbuilding industry in Brisbane will be guaranteed under this Government, if not at Kangaroo Point then certainly by the redevelopment of the shipyards - perhaps through a combination of Federal and State Government

Interests, together with Evans Deakin if it is interested in assisting - at the new site of Fisherman's Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River which Evans Deakin has intended to develop.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!The discussion is now concluded.

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