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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1497

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in his usual way put his case for the Opposition in general disagreement with the measure that is before the House. Each time I hear him speak he seems to remind me that 1 have heard the speech so many times before because of the mechanical intonations and the same arguments coming forward. In fact, to paraphrase one far more literary than I, it could even be said that one of his speeches is as tedious as the speeches of 3 other people, and indeed his volume of material is 3 times that required by any other speaker to put the same case. He quoted costs increases which occurred during his term of office as a Minister, and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) took him to task about this. It seemed to rile the honourable gentleman to some extent. During the course of his argument he made reference to the positive action by the Victorian Government so far as the port of Portland is concerned. I am sure that my friend, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), who will be speaking at a later stage in this debate, will explain to the honourable member more clearly and very lucidly how in fact the Liberal Government of ViC.toria has been very derelict in this respect by not providing the ancillary service necessary to transport goods to the port of Portland or to provide the mechanical aids that are necessary to load through that port. So I believe it is unfair and in fact quite wrong to say hat there has been positive action by the Government of Victoria to improve the port if Portland. In fact, by its very neglect every.thing has been done to ensure that the port remains a backwater instead of utilising the very fine harbour that it is for the transport of goods out of that part of Victoria and South Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition poke of the cost of idle time, and at a later stage during my speech I would like to elaborate on the cost of idle time, too. He said 3 at this was a high cost in the movement of goods across the waterfront. The very point that he overlooked is that one of the purposes of the increase in the levy is to ensure that he fund to which it contributes is brought to such a stage that it is able to finance a voluntary retirement scheme for those watersiders who are now redundant and who wish to retire from the waterfront but are not yet eligible for a pension - in other words, voluntarily retired. The honourable gentleman argued against himself when he took that line, as I will point out later.

This Bill, entitled the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1973, proposes to adjust charges levied under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act 1947-1971. Honourable members should know that in 1967 a change in the status of waterfront workers occurred and these employees ceased to be casual labour and became permanent employees. As such they became entitled to the industrial benefits enjoyed by their brothers and sisters in other industries. Long service leave, sick leave, annual leave, superannuation and other benefits applicable to workers with a constant employer became the right of waterside labour. To overcome the problems created by a succession of employers - masters of ships in port, for instance - a common fund was established to which employers for the time being contributed. That fund has the support of legislation known as the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act. The formula used to determine the payments to that fund is such that the fund remains buoyant enough to meet its liabilities. The formula provides for a charge on employers for each man hour worked. Waterside workers are divided into 3 categories, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition told us. Class A are registered at permanent or continuous ports and work regularly on a weekly basis. Class B waterside workers are employed at continuous nonpermanent ports and class C at non-permanent ports. Class C includes irregular workers.

For some time there have been difficulties associated with this fund, and these difficulties were brought to the attention of the previous Government by the parties most crucially involved, the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour and the Waterside Workers Federation. The situation then was that there was general agreement between these parties even before 1971, which was the last time that the fund was dealt with by this House, that the charges levied were insufficient to maintain the buoyancy of the fund. In his speech in this House on 29 April 1971, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, then Minister for Labour and National Service, explained in great detail the workings of the fund. In his further speech that day he went on to castigate severely waterside workers for a number of reasons. He used the words, as he used them again today, considerable increases in wages and conditions which have been awarded to waterside workers'. I would like to point out that he uses these words as a criticism of the employees, although the wages and conditions were granted to the employees by Mr Justice Moore, a gentleman who I am sure has the respect not only of this House but also of those engaged in industrial activities. Certainly he has the respect of the community. Even in that speech then the honourable gentleman made a threat. He threatened that the Government would be giving close attention to the performance of the Waterside Workers Federation. Of course the House received, I am sure quite unexpectedly, a dissertation on industrial stoppages. We have had this again today. On that occasion he had a half-hearted side-swipe at employers and he had the good grace to acknowledge the impact of technology on the waterfront

However, torall the window dressing, the situation has not improved materially since then. As we were told at that time, the fund still cannot meet its liabilities because payments to it then and since were not high enough. Shipowners, employers of waterside labour and the Waterside Workers Federation all expressed the view that the levy should be higher than that proposed by the Government at the time. Records and recollections of these discussions reveal the same theme running through them all. Representatives of the Department and the Government are accused of adopting a fixed attitude which did little to facilitate agreement. Another serious theme that flows through those reports is the attitude of the then Government towards an inflammable situation.

Evidence exists that there was redundant labour at ports and that the Waterside Workers Federation and the employer groups were anxious to solve that problem. One solution suggested was voluntary retirement of workers. However, the fund was not affluent enough to pay the pension to which the retired worker was entitled. Had the previous Government seen the situation clearly, it could have solved it then by increasing the levy per man. But the Government's tactics were different. lt urged the shipowners' representatives and employers of waterside labour to seek compulsory retirement of surplus employees, knowing that this would cause industrial trouble on the waterfront, would build another brick into the Government's law and order campaign, would give another excuse to bash unions and also would lay the blame at the feet of those terrible 'commos' on the waterfront. To the credit of the integrity of the employers, they refused to swing the hatchet for the then Government. As far as 1 can ascertain, they told the Minister and his Government to do their own dirty work.

What a change there is now that we have an enlightened Minister in an enlightened Government that is concerned about the effect on workers of their own efficiency, which brings about an increase in productivity.

Mr Giles - Who wrote this?

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