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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4075

Mr NICHOLLS (BONYTHON, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for External Territories. Following his recent visit to Christmas Island, is the Minister concerned about the wages and working conditions of Asian workers employed by the British Phosphate Commission? Does he see a conflict between the Commission's charter to extract phosphate at the lowest possible cost and the provision of wage justice to workers in an Australian territory?

Mr MORRISON (ST GEORGE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Science) - It is true that the British Phosphate Commission operates on the basis that phosphate should be extracted at the lowest possible cost. On my visit to Christmas Island recently I was concerned to find that Christmas Island was being run very much as a company town. The workers are principally from Malaysia and Singapore and, although, as an inducement, the wages are better than those paid in Malaysia and Singapore, they are well below Australian awards. Following my visit to Christmas Island I asked for a review not only of wages and conditions but also of environmental matters related to mining and the protection of wildlife. I have also had a government statistician review the cost of living index for Christmas Island on the basis on which the wages are determined. Anomalies have been found in the cost of living index used by the Phosphate Commission. These will be rectified and I hope arrangements will be made before Christmas for an increase in wages paid on Christmas

Island in accordance with the cost of living adjustments.

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