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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 1394

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) - I move:

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 10.55 a.m. on Thursday, 25 October 1973.

I do so for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:

The monopoly power of the Seamen's Union being used to boycott and destroy Tasmania 's seaborne trade.

I briefly bring to the attention of the Senate today a matter of the utmost urgency to the island State of Tasmania. That State is peculiarly dependent upon shipping and in that respect, of course, it is at a disadvantage if its shipping services are damaged, which differentiates it from the other States which can communicate by road, by rail and by air. It is acknowledged that the greatest monopoly power operating in commerce today is the monopoly power of labour organisations. When I draw attention to that fact I do not denigrate labour organisations. I have advanced in this place the view that in their proper field and when used for their proper purpose they are an essential and laudable unit of a modern State. But the monopoly power of the maritime unions in Australia is being used to impose conditions on Tasmanian trade that threaten to throttle that trade, and it is doing continuing damage to the economy of that trade.

I bring this matter forward today because yesterday we saw the settlement of a dispute which illustrates my proposition clearly. The time immediately after settlement is the appropriate time for Parliament to take cognisance of the significance of what is going on. Our discussion here today cannot be said in any way to prolong or exacerbate the actual dispute.

On Friday night there arrived in Hobart the Japanese ship 'Jinyo Maru' which, having delivered some of her cargo of Mazda cars to South Australia from Japan, committed the sin of loading cars of Chrysler manufacture from South Australia for the purpose of conveyance to New Zealand. After leaving Adelaide it was obliged pursuant to its commercial undertakings to proceed to Hobart to unload further Mazda cars in Hobart. Because the monopoly maritime unions sought to arrogate to themselves the monopoly in relation to New Zealand trade that they have long exercised with regard to the Australian coastal trade, they picketed the ship and prohibited her from unloading any of the Mazda cars in Hobart unless she returned to Adelaide, delivered the Chryslers back to the Adelaide port and proceeded on. The ship having resisted that situation, the Seamen's Union of Australia extended the boycott to 2 ships then in Hobart port, the 'Poolta' and the 'Seaway King'. Why? Because they were running under the control of Bulk Ships Ltd which happens to be the agent for the 'Jinyo Maru'.

That is a perfect illustration of the monopoly control that the maritime unions are exerting with regard to Australian shipping. That control being directed to Tasmanian shipping destroys the one vital lifeline that we have for the export and import of our commerce. It is not commonly understood that Tasmania as a State enjoys a greater volume and value of exports and imports than any other Australian State when both its interstate and foreign trade are combined. So I want to draw attention to this fact and impress upon the Parliament that Tasmania must be released from this monopolistic grip. Let me illustrate how it is operating in another field. Three months ago there was to the very great advantage of Tasmania a trade in livestock on the mainland markets where I think stock was attracting a price probably to the extent of $10 and sometimes $20 a head more than could be bought at Tasmanian sales. Livestock was being transported by ship in the roll on-roll off pattern. In the interests of slaughtermen in Tasmania who said 'It is our work to slaughter Tasmanian animals', the maritime unions combined with the slaughtermen's union and said that no more livestock would be transported by Bass Strait shipping for 3 months. One particular carrier arrived with 100 lambs that had been purchased for the mainland by a purchaser who intended not to slaughter them but to keep them and agist them. He was told: 'If you bring those lambs onto the wharf you will be black for 3 months'.

Senator Cavanagh - When did this happen.

Senator WRIGHT - Three months ago. The direction was given: ' Unless you cart those lambs into the abattoirs on Tuesday the black ban will apply'. 1 emphasise this because there has been an unavailing weak notion developing in Tasmania, prompted by the Chief Secretary, Mr Batt, that if as a member of the Labor Government he appealed to the union bosses to be good boys they would grant an immunity to Tasmania. We have seen in a whole succession of incidents over the last 12 months that that faith on the part of the Chief Secretary of Tasmania is entirely misplaced. In the interests of Tasmanian shipping we have to come to grips with a correct resolution of this problem of the monopoly menace of the maritime unions. It is quite obvious that the direct holding up of the 'Jinyo Maru ' for 72 hours imposes a high cost upon succeeding freights. The holding up of the 'Poolta ' and 'Seaway King' for 16 or 20 hours imposes a high cost upon our freight.

We have seen from the recent review of the Bureau of Transport Economics that the cost per ton of shipping commerce to Tasmania in some cases exceeds comparable land costs of transport on the mainland for an equivalent mileage by as much as $5 to $25 per ton. That is a crippling iniquitous disadvantage that Tasmania cannot sustain. In the course of my political duties in the last 3 weeks, with my colleagues I have been touring the factories of northern Tasmania. There is one heavy industry factory there which exports its product in brown paper wrapped parcels by air to avoid the unreliability of shipping. There is another industry, recently established, which brings in its heavyweight material equipment by air whenever it is under half a ton because it is completely impossible to get shipping services to deliver the goods to and from Tasmania.

I raise this matter today at an opportune time when the experience of this dislocation is immediately in our minds. I have shown before that I am capable of waiting for the opportune moment. I intend to follow this remonstrance and rebuke to the maritime unions today by positive action in the next few months and then we will see whether Senator Poke, who has been interjecting, can do anything more than poke by interjection. We will see whether he will join in constructive activity to ensure that Tasmania is equitably treated. These things are important because when the maritime unions gracefully released these ships from that boycott yesterday they issued the warning to shipowners that the work belonged to Australian seamen. They said: We will be vigilant and will ban any ship under a foreign flag carrying Australian cargoes interstate or to New Zealand. If it happens again the ship will be demobilised and made to discharge the cargo before it leaves'. Let us make the point that at the same time the New Zealand seamen's union is demanding that it too has a monopoly of this trade. If the country is to fall into the chasm of contest between a seamen's union across the Tasman in New Zealand and the monopoly claim of the Seamen's Union in Australia, for God's sake where does government belong? I ask the Senate to support the point of view I put forward that Tasmania, as an island State, is entitled to uninterrupted seaborne trade without this uneconomic and destructive interference.

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