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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 1395

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - This urgency motion relating to the hours of sitting tomorrow was moved for the sole purpose of capturing the broadcasting time of the Senate and apparently is part of a long campaign on the part of Senator Wright over many years in his concern about the activities of the waterfront unions. We all know that the trade union movement has a power in this area. The waterfront unions have been one of the most efficient sections of the trade union movement. It was necessary at one time to take court action in Tasmania. Mr Hursey took court action to try to break what was then considered to be Communist control. Certain counsel in that court action has never forgotten that he was defeated at law by the trade union movement.

Senator Wright - Who was?

Senator CAVANAGH - He was not successful in that application. As for this particular matter that has been raised, for some time the Seamen 's Union of Australia has been concerned about the reduction in cargo on coastal shipping and the reduction of cargo carried by Australian ships.

This Government came to power with a promise that it would restore coastal trading, that interstate trade would be carried in Australian flag ships and that at least 40 per cent of overseas cargoes would be carried in Australian ships. We do not have suitable ships to put that policy into operation. To put it into operation means getting suitable ships which are bigger and which result in a loss of employment for seamen. Ships are available at the present time but there are some 600 seamen in Australia who are out of work. They are concerned about their employment prospects and their future.

From time to time redundancy in industry does arise. It has been successfully combated and the position rectified in certain industries in which agreement was obtained to recognise redundancy and to pay some redundancy compensation. I referred earlier to the Hursey case. Senator Wright would know that at one time there were complaints about the Waterside Workers Federation. We seemed to settle that trouble with the Woodward Committee report and an agreement on redundancy. This was one of the effective methods of settling disputes. This Government has sought to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to enable agreements similar to those entered into by the Waterside Workers Federation to be entered into by other unions. The Seamen's Union has been denied this effective method of settling such disputes and this has been brought about by the delay on the part of the Opposition parties in this chamber in agreeing to amendments to that legislation.

If there is any detriment to Tasmania as a result of stoppages it is because the previous Government relied on the penal clauses of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Now the Opposition Parties will not give this Government the machinery to stop disputes. If it did Tasmania would be getting favourable consideration in regard to cargo-handling because the responsible trade union movement realises that it is an island State and that it relies so much on shipping. The Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council asked the Australian Council of Trade Unions to look into the question and the ACTU Executive determined that in respect of any strike which has the effect of stopping shipping services to Tasmania the participants in the strike are called upon to give particular consideration to the island's economic position and to take such steps as are practicable and required to cause the least disruption. That is ACTU policy and it is putting it into effect. When a dispute occurs the union officers are requested to take it up with the local branch of the ACTU and to explain this position to the workers. Many things which would have caused disputes in other States have been overlooked in Tasmania because of the recognition by the trade union movement of the particular economy of that State.

I could mention the plight of the farmers in Tasmania in April and May this year. I do not know whether this matter relates to the reference to beef that Senator Wright made. I refer to the tie-up of the 'Geelong' and the regular main line to Tasmania wheat ship, the 'North Esk'. Wheat was the only stockfeed available at the time and supplies in Tasmania were low because of the drought. The trouble was caused by a ban on loading by the Storemen and Packers Union. That incident was an example of the representations made by the ACTU to the union concerned and that happened because Tasmanian shipping was affected. That reflects the attitude adopted by the ACTU. On receipt of notification of the situation the responsible Minister wrote on 23 May to the ACTU asking that special efforts be made to persuade the Storemen and Packers Union to grant the type of dispensation outlined in the 1971 decision of the ACTU. On 31 May the Council sent out circulars notifying those concerned that before any action was taken which would hold up essential supplies to Tasmania the unions concerned must notify the respective Trades and Labour Councils. That illustrates the concern of the whole trade union movement and its efforts to give preferential treatment in view of the position of Tasmania.

The ship involved in this dispute, the . , Maru', sailed last evening. It had been tied up since 1 9 October. The dispute is over. Whatever the merits of the dispute, it has now ended. The New Zealand Maritime Union insisted on New Zealand cargoes being carried in New Zealand flag ships. The reciprocal insistence on the part of South Australia in regard to the same ships was lifted because of ACTU policy on this occasion. The whole trade union movement is trying to lean over backwards to assist Tasmanian shipping yet we hear the suggestion that it is tying up Tasmania. While the dispute was on and the ship was tied up no urgency motion was raised in this chamber. It was raised after the ship had sailed and after the 'Poolta ' and the 'Seaway King ' had sailed and the dispute was over. Everyone knew that such a motion might impede an early solution of the dispute and such an occurrence would run counter to the ACTU direction. This motion was not moved at the time or during the course of the dispute but today, the first day on which the proceedings of the Senate have been broadcast since the dispute arose. Of course, there is some significance in that.

On the first occasion on which the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast after the dispute arose, Senator Wright raises a grievance of many years standing. He attacks the trade union movement whenever he gets an opportunity to do so. We are asked to attack the trade unions today on the barest of details. We do not know the real cause of the dispute, what was behind it. We know nothing other than there was a tie-up of shipping. As I have said, Senator Wright has waited until the dispute was over and until the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast before raising this matter. A matter of urgency is raised every Wednesday when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, and Senator Wright has raised this matter of urgency today in order to ventilate a longstanding grievance.

Senator Webster - Make up another one, Senator; we are all listening.

Senator CAVANAGH - I am only saying it must be recognised that this is being done for propaganda purposes. We know the disputes about the King Island shipping service, but it must be recognised that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) are doing as much as possible to assist Tasmania. They know its position. We also know that the Australian Council of Trade Unions is doing all that is possible to help Tasmania. It is giving preferential treatment to Tasmania by interfering in the domestic activities of the members of one of its affiliates who have a right to strike in order to seek special consideration for this island State.

The only thing that is threatening Tasmania is that Tasmanian Liberal senators come into this chamber and raise matters for political propaganda purposes. They will not recognise what has been done for them by the trade union movement. They attempt to disrupt the movement- to bite the hand that feeds them and so sacrifice Tasmanian shipping. I believe that the question concerning beef which arose 3 months ago involved slaughtermen imposing a ban because of the purchase and shipping of beef from Tasmania, thus depriving the island of its beef cattle and of employment opportunities for slaughtermen. This was not a waterside dispute; it was a dispute assisted by the waterside workers.

There is justification for giving us power to enter into agreements with unions so that no matter what might be the position with shipping we can guarantee to the workers compensation and redundancy payments. We will settle disputes; they will not continue for long periods. Honourable senators opposite insist that disputes occur, in order to discredit the Labor Government, but they are prepared to sacrifice their own State. They suggest that someone else is ruining their State but they know that they are contributing to that situation themselves. I do not care whether the motion is carried because it is meaningless. Everyone knows the intention of the motion. If it is carried the Senate will meet 5 minutes earlier tomorrow. By moving this motion honourable senators opposite are doing a disservice rather than a service to the people of Tasmania.

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