Eric Charlton

Eric Charlton

Former Minister for Transport

    Support for Nat. Farmers' Federation's move to provide waterfront services

    28/01/1998 12:00 AM



    Transport Minister Eric Charlton today backed the move by the National Farmers' Federation to provide competing labour services on the Australian waterfront.


    "I congratulate their initiative because ultimately, the waterfront like every other industry should provide a choice of services," the Minister said.


    "The Maritime Union of Australia does not have the sole right to decide who operates the waterfront and I welcome this latest competition."


    Mr Charlton said he hoped port users would respond positively to the news that competition was at hand


    "This is not about non-union labour, it is about competition which will provide for the port user the best and most efficient service," he said.


    "If the company organised by the Farmers' Federation cannot provide a better and more effective level of service, the port user will soon look elsewhere because that's what competition is all about."


    Mr Charlton said the MUA response to the latest news was predictable.


    "The MUA currently has a monopoly on stevedoring services around this country and its threat to disrupt grain exports is a national disgrace and smacks of blackmail," he said.


    Mr Charlton said the MUA enjoyed a unique position in Australian industry to the detriment of the user.


    "Existing stevedoring companies also enjoy a unique position because of the MUA's closed shop arrangements and they, too, should be subject to competition," he said.


    "The new company should be able to win a place on the waterfront alongside existing stevedores.


    "In all other sectors of the transport industry there is a choice of provider and competition has led to high-performance services.


    "For instance, changes to the road transport regulations have led to Australia having one of the most efficient and cheapest road freight services in the world.


    "People cannot imagine now not being able to choose their own trucking operator or air service. How would the public like being told they can shop only at one supermarket."


    Mr Charlton said that rail was another example where a breakdown of the monopoly system was providing a more efficient and lower cost service.


    Under new rail access arrangements State and national rail networks were being opened up to competing operators.


    "The latest move on the waterfront shows that the time has come for fundamental change and the MUA must accept that users now want choice and a guarantee of continuity of service," the Minister said.


    "Farmers, for instance, want to know categorically that their produce will be moved when and where they require and at competitive rates and without fear of industrial disruption."


    Media contact: Doug Cunningham 9321 7333