MUA---Here to Stay ...Today!
The Role of the NFF in Australian Public Life
Thank you very much Ray for the introduction and of course the invitation
to join this group tonight and talk a little bit about, as you rightly pointed
out, the farms organisation and its history and why, in fact, we became
involved in the waterfront in the way that we did. I particularly want to
talk about the policy approach of the National Farmers Federation and why
I think there is likely to be the pressures on organisations like that from
here on with the sort of pressures that Australian politics is putting on
itself and on the community as we head into the next few months and the
next few years.
The National Farmers Federation has only been around for 20 years. It
was the first time that we had actually had a peak body in the farm organisations
to represent us without the divisions that had been there in the past. It
was formed to provide, what people at the time talked about, a single voice
to represent farmers at both national and international level. The people
who put it together identified the political, industrial and economic issues
as the ones that they should focus their efforts on. I think one of the
things that people probably haven't fully understood, and I suspect a great
many farmers have never fully understood, is that the NFF has always seen
its role as advancing agriculture, not individual farmers.
That is a pretty important point because it means that we have never
seen the defence of every individual farmer, come hell or high water, as
what was important but, in fact, putting a framework in place where agriculture
could, in fact, change and adapt and be able to succeed whatever was thrown
at it and there is a big difference. I suspect we are going to see some
real pressures, and I will talk about that in a moment, on that concept
over the next few years.
What people identified very early on is, in fact, that what was important
was an efficient economy. If people were going to have a reasonable standard
of living. If agriculture was to have a future, then we had to have an efficient
economy that worked and could provide those opportunities whatever the short
term difficulties might provide.
And when you looked at the Australian economy at that time, we had been
successfully squandering our number one position in the world as far as
standard of living at the turn of the century, we had been successfully
running that down hill over that 70 odd years. We had a highly regulated
and highly protected economy which was, in fact, costing our efficient industries
very dearly. Let me say that agriculture itself and some of the people involved
in politics in agriculture had contributed very substantially to that decline
in some of the policies that they had brought forward.
At an international level, we were seeing some marked changes taking
place which were very important. Great Britain was going into the European
Economic Community as it was called in those days and we saw the loss of
some markets that we considered, and in fact were, traditional markets that
we had open access to. We saw border controls coming into place that made
it difficult for us to compete. We saw subsidised agricultural production
really starting to get a move on in Europe as well as in the United States
and, of course, that whole process led to the final idiocy and corruption
of the market place in export subsidies. All of those things were happening---some
well identified, some not---but there was certainly a sense amongst the
people who put NFF together that those were the things that were happening
and the things that had to be dealt with.
Now, the response of NFF and the people, I think the remarkable people,
who led it in those early days, was to identify these things and work out
how we were going to operate. What they saw was that in a domestic sense
we needed some pretty fundamental changes. We had to in fact reverse what
had gone on over the previous 70 years since federation. We had to set about
and open up the Australian economy. We had to reduce protection. We had
to deregulate and we had to begin the process of privatisation of a whole
lot of government enterprises which needed quite significant change.
At an international level, trade reform was easily the most important
issue. The NFF worked with governments of both political persuasions over
the last 20 years to bring about that exercise. I would have to say there
was very strong bipartisan support certainly up until now for that process.
Indeed, one of my predecessors, Ian McLachlan, was present at the formation
of the Cairns Group and he was very much a part of that process. We supported
the previous Government in their efforts through the GATT Uraguay Round
on through to the establishment of the World Trade Organisation and the
processes of trade reform that have gone on within that organisation.
We hear the term "globalisation" being thrown around now in
two ways and in some people's minds it is a term of abuse. Unfortunately
that kind of attitude is, I think, going to be extremely dangerous to us
in the future.
Globalisation you always think was something dreamed up by politicians
to frighten small children the way it is talked about at the moment. But
if you stand back and analyse it, it really, in my view, simply means what
is happening in a physical sense, and that is, we now have the capacity
to move expertise, information and capital around the world at electronic
speed. The boundaries and the ability of governments to control that, are
no greater today than a century ago when the telegraph itself first came
into place, when the expansion of railway systems and the development of
steam ships meant that people could move relatively quickly compared to
how they had in the past.
Now we genuinely are starting to move to a borderless world where we
can move expertise, information, knowledge and capital around at very great
speed and so the ability of governments to manipulate systems for their
own advantage is being reduced to, let me say, the benefit of the great
majority of people. And of course it is computers and electronic communications
that has enabled that to happen.
I don't often read Phillip Adams but occasionally I am tempted to do
so for various reasons just perhaps to sharpen up my mind a little and I
have been quoting recently a piece he wrote in The Australian some
months ago where he said about globalisation that it was the economic doctrine
that elevates an elite by grinding down the rest of the population to the
lowest of possible denominators. In my view, he had that completely wrong.
In fact what he was talking about was socialism and an incapacity apparently
to recognise that.
It hasn't always been popular, even among the farming community and probably
less so today than ever, that NFF has taken the sort of approach that it
has taken. Yet when you recognise that we export some 20 billion dollars
worth of product and import about 2 billion worth of agricultural products,
it is easy to see why we recognise the need to open this economy up as much
as we have attempted to. But it has meant inevitably a lot of change internally,
and a lot of people have had difficulty coping with that. You can also say,
I think, that too often when we extol the virtues of some of these changes,
we have probably given the impression that there are some magic solutions
out there and, of course, that isn't true. In fact, what happens when you
open up the system, you actually make it a damn sight tougher. It is tougher
to survive, it is not easy. There is no way of hiding---there is no where
to hide and so you just have to be better than everybody else if you are
going to survive and if you're not, you won't. That I think has come as
a shock to some people and I think we have to be careful that we don't over-sell
the benefits or at least don't try and hide the difficulties of what it
means to open an economy up to all of the advantages it may have, it also
means some pressures. Much of what we achieve are incremental gains. Again
there are no magic solutions. There is no one single thing that we can do
or ever have done that can open up the system and make it easier for everybody.
In fact, we often have to take on some very hard things and at the end of
those, the gains in themselves may not be that substantial but without them,
we will fall behind.
Competition is not an end in itself. It is not a virtue of itself. It
is something that we have to do in order to have more jobs and to have better
jobs for the majority of our people. Of course, in that whole process we
run into what I think is one of the great paradoxes and that is you have
to shed jobs often to create new jobs. If you are going to continue to evolve
the economy in a modern way so often you have to shed many jobs in order
to open up the new ones that are there. Otherwise, of course, we would all
be subsistence farmers. The logic is so obvious and yet it is not always
clear to people who have to live through it. I guess if you are one of those
who have expected your life to be comfortable and not to have to change
too much and then all of a sudden it does, it is not easy for such people
to cope with that or understand it.
When we set out to open our markets, and a country the size of Australia
has to operate in a rules-based system, you have to expect that you are
going to have to obey the rules yourself. Probably more so than even the
big players and often that is hard to explain politically to people who
are feeling the pressure. So in that whole process, we have to address the
issues of change and uncertainty for those people who don't find that easy.
Yet if you look at the figures, something around 95% of the people who change
jobs in this country every year do so voluntarily. It is a very small percentage
of people who have to change them by compulsion and yet they're the ones
we so often hear from and they're the ones with the bleeding hearts who
run out in front of us to suggest that we shouldn't be evolving the economy
to cope with the modern world.
So we do have to look at ways in which we can help people cope with change.
But it seems to me that education and re-training are the ways you do that,
not trying to delude people into thinking that we can make these changes
go away or that there are simple solutions to complex problems. I give you
an example in agriculture at the moment when I look at some of my colleagues
in the pork industry who are looking for specific protection either through
tariffs or some sort of labelling regime that they think will protect them
from the real world. Yet the risks to them of going down the path that they
themselves are advocating, if you stand back and think about it, are substantial.
There was a letter in one of the national papers recently from somebody
who was supporting the pig industry's right to labelling to show where the
product was made or grown or produced or whatever had been done to it and
what they were saying was "Yes, we support the pork industry having
Canada branded all over every piece of pork that is brought into the country".
But what he is also saying is that we also want it labelled with whether
or not the product has been produced under intensive housing, whether antibiotics
or other chemicals have been used in its production and whether indeed any
genetically modified organisms have been used at any stage including in
the feeding regime.
All of those things would have horrified the people in the pig industry
who are looking to have Canada stamped on the label. But you can't have
it both ways, yet all too often people think that you can.
On the side of putting on a tariff, when you consider that the imported
product in the last 12 months has gone down, not up, in quantity coming
in here and is less than 5% of the total pork consumed in this country,
the implications of going outside the WTO rules and putting a tariff on
imported product when we export to Canada a very significant amount of beef
and canned fruit and the fact that they would then be entitled to react
in exactly the same way doesn't bear thinking about. Or, the fact that the
pig industry, not very many years ago was the main beneficiary of changing
regulations in the grain industry that took away a regulated home consumption
price. Given that the barley industry has seen prices drop by $50 or $60
a tonne in the last few weeks, I am sure the barley industry would be delighted
to have a re-regulation that added some $50 or $60 a tonne to the price
of grain that was sold to pig producers.
So when you look at these simple solutions that people are advocating
for some of these complex problems, it is often difficult for us to explain
to people just what they might mean to them if, in fact, we were to succumb
to some of those pressures and yet we have a huge number of people out there
at the moment promising those sorts of simplistic solutions to the problems
that people have.
We must have a rules-based system internationally. A country this size
cannot operate without a rules-based system. We cannot compete with Europe
or the United States and slug it out without that sort of approach and of
course if you have a rules-based system, you have to support it and obey
it and you have to be therefore able to balance the competing interests
that only a rules-based system will give us.
In terms of our farm organisations, I think we are facing an incredible
challenge and, in some respects, I am sorry that I am leaving it, to the
extent that I am, at this time because I think the challenges now are probably
greater than they have ever been. We face the challenge of a widening gap
between the top end of our production systems and our people and those in
the middle. The difference that is occurring now is not a difference as
it was in the past, it depended on how many acres you inherited as to whether
or not you could compete or how hard you were prepared to work. What matters
now is management capacity. Whether the individuals have the skill to take
the resources under their control and really get the best out of them.
Two of our really important industries in this country---the dairy industry
and the grain industry---have had compound productivity gains over the last
15 years of around 6% annually. It is really quite remarkable and, in fact,
in both of these industries I suspect the productivity gains to come over
the next decade are at least as great as we have seen. But it is no longer
satisfactory to be running 80 cows in a regulated price system. You are
going to have to be milking 400 in an open competitive system to be able
to compete. So we do have a lot of farmers in great difficulty.
I suspect that we are going see a shake out in agriculture of the order
of magnitude that we have never seen before. I suspect that we could run
agriculture in this country with some 30 or 40% less people and indeed that's
the sort of pressure that is going to be on. So the politics of that is
going to take a lot of managing. I am afraid that I think we will see a
lot of the farm organisations being pressured to turn towards assistance
in the form of hand-outs and protection. The ability of our organisations
to resist that and to focus on the things that really matter in the long
term is not going to be great.
We have to remain relevant to that 30% of agriculture that produces 80%
of the output because that is where the future lies. I think what will happen
is that we will actually see linkages start to move down the marketing chain
rather than across the marketing chain as we have seen in the past. Because
you are a farmer doesn't mean that you have that much in common with the
farm next door. In fact you may have a great deal more in common with the
people who buy your product and who process your product and who market
it. In fact, I think that's what we will see happen. In areas like food,
safety, quality, process quality, infrastructure, investment, trade policy
and even general economic policy are going to have a lot more in common
down the marketing chain than they have across it in the way that we have
seen in the past and that's a challenge that we are going to have to see
addressed by those farm organisations. And I think we will see closer alliances
start to develop between those industry sectors, between the people who
market and process product and individual farms. We are already seeing it
with the best operators. Companies like Woolworths are out there now putting
quality assurance programmes in place, only buying their beef from those
people who, in fact, have those quality assurance programmes that are adequate
to their requirements. I think we will see a great deal more of that and
the quicker we see the demise of the statutory marketing authorities, the
quicker we will see that develop in the right manner.
So why indeed did the NFF get involved in the waterfront? Well, it has
been one of those issues that has been on our agenda for a very long time.
If we look at that whole issue of costs in the domestic economy then the
waterfront has stood out as strategically important and notoriously bad
for a very long time. Not the only issue that we have had to deal with but
certainly one that we have had to focus on fairly hard. Indeed this is the
third time at least that Paul [Houlihan] has been involved; only the second
time I have been involved in the process, because he has been around for
a lot longer than I have. I think it is a pity in some respects that crane
rates became the focus in the media. It was one and probably a relatively
minor issue when you look at the totality of the sort of reform that we
really needed to take place. In fact if you look at things like the cost
of a container lift itself, it is only one and only a relatively minor issue
in the totality of what we were trying to do. Reliability is probably far
more important. 25% of the world's strikes on the waterfront occurred in
Australia last year and when you consider that we have about1% of world
trade, we certainly boxed well above our weight in that one. Labour costs
probably around 30% too high. Manning levels about double what they should
be, probably more than double what they should be.
If you put those things together, we are probably running the waterfront
operation in Australia at about three times the cost of what it ought to
Capital investment is grossly over capitalised in this country. We saw
at one stage, when what we were doing was causing the maximum amount of
disruption, (and it didn't cause as much disruption as some people would
like to think it did) we saw the system pretty well operating without, other
than the containers that were locked up in the wharves where there were
pickets around, they were operating the entire system with about half the
capital equipment and about 1,500 less people. So one has to ask oneself,
if that was possible, why the hell have we got so much investment. Of course
we have got so much investment because labour productivity and the rules
in which it operates have been so bad that we have over capitalised and
that's got to be taken out of the system. That's going to mean difficulties
for the people involved at the moment and it means even more difficulty
for anyone trying to get into the system and so the process of reform is
going to be slow for that reason. Getting competition in there is not going
to be easy.
Ship turn around time in this country is about double what it ought to
be and we all know what it costs to keep a ship tied up for an extra couple
of days in each port and particularly if you have got five or six ports
instead of one or two big ones, if your ship turn around time is bad in
each one of those, you compound that through the system.
We ought to have far better services. Most of the shipping lines do not
put onto their Australian run the very best and fastest of ships. They are
not stupid. They know damn well you don't send the best equipment into what
the industry generally regards as the equivalent of a war zone.
Why don't we have coastal shipping in this country? For Christ sake.
If you look at the geography and distribution of our population, if ever
a country was set out where coastal shipping ought to be the main means
of moving things around from Perth to Brisbane and in between, Darwin, you
ought to be using coastal shipping but we don't because we have deliberately
regulated ourselves and allowed the union monopoly to see that we don't
use coastal shipping. Because the railways are so poor and have been government
owned for so long, we move things right around this country by road truck.
That is just unbelievable. I am not a great advocate for rail let me say,
I think the road industry is incredibly efficient but we ought to be using
coastal shipping but we will not be using coastal shipping until our waterfront
and our coastal shipping industry is internationally competitive.
We ought to see much better truck movements in and out of the container
terminals. Anyone who has been to a container terminal will see literally
hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment sitting idle for hours
on end while the system grinds its way through. Instead of having a capacity
to move trucks in and out with the minimum of down time waiting, we have
a system that deliberately clogs the whole show for days on end. Of course,
most people if you are moving into the system on a one off basis you would
have to take a pocket full of $50 notes in order to buy your way in and
buy your way out.
It is, as I said, the third time that NFF in one way or another has been
involved in the waterfront. The first was 20 years ago in the live sheep
episode when it wasn't the wharfies at that stage, it was the meatworkers
but they were using the strategically important location of the ports and
the system in order to try and block the development of the live sheep export
There was a lot of work done by the farmers who in fact actually turned
up at the waterfront to load the sheep themselves and, in fact, whilst it
only took us a week to train a crane operator, it takes less time to train
a bloke with a dog. In fact most of them were already trained and so they
were able to turn up and load the sheep. Now what grew out of that was a
several hundred million dollar trade in live sheep and a several hundred
million dollar trade in live cattle. Had we lost that battle at that time,
that industry would never have developed in the way that it has and, without
it, God help the wool industry which is still recovering from the debacle
of the regulated marketing system, if we hadn't had the live sheep trade
to keep that industry going, it would have disappeared all together. Of
course, it has been a boon for Northern Australia and the cattle industry
in having live cattle going out.
The second episode was 10 years later---(it seems we do this in 10 year
cycles)---with bulk grain and, in fact, the Grains Council of Australia
and NFF with Bulk Grains Queensland and the Wheat Board, loaded a vessel
at the Fisherman Island Terminal without the use of waterfront labour. We
hired a foreman stevedore; the equipment that Bulk Grains Queensland had
built into the new Fisherman Island Terminal was done in such a way that
you didn't actually need eight people per shift, three shifts a day standing
around watching an automatic system work and so by having a foreman stevedore
on deck for safety reasons under contract we were able to load a boat without
the assistance of Tas Bull's lads.
The outcome of that was that after that one boat Tas Bull came and negotiated
every port in Australia within three months which is rather an interesting
differential from the current leadership of the MUA. The outcome of that
was that places like Geelong will actually reduce the number of people by
about 85%, that was the biggest reduction. But, overall, the manning levels
were down by 65---70% across the bulk loading system. The result of that
is that we actually have a bulk loading system in this country, which is
about world's best practice, with the MUA actually operating it. That is
something which I think many people don't understand.
We halved ship turnaround time and we reduced the cost of stevedoring
by 50% in that one process.
The New Zealanders tell me that the reforms that they have been through
there have in fact added around $1 billion to the value of their timber
reserves. The benefits of substantial reform I don't think can be overstated.
The question that was asked of me very frequently in this process was
"Why us?" "Why the farmers?" "Why the hell did
you get involved?" "Why didn't you stay home and worry about the
Well, first of all, more than 50% of agricultural exports by value go
out in containers. It is really only bulk grain and bulk sugar that we export
other than through containers and so we have a very very strong interest
in an efficient waterfront.
Secondly, after a lot of time and a lot of money being spent, some $420
million by the Hawke Government, it was pretty obvious that no one else
was actually going to do it and so we had been looking for an opportunity
for some time to get in and have a go. There were in fact some failed attempts
in Cairns and the debacle in Dubai, both of which were concerning us greatly
that the people who were having a go were not really understanding the difficulty
that they faced.
But, of course, at the end of the day, we paid a price. Most of the other
people in the marketing chain can actually pay whatever it costs and pass
on that cost to us whether it is through exports or whether it is through
imported inputs into our industry, we end up paying the price and so we
are the ones with the most to gain or the most to lose if it doesn't happen.
The other thing that was of real concern to me was that one of the companies
in the business in fact looked at one means of resolving this and they postulated
a ten week strike. They were prepared, in fact, to block the system for
that long and see if that broke the MUA. Fortunately they accepted wise
counsel and realised that that would be a disaster. First of all, it wouldn't
have lasted a week. The pressure that would be put on them by everyone from
the Government downwards would have been such that they would have to have
caved in anyway. So without considering the cost of a 10 week strike, it
was pretty clear that that wasn't going to work.
So for quite some time Paul and James Ferguson and others had been looking
at the opportunities that might lead to putting something in place. In fact
they spent a great deal of time with John Sharp and other people planning
and looking at what might take place. Our view was that we would have to,
albeit reluctantly, enter the stevedoring industry in one way or another
to try and get at least the forcing of reform. But the first thing from
my perspective, looking at this in a political sense, was that we had to
have cargo moving at all times. We could stand some disruption to cargo
movements but we couldn't stand prolonged disruption to cargo movements.
The whole thing would collapse if we went down that path.
The legislation passed by the current Government, with all of its weaknesses,
was at least the best we had seen and, in fact, what we set out to do was
to test that legislation to see just how effective it might be. During the
political blockades of Western Australia last year we tested part of the
legislation to see how the union movement would react to it and it was an
interesting response in that those companies that we actually, (and they
were reluctant to be involved I have to say), subpoenaed and got evidence
from and got them into court, were not blockaded in the second day of the
Western Australian blockade. Those companies that would not come with us
and that we didn't have the power to subpoena into court were blockaded
the second day and lost a lot of money. We concluded from that that the
union movement was at least reasonably concerned about the legislation and
how effectively it could be used.
So armed with that and an opportunity which came to us to take over Webb
Dock or part of Webb Dock in late January, we started to train a workforce.
The union reaction was interesting and I think reasonably predictable. They
set out obviously to squeeze us out in every way that they possibly could
from blockades at the gates and enormous pressure on any one who might be
silly enough to put shipping through us. They set about to attack Patricks
in every possible way in order to try and again squeeze us off the facility
that we had leased from Patricks.
What was interesting though was that at no stage during that time, and
quite differently from what had happened with Tas Bull in the grain industry,
did they make any attempt to sit down and try and negotiate what would have
been a reasonable outcome.
Over that first six week period, while we were getting our training going,
they tried every trick in the book to squeeze Patricks out.
Our concern at that time was that they would be successful in one or
both of two avenues. One was to defeat Patricks and to force them into a
position where our leases were not manageable or that they would set out
to stop our shipping. In the second of those they were remarkably successful.
We could not get anyone in the shipping industry to commit any cargo to
In terms of putting pressure on Patricks, it was pretty obvious that
they were putting a great deal of pressure and that that couldn't go on
The options from our point of view were either to take over more of Patricks'
operations, either lease some more of their facilities and take over some
of their existing business or, alternatively, to provide a trained workforce
for Patricks that, in the event they were prepared to take on that workforce,
we would be in a position to supply people.
The thing that we found interesting in this process is how quickly you
could train people. There was one young Canadian woman that we had with
us who took one week to be trained as a crane operator and after a week
of operating in Sydney, she was doing 25 boxes an hour. Most of the people
that we had on, with the exception of a few who just proved not adept to
the job, we could train for any one of the three major operations---container
cranes, fork lifts or straddle operation---train them up to a reasonable
standard in a week and in another week to 10 days they were at least at
an acceptable standard to go on and keep the system running.
Patricks position, I think, was an interesting one. They were faced with
the old union tactic of inflicting more pain on the employer than they were
inflicting on themselves by causing disruption. The company quite clearly,
well before they started this exercise, anticipated that the union would
try to destroy the company. The belief that you can actually destroy your
employer and still keep a good job, I think, is an unique one. Nevertheless,
it runs strongly within the trade union movement and certainly within the
What Patricks did was separate the various parts of the companies legally
and, in fact, the employment of labour and the operation of their companies
became separate. What the action of the union was on those labour supply
companies, was to cause those labour supply companies to reach a point where
they needed to be continually propped up. What I think would have come out
and may yet come out if this issue goes back to court, which it may well
do, is that had the unions stuck to the agreements that they had signed
with Patricks in the early stages, well before we became involved, those
companies would have been viable, so they were not put into companies which
were fundamentally unviable. I think that is something which, unfortunately,
has not emerged in the public debate.
But the fact that Patricks, under this sort of pressure, were no longer
prepared to risk the main business to prop up those failing labour hire
companies is, in my view, a perfectly reasonable commercial response and
one that any company ought to be allowed, under law, to put themselves in
a position to do. But under all that pressure Patricks entered into a labour
hire agreement with PCS for us to supply them something under 400 people
which we believed, and in fact proved were able to operate their entire
system; previously of course they were employing some 1,400.
Any time during that 10 week period before we entered into that agreement
with Patricks, the union could have, and in my view should have, sat down
and negotiated an outcome with Patricks in the way that Tas Bull did with
us in the past.
I don't think there is any doubt that it was always going to be tough.
None of us who went into this ever imagined for one second that we weren't
going to go through a very tough battle. One of the great difficulties is
that the costs and benefits of an action like this don't always fall in
the same place and whilst the benefits will be substantial across the economy,
the cost can fall quite specifically and that was a major issue that we
had to deal with. Keeping cargo moving, in my view, was fundamental and,
in fact, if we hadn't had Justice North with his injunctions against Patricks,
I think, notwithstanding the weakness of the police here in Victoria---in
fact I would probably use stronger words than that---my view was within
a week, we would have had at least Brisbane, Fremantle and Melbourne operating
We knew that we had a problem with Sydney. We could have let Bob Carr
stew in his own juice. Most of the containers that were going through Sydney
could have been moved interstate to Brisbane and Melbourne and ultimately
he would have to have caved even if he wasn't prepared to put the police
in. But we would have kept cargo moving at full scale and indeed the capacity
at P & O to move most of it any way I think was one of the remarkable
features of what went on.
I don't think there is any doubt we were always going to have a negotiated
settlement of one sort or another. What did surprise us was that settlement
having to be negotiated out of the legal quagmire rather than a physical
blockade. I think that was one of the things that took us by surprise and
in fact caused us some difficulties at the end.
I don't think there is any doubt that we will see significant benefit
from what went on. The system is never going to be the same again. One question
now though is, what is going to be the final shape of what happens. Now
reform, all reform, but in this industry particularly, I think is always
going to be a process not an event. No one issue is going to see reform
and that's it we pack up and go home. We are a long way from finished with
this process. There has been significant reform at least in the negotiated
settlement. It is yet to be put into place and even if that is put into
place, we will see significant reform but not enough and certainly not the
end of the line.
We do have to be careful I think in our disappointment that we didn't
achieve everything in one hit. We have to be careful not to under-estimate
the value of what has been achieved because I think there is a lot out there.
But the full value of what has been achieved and what can be achieved from
that is going to require a very considerable amount of work yet to be done.
We have to take advantage of what has been done. I don't think there is
any doubt that the union is in a weakened state and the very fact that Toll
Transport were able to go into the Industrial Commission a week ago and
set an agreement in place with the transport workers, without the MUA even
turning up to object, is a clear indication that there are opportunities
there for significant reform beyond what has already been achieved.
Paul and I certainly intend to keep a number of irons in the fire and
there are some opportunities out there for us. I suspect there will be greater
opportunities for others to come in but there will be difficulties. As I
said, the system is now already significantly over-capitalised and that's
going to be one of the bigger impediments to getting somebody else to come
into the industry and really drive some change.
Things that we see out there as opportunities, I am really not in a position
to talk about . I suspect maybe that says something in itself about where
and how difficult it is going to be to achieve the full extent of the changes
that we need on the Australian waterfront. It is going to be up to a great
many people, not just us, and we intend to stay in there and prod around,
but the opportunities are there and the window of opportunity is not going
to be wide. We can encourage as many people as possible to have a go; to
use what has already been done; to look where the cracks that we have opened
up are and actually get into those cracks and really open it up further.
It is a great pity that we weren't able to make a clean sweep of this in
one hit but I have to say to you that I never expected we would. I think
it was always likely to be a very tough and dirty battle and an outcome
that was a little ambiguous, maybe very ambiguous. But I think we have opened
up the opportunities for very significant waterfront reform in this country.