Light on the Hill: Industrial Relations Reform in Australia
Battling Against Darwin's Trade Unions
To manage by innovation usually means a battle with the unions, who haven't learnt to cope with change. The only unionists I've met who can cope have become politicians.
While I now run my own business, I was the General Manager of Perkins Shipping for 15 years. So when I refer to Perkins Shipping, I draw on my own personal experience over a long period.
You need to be a fighter to survive the wartime rigours of Changi Jail, and Bruce Perkins' history of starting a shipping service out of Darwin reinforces that. My early years with him were an example of that hardy breed this country is so short of now---a breed who will not take no for an answer and doesn't know the meaning of 'cannot'. The school of hard knocks can teach nothing to the men who survived the Burma-Siam railway.
Perkins started his shipping service in 1969 from Darwin to Timor with drilling equipment for Timor Oil. The vessel was a converted army landing craft, with extra steel sides welded on to increase its capacity from 40 to 85 tonnes. The wartime petrol engines had been removed and diesel ones installed.
The Northern Territory mining camps and Aboriginal communities were first serviced by luggers. However, when housing, water and sewerage were required in these areas, luggers proved unsuitable. Perkins therefore converted two more of these landing craft.
Both Groote and Gove had their early exploration teams landed by these vessels. The first two Land Rovers were off-loaded at Gove on one voyage and were happily driven ashore by the exploration team. There were only two tracks at Gove at that time and no other vehicles. There was only one crossroad, and within 24 hours both Land Rovers had been written off: they had met simultaneously at the only crossroad! Luckily no one was hurt.
With the increased expenditure of mining companies, more Aboriginal activities and pressure from the Department of Transport to upgrade the fleet, special-purpose landing craft were built in Australia and introduced into the service around the coast.
Back in 1962, I worked as cook for Bruce Perkins on his first vessel---the old converted army landing craft. The skipper navigated more by the reefs we ran upon, than by the charts; most of the area was uncharted and there was no radar or echo sounder. Cargo got delivered but it was no use publishing a timetable.
I remember the skipper well. We had to wake him with a broom. He was an ex-boxer and always woke up fighting; if you were too close you got hit.
In the 28 years of operation in these uncharted waters, Perkins lost only one vessel and had no fatalities, which says much for the design of these landing craft. As running up on uncharted rocks and sandbars while beaching was in the nature of the work, we were always repairing holes in the bottom of the vessels and propellers were damaged on most trips.
On one of the early voyages to Gove, the concrete ramp on which the landing craft beached collapsed while the tide was half out. The crew had gone ashore and left the engine room door open and the whole vessel was flooded. The landing craft was operating again within 2 days, but the poor cooks like myself had to turn out gourmet meals from cans without labels. You couldn't decide what was for dinner until you had opened a few cans!
The coastal trade in the late 1960s was a mixture of small luggers loading at the Darwin main wharf using casual labour and ship's crew (no waterside labour) and Perkins' landing craft in Francis Bay, involving their regular employees who were not members of any union.
With mining operations such as Nabalco and Groote Eylandt Mining Co. involved in cargo deliveries, there were occasional moves by Paddy Carroll, the Secretary of the North Australian Workers Union (NAWU) to sign up barge and loading crews. Paddy explained to me in those days that his union---a branch of the Miscellaneous Workers Union---was preferable to WWF, who he considered would ruin business.
Trade comes in cycles and in 1973 there was a downturn at Gove and Groote as the construction stage came to an end. The spare shipping capacity could not be taken up by the Aboriginal communities, so we looked overseas for work. We had been making occasional voyages up to Amamapare in Indonesia for Freeport Sulphur's gold and copper mine. Freeport had set up their purchasing office in Darwin. They were spending $9m a year in Darwin and Barge Express were also running a landing craft there on a regular basis.
Freeport came to an agreement for Perkins to convey all their stores and materials out of Darwin. ANL were contracted to deliver 21 containers from the south to the Darwin main wharf and Perkins would arrange delivery to Francis Bay and their loading onto the landing craft, 'Fourcroy', for export. On the arrival of this first shipment in Darwin by ANL, waterside workers unloaded the containers and then placed a black ban on them, saying they would not be delivered to Perkins until Perkins agreed to use waterside workers to load them. Luckily we had some friendly tally clerks working at the wharf; they failed to enforce the ban on most of the containers, so we received enough to load the vessel and sail. The rest of the containers remained on the wharf for quite some time.
The result of this was that within a month Freeport moved their main buying operation to Singapore. They are still there. So Perkins lost the business, waterside workers lost the new work introduced by Perkins, and Darwin lost Freeport---a major source of income for a small city.
That is when we had to fight for survival. Our employees went to their union, NAWU. By this time Paddy Carroll had left and John Isaacs had taken over. He advised our employees to resign from his union and join the WWF. Instead, however, they were all signed up by the TWU. This created a rift in the Trades and Labour Council for a number of years, but we then had a union fighting on the company's side.
Called before a hearing by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, we gave evidence that there was an unwritten agreement that vessels under 500 tonnes were exempt from requiring waterside workers and that the introduction of waterside labour would increase costs to Aboriginal communities, causing considerable hardship. We were advised that the Authority's job was to interpret the law and these arguments were for the politicians. The result was that we were told we had to employ WWF labour as soon as possible.
We immediately set about finding work overseas and closely scrutinised the Stevedoring Industry Act for some loophole. We preferred to close down the company rather than accept WWF labour and thereby lose control of our business. Fortunately, we found the loophole we were seeking in Section 7N of the Act, which refers to 'persons in the regular employment of a person engaged in an industrial undertaking, being persons whose duties include the performance of stevedoring operations in connexion with that undertaking'.
Only 30 per cent of the work carried out by the shore crew at Perkins could be classified as stevedoring; the rest of the time they were sandblasting, performing maintenance work, reclaiming land, building sheds, delivering and collecting cargo by truck in the town area. As none of this other work could be classified as waterside worker work, we considered we were definitely an industrial undertaking. Our employees had a permanent job with plenty of overtime and job satisfaction. They all wrote to Mr Clyde Cameron, Minister for Labour, requesting his assistance in allowing them to remain members of TWU, not become waterside workers. He wrote back indicating they should negotiate a suitable agreement with WWF.
We decided that if we simply asked Clyde Cameron to classify us as an industrial undertaking, we would get nowhere, so we employed well-tried union tactics and said nothing. We sent one barge on an overseas charter to Singapore; the other remained on the coast, but with cargo deliberately held back until most of the Aboriginal communities had only about a week's supply of fuel and food. We had bumper stickers printed ('Save Darwin's Small Ships'). In our publicity campaign to avoid WWF labour, each barge company put a float in the May Day parade, much to the anger of the organisers, who tried to get the police to stop the floats, without success.
We then sent the only barge landing craft servicing Aboriginal communities to Timor. This meant there were no suitable landing craft for servicing the needs of the communities in the Northern Territory: they were overseas and couldn't be commandeered. We sent telegrams to Whitlam, Cameron, Murphy---in fact to most of Cabinet. We went on TV, radio and National Press and advised that we would not bring our vessels back into the country until we were classified as an industrial undertaking. We were not interested in employing waterside workers.
All the Aboriginal communities sent telegrams to Canberra complaining, and supporting our argument to be exempt from waterside worker treatment. Within 7 days we were classified as an industrial undertaking. We brought our vessels back to resume service.
Having lost Freeport in Indonesia to Singapore, we developed a service to Dili in Timor. This was not profitable, but there was plenty of cargo available at low freight rates. We then purchased a dumb barge from Nabalco and started towing this behind the landing craft. This increased the carrying capacity from 220 to 660 tonnes for an extra 2 days sailing and minimum increase in operating costs. The service became profitable.
Because of all the publicity over the waterside worker dispute, the maritime unions decided they should gain coverage of the operation. We fought this off for some months, but they signed up a number of employees and there were threats that our vessels would stop unless we agreed to substantial rises in pay and leave. Not being in a strong enough financial position to withstand stoppages, we had to agree.
At the time of this dispute I remember a Commissioner of the Arbitration Court taking me and my solicitor into the back room and saying that we obviously had no experience of the power of the Seamen's Union of Australia (SUA). He went on to point out that although in theory he had the power to arbitrate wages and conditions, in practice SUA would probably not accept his decision and would go on strike. He had seen other companies go to the wall trying to fight SUA and it was best to agree. My faith in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act disappeared from that point.
Subsequent industrial relations at Perkins was coloured by that piece of advice. We made certain we had excellent relations with our employees and aimed at never having a strike. This cost us dearly: as we could not afford stoppages, we had to accept, at every award negotiation, wages and conditions which were uneconomic for small vessels. But our strike-free record and therefore reliability, opened up many new avenues of trade.
As soon as SUA gained coverage of the crews, they stopped us sailing dumb barges to Timor, Gove and Groote in line with their Australia-wide bans on dumb barge operations. I had a meeting with SUA's Federal Secretary, Mr Elliot. He advised that he had refused large American enterprises offering substantial sums of money and excellent conditions, and there was no way he was going to allow a small Darwin barge company to operate after refusing the Americans.
WWF were still trying to gain coverage, particularly as they knew that a new vessel for overseas service was under construction. In November 1974, they therefore persuaded the Federal Government to take steps to amend the industrial undertaking section of the Stevedoring Industry Act.
We made visits to Canberra and began lobbying the Government and the Opposition but had no luck until we advised the TWU, FEDFA, AMWU and the Storemen and Packers that this amendment would prevent their members all over Australia from working on the wharfs. Clyde Cameron had not advised them of this body-snatching legislation. The changes were dropped forthwith. (In 1977, Section 7N and other exemptions from waterside worker coverage were transferred to Section 81 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and are still used by shipping companies in Darwin to avoid employing waterside workers.)
With the loss of the Timor trade in the face of the ban on dumb barges and a massive increase in costs due to the maritime unions, we laid up the only old army landing craft still operating and looked for more overseas work. We decided that the only way to get into such work was, like the old trading vessels, to buy cargo to fill the ship. Instead of spice and tea, we brought cattle and shipped it to Brunei and Malaysia; then in turn we bought timber and steel in Singapore for sale in Darwin. We went through the usual battles with the bureaucracy in Canberra over shipping cattle on a landing craft. But we refused to take no for an answer and the trade nourished.
Our first shipment of live buffalo to Brunei was an interesting exercise. The Brunei buffalo is a docile animal used to pulling a plough; the Northern Territory buffalo is wild, dislikes humans, and has no respect for cattle-yards. On arrival in Brunei, the first few buffalo discharged demolished the timber raceway and took off into the bush. There was no way these animals could be used to pull ploughs: they were only good for slaughter. It took about two weeks to calm them down enough to get them into trucks to go to the meat works.
Queensland Mines then started shipping yellowcake and our dispute-free reputation won that business. Yellowcake, together with cattle and timber, were the major cargoes on the Singapore run. Operating a 220 tonne capacity landing craft on a 2,000 mile voyage conveying cattle and timber was not, in the long term, an economic proposition. But it was necessary to build up trade so that we could put on a more economic vessel. Before calling tenders for its construction, we negotiated the crew numbers to our satisfaction. It is interesting to note that the price for constructing such a vessel in Australia, with the exchange rates then applying, was twice as high as overseas. (The subsequent movement in exchange rates would have narrowed the gap by 40 per cent.)
The union movement tried to persuade us with threats of stoppages to build in Australia, but there was no way the vessel would have been viable trying to service the capital at the Australian price. It would have to be built overseas or not at all. So the maritime unions persuaded the ACTU to let us build the 'Francis Bay' in Singapore.
We come now to the saga of yellowcake shipments out of Darwin. Queensland Mines made the first shipment, on the landing craft 'Fourcroy', in November 1980. The maritime unions did not object in any way; in discussion with the unions, one of the reasons given for constructing the new vessel was to enable shipment of yellowcake from Ranger Uranium and Queensland Mines. However, when the Labor Party, in Opposition, became totally anti-uranium, the ACTU put a ban on its mining and handling. The mining went on and the road transport continued, but SUA reneged on its agreement with us and banned all export. We had to refuse a shipment from Queensland Mines; so in July 1981, the 'Mayflower' a chartered Philippine landing craft was brought in by marine contractors to take yellowcake. They loaded without any union and a rather ineffectual picket line. All the containers were delivered by TWU drivers.
In 1982 a second 'MayFlower' load was organised. The vessel anchored outside the harbour. By then the maritime unions realised that their bans were ineffectual and the ACTU had a meeting with the Northern Territory Government and the mining companies. It was agreed that all bans would be lifted and Perkins would handle Queensland Mines' containers and the Darwin wharf would handle Ranger's.
The first loading of containers of yellowcake at the Darwin wharf must be a record for slow loading: 27 containers in 6 days. WWF do not accept defeat gracefully. The handling of containers at the Darwin wharf is still one of the slowest and most expensive in the world, despite the outlay of massive sums on container cranes, roll-on-roll-off facilities, trailers and forklifts. The usual figure is 30 containers in a shift, which, with washing time, walking time and smoko time, comes to only five-and-a-half hours---about 6 containers per hour. Singapore handles an average 25 with the best being 28 per hour; the Australian average is about 12 per hour. (With a bit of competition between crane drivers, the maximum rate in Darwin has been 17 per hour, but not for a full shift.)
Construction of the 'Francis Bay' was completed in Singapore in September 1981. By then the cargo shipped on the smaller landing craft had increased to the extent of our not having to buy cargo; but the increase in capacity from 250 to 2,000 tonnes meant that, to fill the new vessel, we once again had to purchase large quantities of timber, steel and cement.
The 'Francis Bay' sailed to Singapore for a number of months with cattle and no yellowcake before the unions lifted their bans on yellowcake. The direct result of the union bans was that Marine Contractors and Queensland Mines decided that they had to have a landing craft of their own to ensure that the millions of dollars of future uranium contracts would not be jeopardised. Queensland Mines agreed with the unions not to use their craft---the 'Blue Moon'---on yellowcake shipments, provided the unions allowed shipment with Perkins. However, Queensland Mines and Marine Contractors had a substantial investment in the 'Blue Moon' and in landing facilities at Francis Bay, and they obviously had to get some return on their investment. It was thus not long after the arrival of the 'Francis Bay', with 11 Australian crew, that the 'Blue Moon' started shipping cattle and importing timber with a foreign crew. Competition was very fierce, but there was not enough cargo for two vessels and eventually Marine Contractors closed down. The 'Blue Moon' remained in Singapore for a number of years without work and is now on the Cairns Fly River run for OK Tedi, under another name.
By 1984, the cargo in and out of Perkins yard at Darwin had built up to the stage where we could not handle it. At the same time, ships would not come to the WWF Darwin wharf to discharge because it took a week to unload 1,200 tonnes of timber at a cost of about $50 per tonne. By then we had our own private wharf in Gove and the same ships that had given up using the multi-million dollar Darwin wharf came into the old mission jetty at Gove which has only a 30-foot frontage. Nevertheless, we managed to unload the same quantity of cargo in Gove, with no facilities and with only 4 men plus the ship's crew, in 24 hours. We then transhipped this cargo, after quarantine inspection, onto our landing craft to Darwin. Despite three lots of handling and a 500-mile sea voyage to Darwin, it was still cheaper than unloading at the Darwin wharf! The foreign vessel was turned around with minimum port charges---2 days instead of a week. There was still a profit for Perkins as it was return cargo. TWU employees were used for all cargo work.
After three voyages like this, WWF in Darwin, instead of lifting their game to compete and recapture the work, requested SUA to black ban this cargo, forcing us to stop. Yet another source of income lost!
For the first time in years, Northern Territory farmers had a surplus of maize from the new Douglas Daly agricultural scheme and there was a firm market in New Guinea. However, no ships could come into the Darwin wharf at reasonable rates; to make matters worse, WWF and TWU had a demarcation dispute as to who should drive the bulk grain trucks when they arrived on the wharf. Consequently, the grain stayed in the silos for 4 months.
We at Perkins offered to containerise the grain, take it to Gove and tranship it onto a foreign vessel to New Guinea. However, all transhipment in Gove was stopped by union bans. We requested the union to allow us to bring a foreign ship to our berth in Darwin with timber and take out the grain, but they said no.
By then I had had enough: over the past 10 years every new idea I came up with for making money had been frustrated by the unions. I could see new export markets for Northern Territory grain being lost, opportunities for cheap fertiliser for the farmers being passed over and timber being priced out of the market, unless further cheap shipping was available.
I therefore decided to leave Perkins and set up my own business towing a dumb barge behind a tug to ship this surplus cargo of timber and grain.
I approached the Northern Territory Government to lease a block of waterfront scrub land near the old flying boat ramp at East Arm. They quickly processed a 12 month lease. Within 2 months I had dredged the area with a bulldozer at low tide and levelled and fenced it. I bitumised the area for quarantine purposes and arranged with customs to land the first cargo there because it was outside the port area.
There was a strong cross-tide and so we put in some mooring piles. In all I spent $150,000 on capital works, giving us a facility that could bring in a 5,000 tonne capacity dumb barge. We purchased a 60 tonne Michigan front-end loader from BHP Coolan Island and fitted 25 tonne forks to carry containers on and off the barge. We purchased an 8 tonne capacity front-end loader and fitted it with forks for moving bundles of timber and empty containers.
There had been considerable publicity about the start of this new dumb barge operation aimed at carrying grain out of the Northern Territory and bringing in cheap fertiliser. All three of my employees were members of the TWU.
But the Maritime Unions have a real hatred of dumb barges, and they and WWF persuaded the ACTU to place a black ban on my operation. TWU then had to withdraw support. I had quite a large volume of new cargoes (even bulk cargoes) being negotiated, but as soon as the black bans appeared this business vanished.
On the first load I had to have 1,500 tonnes to break even, with no back load. I had agreed not to take any of Perkins' normal cargo, only surplus. So I had to concentrate on timber and steel, making up the load by purchasing fertiliser and cement and a number of other commodities for sale in Darwin. The black bans meant I had no pilot provided and we had to break the law. It is a ludicrous situation when the Harbour Master---himself both a pilot and a Merchant Service Guild Member---proceeds to prosecute when you don't use a pilot simply because he refuses to do the job and chooses to support union bans.
SUA members came out in dinghies and tried to cut our tow-rope. Then when we tried to moor the vessel, they cut some of our mooring lines. The bans prevented us from getting a tug to give a hand with mooring across the strong tide, and I used two friends with barramundi boats.
The police arrived but not before members of SUA and WWF had started throwing things at my employees and my family. Most of the pickets had been consuming beer all day while waiting for the barge to come in, so we were lucky the police were there in force.
The pickets moved onto my lease and would not leave until we started to unload. When the police judged that the pickets were frustrating us from going about our normal business, they brought in extra paddy wagons and took everyone away. We had a police guard for about a week.
The four of us unloaded 1,500 tonnes and loaded empty containers and 40 tonnes of cargo for return to Singapore. We could not work while the tide was in because it covered the shore; nonetheless, we still unlashed, unloaded and relashed the vessel in 36 hours and she sailed the following day.
On the next load, a month later, we unloaded 2,500 tonnes and loaded 2,400 tonnes of grain for New Guinea in 4 days with four people and a sub-contract welder to assist with the lashing, a speed record for the Port of Darwin. All this was done with $100,000 invested in unloading equipment and $150,000 in the barge landing. You don't need multi-million dollar facilities to unload vessels. Large ships can be unloaded outside Darwin and cargo lightered ashore more cheaply and quickly than using the Darwin wharf.
The picket line was 24 hours per day for two months---not as long as Mudginberri's, but I'm willing to bet more beer was consumed on our picket line. There was much animosity from the ACTU picket line; but despite nails on the road, glue in the locks on the gates and general abuse, we delivered and collected cargo around the town, using small trucking companies as the national companies would not cross the picket. We had a great deal of moral support from people of the Northern Territory. I kept getting phone calls from groups of people wishing to move the picket line forcibly, but we managed to keep it peaceful.
WWF found it very hard to man their picket line and some WWF members were fined because they would not attend the picket and paid outsiders to stand in for them. After 2 months they gave up, realising they were having no effect.
However, the maritime unions still wanted to stop the dumb barge operation. Recognising that the only way to put me out of business was to allow free market competition, they allowed Perkins to charter a foreign-manned ship and Perkins then started a very fast competitive regular shipping service with this foreign-crewed vessel and took all the surplus cargo. I needed 1,500 tonnes to make an economic charter of a tug and barge but I could never raise this because Perkins always moved the surplus.
While waterside workers on the Darwin wharf decided that they had better increase their productivity or go out of business, and as a result productivity improved by 40 per cent on some general cargo shipments, this had not gone far enough---even though there is now another foreign-crewed vessel competing on the Darwin-Singapore run with cattle and timber running into a private TWU berth.
Thus having lost a considerable amount of money, I laid off my employees, put the buckets back on the front-end loader and went into earthmoving. Free enterprise competition had put me out of business so I couldn't complain.
I still bring the occasional barge into Australia and arrange to ship heavy equipment and land-based oil rigs around Indonesia, New Guinea and the South Pacific. I have even put barges on the east coast of Australia and loaded without any union hassles. I get jobs no one else wants to do, acting as a consultant for companies who want to move cargo cheaply without waterside workers.
Let me refer to some of the ridiculous costs presently applying at the Darwin wharf, run by WWF and their cost-plus stevedores. Take the loading of hay onto a ship. The farmer after several months' work of planting, fertilising, cutting and baling hay gets for his trouble $1.50 in the paddock. The transport company loads this hay and delivers it 200 kilometres for a further $1.00. The total landed price on the wharf is therefore $2.50. To move that hay 25 metres onto the deck of a ship ranges between $4.00 and $8.00 depending on the degree of effort of the waterside workers. The waterside workers and stevedores are thus getting more for a few hours' work than the farmer receives for growing the hay.
Heavy capital expenditure has not increased throughput in non-container freight. It has caused massive idle time which has led to wharfies increasing manning scales by 100 per cent in loose cargo operations, such as rig service vessels, for no increase in productivity.
When the rig service vessels first started in Darwin, the manning was as follows: 2 men on the ship's deck, 2 men on the wharf, 1 fork lift driver, 1 supervisor, 1 contract crane driver, and 1 delivery truck driver. At the same time cargo was not preslung.
Now cargo is preslung on the truck, but the truck driver cannot assist. The contract crane driver now reads a book, as he is not allowed to drive. There are 2 waterside workers as crane drivers, but only one can work at a time. There are 4 on the ship instead of 2. There are 4 on shore instead of 2 plus the fork-lift driver. There is also a timekeeper, a supervisor and a foreman, all employed by the stevedores. The upshot of all this is that 17 persons are now involved instead of only 8!
Moreover, if you are lucky you can load 45 tonnes per hour compared with 120 tonnes at the private rig service port of Sale in Victoria. The cost of stevedoring before Port Authority charges is about $18.50; but unless 24 hours notice is given, the price goes up to $31.50. Ignoring supervisors and foremen, the average is 3.2 tonnes per man hour.
Fremantle on loose preslung cargo for the Cocos Islands is costing $40.00 per tonne. Mason Shipping out of Cairns averages between $25.00 and $30.00. This Cairns landing-craft operation is directly comparable to the true free enterprise system applying at the private berths in Darwin, which only cost between $3.50 and $10.00 depending on the type of cargo.
Bulk Klinker unloaded in Darwin costs $12.00 per tonne compared to $5.00 in other ports.
This address is not meant to be a denigration of all Darwin unions. Darwin is still one of the few places you can construct a building on time, thanks to the Miscellaneous Workers Union. The Darwin to Alice Springs pipeline was finished on time and under budget because of good industrial relations. The shipping operations with TWU on shore and the road transport industry all work very efficiently and are strike-free. It is just WWF and the Meat Workers who will not accept new work practices.
Waterside workers have an expanding monopoly on the waterfront. To get better production out of the waterfront, employers must start acting like employers or the wharves must be opened up to competition. The realistic situation is that the WWF has an incestuous relationship with the employers of waterside labour. There will be no real change in work practices as long as the more it costs to load a ship the more the employers of waterside workers receive. Whenever a more efficient method of handling is suggested, the stevedores offer every excuse against its introduction; their favourite words are 'it can't be done'
My experience is that real change, not cosmetic change, comes only when someone's job is on the line. Competition is the only thing that brings that about. The wharves in Australia must be exposed to the free market system. There are many east coast ports that could open up to small shipping---particularly dumb barge operations using roll-on-roll-off trucks, driven onto dumb barges towed by tugs---but only if transport companies can use employees from their industry unions and not waterside workers.
This Conference's main aim is to change the industrial relations system in Australia. We are not here just to talk about it, we must do something.
In Darwin there are now three small private enterprise companies shipping around the coast and overseas, and enjoying unionisation under the industrial undertaking clause. They have developed new enterprise. For example, it is already cheaper and quicker to ship some cargoes through these companies to Darwin and truck them to southern capitals than it is to ship direct to Brisbane, Sydney and other capital ports. There is more general cargo shipped without waterside workers in Darwin than with them.
Felixstowe, in the United Kingdom, started as a one-union port, without the Dockers' Union and has become one of the biggest and most efficient ports in that country. On the other hand, the London ports, once saddled with the Dockers' Union, have all died and the Dockers' Union has now been taken over by the Transport and General Workers' Union.
The east coast of Australia has a number of unused ports that could be opened up by enterprising individuals, creating decentralised employment opportunities. They are ideally suited for small export shipping operations or coastal dumb barges towed by tugs. It can only happen if the WWF monopoly is removed.
Originally introduced as a piece of wartime legislation, Sections 81-88 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act dealing with waterside workers should now be scrapped. The technology has changed so much since 19344. We are no longer at war, although it might seem so at times on the industrial relations front. This free enterprise country, with a Trade Practices Act specifically designed to prevent monopolies, can no longer justify this legislation.
The Government should move to abolish this legislation;
or else the Opposition should do so when they gain
office. There may be strikes and ships held up when
this occurs, but no change is without pain, as was
found with Mudginberri and dumb barges out of Darwin.
This is part of the evolution of a better transport
system---the life blood of Australia.