Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 February 1989)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 February 1989)


Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 16 February 1989 of 0.1 man-hours lost for operational employees is the equal lowest average in Australia, along with that of Tasmania. This compares with a monthly average of 4.9 man-hours lost in New South Wales and 3.1 man-hours per month in Victoria. I think all members would have to agree that this indicates that there is a different attitude amongst the workers on the Darwin waterfront. This attitude is nowhere better evidenced than by the fact that Federated Stevedores, one of the 2 new stevedoring firms now operating in the port, is 50%-owned by the Waterside Workers Federation. The presence of Federated Stevedores and the other recent stevedoring addition to the port, Conaust, has provided genuine competition to TSS, which has shown through its record that it has a long-term commitment to Darwin. It is the first time in 9 years that there has been stevedoring competition on the waterfront. Apart from the improved throughput, prices quoted to port users by the stevedoring companies are now decidedly lower per tonne or per unit. Naturally, this renewed spirit of competition and the results in performance and cost benefits provide added incentives to potential port users. I believe another major contributing factor for the marked improvements on the Darwin waterfront in recent years has been the Darwin Port Efficiency Task Force. The task force is made up of all port users: This provides an opportunity for the likes of waterside workers, shipping companies and the users of stevedoring firms to meet regularly and discuss any difficulties which they might have. This unique forum has proved beneficial not only as far as better relations between port users are concerned but through improving overall port efficiency because it allows users the opportunity to address positively problems which impact on a range of areas within the port. This week, the task force celebrated 4 successful years of operation. In fact, so successful is the Port Efficiency Task Force concept that the interstate commission looking into a national waterfront strategy has examined it, possibly with a view to recommending its adoption on an Australia-wide basis. While attitudes and competition remain important, there are many more components involved in the make-up of the port and stevedoring charges. When it comes to attracting shippers, nothing has a more positive impact than the prospect of low port and stevedoring charges. To put it simply, port and stevedoring charges can make or break a port. Sadly, like most smaller ports, Darwin has traditionally suffered from high port and stevedoring charges, due mainly to under-utilisation of port facilities and our labour force. Unfortunately, in these days of specialisation, it is essential that, regardless of size, a port has 1 of everything. One simply cannot buy a quarter of a crane. It is necessary to outlay big money to buy the specialised equipment necessary to.handle the range of modern shipping at an acceptable speed., This means that the infrastructure in smaller ports often remains substantially under-utilised. Ships are high-cost carriers which do not make money by spending excessive time in port. Additionally, our costs are affected by Darwin's 8 m tidal range and our Cyclone Code, both of which make infrastructural development costs higher than elsewhere in Australia . . As I have mentioned, port efficiencies depend largely on the movement of high tonnages of cargo across the wharf. For Darwin to achieve such ecpnomies of scale, we have to reduce the cost of all components of overall port and stevedoring charges. More competitive stevedoring rates and improved efficiencies and discharge times are 2 steps in the right direction. One of the significant elements contributing to high port charges has been the cost factor known as the idle-time levy. Since permanency was introduced to the waterfront in the early 1970s, wharfies have been employed on the same basis as the rest of the work force, rather than on casual rates as was previously 5586

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