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Date: Wed, 10 Dec 97 22:31:31 CST
From: rich%pencil@WUVMD.Wustl.Edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Oz: Govt confirms soldiers being trained for waterfront work
/** disarm.armstra: 1541.0 **/
** Topic: (Mercenaries) Govt confirms soldiers being trained for waterfront **
** Written 5:54 PM Dec 9, 1997 by disenber@cdi.org in cdp:disarm.armstra **

Govt confirms soldiers being trained for waterfront

From David Isenberg,
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
4 December 1997

The Federal Government has confirmed 18 serving soldiers were part of the contingent that left Australia last night for Dubai for training in waterfront work.

The group, led by two former Army commandoes, has been branded by the Federal Opposition as industrial mercenaries who will eventually act as waterfront strike breakers.

Defence Minister Ian McLachlan says the military personnel involved in the three month training exercise would either be on long service leave or annual holidays.

Mr McLachlan has told Parliament he was not sure whether all of the soldiers had the necessary permission to take leave so as to participate in the Dubai mission.

"It is not possible to determine whether those preconditions have been met," he said.

"If those preconditions have not been met we have absolutely no doubt they'll be disciplined on their return."

Call for soldiers to return

The Opposition is calling on the Government to recall all serving Army personnel involved in waterfront training in Dubai.

Labor's defence spokesman, Arch Bevis, says the soldiers are violating Army regulations regarding outside work, and should be brought home immediately.

Union won't be spooked

The Maritime Union says it will not be "spooked" into a fight over the use former military personnel as strike breakers. Deputy secretary of the union's Queensland branch, Col Davies, says members are preparing for a fight but it will be on their terms. "If they go ahead with their plan, if they're involved in this and they go ahead with the plan, there will be no way to avoid a confrontation," he said.

"But we'll fight on our terms and we'll pick the time. We won't be spooked into a fight that we don't want to be in at a particular time." The Western Australian Minister for Transport, Eric Charlton, says training strike breakers to deal with violent situations in ports is outdated.

Mr Charlton says he has not heard of plans to use former Army personnel as strike breakers at WA ports.

He says the plan is totally unnecessary.

"I don't think there's any need for anybody to be brought in," he said.

"The facts are there are plenty of people here that know what needs to be done, and we're confident that the changes that we've already implemented will start to flow on and see the progressive change that should have happened 20 years ago."

But Victoria's Minister for Roads and Ports, Geoff Craige, has backed the push by private enterprise to provide competition on Australia's union controlled waterfront.

Mr Craige says Melbourne and other Australian ports must be competitive on an international basis.

"I worked on the waterfront for four years for the Federated Clerks Union, and not a lot of the practices have changed over the years. "I still hear the same things and the same activities about activity on our waterfront. They've got to change that.

"We can't afford the expense that it costs us and the work practices that cost us. We have to make sure we change them."

No special passport deal

The Federal Government says there was no special treatment for issuing urgent passports to former and serving soldiers going to the Persian Gulf for waterfront training.

Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer says the Department of Foreign Affairs made no representations to the United Arab Emirates or any Government on behalf of the individuals or named companies. Mr Fischer says about 500 urgent passports are issued each week and the application from the soldiers was dealt with routinely.

"My department also informs me that it has no knowledge of the purpose of travel of the individuals named and that it is not normal procedure to seek such information," Mr Fischer said.

1997 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

David Isenberg, Senior Research Analyst, Center for Defense Information CDI's ONLY genuine former enlisted man
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