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Tuesday, 30 September 1997
Page: 8829

Mr ADAMS(10.30 p.m.) —Last night, the member for Corio (Mr O'Connor) told us of the proposal for Avalon airport, which was once used by the defence forces and is now used merely for training purposes. This airport consists of an 8,300 acre com plex, and it would be an ideal dedicated air freight hub that could service the whole of the south-east of Australia. Such an idea is being proposed by an alliance under the Habitat Trust. Since hearing the proposal over two years ago, I have been working closely with the member for Corio, and I believe this could be of enormous benefit to Tasmania.

Coming from a rural electorate like Lyons, one of the major stumbling blocks to exporting for many of the primary producers is the transport of their goods. It applies particularly to perishables. I have seen for myself cartons of salmon sitting on the tarmac in the sun, waiting to be loaded along with a whole lot of suitcases. This works up to a point but, if something breaks down or there are delays, a shipment can lose its market very quickly and the goods are useless for sale anywhere else. Tasmanians could grow more and we could export more, if only we had a reliable and fast transport system from the farm gate to the marketplace.

Dedicated freight services are not new to the world. Israel has one of the most efficient systems that can export overnight to anywhere and any continent. Australia can do the same, but we need to gear up to do so. Such a development cannot happen in a great hurry but, if we have the system, the world can be our oyster—if not have our oysters within 24 hours.

A system has to be reliable, it has to be fast and it has to be able to be tracked right from the door to any particular stage of the transport system. The less it is off-loaded, the easier it is followed in the process. The customer needs to know where their goods are at any point in time. This can be established electronically, provided the freight company has the vision to apply the quality assurance standards like other industries.

So far, I am less than impressed with Australia's freight systems. I think I have already told the House that it took me more than six weeks to bring a carton of wine from Tasmania to Canberra. The whole time it was in transit, I could not verify where it was. Even the mail to Tasmania is slow. It takes three days from Canberra. So I can imagine the frustration of primary producers who want to catch early markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong or Jakarta. I know of one company which became so desperate that it chartered its own aircraft, but it is not an economic thing to do on a regular basis.

I believe such a proposal as Avalon has these ingredients and could be the catalyst for Tasmania to become one of the major primary product exporters in Australia. We do a lot now, but we could increase our output tenfold, and later a thousandfold, if such a system can be developed.

In a recent trip to Indonesia and Thailand, I made a point of checking the supermarket shelves in some of the major centres. A few of our packaged meat products are there, but most of the dairy products come from New Zealand and Holland. Other products come from Canada and the United States.

Why isn't Australia at the forefront? Indonesia is our nearest neighbour. Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and some parts of New South Wales could benefit hugely by having a facility such as that being described in the Avalon project. State governments must put aside their parochialism and start thinking together to develop a regional transport hub and put their energies into ensuring that the infrastructure is up to supplying such a hub. I would like to see an integrated system in Tasmania geared to this, using fast catamaran freight services, a dedicated aeroplane and train and truck transport system, and a link to a single port/airport with the primary task of moving freight fast and efficiently.

Tasmania has a long way to go to sort out its transport system. I do not believe we will do that in a hurry. We have a lot of different systems operating inefficiently at the moment. United we can provide more jobs and a better service, and that is a worthy goal to pursue. I will be supporting the Avalon proposal in any way I can. I hope that Tasmania will be involved in the beginning of the proposal and that we will be able to reap the benefits as soon as it starts to operate in the near future.