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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 565

Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I have received representations from the citizens of the railway town of Tailem Bend in South Australia who are concerned about the rationalisation of Australian National and who would like some reassurance regarding job prospects for the future. Can the Minister advise me whether Australian National is planning to allocate funds which will protect its staff in Tailem Bend from further job loss and which would in consequence help to keep the area economically stable?

Senator GIETZELT —The Government shares the concern of Senator Foreman and the employees of Australian National about the difficulties that exist in Tailem Bend in South Australia. The need for staff stationed in that region has been steadily declining over almost the last 30 years since the introduction of diesel locomotives in the early 1950s. The decline unfortunately has been accelerated in recent years with operational changes such as the curtailment of services to Murraylands, the establishment of the Loxton freight centre and the advent of Intrans which is a co-ordinated freight timetable. All of these reflect the initiatives and the changing structures arising out of change to the industry and the current level of service provided in the area.

Of course, the changes constitute an important part of the long term strategy of Australian National to improve general efficiency in what is a very competitive transport market. As provided in the legislation and supported by all parties in the Parliament, Australian National must operate as a commercially oriented transport authority. Therefore, this rationalisation and other changes that have taken place require constant review of the staffing requirements at all locations including Tailem Bend. I understand that any further proposals for staff reductions will follow a comprehensive discussion with the union representatives. The present proposals of transfer, redevelopment or relocation will not be implemented until such time as negotiations with the unions concerned are complete. I give that assurance to Senator Foreman.