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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 768

Mr HOLLIS(11.05) —I am particularly pleased to speak on the Australian National Railways Commission Amendment Bill 1987. I see that there are quite a number of members from both sides of the House who wish to speak on this Bill. One can only assume that Australian National is doing very well, as so many members wish to speak. This amendment will permit AN, consistent with its charter, to act commercially to improve the financial performance of its passenger operation. As previous speakers have said, passenger services are usually a loss-making part of any railway operation. Australia has no monopoly on this; it is true of many parts of the world. As the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Jull) and other speakers have pointed out, there is a potential to turn that loss-making operation into a profit-making operation. I agree with many things that the honourable member for Fadden said. There must be an emphasis on the market. We must give people the services that they want in order to attract them back to the trains, especially the long haul services.

I agree with much that the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) said. I do not think there is much argument between any honourable members about what needs to be done on the railways. However, it will come as no surprise to the honourable member that I do disagree strongly with him over his support for the Darwin-Alice Springs railway. This proposal has really been discredited. It is not an option open to us. I have no doubt that the Northern Territory Government would welcome that service, but of course it would be paid for with our money. The taxpayers of Australia would be pouring money into another grandiose project in the Northern Territory which would cost us all an immense amount of money. This Government will not do it. We are financially responsible and we will not agree to such a grandiose and irresponsible scheme as building the Alice Springs to Darwin railway. It could not be justified in any way at all.

I am very pleased that the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) is also in the House today with the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris)-

Mr John Brown —I came in especially to hear you, Colin.

Mr HOLLIS —I thought you might have done. It is good to see you here with the Minister for Transport.

Mr Robert Brown —A great combination.

Mr HOLLIS —Yes, it is a great combination, as the honourable member for Charlton reminds me. Under this Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, tourism has been revitalised in this country. We have seen the great advertising project in the United States that has lifted the number of tourists coming to this country. We have seen other tourist advertising in various parts of the world. As the Minister would agree, however, tourism in Australia is about a lot more than `putting another shrimp on the barbie', our magnificent beaches or our fine cities. I believe that Australia is losing an opportunity to promote tourism. In the next round of Paul Hogan advertisements-or advertisements by whoever might be doing them-I would like to see a unique style of Australian tourism promotion overseas. I would like to see our trains promoted. Can honourable members imagine a tourist coming from the United States, Japan or somewhere, arriving in Perth, spending some time in that magnificent area and maybe going to the south-west corner of Western Australia then returning to Perth, and then crossing the Nullarbor on the Indian Pacific railway? It would be a magnificent trip. Some friends of mine came out from England two years ago. They spent three months in Perth working at the university and then they crossed the country on the Indian Pacific. They told me that the trip had meant more than any other that they had done in Australia because it gave them an appreciation of what Australia is about. I would like to see that sort of trip promoted. Imagine the tourists coming here spending some time in Sydney and, hopefully, Wollongong-

Mr Robert Brown —And Newcastle.

Mr HOLLIS —And Newcastle, as the honourable member says-then going to Adelaide and taking a trip on the Ghan to Alice Springs. That is a magnificent trip. I have actually made both these train journeys. Last year I was in Adelaide for a committee that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, were chairing. I then had to go to Darwin for another meeting and I travelled from Adelaide to Alice Springs by the Ghan instead of flying as we usually do. The Ghan leaves Adelaide at 10 a.m. and arrives at Alive Springs at 10 a.m. the next day. It is a magnificent trip. More and more Australians should be taking advantage of that. I do not have many criticisms of the Ghan, but it should have a commentary on the trip, as does the Indian Pacific, and I also suggest that it update its postcards. It is a magnificent trip, and that is the sort of thing that we should be promoting as well as our cities and our rivers. We should be promoting these opportunities to our potential tourists overseas. We should also be promoting them much more to the Australian people. Many more Australians and, I might suggest, many more younger Australians should experience train travel. Travelling on the Ghan was a magnificent experience for me.

It has been mentioned here that the Indian Pacific now goes directly to Adelaide, and this provides a direct Sydney-Adelaide link. I was with the Minister last year when he made this trip. That also was a great innovation for the Indian Pacific. Now people can go directly to Adelaide whereas before people had to leave the train. I listened to what the honourable member for Fadden said about the Kuranda railway outside Cairns. As may be obvious from my speech, I am a bit of a train buff. I have also been on that railway. I seem to have been on most of the railways in Australia. I agree with him that it is a magnificent line.. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer) is in the House, and I think he would also agree with me when I argue that another line would match that line outside Cairns, and that is the Unanderra-Moss Vale line, which is within my electorate but I do not want to be parochial about it. I have discussed with the New South Wales rail people the promotion of this line.

I share the view of the honourable member for Fadden that we have magnificent scenery in this country and the railways usually go through it. But we have fallen down in promoting it. We have fallen down in promoting to our overseas tourists our long haul lines such as the Indian Pacific and the Ghan. They are unique. Nowhere else in the world are there railways such as these. We have also fallen down, I believe, in promoting local lines locally. If people have not been on the Moss Vale-Unanderra line-people can go on it only once a week, unfortunately, now-I suggest that anyone who has a Saturday to spare go down there and do that trip because it is magnificent. It is from the coast to the highlands at Moss Vale. I was one of those local members who fought very, very strenuously, and lost, to keep it a daily service. The inevitable bus now runs a daily service, and only once a week does the rail service run. It is my hope that one day, with more and more tourism and with it being promoted more, that will return to a daily service.

Mr Tim Fischer —It should be a round trip XPT-tourist XPT.

Mr HOLLIS —As the honourable member says, it could have the XPT. When the XPT first came in we did that trip on it with David Hill and other people, and it was a tremendous trip. Some comment has been made today about the state of our trains. Originally coming from Kempsey in the electorate of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Nehl), I have travelled on the old North Coast Mail, the old 14-hour horror, from Sydney to Kempsey. I have also travelled on the Brisbane Limited-when it stops. I have had the pies and the peas and the cup of coffee that were usual railway fare. I thought the honourable member for Fadden was a little unfair in some of his criticism because on some of our better trains the food is tremendous. Some of our long haul trains not only equal but are better than trains in other parts of the world. Yet we tend to criticise our trains.

Last June-here we go on one of my travelogues again-I travelled from Stockholm to London by train, something like 38 hours, and 38 very uncomfortable hours it was, I might add. Nothing on that train could match what we have on any of our trains. It does not have the sleeping compartments that we have.

Mr John Brown —Have you mentioned the Southern Aurora? It is the best train in the world.

Mr HOLLIS —Of course it is. I am saying that we have these facilities on our trains; we have the cabins; we can have a shower in the cabins. This is unheard of on European trains. People have to sit up. I thought I had a sleeping berth on one of these trains, but it was a sleeping compartment with six other people. There was no food on the train. People had to race out at various places-we went through Denmark, the northern part of Germany and Holland-and try to manipulate the different foreign currencies to get food to keep body and soul together. Here we have our meals on the trains. The food, I believe, is quite good.

As I said, I would like to see more and more Australians, especially the younger people, using our trains. Only last month I travelled on a train in Chile, from Santiago to Osarno. This was a journey of 18 hours. It was supposedly one of the top trains in South America, but it was nothing to compare with our trains such as the Southern Aurora, mentioned by the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, the Indian Pacific and the Ghan. I must say I have not yet travelled on the new Sunlander-from Brisbane to Cairns. I travelled on the old Sunlander about 15 years ago, but I have not yet travelled on the new Sunlander.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Darling) —Order! I do not wish to dampen the honourable member's enthusiasm, but could he please relate his comments more closely to the legislation.

Mr HOLLIS —With great respect, Madam Deputy Speaker, when I took a point of order during the speech of the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), I was told that the second reading debate allowed a wide range of debate. In this speech I am talking about how the passenger service will contribute to the financial viability of AN. In my speech I am relating, as the honourable member for Fadden and the honourable member for Grey (Mr O'Neil) and other preceding speakers have related, how promoting tourism and train travel this will lead to the objectives of this legislation.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —I am glad the honourable member is relating it to the legislation.

Mr HOLLIS —I have been saying that many of the trains on which I have travelled overseas cannot compare with the trains that we have in Australia, especially the AN trains. Last year when I was in Adelaide with the Minister, I inspected the business car which AN launched in October. I would like to make a suggestion through the Minister to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) about this. The business car is for conferences. It can be hired by businesses, clubs or organisations to hold a mobile convention.

Mr Tim Fischer —Is it broad gauge or standard gauge?

Mr HOLLIS —It goes on the Indian Pacific and the Ghan. I know that the Prime Minister is moving the Cabinet around. In fact, there will be a Cabinet meeting in Bathurst in May. I would like to suggest to him that a Cabinet meeting be held in this business car. It would be great to do some lobbying of our Ministers, travelling on the Ghan between Adelaide and Alice Springs, and they could have a Cabinet meeting on the way. It would draw attention to this business car and it would promote it. It would also promote the Ghan. That would be very important. I suggest to the Minister at the table, the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, that he take up the suggestion with the Prime Minister that this business car be linked to the Ghan or the Indian Pacific. All the Ministers could spend a night on the train. They could get on it in Adelaide in the late afternoon, have a very nice dinner and, the next morning as they cross the Nullarbor or as they go into Alice Springs, they could be deciding the fate of this nation at a Cabinet meeting. I would like them to take up that suggestion.

In my opinion, the record of AN has been very good. I think congratulations to the Chairman, the commissioners, the management and, of course, the unions and the work force are in order. As I have said, I think AN has a great future. I believe that the long haul passenger service in Australia has a great future. However, it has to be promoted. This is just not going to happen if we sit back and say: `Everything will be okay'. As I have said, we have great trains. We have trains that are equal to or better than any in the world. We have tremendous facilities on our major trains. But this cannot be a secret that we keep to ourselves. We have to get out and promote what we have on our trains. We have to sell them. The purpose of this Bill is to try to turn around some of the loss making activities that are now operated by AN. I think that can be achieved. I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.