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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1244

Mr LLOYD —My question is once again to the Minister for Science and Minister Assisting the Treasurer on Prices. Is he aware that the price of interstate rail freight, including that of the Government's own Australian National, was increased yesterday by 5 per cent, the second 5 per cent increase in six months, making a 10 per cent increase so far this financial year with another 5 per cent to come in October? What action is the Minister taking to reduce the Australian National increase to 6 per cent and what pressure is he applying to his State colleagues to ensure that they conform similarly with the Prime Minister's edict?

Mr PETER MORRIS —The honourable member will be aware that the rates for interstate rail matters are discussed by the Railways of Australia Committee under arrangements which were set in place when the Opposition was in government and which have continued since. The difference in respect of Australian National is that it has been given greater freedom, independence and responsibility to operate in a commercial manner. It is operating in a businesslike way to reduce the impact on taxpayers that was burdened upon them in the time of the honourable member's Government. Overall the improvement in performance and productivity by Australian National has made it probably the best operating rail system in Australia today. If, on the one hand, the honourable member wants to interfere in the normal free market practice of which his Leader speaks so frequently, let him say that.

Mr Lloyd —On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The hypocrisy here is that the Government is saying that the commercial sector is not allowed to--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.

Mr PETER MORRIS —If the Opposition and the honourable member's Leader desire that the Australian National Railways Commission should not operate in a businesslike and commercial manner, as they decree the whole economy should, let them say that. If they want to interfere in the operations of the Commission, let them also say that. In conclusion I wish to put on the record that Australian National is the best performing rail system in this country. It has achieved that performance under the guidance and legislation of this Government. If the Opposition wants to look to rail performance, it should look to its State colleagues, particularly in Queensland.