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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1851

Senator HEARN —I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. What transport assistance has the Government provided to Tasmania ? How does the Government's approach differ from that of the Opposition parties?

Senator GIETZELT —In the 13 years that I have been in the Senate the transport problems in Tasmania have been a topic of constant discussion and debate in the Senate and a matter of some decision making by various governments from time to time. I believe that the current Government has met its responsibilities very admirably in respect of the transport problems that face the people of Tasmania, to the extent that it is giving them, in the current Budget, more than $2m a week towards solving those problems, which is about $103m a year, in four separate grants. Roads are getting $53m, the freight equalisation scheme is getting $29m, $18m will be provided in the form of subsidies to the Australian National Railways Commission and an additional $3m is being given to rehabilitate the Tasmanian railway system. That is more than has been given in past years. In addition to that, the Government has decided to give an extra, I think, $26m to assist the Tasmanian Government to modify the Tasmanian passenger ferry service by replacing the Empress of Australia with a new vessel that is capable of doubling the number of passengers travelling between the mainland and Tasmania. This, of course, is a very positive help to overcoming the disadvantages that Tasmania suffers as a result of its isolation from the mainland.

The Government finds it very difficult to appreciate the failure of the Opposition parties to condemn the statements made by the National Party spokesman for northern development, who has criticised the Government's approach to the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme. One would have thought that there would be a non-partisan attitude in respect of our obligations as a national parliament to bring about some equal treatment for Tasmania in terms of transport and associated problems. One can only hope that after the coming election we will see some improvement in the representation of the people of Tasmania in the House of Representatives to provide more voices to improve further our contribution towards overcoming the transport deficiencies that we acknowledge exist in Tasmania.