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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1682


Senator WATSON(5.55) —It is not surprising that there has been a mixed response to the report on the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme. Firstly, there are advantages. There was some relief that the report at least acknowledged that Tasmania suffers certain transport disadvantages because of policies which increase freight rates of sea transport, particularly across Bass Strait. The proposed scheme is a compensation rather than an equalisation scheme, and is designed particularly to help small shippers on the sector between the mainland and Tasmania, based on payment of an amount for each of the different types of cargo units. I think those changes are to be welcomed. On the other hand, concern has been expressed about the proposed new arrangements by some of the large shippers, particularly of bulk cargo. For example, if the proposals result in organisations becoming less competitive-I include the pea processors, apple and pear producers, shippers of green timber and paper, and industries that could be affected for other reasons, such as electrolytic zinc producers in the State-there could be dramatic ramifications in terms of loss of jobs. These labour intensive areas could be severely affected. I hope that the Government will review some of its recommendations, particularly in these areas.

Tasmania overall must be receiving less benefit, since there is a projected 15 per cent reduction in total compensation payments. One of the problems with a previous scheme was that it was acknowledged that some of the payments fell largely into a few hands. But the combined effect of this report and the opening up of Bass Strait to some real competition will mean changes in the Bass Strait trade. There will be further pressure to ship out of northern ports, particularly involving those ports and shipping concerns that offer competitive pricing. The Gray Government of Tasmania should be commended for tackling the issues presented by Bass Strait. Farmers, manufacturers and merchants in Tasmania will continue to suffer cost penalties when they need urgent parts or supplies that have to be sent across to the island by air since there is to be no extension to commodities transported by air. A rough rule of thumb is an addition of between 30 to almost 50 per cent to the cost of small items that have to be shipped by air, simply because there is no alternative transport for urgent items. This puts Tasmanian producers and other people at a severe disadvantage. I trust the Government will accept the report and rectify the problems that have been raised.

Question resolved in the affirmative.