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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 776

Senator TATE (Special Minister of State)(4.08) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

It is now some three years since the Minister for Transport introduced the legislation to provide the Australian National Railways Commission (AN) with a charter which gave AN the task of becoming a commercially oriented business operation.

It is no secret that in the year before AN had recorded its highest ever loss of $106 million. The period since then has been a story of continued progress.

Progress that reflects this Government's approach of creating an environment in which its business authorities can get on with the job of improving their performance. In real terms AN's call on the Federal Budget has been reduced by over 50% during this period.

It is a record in which everyone associated with AN, the Chairman, Commissioners, AN management, Unions and AN work force can take pride.

But we cannot stop there. Accordingly this Government is continuing to work with AN, and its staff to maintain that momentum which will lead AN to become a genuinely commercially viable Government railway.

As part of this continuing drive for improved efficiency on 1 October 1986 the Minister for Transport announced a package of further initiatives including a new approach to AN's passenger services.

The fact is that like virtually every railway in the world AN's passenger services are not currently commercially viable. However, with operational and marketing initiatives, their future prospects are improved.

Whilst AN's performance is better than many of the other Australian rail systems, particularly in respect to long distance services, there is room to achieve greater efficiency. The Government and AN are embarking upon the demanding approach of upgrading these services rather than allowing them to drift into a state where they are beyond redemption.

We have agreed with AN a set of increasing cost recovery targets to be achieved in respect of these passenger services. From a level of around 45% in 1984/85 AN now has the task of improving its passenger cost recovery level to a 60% target by 1988/89.

AN has already launched a number of major initiatives to provide better, more efficient services to its customers. These include

upgrading the Mount Gambier service with improved transit times and on-board service which has resulted in a 15% increase in patronage

the launching in 1986 of a new Adelaide-Whyalla Budd car service which replaced the Adelaide-Port Pirie service. This service, known as the Iron Triangle Limited, is currently running at almost full capacity

diversion of the Indian Pacific into Adelaide in 1986 without adding to the total journey time

the launching of a new service, known as the Silver City Limited between Adelaide and Broken Hill in December 1986.

AN considers that it should further extend the facilities it provides to its passengers to make train travel a far more enjoyable experience in itself.

Accordingly it has refurbished rolling-stock to provide a special entertainment car, offering facilities such as

video and sound booths

video games for children

tables for cards and chess

a souvenir shop

a hair salon

a limited number of poker machines.

To provide a clear legislative base for these activities it is necessary for the amendments contained in section 2 of this Bill to be enacted.

AN has consulted both the South Australian and Northern Territory Governments on the proposal and both Governments have raised no objections.

The other provision of the Bill will amend Section 70 of the Act to expand the powers under which Boards of Inquiry undertake investigations into the causes of accidents involving AN.

Two Boards of Inquiry have been established under the Act. They have proven to be extremely valuable in having an independent body examine major accidents.

It is considered that future inquiries would benefit by having wider powers to allow them to consider the broader causes of accidents. The proposed powers are similar to provisions governing accident enquiries under the Air Navigation Regulations.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.