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Friday, 3 April 1987
Page: 1819


Senator McINTOSH —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It relates to recent Press reports that the Australian Shippers Council has suggested that northbound freight rates out of Australia could rise by up to 50 per cent because of the shortage of capacity on outgoing ships. This is naturally of concern to Australian exporters. It could, for instance, jeopardise our economic recovery. If this is the situation, is there any action the Government can take that would increase the capacity of outgoing ships?


Senator GIETZELT —The Minister for Transport and, indeed, the Government are aware of recent Press reports that the Australian Shippers Council has suggested that freight rates from Australia could rise by up to 50 per cent because of a shortage of empty containers in Australia. This situation arises because of the almost dramatic change in the import-export industry resulting from the Government's good management of the economy and the fact that there is an increase in the volume of our exports. That is the result, of course, of our increasing competitiveness in world markets. That situation arises because of some of the financial decisions that have been made in recent times. It is reflected in the 30 to 40 per cent fall in demand for import shipping space at the same time as a dramatic increase in demand for export space, particularly to Europe and the northern Asian region.

This is, of course, a complete turnaround from the situation that existed when we came to government in March 1983. In other words, exports are up and imports are down and this has resulted in the necessity for some change in the arrangements and that inevitably results in a change in costs. The Minister for Transport, accordingly, has established a process of monitoring the freight rate changes, and has discussed some of these matters with the major shipping conferences with the objective of taking whatever steps are available to government to rectify the situation.