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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- I am sure, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I shared your pleasure at the comparison made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) of the Canberra city omnibus service and the bus services in Perth and Detroit. It appears that the problem of running a bus service at a profit or at a loss in the Australian Capital Territory, where the service is run by the Commonwealth, is similar to the problems faced by State governments of various political complexions and by American governments. It would appear to be extraordinarily unpopular to persuade people to pay the fares necessary to cover operating expenses. If these services are publicly owned, of course they must b3 kept operating. No government can discontinue a service. If, however, a city transport service which is privately owned becomes unprofitable, the owner discontinues the service. I remember that that happened in the case of the oldest and probably the most pleasant form of city transport in Sydney, the harbour ferries. They just stopped, and the Government nationalized them by default, if I may use that term. It obtained the whole service for, I think, £8,000 - and that was not a confiscatory price. Rather was it a generous price, considering the losses suffered for several years by a transport company which had lost its vision and its enterprise. The company had built no new vessels for 30 years. It had discontinued services and had not recruited new operatives. Very naturally, of course, the service was not conducted at a profit. Now we see the State government building new and modern ferries, and running the service at smaller losses. It will soon be making ends meet, while running the service pleasantly and efficiently.

One would think that the Canberra city omnibus service, with a grant in aid of £60,000 this year, and of £70.000 last year, must be the most unprofitable municipal bus service in Australia. It may be that this is inevitable because of the nature of the capital city. Those who view the matter more superficially may say that it is because there is a Liberal government in the federal sphere. I shall not be quite as simple as that. I agree with the honorable member who has said that nationalization of city transport services is out of date. It will nol improve matters at all. Rather should such services be municipalized. There is no sense, surely, in the Australian people paying extra taxes so that people in Canberra may pay uneconomic fares to travel on buses. There is no point in the people of Australia, and particularly of New South Wales, paying extra taxes so that the people in Sydney suburbs that are served by trams or government buses may travel in them at uneconomic rates.

Mr Buchanan - Has the honorable member given away nationalization?

Mr WHITLAM - No. We advocate municipalization in regard to local services, mutualization in regard to insurance offices, and nationalization of services which affect everybody in the nation. Those points are all included in the policy of the Australian Labour party, and those are the points that will commend themselves by sheer economic and historical necessity to every one in the country. Why is it that the South Australian Liberal Government nationalized - if that is the term - the electricity services in that State? Why is it that a Country party government in Victoria nationalized the gas and fuel corporation there? Why is it that a New South Wales Liberal-Country party government nationalized the Sydney bus services? I think that at that time it used the alias of United Australia party-Country party government, and one of its distinguished members was the gentleman who is now the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), and the leader of his party was the Minister for Transport in that government, Colonel Bruxner. Such things are inevitable, Mr. Temporary Chairman, as you well know. I represent an electorate on the outskirts of Sydney. No government buses operate in it. I used to represent a larger electorate, the largest in Australia in point of population, in which no government buses operated. My electors, without exception, wished that government buses did operate, because they could then have travelled on them more cheaply, although at an uneconomic rate. People in the outer suburbs pay fares on private buses. Those private services have shorter sections, higher fares, and less frequent services than generous Australian governments provide for the people who live near the centres of the larger capital cities, or in those smaller capital cities that have not expanded after the war as have Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr Cleaver - The private operators have been overloaded with taxes.

Mr WHITLAM - If they run at a loss they do not pay taxes.

Mr Snedden - Would their losses be less if they were owned by municipalities than if they were owned by the State?

Mr WHITLAM - 1 should think that the State would make more from a profitable publicly-owned corporation than from a profitable privately-owned company. The difference is that the privately-owned organization would pay the Commonwealth, at the very most, 7s. or 8s. in the £1 in taxes on its profits, whereas the State, or the Commonwealth, or a municipality, would retain the whole of the profits of the publicly-owned corporation.

Government supporters interjecting,


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