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Friday, 19 November 1965

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

I.   What departments -have (a) chartered and (b) subsidised ships in the last year?

2.   For what voyages and at what cost were the ships chartered or subsidised?

Sir Robert Menzies . - The answer to the honorable member's question is as follows -

These ships have been available to the Government under varying charter terms, or according to detailed agreements with the ship-owners concerned, and it is not considered appropriate to reveal the details of the terms of charter.

In addition to the ships listed, there have been charters of vessels of small capacity for the transport of stores etc.

The Department of Trade and Industry, although not engaged in the actual chartering of vessels, is responsible for extending financial assistance to four shipping companies operating direct services to South America. These services were introduced to assist Ausralian exporters develop the South American markets.

In respect of the service to the West Coast of South America and the Caribbean, the Agreement entered into in March 1964, for a period of one year has now expired. It provided for financial assistance of £150,000 spread equally over six voyages. The company was obliged to provide sailings at two monthly intervals to specified ports in the area covered by the service. The Government has agreed to a continuation of assistance to the company for a further 12 months. Ten sailings will be provided in place of the previous six, with sailings at six weekly intervals initially. There is also provision for the service to move to a monthly basis towards the end of the period if results warrant this. Commonwealth financial assistance will be a guarantee against loss (as opposed to the earlier flat rate payments) of up to a maximum of £185,000 over the 10 sailings.

The service to the east coast of South America operated under a two year agreement which was due to expire in May 1964, and provided for financial assistance to a maximum of £175,000 over the period of the Agreement at a maximum rate of £21,875 per voyage. As the line operating this service could not complete the required number of voyages within the period of the Agreement, due to circumstances outside its control, the Commonwealth has agreed to an extension of the original Agreement until December 1965, to enable the stipulated number of voyages to be completed.

An annual subsidy of £150,000 per annum was paid until 31st December 1964, in respect of vessels on the Australian Register and operated by Australian crews in competition with other vessels in the Australian/New Guinea trade. Since that date the rate of subsidy has been increased to £200,000 per annum and, as a result, actual payment in the financial year 1964-65 totalled £162,500.

The final two instalments of an establishment allowance made to assist in the provision of a new vessel for the Melbourne/King Island service were paid during 1964-65 and amounted to £8,000. This service also attracted a subsidy of £3,343 so that voyages could be made to King Island while the regular supplying vessel was out of commission. In addition an operating subsidy is paid to reduce the charges for the service by £2 10s. per ton for general cargo With broadly proportionate reductions for other cargo. This operated from 19th April 1965, except that reductions for livestock were made retrospective to 1st January 1965. The total payment during the financial year 1964-65 amounted to £22,000.

An annual subsidy of £10,625 was paid in respect of shipping services to isolated Northern Territory ports in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

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