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Friday, 12 September 1969


Mr DAVIES (Braddon) - I wish to deal with the financial assistance for the Melbourne to King Island shipping service, which is included in Division 480 of the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport. The appropriation for 1968-69 was $141,000, and this amount was expended, but for 1969-70 the amount has been reduced by 33% to $94,000. I would like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) to explain why the allocation has been reduced. This is a matter of great concern to me. We have enjoyed this subsidy for several years.


Mr Sinclair - The amount covers the period only up to the end of February. It was thought that by then the result of the consultant's survey would be on hand. The subsidy is the same but the amount covers only part of the year. There is no significance in the reduction of the amount in the estimates.


Mr DAVIES - I take it then that if the survey is not completed and no decision has been reached following the feasibility study, the subsidy will continue at the current rate.


Mr Sinclair - Yes, up to the end of the year.


Mr DAVIES - I seek from the Minister some indication of the Government's intention. If he cannot give it to me now he may be able to let me know in a few moments. In his reply to me by way of interjection he mentioned the feasibility study. Will the subsidy continue until the end of the year or will it continue until the feasibility study has been completed?


Mr Sinclair - For the moment it has been extended for a financial year. It is thought that continuation of the amounts payable after February will depend on the result of the examination of the feasibility study.


Mr DAVIES - I thank the Minister for the information he has supplied. The subsidy is a matter of importance to the island that I represent. It lies midway between Victoria and Tasmania. The subsidy was introduced on 1st January 1965 and was $5 a ton on general cargo. It continued at that rate until 1968. This is the reason why I could not understand the reduction in the amount in the estimates, but this has now been explained. From 1st August 1968 the subsidy on general cargo was reduced from $5 a ton to $3.35 a ton. The shipping company that receives the subsidy found it could not operate at the freight rate then operating and was forced to increase its rates. The people on the island are very appreciative of the subsidy. It is very valuable and we welcomed it with open arms. It was introduced after consultation between the then Tasmanian Labor Government, the then Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Henty, and representatives from King Island. After a study of the position, the Government realised the difficulties that faced the primary producers and exporters on the island and agreed to introduce the subsidy.

I do not intend to run through all the rates, but I would like to give a few so that the Parliament will have some idea of what the subsidy means. The subsidy on general cargo is $3.35 a ton. This is 33i% of the total rate. The subsidy on ales, beer and stout is $3.46 on a 40 cubic foot pack. It is $10.58 on 1,000 bricks. On bulls it is $5.03, on cows $5.03, on vealers $2.35 and on sheep, lambs and ewes 74c. This is a most valuable subsidy and we hope that it will continue at least until the feasibility study has been completed. Recently, in answer to a question, the Minister said that he is examining the report. He has received it. The State and Commonwealth governments have contributed to the costs of the study on a $1 for $1 basis up to $100,000. We hope that it will provide the answer to the $64 question, which is how in the long term we can solve the problem of shipping to King Island. The Minister has the report and he knows the answer. However, we understand that the study may not meet all the difficulties. I ask the Government to continue the subsidy at the present rate a! least until some definite solution is found to the problem of shipping to the island.

The problem may be solved when the report on the study is tabled and some indication is given of the location of the port. I understand some associated matters are dealt with in the feasibility study. Perhaps the subsidy could continue until such time as the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State Government, undertakes port development. The subsidy could then be capitalised. I have discussed the problem with the Minister and I think the answer lies in the provision of a through service from the port of Stanley to King Island and on to Mel- bourne. This would increase the volume of cargo and, of course, the only thing that will keep a shipping service in operation is increased tonnage. If the feasibility study recommends only the continuation of a service between King Island and Melbourne, I hope that some other solution will be found. The solution to the problem lies in the through service that I have mentioned from Stanley to King Island and on to Melbourne.

For some years now this problem has been studied by a committee that is well known to the Department and to the Australian National Line. It is called tha Standing Committee on Shipping for Circular Head. We appreciate the service we get from the Australian National Line. The 'South Esk' averages seventeen runs a year servicing the port of Stanley, but this is not the answer. It is impossible to place orders ahead, especially when there is a delay in the service provided by the 'South Esk'. Today with the virtual door to door service available from roll-on roll-off ships people on the mainland expect to be able to order by telephone and have the goods delivered by the searoad service within a few days. We cannot guarantee such delivery at the present time from Stanley because we have a service only once every 3 weeks. We may be in a better position if we had roll-on roll-off service from Stanley. The Tasmanian Government has assured us that the money is available for this service. The Marine Board is ready to go ahead with the necessary installations and wharves. It would not take us very long to develop the berthing facilities and storage accommodation in readiness for such a service.


Mr McIVOR (GELLIBRAND, VICTORIA) - There would be plenty of cargo to be picked up at Stanley.


Mr DAVIES - A roll-on roll-off service would generate cargo. A terrific volume of timber goes through the ports as well as frozen meat and processed vegetables. Firms such as W. D. Peacock and Co. have spent large sums of money expanding their works in the district. A roll-on roll-off service from Stanley would be a boon to the northwestern corner of Tasmania - Circular Head - and would solve the problems of the island.

What I have sought would restore a shipping link between Tasmania and King Island. We have been without this link for some years and we would very much like to restore it. Because of this we all1 look forward with a great deal of interest to the result of the feasibility study to which I have referred. I appreciate the co-operation of the Australian National Line with the committee on which I serve but we are worried because the 'South Esk' is due to go off the run in the near future. Unless we can continue the service we will be in trouble. I was pleased to receive from the Minister for Shipping and Transport a letter dated 2nd September 1969, because everybody had been concerned about remarks which he is reported to have made in Townsville recently. In his letter to me the Minister said:

There is, X can assure you, no intention whatever to discontinue the searoad services to Tasmania. Tasmania's vital interest in the maintenance of an economic and efficient sea transport link with the mainland must be paramount in determining the future pattern of transport operations.

The Minister referred to the development of tourism as a valuable adjunct to the development of the link. As the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) has pointed out, we in the island State depend on the searoad link. We are very happy to have the Minister's assurance that it will be continued.

I join with those honourable members who have expressed their dismay at the foundering of the 'Noongah'. She was a regular visitor to Burnie and Devonport. I knew many of her crew. It is strange that although we can put a man on the moon and watch his performance on television from 250,000 miles away, then bring him safely back to earth, we cannot pluck twenty men out of the sea 20 mites off the coast. Something is wrong here. I hope that advances in technology will make it safer for the men who go down to the sea in small ships. I was interested in the comments of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and the honourable member for Franklin about container cargoes. If some system of equalisation applies where cargoes are taken from Brisbane or Port Kembla to the container ports of Sydney, Fremantle or Melbourne, why do we in Tasmania have to pay a couple of hundred dollars to get a container to Melbourne? To get a container from Tasmania to Melbourne costs about onethird of the cost of taking the container the rest of the way to the United Kingdom. We fail to see why Tasmania should be penalised. We hope that the subject of equalisation of freights will be determined quickly because freights have a tremendous impact on Tasmania's economy. This claim is borne out by the latest annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. In its report the Board states:

.   . shipping freights represent the highest single cost factor in the value of the product.

The Board is referring to the export of apples and pears-

In 1968, for example, the freight rate accounted for nearly 60% of C.I.F. minimum selling prices, which even so were regarded by importers as too high to attract forward buying.

The Board also states:

The result is a three-year agreement with the Conference Lines covering the years 1969, 1970 and 1971.

Now that the Australian National Line is a member of the Conference I hope that we can get at least some reduction.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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