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Friday, 22 May 1970

Dr GUN (Kingston) - I will not be very Long in my remarks on this Bill but I do want to refer to a point which 1 undertook to raise when 1 replied to an interjection by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) during the debate held earlier this week on the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. The point concerns the priorities which the Commonwealth Government gives to a few selected enterprises within Australia. The Minister may recall that I mentioned the other night that some time in 1963 a by-election was held for the Federal electorate of Grey consequent upon the death of Mr Russell and at that time the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Opperman, expressed some sympathy for the project of constructing a railway link between Port Augusta and Whyalla. This is a fairly important matter to the people of Whyalla just for their own convenience. If they want to go from Whyalla to Adelaide by public transport they have to travel by an Ansett bus from Whyalla to Port Augusta, use a standard gauge railway line from Port August to Port Pirie, and then travel on a broad gauge rail to Adelaide. That was the position and 1 think it is still the same.

Mr Jacobi - Yes, it is.

Dr GUN - There was a pretty good case for constructing this line from Port Augusta to Whyalla if only to meet the convenience of the people who wanted to travel by public transport from Whyalla to Adelaide. However, after the Grey by-election was held in 1963 this matter was pretty rapidly forgotten. It is of interest to note that from 1949 a success on of South Australian governments has been trying to get the line standardised from Adelaide to Port Pirie. The various governments rightly pointed out that the other mainland capital cities in Australia were being connected by the standard gauge network. Adelaide has been the only C tv excluded. In fact up until the introduction of this Bill there had been no real undertaking that such a project would be carried out at any time. Then a major change occurred. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd decided that it would send its steel from Whyalla to the eastern seaboard of Australia by rail rather than by sea. Overnight this matter became top priority with the

Commonwealth Government. What are the implications of this? The Commonwealth Government is prepared to build a rail head from Whyalla to Port Augusta for the convenience of the BHP company but it is not prepared to do anything for the ordinary people of Whyalla.

Furthermore, the construction of a line from Whyalla to Port Augusta has assumed greater priority than has the line from Adelaide to Port Pirie. I appreciate that there are certain technical difficulties associated with the construction of the standard gauge line from Adelaide to Crystal Brook but nevertheless I think this reveals an extraordinary set of priorities. Immediately BHP expressed an interest in shipping its products to the eastern seaboard by rail, this matter received top priority with the Commonwealth Government. This is just another example of how large monopolistic interests - and this is a genuine monopolistic interest in Australia - are given precedence over the interests of the ordinary people of Australia. This is only one example of the public patronage that is being given to this large company. I think that anybody in Austral/a who has taken a passing interest in the oil pricing policies of this Government is aware that the oil pricing scheme which the Commonwealth Government has negotiated negotiated with Esso-BHP is the economic scandal of the 20th century.

I am not opposing this bill but 1 do think it is a rather sad commentary on the attitude of the present Commonwealth Government that patronage to selected large private enterprises is given preference over the interests of the ordinary people of Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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