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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 1004

The Hon Murray Byrne, M.L.C., Minister for State Development and Decentralisation, 232 Victoria Parade, Melbourne, Victoria 3002

My dear Minister,

In the present controversy over the future of the import of Portland, a number of matters have been misrepresented, and in particular, the Commonwealth's role and the Commonwealth's responsibility.

I have been disturbed, for example, to notice the statements attributed to you in the Press attacking me as though Portland's problems were of my creation; and I was disturbed, too, on being informed that at a meeting concerning Portland which was chaired by you on Friday 23rd March, to which the Department of Labour was not initially invited, a motion was adopted which appears to shift the responsibility for the viability of Portland entirely off the State Government's shoulders and entirely on to mine. That resolution read:

This meeting asks Mr Cameron to make a direct approach to the AEWL and to use his influence to have the decision reversed. If no satisfactory reply is received within a week (by 30th March 1973), Murray Byrne is empowered to send a representative group through Mr Fraser to see Mr Cameron'.

Let me say that I find the basis on which the motion was adopted on Friday quite erroneous. This is because it bears no relation to the true cause of Portland's problems. I think you know that I have already asked Mr Norman Foster to investigate the situation at Portland and I expect to have his report in a few days. However, it is clear to me, at this stage, that the problems that exist at Portland have been evident for months and even years before the change in AEWL levy.

As I am sure you are well aware the viability of a port is ultimately determined solely by the volume of cargo which can be shipped through it. This in turn depends upon the industries which carry on their activities in the surrounding district and the arrangements which they make to obtain their raw materials and transport their products.

For some lime cargo through-put at Portland has been declining and the cause of this is the way in which local industries have chosen to operate. So long as through-put continues to decline, the change in the AEWL levying system is of marginal significance of less significance, for example, than extra costs on Portland shippers due to the increase in the Portland Harbour Trust levies from 1st March of this year.

I think recognition of my point is implicit in that Friday's meeting'sdecision to establish a committee to discuss wool shipments through the port I am certain this approach will be of far more help to Portland than attacks on me through the newspapers.

This letter is intended to clarify the major issues involved as I see them, but a major statement on my views must await an opportunity to study Mr Foster's report on the situation.

I would be glad if you would pass the contents of this letter on to all those present at the meeting which took place last Friday.

Yours sincerely,

(CLYDE R. CAMERON)







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