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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 3025

Mr DRUMMOND (Forrest) - Tonight I wish to draw to the attention of this national Parliament the plight of some of our small outports around the coast of Australia. In doing this I wish to refer to the Port of Albany in Western Australia as an example of such ports. Concern in the town of Albany has been expressed for many years by the local authorities, the port authorities - in fact by all those concerned with the wellbeing of the town and the region. Albany is a beautiful, natural and safe port on the south coast of Western Australia. This port services a vast region stretching hundreds of miles into the hinterland. I would like to refer to the port itself. In its present natural state it has a depth of 34 feet. With very little effort this depth could be increased to 40 feet in Princes Royal Harbour which is the inner harbour. There is a safe big outer harbour which has a natural depth of 70 feet. That is King George Sound. It would be quite possible to develop a major port there. In fact, it has been estimated that in the Gull Rock area a major port 70-feet deep could be developed without any trouble at all for approximately $7m. In the interests of decentralisation this port should be improved. With the connection of a standard gauge rail link through the wheat belt of Western Australia it could service and ship all the grain from the southern area of Western Australia. This would relieve the congestion at Fremantle and Kwinana.

I turn now to the figures relating to freight shipped from that port for the area around Albany and, to indicate its growth, to compare them with the figures for Fremantle and Kwinana over the last few years. In 1967-68, freight shipped into Albany amounted to 200,000 tons approximately. Freight discharged at Albany in 1971-72 was 137,000 tons. It can be seen quite readily from those figures how the shipping at this port has dropped over the last few years, despite the fact that it is a magnificant port and a growing region. It is very hard to draw a comparison between the export figures for Albany and Fremantle, but putting Fremantle and Kwinana together the ship-out figure is in the vicinity of 6,482,000 tons. The figure for Albany is 647,000 tons. One can readily see from these figures that whilst Albany has grown as an export port in the last few years, as have Fremantle and Kwinana, there is just no comparison in the tonnage shipped from the ports.

I feel that it is terribly important that I should bring this subject up tonight because the community, the municipality and particularly our mayor, Mr Harold Smith of Albany, who is a true believer in decentralisation, have been very active in promoting the port. Mr Smith has been working for the promotion of the port for a number of years. He has been battling, as have the Industrial Advisory Committee and the other groups that are concerned with Albany and the region, for many years to try to stop the downgrading of the port of Albany. Only in the last 2 days, after consultation with and letters to the Oversea Shipping Representatives Association, a reply was received. After all the work that had been put into trying to promote Albany as a port and so help the town and the region, this is the attitude that the OSRA took. I quote from the reply to the Albany Town Clerk. It reads in part:

The port of Albany lacks the necessary facilities to cater for cellular container ships which were introduced progressively from 1969 into the AustraliatoEurope trade in an endeavour to restrict the extent of freight increases resulting from the traditional methods of operating labour intensive conventional vessels. The economics of operating these specialised cellular container ships dictate that concentration of cargo should take place at a limited number of major ports where considerable capital investment in shore facilities has been necessary to handle these ships.

The letter ends:

Taking all the circumstances into account we are unable to give you the assurance you have asked for.

That was for concerned consideration for service from OSRA -

But the Conference members that operate ships physically capable of loading directly at Albany will give consideration to berthing such vessels there subject to the availability of sufficient cargo to warrant a direct call.

That is reasonable, but they have been saying that for quite a number of years now. Last year this Conference Line lifted very little wool from Albany, although I might say that last year the Western Australian Government, in its wisdom, introduced a 50 per cent rail concession for the whole region stretching about 150 miles north of Albany for farmers who shipped their wool through Albany. The direct purpose of this was to assist the port and the wool selling centre. Yet today, although it is fair to say that the Conference lines that operate to Japan ship from Albany all the wool purchased for Japan, barely a bale is shipped through the port of Albany to Europe. There were 109,000 bales sent to Japan through the port of Albany, but 63,000 bales for European destinations were sent to Fremantle for containerisation.

The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is not in the chamber but I ask, especially in relation to the wool situation, what is the validity of the continued statements by all those concerned - mainly the shipping companies - that cellular containers are the most economic method of transporting all cargoes? What is the premise for this attitude in respect of wool? What does the Government consider is the future of these outports such as Albany, Portland and Bunbury? While this Government espouses a theory of decentralisation, the Conference lines which service Australia believe in centralisation. What is the Government's attitude to this situation and can it assist in any way the smaller outports of Australia?

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