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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2756

Senator TATE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Can the Minister indicate the Federal Government's view of the importance of sea passenger transport between the mainland and Tasmania, and has the Federal Government taken any recent action to give substance to its concern that this vital social, tourism and transport link be maintained?

Senator GIETZELT —The Minister for Transport advises me that an agreement has now been reached between the Federal and Tasmanian governments over the possible replacement of the current ferry, described as rather ancient, known as the Empress of Australia. The vessel under consideration as a replacement for the Empress is an existing overseas passenger ferry known as the Nils Holgersson of 12,500 tonnes, which was built in 1975. It has double the capacity of the Empress and it is anticipated that it will carry some 900 passengers and 440 cars. Of course that will be a boon to Tasmania. This agreement was announced in Devonport today by the Minister for Transport, together with his Tasmanian counterpart, Mr Roger Groom.

Under the agreement the Commonwealth will provide a $26m grant for the purchase of the vessel, its modification, its positioning and the upgrading of the terminals and other related work. As a result of the negotiations and the agreement the State Government will be responsible for arranging the purchase of the vessel and for operating the service. I am further advised that while Tasmania has taken an option on the vessel the final purchase is conditional upon agreement being reached in the unions on crewing levels and the vessel meeting normal Australian safety and other standards under the Navigation Act. This agreement has been achieved through the genuine co-operative approach to Tasmania's sea transport needs by the respective Ministers of the Federal and State governments.