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Tuesday, 9 May 1961

Mr Ward d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Does the cost of freights payable to overseas shipping companies constitute a considerable and growing drain on Australia's overseas financial reserves?

2.   Has the Government ever considered the establishment of an Australian national mercantile marine to carry our exports to the markets of the world as a means of conserving Australia's overseas financial reserves?

3.   If so, why did the Government not proceed with the proposal?

Mr Menzies - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   The total amount of freight payable on goods imported into Australia as published by the Commonwealth Statistician in the Australian Balance of Payments, 1955-56 to 1959-60, was as follows: -


2.   and 3. The Government has not considered the establishment of a national mercantile marine to engage exclusively in overseas trades. The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is, however, empowered, under the legislation by which it was established, to engage in overseas trades and it has done this whenever suitable opportunities have been available to employ its vessels economically. At the present time the commission has one vessel operating in the sugar trade with New Zealand, a second vessel en route to Japan with a cargo of pig iron and a third vessel fixed to lift a further cargo of pig iron to Japan.

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