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Wednesday, 23 March 1966

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! May I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the restrictive nature of this Bill, which seeks to amend section 30 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956-1964 and also to amend that Act in relation to decimal currency. While certain of the points that he has made may be linked with the subject matter of the borrowing, I suggest that he has made his point at this stage. I do not want the discussion on this Bill to develop into a fullscale debate on overseas shipping lines and other matters' that are not completely relevant to the subject matter of the legislation.

Mr Freeth - We have heard it all before.

Mr WHITLAM - The Minister has admitted its validity now.

Mr Freeth - No.

Mr WHITLAM - The Minister objects to us praising him for a right decision. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have been very careful up to this stage to link my remarks with the Bill by reference to the Minister's own second reading speech.

Mr Freeth - I made no reference to overseas shipping in my speech. Can the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quote it to me?

Mr WHITLAM - I did quote it. But I will quote it again for the Minister.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! May I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at this moment that I have been listening most carefully to what he has been saying. I will concede that he has been linking very well some of the subject matter of his speech to what the Minister has said. My main objection is that some of the links between his speech and the Minister's speech have been stretched a little.

Mr WHITLAM - Might I help the Minister by quoting again this passage from his speech -

.   . it must have access to additional funds. This is necessary, particularly if the Commission is to maintain a competitive position in relation to private ship owners, including overseas interests which may wish to enter into Australian coastal trading.

Mr Freeth - I said nothing about overseas trading.

Mr WHITLAM - No, but these are private overseas shipowners and the Minister refers to competition with them.

Mr Freeth - Entering the Australian coastal trade.

Mr WHITLAM - The only extension I might wish to see is that this should apply to Australia competing with the same interests overseas also. I quoted, too, the announcement by the Minister himself concerning the Australian National Line extending to Hong Kong. I have quoted furthermore from the arguments put up, very guardedly, by the Commission in its last annual report in respect of container ships and overseas trade. I have been very careful -

Mr Freeth - The Commission does not mention overseas trade in its report. The honorable member has distorted that.

Mr WHITLAM - The Commission spoke of extending the " container " principle over a far wider field and also of taking advantage of any favorable development in overseas voyaging.

Mr Freeth - The Commission talks about coastal trade and services around the Australian coast.

Mr WHITLAM - The Commission was not merely referring to that.

Mr Freeth - I can assure the honorable member that that is what the Commission is referring to.

Mr WHITLAM - The report states that the Commission -

.   . will extend the " container " principle of transport over a far wider field.

Mr Freeth - Around the Australian coast.

Mr WHITLAM - That does not appear here.

Mr Freeth - Read it again, and quote the whole paragraph.

Mr WHITLAM - I have quoted the earlier statement with regard to transport over a far wider field. The report goes on -

No overseas voyaging could be undertaken. Officers of the Australian National Line however, continue to watch the freight market with a view to taking advantage of any favourable development.

I have been very careful to link all this up. I imagine that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will allow me to refer to the interdepartmental committee which is considering this matter. There has been a notable change in the attitude of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who is also the Leader of the Country Party. Only five years ago he was saying it was quite clear that we could not compete in the international field. But in answer to a question a week ago, the Minister for Trade and Industry said -

But it is obviously a great advantage for Australia to earn exchange by participating in the very big freight component in the export of this bulk cargo. Indeed, the value of the freight would be equal to a very, very substantial proportion of the value of the material being exported.

The Minister himself said things along the same lines this month. The Prime Minister, when he was Treasurer, stated only four months ago -

However, I am still living and hoping that there will be a day . . . when we shall see an Australian shipping line carrying Australian goods to various parts of the world.

Mr Turnbull - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken the statement by the Leader of the Country Party out of its context.

Mr WHITLAM - I was quoting precisely what the Leader of the Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry, said concerning overseas shipping.

Forty years ago, as Cecil Edwards discloses in his recent book on Lord Bruce, the Conservative Government of that day, in return for contributions by Lord Inchcape to party funds, sold the first Australian Shipping Line. Now, a Conservative Government is not only about to take administrative action, through an intergovernmental committee, to permit the Australian National Line to carry out its statutory function of establishing and maintaining overseas services but also is making it financially possible, by this Bill, for such services to be established and maintained.

This is a very beneficial Bill indeed. Australian exports of primary products and manufactured goods will be greatly promoted by the provisions of this Bill. Despite his interjections, I compliment the Minister for Shipping and Transport on the provisions of this Bill. I wish him well in implementing the advice tendered to him by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and the advice tendered to the Government by the inter-governmental committee concerning the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line.

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