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Wednesday, 23 March 1966

Mr COCKLE (Waringah) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,I rise to support the Bill without any equivocation, as it gives the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission greater borrowing powers and greater flexibility within its capita] structure. Lt is important to note that the approval of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) and the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) will be necessary before borrowings can be effected. This control obviously is essential in the interests of the Australian taxpayer. Running a shipping line such as a government shipping line is indeed a very exacting business. Despite the success of our national shipping line, I emphasise that money cannot be poured willy nilly into a government enterprise when the conduct of that enterprise - in this case, the Australian

National Line - calls for extremely careful planning and efficient administration.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) spent most of his time in referring to the Bill in relation to some association that it could or would have with the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line. This subject is a hardy perennial brought forward each year about this time by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) or his lieutenants, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) who, I understand, will follow me in the debate. I believe they will seek to take as much liberty as they can to support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this matter. I am worried about the proposed deletion of sub-section 6 of section 30 of the principal Act, to lift the ceiling on the amount that can be borrowed. If we were to have a Socialistic governmentwhich, of course, would be the case if, God forbid, members of the Opposition ever got control of the treasury bench - a weak Minister for Shipping and Transport and a weak Treasurer could engage in extortionate borrowings and pour money into an overseas shipping line enterprise which could be financially on a very dangerous foundation. So I hope that at some time, in order to prevent irresponsible borrowing, safeguards will be imposed which will restrict the amount of taxpayers' money which can be used to further Socialistic ends.

The establishment of an overseas shipping line must be considered with complete responsibility. This responsibility has been appreciated by the administrative officers of the Australian National Line who, whilst they have in the past been able to place certain of their ships on charter commitments, at the same time have not gone further than has been reasonably practicable. To my knowledge no representative of any overseas shipping line has ever raised an objection to the proposition put forward by honorable members on the Opposition side that Australian ships should engage in overseas trade. But I ask: Have members of the Opposition carefully and conscientiously examined what would actually be entailed in the establishment of an over seas shipping line with our Australian National Line fleet? It is all very well for them loosely, and flamboyantly, in some respects, to put forward their demand. But have they ever taken the opportunity to speak to overseas shipping experts to find out what is really involved? Do they know of the complexities and the pitfalls of international shipping? I doubt very much that they do. For instance have they thought of the trades in which Australian ships should engage? How many ships would they build, charter or buy? What types of ships would they seek to put to use in the trades in which they engage? Would they be refrigerated vessels, containerisation ships - ships which, I understand, may be used in overseas trade - general cargo vessels, passenger vessels or bulk carriers?

This is the sort of thinking that has to be engaged in before such a line as they propose can be established. I assume, and I feel certain, that they have never given these things the slightest consideration. Perhaps they have wiped these considerations aside, saying that they are mere details. They are not mere details. The consideration of these facets of an overseas shipping line goes to the very core of the subject. Would honorable members who make this proposal acquire - either by building, chartering or purchasing - only a few vessels and seek to pick the eyes out of the overseas trade? Obviously If they attempted to do that they would be quickly swept from any future trading by the competition which they would meet. Could Australian ships, with the high manning costs that apply, meet competition from countries whose ships are manned by crews on low wage standards? These and many others are the questions which members on the opposite benches must face in putting their proposition into effect, if they ever get the opportunity to do so. This, Sir, is not a matter that can be brushed over lightly by a team of amateurs.

I wish to refer to other implications in the Bill in relation to the Australian shipping economy. I direct attention to the fact that shipping is a most precarious industry, subject as it is to so many influences, some of which can be controlled and some of which are completely beyond control. I refer to the vagaries of the weather which affect the movement and the stevedoring of ships. 1 refer also to strikes and the militant attitude adopted by so many unions associated with the shipping industry, and to the forms of competition which have to be met. In Australia competition comes from road, rail and now even from the air, not forgetting the competition which comes from other shipping companies. There is. too, of course, always the urgent necessity for ships to sail on time. The company must ensure that a ship is run economically to the best possible advantage. T recall that in 1964 my good friend opposite, the honorable member for Wilmot, when talking about vessels of the Australian National Line, emphasised this point. He said: " Regular shipping services are urgently required ". He made a lot of that point and I thoroughly agreed with him. He was referring on that occasion to the necessity to ensure that ships sailed on time so that they could meet the requirements of the Tasmanian timber industry. Strangely enough, although on that occasion he emphasised that ships must sail on time, I have not once, since I have been in this place, seen him rise to his feet in a spirit of anguish and concern and complain that militant waterside workers and militant seamen were, even if not preventing ships from sailing, keeping them from maintaining their timetable schedules. So it would appear that his concern applied only to the vessels of the Australian National Line. Of course, I agree with him that the vessels of the Australian National Line must sail on time. I may be doing him an injustice. Maybe he now sees the light.

Unless all these factors are taken into account, the various trades expectly examined and analysed and the right class of ship appropriate to the trade either built or purchased, shipping interests will soon find themselves on the financial rocks. But I am pleased to say that the Australian National Line, like privately owned companies, is conducted in a most commendable manner and in a way that is a credit to Australia. Its administration, headed by Captain Williams, comprises men who are highly qualified and experienced in shipping. It is good to see that the administration of the Line is completely unfettered by any control exercised by the Government, and for this I pay a tribute to the Minister for Shipping and Transport who is at the table, and to the other members of the Government. They have not sought to fetter this government enterprise and in consequence it is a success. Perhaps this would not be the position under a socialistic government. Under such a government I can visualise the Australian National Line, successful as it is now, being turned into a shipping enterprise that would not be so successful, but would be a considerable drain on the coffers of the nation.

The Bill provides capital for the construction of ships of most modern design to be added to the Australian fleet. Provision is made for a second 47,500 dead weight tons bulk carrier and for two roll-on roll-off ships. These ships are of a revolutionary design and I understand that one will be used on the Melbourne-Brisbane route and the other for trade on the Melbourne-Brisbane-north Queensland route. The success of these vessels has been established. Further evidence of their success and versatility is found in the fact that the area in which they trade is to be extended. I note also that consideration is being given to the construction of another Bass Strait passenger vessel and a new specialised vessel for the Darwin trade. The vessels under construction, the roll-on vessels, the vessels used for containerisation and the specialised bulk carriers in service with the government line and with private lines have completely revolutionised Australian shipping. The changes have been achieved in a comparatively short time. To anyone with a knowledge of shipping on the Australian coast, they are breathtaking. In this short time we have seen conventional all purpose vessels replaced by specialised vessels catering for individual trades and cargoes.

I would like to put on record briefly the changes that have taken place, because they are important. Ships now travel faster than they did formerly. Modern cargo handling equipment now provides for speedier cargo handling. A particularly important innovation is the door to door service provided to the shipper and consignee. The simplification of shipping documents is another important change. Special wharves and terminals with ancillary handling equipment make for the easier and more efficient handling of cargoes. Vessels now are running more strictly to time tables. By no means the least important of these modern trends is the high class accommodation and shipboard facilities provided for crew members. This is all to the good. As a result of the modernising of Australian shipping, shipowners now provide a high class service to shippers and consignees and the industry has been able to recapture a considerable part of the cargoes that it lost to other forms of transport. The modernising of coastal shipping is indeed commendable. As we all know, Australia is an island nation, lt has a highway that never requires repairs right around it. This highway has always been there. It is, of course, the sea, and maximum use must be made of it. It is very pleasing to note that the use being made of it is increasing.

Another gratifying change in the old order of Australian shipping is the consent agreement entered into in November 1964 under which the Department of Shipping and Transport was given the right to allocate crew members to ships instead of that allocation being performed by the Seamen's Union of Australia. Certain fringe benefits went with this agreement. This is perhaps one of the most significant agreements ever reached in Australia's maritime history.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I remind the honorable member for Warringah of the comments I made to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not very long ago.

Mr COCKLE - Thank you, Sir. I shall not in any way contravene your ruling on this matter. I would now like to refer to wharf facilities. I am very conscious that this is referred to in the Bill, since it will be necessary for terminals to meet the requirements of the roll-on roll-off ships that are to ply on the Australian coast to such ports as Newcastle and Brisbane and to ports in the northern parts of Queensland. These terminals will be constructed and will be ready when the new ships go into service. It may well be that in its consideration of port facilities the Australian National Line will find it essential to extend the present terminals in the port of Sydney. Recently the New South Wales Maritime Services Board announced that it intends to spend $92 million in Sydney and' $74 million in Newcastle on the construction or reconstruction of 22 old, out-moded, horse and buggy type wharves. For years these wharves have been a disgrace to the port of Sydney, which is Australia's largest and most important port. The Board is strongly supported by the New South Wales Government. It is keen to introduce a new scheme of wharf construction and wharf facilities. This is most commendable. However, it is possible that the Australian National Line will find itself caught up in what I regard as a specific and vital problem.

I draw attention here to the fact that the reconstruction of the wharves is to take place in the areas of Darling Harbour, Pyrmont and Glebe Island. The significance of what I am saying now is that these wharf areas all attract to them heavy traffic for the purpose of the loading and unloading of cargoes. This traffic to and from the wharves has to go through the very heart of the city of Sydney and will continue, day by day and year by year, to increase the tremendous problem of traffic congestion. It may well be that the Australian National Line, in constructing terminal facilities, will see fit to go into the Darling Harbour, Pyrmont or Glebe Island areas. This also would contribute to the traffic congestion. Consequently, I am appalled and alarmed when I think that many millions of dollars are to be spent on wharf reconstruction in the areas to which I have referred. The reconstruction, in effect, will really reemphasise and further accentuate the traffic problems which already exist. It could well mean that, with the increasing traffic problems brought about by the siting of the new wharves, Sydney will gradually choke itself to death with traffic. I submit my view as a recommendation or suggestion which could well be taken note of by the Australian National Line.

I suggest that instead of pouring so many millions of dollars into the reconstruction of wharves in the Darling Harbour, Pyrmont and Glebe Island areas, consideration should be given to a plan which has been promulgated for the construction of a port on the northern shores of Botany Bay which would be ancillary to the port of Sydney. I have been a keen student of the thinking in relation to the establishment of an ancillary port in this area. I believe that it would be practicable to construct a protected wharf area two miles in length which would have behind it a port area of 2,000 acres.

The port could be adequately serviced by rail and road. This is the sort of thing that 1 suggest officers of the Australian National Line must take into account when they think of the future - not later this year, but perhaps in 10 years' time or even later. I find that there is practicability in the plan for the establishment of a port on the northern shores of Botany Bay. The site is almost in the heart of an existing large industrial area. However, it would not in any way be affected by road congestion such as occurs in the Sydney port areas to which I have referred. The ancillary port would provide a reduction of the concentration of shipping in the Darling Harbour, Pyrmont and Glebe Island areas.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr COCKLE - Mr. Deputy Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting, I was discussing a plan for the establishment of an ancillary port on the northern shores of Botany Bay. I now express the hope that the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales, Premier Askin and the State Government will examine the project to ascertain the feasibility of establishing an auxiliary port. I thank you, Sir, for your indulgence in allowing me to mention this matter. In conclusion, I say that I give my full support to the Bill, which is designed to amend the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act in a way that will provide for the needs of the Commission for greater borrowing powers.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Jones) adjourned.

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