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Wednesday, 23 March 1966

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I think the honorable member is getting a bit wide of the subject before the House.

Mr JONES - I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I believe that when an honorable member seeks information which is not supplied by a Minister, the Minister should have good grounds for withholding the information. Section 30 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act clearly refers to the financing and administration of a line. If I request some figures on this matter, they should be forthcoming. However, as I have said, I accept your ruling and will confine my remarks to the Bill.

If we had an overseas shipping line competing with the existing Conference Lines I am sure that freight rates would not increase in the way they have increased in recent years. New Zealand announced recently that freight rates on New Zealand wool snipped to the United Kingdom would be increased by £500,000 a year. The New Zealand wool authority was of the opinion that the increase had been brought about by the Dutch and the Conference Lines settling the differences that had existed between them since 1961-62. Once those differences had been settled the Conference Lines brought the Dutch lines into the Conference and they all participated in the sharing of freights. This has been happening to us. I have here a report that freights on manufactured exports will rise by 8 per cent. The ironic part of all this is that the only articles on which the shipping lines want to increase freights are those articles with which Australia can compete successfully with overseas manufacturers. Small Australian industries have been successful in manufacturing many articles with which they can compete successfully with overseas manufacturers. The freight increases will apply to 67 types of manufactures ranging from cricket balls, clothes hoists, photographic materials and pumps to windmill parts. We have been able to do more than hold our own with overseas manufacturers of these articles but the increased freight rates will force the Australian manufacturers out of overseas markets.

So there is a need for the Minister to do something of a concrete nature to expand the activities of the Australian National Line by using the additional finance that will now become available to him and to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to build ships with which to operate an overseas line. In his second reading speech the Minister said -

The Commission now has on order one 47,500 dead weight tons bulk carrier which is expected to be commissioned within the next few months and it is committed to the construction of a second 47,500 dead weight tons bulk carrier. It has ordered two roll-on roll-ofT cargo vessels for the MelbourneBrisbane and the Melbourne-Brisbane-North Queensland trades and has announced it has under consideration a proposal to construct a second Bass Strait passenger vessel.

One thing that concerns me is the fact that the port of Newcastle, which is the second largest export port in the Commonwealth, is not to be serviced by these roll-on roll-off ships. Honorable members will notice that they are to operate on the MelbourneBrisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane-North Queensland runs. I should like to place a few facts before the Minister. A survey made foi 1961 by the New South Wales

Department of Motor Transport disclosed that 34,000 heavy lorries travelled from Sydney to Newcastle each year carrying 306,000 tons of cargo. These figures are the latest available; the surveys are not made every day. From Newcastle to Sydney 32,000 heavy lorries travel each year, carrying 288,000 tons of merchandise. So, on those figures alone there is justification for the Minister examining this subject and deciding whether it is practicable to include Newcastle as a port of call for the roll-on roll-off ships. Many years ago, before the development of the north coast railway and heavy road transports, small ships operated between the river towns along the coast of New South Wales. They traded from Sydney and Newcastle to Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Tweed Heads and elsewhere on the north coast. I believe that roll-on roll-off vessels of a suitable tonnage could be used to begin an intrastate service. I know that the Minister will claim that the Commonwealth has no control over intrastate services, but if the vessels extended their service from Sydney to, say, Brisbane, it would become an interstate service. The ships that are being constructed could use the port of Newcastle. The trucks that now carry 600,000 tons of cargo between Sydney and Newcastle each year could use the roll-on roll-off ships. In fact, some months ago the Director of the Newcastle State Dockyard submitted to the New South Wales Government a proposal that it build small roll-on roll-off ships on which to carry the trucks that now ply between Sydney and Newcastle instead of allowing them to use the highway. The Minister for Shipping and Transport should give some consideration to the matters I have raised.

I think there are many purposes other than the construction of ships for which the money now being made available to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission could be used. The construction of suitable wharves is as important a matter as the construction of ships. I hope that at some later stage the Minister will bring down an amendment to the legislation permitting the Commonwealth to move into the stevedoring field. I would like to see the Commonwealth take a greater interest in the construction of suitable wharfs, not only for roll-on roll-off ships, but for the handling of all types of cargo. This is an industry that must be dealt with at the Federal level. We must get rid of the State bigotry and bias that have so long existed, as a result of which States have not been prepared to do certain things because other States may gain advantages. We see these things go on in trade between the States. I would like to see the Minister institute an inquiry, not only into the operations of the shipping lines and the construction of the necessary ships, but also into the question of whether the wharfage that is provided is suitable for the types of ships that should be built and must be built in the years to come. Some of the cargo handling sheds that have been built in the past have been uneconomic. I have seen some of them on the wharfs at Newcastle. Some are high buildings incapable of storing all the cargo that should be stored in them. Suitable machinery is not available to lift pallets and containers high enough into the sheds. This is the result of uneconomic planning. The industry needs replanning. There should be new thinking, not only by the States, but by the Commonwealth also. I hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to these matters.

The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) was concerned about the location of new wharfs in Sydney. He said that reconstruction of wharves in Sydney is taking place in an already heavily congested part of Sydney. As a result, the excessive cost that will be added to freights by way of stevedoring charges will make them beyond the reach of overseas buyers. I hope that the Minister will heed the advice of the honorable member for Warringah. I hope that he will give sympathetic consideration to my request for an inquiry into the three aspects of shipping to which I have referred so that something may be done about them. Regarding the operations of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission in respect of overseas trade I think we can pay due heed to what Sir Alan Westerman, the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, said on 2nd November last year. He said that the current freight rates charged to Australian shippers on cargoes to the United Kingdom and Continental ports could be reduced by 121 per cent, if the Conference lines would eliminate uneconomic competition within the Conference. These are not my words, but the words of the Secretary of the Department, uttered no doubt with the concurrence and approval of the Minister for Trade and Industry who, incidentally, has done a great service to this country by preparing and publishing an excellent booklet setting out the ownership of Australian companies and indicating how overseas interests-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I suggest to the honorable member for Newcastle that this has no relevance to the Bill now under discussion.

Mr JONES - Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should like to give the Government a plug, particularly a Minister who has done this country a service. In conclusion I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport to indicate, if he can, what has happened about the original statement by R. W. Miller Holdings Ltd. that it would build tankers in Australia if a permit were granted to it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I suggest to the honorable member for Newcastle that this is completely out of order and has nothing to do with the Bill that we are discussing.

Mr JONES - What I want to get round to is that if R. W. Miller is not going to build tankers-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I suggest to the honorable member that this is not the subject matter under discussion. What he is trying to debate is not relevant to the Bill. I suggest that he take note of what 1 have said.

Mr JONES - What I am trying to say to the Minister is that if Miller is not going to build the tankers-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Newcastle will resume his seat.

Mr JONES - Mr. Deputy Speaker-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Newcastle will resume his seat. I remind him that he has been given a fair amount of latitude in the speech he has made on the Bill, but it is not in order for him to continue to speak in defiance of the ruling of the Chair regarding the subject matter under discussion.

Mr JONES - Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you had allowed me to conclude my remarks you would have seen that I was going to ask the Minister-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Newcastle cannot conclude remarks that I have ruled out of order in relation to the subject matter under discussion. I call on the honorable member for Canning.

Mr JONES - Mr. Deputy Speaker,my time has not yet expired; I still have-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Newcastle continued speaking on a subject matter that was irrelevant to the Bill.

Mr JONES - All right, I will just conclude.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! I warned the honorable member for Newcastle that it was irrelevant on three different occasions. The honorable member for Newcastle continued to speak and I suggested that the honorable member resume his seat.

Mr JONES - Mr. Deputy Speaker, with all due respect to you, you would not allow me to complete my remarks that were relevant to the Bill.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Newcastle is now debating a ruling that I have given from the Chair.

Mr JONES - If I may say so-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I call the honorable member for Canning.

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