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Wednesday, 23 March 1966

Mr HALLETT (Canning) .- The purpose of the Bill is to increase the borrowing powers of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. In his second reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) said -

The Commission is faced with substantial capital expenditure over the next few years for the construction of new vessels which it has on order or intends to build and for the erection of associated shore facilities.

I think that around those few words is the requirement of the Bill. I shall endeavour to confine my remarks to this. As far as I know this is the first time in Australian history that we have had a reasonable amount of money available for shipping purposes in Australia. In view of the many miles of coastline around Australia I believe that Australian shipping has been starved, to some extent, of finance in the past. I refer not only to coastal shipping itself but to port facilities. Before we start barging overseas, as some honorable members have suggested we might do, we should look at the situation in Australia. A tremendous change is taking place in the shipping world. It has not come easily or quickly to Australia, but what has occurred in shipping between the States indicates what can be done with modern ships - by the building of containerised ships, roll on roll off ships and modern cargo ships.

In dealing with shipping one should not look merely at ships but also at associated facilities. I refer to port facilities, shore facilities, access roads and inland transport to feed the ships. These factors must be considered in our discussion of shipping within Australian coastal waters. If we are to develop this country - and we have a duty to develop it - we must recognise that shipping will play an important part because of the vast distances around Australia's coastline and because of our limited railway lines and other lines of communication connecting the north with the south. Shipping must obviously play a big part in developing the north of Australia. We must be realistic about costs, because obviously at present living costs are extremely high in the north and it will be by the provision of efficient shipping that these costs will be broken down. It is to ensure that our northern areas are served similarly to the remainder of the Australian coast that this Bill has been introduced. If we are to develop this country successfully we must improve our northern transport.

The change that has taken place in shipping is of significance. We must throw away our former concept and build an entirely new type of ship, as has happened elsewhere. The new concept will require much capital. I noticed in the Press a day or two ago some reference to the development of Sydney Harbour. This had some relevance to what I have said about the need to do something practical about shore facilities. At present Sydney is strangling itself. I do not know whether commercial interests are wrapped up in the proposals I saw reported in the Press, but the proposals did not impress me one iota. The report indicated that we would be spending a lot of money. Mistakes have been made time and again throughout the world, but this Bill does mention associated shore facilities. Money is required for associated shore facilities. Regardless of who spends the money - whether it is the New South Wales port authority, another State port authority, the Commonwealth Government itself or a shipping company from another country - unless we do the right thing now we will be saddled with the tremendous problem of congestion at the port, and this could affect us for many years to come. In this modern age, when literally millions of tons of cargo have to be handled, we must get out of the congested areas and start afresh. This is what 1 felt Sydney ought to be doing. I do not like to criticise the authorities in that State, who should be experts in this field, but I feel that the concept of constructing extra wharves within the heart of Sydney is one that needs some further investigation.

The co-ordinated action between ship and shore which I speak of as far as our coastal shipping is concerned is possibly just as important as, if not more important than, spending lots of money on modern ships. The concept today is to take goods from one warehouse to another - in other words, from door to door. If you are spilling out thousands of tons of cargo from a ship - the concept underlying this Bill tonight is the building of new ships - and you have no place to put the cargo, or no proper access to and from the wharf so that the cargo can be taken away, then immediately costs begin to rise very rapidly indeed. There is a tremendous amount of capital investment in these days in motor trucks which are used to carry cargo away from the wharves. If you go to some of our ports today, you can see hundreds of thousands of pounds in the form of motor trucks lying idle as the trucks queue up to take cargo into or away from the wharves. If a ship is to be operated efficiently, there must be room to move on the wharves. This is something that we must certainly take note of.

Mr Ian Allan - What about more ports?

Mr HALLETT - The honorable member for Gwydir suggests more ports. As I have said, the modern concept is to move out of the congested areas. Sydney grew up a little like Topsy. People came there in the early days and pitched their tents, as it were, tying the ships up at the same time. Sydney Harbour is a beautiful harbour, as we all realise, but there was no planning done. The commercial centre was built around the harbour. We might as well have built a wall around it. A port simply must have air to breathe - there must be proper access and there must be adequate room. Engineers throughout the world have said that 1.2 to 13 acres are required for each berth, with all necessary facilities, and I suggest that this is a reasonable estimate. Sydney could not possibly provide anything like that.

This country is growing and developing rapidly, so these are the kind of things that we must take into consideration. The Bill is designed to give the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission some elbow room - to give it, so to speak, an itinerary on which it can plan. There have been suggestions that we should do all sorts of things. One previous speaker in this debate mentioned something that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) had said in relation to shipping on 16th March. It was reported that he said he favoured Australian participation in the carriage of bulk cargoes. He said this trade should be controlled to some extent by Australians, and he mentioned a proportion of 50-50. That is the sort of thing we can be looking at, but in the meantime let us not lose sight of the position that we find ourselves in today.

Let us organise ourselves. We are in an excellent position to do this now. There are some countries that do not have the opportunities for improving in this respect that we have. Sydney is perhaps an exception in Australia. In some countries ports have been developed to such a stage already that it would be very expensive to change them. I do not think that we have reached that position in Australia today. The Commonwealth is releasing a greater amount of money for the purpose of ship building and associated works, but I hope it will take a greater interest in the establishment of proper facilities in Australian ports.

Something has been done in relation to ports in the north. Large sums of money have been made available in Western Aus tralia by the Commonwealth for the purpose of constructing various port facilities. This is so also of ports in the eastern States. But I am speaking of something much bigger than this - the modernisation of our major ports. We must look to the future. If we spend our money in the wrong way at this stage and do not look enough to the future, this thing will catch up on us and we will find ourselves in a position of tremendous congestion, which will be very expensive from the nation's point of view.

Our defence, in this island continent, depends to a great extent on suitable shipping facilities. I am not speaking now of the ships themselves but of shore facilities, because it is useless to have ships coming here from other parts of the world unless we have places to put them when they get here and adequate machinery to deal with their cargoes. One thing I have noticed in the eastern States is the lack of port equipment. Just how they get along. I do not quite know. They use ship's gear a lot, and this is an antiquated idea. The new concept with our .coastal shipping is containerisation, with the ships carrying their cranes with them, but there are new concepts which envisage the use of large machines. It is perfectly obvious that if you are going to use large machinery in the form of cranes with a 30 ton lift, the wharves on which you are going to put the machines must be properly constructed so as to take them. If the wharves we build cannot take this type of machinery we shall be wasting our time and money. The foundation for a crane costs almost as much as the crane itself in these days.

I support the Bill. I hope that the Commonwealth will take a greater interest in shipping and related facilities. I believe that if we are going to develop this country, particularly the north, we must look to shipping. We must look, not perhaps to the Commission, but to the Government itself to bring in the needs of the people of the north at reasonable rates. When I was in Kununurra a little time ago, I was informed that the cost of building a house there was about twice what it was in Sydney. That is hardly cricket in my book. I think that we as Australians must do something about this and endeavour to help the people of the north. The amount of cargo that would have to be carried to build a town such as Kununurra is quite small, but as the north grows and develops greater amounts of cargo will be required and therefore freight cost possibly could come down. In the initial stages, at this point of time, let us look at these things and endeavour to provide reasonable conditions for the people living in the north.

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