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Tuesday, 9 November 1976
Page: 2436

Mr GOODLUCK (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) -Is the Prime Minister aware of the difficult circumstances of a number of Tasmanian industries? Is the Government concerned for the well-being of these industries and their employees? Has the Government considered any measures in relation to these industries?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - The Government has had brought to its attention by the honourable member for Franklin and other honourable members from Tasmania some particular difficulties of Tasmanian industries. Those difficulties apply not only to secondary industries but to others as well. Honourable gentlemen will be aware of what this Government has already done with the freight equalisation scheme and other measures designed quite specifically to assist Tasmanian industries and to establish the circumstances which would enable those industries to compete on an equal footing with industries in other States. Despite the very substantial benefit for Tasmania as a result of freight equalisation costing $ 1 6m or $ 17m in this year, with obviously some additional cost because freight in the other direction is embraced in the scheme, there is still a persistent view that Tasmanian industries operate under a disability not experienced by others. People have therefore expressed concern about the longer term prospects for industry in Tasmania. I think we are all well aware that some of the original advantages of Tasmanian industry, such as cheap power, tend to have been dissipated over the years as later development of hydro-electric power has been in more difficult areas and so at greater cost. In addition to that, the freight problems, despite freight equalisation, have caused some difficulties.

As a result of this I am prepared to propose to the Premier when I see him this afternoon that there should be an examination of the problems of Tasmanian industry to see whether there are disabilities over and above those in other States. One of the things that obviously would have to be taken into account is the impact of State charges, surcharges and taxes. I mentioned one or two in relation to Mount Lyell earlier- the very significant increases in payroll tax and the very significant increases in workers compensation which I know gave additional benefits at the 100 per cent rate to many employees but which at the same time had the impact of doubling, trebling and sometimes increasing by more than three or four times the actual cost of workers compensation. If industries are finding difficulty in competing, those charges must obviously be taken into account. Those particular taxes have been increased in Tasmania very greatly. Obviously it is within the Premier's responsibility, if he wishes, to do something about it. But we are prepared, out of our concern for people employed, and out of our concern for Tasmania, to undertake such an inquiry if that is something that meets the wishes of the Premier. I do not say that our judgment will rest entirely on his reaction but we hope he would support an inquiry and then that could perhaps go forward jointly.

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