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Monday, 9 November 1964

Senator HENTY (Tasmania) (Minister for Civil Aviation) . - in reply - It was interesting to note that most of those who have spoken in this debate are Tasmanians or Western Australians. It is right that that should be so, because the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission will result in Tasmania and Western Australia receiving large increases in the special grants for this year. I am sorry that I cannot agree with the suggestion that was advanced by Senator Cooke. I am completely opposed to any suggestion that we should alter the Commission's basis of approach to the financial problems of the States. Over the years the Commission has become expert in its analysis of the economies of the States. It has a duty to ensure that the economies of Western Australia and Tasmania are not below those -of the two major States. A very keen and long analysis is necessary to enable the Commission to arrive at its conclusions.

Senator Cooke - The Commission does an admirable job, but is that the best that the Commonwealth can do?

Senator HENTY - The Commission does an admirable job. It has had long experience in this task. To give the Grants Commission any other responsibility would weaken its position. An increase of approximately £2,500,000 in the grant that is to be given to Tasmania perhaps should lead us to give some thought to the position in which both Tasmania and Western Australia find themselves at the present time. I think of Western Australia as being like a giant on the march. Western Australians are fine, vigorous, forward-looking people who have a great belief in the tremendous potential of their States and who have the will to move forward and plan for its development. I repeat that Western Australia seems to me to be like a giant on the march. That State is developing rapidly, with, of course, substantial assistance from the Commonwealth Government. I am not suggesting that Western Australia does not deserve that assistance. No Commonwealth Government would give grants to States which did not deserve them. Western Australia is moving forward with projects that have commanded the support of the Commonwealth Government.

When I think of my own State of Tasmania, I must agree with those who have voiced the opinion that the money that has been made available to it by the Commonwealth Government has assisted the State's economy. However, the economy of Tasmania has not yet advanced to the stage where the people of that State are able to enjoy the advantages that are enjoyed in other parts of Australia. I know there are certain reasons for that state of affairs. For a time there was in office in Tasmania a vigorous government which stemmed the drift of the State's young people to other places. Not many years apo Tasmania was attracting industry, which in turn was employing the State's young people. But for some time there has been a drift of our young people to the mainland of Australia and overseas. I do not agree with the suggestion that those young people have moved elsewhere only for money. They have been attracted by the excitement that is, to be found in the bigger cities and by travelling to the Old Country and Europe. It is not without a feeling of pride that one finds many Tasmanians occupying big positions in the mainland States. Senator Wright referred to civil aviation. That leads me to recall that at one time three Tasmanians headed the great aviation industry of Australia. Sir Warren McDonald, who was the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Sir Ivan Holyman, who was the head of Australian National Airways Pty. Ltd., and Sir Hudson Fysh, the Chairman of Directors of Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., all came from Tasmania and from the same school. Although Tasmania is a small State, it has played a prominent part in the development of Australia.

There is genuine disquiet amongst the people of Tasmania at the present time at the fact that more vigorous policies are not being pursued In that State to help it to develop at a greater rate. Reference has been made to the tourist industry. I had the great pleasure of assisting a very well known and responsible American who is the head of the International Air Transport Association to see Tasmania. He told me at first that he was sorry he would "not be able to see our State. He said he believed that it provided the best package deal for tourists in the world. I was able to provide him with facilities to go down there. He later wrote to me saying that he found Tasmania to be more delightful than he had believed.

A vigorous policy to attract tourists to Tasmania would assist the State tremendously. Youth hostels and additional camping areas should be established. I have spoken to many young Tasmanians who have travelled through Europe and the United Kingdom. They have told me that the availability of youth hostels enabled them to make their trips much more cheaply. The provision of camping areas throughout Europe induces people to make extensive tours throughout that continent. Such facilities should be developed in Tasmania. There is need for much more self help in developing that State. Industrially Tasmania is at some disadvantage, as has already been stated, because of the strip of water which lies between that State and the northern island. It means that we are at the mercy of the very high costs of the carriage of goods by sea. I have been in business and can remember when the cost of freight between Melbourne and Launceston was 18s. a ton. Today it is about £6 7s. 6d. a ton. Freight charges are one of the handicaps of Tasmanian businessmen. There was a time when Tasmania's cheap electricity countered high freight charges, but that time has gone. Such problems can be overcome by a vigorous spirit of self help, which is needed in Tasmania if we are to develop at a rate which can favorably be compared with the development rates of other States.

I have mentioned some of these matters because I agree entirely with the very intelligent comments made by Senator Wright. It is not possible for a State to continue to accept financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government and let that assistance play such a tremendous part in State revenues without the growth of a tendency to lose command of State sovereignty. These things are fundamental and should be looked at pretty carefully by Tasmanians.

I was interested to hear Senator Wright's comments on civil aviation. They were welcome to my ears, because they come at a time when the Government - and may I include the Opposition - might well have second thoughts about the position of civil aviation in Tasmania. In my journeys around Tasmania I see aerodromes at St. Helens, Queenstown, Strahan, Zeehan and such places at which I thought it would be impossible to develop them. I see the great airports at Hobart and Launceston. I see the part that the Commonwealth has played in developing airports at Devonport, Burnie, Wynyard, King Island, Flinders Island and the outback areas of Tasmania. Surely the Tasmanian Parliament can be big enough to realise that there is no divisi bility in the sphere of civil aviation, where it is suggested that the Commonwealth Government should control international and interstate avaiation, but should not control intrastate aviation. Perhaps I have entered a field where I am trespassing.

Senator Wright - Do not say that I tempted the honorable senator.

Senator HENTY - I was rather tempted away from the subject that I rose to discuss by the comments of Senator Wright on a subject which is very dear to my heart. May I say only that the development of civil aviation in Tasmania has been tremendous and that 99 per cent, of it is due to the efforts of the Commonwealth. The initial impetus was given by the three Tasmanians to whom I have referred, who headed the great aviation industry in Australia in days gone by. I thank the Senate for its acceptance of the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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