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Thursday, 17 August 1972
Page: 158

Senator MARRIOTT (TASMANIA) (Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Health) - I rise in the role more of a dove than a hawk to address this question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. If I may be permitted a brief explanation; recently the 'Empress of Australia' sailed-

Senator Keeffe - I rise to a point of order. I ask for your ruling, Mr President, as to whether an Assistant Minister is allowed to ask questions.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The Assistant Minister as a senator is entitled to ask questions. I cannot see him if he wishes to answer questions.

Senator MARRIOTT - Unlike the contribution of the honourable senator who took a point of order, my question will be based on fact and have some common sense. Some 20 minutes after the scheduled sailing time of the 'Empress of Australia', when some 400 passengers were on board, the passengers were informed that the ship would not sail because of a strike. I have reason to believe that by 4 o'clock that afternoon both the management and the unions knew that there would be a strike.

Senator Devitt - I rise to a point of order. Mr President, you said specifically that the Assistant Minister should not answer questions. He is not asking a question; he is giving details in the form of an answer.

The PRESIDENT - Order! That is so, and it is the lesson that I am trying to bear down on the minds and the skulls of every honourable senator sitting in this place. I know that Senator Marriott realises that I have given him the maximum latitude in this and he will now proceed to ask the question.

Senator MARRIOTT - The necessity for my brief explanation will become clear even to Senator Devitt. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport suggest to his colleague, particu- larly in respect of the Bass Strait passenger cargo service of the Australian National Line, that representations be made to both management and unions to the effect that strikes which are bedevilling the service to the economic detriment of Tasmania should be timed to commence at the next scheduled sailing of a ship, and not 20 minutes after some 400 passengers have been taken on board?

Senator COTTON - Yes, I certainly will communicate to the Minister for Shipping and Transport the concern very properly expressed by Senator Marriott in the public interest.

Senator Devitt - At long last.

Senator COTTON - I do not think so. I think Senator Marriott has demonstrated this concern in a fairly long and effective representation of Tasmania in this place. I would be pleased to do what the honourable senator has suggested. At the same time I think that he put the matter very well and fairly and that he did not seek to apportion blame but only to put the matter in the public interest. For that, I thank him.

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