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Thursday, 1 March 1984
Page: 283


Senator ARCHER(10.30) —I wish to express the bitter disappointment not only of myself but also of the people of a large proportion of Tasmania over the most recent action of the Federal Government in withdrawing the somewhat farcial offer to do some work to Wynyard Airport. I think it needs to be put in the context that the Federal Government since taking office has not only stopped the west coast hydro-electric power development that was under way but also has cancelled the redevelopment of Wynyard Airport which had commenced, eliminated various water schemes that had been approved and has subsequently rejected other airport development as well. In spite of all those things on the debit side, not one thing has been given in place. The west and north west corner of Tasmania services businesses such as four of the seven major dairy factories in Tasmania, two of the six major abattoirs, one of the four vegetable processing plants, all of the major mines producing tin, copper, zinc, lead or iron ore, the major timber mills of the State, the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd Burnie plant, dioxide, the pelletising plant at Port Latta and over a quarter of the population of the State.

Wynyard Airport is not a Johnny-come-lately or anything else. Wynyard, of course, was one of the places on Bert Hinkler's trip around Australia in 1929. It had its first air pageant in 1932. That was very largely due to, and I give credit to, the late Owen Waterworth who was the main instigator of that airport, realising that Wynyard was of geographical importance in servicing King Island and that it was within distance of Melbourne. As from 1936 W. M. Holyman and Sons Pty Ltd was running regular air services in and out of Wynyard. The figures in favour of the case which have been so totally ignored make the Government's decision an absolute nonsense. On looking at the figures for other airports around Australia I find that Wynyard Airport, now being denied upgrading, handles regularly at least 60 per cent more passengers per year than many of the upgraded airports.

Tasmania generally is a very good example of practical decentralisation. The strength of Tasmania, which is largely the envy of other States, is that it has this decentralisation. I find it quite extraordinary that postponement has even been suggested, let alone carried out on the basis of what is loosely referred to as alleged cost. If the upgrading is a matter of cost what is the cost of not doing the upgrading? Non-development is another matter. What would happen with non-development? Would it increase the cost of all those major industries and the 60,000 people involved? Of course it would. Would it tend to cause industry and business to relocate now or in the future. Again, the answer is yes. Would it destabilise land and rental values in the far north west coast? Of course it would. Would it affect the traditional sociological balance? Of course it would. Would it cause much higher costs in perpetuity? The answer again is yes. How do those costs compare with the once-up cost of upgrading the Airport? The cost of upgrading would be minimal compared with the continuing costs. Anybody with half a mind can see that. The decisions that seem to have been taken and some of the ridiculous comments that I have seen in the Press and heard people make are invariably made by people who do not live there and who could not possibly know the position of the area anyway. I do not think there would be anything wrong in those who are responsible for making these sorts of decisions at least taking some notice of the people who live there. If they did I think they would find the decision fairly clear and the reasons very plausible.

Wynyard basically is a business airport. It is not very heavy on tourists but it is on business. I believe that that in itself makes the airport very important indeed. None of the major hire car firms even run Wynard as a major depot for tourists any longer. However, business people still use it very heavily. Where else in the world would any government be trying to encourage centralisation. Where are governments not trying to see that people are spread a little more evenly to avoid the large buildup such as we so often see strangling isolated countries. Australia, in particular, is the best example we can find of this. This whole area of Tasmania needs a little encouragement now. I ask honourable senators to remember that it is highly productive in mining and farming, producing vegetables, meats and dairy produce. Right now there is a real problem internationally with minerals. Prices are down, tin quotas apply, money is short and unions in the area are jumpy. None of this is the responsibility of the particular area. It has been caused by external forces. The whole area needs stability and encouragement to see it overcome the current problems.

I promise that there is also no boom in the farming area. I ask those who make the decisions whether they have any idea of what the entry into the Closer Economic Relations agreement with New Zealand has done to destabilise the area. Do honourable senators know what the weather has done in the last two or three years? It is drier in that part of Australia than it has been over the last two years which, as anyone would know, has been dry. Do honourable senators know what the increase in shipping costs has done to many of the industries of the area? Maybe honourable senators do not know. I do not really expect that everybody should follow what happens in that area. However, I assure honourable senators that those who live and work in the area and who are trying to maintain their productivity certainly know.

As a result of the indecision over the airport several businesses have withheld expansion and development plans. There have been withdrawals, amalgamations and rationalisation while the airport business is still being fiddled about. I understand why some of those businesses have taken these steps right now. It is most unfortunate that as a result of this ridiculous short term decision long term commercial commitments are being made. I cannot understand how the Government could possibly have accepted advice which by any standards is so patently wrong. It is absolutely ridiculous on a whole range of bases, as I have demonstrated. In fact I cannot find one basis to support the pettiness and silliness that has resulted in this decision. Naturally the efforts to right this nonsense will continue. Naturally the present Government representatives for Tasmania will be invited to be identified with their State colleagues in the program to try to put it right. I assure honourable senators that the people of the area will be pleased to continue to press for the right and proper action to be taken.