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Wednesday, 11 September 1985
Page: 450

Senator AULICH —I direct my question to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce. Is the Minister aware of statements by Tasmania's only shadow Minister, Senator Archer, indicating that the current Liberal Party position paper supporting freight equalisation and other economic and infrastructure measures vital to Tasmania `did not have great credence'? Further, is he aware that Senator Archer has been quoted as saying that he did not know what the policy contained and `It is of minuscule importance in relation to other factors for Tasmania'?

Senator BUTTON —It is not entirely appropriate for me to comment on what Senator Archer said. He can speak for himself-or might I say that it remains to be seen that he can speak for himself. As a member of the Opposition front bench, he now has that opportunity to do so. He has a difficult role because he will be the organ voice of Tasmania, and will replace such distinguished luminaries as Mr Michael Hodgman, colloquially known by another expression. It is, however, appropriate for me to explain the Government's position in relation to the issues to which Senator Archer apparently adverted in the Press article to which Senator Aulich referred. The Government recognises the special difficulties posed by Tasmania's geographical isolation, and to overcome this the Government has done a number of things. First, freight equalisation has been continued in a revamped form. Secondly, we have given a grant of about $26m to enable the State Government to purchase and refit a major tourist vessel, the Abel Tasman.

Senator Archer —Out of our money.

Senator BUTTON —Thirdly, we have also committed about $60m to upgrade Tasmania's railway system over the next three years.

Senator Chaney —Why are you giggling? Take this seriously. It is typical of you people and the way you treat Tasmania.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to respond to Senator Aulich and to ignore the interjections.

Senator BUTTON —I plead guilty to giggling. I was giggling because Senator Archer's interjection indicates that his understanding of the subject is even more abysmal than I thought when I began to answer his question. Perhaps he will have the opportunity to raise those issues in a pro-active way as a shadow Minister in this House.