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Friday, 13 September 1985
Page: 526

Senator AULICH —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: What steps have been taken by the Government recently to improve the operation of the Australian National railways in Tasmania?

Senator GIETZELT —I think the Senate will be aware that for some years now the Commonwealth has accepted responsibility for assisting the Australian National rail line in Tasmania. Over a considerable period the Government has made yearly allocations to subsidise that operation. I think the steps taken by the Minister for Transport and endorsed by the Government in recent times have seen a vast improvement in the funding arrangements for AN in Tasmania. I remind Senator Aulich that on 13 August the Government announced a $60m three-year agreement under which a pre-determined revenue supplement will be paid to underwrite the losses of AN in Tasmania. That will be made up by $18.4m in the current financial year, $17.8m in 1986-87 and $16.2m in 1987-88. The agreement also provides a further $7m in interest-bearing loans for the completion of AN's track upgrading program in Tasmania over the same period.

The Government finds it very strange that the Tasmanian Premier should attack the scheme when the Government is making available in a three-year program the sorts of funds which, it is the Government's hope, will stabilise the position and give the railway system in that State an opportunity to plan its work and to function properly on a long term basis. We fail to understand why the Tasmanian Premier has not been happy with the arrangements, which represent an improvement over the last decade in the way in which the line is subsidised.