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Friday, 8 November 1985
Page: 1828

Senator JESSOP(11.25) —I want to make a few comments in addition to the comments I made the other day on the Interstate Road Transport Bill. The main purpose of the Bill, as I see it, is to set up a framework for road distance taxes and the licensing of businesses. When we look below the surface, it represents a disguised attempt to introduce severe regulations into the industry. The Australian Democrats proposal certainly does not alter that. There are of the order of 50 clauses in the Bill, which gives the Minister the power to regulate. The Minister, at will and without consultation with the States or the industry, can make decisions that, undoubtedly, would not always be in the best interests of the industry itself.

Senator Vigor —Come back to the Parliament.

Senator JESSOP —I do not want the honourable senator to interject on me because I might be tempted to say something that should be said about his disregard for the small interests in transport. The United States of America has had a heavily regulated transport industry since 1937 and has only started to deregulate since 1981-82. The main reason for the deregulation in the United States was to eliminate graft and corruption from the big unions and big companies which controlled the transport industry there. It got to the stage where the little operators could not get a licence to carry freight, so the United States was forced to deregulate. The Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) and the Transport Workers Union of Australia-big government and big unions-have said that people should have to prove their viability before entering the transport business. My office got in touch with the TWU Federal office in Melbourne the other day to ask it its opinion on this Bill. It said that the legislation represented a way of getting some control over people who enter the industry.

Senator Robert Ray —Who said that?

Senator JESSOP —The TWU office in Melbourne.

Senator Robert Ray —Who said that?

Senator JESSOP —I will provide the name for the honourable senator. He is an officer from the TWU, the big union spokesman. The TWU then used the excuse put forward by the Minister for Transport and the Australian Labor Party that truck manufacturers and finance companies entice people to buy expensive rigs and that it is the responsibility of the Government and the unions to protect these people against themselves. The TWU man said that these sorts of people end up cutting their charges in order to get work and pay their bills. The end result is that they go broke and cause some other operators to go broke in the process.

Senator Aulich should not try to interject on me, coming as he does from Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian people would be ashamed of Senator Aulich. Thank heavens that the Tasmanian senators on this side of the chamber recognise the importance of the transport industry to their State and have adopted a responsible attitude to it. If the honourable senator and his colleagues in the Government had any sense they would have supported the motion to refer this matter to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources so that all these things could have been sorted out. Then we could have had the TWU up before us and could have got this fellow to substantiate his claim. I would have liked to have been there to ask him a few questions about it. Nevertheless, that is information from the TWU. The purpose of this legislation, as far as the TWU is concerned, is to gain some control over who enters and remains in the industry. This is all under the guise of protecting some people from themselves. The Minister is in total agreement with that attitude. As far as I am concerned, the trouble is that once big unions, big companies and big government obtain a means of getting more control over the industry the possibility of corruption entering the industry increases. Australia has already achieved the most cost efficient tonne per kilometre transport industry in the world. So why take a chance on introducing more regulation into the industry, with a threat of increasing corruption and power in the hands of a few and also of discriminating against the small owner-drivers?

Another point which ought to be made and which is worth noting is about the initial reaction to the legislation by Mr Tony Hargreaves, the Executive Director of the Australian Road Transport Federation. In the Australian Financial Review on 13 September, Mr Hargreaves criticised the interstate road transport legislation, saying that it would be disastrous for small operators. He argued that there would be difficulties with administration and immediate cost increases. However, on 19 September, six days later--

Senator Tate —This is a second reading speech. We are in the Committee stage.

Senator JESSOP —We are talking as the Committee as a whole. The Chairman has told me that my speech is in order. On 19 September, Mr Hargreaves came out in support of the legislation. One asks why. Mr Hargreaves had his wrist slapped after coming out with such a premature response. After all, his organisation, the Australian Road Transport Federation, has members such as the big freight forwarders. These companies stand to benefit from this legislation at the expense of the small operators.