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Wednesday, 8 December 1993
Page: 4145

Senator REYNOLDS —I address my question to the Minister for Transport and Communications. Following the announcement of the establishment of a national transport planning task force in October and the subsequent support expressed within the industry for this initiative, I understand that a detailed discussion paper has been released. Can the minister advise the Senate what the goals of the task force will be with the release of this paper?

Senator COLLINS —This first attempt to bring together all of the transport systems in Australia into a cohesive whole is extremely important, particularly for states like Queensland, in improving both freight and passenger flows around Australia. As all honourable senators would be aware, Australia's transport system is undergoing a process of fundamental reform.

  Deregulation of domestic aviation has produced significant positive results for Australia. The waterfront and shipping reform programs and the establishment of both the National Rail Corporation and the National Road Transport Commission are changing the face of transport in Australia. These changes, which followed decades of neglect by conservative governments in Australia, will now allow us to focus on the transport system as a whole for the first time.

  The government is determined to improve the efficiency within and between each link of the transport chain. This task force has been established under high-level industry leadership to help us to do that. It has been asked to examine the adequacy of transport infrastructure and operational systems to meet the nation's future transport needs.

  The task force has had several substantive meetings and it now intends to consult widely with a broad range of parties including, of course, territory governments, state governments and, primarily, the industry itself. The discussion paper released today will be sent to over 150 of these organisations and it represents the first step in this consultative process.

  In establishing the task force, the government was very conscious of ensuring that it was industry and user oriented and this is reflected in the paper. I particularly want to endorse statements appearing in this morning's media from the chairman of the task force, Ian Webber, about his concern that the task force should be seen to focus on those areas where the nation could achieve the greatest benefits in terms of human capital and capital investment.

  I am also heartened by the desire of the task force to ensure that, at the end of the day, it gives the government practical and implementable recommendations. I encourage participation by all interested parties in the work of the task force and commend the discussion paper to honourable senators as a vital step in creating, for the first time, a truly integrated national transport system in Australia. I table the paper.

Senator REYNOLDS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. I wonder whether at this stage in tabling the paper the minister is able to comment on the movement of interstate freight, particularly in relation to freight costs in remote areas?

Senator COLLINS —The terms of reference of the committee require it to give primary regard to issues relating to the interstate movement of freight, reflecting the national focus of the task force's role. However, interrelationships exist between interstate and intrastate freight. The point has been properly made that an enormous amount of freight—in fact, the majority of it—is intrastate rather than interstate. It will be essential for the task force to examine a wide range of issues that may not necessarily be contained within its terms of reference—particularly the links between intrastate and interstate freight—in its examination of these issues.