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Tuesday, 9 September 1958
Page: 990

Mr HOWSON (Fawkner) .- I should like to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Shiping and Transport, and particularly to the work of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. I am glad that two honorable members opposite, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), devoted part of their remarks to the subject of snipping, although I believe that, to a degree, they directed the attention of the committee to some of the less important aspects of the coastal shipping industry.

I should like to direct the attention of the committee, first, to a report of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, brought down three years ago, which dealt with the traffic task that is performed by each form of transport in Australia. It is interesting that of the total ton miles accounted for by all forms of transport coastal shipping accounted for nearly 50 per cent, in 1953-54, whereas road transport accounted for only 26 per cent., railways 24 per cent, and air services .1 per cent.

A more interesting aspect of the report, however, is a table dealing with the real operating costs of Australian domestic transport. The council analysed the percentage of costs borne by the users of each form of transport and the percentage paid by various governmental authorities. The users of shipping transport bore 95.8 per cent, of the total cost and governments bore only 4.2 per cent. In the case of road transport, however, governments bore 7.1 per cent, of the total cost, and in the case of rail transport, 12.4 per cent. In the case of civil aviation the governments bore 17 per cent, of the total cost.

The interesting point about this is that the coastal shipping services are the least subsidized form of transport in the Commonwealth. I believe that if the subsidies directed to various forms of transport were spread more evenly, shipping could well be more competitive with other forms of transport than it is at present. At the moment, there is a drift in the carriage of general cargo away from ships towards road and rail. I believe that if competition were based on the actual, instead of the subsidized cost, there would be a drift back towards shipping for the carriage of cargo, because shipping is the most economical form of transport in the Commonwealth.

I believe that the need in this country is to have more co-ordination in the development of our shipping services. At the moment, the Minister for Shipping and Transport has the benefit of an advisory council to assist him in connexion with road transport; but even more important to-day is the need for a sea transport council to advise the Minister on shipping. Such a council should represent not only the Commonwealth, but also the Ministers in the State governments who are responsible for shipping and for the development of ports, because the development of port facilities is even more important to the shipping industry than is shipbuilding itself. It is essentia] that we should have a body that could assess the needs of Australia in relation to ports, and could plan for the development of ports. Such a body should be responsible for raising the money for port development, not necessarily only from taxes. It could, I believe, produce a co-ordinated plan which might well lead to the raising of money from the International Bank or some such body.

Mr Duthie - On a Federal or State basis?

Mr HOWSON - It would have to be done on a Federal basis, because ports should be developed in accordance with a nation-wide plan if we are to avoid having some ports developed too rapidly and some not rapidly enough. In this connexion, I should like to read to the committee some extracts from an address given by Mr. F. D. Arney. general manager of the Port of Bristol Authority, when speaking to a committee of members of the United Kingdom Parliament. He said -

I feel that there is to-day not sufficient cooperation between shipowner, shipbuilder and port authorities. The tendency is rather too much for the shipowner to give an order to a builder for the ship that he thinks is going to be satisfactory, without taking into account the nature of the port facilities that have to be used in the turnround of that ship . . . We see to-day the difficulty of new ships having to accommodate themselves to docks that were built many years ago. . . . The tendency is to build a longer and broader ship, and one often sees a ship of some 600 feet in length, and with six hatches, going into a port that can only readily accommodate a four-hatch ship. It is in this sort of thing where I think there should be greater collaboration between owners, builders and port authorities.

He expressed his second point in the following words -

Looking at the shore side, the most outstanding development in the post-war years has been the very great change-over from rail delivery to and from ports, to road delivery. In prewar days something like 25 per cent, of the total dock traffic passed by road, the balance by rail. We now take something like 60 per cent, of our traffic by road. That has created quite a problem, because most docks were not laid out for road movement of traffic; in the main they were for rail development only.

His third point was expressed in these words -

When it comes to the design of new sheds and new quays we have clearly to take account of this tremendous step-up in road delivery, and lay out our sheds and quays in such a manner that instead of an improvisation for roadwork we have in fact provided modern facilities. The general trend is to allow sufficient width of quay to take rail tracks and road independently of one another.

If that is true of the United Kingdom to-day, it is even more true of the needs of our Australian ports. It is vitally important for us to realize the tremendous change that has taken place in the requirements for port facilities in Australia over the past ten years. We can improve these facilities only if we co-ordinate the work of port authorities, shipbuilders, shipping companies and shippers. For one thing, to-day ships can alter more rapidly than can ports. Therefore we may have coming to this country new ships such as I have just mentioned, with six hatches. If an effort were made to deliver cargo from those ships to sheds with only four doors, tremendous congestion would result.

I believe that we cannot allow the ports of Australia to develop in the way in which they have developed in the last ten years. We are not, as a nation, meeting the present-day needs of either coastal or overseas shipping. We should devote much more attention to the development of our wharfs, and this can be done only by a co-ordinating authority under the chairmanship of the Federal Minister for Shipping and Transport.

There are certain immediate needs. We have heard, for instance, of the problems in relation to the freight on meat exported from this country. If we had better port facilities in northern Queensland, we should probably be able to reduce the cost of transport of meat both to the wharf and into the ship. There is at the present time an interesting development in the United Kingdom in the provision of cool stores in the port of Southampton for the storage of meat that comes from Australia. They have been erected by the Blue Star Line in co-operation with the port authority of Southampton. In Australia, and in north Queensland especially, we need cool stores directly on our wharfs, and not only at the meat works, which are often 10 or 12 miles away from the wharfs. I believe that new developments such as that can take place only under the guidance of a co-ordinated port development committee, and I think the lead for that must come from this Government.

I should like to conclude by repeating that there is a need for a sea transport council under the chairmanship of the federal Minister for Shipping and Transport. We must co-ordinate the needs of all the ports in this country, and that must be done in co-operation with the State governments, with the Ministers responsible for ports and shipping, and with the port authorities. It is along these lines that we could achieve the greatest economies in shipping and the greatest reduction in transport costs, which would be of inestimable value to the whole economy of this nation.

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