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Thursday, 22 October 1970

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - In rising to speak on the appropriation for the Department of Shipping and Transport I cannot but say how pleased I am that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), his Department and the the Government have decided to continue with the cost study of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs standard gauge railway line. This project has to be approved by the South Australian Government, but it has been approved in principle by the Commonwealth. This is a mighty step towards opening up the north of Australia.

On the subject of railway lines, the upgrading of the Larrimah to Pine Creek section of the north Australian line is to be commended also. In view of this breakthrough of transport in the north, and speaking again on the subject of railway lines, I do ask the Government to study the economics of continuing the railway line into the hinterland, towards Tennant Creek or Macarthur River-Mount Isa. But I do realise that the main consideration is the overall cost of getting freight from capital city to capital city or from town to town. I realise that, because of the economics of (Ms industry, consideration of road and rail transport must arise. in- luce transport is the key to the future of the north of Australia. Under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement the Government is committed to spend $ 1,252m for the States in the next 5 years on roads throughout Australia. Mention is made in the latest report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads of a trunk road system between capital cities. Under this heading would fall part of the road from Alice Springs to Port Augusta, the South Australian section of this being unsealed. This road, I might point out, is the shortest route from south to north in this part of Australia. Also, this could be a very urgently needed defence link. I do not overlook also the ever increasing run of tourists and road travellers who would be just waiting to flock up such a bitumen road.

I turn now to freight charges on cargoes into the port of Darwin. When he was in Darwin on the occasion of the maiden voyage of the 'Darwin Trader', the Minister for Shipping and Transport said that he and/or his officers would return when the Darwin Trader* had made 2 or 3 trips so that they would be able to look into the freight charges after the operation had settled down to some extent. I know that on its first 2 trips the 'Darwin Trader' was delayed by industrial strife for days on end. It is reported that, on the last trip to Darwin of the 'Darwin Trader', the ship was turned around without undue delay. This is a step in the right direction. I gather that some of the Minister's officers have been to Darwin. I suggest that this would be an appropriate time to come to Darwin and to discuss the matter with the businessmen there. When the Minister was last in Darwin, we had discussions on this matter with very many of them.

I will deal now with the waterfront itself. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works has just returned from evaluating the proposed port development plans estimated to cost $19m. Darwin can be the trade hub of the southern end of the Indonesian archipelago. It has the position. It has sufficient water. It will have bulk loading facilities, land backed cargo berths and small ship wharves. The port of Darwin is 1,000 miles closer to the Indonesian archipelago than any other comparable port. It has available the men who can do the work and who can make Darwin the most important port in this area. The port has for a long time been tied up with go-slow and work to regulation tactics. On this subject a Darwin shipper said:

The present go slow-work to regulation tactics of the Darwin waterside workers is crippling the Port of Darwin and could kill the present 00on in most industries in the Northern Territory. Already much damage has been done in the Port and to the trade, and once again ship owners who were just beginning to come back in, have resolved never to risk calling at Darwin again.

He went on to say:

We do want the waterside worker to earn a good wage and a fair wage, but there has to be some correlation between wages and production. We just cannot continue to pay more and more for less and less.

If I may I will read briefly from a letter by the Chairman of the Port Authority, Captain Milner, who said:

There is no doubt in my mind that the basic cause of the present crippling strife should be sought in the leadership of the watersiders section of the NAWU. If this were not so why should such a body of men act so consistently against both their own interests and those of the community they serve?

He went on to say:

Who are their leaders? Generally they have a tradition of electing members of the puny Australian Communist Party which the voting public has rejected at election after election. This party in turn has a tradition of fostering disruption in the industrial field.

That is what 2 businessmen in Darwin had to say about the work force. We have witnessed the unfortunate maiden voyage and second voyage of the 'Darwin Trader'. She was specially built to speed freight to Darwin and the Northern Territory and to lower costs. The waterside workers now receive what they had originally asked for - a differential of $10.50 on top of their normal wage and air fares to the south every 2 years. Now that these demands have been met, a new ship costing approximately $10m specially built for the trade and the work put in hand for further port developments, I urge waterside workers to do as Captain Milner suggests and get stuck into the job and turn the ships around. This is the only way in which the port of Darwin can be developed as it should. 1 urge the Minister and the Australian Transport Advisory Council to give earnest consideration before any introduction of 13-ton bogie axle loading on Northern Territory roads. The use of slow moving heavy transport is, in my opinion, the way to move loads more economically across the roads system in the Northern Territory instead of building a light road and having fast moving light transport rushing up and down the roads in an endeavour to carry the loads doubling the number of trips made between rail heads. I urge the ATAC to take heed of what I have to say about the 16-ton bogie axle. If this loading is reduced the cost of freight will go up very markedly because the transport operators will have to re-equip their fleets of trucks and turn around their fleets far more often than they do now. In my opinion trucks with a bogie axle loading lower than 16 tons will do more damage to the roads by travelling speedily over them than do the slow moving heavy transports which make fewer trips than the lighter vehicles.

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