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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 3059

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

Dr SOLOMON - I thank the House. That, in fact, is a very brief outline of the external situation in relation to the ANL's handling of shipping in the port of Hobart. A factor which could be said to be internal is that there is operating a rail ferry service, incorporating in that, of course, the Tasmanian railways, through which there is a decided subsidy on goods moved from southern Tasmania to northern ports and vice versa. By examining the regular railway rate book and other matters which are relevant it may be easily seen that the statistics of the operation are in the order of a distinct subsidy.

The Auditor-General, in his 1971 report, said that the cost of the service to the Tasmanian Government Railways cannot be completely gauged because the common costs of the whole railway system are not apportioned to show the extent of the use of the general railway facilities by this particular rail ferry service, but it does seem that, even leaving that lack of appreciation aside, it is possible to designate a very definite subsidy in the matter. The Auditor-

General, in his comments regarding the cost of the service to the Tasmanian Government Railways, mentioned that with the limited information available there was an indication that a net railways revenue of $464,000 was involved and that towards gaining that revenue an expenditure of at least $311,000 was incurred, although if we added the correct proportion of the other general costs from the system as a whole to that particular service, as should be done, there would probably be seen to be a very decided increase in costs and probably a loss of revenue overall. In fact it is noted in the 1971 annual report of the Transport Commission of Tasmania that the figure for railway working expenses was 157 per cent of gross revenue and that the average revenue per ton mile was approximately 5ic.

Having regard to the train mileages from Hobart to the ports of Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, it is quite clear that there were heavy subsidies which were noted in the Hobart Marine Board's submission, I think, to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade, which looked into the question of Tasmanian freight rates at the end of 1970. It is clear that this situation still operates, in fact, probably in a slightly worse sense because where the normal freight rate per ton on the railways to Launceston should be from $8.93 to $16.50 the rate charged is a flat $2.50 for interstate goods per ton by container. Devonport, a little further away, which should be charging a rate of $ 11.45c to $22.60, depending on the goods, is charging $2.50 for the interstate goods movement. Burnie, even further away, which should be charging a normal rate of between $12.50 and $24.45 is charging $2.50 for that service. So it is clear that a very considerable subsidy on the movement of goods inside Tasmania is taking place whereby goods are shipped from northern Tasmanian ports by the Australian National Line or other carriers instead of from the port of Hobart.

This would seem to be a matter which is of considerable concern not only to the ANL over which the Government has some jurisdiction but also to the Grants Commission which, directly or indirectly, is involved, because of the claimant State status of Tasmania, in the whole operation of the economy of the State. So it can be alleged - in fact I allege - that if the railways refrained from subsidising the imparl and export of interstate cargo via northern ports in Tasmania, direct shipments via Hobart would prove to be the most economical. Given the quite unusual physical attributes of the port of Hobart, in terms of depth of water and thai son of thing, coupled with the fact that it has the best port facilities in Tasmania, it would not be difficult to sustain that case. Such increase in direct shipment as that would almost certainly have the consequence of an increased frequency of sea services between Melbourne and Hobart and, one would hope, the introduction of an element of competition between ship owners and. thereby a better state of affairs economically from the viewpoint of merchants, manufacturers and people of that kind.

During the 12-month period from 1st April 1971 to 31st March 1972 the 'Searoad' vessels 'Sydney Trader', 'Brisbane Trader' and Townsville Trader' made 23 visits to Hobart. Imports of a fairly considerable character were dealt with; likewise exports. But after approximately one year's operation of that particular group of services the Marine Board was advised of proposed changes which were said to have resulted from an economic appraisal by the ANL of its total operations. So far as Hobart was concerned the effect of the change was that the 'Empress of Australia' was replaced by the 'Australian Trader', a passenger-cargo vessel of similar capacity. The extension of the fortnightly HobartMelbourne service by a 'Searoad' class ship which, after calling at Melbourne, would proceed to Brisbane and north Queensland ports, thus providing a means of direct shipment between Hobart and north Queensland also was proposed. But in fact this did not take place because the HobartMelbourneQueensland service was discontinued after only a few voyages and in its place the ANL substituted a conventional vessel, the Jeparit', which is to operate a service to Brisbane only. There is now no ANL service from the mainland ports to Hobart other than a fortnightly call by the 'Australian Trader' and some 30,000-odd tons of imports have to be carried by other means.

I think 1 have got across in the limited time at my disposal the gist of the problem and have shown the external and internal factors which are operating. These two factors are integrated. I believe that there is a very definite case for the ANL or, ultimately, the Grants Commission to look at the heavy subsidising of freight involved in moving cargo through northern ports rather than through the first class port of Hobart and also the provision of a better service. In fact a greatly improved service by the ANL is much required in the interests of exporters and importers in the southern part of Tasmania.

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