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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 191


Mr DAVIES (BRADDON, TASMANIA) - I ask the Prime Minister: What plans does his Government have to restore the shipping service to King Island - such as, for example, instructing the Australian National Line to charter the vessel 'Straitsman'? If he has no plans, will he give further consideration to accepting the Tariff Board recommendation on shipbuilding to pay compensation to companies like R. H. Houfe and Co. so that the Straitsman' can put to sea again and prevent further irreparable damage being done to the economy of King Island which now has been over 2 months without a regular shipping service? I add to that question by pointing out to the Prime Minister that over 3,000 people are there. They are dinky-die Australians who pay taxes like everybody else and they are entitled to this service.


Mr NIXON (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) (Minister for Shipping and Transport) - The Government understands the situation and is entirely sympathetic towards the people of King Island who have this shipping problem. I have met deputations and have done my level best to make sure that King Island has a viable shipping service. Captain Houfe came to see me personally to explain his problems to me. 1 explained to Captain Houfe that when the Commonwealth advanced money to the State- or granted money to the State - for the development of the port of Grassy, the State Government at that time accepted the conditions that it would guarantee the viability and the operation of a shipping service to King Island and that therefore he had to take up with the State Government the problem that he faced with his shipping service.

The Premier of Tasmania saw the Prime Minister, and saw me also, at the time of the Premiers' Conference and we said tha! we would look at the possibility of granting extra money to the State for the purpose of the shipping service. In the event the Tasmanian Government was served very well by the Premiers' Conference. It received an additional amount of money out of the Conference. In fact I think all the Premiers went away very happy, one Premier making the comment that he was going to laugh all the way to the bank. The Premiers were very happy with the deal that they had made. Therefore it was obvious that it was quite possible for the State Government to assist Captain Houfe with his problem, and in the event it did so. The State Government passed an Act of Parliament guaranteeing a loan of $300,000 for Captain Houfe so that he could put his service back on the run. I think that is where the position now stands.

In respect of the last part of the honourable member's question about whether the Government can now pay a subsidy in accordance with the Tariff Board report to Captain Houfe for the building of his ship in the hope that Captain Houfe will be assisted because less capital will be needed, I must say this: Captain Houfe had the opportunity to have his ship built under subsidy but he went to a private shipbuilder and made his own arrangements. That was long before the Tariff Board report came out. He made his own arrangements and obviously was satisfied with the price that was asked for the construction of the ship. I think it would set a big precedent for all other shipping companies if the Government were to bring the matter back again and have another look at that aspect. I believe the Commonwealth Government has done its level best to assist Captain Houfe and the people of King Island.







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