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Thursday, 28 August 1980
Page: 952

Mr MORRIS - I quote from the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the letter:

.   . we also feel that questions should be asked of the Minister of Transport, Mr R. Hunt, in Parliament -

I am addressing this matter to the Minister for Transport, who is at the table - as to whether he is aware, and if so, does he condone, of practices by the ANRC that cause divisiveness, and are anything but an enlightened approach to industrial relations in these modern times.

Our Members have the feeling, and rightfully so, that they are regarded as being of lesser importance in the role they play as employees of the Australian National Railways Commission.

As I said, that relates to uniform issues agreed to in principle by the Commission and a commitment that has not been fulfilled by the Commission- in fact, the Commission says: 'We will look at it in six months time and make another decision then'. If there is to be the kind of improvement in efficiency in the operations of the Commission, particularly in relation to this project, and the improvements it offers to our national railway system, there has to be goodwill and good faith between both employee and employer. If there is to be that successful transition to an upgraded Australian National Railways Commission system, there must be that frankness and there must be a proper relationship between the Commission and its employees. Railway employees are among the most dedicated group of employees I have had the pleasure of meeting, but they need security of employment, they need confidence from their employer and they need sound leadership from and recognition by their employer.

We must remember, however, that this Government, like previous conservative governments, is bluntly opposed to the development of a truly national railway system, a development that is vigorously supported by the private sector, which those opposite claim they alone can represent. From across Australian industry - from transport and manufacturing industry leaders - there are constant calls for a modern, efficient national railway system. They now realise that only under a Labor government will there be developed an efficient national railway system, a system that this country desperately needs if our industries are to be able to compete and survive in the years ahead and to be able to meet the challenges of foreign competitors in the domestic and international market places. They know that this Government has proceeded with this project and with the Commission's activities only because it could not dismantle the activities of the Commission and because its attempts to void the Tasmanian and South Australian rail agreements failed. Those same business leaders have ridiculed the Prime Minister's latest pet project - the $1 billion election year gimmick of electrifying the Sydney-Melbourne rail link. Labor initiated the technical study for electrification in 1975 and in May last year I called for an economic assessment of the scheme. However, without information, without facts, without adequate advice, last December the Prime Minister declared it a vision splendid. If it were to be commenced now it would cost something like $1 billion, money which would be extracted from the taxpayers' pockets. Electrification of the Sydney-Melbourne rail link is desirable in the long term, but only in the long term. Energy consumption is a factor but all government railways in Australia consume only 9 per cent of the total diesel fuel used in Australia. What is more important and more urgent at this stage is the upgrading and refurbishing of our rail systems. This Government promised $70m in five years for main line upgrading. It spent in the first two years a miserable $5.5m- a shortfall of $22.5m.During the 1977 election it promised $60m a year for urban public transport, essentially rail upgrading. In the first three years it has underspent that undertaking, that promise, by $55m. It has cut urban public transport expenditure this year by 44 per cent in real terms on the 1976-77 allocation. It has done little to upgrade the Sydney-Melbourne rail line, recommended in 1976 by its own Bureau of Transport Economics. We put it to the Parliament and to the nation that instead of promoting a $1 billion election gimmick the Government should have ensured the upgrading of the Melbourne-Sydney line at a cost of something like $10m to $12m.

Mr Calder - Point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles - Order! I think I have just beaten the honourable member for the Northern Territory to making this point. I remind the honourable member for Shortland that the Bill is a specific Bill. It is not about electrification of railways and it is not really on the matter that the honourable member has been dealing with. I do not mind a glancing blow or a passing reference, but I suggest that in a few minutes the honourable member might get back to the subject of the Bill.

Mr MORRIS - Mr Deputy Speaker,it is part of the rail system. The new project to be constructed links in with it, and it dramatically affects the services to be provided between Adelaide and Melbourne and Adelaide's access to eastern markets. I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you recognise that. I am not putting it in a partisan way.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - That is quarrelling with electrification, really.

Mr MORRIS - It is linked in with the improved services between Serviceton and Adelaide and the whole lot. I have only a few other factual comments to make. If, instead, we built the longer passing loops, put in centralised traffic control, straightened the curves and eased the gradients we could, on that line, double capacity, halve the journey time and considerably improve energy efficiency. That, I put to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, is an essential part of the activities of the National Railways Commission. The fact is that the Commission is based in Adelaide but we cannot isolate the Commission from the extremity services which it has to feed off and which must be part of the total service it provides to South Australia and South Australia's access to markets and industry. As I said earlier, the Adelaide to Crystal Brook standardisation project is long overdue. It will dramatically improve the quality and efficiency of rail services in South Australia. We wish the project and the men who will work on the project well. I am deliberately cutting my time short to enable my colleague the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), who has a special interest in this project, time to participate in the debate. The opposition does not oppose the Bill.

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