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Thursday, 1 May 1980
Page: 2076


Senator CHIPP (Victoria) (Leader of the Australian Democrats) - The Australian Democrats commend Senator Rae and absolutely support his proposition that a Senate select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon passenger fares and services to and from Tasmania. I want to comment on the magic of how this item came out of the blue from being listed under General Business as Order of the Day No. 23 1 to top the list. I will not go into the intricacies of the motion moved by Senator Rae. I have no criticism of him. I think he showed extraordinary courage in placing this item on the Notice Paper before he had Government approval for it to be adopted. Clearly the fact that he has been able to use a mechanical device to have his motion moved to the top of the Notice

Paper for debate tonight indicates the Government will accept his proposition and agree to the appointment of a select committee.

Let us examine the position. It is rather an unusual step for a government to appoint a select committee of the Senate to inquire into fares and services connected with one State. Almost every honourable senator could point to particular and peculiar problems of transport pertaining to his own State; but Senator Rae, through rather cavalier action which I admire, made the Government an offer that it could not refuse. Therefore, he has been able to bring his item to the top of the Notice Paper. I commend him for that. We totally support the motion.


Senator Georges - It would not have been done without the co-operation of the Opposition.


Senator CHIPP - Again, with great respect, it was a 'Don Corleone' offer. If the honourable senator has read the Godfather, he will know what I mean. It was an offer the Opposition could not refuse either.


Senator McAuliffe - He is a member of the family.


Senator CHIPP - The honourable senator is confusing nationalities. I did not know that the Mafia had its origins in ancient Greece, to which Senator Georges owes his inheritance.


Senator Rae - May I interject and say that I am delighted to have the co-operation of all sides of the chamber?


Senator CHIPP - I am sure the honourable senator is delighted. More particularly- let us be realists- the honourable senator is grateful to have the co-operation of the Government in accepting his motion, which means that his proposal will be passed.

I am disappointed that Senator Rae did not proceed with Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in his name, which he has postponed twice. I commend him again for that motion, which generally speaking states the view that the Senate is of the opinion that honourable senators should no longer hold office as Ministers of state. The Australian Democrats, since their inception, have believed that the introduction of that proposal would be a major breakthrough in the rigidity of party discipline in the Senate- the House of Review, the States' House. Once every back bencher in the Senate has been deprived of the possibility of one day becoming a Minister and therefore exercising discipline over back bench members the way will be open for more conscience votes and more votes according to the relevance and substance of the issues rather than votes following the rigidity of party lines. I wish Senator Rae luck in getting the Government to give him the nod to proceed with Notice of Motion No. 1. 1 guarantee him the total support of the Australian Democrats if he is so lucky or persuasive.

I support the motion and I am pleased that the Labor Party is supporting it. As senators we travel to the various States of this nation. A Victorian who goes to Queensland notices, despite the rather peculiar type of football played, the feeling of Queenslanders that there is a difference between them and southerners. The word 'southerners' is said sometimes with a friendly hiss, but a hiss notwithstanding. If a person from Victoria goes to Western Australia he is regarded as an easterner. The teeth are clenched even a little tighter when 'easterner' is said in Western Australia. There are these natural divisions between various States. There is the natural rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne and so on.

Having travelled this nation as all honourable senators have done, I believe that there is something special about Tasmanians feeling different from the 'mainlanders', which is the word used in Tasmania. I think that Tasmanians are justified in their feelings. The division of water penalises them. Successive governments, both Labor and Liberal, have made gestures from time to time to allay these differences and difficulties but it has been done rather with tongue in cheek. Senator Rae gave the excellent example of the ship that was built at Whyalla. He mentioned the tongue in cheek gesture from the Federal Government to the Tasmanians. The Federal Government said: 'Look, we, the Federal Government, have subsidised the building of the ship for $3m or whatever. Therefore you should be grateful'. But the Government was forgetting that the cost of the ship was still twice that of a similar ship from Taiwan. The Tasmanians essentially have to bear the burden of the amortisation of that double cost into perpetuity.

The Australian Democrats believe that Tasmanians have a special problem. We are amazed that Senate Rae has got away with murder in getting the Government to agree to the appointment of a select committee.


Senator McAuliffe - The map of Tasmania is very intriguing.


Senator CHIPP - Yes, it is. It has sometimes been likened to my face. I totally agree. I wonder about the airline policy. A disturbing aspect concerning airline policy seems to be developing lately. I do not know whether Mr Hunt in his new portfolio or the accession to the Ansett throne of Mr Murdoch and Sir Peter Abeles or a combination of those factors has led to the new exciting development of competition between our two airlines. I compliment everybody concerned. I hope the competition will continue. Coincidentally, I have noticed in this chamber and in the other place an unfortunate polarisation of attitudes in the two major political parties in this country. There seems now to be a greater tendency by the Labor Party to champion TransAustralia Airlines and to denigrate Ansett Airlines of Australia or to champion Qantas Airways Ltd and to denigrate private enterprise. It is a slight difference in emphasis. On the other side the Liberal Party and the National Country Party members have been championing Ansett more and more. In their eyes, Ansett can do no wrong any more, and so on.


Senator Missen - I do not think you should generalise about that.


Senator CHIPP - I am generalising. If I am doing so at the expense of accuracy I apologise, but surely I am entitled to give a general impression of the way that the two political parties are polarising over what I believe to be a very healthy development of real competition between government-owned enterprise and private enterprise in the airline industry for the first time in many years. Let us all be critical as the war develops. As a free enterprise person I believe the more competition the better, provided that the war of competition is allowed to be free on both sides.

I am sorry that Senator Rae did not mention one matter. I am sure that he would agree with me that in the past the two-airline policy has been kept so much under the thumb of the Government that the Bizjet operation, for example, was scandalously allowed to fall into bankruptcy and liquidation. This happened under a so-called free-enterprise government. A small Aussie battler, a fellow called Walker, started Bizjets.


Senator Grimes - Oh!


Senator CHIPP - Senator Grimescan scoff. Let him justify to his voters in northern Tasmania the Bizjets affair. Bizjets arranged flights to north and north-western Tasmania at something like half the cost of Ansett and TAA flights. In the good old days Ansett and TAA did a deal together and temporarily undercut Bizjets to such an extent that it went out of business. As soon as Bizjets went out of business the fares returned to the inflated level.


Senator Grimes - They are not the facts.


Senator CHIPP -I will be grateful, when Senator Grimes speaks, to be informed of the facts. The north and north-western Tasmania venture of Bizjets was not the first time that Ansett and TAA screwed a private enterprise airline to stop it from operating flights to other places in Tasmania. I thought that I might have had the support of Senator Grimes in opposing that sort of collusion between the duopoly that existed. I hope that that situation is now over. We hope that something like Gordon Barton's Tiger Line proposal which provides for fast transport, fast automated ships, to and from Tasmania might be extended from transporting just cargo to transporting passengers. I commend Senator Rae for initiating this proposal and Senator Tate for supporting it. I hope that the select committee appointed by this Senate will be able to go into great depth and will investigate the new horizons that have suddenly appeared because of the virtual breaking of this infamous two-airline policy that has strangled intercourse between Tasmania and the mainland for so many years.







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