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Minister visiting Tasmania to investigate claims of shipping problems



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PRESS R

ELEASE 1

Minister Visiting Tasmania to Inves i ate

Claims of Shipping Problems ^i ./

(Statement by the Minister for Shipping and Trari°spr'G

and Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, the

Hon. Ian Sinclair, M.P.)

A top level Commonwealth group led by the Minister

for Shipping and Transport, Mr Ian Sinclair, will hold talks

with the Tasmanian Premier, Mr Bethune, in Hobart on Monday,

17 August.

Accompanying Mr Si;:clair will be the permanent head

of the Department of Shipping and Transport, Mr M.M. Summers,

the General Manager of the Australian National Line,

Mr R. Robin, and shipping experts from the Commonwealth and the

A.N.L.

The meeting follows an exchange of telegrams between

Mr Bethune and the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton.

Mr Gorton asked Mr Sinclair to hold on-the-.spot

.discussions with the Tasmanian Premier, Mr Bethune, the

Tasmanian Minister for Transport, Mr Bessell, and their advisers.

The discussions-"will review the situation following

the recent 122 per cent increase in the Australian National Line's

charges on the Tasmanian service in order to isolate any problems

and to iron out any difficulties which may have arisen.

In Canberra today Mr Sinclair said he welcomed the

opportunity to meet Mr Bethune in Hobart and to examine Tasmania's

claims thoroughly.

He said that there had been several discussions between

officials of the Commonwealth and Tasmania before the increase

was introduced and he had been kept well informed about Tasmania's

problems.

9

Freight rates in all of the A.N.L.'s general cargo

trade throughout Australia had gone up by 122 per cent from July

1970.

However at the request of the Tasmanians the increase in

freight charges to that State had been delayed to allow further

discussions to be held.

The increase that finally was applied to the Tasmanian

trade came into effect on 1 August, and was the first increase

since 1959.

'In fact, in that year freight charges were reduced by

45 per cent following the introduction of roll/on - roll/off

services by the Australian National Line,' he said.

'Then again in 1961 further reductions were made -a cut of 15 per cent on freight rates for cargo from Tasmania to

the mainland.'

'This record of freight rate reduction and stability

has been maintained in the face of continuously rising costs and

during a period when other sectors in this transport chain have

made frequent increases.'

' The Minister said this had been possible because of the

operating efficiency of the modern vessels the A.N.L. had

progressively introduced since 1959.

However, no commercial business - and the A.N.L. is a

commercial business - could absorb cost increases indefinitely.

'The A.11.L. is required by law to operate commercially

and to make a reasonable return on capital to the Commonwealth,

and the Line is satisfied that an increase of 122 per cent is the

minimum which could be made and still permit it to operate on a

commercial basis,-' he said.

3.

'But any freight rate change, particularly one involving

such a complicated freight structure as is necessary in this type

of service, is bound to bring about anomalies. Some are, no doubt,

of real importance.'

• 'Since the increase was announced officers of my

Department and of the A.N.L. have been working closely with

Tasmanian officials on specific instances brought to their notice.'

'Whilst they have found and corrected some problems of

real importance, a great deal of the very wide publicity that has

been given to the matter in Tasmania has been concerned to

highlight freight increases of a highly theoretical nature but of

little or no practical significance.

'When I am in Hobart I particularly would wish to hear

of any cases of hardship resulting from the new freight rate, so

that they can be investigated and rectified if this is at all

possible,' he added.

CANBERRA 16 AUGUS T 1970