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Tuesday, 4 October 1983
Page: 1289

Mr HODGMAN(8.33) —I join in the debate on the estimates of the Department of Transport and the Department of Aviation with some considerable enthusiasm. May I say from the outset to both the Minister for Transport (Mr Morris) and the Minister for Aviation (Mr Beazley), who are in the chamber, that I hope my remarks will be constructive; they certainly will not be personal. I place on record the very high regard in which I hold the Minister for Aviation, who is sitting at the table, and his colleague the Minister for Transport, across party lines. Some time ago a Minister in the Whitlam Government made the somewhat historic but very accurate pronouncement that Tasmania was an island completely surrounded by water. The fact is that what he said was quite right. I have to remind the House and the people of Australia listening to this debate that that situation continues.

Therefore, as the only Tasmanian representative participating in this debate, tonight I want to highlight my remarks about the continuing problems which confront Australia's only island State in its links and connections with what I refuse to describe as the mainland but prefer to describe as the north island of Australia. Some time ago I was privileged to address an international conference in Melbourne. I commenced my remarks by reminding international delegates who were visiting Australia that there were great similarities between Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand there is a north island and a south island; exactly the same applies in Australia. It is also very appropriate that in the chamber tonight we have the Hon. Ian Braid, Minister for Main Roads and Minister for Local Government in the State of Tasmania.

Mr Burr —Hear, hear!

Mr HODGMAN —I note the welcoming interjection from my colleague and friend, the honourable member for Wilmot. In the Tasmanian Parliament one is not allowed to refer to strangers and if one does so there is a great risk that the entire public gallery will be cleared. Fortunately, that is not the position here and, I am sure on behalf of all members on both sides of the House, we extend a very warm welcome to the Hon. Ian Braid and Mrs Braid.

My opening remarks deal with the question of air communication and I say from the outset that the establishment of the international air terminal in Hobart, which has now been completed and is operating, is greatly welcomed. But I commend to the Minister at the table, the Minister for Aviation, and to his colleague the Minister for Transport, who is in the chamber, the urgent necessity for upgrading Hobart Airport to true international standard. By that I mean for it to have a capacity to receive normal international flights. To make the point-I do it with some feeling because my friend the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown), with whom I clash occasionally but who is nevertheless my friend, has made certain statements in relation to the number of international airports that Australia should have-I wish to place on record on behalf of myself, my colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and my colleague the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) that Hobart has had an international air link with Christchurch, New Zealand, for some considerable time. It is an international airport. We greatly appreciate what has been done which, as the Minister will confirm, was an initiative of the previous Government but was carried through into fruition by the present Government. I invite all those honourable members who have the opportunity of visiting Hobart to have a look at the new international terminal. But it will only be complete when the actual tarmac at Hobart Airport is upgraded so that it can take jumbo jets and all normal international aircraft.

Notwithstanding the tragedy of the Mount Erebus disaster, I wish to refer to two very fundamental points. The first is that Australia's Antarctic activity will increase, and increase quite dramatically, over the next five to 10 years. It is absolutely essential that air contact with the Antarctic be by the shortest possible route. The upgrading of Hobart International Airport to true international standard will permit that to be done. It is nonsense to fly equipment all the way from Sydney or Melbourne to the Antarctic. It is essential for our Antarctic program that the closest possible airport be upgraded to take those aircraft.

In my second point, I refer to a speech I made in the Tasmanian Parliament back in 1968. I draw attention again to the fact that Antarctica has the potential to become one of the greatest tourist attractions of the world in the twenty-first century. I repeat that the tragedy of the Mount Erebus disaster has made many people think that Antarctic tourism will not become reality. I can assure the House that the opportunities for developing a major Australian participation in Antarctic tourism are enormous. This most magnificent, white, extraordinarily wealthy and extraordinarily beautiful continent will be accessible to mankind and to the ordinary commercial traveller before the end of this century. I believe in the potential of the Antarctic for tourist development, whether tourists fly there or whether they travel by ship. I believe that the Minister for Aviation, who is at the table, is such a far-sighted Minister he will see that there is good sense in relation to our Antarctic program and Antarctic tourism.

In addition, might I say that it would be very desirable if the current Australian-New Zealand southern link-that is, between Hobart and Christchurch- could be extended to Hobart and Wellington, and Hobart and Auckland. Again, the only problem is the fact that the airstrip cannot take the big jumbo jets. I commend to the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism the proposition that tourists do not wish to backtrack and that, therefore, we ought to have an Australia-New Zealand tourism circle whereby, for example, people could go from New Zealand to Hobart, then fly to Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney and then perhaps back to the North Island of New Zealand; in other words, a circuit. You, Mr Chairman, with your great experience as a Minister will recall that tourists do not like to see the same thing twice. In other words, I put these propositions to the Minister at the table and hope that he will-and I am sure that he will-give them very careful consideration.

The Minister for Transport will not get a blast from me tonight. Indeed, I might say across party lines that although I have fought with him in the past there are things that he has done which I think should be commended. I might in fairness say that I believe that the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) in his capacity as shadow Minister is also doing a fine job. The Minister for Transport is about to make one of the most critical decisions ever for the future of Tasmania. That decision will be made when the Minister for Transport receives the report of the officials and subsequently meets with the Tasmanian Minister for Transport, the Hon. Roger Groom, and the Victorian Minister for Transport, the Hon. Steve Crabb, to discuss what is to happen in relation to the replacement of the Empress of Australia. My colleague the honourable member for Wilmot, along with the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman), the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) and, indeed, the honourable member for Franklin- all Tasmanians-are emphatic in their view that what we need is not just one replacement for the Empress; we need two.

Mr Burr —Hear, hear!

Mr HODGMAN —I thank the honourable member for Wilmot for his interjection. I want to say to the Minister for Transport that, if he analyses the tourism figures, if he recognises that Tasmania is now leading Australia in relation to tourism promotion and if he recognises that our island State has the opportunity to become the tourist mecca of Australasia-and I mean that, in those precise words-I ask the Minister to display the vision of which I believe he is capable, to seize the nettle and to ensure that the Empress of Australia is not replaced by just one vessel but is, in fact, replaced by two. I am aware from my term in the Ministry last year that there were I think some five specific proposals in relation to the replacement of the Empress. I appeal to the Minister and to the Hawke Government to seize the opportunity and to ensure that Tasmania has not one, but two ferries operating across Bass Strait.

I also want to appeal to the Minister to have another look at what is happening in relation to a matter raised with him by the honourable member for Wilmot in respect of the town of Bridgewater, which is about to be bypassed and put into bankruptcy by a proposed national highway extension which will wipe out that town.

Mr Burr —At least put in a slip road.

Mr HODGMAN —The honourable member for Wilmot is quite right. If the Government is not prepared to vary what work is already under way, at least let it put in a slip road. But, more progressively, will the Minister accept the submission of myself and the honourable member for Franklin that the national highway ought to be extended through to Huonville which is really now part of metropolitan Hobart ? It is becoming a dormitory suburb, with many living in that area as you would well know, Mr Johnson, who regard themselves as part of Hobart. I hope that the Minister will look at this carefully-

The CHAIRMAN —Order! I am sorry to interrupt, but the honourable gentleman's time has expired.

Mr HODGMAN —You have given me a very good hearing, sir. Thank you.