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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2230


Mr PETER MORRIS (Minister for Transport)(5.40) —That kind of comment will keep my friend in Opposition for a long time, so he should keep it up. I say first in respect of the comment by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) that he left a bit of the story out. He forgot to mention that the government of the day was his government and there was a Minister from Tasmania. The problem was that of his Government. The honourable member cannot offload his Government's mismanagement and inability to lead an enterprise on to the fellows who work on the job. In fact, the honourable member went to Tasmania and championed the cause of the stewards. I suggest he ought to get in touch with the stewards and tell them what he told us this afternoon.


Mr Goodluck —I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I believe that the Minister is misrepresenting what I said at the time. He is distorting the facts and I would like--


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! There is no point of order. If the honourable member wants to make a personal explanation at a later time he may do so.


Mr PETER MORRIS —Mr Deputy Chairman, the comment was allowed, a charge was made and I think I am reasonably entitled to respond to it. The situation was that the honourable member went to Tasmania, had himself photographed with all the stewards, got extensive publicity, said he was on strike but continued to draw his parliamentary salary throughout and championed the cause of the strikers, yet he complains about--


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! I believe the Minister is going too far now.


Mr PETER MORRIS —I am just putting the record straight. That emphasises the hypocrisy of the comments being make in respect of that subject. I emphasise this point: There is no restriction on the provision of shipping services to Tasmania. It is simply a matter of judgment for those parties or those people who want to be involved. It is their decision whether or not to provide the service. I repeat for the benefit of Tasmanians that there is no restriction. If the Australian National Line finds there is a competitor in the service, so be it. It has to respond to that situation. If the Tasmanian Government wants to operate services it is up to that Government to do so. It is simply a decision for that Government or for any other interested party.

I shall deal with the comments of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). Again we see the division within the Opposition. He supports the amendment, but with reservations. One has to respect his reservations. As a Minister for Transport in the previous Government he has good grounds for his reservations. In fact, I think if it were not a party decision he would not support this amendment at all. He has recognised the dangers of breaches of commercial confidentiality. The catch cry is that ANL has to become more commercial. We are determined that it will become more commercial in its operations, its efficiency , its productivity and its management objectives. But does being more commercial mean bearing one's all to one's opposition? There is no way in which the corporate plan of ANL could be tabled in this place and not be public knowledge, and there is no way in which it could be presented in a form that would be meaningful without disclosing ANL's financial objectives and commitments and, working back, its rates. No one seriously suggests that we should ask any of the other national line operators, operating into this country, to table their annual budgets in this Parliament. It is not a commercial practice and it is not part of making ANL commercial.

The honourable member for Gwydir mentioned also the capital deficiency of ANL. At last he has put the record straight. As we pointed out in opposition the public transport enterprises were starved of capital, denied leadership and denigrated by members of the then Government who were responsible for their superintendence and their management. It is no wonder that the work forces of those enterprises were demoralised and lacked drive and that people with any ability got out of them because they were not going anywhere.

I come back to the comments of the shadow Minister for Transport. He said that ANL had done nothing to report and he recognised that ANL was deprived of capital. I have reinforced that. But ANL's reports were those submitted under the previous Government. As I have said so many times this afternoon, why is it suddenly pertinent after seven months in opposition when it was not of interest during seven years in Government? It is the Opposition's policy, according to the shadow Minister, that ANL should not be government-owned. I wish to make it abundantly clear that it is the policy of this Government that ANL will remain in full public ownership. I can only confess puzzlement at this new-found interest in accountability from the present Opposition. It is something that it scrupulously avoided when in government.

A comment was made in respect of ANR and its corporate plan. The House of Representatives Committee on Expenditure looked at a form of the plan. It was sanitised. We got it very late in varying forms. It was considered not in the Parliament upon its tabling but by the Chairman and some members of the Committee, and its confidentiality was protected. There is no way in which the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition could be carried out meaningfully and provide protection of confidentiality to ANL but the comparison with the case of the Australian National Railways Commission is not a reasonable one. As we said at the time, the Commission could not achieve the objectives set out in the corporate plan. I think the point has to be made, as the honourable member for Gwydir made it, that corporate plans are simply a set of targets and that those financial targets are adjusted according to changes in circumstances. Such a plan does not become a bible; it becomes an annual objective. Such plans ought to be there and government authorities should have them. That is why a corporate plan is provided for in this legislation and we have supported it and carried it through.

The thrust of the Bill that we dealt with earlier this afternoon was to deregulate ANL to allow it to react quickly to the demands of market placement services and to improve productivity, efficiency and competitiveness. But to introduce into ANL a tabling process of its corporate plan for examination by a Senate committee would do the opposite of what this Bill is trying to do. It would bog ANL down in decision making, remove its flexibility-the kind of flexibility we are looking for-and constrain ANL in its ability to react to the demands of the market-place. Whilst not wanting to criticise the Senate committee system I have to make the point that the time taken by the Committee to consider ANL's corporate plan would hinder ANL's commercial abilities. As I pointed out, the plan would contain ANL's commercial judgment of future objectives, strategies and policies. Handing that on a platter to one's opposition would be lunacy. No government could responsibly allow that information to be provided to its commercial competitors.


Mr Lusher —Its competitors are its partners.


Mr PETER MORRIS —I speak of competitors in the sense that the information tabled in the Parliament is public information available to all and sundry, everybody within the shipping industry.


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) —Order! The honourable member for Hume will cease interjecting and the Minister will stop responding to him.


Mr PETER MORRIS —Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Chairman. For all the reasons I have outlined we believe that the amendment would hinder the operations of ANL. It is an amendment that we cannot accept. I repeat that whilst we have set out a five point plan in respect of ANL and are determined to carry that plan through, I have also emphasised that it is not a foolproof plan. This legislation is part of it. I do not promise that Labor will overcome all the problems of the industry and I do not promise that shipping problems will not occur in the future, but at least for the first time in seven years there is a comprehensive program designed to place the industry and ANL on a more efficient, productive and competitive basis and so provide the opportunity for growth and security. The Government rejects the amendment.

Question put:

That the amendment (Mr Lusher's) be agreed to.