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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3050

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I would like to reply to some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) prior to the suspension of the sitting. He sought to blame politics for the Australian Shipping Commission Amendment Bill now going through the House. He said also that the matter had been handled recently in the Queensland Parliament. He did not give any credit to anyone in this Government for being sympathetic towards people who live in faraway places. We saw examples of this lack of thought during the term of office of the Labor Government. Since the shadow Minister for Transport took it upon himself to stress that this is a political measure, I think I would be quite entitled to speak similarly on the subject. If it is a political measure, the people who should receive the credit are the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) for the work that they have done in convincing the Federal Government and, needless to say, the State Government to put through legislation to assist people in their part of Australia.

I noticed that the honourable member for Shortland seemed to assume that all members of the Government parties attack government transport instrumentalities, organisations or operations. I can assure him that people who live in faraway places get on well with the Australian National Line, Trans-Australia Airlines and the Australian National Railways. They are the vital links between our part of the country and the businesses in cities further to the south. In that regard I also mention Qantas Airways Ltd. There was a time in Darwin when it appeared that TAA would take over the operations of Qantas. That was just after the tragic cyclone in 1974. 1 was very much opposed to that move because I think Qantas is a very well organised and a very fine operator. I think all Australians should be proud of Qantas as our flag carrier.

The honourable member for Shortland also said that Labor would do certain things. He is assuming that Labor will win the election. I will not go into that matter because I know it will not. He said that Labor would provide help here and help there. This Bill provides assistance to north Queensland in that it allows the ANL to operate interstate. We must remember that the Labor Party when it was in office acted against places such as north Queensland and the Northern Territory by implementing the Coombs report, just to mention one thing. That report did more damage than any other document to enterprise, development, business and faith in the primary industries of our hinterland. So I feel that he was just politicking because of the Queensland election which is to be held at the end of this week.

The honourable member for Shortland accused members on our side of the Parliament of union bashing. He blithely overlooked the militant unionism in recent happenings which cost hundreds of millions of dollars and which put hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Because we in government do not take very lightly to this sort of behaviour by the militant unions we are accused of union bashing. It really should be called public or private citizen bashing.

While on the subject of the ANL, I remind the honourable member that it was a brainchild of the former great leader of this Party and Deputy Prime Minister, Sir John McEwen. He decided that Australia had to get into the business of overseas shipping. In those days we were at the mercy, to a great extent, of overseas shipping cartels. At that time the Australian Government considered that it should find out, from practical experience, the operations and management of shipping services. That is some of the background.

The main thrust of the Bill is to give the ANL the right to carry on interstate services and to enable it, in the interests of people in north Queensland, up and down the Queensland coast and the far north, to get into operation as soon as possible. Now that the Queensland Government has legislated in this direction the ANL can get in on this trade and can provide a service to people who live in remote areas, although they are on the coast. In this case, as in others, where the State considers it necessary, there shall be equal competition. The Bill provides that the ANL will not gain any advantage over the private shipping companies. There will be equal opportunity. The Bill seeks to expand section 17 of the Act to entitle the Australian Shipping Commission, if it is directed to operate a certain service for the public and if such a service is run at a loss, to have that loss made good. This privilege is not available to the private shipping services. The Minister is obliged to inquire into alternative services, whether they are other shipping services or air services. In many cases they could not be road services. The substitute form of service may need assistance.

In spite of that proviso being written into the Act, I am concerned that this operation could- I reservedly say 'could'- be used to push private shipowners out of business. This opinion is in direct contrast with the opinion of the honourable member for Shortland who argued that the private shipowners could, under this Act, be used by the Minister to raise costs so that ANL would have to follow the private shipowners and would be hard put to run an economic service. That is the way he sees it, and this is the way I see it. I am a private enterprise supporter, and of course he is all for government ownership or socialism generally. I am concerned, and I would like someone to assure me on that point. No doubt the honourable member would like an assurance also.

I notice that under proposed section 17a the Commission will be required to operate in a similar fashion to private shipping services in that it will be required to pay dividends, to pay interest on moneys borrowed and to pay taxes. Although the residents of north Queensland will benefit from this ANL service, I have a shadow of a doubt in my mind about whether it will operate to the detriment of the part of the world from which I come. The ANL vessel Darwin Trader serves the port of Darwin on a regular basis. I trust that the implementation of this legislation will not affect detrimentally the operations of that ship and that Line to that part of Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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