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Tuesday, 9 May 1972
Page: 1493

Senator DEVITT asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

(1)   What action is proposed to be taken in the way of staff changes and reorganisation of administrative and managerial practices in the Australian National Shipping Line, following the revelation of 11,500 unfilled passenger berths on the Australian National Line passenger/vehicles ships on the Tasmanian run during November and December 1971 and January 1972.

(2)   Does the Government accept that the situation so revealed reflects managerial incompetence which threatens the economic viability of the Australian National Line's passenger services and does serious harm to a sensitive area of the Tasmanian economy almost entirely dependent on shipping.

Senator COTTON The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   and (2) The Government does not propose to initiate any action for staff changes in the Australian National Line's organisation and rejects the suggestion of incompetence on the part of the Line's management.

The Government and ANL are aware of the importance of the Line's passenger services to the Tasmanian tourist trade. However, the figures of unfilled berths quoted in the question gives the overall position only. The vacancies per month were as follows:


These figures must be consideredin the light of the purposes of the services, the reasons for the vacancies and the situation in previous years.

The Line's Tasmanian passenger services are designed to cater to the needs of tourists. This trade, which is important to the Tasmanian economy, is seasonal in nature so that demand for travel fluctuates from month to month throughout the year.

From the beginning of November until about midway through December, i.e. until the start of the Christmas tourist season, demand for tourist travel is not very heavy. In fact November is normally the third lowest month in any year for passenger bookings. Consequently, there are a number or unfilled berths during this period. However, the demand in 1971 was higher than in the corresponding period of the two previous years.

In January 1972, the month in which demand for tourist travel normally reaches its highest level each year, the three vessels carried 14,753 passengers. This means they operated at almost a 90 per cent load factor, i.e. the percentage of filled berths to total berth available.

The level of cancellations experienced in January 1972 was slightly higher than thatinprioryears. However as soon as this situation became evident, the Line immediately introducedproceduresto obtain definite information of bookings orcancellations at an earlier date so that unfilled berths could be advertised and utilised to the greatest possible extent.

In theory, the Line could achieve a load factor significantly higher than 90 per cent by imposing very stringent conditions on intending passengers to ensure that they either travel or pay in full for unused berths. In practice, however, these conditions cannot be imposed as they would not be acceptable to tourists. Prospective passengers would simply turn to other areas for their holiday requirements and the Line, and the Tasmanian tourist industry, would suffer.

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