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Wednesday, 17 May 1972
Page: 1751


Senator MAUNSELL (Queensland) - I rise to explain some of the remarks that were made by Senator

McAuliffe who comes from my own State of Queensland, t thank him for drawing my attention to the figure of £98 which appeared in the Hansard report of yesterday's proceedings. I accept that this amount should be $98 and I will have it changed in Hansard. No doubt the inclusion of this amount was due to a typographical error.


Senator Keeffe - What about the matters raised by Senator McAuliffe?


Senator MAUNSELL - It is all right, Senator - you will have your chance later to speak. Obviously Senator McAuliffe has not been in other parts of Queensland outside Brisbane and the south coast area. If he had he would understand that prior to the Country-Liberal Party Government coming into office in Queensland road transport was not allowed to operate at all except on special runs such as from Toowoomba to Brisbane. Road transport was not allowed to compete under any circumstances with the railways. However, the Country-Liberal Party Government allowed road transport to operate.

Also it is significant that that Queensland Government was responsible for building a tremendous amount of bitumen roads to the outback of Queensland. Because of this, transport operators were able to go in and operate in competition with the railways. An important fact was that interstate operators, using section 92 of the Constitution, were able to bring produce up from the other States and compete with the railways. These operators did not pay road tax and were able to go to areas such as Longreach and cart goods at rates lower than the railways were charging. This is why the Government was able to negotiate with local business houses in places like Longreach a reduced rate for groceries and all other items. Let us face it, places such as Longreach buy most of their groceries and other goods from Brisbane and some from provincial cities such as Rockhampton.

When the Minister for Transport, who was then Mr Chalk, negotiated the agreements with the business houses for the supply of goods at a reduced rate to Longreach and other places, businesses in Rockhampton in particular objected that this was cutting them out of their business with Longreach. This objection was fair enough. After all, the Country Party believes in decentralisation and therefore it is only right that the interests of Rockhampton should have been looked after. Nevertheless a freight rate was negotiated in which grocery lines in particular could be sent at a reduced rate between Brisbane and Rockhampton. Also, a reduced rate was negotiated between Rockhampton and Longreach. A $4 a ton handling charge was given to the distributors in Rockhampton and it was considered that this would give them a reasonable profit margin. The freight rates in those days were in pounds; I am expressing them in dollars. The freight charge per ton from Brisbane to Rockhampton was $28. A charge of S4 was imposed to meet overheads. The freight rate from Rockhampton to Longreach was $14. So the freight rate per ton from Brisbane to Longreach, including the $4 to meet overheads, was $46. But if the product was ordered through distributors in Rockhampton, the charge from Brisbane to Longreach was $42. When a product was transported from Longreach to Winton

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! Honourable senators will cease interjecting.


Senator MAUNSELL - They do not know what I am talking about. They do not want to hear an explanation of these matters that they have queried.


Senator McAuliffe - Give us the Beckingsale report.


Senator MAUNSELL - Hang on. You asked the question. You wanted me to answer you.


Senator McAuliffe - You are taking too long.


Senator MAUNSELL - I am trying to explain it to you. If you will give me a chance, I will explain it. This is what happened in that area. The Townsville business houses then realised that they could lose a bit of business if products were carried through to Winton. So they negotiated a contract with the Railway Department involving the use of the line to Mount Isa. The object was that the Townsville business houses were not to encroach on the Rockhampton area and Rockhampton business houses were not to encroach on the Townsville area. That is the explanation as to why freight charges for goods transported between Rockhampton and Winton have been lower than those in respect of products coming from Cairns. No approach has been made by the business houses of Winton. They said: 'We have had a fair go in one direction. We do not ask for a lower rate in the other direction. People on the northern line operate through Townsville. We obtain our benefit by operating through Rockhampton, that is fair enough'. That is the explanation of that situation. The next point with which I wish to deal is secret contracts. As honourable senators know, secret contracts have always been part of railway business.


Senator McAuliffe - I know that the honourable senator abhors these secret contracts.


Senator MAUNSELL - 1 do not like secret contracts. But I believe that, in the circumstances, the Queensland Government had to act in this way. Interstate hauliers - the Thomas Nationwide Transport company among others - intruded. They were able to cart goods from New South Wales and elsewhere to Queensland and were not required to disclose their contract rates. They were able to cart, in particular, loads of steel from Newcastle to Queensland cities and so compete against the Queensland railways. The Queensland Railway Department lost a good deal of business as a result of this development. From what I have heard from Opposition members, it appears obvious that they wish to see the Queensland railways destroyed. The Queensland Railway Department in order to try to preserve its business had to offer contract rates to Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and other steel manufacturing companies in order to compete against TNT and the other interstate hauliers. The Railway Department believed that it had the right not to disclose the details of its contracts and to keep them secret in the same way as TNT and other hauliers did not disclose this information. Whether or not the honourable senator or 1 think that this practice is right, I still believe that the Queensland Railway Department and the Queensland Government have the responsibility to see that Queensland railways do obtain a fair share of the business from interstate business houses.


Senator McAuliffe - Would the honourable senator like to see the Beckingsale report tabled?


Senator MAUNSELL - Yes, I would.


Senator McAuliffe - Well, good on you.


Senator MAUNSELL - I would say that the Country Party has done more than any other Party to try to have that report tabled. We have been informed that certain matters dealt with in the Beckingsale report have already been put into action. I have been a party to the Scott report. We have been trying to get this information. The Queensland Government - and probably quite rightly so - has said that until such time as it has studied all the ramifications of the Beckingsale report, particularly all the ramifications of the Scott report - a private industry report which conflicts with the Beckingsale report - it is not prepared to disclose the findings of the Beckingsale report. That approach may be fair enough. I think that I have answered all the queries that Senator McAuliffe raised.







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