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Wednesday, 16 October 1974
Page: 1752

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) -I rise to speak on behalf of the Liberal Party Opposition. I do not adopt the normal procedure of seeking the adjournment of the debate. I do this because when we can co-operate with the Government and when it deserves that cooperation we co-operate. We understand that the Government desires this Bill to receive the royal assent and its clauses to be put into operation as soon as possible. As we believe that nothing but good can come from the Bill, we are prepared to aid its speedy passage through the Senate. It may seem unfamiliar to honourable senators for a Tasmanian senator to be prepared to agree to allow a shipping Bill to pass through the Senate quickly without enumerating the many hardships suffered by my State of Tasmania because of its shipping problems; but other legislation that the Government is introducing today will give us the opportunity to put forward the problems of our State.

This Bill deals with the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Under the Bill, the Commission is now to be called the Australian Shipping Commission. Hitherto, the Australian National Line has had authority under legislation to trade only interstate and around the coast of Australia. Its present name is an anachronism because it has embarked on overseas trade. The Australian flag is being carried into many foreign ports. It is obviously the Government's intention that this development will be increased. So we are not opposing that. Incidentally, the legislation will help Tasmania specifically, as I will outline briefly in a few minutes.

I want to emphasise that in another place yesterday this legislation was debated thoroughly by members on both sides of the House. Once again, the Australian Government Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, showed his willingness to co-operate and to accept amendments that will improve the legislation that he has placed before the Parliament. This is the third major occasion in the life of the new Parliament on which this Minister has shown statesmanlike qualities that have enabled him to persuade his Government to accept important amendments moved by the Opposition. I refer to the Loans Bills for the airlines and the roads legislation. In this Bill we have another instance of amendments put forward by the Opposition on behalf of the people to improve the legislation having been quickly and willingly accepted by the Minister. They are now in the Bill before the Senate. I have referred to the first amendment in this legislation- the change of name from the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to the Australian Shipping Commission. Because of its increased responsibilities naturally the Government has found it necessary to increase the number of commissioners from five to seven with one full-time commissioner. I congratulate the Government on deciding to appoint one full-time commissioner for this very, very important job as far as Australian shipping is concerned.

The Bill alters the basis on which the Commission is reimbursed for losses in the operation of a shipping service undertaken at the direction of the Minister for Transport. That is of great assistance to shipping in Australia. In other words, it is not being said: 'You must make a profit' or you cannot make losses.' As I understand the legislation, it will mean in layman's terms that the Minister may request the Commission to operate a service, and if that service cannot be operated at a profit it can be reimbursed for the losses incurred by this ministerial or governmental direction. This is something from which we Tasmanians would, I think, hope to benefit. We know of the ad hoc decisions taken recently by the Government to tide us over serious shipping problems, but I believe that this Bill puts into legislative form a means by which this Government and all future governments will be able to help places like Tasmania and possibly the Northern Territory. Other shipping schedules may need to be operated and have the losses incurred reimbursed from the Commonwealth purse.

The other amendments are mostly of a minor and machinery nature, and we agree with them. One ensures that any moneys loaned to the Commission for its operation- its capital expenditurewill be loaned at the long term bond interest rate. I believe it is fair that a government business undertaking should not have to go into the open market for funds. It is working for the government. Therefore, it should be able to get money from the government at the interest rate that the government is paying for that money on the long term loan market.

Another amendment agreed to by the Minister was to the important section 17 of the principal Act. The amendment added a sub-clause 5 by which the Minister gives a direction for the Commission to run a service. It says:

The Minister shall cause a copy of any direction given by him under sub-section ( 1 ) -

That is of the principal Act-

.   . to be laid before each House of Parliament within IS sitting days of that House after the direction is made by him.

In other words, the Opposition proposed, and the Government agreed, that Parliament must be given the oversight of any ministerial action which ordered a government business undertaking to enter into a certain aspect of trade.

I conclude by supporting the legislation on behalf of the Liberal Opposition. I trust that the new Commission will take a very deep- deep is rather an awkward word to use when talking about the sea, I suppose, and those who go down to the sea in ships- interest in Tasmania's shipping interests. I hope that it will keep a constant watch on them. I hope that through its expertise and direct communications with the Government and the Minister, it will keep the Government informed of our problems. Governments in the past- I am not saying this Government only- have not realised that national governments never make profits out of roadways. Their building and maintenance cost money. Bass Strait is the highway to and from Tasmania, albeit sometimes rough and always wet. But no national government should seek to gain a profit. It should reimburse the losses and help the people who trade and whose lifeline is that shipping service. With those few words, I support the legislation before the Senate.

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