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Wednesday, 16 October 1974
Page: 1756

Senator RAE (Tasmania) -Mr Deputy President,let me assure Senator Willesee who just expressed his disbelief that he should see the previous Bill go through the chamber so quickly and without a great deal of debate, that he will not find himself overwhelmed with disbelief by that course being repeated because the Bill which we now wish to debate -

Senator Willesee - Wait a minute. I did not say it.

Senator RAE - I am sorry, I thought I heard the Minister say it. That view was expressed by Senator Cavanagh to an extent and I thought that I heard Senator Willesee also say it as he walked into the chamber. I simply say that having seen the Australian National Line ships put smoothly across the waters of Bass Strait, we now find ourselves in the position where we are dealing with the States Grants Bill which affects Tasmania and provides for the sum of $ 15m to be granted by the Commonwealth to the State. As Senator Marriott indicated, we were most anxious that the Bill relating to the ANL should go through immediately and that there should be no delay in debating the measure when there would be the opportunity to debate related matters on this the following Bill.

Senator Devitt - You are not going to spoil the atmosphere?

Senator RAE - Without wishing to spoil the atmosphere in any way I should like to refer to some of Tasmania's problems, not the least of which- in fact, probably the greatest of which- is the Federal Labor Government. One finds that this is the case particularly when one remembers that just recently we have had all sorts of helpful contributions from the leading members of that Government. After all, it was the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) whose contribution to the problem of unemployment in the textile industry in Launceston was to accuse those of us on both sides of the chamber, and those trade union leaders, who have expressed concern about increasing unemployment in the textile industry in Launceston, of peddling lies. He accused certain of the trade union leaders of being in collusion with multinational corporations. Such was his misunderstanding, his lack of knowledge of the problem that he made a complete fool of himself by claiming that the figures to which reference had been made were wrong. They are demonstrably correct, and I have already referred to that matter in this chamber. I simply repeat that the Prime Minister's disinterest in Tasmania was manifested by the manner in which he made that false accusation about some of his own colleagues, other members of this Parliament and members of the trade union movement.

Then the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) visited Tasmania. His reaction to some of the problems of Tasmania was to tell Tasmanians to stop whinging. He claimed that we were all on velvet. Apparently he has some strange ideas about what it is like to be on velvet, or certainly he has a different idea from the one which I have. As for telling us to stop whinging, I am afraid that I am one example of someone who does not intend to stop because the Deputy Prime Minister tells me to stop. Today I propose to refer to a number of matters where I believe that Tasmania is being disadvantaged as a result of the failure of this Government to have any real idea of what the needs of Tasmania really are.

I remind the Senate that this is a Government which is sufficiently insensitive to the needs of individuals to have increased personal income tax this year, in this year's Budget, by an amazing 46 per cent. I think that a lot of people have not realised what this will mean to them in their real take home pay. Of course, those people are from throughout Australia, and they include Tasmanians. But unfortunately fewer and fewer Tasmanians each week will be affected by this measure because the number of unemployed is increasing so rapidly. I will simply refer to today's 'Mercury'. The headline reads:

Our jobless worst. Total now stands at 4,937. . . . constitutes 3. 14 per cent of the labour force.

Of course, it is a substantially higher percentage in the Launceston area which has been affected by the measures which the Government took in relation to the textile industry. I simply remind the Minister and the Senate that there is no doubt as to who is to blame for the situation, because the blame has been accepted by the Government. After all, it was Senator Wriedt who on 1 August last, when I had raised the problem concerning the Launceston area and asked for a task force to be sent to Tasmania, said, as reported at page 772 of Hansard:

Of course, the problem that he -

Referring to me- raises flows from the Government's decision last year to reduce tariffs across the board by 25 per cent. 1 do not want to canvass the rights or wrongs of that decision either; but when the Government took the decision it was aware that there would be repercussions in certain manufacturing industries in Australia, and it was anticipated that the textile industry, in particular, would be affected. There is a major textile industry in Launceston and it has been affected as a result of the Government's decision.

There was the clearest indication by the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, of an acceptance. I pay him due credit for that. I think that Senator Wriedt has received credit on other occasions for being prepared to admit what has happened and for not attempting to prevaricate. In this instance he clearly accepts that the problems of Launceston are directly the fault of the present Labor Government.

Not only have Mr Whitlam and Dr Cairns made their various contributions to making Tasmanians feel a little happier because the Government is aware of their problems; Mr Jones has too. I know that he has acted in a responsible way in accepting amendments to certain legislation in recent times, as was referred to by Senator Marriott a little while ago. But he did not seem very responsible when he said in Hobart some time ago, in effect, that he was not very interested in Tasmania because there were more votes in Newcastle than there were in Tasmania. I believe that that attitude has been exemplified in his approaches to a number of Tasmanian problems. It was exemplified when he said just recently that he did not agree with any area receiving special transport consideration. Apparently he has been persuaded by Senator Devitt and others to go back on that attitude. But this is clearly the idea which Mr Jones has in his ministerial capacity.

None of us has been very successful in being able to change his mind about another matter to which I shall make reference. This is the Bass Strait islands air transport situation which, as Senator Devitt no doubt is well aware, is causing considerable disquiet among the people on both Flinders Island and King Island. This situation has arisen because of the Government's action in withdrawing a subsidy which had been paid by the former Liberal-Country Party Government to ensure the maintenance of air services by suitable aircraft to those 2 islands. As a result of the withdrawal of the subsidy it has become uneconomical for Ansett Airlines of Australia, which was conducting the service, to continue to do so. Ansett has had to withdraw this service. In its place a temporary service has been put on. It is operated by 6-seater light aircraft. A petition which has been signed by some 200 women on King Island exemplifies the concern and the attitude of a number of people on both those islands. I have a copy of the petition and I would be happy to table it if called upon to do so. It states:

We feel this is a retrograde step -

That is taking the step which I have mentioned - and some points of special concern are-

1   . No alternative means of transport.

2.   Only one pilot.

3.   No facilities for the help of aged people, mothers with small children or sick people. No help in administering oxygen in case of need.

4.   No toilets.

5.   Several retarded children attend special school in Tasmania and require to be in the charge of a hostess.

6.   There are approximately 50 children travelling frequently to Tasmania for higher education, and parents are concerned about them in small aircraft with the lack of these facilities.

7.   The air fares have been increased by $ 10 and at $46.20, we feel this service does not justify the cost involved.

8.   Even when the Fokker Friendship service is reintroduced - we strongly object to the very large increase in fares due to the depressed economic situation of the Island and our isolation.

The insensitive Federal Labor Government has not responded in any favourable way to the pleas for assistance. In fact, Mr Jones has made it very clear that he has not the slightest intention of going to King Island to discuss with the residents the problems which they have in relation to both their air service and their shipping service. Aspects relating to their shipping service have been well aired in the Senate in the past year or so. I shall not refer to them in detail. The problems in relation to the air service have not been well aired, although I did ask a question about them recently. I got an answer from Senator Cavanagh in which he simply said that he could not see much reason for wanting to put on a reasonable type of aircraft even once a week. This is the sort of action which has been taken by this Government in relation to Tasmania. This is the sort of action which causes editorials to be written in Tasmanian newspapers with headings such as: 'State Hit Again'. That was the headline in an editorial in the 'Examiner' on 12 September this year. It is not an uncommon editorial headline. It is not uncommon for us Tasmanians to feel that we have been hit yet again by this insensitive Government.

As I have mentioned, we now find that we have increasing unemployment in Tasmania, yet no plan has been disclosed to date. As I mentioned last night, the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, has not been able to obtain publication of the task force report because the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, Mr Enderby, has claimed that it is an inter-departmental committee report and he has no intention of tabling it. I wonder whether the real reason for not tabling the report is that if it were tabled a certain Prime Minister might wind up with even more egg all over his face. After all, we hear around the corridors that the report from which the Prime Minister quoted when he was speaking at the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association dinner was this particular task force report. Had the Prime Minister read the report instead of misreading it, he would have seen that the figure upon which he relied was an old figure and was not the figure that was being referred to by those who were seeking some assistance for Tasmania. Presumably there are those in the Government who think that the publication of the report would further embarrass the Prime Minister. If it is not that, then perhaps we can hear some good reason why it cannot be produced.

I find it very difficult to understand the point of having a task force report which presumably makes recommendations and suggestions as to what can be done to help overcome the unemployment problem in the Launceston area when it is not published. If it were published we, the people of northern Tasmania, would be able to evaluate the report, make further suggestions and perhaps, from what was suggested, know what we could do to help ourselves. At the moment the refusal to publish the report is in no way assisting to overcome the problem. In any event, I wonder why it was necessary- notwithstanding the fact that everybody knew for so long that high unemployment would be caused by the Government's action- for us to get to the near-desperation stage before any action was taken by the Government to even maintain some degree of employment in the textile industry in Launceston and other parts of Tasmania.

One of the saddest advertisements I have seen in recent times was inserted last Saturday by a textile company which has closed down as a result of this Government's actions. It was advertising a remnants sale- the remnants of the textile industry, the remnants of Australian manufacturing industry. Is it any wonder, with this sort of thing going on and with the way in which Australia has been affected by this Government's economic mismanagement, that Mr Bill Hughes, the General Secretary of the Australian Textile Workers Union, should say yesterday that he could not understand why any person employed in manufacturing industries in Australia would vote for the return of this Government. I simply add that anybody who would do that would be voting to increase by a very large degree the likelihood of that person being put out of work because that has been the history of this Government's actions. What a commentary it is on the less than 2 years of Labor Government that we should have the highest unemployment in Tasmania and in Australia in recent history; that is, since the 2nd World War.

I refer also to other questions related to Tasmania and assistance. I take this opportunity to inquire whether the Government is doing anything about these matters. Does it propose to do anything about them in the future? The matters to which I refer include the Warner Creek dam. No doubt Senator Wriedt would be familiar with this, as a project which would have tremendously beneficial effects. It has been regarded, on a costbenefit analysis, as one of the best projects in Australia. It is likely if allowed to go ahead to lead to the opportunity for the Meander River to be freed from the pollution from which it now suffers. Good water could be made available to the towns throughout the Meander Valley and irrigation would be possible in that very fertile region. However, so far we have heard nothing at all notwithstanding repeated requests for some sort of response on the issue from the Government.

The Labor Party promised in election speeches in 1972 that the Government would reintroduce the Interstate Commission. I am referring to this matter in the absence of my colleague Senator Wright who is at present attending the United Nations as the representative of this chamber. The Interstate Commission is a matter very near and dear to Senator Wright's heart. It was promised by the Government but we have not seen any action taken on it.

Senator Wriedt - You are referring to Senator Reginald Wright.

Senator RAE - Yes. He is no relation to Senator Ken Wriedt who is in the chamber and has drawn attention to his presence here. I accept that there is a possibility of confusion between the 2 names.

Senator Wriedt - Only the names.

Senator RAE - Yes. I simply referred to the promise of the Labor Party. In Hobart in November 1972 Senator Murphy, Leader of the Government in the Senate, explained how the Commission would help to overcome all Tasmania's transport problems. Not only have we not seen the Commission; we have not seen either any help being given to overcome Tasmania's transport problems. I do not regard the action taken by the Government and so proudly proclaimed by Senator Devitt as anything other than giving with one hand and taking back with the other hand. We have not really advanced towards reducing the disparity between Tasmania 's transport costs and those which are common between, say, Melbourne and Sydney. I believe that the Government has displayed monumental disinterest in the problems of Tasmania. This is exemplified by its refusal to have a single member of the Government attend the protest rally which was organised yesterday in Launceston. Various reasons have been given why individual members could not attend but I do not accept them, particularly in view of the availability of Royal Australian Air Force transport, the use of which enables people to fly from Canberra to Tasmania to attend a function and to return to Canberra with a minimum loss of time. RAAF transport has been used quite extensively by Ministers to attend functions and I do not believe that it would not have been possible for a Minister of the present Government- preferably Mr Barnard as a Minister and the member for Bass- to attend the rally yesterday. That absence exemplifies the Government's monumental disinterest.

That it is creating a reaction in Tasmania is to be expected and not the least reaction has come from none other than the Labor Premier of Tasmania. In today's issue of the Hobart 'Mercury' he is quoted as saying that he is 'browned off with people from Canberra tramping their hobnails over the State'. He is not particularly thrilled with what might be regarded as the Labor Government's approach to the problems of the island State. I want to take the opportunity also to comment generally on the Government's approach to expenditure and to tie such comments in with my specific concluding remarks. The Government has made a very loud noise about the extent to which it has been prepared to help the people, the magnificence of its social welfare program and all sorts of things. Let us debunk that claim by looking at Treasury Information Bulletin Number 75 of July 1974. At page 35 is a table setting out the percentage increases in various fields of expenditure. It shows that the Federal Government in 1973-74 increased its total receipts by 26.1 per cent. If in an area the increase in expenditure is less than 26 per cent it means that that area did not keep up with the general increase in income. Under the heading Social Security and Welfare the increase shown is 18.5 per cent for 1973-74 whereas expenditure for Legislative Services- running the Government- increased by 51.6 per cent. One may well deduce where some of the Government's emphasis on expenditure wentnot on helping the people but on helping itself.

There are similar increases in all sorts of ways which further make the point. The only one to which I will specifically refer is the fraud one in education. The claim is made, as is usual, that expenditure was increased by 94.8 per cent in 1 973-74. We all know that that is a total fraud. In no way did the Government increase expenditure on education by anything like 94 per cent because more than one-third of the increase - $144m out of $4 16m- was simply a transfer of money which formerly had been paid to education by the Commonwealth through the States and now was being put into the Commonwealth's education budget. It did not represent a single solitary cent of extra expenditure on education. It is important for us to remember that the Government has been living upon that fraud for some considerable time, inducing people to believe that it has done far more in increasing expenditure on education than it has in fact done. The Government's claim is based upon a manipulation of figures and is in no way representative of the facts.

I turn now to the shipping problems of Tasmania, a matter referred to in the debate just concluded but which needs referring to in greater detail. We were anxious to see the Australian Shipping Commission Bill go through as quickly as possible so that the assistance it provides at least would be available to Tasmania forthwith. That a problem exists is not disputed. Tasmanian senators have referred to it here over the years. In 1 970 we had occasion to debate freight rates of the Australian National Line when I moved for reference to the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the increases in freight rates applicable across Bass Strait. At that time I referred to the huge amounts of expenditure by the Commonwealth Government over the years on beef roads, Commonwealth railways and assistance in the transport problems of the other States and the Territories while Tasmania had received virtually nothing. That situation prevails. About $400m a year is being spent on interstate highways yet Senator Devitt proudly crows about an extra $2m for Tasmanian shipping.

Senator Devitt - But your Government did not do it over about 5 rises in freight rates.

Senator RAE - Will you let me continue?

Senator Devitt - Yes, but give the full facts.

Senator RAE - The report of the Committee was presented to the Senate in 1971. The Liberal and Country Party Government accepted at least one of the recommendations made by the Committee. It did accept more than one of them, but one of them was a recommendation that the extent of the disability suffered by Tasmania should be the subject matter of an inquiry, an investigation, by the Bureau of Transport Economics. The second recommendation in the report was that as soon as practicable the Bureau of Transport Economics be asked to attempt a quantitative assessment of Tasmania's transport disabilities relative to the other States.

The point that I want to make to Senator Devitt and to other honourable senators is that the then Liberal-Country Party did do that. It did have carried out that Bureau of Transport Economics assessment and that assessment did quantify the extent of the disability suffered by Tasmania. It made it abundantly clear. That report has been available to this Government throughout the whole of the term of its office. Yet it makes the excuse that it cannot do anything positive about overcoming the problems because it needs further information. As Senator Bessell made quite clear in his maiden speech just a week or two ago, there can be no doubt at all as to the nature of the disability suffered by Tasmania. The then Liberal-Country Party Government did take steps and it indicated that it would act on the report. Had it remained in office, its actions would have been carried out years ago.

Its action would be years old by now had it remained in office. But instead of that this Government has just caused one further deferral of any real action to overcome Tasmania's major shipping problems.

The extent of the disability being suffered by Tasmania is growing all the time, and this Government is prepared to approve a 25 per cent increase in the freight rates across Bass Strait and then proudly say: 'Having taken that much away from you we will give you back half by simply covering the freight rates on outward bound cargo'. Of course, the fact that the 25 per cent increase remains to be imposed upon inward cargoes means that all foodstuffs which have to be imported and all the raw materials for Tasmanian industries which have to be imported have to suffer a 25 per cent increase in the loading imposed on them. This is highly inflationary, amongst other things. It means that industries which have to import raw materials and then export their products will remain less competitive.

Whilst we look forward to receiving the Nimmo report, and whilst we look forward to receiving any assistance that the Government may eventually find itself able to give, Tasmania is, in economic terms, bleeding to death. I simply remind the Government that the Australian National Line is not the only shipping line involved in shipping to and from Tasmania. Assistance is required not only in relation to the Australian National Line; assistance is required in relation to any form of shipping which operates to and from Tasmania. It is that factor with which we are concerned. As an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the States Grants Bill, I move:

At the end of the motion, add- but the Senate is of the opinion that the proposed provision of grants to the State of Tasmania is inadequate and that the Government should forthwith make provision for further funds to enable Tasmanian people and commercial undertakings to enjoy a shipping transport cost no greater per ton mile than the rail freight rate applying in the other States of Australia. '.

I challenge the Tasmanian senators on the Government side of the chamber to put Tasmania first and to join us in demanding a fair go for Tasmania.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is the amendment seconded?

Senator Bessell - I second the amendment.

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