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Wednesday, 16 October 1974
Page: 1777

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) -I had not intended to take part in this debate -

Senator Wheeldon - You were very wise.

Senator MARRIOTT - Senator Wheeldonmay have thought so but he will be sorry later on that I did. The cold hard fact that seems to have been forgotten for an hour or two is that the Senate is debating a measure which will provide a special grant of $ 15m to Tasmania- no small amount, nothing to be scorned or laughed at. The reason for the giving of this money has never been made completely plain but one result of it is that Tasmania ceased to be under the dominationand I use the word advisedly- of the Grants Commission and does not carry the sobriquet ' mendicant State '. Whether or not that will be beneficial to the people of Tasmania in the years that lie immediately ahead is something to be doubted by me. Having great faith in the knowledge and experience of Senator Everett, I thought that the Senate could have got from him some very helpful advice as to the economic factors for and against Tasmania accepting what appeared to us to be a mysteriously produced $15m that is seeing the light of day through this legislation. To the motion for the second reading of this Bill giving effect to this grant, Senator Rae on behalf of the Opposition moved an amendment couched in friendly, sensible and easy to understand terms:

But the Senate is of the opinion that the proposed provision of grants to the State of Tasmania is inadequate -

Every State and every government wants more money, so that is a statement of fact. The amendment continues: and that the Government should forthwith make provision for further funds -

And we give a specific reason- we do not offer criticism- why we want more funds- to enable Tasmanian people and commercial undertakings to enjoy a shipping transport cost no greater per ton mile than the rail freight applying to the other States of Australia.

If we are criticised for putting that to the national Parliament when dealing with a Bill to which it should be attached and Government senators do not vote for it, they are saying: 'We heard the promise of the Prime Minister at election time. We do not believe he meant it. We know he will not implement it and therefore we cannot support your amendment.' All we are putting into print as an addendum to the motion for the second reading of the Bill is 'Welcome to the promise of the Prime Minister of Australia to arrange, as it were, a roadway across the Strait'. I am not allowed to refer to previous debates in this Parliament but I have at times expressed the view that shipping is Tasmania's greatest problem. Therefore it is only right that the Senate should be the informing House because in the other place the Opposition does not have a voice from Tasmania. I wonder whether this is part of the cause of the disarray amongst the people of Tasmania at the present time.

Before I get on to that I want to remind Government senators that either their memories are short or their expressions are unfair; they can please themselves which side of the coin they take. It was a Liberal-Country Party government that gave Tasmania's shipping and transport communications the greatest impetus they have ever received. The 'Princess of Tasmania', 'Empress of Australia ', 'Australian Trader' and other ships such as the 'Darwin Trader' and the Townsville Trader' were produced during the time of Liberal-Country Party government in Canberra.

Senator McLaren - What about the Taroona'? senator MARRIOTT- The 'Taroona' was subsidised by that government at the rate of over £1,000 per day but as the 'Taroona' was not capable of carrying the bulk of the cargo or of providing the modern roll-on roll-off passenger ferry service, we had ships specially built. These came from the Liberal-Country Party government. There have been plenty of ships available to carry all the passengers and all the freight between any mainland port to any Tasmanian port but Tasmania's problems have been threefold. First and foremost has been the industrial unrest. Passengers now feel that it is not worth while booking. They will get on to the ship, one or other of the unions will go on strike and they will be left lamenting with nowhere to go and no means of travel. The same applies to cargo. More cargo is sent by air from the mainland to the apple island because of industrial trouble in respect to shipping. As a result of this loss of freight, the Australian National Line has taken ships off the run to Tasmania. It is a tragedy. We saw the 'Empress of Australia' in its early days bringing great business from Sydney to 3 ports in Tasmania. Look at it now with the lack of support it is given. Ships have been taken off and from time to time there are heavy shortages of shipping.

It is not normally my custom to praise a Labor Government Minister twice in the one day. But again I praise the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) for issuing authority for international ships to trade between coastal ports in Tasmania on special licences. But what has happened? Industrial disputes have arisen and it will not be long before overseas shipping companies say that they do not want to take this coastal freight or engage in this coastal traffic. They will say that they are not interested because our Seamen 's Union and other unions will not have a bar of them. They will not go on losing money, thus pushing up freight rates further. We talk about how we suffer in Tasmania because of increased freight rates. It must be admitted that over and above the present rate of inflation- it was 4.8 per cent when we were in power and it is over 20 per cent now; a big increase in 2 yearsfreight rates have increased because of the heavily increased costs of shipping caused by industrial disputes. In my opinion, this Government has not lifted one finger, said one word to help the position or said anything in reprimand to the unions that are crucifying trade between Tasmania and the mainland ports.

Senator McLaren - What would you do about it if you were in government?

Senator MARRIOTT - I will deal with that in a short time. But I will make my speech in the way that I want to make it and according to my desires. We have been told in this debate, and it is true, that Tasmania's rate of unemployment is over 3 per cent of the work force. It is the highest rate of unemployment in Australia and it is the highest rate of unemployment in Tasmania for many years. It is a very serious situation. Those who are unemployed in Tasmania and who read or hear this debate will not regard very favourably the parliamentarians who rose to say: 'Everying is marvellous. We are giving the people of Tasmania more money than we are giving to anyone else. We are spending more money on education and the arts. We are buying paintings such as " Blue Poles " and " Woman V ".' These things do not appeal to the people who are unemployed.

I do not know whether any honourable senator has been here long enough to remember this. But the predecessors of the present Labor Party senators used to cry, when there was an unemployment rate of more than 1.2 per cent in Australia: 'You will be cool in Hytten 's Pool'. This was because the great Professor Hytten suggested that a country always must have an unemployment rate of about 1 per cent or 1 .2 per cent. Now, the unemployment rate is 3.14 per cent. I say that people can now say that they can be bleak in Crean 's Creek. Mr Crean is the Treasurer of Australia. Since the day the Budget was presented, we have heard that he went overseas but we have not heard one word on the economic state of Australia. We do not know whether he still holds the job or whether Mr Hawke is acting as Treasurer from the board room of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

This is the point I want to make to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) who will reply for the Government: Labor Party senators boast that their Party has been in government in Tasmania for all but 3 years since 1934. But no one has referred to the fact that there were 3 years of Liberal government- good government- which ended abruptly. No one has ever stated the reason and the conditions under which that government fell. We have had many years of continuing Labor Government in Tasmania. We hear Government senators boast about how wonderful they are. It is true that the Labor Party has won 5 seats in Tasmania in the House of Representatives and holds a number of Senate seats. So it has by far the greatest political power over the people of Tasmania that any government has had for many years. The Labor Party has had the longest run as a State government in Tasmania. As a result of that- it cannot be denied- Tasmania today is in the worst state it has been since the depression of the 1930s. There is no doubt about it. I am not a chaser after doom. But, unless very wise action is taken in respect of tariff cuts, bounties and grants- not just grants which for a time enable some people who are unemployed to be employed but grants to get people back to work and to get the money rolling around through business- the Government will have every cause to face a motion of no confidence.

Senator Wheeldon

Senator MARRIOTT - I mean this. The situation in Tasmania is grave. This Bill is only doing something that was promised some months ago. All that we forward thinking Liberal Party senators want to say to the Government tonight is that we want the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) redeemed by the Government taking action to lower freight rates, not just northbound from Tasmania across Bass Strait but to and from Tasmania. I conclude my remarks by wholeheartedly and sincerely supporting the amendment and by saying that Tasmania will not be put on the road to recovery until the sea-road freight is subsidised and shipping schedules are not only adequate but also regular. Some authority has to provide that sort of service if the Tasmanian population is to return to its former economic position.

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