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Wednesday, 16 October 1974
Page: 1779

Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania) (Minister for Agriculture) - The Senate has been debating a States Grants Bill which provides for a payment of $ 15m to the State of Tasmania. The Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. Senator Marriott calls the amendment a reasonable one. On reading through the amendment, one wonders why it is worded the way it is. In fact, it confuses issues. It talks about the provision of grants to Tasmania being inadequate, despite the fact that Senator Marriott says that the amount involved in the grant being made under this Bill is very large. The amendment then goes on to talk about shipping costs to that State. I would have thought that the Australian Shipping Commission Bill, which was passed by the Senate today, would have provided a more pertinent opportunity to talk about shipping freight costs. However, the Opposition has s4en fit to move this amendment which, of course, is unacceptable to the Government.

One would imagine, from listening to the contributions of honourable senators opposite, including Senator Townley, that they were arguing from a position of strength. We have to go back only 2 years to find out that all the liabilities about which honourable senators opposite talked tonight were liabilities which the Tasmanian people had to experience during 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government. No moves were made by our predecessors to overcome these problems in respect of the shipping freight rates. Along with other senators, I was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade as it was then known. The Committee was commissioned in 1972 to inquire into these problems. It is a measure of the difficulties which Tasmania was suffering at that time that the Senate was compelled to have a committee inquire into the matter.

No one would claim that the solution to the freight rate problem in Tasmania is simple. It will not be solved easily by this Government or by any other government. It is sufficient to say that this Government has taken steps to subsidise the passenger ship service to that State. Under the terms of the legislation that was passed by this chamber this afternoon a further $2m will be paid until the Nimmo report is made available. These have been the concrete steps taken by this Government to alleviate the problem that exists in Tasmania. Listening to the Opposition one would imagine that it had a glorious record of achievement in this area. It had no record of achievement worth speaking of.

I find difficulty in answering Senator Townley because I do not know whether he is a Liberal or an Independent or an Independent Liberal or just a common old senator. I suppose we will find out at the next election when he is endorsed on the Liberal ticket and we find out which one of the sitting Liberal senators in Tasmania is sacrificed to give him a safe berth on that ticket. Then we will know the situation. Senator Townley referred also to the costs which have been increasing the difficulties of Tasmania. He said that Tasmania is fading into economic oblivion. Of course, that is despite the fact that the value of production in Tasmania, for primary and secondary industry, last financial year has been the highest on record in that State. He referred to the industries which have been giving up in Tasmania. It is true that a lot of industries have been giving up in that State for many years because of the disabilities they had to face. Because of the efforts of men like Roy Fagan, the

Minister for Industrial Development in Tasmania, many of the industries that were attracted to Tasmania were kept there, and they have established themselves as viable operations. But we were told by Senator Townley that Tasmania is neglected and that costs are pushed up because of the unions and all these people. Only recently in this place Senator Townley admitted that he puts up the costs of the goods he sells in his chemist shops when he sees fit. How is he in a position to criticise other people when they seek to increase charges?

Senator Townley - I do not think I said that.

Senator WRIEDT -I think that Senator Townley, if he checks the Hansard record, will find that that was the answer he gave to my interjection. The central theme of this legislation is to relieve Tasmania of the grip of the Grants Commission. I think Senator Everett made one of the best speeches on this subject that I have heard in this Parliament. This is the really significant point of the detailed speech that he made: Tasmania has laboured under the Grants Commission for many years. It has been disadvantaged. Senator Marriott indicated his concern about what the future might hold. I wish to draw to his attention these words in the second sentence in the first paragraph of the second reading speech:

It provides -

That is, this Bill- for the payment of an amount of $ 15m in addition to the financial assistance grants otherwise payable to the State in 1974-75 and for the incorporation of this amount into the base' for purposes of calculating the grants payable to the State under the formula in 1 975-76 and subsequent years.

That is the key to this legislation. It is the great change for which Tasmania has been waiting for many years. I believe that consistent with the efforts that have been made by this Government to assist this critical problem of shipping freight to that State we have relieved this mendicant State of the disability that it has suffered for so long.

Let us re-state what the Australian Labor Government has done on a broader plane for Tasmania. General revenue grants in 1973-74 were $ 1 0 1 m. This year they will be up to $ 1 30m, an increase of nearly 30 per cent. The general purpose capital funds rose from $64m in 1973-74 to $76.4m in 1974-75. 1 could quote so many other areas. Despite the figures that Senator Rae quoted for education, the net total payment to education in Australia by the Australian Government in 1973-74 was $459m, after allowing for offsets, to be increased in the 1974-75

Budget to $825m, again allowing for offset payments. These figures have been supplied by the Treasury which I think is reasonably conversant with the matter. These are the increases which the Australian Government has effected in these areas and they flow -

Senator Townley - Where are people going to get jobs when they leave school and university?

Senator WRIEDT -The honourable senator will find that most of them are absorbed. I think the record shows that over the years most of them were absorbed, even under a Liberal government. I will look at the position as it affects Tasmania specifically. The grant for tertiary education has gone up from $ 11.4m in 1973-74 to $22.5m this year. The grants for schools are up from $4.5m last year to $ 11.5m this year.

Reference was made to other matters, such as the fruit industry, with which I will not bore the Senate. But it is sufficient to say that no government has ever done more for the Tasmanian fruit industry than the present one. As this Bill concerns the Grants Commission, I feel that I should mention the decision of this Government to make for the first time direct payments to municipalities in the various States of the Commonwealth. I would like to read into the record some of those municipalities in Tasmania which will directly benefit by the total of $ 1 .7m that this Government is making available. The Clarence municipality, for example, will receive $220,000. It has never received this before. The Glenorchy City Council in Hobart will receive $106,000. The Kingborough Council will receive $46,000; New Norfolk, $66,000; Burnie, $94,000; Devonport, $95,000; Queenstown, $45,000; Beaconsfield, $50,000; Launceston, $130,000 and Lilydale, $42,000. So we can go on to make a total of $ 1.7m which this Government, on its initiative, is now providing to assist in the development of the municipal areas of Tasmania.

Mr Acting President,the essence of this Bill is, as has been stated by speakers on the Government side, a giant step forward for Tasmania. I am quite sure that even under a Federal Liberal government, the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, should he ever become the Premier, which is certainly very unlikely, will be very glad of the decision that has been taken by this Government, and the negotiations between Mr Eric Reece, the Tasmanian Premier, and the Australian Government to effect this vital change. That point and the significance of it was made extremely well by Senator Everett. I suggest that the Senate in its wisdom should reject the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition as the steps that have been taken by this Government indicate the genuine concern that this Government holds for Tasmania.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Rae's amendment) be added.

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