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Tuesday, 10 December 1974
Page: 3340

Senator EVERETT (Tasmania) - After Senator Bessell had been speaking on this Bill for a few minutes tonight I thought that the Opposition has at last realised that the people of King Island are utterly sick of the political football antics of Senator Rae and some other members of the Opposition in relation to this shipping service. Unfortunately, Senator Bessell was led astray by Senator Rae by way of an interjection. Senator Rae has indulged in personal abuse of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and has indulged in a political apologia which has become very common with him so far as Tasmanian shipping services are concerned. I had hoped that, following Senator Bessell, I could have very briefly said that as a result of this measure and as a result of other actions taken by the Australian Government shipping problems of King Island which have bedevilled it for so long appeared likely to be solved in the immediate future. Unfortunately, in view of Senator Rae's remarks tonight, I cannot leave it like that because the Government of which he was a supporter went out of office in December 1972 with a record so far as the King Island shipping service is concerned that was one of utter disgrace. I say that for 2 reasons. There was no effective King Island service when the Liberal-Country Party Government went out of office. There had not been an effective service for some 6 months, and in the period between June 1972 and December 1972 when the 'Straitsman' was not operating the Australian Government -

Senator Rae - Waited for the Tasmanian Government to do something.

Senator EVERETT - Will you just leave your apologia to another day. We have had enough of it tonight. The Australian Government refused every request from the Tasmanian Government for even temporary assistance to alleviate the situation and would not even guarantee, give or lend $300,000 which the Tasmanian Government requested in that period in order to solve temporarily the liquidity problems of the owner of the 'Straitsman'. The Minister at the time was Mr Peter Nixon. If Senator Rae wants to apologise to the people of Tasmania on the air tonight let him say, when he gets the opportunity, what he did in that 6 months in order to get a change in the attitude of the then Australian Government.

Senator Rae - I will table correspondence, if you like.

Senator EVERETT - Whatever he did, it was not effective, and the then Australian Government made it perfectly plain that it regarded the Tasmanian Government as responsible so far as government help was needed for the maintaining of an effective shipping service to King Island. The then Australian Government washed its hands of the matter. If it had still been in office its hands would still have been washed of the matter, but they would not have been very clean.

Senator Rae - At least there was an air passenger subsidy and an air freight subsidy.

Senator EVERETT - Whenever Senator Rae interjects in that characteristic manner of his we can always be sure that he has been touched on the raw. He is very good at resorting to offensive expressions such as 'liar' against a person who is not here- I refer to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones)- but when his own conduct is called in question one notices that he has resort to persistent interjections. They will not deter me.

The second respect in which the record of the previous Government is appalling is the conspiracy that was entered into- a political conspiracy- between the Government of which Senator Rae was a supporter and the Liberal Government of Tasmania to deprive the people of King Island of the benefit of a subsidy. This was the astute and devious way in which that was achieved. It was realised- and this was perfectly true, of course- that substantial improvements were necessary to the port facilities at King Island and it was decided while those 2 respective Liberal Governments were in power that extensive work should be done following a feasibility study. At that time there was a subsidy of $3.35 a ton which had been granted by the Australian Government in 1965 and which was worth approximately $150,000 a year. So in order to get rid of that subsidy the Tasmanian Liberal Government was bought off with a grant of $677,000 as half the cost of the construction of the new port facilities. That was done as recently as about 3 years ago and the Australian Government, of which Senator Rae was a supporter, capitalised an annual contribution of something like $ 1 50,000 over a 416-year period by making a grant of $677,000. That was done by a government which now in opposition through Senator Rae and through the spokesman for Tasmania in another place when the matter was debated there urges that subsidies be reintroduced. I say to Senator Rae in the concluding stages of this debate tonight: Let the Opposition tell us, not next week, not next year, but now, before the debate on this Bill concludes, specifically what it will promise for the King Island shipping services if it is elected to government. And let it be specific.

Debate interrupted.

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