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Wednesday, 11 December 1974
Page: 3373

Senator GRIMES (Tasmania) - We are discussing a Bill which provides a loan of $1.4 15m to the Tasmanian Government to purchase the 'Straitsman' and to provide a permanent and regular shipping operation to King Island. I am pleased that the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. Like Senator Everett, I am disappointed at the tone raised by the Opposition in the debate in this place and in the other place. I am disappointed that so many red herrings should have been drawn across the Agreement. All of them have been settled by Senator Everett. I am disappointed that the debate in this place should be used as a vehicle for a personal attack on the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and that the debate in the other place was used for a personal attack on Mr Davies.

Senator Rae - It was used to reply to one made by him.

Senator GRIMES -We know that Senator Rae is very sensitive on the issue of transport for King Island and Tasmania in general, just as he is very sensitive on the issue of education. Those of us who were around during the last election campaign know why. Last night he extended his speech to include remarks on the alleged neglect of Tasmanian shipping problems as well as King Island shipping problems by this Government. In fact he used the word 'dilatory ' to describe the actions of the present Government. I believe that is an extraordinary expression to use in view of the former government's record. As Senator Everett demonstrated, the former Government was dilatory and obstructive in allowing the Straitsman' to lie idle for 6 months and in giving no assistance- not even a loan, a promise, a guarantee or anything else- to the company in its liquidity problems. Senator Rae has told the Senate of the committee- composed of himself, Senator Wright and Senator Townley- which investigated the shipping problems of King Island. He knows that on King Island the thing that is remembered about that committee is the remark by Senator Wright that the warden of King Island was a veritable ignoramus. This was the standard of comment that came from that committee, and it is no surprise that nothing came out of it.

We have heard also a petulant apologia on how the good senator asked an endless number of questions and wrote an endless number of letters on the subject when he was in government, but Senator Rae knows that the people of Tasmania know that all the words that were written and spoken during the 23 years that the Opposition Parties were in government mean nothing, and that it is the actions that flow from the words that bring results and satisfy the people. The people showed this in the last election. Senator Everett demonstrated that by removing the subsidy on the King Island shipping service the previous Government was obstructionist and dilatory as far as shipping to Tasmania was concerned. It was dilatory and obstructive in many other ways. From 1970 to 1972 it indulged in a series of actions that disadvantaged the whole Tasmanian shipping situation as well as the King Island shipping situation. In 1970 and 1971 the freight rates to Tasmania were increased by 121A per. cent; subsidies on dense cargo were removed, resulting in a 25 per cent increase in freight rates between Sydney and Tasmania; heavy cargo concessions were removed, resulting in a 22 per cent increase; and surcharges were imposed on hazardous cargo, resulting in a 20 per cent increase. Concessions for industrial machinery were removed, resulting in 1 8 per cent increases. I am sure that many letters were sent by Senator Rae and other Tasmanian Liberal senators at the time about this matter, but the simple fact is that the result of these letters was nil. I suppose the main reason was that the then Minister for Shipping and Transport was a Country Party Minister. The Country Party has one criterion on when subsidies will apply and that is whether it will gain Country Party votes. There are no Country Party votes in Tasmania.

I sympathise with the difficulties Senator Rae had, but to reply to those difficulties by accusing this Government of being dilatory, obstructive or anything else is ludicrous. In the 2 years that this Government has been in this office, $lm has been given as a general transport subsidy for the passenger service across Bass Strait. There has been a $2m subsidy given for outward freight from Tasmania. A royal commission has been set up to settle this issue once and for all. Those opposite, including Senator Rae, who scream about Government spending and scream about excess Government spending, and those who like Mr Snedden claim that they will reduce Government spending across the board by 8 per cent, will get nowhere with the people of Tasmania, King Island or with us by standing up and saying that we are not spending enough and that we are neglecting Tasmania. They removed the subsidies and they increased the fares. All the subsidies that apply now were introduced by this Government in the last 2 years. I welcome this Bill.

Senator Rae - Tell us about the ones you took off as well.

Senator GRIMES -The people of King Island will welcome this Bill.

Senator Rae - Like they welcomed the withdrawal of the air subsidy.

Senator GRIMES - I am glad that, despite the personal attacks and the inane interjections, Senator Rae supports this Bill. I hope that when the shipping agreement runs out he will support moves to give the Australian National Line the power at least to contract as a freight forwarder so that further improvement will occur. I hope that when that occurs, he will not bow to the vested interests of the freight forwarders and oppose it. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

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