PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2392


Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 24/03/1971

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2392

S1p etceh rim MiistrMr William McMahon
.24 MARCH_ 1971
M r Chairman, my Ministerial Colleague, Gentlemen:
This is a unique Conference. It is unique in the sense
that it seeks to identify the problems associated with Australia's
surface transport and to attempt to find solutions.
According to the information conveyed to me by one of
Australia's greatest industrialists and captains of transport, there are
thte reasons for this uniqueness.
First, it is difficult to think of any other occasion when
so many leaders of industry and representatives of transport operators
and users have got together to discuss the critical issues involved in
the transportation of goods.
Second the aims and objectives of the Conference are of
fundamental importance. Taking the two reasons together, it is
probable that many ideas will emerge having a direct bearing on the
future of transport development.
And third, you can be as frank as you like and you can
put forward as many suggestions and ideas as you like. They won't be
pigeon-holed. You have my colleague, Mr Nixon's assuranice on that.
The Government will consider the suggestions you have
to make. It is important for y7oiTo be critical and to be constructive.
Now, as to your objective that is of identifying what
are the surface transport problems in Australia today this is an
extremely complicated problem.
You have the task of finding out how goods can be moved
across the length and breadth of tlis vast continent quickly,
efficiently and economically. Everyone in Government and in industry
wants an answer to this problem.
Daily and with growing intensity, the technologist is giving
us new tools to use. The innovators and applied scientists are showing
us how they can be used. Not to be outdone by changes in the vocabulary,
there is a new language too roll-on-roll-off ships, container
transport and flexi-vans.


Some sectibns of. the Australian transport sytem have made
marked progress; in others there is a tremendous amount to be done.
We hope this Conference will generate ideas about what can be done anid
how we can go about doing it.
You are look ' ing for all the answers t the problems visible
and hidden. We want you to find the answers for as many as practicable.
To crystallise the Government's thinking, we want a
transport system which will serve a nation as it should be served, so
that we can beat the barriers of distance, of mountain and of plain....
and can do so cheaply and efficiently.
I have spoken of technical progress. Much of this has been
the result of a res pcnse by private enterprise the basic system of our
way of life. But the Government is directly involved, too, perhaps more
than many of you realise.
If I may, Sir Ian, I would like to mention briefly one or two
things the Government has done and is doing because I think it is an
example of co-operation between industry and Government; between the
private and public sectors. And this co-operation, in a free enterprise
society, means two things growth and progress.
As to our own part, you know the Government's direct
involvement in sea transport took on a new dimension recently with the
entry of our own line into overseas shipping. This was a return to a
system pioneered and abandoned about half a century ago.
Coinciding with this involvement we are building our own
ships for a variety of purposes and are developing the skills that are
transforming Australia into an increasingly self-reliant country.
In ten years to June, 1970, the Commonwealth has provided
$ 84 million by way of subsidy for Australian shipbuilding. This, I know,
is a good investment and a wise and effective contribution of public funds.
Our other direct involvement in surface transport is through
the Commonwealth Railways which complement the State railway systems
and link East and West.
The Government has contributed significantly to rail
standardisation projects in the States because we recognise that a standard
system is both economical and a unifying force.
In the past ten years the Commonwealth has given $ 99 million
in grants and $ 76 million loans to the' States for this p urpose. /* 3

But the heaviest spending is on roads. This is where the need
is greatest. It was one of my great pleasures as the then Treasurer to
introduce the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill. Under the Act, the
Government commits funds on a five-year basis for roads and for the
period 1969 to 1974, we are aporopriating 252 million, an increase of
67 per cent on the amount provided in the preceding five years.
This year, taking roads, railways, shipbuilding, navigation
aids and other transport programmes together as a transport
commitment, the Commonwealth will be spending about $ 31A million.
Mr Chairman, spending of this order is part of a long-term
programme. There is so much to be done and the demand continues to
grow insatiably and intensely. Close co-operation between the
Commonwealth and the States is fundamental to success.
Australia is now spanned by a standard gauge railway between
Sydney and Perth. Many improvements are still needed on the railway
networks. Our beef roads are opening up new pastoral lands. Here, too,
the job is unfinished.
The changes in ship design and in cargo handling have led to
modernisation of our ports. Here, too, there is still work to be done.
We live in an environment of large bulk carriers and specialised
general cargo ships. If we are to be successful this demands management
practices and technical excellence of the highest order. I am sure yc'lx
have the qualifications. Now Sir, may I speak about transport costs the critical
factor for everyone Inflation feeds on rising costs. Freight rates are
a significant factor in costs. You know the problem just as well as I
do. May I turn to one aspect of it.
The problem of the man on the land, who cannot pass on
increases in freights, is well known to us all. Today the farmer is badly
hit by rising freights. So too are others. In this sense it is a national
problem. If we contain rises in freights and better still reduce them
then the burden of rising costs would be lighter. Whilst the problem
is one of immense complexity, we know of your capacity and are looking
to you to find out the ways and means of finding a solution. / 4

Not so long ago, in order to honour an election promise, the
Govermnent took the first steps to establish a Bureau of Transport
Economics. A Director has been appointed and for the time being,
in a restrained way, staff is being recruited.
The Bureau's main function will be to study and report on the
costs ) f transport operations in Australia and to suggest what can be
done to help reduce costs.
Gentlemen, for the next two days you will be putting under the
microscope the transportation philosophies and policies of both the private
sector and government.
I conclude in this vein we do want your help. In saying that,
I am not passing the problem from Government to you.
We will continue to do all we can through the Budget, through
the Department of Shipping and Transport through the new Bureau and
in co-operation with the States at all levels.
We will co-operate with industry wherever we can, according
to our powers and responsibilities.
Gentlemen, I do wish you success with your Conference... and
I now declare it open.

Transcript 2392