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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1394

Senator MAGUIRE(5.11) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This information paper published by the Department of Aviation indicates continued improvement in 1983-84 in the domestic aviation industry. It also indicates that during that financial year there was a 3.5 per cent growth in passenger kilometres following a very large reduction in civil aviation traffic in 1982-83 of over 8 per cent. It looks as though growth in the civil aviation industry is accelerating, with 11 per cent growth in the 12 months to June this year compared with June last year. The fastest growth documented was in respect of regional airlines, those operating on intrastate routes, on which routes there was very rapid growth indeed. But on the major trunk routes in Australia passenger growth was less than one per cent.

One of the striking things in this information paper prepared by the Department of Aviation is the finding that airline fares are still growing faster than the rate of inflation, presumably measured by the consumer price index. So air fares are still increasing, in real terms, in this country. I was rather surprised by the finding in the paper that there were larger real increases in air fares on the longer haul routes than on the short haul routes. I know that that finding would be of some interest to honourable senators from north Queensland and Western Australia particularly, who have been pressing for some time for restructuring of Australia's air fares system. That finding is the reverse of what might have been expected as a result of the debate in recent years on air fares in Australia.

There are some very interesting regional differences in the results of the growth in the airline industry in the last financial year. Unfortunately, we do not have any data on passenger flows through the various major airports, but the paper does provide some extremely interesting information on airline-aircraft movements through the eight major airports in Australia. In the last financial year there was a decline of 1.5 per cent in aircraft movements by the airlines at the eight capital city airports. However, that figure was an improvement on the very large 7.5 per cent fall in the previous financial year. In the year just ended Canberra Airport recorded the largest increase in traffic movements and of the State capitals Adelaide had the best result, with a 2 per cent improvement. Interestingly, the worst result in terms of aircraft movements was Brisbane Airport where there was a 6 per cent decline. Possibly that is one indicator of a less than satisfactory economic situation in that State.

Unfortunately the paper has some gaps in it. It does not document clearly the traffic movements at Melbourne Airport and that is a very unsatisfactory result. Looking ahead, the paper prepared on the aviation industry by the Department forecasts only a 2 per cent growth in domestic airline traffic in the present financial year. Of course one of the factors resulting from that projection would be the relatively large increases in air fares which have been occurring in this country. Unfortunately air travel in such a large country as Australia is a very high cost item. I believe that fares which have increased higher than the rate of inflation have been one factor contributing to the slow growth in air traffic in this country.

The paper also forecasts some growth in international air traffic into Australia in the current financial year over that of the previous financial year . What the projections in the information paper indicate is that the days of rapid growth in air traffic in Australia are over. Gone are the times of recent years when the airlines recorded a growth rate in traffic of 6 or 7 per cent per annum. We are now looking at 2 per cent growth at the best. Gone are the days when the airlines were looking at equipping their fleets with the very large aircraft that are seen at present on international routes. One of the results of the slow growth in airline traffic has been the rationalistaion of the fleets by our airlines. They have been leasing out equipment and reducing capacity to try to cope with the situation. It is striking that in an economy which has grown overall since the mid-1970s air traffic in Australia is barely at the level it was in 1977-78.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collard) adjourned.