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Thursday, 26 November 1959


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Falkinder (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - Order! The honorable gentleman ought to Relate his remarks to the bill.


Mr CALWELL - I am dealing with the liquor aspect of it. I think that is the essential part of the bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did, however, digress slightly on the question of diplomatic relations with red Russia, because I thought it was as well to emphasize the point that my friend, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), had made. The Government ignores public opinion after it has won an election.

The Minister for Defence has told us that the Seattle-Tacoma airport - some airport of which most honorable members have never heard before - has a traffic density comparable to that of the airports at Sydney and Melbourne, and that, in 1957, the revenue of this airport not only met all maintenance, operating and other costs, but returned a profit of 79,300 dollars. A similar result could be obtained in Australia only if the charges for landing rights, the taxes on aviation fuel, and everything else, were greatly increased.


Mr Bandidt - Does the honorable member deny the figures for the Seattle-Tacoma airport?


Mr CALWELL - I have to accept them. I do not think that any member of the Government, wrong-headed and all as Ministers may be in respect of lots of things, would deliberately mislead the House. I can only conclude that this airport makes a profit only because the charges for the facilities provided are proportionately higher than the charges made for similar facilities in Australia.


Mr Cope - Perhaps embarkation charges are imposed.


Mr CALWELL - That may be. We do not have such charges in Australia, though perhaps they will come. As Ansett-A.N.A. flounders more and more, financially, something will have to be done to keep that airline airborne, shall I say. In order to do that, all sorts of additional charges will have to be levied. I remind the House that when the last general election campaign was in progress, the Australian people were not consulted about the recent increases in air fares, the reduction of the standard of the meals provided and the imposition of a 5s. tax on bus journeys between airports and city terminals.


Mr Russell - What about smaller sick bags?


Mr CALWELL - Smaller sick bags would be a natural corollary of smaller meals.


Mr Bandidt - Surely the honorable member does not regard those matters as policy questions.


Mr CALWELL - I am just commenting on the existing situation.

There are good features of this bill. It provides that the Department of Civil Aviation shall have a determining say in the granting of leases at airports. It is right that this department, which is charged with the responsibility of guaranteeing the safety of passengers, should be able to restrain the Department of the Interior from granting leases on Crown lands either adjacent to or in conjunction with airports. There can be no objection to the Department of Civil Aviation having that power. We do not like the idea of 99-year leases, although it may be argued that such leases may be necessary because of the heavy capital expenditure involved in large structures. We have recently had experience, in Melbourne, of tenders being invited and a contract being negotiated for a 66-year lease, the successful contractor then being able to persuade the Melbourne City Council to extend the term of the lease by another 33 years without tenders being called again. I do not like the idea of 99-year leases, and I am sure that most other people will not like it either. The other leases granted under the act may not exceed 21 years. The Minister is also required to call for public tenders in every case except where the term of the lease, licence or authority does not exceed three years or where the grant is made in pursuance of an option of renewal.

The Minister for Defence was quite honest and frank when he said -

The most important clause in the bill is unquestionably clause 9.

That is the clause that sets up the business concession. He continued -

Sub-clause (1.) of clause 9 provides that the holder of an authority may act in accordance with the authority without obtaining or having any other authority, licence, permit or registration.

That means that the authority is being granted under Commonwealth law and, of course, Commonwealth law is paramount over State law.

As I said earlier, the Minister, in his first bill, intended to over-ride State laws completely in the matter of trading hours for businesses and for hotels that are established at airports. Now, he gives the authority to the person whom he choses to exercise the authority and that authority will still over-ride State laws. There is a provision that the State authority must be consulted. Lessees will have to try to operate within the limits of other State laws. But there is no provision that if local option laws obtain throughout the area surrounding an airport, those local option laws shall apply. As the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) knows, because he served this country with very great distinction in the United States as an ambassador for six years, and as other people who have travelled in the United States know also, a traveller can drink on a train in the State of New York until it crosses into Pennsylvania, when liquor is withdrawn until the train passes into the State of Maryland. But there is no provision in this legislation that any State law of any sort shall over-ride what has been done under federal law.


Mr Turnbull - Read clause 9, subclause (4.).


Mr CALWELL - I am dealing with sub-clause (1.) The honorable member for Mallee is always ahead of himself.


Mr Turnbull - I am ahead of you.


Mr CALWELL - But you are so far ahead of me that I cannot see where you are going or in what direction.


Mr Bowden - You will know at the end of the 66-year lease.


Mr CALWELL - The Chairman of Committees ought to be the last member in this chamber to interject. He is setting a very bad example to his fellow-members in the Country Party. Sub-clause (3.) provides -

An authority under this Act to sell or supply intoxicating liquor shall contain terms and conditions under which the holder is subject to requirements, prohibitions and restrictions as to the days on which, and the times during which, such liquor may be sold or supplied corresponding to, and to other requirements, prohibitions and restrictions corresponding, as nearly as possible, to, those that apply, under the law of the State or Territory in which the airport is situated

That sounds meaningless when it is remembered that in Western Australia a law was enacted to permit the sale of liquor in that State before the departure of an aeroplane and after the arrival of the last aeroplane on any particular day. The Opposition thinks that this clause is completely unnecessary and, because of its insertion, we propose to vote against the bill. We also think that whatever safeguards are supposed to be included in the bill, they are not good enough. If the legislation is to be passed, they ought to be strengthened.


Mr McMahon - In what respects would you strengthen them?


Mr CALWELL - I would make the sale of liquor entirely subject to State laws without qualification of any sort and I would surrender the Commonwealth's right to determine anything concerned with the sale of liquor, even on Commonwealth property, in order that the intention of the State legislature could be given full effect.


Mr King - Would you give away Commonwealth sovereignty?


Mr CALWELL - Rather than be involved in the question at all, I would not sell liquor at airports. I do not think it is necessary. Pilots are not allowed to consume intoxicating liquor for a period of 24 hours before the commencement of a flight, but if this legislation is passed, any person engaged say on maintenance work at an airport, not only will be entitled to a drink, but will be encouraged to drink so that the Government can make money out of his drinking. If the maintenance worker at an airport becomes intoxicated he can be just as much a menace to the safety of passengers in flight as a pilot who disobeys his instructions. I have a very high regard and respect for the integrity and the sense of duty of all those engaged in the work of aviation, whether they are pilots or maintenance workers.


Mr Chaney - Could they not get drink from a nearby hotel?


Mr CALWELL - It is possible for a worker, in the half-hour break, to travel a half a mile or a mile to the hotel nearest to an airport. But if the liquor is not provided readily for him he is certainly not likely to go after it.

The Opposition feels that every worker in Ansett-A.N.A. is a good citizen and is doing a good job, and that the same is true of those employed by Trans-Australia Airlines. Every pilot employed by AnsettA.N.A. and every hostess employed by that company is competent and helpful as are those who are working for TransAustralia Airlines. Our complaint is not against any of the people on the pay-roll of any of those companies. It is against the Government which is trying to get a few more pounds and which says, " Let us get up to date with the rest of the world and provide drinking facilities not only for the people who travel, but also for those who come around airports for legitimate purposes, meeting people or seeing them off or for the people who work at the airports ".

The Labour Party wants to know who is going to get the benefit from these businesses. Obviously, the Department of Civil Aviation will not conduct the businesses because provision is made in the bill for the leasing of the undertakings to private enterprise. It may very well be that Mr. Ansett, who has a very bright mind where money can be made and who has not the slightest qualm of conscience in endeavouring to extinguish Trans-Australia Airlines as a public company, will be after the concessions and that they will help him to make more money. Perhaps a number of other entrepreneurs will want to take over these businesses and because they will be operating them at a profit and the profit motive will be predominant, they will push the sale of everything that they possibly can, regardless of whether it affects the public interest or not.


Mr McMahon - Does that apply to all retail traders?


Mr CALWELL - It could apply to a number of retail traders at airports because those people will be competing against a number of similar businesses operating in the settled parts of city areas.


Mr Anderson - They are able to come from the town and transact their business there.


Mr CALWELL - I do not think the honorable member for Hume understands what the bill is really driving at. He does not seem to understand what his Government is doing. As I have pointed out, this bill is a boiled down version of the first bill, but it is still a dangerous bill and still not acceptable to the Opposition.


Mr McMahon - Are you going to vote against it?


Mr CALWELL - Yes, I have said we will. We have no objection to people drinking or to hotels being erected near airports or anything of that sort, but we do not believe that it is the duty or the right of the Government to encourage drinking or the use of airports for trading facilities merely for the purpose of trying to recoup a loss of £7,000,000. The primary object is not to provide service; it is to try to make a profit that will help to insure that the airports will not continue to run at a loss.

The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) is a former publican from Western Australia. He may think this is a good way in which to make money. All I have to say is that, after being a successful publican in Western Australia, he has turned out to be a ministerial failure in Canberra.


Mr Cope - Are you talking about the minister for liquor?


Mr CALWELL - I am talking about the Minister for Civil Aviation. He might well be called the Minister for Ansett. You could call him the minister for liquor if you liked; that would be an added portfolio. We have put our point of view very forcibly in the Senate. I point out to honorable members who seem to be sceptical about the dangers of liquor that there are people in the United States who are objecting to the sale of liquor in aeroplanes. There was a Congressional subcommittee hearing on interstate and foreign commerce and it was in relation to alcoholic beverages aboard aircraft. That committee held its hearings round about August, 1957. At the present time another Congressional sub-committee is inquiring into allegations in the United States that the safety of airlines is being endangered by the sale of too much liquor on planes.

We are not suggesting that liquor should be taken off planes, but if the Government is going to provide facilities at airports so that people can drink more and more before they board an aircraft then the danger which may be caused by overindulgence will be increased. In any case, airports are for the benefit of the travelling public, not for those who want drink. How much of the airport is to be given over to the cocktail lounge? Are women and children to be inconvenienced, either when they are travelling by plane or when they are attending at airports, by people who have imbibed too much? Every now and then we complain very much about the amount of liquor which Australian people consume per head annually.


Mr Duthie - The average quantity is twelve gallons.


Mr CALWELL - That figure is said to be increasing all the time, even though this Government imposes a tremendous levy in the form of excise duty, amounting to 9s. 8d. a gallon on beer and a corresponding duty on whisky and the like. As the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) remarked a little while ago - and I come back to his interjection now - those who operate the shipping lines in this country are not allowed, under State laws, to open their bars until the ships are at sea; and they are obliged to close the bars when the ships come into port.

But the Government has a different attitude towards aeroplanes. Of course, dangers on ships are small and insignificant compared with dangers on aeroplanes. The conditions are different, and the safety factor is much greater in a ship than it is in an aeroplane. But the way the popularity of that splendid new vessel " Princess of Tasmania " is being interfered with on its journey between the ports of Melbourne and Devonport is not much of a commendation for the sale of liquor aboard her.

I am not a " wowser " and most members of this Parliament are far from being nondrinkers; all of them, to my knowledge, are moderate drinkers. When they drink they do so in moderation, and they know the limits beyond which they should not go.


Mr Turnbull - Some do not drink at all.


Mr CALWELL - That is so. The number of teetotallers in this Parliament is increasing over the years. I think there .s a public conscience on the question j.f drink, and this Parliament should not be encouraging the provision of more facilities at the very time when there is so much concern about accidents on the roads, and elsewhere. I hope - even though it is a vain hope - that the Government will withdraw the bill at this stage and abandon it altogether.

There is no demand for it now. The public have never demanded it at any time. What gallup poll was ever taken that showed the people wanted these facilities provided? Where did the public in any way express a view in support of what the Government is doing? The truth is that the Government decided to bring down the measure, and it is forcing it on the people. At some future time the whole position will have to be re-examined. I am sure that after a lapse of time, if the sale of liquor which the Government proposes to provide now at airports is withdrawn, then the patronage of our airlines will not fall by any noticeable percentage at all. 1 think that air line travel is very popular and is growing in popularity. But it has not yet reached the proportions where most people travel by aeroplane. It is said that this bill will meet a popular demand. Actually, the average Australian is not an airline traveller. Most of the ordinary people never travel by aeroplane more than twice or three times in a year. Those who travel in this way are members of Parliament, business executives, union officials and others engaged in trade, commerce, industry, politics or associated in some way with a work of public importance. The average person who travels by air does not do so more than two or three times a year. That person is not demanding this legislation; it is being forced upon him.







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