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Thursday, 26 November 1959

Mr CASH (Stirling) .- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) referred to this bill once or twice during his speech, but I will endeavour to devote the whole of my time to it. His derogatory remarks about the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) were most unnecessary, because that Minister has earned the admiration of most Australians for the way in which he is handling his difficult and important portfolio.

Judging by the comments we have heard since this bill was first introduced, it seems to have acquired the nick-name of the " Airports Liquor Bill ". That, of course, is not its title. The title is the " Airports (Business Concessions) Bill 1959". Those of us who have had the opportunity of travelling in other parts of the world and of seeing just what facilities a world standard airport can provide feel that it is essential that similar facilities should be provided in Australia at world standard. Although I, personally, am a non-drinker, I feel that if world standard facilities mean the provision of liquor facilities they should be provided at Australian airports. A point I wish to make at once is that the airline companies do take essential safeguards to ensure that air crews and maintenance personnel of the airlines shall have access to liquor facilities only at times when the use of them will not interfere with their normal duties.

Perth Airport is situated in the heart of my electorate, and I hope, as do many other Western Australians, that it will become one of the major airports in Australia in future years. Perth is the logical first port of call for all aircraft coming from Europe. It is expected that before the Empire Games take place in 1962 all the terminal facilities at Perth airport will be housed in one building. Whilst we will have there all the facilities envisaged by this bill, I point out that Western Australia already has liquor facilities at Perth airport. The bar is open before the arrival and departure of flights by most major airlines. That system is working well in Western Australia, and there is no reason to believe that it will not work equally well in other States.

The Minister said in his second-reading speech -

Under arrangements which this bill will facilitate, it is estimated on a conservative basis that revenue from business concessions on major airports will reach £160,000 by the end of 1960 and may exceed £500,000 within a few years.

These figures, of course, refer to annua! returns. Most honorable members are familiar with the kind of concession which is to operate at airports. I assess that about 100 concessions altogether operating at the six or seven airports will have a total return of £500,000 annually, the average return from each concession being therefore about £5,000. That is not a true average, of course, because the profits of concessions will vary according to the kind of service provided. However, I suggest that these figures indicate that the rates for leases of concessions may be much higher than some people expect.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has claimed that no gallup poll was taken in regard to the provision of these facilities at airports. For the honorable gentleman's information, I point out that a market research survey was taken of public demand by the Department of Civil Aviation, and the survey showed that car-parking facilities had a big priority in public demand. At one major airport this concession is worth about £30,000 a "year and at another airport the figure is in the vicinity of £20,000 each year. The market survey shows that of the business that it is hoped to have at the airports news-stands have the highest popularity rating. People interviewed in the survey gave their preferences in the following order - quick service buffet, cocktail lounge - one proposed facility that seems to have upset the other side of the House - chemist shop, coffee lounge, restaurant, bank, hairdresser, children's nursery and amusement centre for children. Well down on the priority list is a service station, and at the bottom, flower shops, one type of business to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a special reference.

Mr Curtin - What about the hot dog stand?

Mr CASH - Perhaps the honorable member could sell prawns at an airport after he has ceased to be a member of this place. The goods and services provided by these business activities are desired by the public at airports, in contrast to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, and I hope that the various concessions envisaged by the bill are operating within the next few years.

Clause 6 and clause 8 deal with the granting of leases and licences in respect ot land within an airport, and also with the authority to trade. These leases and licences are to be granted on such terms and conditions, and subject to payment of such rent or other consideration, as the Minister thinks fit. Clause 6 also empower* the Minister to exercise any power or remedy of the Commonwealth in respect of any such lease or licence.

I take it that the Department of Civil Aviation will call tenders for these concessions. I personally do not agree with the system of calling tenders for concessions, because commercial practice in big cities has often, proved that the tender system does not always work out satisfactorily. 1 should like to cite a recent case in a major city in which a new arcade was built. Tenders were called for leases in the arcade, and one man tendered for a lease of every shop there, quoting a very extravagant rent in each case so as to squeeze out other applicants. The proprietors of the arcade granted him two leases, but the rents of leases granted to other applicants were based on the rents that this man had quoted in his applications. This meant that successful applicants for shop leases were committed to higher rents than they expected to have to pay. Most of them accepted the leases. Human nature being what it is they hoped that business would be forthcoming to help them to meet these exorbitant rents. The arcade had been open only a few months when some of the tenants began trying to get relief from their landlords, but business methods being what they are, this was not forthcoming. I hope a similar situation will not arise in the tendering for these airports concessions.

There is provision in the bill empowering the inspection of records and books and the sampling of goods sold by the various concessionaires, by the officers of the department. This will enable the department to work out exactly what rate of profit the concessionaire is working on and what the rent should be. It is possible for the Minister to have his officers calculate a fair rent based on space allotted. The reasonable capacity to pay of various types of business must be borne in mind. What I want to prevent is the creation, through high rents, of heavy overhead costs in the business operations of the airport concessionaires. If rents are too high concessionaires will have to over-charge or run their businesses with insufficient staff, resulting in a poorer standard of service. While I am mindful of economics and of the fact that the airports must operate on a profitable basis, we must realize our responsibility to provide satisfactory service to the travelling public. That should be one of our first considerations. I believe the profit from concessions at the Washington airport amount to 70,000 dollars. I feel that on the figures provided by the Department of Civil Aviation we will make more money than that out of airport concessions. We must always remember that we are providing facilities for the travelling public, and wc should see that these services are of the first quality and up to overseas standards.

Clause 6(l.)(b) provides that the Minister may exercise any power or remedy of the Commonwealth in respect to any lease or licence. That is, the Minister will have the remedy in case concessionaires default in any way in regard to overcharging and the provision of poor service. I should imagine that clause 6 gives the Minister power to incorporate provision in leases that certain standards of service will be provided and certain charges made. This is a critical provision, because it will prevent the takeitorleaveit attitude which comes when a concessionaire has a monopoly at an airport or elsewhere. We must remember that the nearest rival business establishment will be some distance away from a concessionaire's premises at an airport.

Clauses 11 and 12 refer to the granting of leases and the saving of existing leases and licences. It is only fair that people who have airport concessions now should continue to have their rights in any major expansion of airport facilities. I should like to ask the Minister to consider, in the granting of new leases, the fact that there are quite a few people who have had businesses at airports for many years now - some of them from just after the war, before air travel had developed to its present level. They started the businesses and built them up. They have their ups and downs, and now they may find that all their work has gone more or less for nothing, because when a business starts up at the airport itself the people will take the opportunity to use the new facility. I believe that if leases for businesses are to be granted at airports preferential consideration should be given to persons who have similar businesses adjacent to the airports. I would not include those whose businesses are a mile or two away from the airports. I refer only to businesses that are, perhaps, just outside the gates of airports. I know of one or two instances in which these businesses are run by ex-servicemen who started them just after the war, and it would be a great pity if those businesses dwindled away to nothing and they lost their capital simply because the Government has decided to provide these facilities at airports.

The modernizing of our airports in the way envisaged, by the provision of these extra amenities, will prepare Australian airports for the tremendous increase in air travel that we can expect as the years go by, particularly with the introduction of supersonic commercial airliners. We will find that the numbers of people coming to Australia will be far greater than anything we can envisage at the present time. For these reasons I believe that this is good legislation. It will assist in the encouragement of tourists to visit Australia, and I commend the legislation to the House.

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