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Thursday, 26 November 1959


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) . - I am very glad that the Minister withdrew the first clause. Everybody knows that I am not a teetotaller. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -

It follows, therefore, that State Governments retain substantial initiative, because in any case where a Commonwealth authority is issued it must contain conditions and restrictions especially those relating to the days on which and the times during which liquor may be sold, corresponding with the provisions of State law which would be applicable in the State in which the airport is situated.


Mr Chaney - Clause 4 covers that.


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES -

Exactly. Therefore, I think that a lot of the sound and fury which has been raised by the Opposition is not necessary. It is not going to be a case of the Commonwealth giving a licence to sell liquor at an airport, and people rushing out to the airport to continue drinking when the ordinary licensed houses outside the airport are closed.

I have been considerably impressed with the evidence that was given to the United

States Senate Committee on behalf of the International Airlines Guild and certain owners of airlines in connexion with the serving of liquor on aircraft. Probably it is fairly easy to prevent somebody who is drunk from embarking on a plane as a passenger.


Mr McMahon - This applies to domestic airlines, not international airlines.


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - It does not make very much difference. You may have trouble on an airline with people who may have drunk too much. I must admit that I have never heard of any occasion where an Australian airline pilot has had trouble with a drunken passenger. It may be that we have a greater sense of responsibility than people in other parts of the world. When that sort of evidence is given, I think one has to sit up and take notice. If Opposition members are really concerned, from the point of view of safety, with the question whether you should serve liquor on the aircraft rather than before you board the aircraft, I suggest they have been arguing in contradiction to the evidence given to the Senate Select Committee.

The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has said that a bar for the sale of liquor has been in existence at the Perth airport for some considerable time, and he knows far better than I do that there has not been any trouble in connexion with it. Perhaps, therefore, many of the suggestions made by members of the Opposition have been unwarranted and unnecessary.


Mr Chaney - It is under State law, too.


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - All such facilities will be under State law. There are two things that I wish to mention in connexion with this bill. The Minister said that it would be quite wrong to suggest that the bill usurps State powers and functions in this regard since section 52 of the Constitution provides that Parliament shall have exclusive power to make laws relating to places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes. I hope that this bill, which 1 think will do a lot to improve facilities at our airports, quite apart from the question whether liquor should be sold, will not be taken as a precedent, and that the Commonwealth will not exercise similar freedom in legislating with respect to other Commonwealth property acquired for public purposes. There is a whole block in the centre of Melbourne which has been acquired for Commonwealth offices, and if the Commonwealth exercised the power that the Minister says it has - and I do not doubt that it has - it could make a complete farce of the Victorian Shops and Factories Act.


Mr Uren - It is a great problem so far as New South Wales is concerned, too.


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - That could well be. 1 think all of us in this House should be careful how we use the powers that have been reposed in us under the Constitution. I directed attention previously to the way in which sections 94 and 96 of the Constitution could operate to bring about uniformity rather than a federal system, and I suggest that we should not use the power under section 52 of the Constitution to make a farce of State legislation with respect to shops and factories.


Mr Forbes - Those considerations do not worry the States.


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - Well, they do worry the States, as is seen by the fact that all of them objected to the bill that was originally introduced. When introducing this second bill the Minister paid particular attention to the objections that had been raised. I know that the people in Victoria do not oppose this attempt to improve our airports, but they are worried at this step-by-step usurpation of State powers by federal authorities.

I now turn to the second matter to which I wish to direct attention. The value of Commonwealth aerodromes and related facilitis is at present given as £52,000,000, while the annual cost of maintenance and operation exceeds £9,000,000. I think it was about two years ago that a Minister explained that because of these costs every passenger who steps on to a plane was subsidized by the Commonwealth Government to the extent of nearly £3 10s. This is a very heavy subsidy. I think it is justified in outback areas, but I do not think, and never have thought, that it is justified on inter-capital city routes, which take a good deal of traffic away from the State railways. Because we have the lowest air fares in the world, we deprive the railways of much of their business, and then we criticize the railways because they do not pay. They cannot pay when opposed to a competitor that is subsidized to the extent to which we are subsidizing air travel at the present time. This bill is not going to alter that position.

By all means let us have airports as attractive as possible, but my own experience is that most of the shops in most of the airports I have visited, in most of the countries of the world, are not large shops and do not do a great amount of trade. Consider the types of busineses mentioned by the Minister in his speech. He referred to advertising, and to baggage rooms and lockers. Those facilities exist at some of our airports now. Banks are situated mainly at international airports, so that people may be able to change their money quickly and have a supply of cash in the currency of the country in which they have arrived. I do not know about barber shops and beauty parlours, but we have car parking lots at present at our airports. We have coffee shops, delivery services, drive-yourself car services, gift shops and flower shops. A good deal more than 50 per cent, of the facilities mentioned by the Minister are now available at many of our airports.


Mr Uren - Vending machines cover many things.


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - What do they amount to? Cigarette machines and chocolate machines are available at airports now. You can get an iced lemonade by putting sixpence in the slot. Vending machines are present at most of our airports. We will not, therefore, get such a tremendous amount of revenue from the provisions of this bill as many people seem to think. The Minister himself said that he did not expect increased revenue of more than £160,000 by the end of 1960, and that it might exceed £500,000 within a few years. Even if you add to this £500,000 the amount raised by the tax on aviation fuel and the landing fees, you still have to find £6,500,000 of the £9,000,000 required for maintenance each year. So this legislation will not be a tremendous revenue-producer in any case. Besides concerning ourselves with the improvement of our airports. I think we will have to consider the question of how long we can continue giving this very heavy subsidy on inter-capital city routes, when the airlines are seriously competing with our railways.

Sitting suspended from 11.28 to 12 midnight.

Friday, 27 November 1959







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