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Thursday, 15 October 1964

Senator CORMACK (Victoria) .- I do not intend to speak for very long in this debate on the motion for disallowance of the Air Navigation Regulations moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna). It seems to me that the debate has got away from the motion and has concerned itself with the personality of one man - Mr. R. M. Ansett. I shall deal with that aspect in a moment when I get it into proper context. What interests me is that the Australian Labour Party finds itself in a dilemma and seeks to divert attention to the personality of Mr. R. M. Ansett. The dilemma is this: Whereas Senator McKenna, Senator Kennelly, Mr. Calwell, Mr. Whitlam and Mr. Pollard were representatives on the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and vehemently demanded that all power should be accorded to the Commonwealth in relation to air transport in Australia and its Territories, those gentlemen now find themselves supporting the needs of New South Wales in relation to its internal air transport problems. The New South Wales Government is taking to itself, and has taken to itself, power to decide how air routes shall be allotted inside the State borders.

A complete conflict has arisen inside the ranks of the Australian Labour Party as to the method by which air transport is to be controlled in Australia. On the one hand Senator McKenna and Senator Kennelly, who were signatories to the report of the Constitutional Review Committee, say that all power should go to the Commonwealth. Then by some curious method they support the New South Wales branch of the Labour Party, which wants to take to itself absolute right and control in the disposition of air traffic routes inside New South Wales. To resolve this problem of split personality inside the Labour Party, its members now employ one of the most ancient of political tricks. They seek to divert the attention of the people to a man whose character they can then begin to destroy. In the course of that destruction they employ a process - I think osmosis is the chemical term - of attempting to destroy the character and quality of the Leader of the Government in .the Senate (Senator Paltridge) who is now sitting at the table, through the attack on Mr. Ansett.

Senator Hannaford - It is a read herring.

Senator CORMACK - It is worse than a red herring. It is something which borders on viciousness.

Senator Dittmer - You are too well educated to distort the meaning of the word osmosis.

Senator CORMACK - You and I know what it means. In this process, the Government of New South Wales attempted to distract the attention of the Australian electorate from the real problem which has been demonstrated in the Senate this afternoon by the Minister for Civil Aviation. I wonder what the answer of the Australian 'Labour Party would be if we were able to apply this test to them: Suppose it was not Airlines of New South Wales that had a percentage of its route taken away. Suppose it was Trans-Australia Airlines which was operating on the routes which are being operated by Airlines of New South Wales. Would there be this ardour to support the

Government of New South Wales which isbeing displayed by the Australian Labour Party at the present moment? The answer would be: "No". What the Australian Labour Party is attempting to do both in the Senate and in another place today, and what the Government of New South Wales also is attempting to do, is to destroy the private airline structure which is the basis on which this Government seeks to conduct the whole airline policy in Australia. I believe in this policy. I do not believe in the operation of a single airline. I believe that these two airlines competing together produce the level of efficiency for which the Minister for Civil Aviation is aiming, as he mentioned in his speech this afternoon.

Having reached the stage where for its own private political purposes, in view of the imminent election in respect of which it is seeking to obtain political advantage, the Government of New South Wales, for purely partisan political purposes is attempting to divert the attention of the people of the State from its own misdeeds by blaming those misdeeds on the Federal Government which seeks to have uniform control of airlines throughout Australia. I think it is proper that the Federal Government should have this uniform control. I think it is absolute nonsense to say that control over aviation can be split. This does not exist anywhere else in the world. In the United States there is an airlines commission, which is equivalent to the Department of Civil Aviation, and which co-ordinates airline operations throughout the whole of that country. In Great Britain, there is a single airline policy and to date the most monstrous situation exists. The national airline, British Overseas Airways Corporation, has for years and years been losing sums of money as large as £15 million a year, although I understand that it is operating at a profitable level this year. In the United States of America and Australia competitive airlines are operating. The same situation applies now in Canada which is following the example set by Australia. With such a policy, we at least get a level of airline efficiency. This is what the Commonwealth Government has attempted to do.

The present situation arose when, as the result of a judgment delivered in the High Court of Australia, it became apparent that there had existed a power inherent in the Constitution which the Commonwealth had Senator Murphy, Senator Cohen and Senator Wright with capacities for moving more adeptly through it than I have, it seems pretty clear from the judgment of Mr. Justice Windeyer, which Senator McKenna quoted in part earlier today, that the Commonwealth Government has power totally to co-ordinate air navigation throughout Australia. That seems to be the essence of this judgment of the High Court.

You cannot have divided control over air movement. This is perfectly true. You just cannot have it. The Commonwealth Government, I consider, was justified in exerting the power which the High Court had indicated lay within its possession. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government produced new regulations to cover this aspect. It may be said, I think with some sort of justice, that this is a matter which should have been dealt with by statute. I hope that at some time it will be. But I think that the nervousness of the States of Victoria and South Australia does not relate to the problem of air navigation or the Commonwealth's power over it; I think those States recognise this fairly well. What does make them nervous are the implications on a deeper level, it seems to me, that exist in the judgment with regard to section 51, placitum xxix, relating to the external power of the Commonwealth. The States feel that this power may be exerted against their domestic jurisdiction in the future. I think that this is where the problem lies.

I come now to the curious situation where the Government of New South Wales makes the decision in relation to airline operations in that State which are heavily subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. I asked the Department of Civil Aviation at short notice whether it was able to give me any indication of the subsidies. The Department informed me that the burden borne by the Commonwealth Government in relation to the operation of intrastate airlines in New South Wales is in the vicinity of £1 .5 million a year.

Senator Ormonde - Did you inquire about figures for the other States?

Senator CORMACK - In this particular context, I do not know what the figures are for the other States. But if you make an analysis - or what cost accountants would call the burden centre, I should think - to ascertain all the charges and the general overheads for the whole of Australia, determine the overheads that relate to New South Wales, and apportion them among the intrastate routes in that State, it will be found that those routes carry a Commonwealth subsidy in regard to air navigation and such facilities as aerodromes amounting to approximately £1.5 million a year. The Commonwealth Government is operating this system or, as the Minister for Civil Aviation said, the Commonwealth taxpayers are operating this system. This is a substantial sum of money which is part of the overhead carried by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the intrastate airline services in New South Wales.

The New South Wales Government intrudes and resolves quite arbitrarily that it will carve up the fowl, that it will decide how these airline routes are to be proportioned. The Government of New South Wales says that it will decide how the Commonwealth shall be directed to pay these subsidies, because that is the net effect of its proposals. In other words, the Commonwealth Government which is responsible for raising revenues and for maintaining air navigation systems, air fields and the like, is not to be master in its own house, because the New South Wales Government seeks to make itself the master of the Commonwealth's house in that State.

Senator Henty - And send us the bill for the chicken.

Senator CORMACK - That is right. This is what the State Government is attempting to do. I, for one, hope I am always vigilant enough to see the needs of the States, but this action to me is rank piracy. It is something to which I object.

Honorable senators are entitled to ask why Senator McKenna has proposed a motion for the disallowance of the amended regulations. This is extraordinarily interesting. Senator McKenna and Senator Kennelly spent a long time in the Senate today advancing all sorts of reasons why the new regulations should be disallowed. They have not told the Senate the real reason why they want the regulations disallowed. But there is not a great mystery about this. I have in my hands the Air Transport Bill 1964 which is before the New South Wales Parliament. I would like your ruling, Mr. President, on whether the Standing Orders allow me to deal with a piece of legislation which is before a State House at the present time.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Yes, the honorable senator will be in order in doing so.

Senator CORMACK - Thank you, Mr. President. In this new bill of which we have read so much in the newspapers, savage penalties are proposed for any airline operator who conducts his business in New South Wales without the consent of the Commissioner for Motor Transport in that State. This Bill, as I have said, is currently before the Parliament of New South Wales. Clause 15 of the Bill provides -

(1)   The Air Navigation Act, 1938, as amended by subsequent Acts, is amended by omitting from section four the words " State Transport (Coordination) Act, 1931-1947," wherever occurring and by inserting in lieu thereof the words "Air Transport Act, 1964,".

(2)   The amendment made by subsection one of this section shall commence upon the appointed day.

That may not convey very much to honorable senators, but there is an explanatory note to that section, which reads -

The application of the Commonwealth Air Navigation Regulations to air navigation within New South Wales.

The New South Wales Government is putting this Bill through, but there has been an Air Navigation Act in New South Wales since 1938. That Act carries in it the capacity to attract automatically to itself any regulations promulgated by the Commonwealth Government in relation to air navigation. It now becomes obvious why the leaders of the Opposition in this Parliament are so anxious to get the Commonwealth regulations disallowed. They must try to get them disallowed because otherwise the Bill that is going through the New South Wales Parliament will be quite useless. It automatically has to take unto itself any Commonwealth air navigation regulations.

Senator Ormonde - You do not think that the New South Wales Government knew that?

Senator CORMACK - I do not know whether it knew it or not, but those are the facts in relation to this matter. I suggest that the New South Wales Government does know, and that is why it has now become a matter of great urgency for the Australian Labour Party here to assist its brothers in New South Wales by trying to get these air navigation regulations disallowed.

I said I would not speak for long. I shall conclude by saying that New South Wales, by virtue, it seems to me, of a judgment of the High Court, has power over the licensing of transport inside New South Wales, but it is also perfectly clear from that judgment of the High Court that the Commonwealth has total power in relation to air navigation. I submit to the Senate that you cannot have control over air navigation unless you have control of aircraft on the ground as well as of aircraft in the air. The operation of airlines is a total operation. 1 suggest to my colleagues on this side that they reject the motion of the Leader of the Opposition at the first opportunity.

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