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Monday, 24 May 1965


Senator LAUGHT (South Australia) . - I welcome the opportunity to discuss the statement made by Senator Henty, the Minister for Civil Aviation, on 1st April relating to the national airports programme. As honorable senators will recall, the statement dealt with the problems associated with increased airlines traffic, both domestic and international. The Minister explained the difficulties of airport construction associated with the Tullamarine and Mascot airports.

I shall read to the Senate the last paragraph of the Minister's statement. As a Senator who represents South Australia, I am particularly interested in the predicament in which South Australians find themselves as a result of the Minister's statement. Senator Henty said - . . the Government also considered a number of other airport projects in its review. These include terminal and runway extensions at Adelaide, strengthening of the runway at Brisbane to handle the heavier type of international jets, extension of the Perth runway, major extensions to the terminal at Canberra, some further runway works at Coolangatta and Mackay, a new terminal at Port Moresby and also some temporary extensions to the existing international terminal at Sydney. I should emphasise that all these projects are in addition to the Government's normal airport works programme which has been running at an annual rate of about £2 million. The Government has decided that this group of projects, which also involve a further large sum of public money, should be referred to a special inter-departmental committee for further investigation for possible Budget consideration in the next few months.

That latter statement, in particular, concerns me when I consider it in relation to the promises made from time to time by the Minister and his predecessor on extensions to the Adelaide airport. In August of last year the Minister visited South Australia. On 11th August I directed a question to him and by way of preface to it I congratulated him on his recent visit to South Australia. I drew his attention to the great congestion of passenger facilities at the terminal building at Adelaide between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. I invited the Minister to make a statement in the Senate as to the plans he had to alleviate the unsatisfactory position, first, by means of airport reconstruction and, secondly, by encouragement to the larger operators to rearrange their schedules. I thought the Minister took a very realistic view of the situation at that time because he told the Senate -

I found that the problem was perhaps even greater than we had anticipated and that the plans then in embryo would have to be greatly extended to deal with the congestion at peak periods at Adelaide airport. 1 therefore told the Press at that time the type of plan we envisaged to cover the position, and the completion of which may yet be two or three years off.

In Adelaide in August of last year the Minister explained that he had a plan and that it might be two or three years off fulfilment. He then went on to say -

First, I am consulting with the airlines in an endeavour to arrange for them to stagger the times of aircraft arrival at the airport, because no Government can be called upon economically to provide facilities for peak periods only, and this is the position which has developed in South Australia. Over a period of one and a half hours, from six to eight aircraft arrive and depart and the number of visitors, passengers and those seeing passengers .off cause congestion. But within an hour and a half one could fire a cannon across the aerodrome without hitting anyone. This is a wrong use of modern facilities and if we can arrange some staggering of the times of arrival and departure of aircraft we will get better use of the facilities and less congestion.

It seems to me that the Minister was closer to a solution of this problem almost a year ago than he is at present. As a representative of the South Australian people I would like the Minister to supplement his statement. In other words, I would like him to say what has been done by the special interdepartmental committee in the way of further investigation. I would like him to say, also, whether any other committee, such as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, has before it the report on the proposed extension at the Adelaide airport, to both the terminal building and the runway. The situation has deteriorated considerably since August of last year when the Minister answered my question on the Adelaide airport. As Senator Kennelly has said, the Boeing 727 jet aircraft are now in full operation. The Government is to be congratulated on its readiness to see that both major domestic operators are equipped with these fine aircraft, but the practical effect is that 80 passengers arrive at Adelaide and 80 leave Adelaide in each aircraft. There is not just one of the aircraft on the ground at once. All of the four such aircraft in Australia are in Adelaide at one period between about 10.30 and 11.15 a.m.

Each of these four aircraft is setting down and picking up between 80 and 90 passengers. As one can well imagine, with each aircraft handling well over 100 pessengers, 500 or 600 people are on travel bent at Adelaide airport. Then there are the visitors to wish the passengers good travelling, the officials, clerks and taxi drivers. I can assure the Minister that at one time there may be 500 to 600 persons moving about this building at the Adelaide airport. As the Minister, on a humorous note, said in a previous answer to me, at another time one could fire a cannon across the aerodrome and not hit anyone. Therefore, far from the Minister's being successful in getting the airlines to stagger times of arrival and departure, the position has got worse, because aircraft carry double the number of passengers that were being carried in August last year, when the major aircraft using Adelaide airport were the Viscount and DC6B, which would barely carry more than from 40 to 45 people at a time. So the situation has got considerably worse since I last raised the matter. I take the opportunity to raise it during this debate on the Minister's statement. I hope that when he replies to this debate he will be able to inform the Senate that things are on the move with regard to rebuilding and extending the Adelaide airport terminal.

Surely the Government has some control over the airlines. After all, the Department of Civil Aviation provides enormous benefits for them. An amount of £20 million is spent annually by the Department in providing airway facilities, beacons, runways, &c. About 3 million passengers are carried each year. That means that every time a passenger is lifted from and returned to the ground the cost to the Commonwealth is about £7. As I see it, the Department of Civil Aviation, spending such a large amount per passenger, ought to be able to direct the operators to stagger their timetables, if it is not possible to enlarge existing airport facilities. It is just ridiculous that two of these vast Boeing 727 aircraft should be arriving in Adelaide from Sydney at about a quarter to eleven each morning, within a minute or so of each other, and leaving for Perth also within a minute or so of each other; and that two should be arriving from Melbourne also within a minute or so of each other and returning to Melbourne at about the same time.

The Department of Civil Aviation, which is providing so much in the way of airport facilities, should have the final say in directing that the interval between the departure times of these aircraft should be greater than the minute or two that exists at present. I really think that unless the Minister does use his undoubted power to cause this staggering, we shall be putting up with this tremendous congestion in Adelaide for years. I should think that, apart from anything else, it contravenes local health regulations. In about 8,000 square feet, 500 or 600 people are moving about, awaiting their calls to board one of these four aircraft.

I commend the Minister for the bold plans that the Commonwealth is making for Tullamarine and Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport, but I invite his attention most urgently to the adverse situation that prevails in Adelaide daily, between the hours that I have mentioned and to a lesser extent at other times of the day. It is likely to continue for several years unless something is done either to stagger arrival and departure times of these large aircraft or to get busy with the extension of the Adelaide airport terminal.

Senator DameANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [9.38]. - I have heard with very much interest the statement of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) and the discussion tonight. At this stage I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.







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