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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2442


Senator MacGIBBON(5.36) —Under the estimates for the Department of Aviation I would like to comment on an hysterical statement made last week by the Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones) about meteorological services for aircraft operations. It was a statement which got him in the headlines in most papers. In the Sydney Morning Herald the headline on the front page stated: 'Lives at stake because of old valves: Jones'. Just because there are old valves in the weather radars in Australia does not mean that they do not work. It may be that new equipment works much more reliably, with less effort and has a whole lot of other advantages. But just because something is old it does not follow that it is inadequate. But, as I said in this chamber last year, Mr Jones knows everything but understands nothing. He is very good at regurgitating material. But when he alarms air travellers of Australia with a highly irresponsible statement, I cannot let it pass without comment. In answering a dorothy dix question from one of the Labor members in the House of Representatives, Mr Jones said:

We now have a very serious situation which will threaten not only the security but also the lives of airplane travellers at some future date.

He then quoted a memorandum from an officer from his Department, which in part stated:

. . . a Jumbo jet crash in an unforecast line squall, the implications will be serious indeed.

That is just simply nonsense. No one in Australia, particularly those of us who fly, would suggest that the meteorological services are as adequate as they might be. They have not had the money put into them, along with a whole range of other government services which have been constrained by the demands of a whole variety of things. Be that as it may, the services are adequate. But the particular point made about a Jumbo jet flying into an undetected line squall is absolute nonsense. All passenger aircraft in Australia are compelled by law to carry weather radar. The detection capability of significant changes of weather is built into the aircraft. That operates in parallel with the ground detection and forecasting services. Furthermore, both by day and by night there are the visual signs, in most cases, of a line squall. The statement by the Minister is highly irresponsible. It can only alarm air travellers in Australia. The statement is entirely without foundation.