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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 185


Senator TOWNLEY(3.20) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the papers.

At the outset I would like to say how pleased I was to see the turnabout in the financial result that Trans Australia Airlines has shown over the last year. I hope that the unfortunate strike by the flight engineers towards the end of last year does not result in TAA's profit returning to a bad level. I think it is unfortunate in an organisation such as TAA, which has a very high average salary structure, that such a strike could have been allowed to happen. It has more than just an immediate effect. People often make their travel plans well in advance. Therefore, if they think an airline is more likely than another airline to be affected by a strike, they are likely to choose the one that will not be affected. I believe the management of TAA could well have done a little more to avoid the strike. I agree with the decision made by the company in the end because there are no really good reasons these days why two pilots alone cannot operate aircraft of the size used within Australia by both Ansett Airlines of Australia and TAA.

I note that page 39 of the report shows that the direct operating costs of the airline over the last 10 years have stayed roughly the same, as has the contribution to government revenue as a percentage of each dollar expended. I note also on page 38 that the passenger and charter of passenger trends are showing a quite healthy rate of growth. But the cargo rate of growth does not seem to be nearly as good. In fact, page 34 shows that there was a drop of 8.4 per cent in the amount of cargo kilograms carried by the parent company.

I have a couple of questions that I would like to pose to the Senate with regard to the results of Ansett and TAA. I think it is a pity that we cannot exactly compare Ansett with TAA. Maybe that should be arranged. But it does not seem to me at first sight that TAA is making the same profit as Ansett, even though they appear to have roughly the same number of staff and they each have a share of about half the market.


Senator Messner —They are too highly geared.


Senator TOWNLEY —No, if they have the same number of staff and the same market share, I would have thought they would have to show roughly the same profit. As far as I can see, if one looks at the figures contained in the report, there are only two areas in which that extra profit could be made. I believe the amount of money we are talking about is $50m and that TAA should be making about $50m more than it is. I should think one of the ways in which it is losing money is by giving too many discounts. I have examples, which I will not cite to the Senate now, in regard to discounts being offered to certain companies to fly with TAA. Obviously, had TAA given the matter a little thought, it would not have made those offers because it was quite difficult for the people involved to fly with TAA. Also, I am not sure that its freight charges are quite as high as they should be.

I regard TAA as a very good airline, and I fly with it quite regularly in the course of my job. I am not criticising it in any way but I want to see it become a better airline. I believe it can do so, without losing any customers, by ensuring that it does not offer undue discounts to various people. It should immediately look at what is happening on the cargo side of its activities. I also think it is a pity that it has dropped some of its services, particularly those to Tasmania. Admittedly, East-West Airlines Ltd is doing a reasonably good job but I would have preferred to see TAA continue to service the north-west coast of Tasmania.

Question resolved in the affirmative.