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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2933


Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(9.38) —Senator Townley did partly answer the question for me, but then he went on and made an extraordinary statement for him. He wants the Department to tell the airlines how to run their business. Usually he comes in here and he says he wants the Department to stop running their business.


Senator Townley —No, it is the 4-kilogram limit that I think the Department should deal with.


Senator GRIMES —But it is not the Department's limit.


Senator Townley —Excuse me, but it is.


Senator GRIMES —No, the air navigation orders do not impose any explicit limit on the amount of baggage which may be carried. The only relevant requirement is that if standard weights for passengers are used by an airline, any hand luggage in excess of 4 kilograms must be weighed. It only has to be weighed; nothing else. The airport staff never weigh it when I go on board because there is always more than 4 kilograms there, and anyway I am not a standard weight! In addition, airlines must make provision for carry-on luggage to be restrained properly within the cabin.


Senator Townley —There is stacks of room in the cabin.


Senator GRIMES —Hang on! Australian Airlines, Ansett Airlines of Australia and East-West Airlines agreed recently to introduce and use a baggage measurement device which ensures that passengers take with them only items which are capable of being properly secured on board. It is the Department's view that this is an initiative which should be lauded because it will minimise the possibility of injury due to unsecured baggage. Senator Townley says that that is nonsense. Okay, but it is still not the Department's rule. All I can say is that, having travelled on some overseas airlines which have no limits and on which you have everything, including chooks, sitting all over you, I have some sympathy with the local airlines. However, the precise limits on size used by the airlines are determined by reference to the dimensions of overhead lockers and underseat storage areas on aircraft. The Department of Aviation had no part to play in this. I take on board that Senator Townley says that the Department should tell the airlines that they should allow first class passengers to take more baggage on board and allow everyone to carry more. I will talk to the Department about that, but it is a complete reversal of the usual advice that we get from Senator Townley in this place.


Senator Michael Baume —The airlines reckon it is a departmental regulation.


Senator GRIMES —I know they do; the airlines say that it is due to departmental regulations, which is clearly not true.