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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- A discussion on the Estimates is aD appropriate time to refer to civil aviation, out as the hour is late, I shall be as brief as possible. I regret that 1 cannot adjourn the debate, because air navigation is of the utmost importance. I refer to it under division 75, subdivision 4, miscellaneous - Civil Aviation Branch. Air navigation is a province of the Civil Aviation Department and the act is contained in one sheet of paper. It is the only legislation dealing with air navigation in Australia. Section 4 states -

The Governor-General may make regulations for the purpose of carrying out and giving effect to the convention and the provisions of any amendment of the convention made under Article 34 thereof; and for the purpose of providing for the control of air navigation in the Commonwealth and the Territories.

That provision "was unsatisfactory, even in 1920, and aviation then had riot developed to the extent that it has now. Since 1920 great strides have taken place in aviation, particularly in the mileage and carrying capacity of aeroplanes. Civil aviation in Australia is controlled by departmental regulation, and it could hardly be expected that such a position would be entirely satisfactory. One honorable member to-day referred to Tha New Despotism, by Lord Hewart, which contains a description of the government of a country being carried out by departmental regulation. We have a similar position in Australia in which a whole province of aviation - the public side - is entirely controlled by regulation. The fault is not with this Government, because it was found that the Commonwealth did not have power under the Constitution to legislate on aviation. The Royal Commission on the Constitution pertinently pointed out that the States should hand over to the Commonwealth their powers in relation to the control of aviation. That body made a definite recommendation which I shall read later. The following extract is taken from the Argus of yesterday: -

The managing director of West Australian Airways Limited (Major Brearley) said today that the control of aviation was exercising tho minds of those actively engaged in the advancement of air transport. Western Australia had not transferred to the Federal Government the powers desired by the Commonwealth to enable it to enforce laws relating to air transport, and it was evident that no proper authority existed hero to exercise that control. There had recently been cases in which machines outside the control of his company had been flown in a condition which involved very serious risk to the lives of tho occupants, while the lives of those iti other planes in the same locality had been jeopardized. So serious had the position become that his company had decided to give the Commonwealth an opportunity to test the position on : safe " technical breaches of the regulations which he had committed.

I do not know how Major Brearley intends to test the position, but the fact remains that the regulations governing air transport arc not satisfactory. Recently, the Air Accidents Investigation Committee, which was established purely under departmental regulation, inquired into the crash at Temora of the Love Bird, a commercial air plane, and it came to a certain finding. I asked a question in this chamber regarding that finding, with a view to having the inquiry reopened, so that other accidents might be investigated.

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