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Thursday, 4 July 1946

Mr ABBOTT (New England) . - I bring to the notice of the. House the harsh manner in which an airlines company operating in northern New South Wales has been treated by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of -New South Wales. North- Western Airlines Limited commenced an airline service on the 14th March, 1938, connecting Moree, Tamworth and Sydney. The company consisted of between 300 and 400 shareholders in the Moree district of New .South Wales. For three years it operated until it was compelled to close down after the war had continued for about eighteen months. During the period of its operations the company's machines flew 305,000 miles and carried 2,3S7 passengers without any accident whatever. The company commenced operations without a government subsidy, and conducted a service between the places mentioned, with three stops on each journey. When the service closed down in 1941 in order to assist the war effort the company was supplying transport to Sydney from Moree, Tamworth, Inverell, Narrabri, Quirindi and Scone, and received a subsidy from the. Government. It had to build its own aerodrome at Moree, and during wet weather passengers had to be transported to the aerodrome by means of a three-horse buckboard, because the local municipal council refused to build a road half a mile in length to the aerodrome. Efforts ' to have a town aerodrome established prior to the commencement of the service met with no success, and therefore the directors decided to provide ' an aerodrome. Accordingly, they purchased the necessary land, erected hangars and offices and put down gravel runways, so that a service could be provided in all weathers. For other towns, aerodromes were provided by government grants, but that was not done for North - Western Airlines Limited. I understand that when that company ceased operations it was given an assurance that it would be granted a licence to continue the service after the war. Since the 19th July, 1945, the company had been endeavouring to purchase an aircraft and was given an assurance by the De Havilland Company that it could purchase a new seven-passenger De Havilland aircraft in England, delivery to be given at Mascot in four months, but that it was necessary first to obtain ministerial approval. Although the company sent representatives to Melbourne and (Sydney and, in addition wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), the Minister for. the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), as well as to the Department of Civil Aviation, it could not get any satisfaction; it has not yet been granted a permit to purchase an aeroplane. The Minister for Air, replying through the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to a letter from Mr. R. B. Nott, M.L.A. for the Liverpool Plains electorate in the New .South Wales Parliament, in which Mr. Nott had made representations on behalf of the president of the Tamarang Shire Council regarding the resumption, of the air service by North- Western Airlines Limited, said -

I would be pleased if you would inform Mr. Nott that before the issue of an airline licence to that company for the operation of the service could be undertaken, it would be necessary for the company to satisfy the Department o"f Civil Aviation that it would meet the requirements for the issue of such "licence as set out *.n the Air Navigation Regulations.

Butler Air Transport Company, which operates in the area under a current airline licence and which has the necessary organization and equipment, was informed some time ago that, subject to compliance with certain requirements under the Air Navigation Regulations, it would be granted an airline licence to operate a service between Sydney and Tamworth. This company holds contracts for the carriage of mails on other routes and the conditions' of contract enable mails to be carried by them on the Sydney-Tamworth service" under conditions .already approved.

The Secretary of the Tamarang Shire Council received a letter from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in which the Minister said - '

I have fully discussed this matter with the Minister for Air, who informed me that be- . cause of a recent High Court decision challenging the Commonwealth's power in respect to civil aviation it has not been possible for the Minister to grant licences for new services pending full examination of the High Court's judgment.

It is most unfair that after NorthWestern Airlines Limited _ had been promised that it would be given a licence when the war ended, the Government should deny it ,that licence, thereby preventing it from acquiring the aircraft which it wished to purchase from the De" Havilland Company. The final letter which the company received is further evidence of the bad treatment to which it has been subjected. On the 16th April, 1946; Mr. Osullivan, Minister for . Transport in the New South Wales Government, writing to the secretary of the company, said -

I now wish to advise you that your company's application has been considered by the Director-General of Civil Aviation but in view of the fact that the Butler Air Transport Company has applied for a licence to operate' a Sydney-Tamworth service to be extended to Moree as soon as aerodrome facilities are available at Moree, he has requested the Commissioner for Road Transport and Tramways to agree to the issue of a licence to the latter company under the State Transport (Coordination) Act.

I repeat that, long before the Butler Air Transport Company applied for a licence, North- Western Airlines Limited had. submitted an application and had been promised that a licence would be issued to it after the war. That constitutes a dishonouring of promises by the. Minister for Air, the Director-General of Civil Aviation, and the Minister for Transport in New .South Wales. The letter went on to say -

The Director of Civil Aviation points out that this action will result in the service being brought into operation at an earlier date than would be the case if the licence were granted to your company, for the reason that the Butler Company is already in possession of suitable aircraft and has an established organization.

The point is, that the Butler Transport Company has been allowed to purchase Douglas aircraft, whereas North- Western Airlines Limited has been -prevented from purchasing the De Havilland aircraft which it required to operate its service. It would appear that a great injustice has been done to this latter company. The facts almost demand a special inquiry by a statutory body, with a view to determining whether there has been any underhand work, or any bribery and corruption. It would seem that, for some reason, the Butler Transport Company is receiving much more favorable treatment than is being accorded to North- Western Airlines Limited, which sacrificed everything during the war by making available its aircraft, pilots and the whole of its equipment for use in the war effort, whilst the Butler Transport Company continued to operate its air services in New South Wales. I hope that the Minister for Air will look into the matter, and will ensure that justice shall be done to . NorthWestern Airlines Limited.

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