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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr Rankin (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -

1.   On how many occasions in the past nine months did he travel to (a) Rockhampton and (b) other centres in his electorate by (i) service aircraft of any description and (ii) commercial aircraft?

2.   What staff accompanied him on each occasion ?

3.   What was the expenditure of Commonwealth money on each occasion?

4.   Is it a fact that a Commonwealth motor car was sent from Canberra or Sydney to Rockhampton or anywhere else in the electorate of Capricornia for the use of the Minister? 5.If, so, when and what was the cost involved?

Mr Forde - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : -

In reply to the honorable gentleman's questions 1 to 5, see my reply to the. honorable member who asked a similar question on the 19th July, 1946.

In amplification of this reply, I, wish to state that I travelled not only to Rockhampton and Bundaberg in my own electorate, but also on a number of occasions I travelled to other States, in service transport aircraft similar to the type in which the honorable. , gentleman himself frequently travels between Canberra and Melbourne. In addition, I made many trips in commercial aircraft. I made these visits sometimes when Acting Prime Minister and at other times as Acting Minister for Defence and Minister for the Army. Id doing so, I availed myself of the quickest means of transport to which I am entitled as a busy Commonwealth Minister; it is my intention to do so again, whenever it is necessary for me to travel on public business and a suitable plane is available. Not only didI visit the two centres in my electorate where there are suitable aerodromes on which a Douglas aircraft can land, but also on a number of other occasions I visited Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane on public business. I flew to Darwin, Morotai, Borneo and New Guinea in a service Liberator to visit troops. On other occasions 1 visited military camps' in various States. As Acting Prime Minister, I visited South Australia and Western Australia and received many deputations, conferred with military officers on defence and Army matters, granted interviews to a large number of returned soldiers and met thousands of people in a minimum of time. This would have been quite impossible without availing myself of the facilities of air transport. On each trip I took with me sufficient stuff to cope with the work. Whatever expenditure was incurred on such trips in the course of my duties as a Commonwealth Minister was amply justified. No ministerial car was taken from the Government Transport Department at Canberra to Queensland, but on one occasion last year I took to Queensland an Army car which I am entitled to use as Minister for the Army.

By the use of service aircraft I have been able to pay more frequent visits to my electorate and to other centres in distant States while at the same time attending to my ministerial work, Cabinet meetings and the sittings of Parliament. In the old days, by train, it took a week's travelling time alone to visit central Queensland, with resultant waste of valuable time. Without modern travel my electors would not have an opportunity to see me for months at a time. In availing myself of a service transport, aircraft to make official visits I was following the precedent laid down by Ministers in the MenziesFadden Government. We all remember, with very great sorrow and regret, that on one occasion three Ministers of a Government led by Mr. Menzies were travelling in a Hudson transport plane which unfortunately crashed and they lost their lives. They were fully entitled to this means of transport, . and no member on the Labour side of the House uttered one -word of criticism. At this time it will be recalled that there was some public discussion of the dangers attendant on several Ministers of the Government travelling in the. same aircraft, lt was. suggested that several Ministers should not be permitted to travel in one plane. The honorable gentleman evidently considers that Commonwealth Ministers in this flying age should use a " horse-and-buggy " means of transport with consequent waste of time,' while he himself, as a private member, has on 'numerous occasions flown in Douglas service transport aircraft from Canberra to Melbourne and back; therefore, his criticism of the rightful use by a Commonwealth Minister of a Government-owned aircraft comes with very bad grace, and shows that he is vainly endeavouring to make party political capital out of the rightful use of air transport by a busy Commonwealth Minister. In this age of air travel it is a common occurrence for business executives to fly from one State to another in the course of their work, in order to save time. The present Federal Government ia composed of hard-working Ministers who desire to know Australia and its industries and who are determined to travel at regular intervals by the quickest possible means of transport, not only to their own electorates, but also to far-flung States, in order to become thoroughly acquainted with the people's problems and the industries of the country.

Community Centre at Bulimba.

Mr Fadden n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -

1.   Doe3 his department exercise any control over the hostel or community centre at Bulimba, Queensland; if not, which department now controls it, and for what purpose is it used ?

2.   Were attempts made to lease the premises; if so, with what results?

3.   What has the hostel cost to date, including interest, and what revenue, has been received from it?

4.   Is it intended to extend or remodel the building?

Mr Holloway - My department exercises no control over the hostel referred to by the honorable member. I have requested the Minister for Works and Housing to prepare replies to the other parts of the honorable member's questions.

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