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Wednesday, 3 April 1957

Mr TOWNLEY (Denison) (Minister for Immigration) . - I do not wish to delay ihe House or project myself unnecessarily into this debate, but I could perhaps say a few words in reply to questions that have been raised. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) said that no doubt Qantas has gone into this matter and, of course, it has. As the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) knows, wherever aviation people get together there is always a great argument about the relative merits of the turbo-prop and the pure jet. Whereever aircraft managements get together - for instance, at International Civil Aviation Organization meetings - it is just the same. The simple truth is that, until the pure jet has been flying on actual operations for some time, no one will know. By the same token, of course, nobody will know for sure how the very big turbo-prop aircraft will go as time goes on. We have seen them come into operation in the last couple of months. We know that B.O.A.C. introduced them on the Kangaroo route last August. We know what happened on the first flight. They were withdrawn for some months. Recently, they came out here again. They were grounded in Darwin, in Singapore and in Johannesburg. So nothing is quite conclusive yet.

Mr Whitlam - The American military transport section uses this Boeing aircraft.

Mr TOWNLEY - I was coming to thai point. The Boeing 707/138 has been flying in military use and as a prototype for some years. The engine of the type with which the Qantas aircraft will be fitted has done some 4,000,000 hours of flying, and has proved pretty satisfactory. I suggest that it is known how this engine will perform, that is, as well as it can be known how any engine will perform. 1 point out to the House that the Qantas people themselves did not make up their own minds without first having consulted almost every aircraft expert in the world. Qantas, 1 believe, is one of the best, if not the best, international airline. Its safety record is unsurpassed. Its punctuality and service compare more than favorably with those of any international airline I have seen. It is due to a variety of causes. First. I believe, it is due to the people in the company. Air crew, engineers, ground staff and maintenance people are beyond all praise. They are superlative, professionally. The management, under the inspired guidance of one of the great pioneers. Sir Hudson Fysh, is also a contributing feature. But one of the main reasons why Qantas has been so good is that in the past it has invariably picked the right aircraft.

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Like Trans-Australia Airlines.

Mr TOWNLEY - There are other airlines that can point to their success for the same reason. After 21 years' operation. Qantas got in touch with every aviation authority in the world and sent its own men - hard-headed men like Scotty Allen - round the world for talks in every country. They had nothing to gain or lose by buying any particular aircraft. They have to gel the best for their purposes and we have to take notice of them. Speaking from memory, I think the company is earning about 1 1,000,000 dollars a year with its present aircraft. That is a lot of money.

The representatives of the company have said that in the years from 1959 to 1965 they will be faced with competition from every airline in the world with jet aircraft and that unless they have jets they will have to fold up. The honorable member for Farrer rightly pointed out the performance of the Britannia, a turbo-prop aircraft, but the Britannia is a 1953 model, which was built for the 1953-59 period, and no matter how good that aircraft may be, it will be virtually out of date in the years 1959 to 1965, when Qantas will be faced with intense competition from PanAmerican Airways, K.L.M., Canadian Pacific Airlines and a variety of other major international operators.

I have the greatest confidence in the people in Qantas. Having gone into this thing, they are risking their whole future on their choice of this aircraft. I was with them for months, and I know that they thought of nothing else. They worked morning, noon and night, seven days a week, sifting every little bit of evidence they could get. But they did not work by themselves. They had officers from the Department of Civil Aviation such as Dr. Shaw and dozens of others who are in world class. These officers have been overseas to- all sorts of conferences and they have far more than held their own with the technical experts of every country on earth. They were called into the discussions, out of which came this proposition.

I know that the honorable member for Farrer knows a tremendous- amount about all the details of aircraft and their operation. He has been a professional flier in his time. He was good enough to say that I knew a lot about it. I have picked up a little knowledge from time to time. But I suggest that as all this expert opinion has been working over this matter for months, it is hardly likely that we shall develop anything in this House which will contradict the findings. We may disagree, but in doing so we would express an opinion which I say, with great respect, would not be a very valid opinion in the company in which we find ourselves. We would be up against the weight of world opinion on the choice of an aircraft which has been accepted by one of the greatest airlines in the world. It is an airline which is staffed by people whose reputations are world-wide and who have been backed up by the opinion of the

Department of Civil Aviation, which is just an honest broker in this instance. It has nothing to gain or lose; the safety of the passengers and crew is its concern.

I suggest that this debate is not exactly a waste of time, lt is very valuable. But 1 do not think that a debate of this sort, when it gets on to technical arguments to which the honorable member referred, will solve any of our problems. They have been thrashed out again and again by the most eminent people in the aviation industry in Australia and they have chosen this aircraft. Some of the figures which the honorable member for Farrer gave were surprisingly accurate. His statistics were all right - except for a little bit - and sometimes a little bit makes a difference. For instance, he mentioned that the Comet IV. had a range of 3,000 miles. On the stage routes of the Pacific, it is 2,600 against 3,500 for the Boeing 707. His information about the relative speeds was right - the Boeing al 550 miles an hour and the Comet IV. at 490 miles an hour. But the payload of the Comet IV. is 17,000 lb. as against 28,000 lb. for the Boeing 707; and when all is said and done, it is the payload that pays all the wages.

In summarizing all this, I say to the honorable member that intense study has gone into this matter. I assure him and I assure the House regarding the intensity of the work of the men who were engaged in finding the aircraft that would meet the competition which will come to this country's international air carrier in 1959. Everybody who was occupied on the work with the company or who was drawn into the discussions favoured the Boeing 707.

But that is not the whole story. There had to be a Treasury consideration of the matter, and there are plenty of people here who know that the Treasury regards every bit of expenditure with modified rapture. The Treasury really examines this sort of expenditure in minute detail. The Treasury, too. was convinced. After that, there would have been, I should think, at least three meetings at Cabinet level when the Qantas people and the Treasury people were

Drought here. Additional technical advice was also sought and again the decision was given for the purchase of this aircraft. So I think that, at this stage, while it may be quite an interesting academic study, we will not produce in this House, despite all the technical knowledge that we may have, any weight of opinion sufficient to upset the advice that was given to the Government by Qantas and the Department of Civil Aviation.

Mr Whitlam - Would other companies use this aircraft at Mascot, even if Qantas did not?

Mr TOWNLEY - I think that that is a point that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) raised. Irrespective of whether Qantas has jets or not, Pan-American Airlines will have them, K..L.M. will have them, and Air France will have them if its aircraft ever come through Mascot. Canadian Pacific Airlines will have them and the British Overseas Airways Corporation will have them. British Overseas Airways Corporation will have a very much heavier jet aircraft than the type that Qantas Empire Airways Limited will be using, but the heavier aircraft will probably be able to use the aerodrome safely if its loading is proportionately reduced.

Many other matters were raised. But I think I have said enough to indicate that the decision was not taken lightly. That is what I want to say particularly. The decision was taken on the advice of a company that is good by any standards and is staffed by people who are good by any standards. Therefore, I suggest that we should accept the advice that it has given.

Mr Calwell - Did the Government not question the advice or check upon it? y.r. TOWNLEY. - I was saying before the honorable member entered the chamber that the officials of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and the Department of Civil Aviation went into the matter very carefully, right down to the most minute details. They did not rely on their own engineers alone, but discussed the matter with engineers from all over the world and with aeronautical consultants in three or four countries. All that having been done, I say that we can accept with equanimity the technical advice that the company gave to the Government.

The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) asked me to say what amount had been paid or was to be paid to Morgan Stanley and Company. The exact amount of the compensation is not stated in the agreement, but I can tell the honorable member that it will amount to about one-tenth of 1 per cent. That will cover all expenses and fees due to Morgan Stanley and Company in New York and Melbourne.

Mr Crean - That will be about £170,000?

Mr TOWNLEY - lt will be about that amount over-all.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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