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Wednesday, 8 May 1957

Devonport Aerodrome - Department of Supply Auction Sale at Mildura - Communism.

Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr. DUTHIE(Wilmot) 110.30].- 1 wish to raise an important matter concerning the Devonport aerodrome. Last Thursday officers of the Department of Civil Aviation inspected the aerodrome, which has now been in service for nearly seven years, and made the amazing announcement that no more regular landings by Viscount aircraft would be allowed. This decision vitally affects Trans-Australia Airlines services to north-western Tasmania. The report of the official announcement in the Tasmanians press on Friday last mentioned Convair aircraft also. This announcement was madejust after Trans- Australia Airlines had announced a new daily service from Devonport to Hobart by modern, fast Viscount', aircraft. The officers of the Department of Civil Aviation stated that the aerodrome runways would not stand the high pressureimposed by the tires of Viscount aircraft.

The Devonport aerodrome is 5 milesinside the western boundary of the Wilmot electorate. The honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Luck) also is keenly interested in this matter, because the aerodrome servesa large part of the eastern area of the Braddon electorate. I propose to give the House a brief history of the aerodrome in order to bring the facts up to date for honorable members. It came into being as a direct result of representations made by Dame Enid Lyons and myself. We both pestered the Labour government of the day, through Mr. A. S. Drakeford, who was at the time Minister for Civil Aviation, and eventually we obtained a decision to have the aerodrome constructed. It had been talked about for several years, during which time we constantly made representations to Mr. Drakeford. On that occasion, a Liberal and a Labour member combined to win over a Labour Minister. Our representations were supported by the Devonport Municipal Council, the council of the Latrobe municipality in which the aerodrome is situated near the coast, and the Devonport Chamber of Commerce, which supplied us with facts and helped in other ways. Mr. Drakeford eventually said that he was prepared to examine the proposed site.

We wanted a quick decision at the time because the Department of Civil Aviation was just completing the Wynyard aerodrome, and it intended to take all the equipment that it had there more than 230 miles distant to begin work on the proposed Llanherne aerodrome to serve Hobart. We pointed out that, if that were done, the construction of the Pardoe aerodrome, as the Devonport aerodrome is otherwise known, would probably not be put in hand for another five or six years. We suggested that, as the necessary equipment was already in the north of Tasmania, construction of the Pardoe aerodrome should be finished before work on the Llanherne aerodrome was started. Mr. Drakeford inspected the proposed site in company with representatives of the three organzations that I have mentioned. On his return to the mainland, he submitted the proposal to the Cabinet, which agreed that work on the Pardoe or Devonport aerodrome should begin immediately the Wynyard aerodrome was completed. The work was begun in 1947, and finished in late 1950. Some of the best equipment that has ever been brought together for aerodrome work in Tasmania was used.

The aerodrome was opened on 4th November, 1950. I think I can safely say that this was five years earlier than would have been the case if the Department of Civil Aviation had moved the equipment to the south and constructed the Llanherne aerodrome first. A total of £254,000 was spent on the construction of the mile-long east-west runway, which comes to within several chains of the sand dunes on the coast. The situation is delightful, and practically fog-free, and the aerodrome has been used by Viscount and Convair aircraft operated by T.A.A., and by other kinds of aircraft operated by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, as an alternative landing ground to Western Junction airport at Launceston, for several years. A.N.A. and T.A.A. have found it wholly -suitable and completely reliable for their aircraft all that time. It was constructed to -standards adequate for any of the aircraft in service at the time.

The earth works involved the moving and compaction of 75,000 cubic yards of material, and the pavements of 65,000 cubic yards. A 5,000-ft. interception drain was laid down, and 6,700 feet of concrete pipes, ranging in size from 9 inches to 36 inches in diameter, were laid for drainage purposes, together with 13,000 feet of open, unlined drains. As I have said, the heavy construction equipment used was the best ever congregated at one site for this kind of work in Tasmania. Its total value was £131,000. It included four caterpillar graders, two excavators, one Tournapull, with scraper, to carry 15 cubic yards of material, four W6 tractors, four D7 tractors, one D8 tractor, and all the water carts needed to supply the water used in keeping the surface wet, together with a mobile workshop and several heavy spiked compactors. The work was completed ahead of schedule. A new kind of construction involving the use of shingle and sand from the beach was adopted. Ample supplies of shingle and sand were available near at hand, and this material was loaded by front-end loaders onto trucks, which had to cart it only about half a mile to the site. Mr. A. Hepburn, who was Director of Airports, at the time, said -

The yardstick o£ the provisional International Convention on Aviation Operation Standards had been applied to Pardoe and it met with the requirements of the biggest airlines in Australia.

That is powerful evidence that the Pardoe aerodrome was constructed to first-class standards.

I now ask a number of questions. Where does the trouble lie? Why has this decision suddenly been made? Why has doubt about the capabilities of the aerodrome for the handling of Viscount and Convair aircraft suddenly arisen? Why has an outofdate decision been made out of the blue to prevent T.A.A. Viscount aircraft from using this aerodrome, when both Viscount and Convair aircraft have been using it for years as an alternative to Western Junction airport, with complete satisfaction? Is the decision the result of pressure brought to bear by rival airline companies in order to prevent T.A.A. from operating Viscounts from Pardoe? It is very significant that the ban on the Viscount aircraft used by T.A.A. has suddenly been introduced just after that company announced a daily service intrastate, between Devonport and Hobart, by these fast, modern aircraft. The whole of north-western Tasmania is up in arms against this amazing and inexplicable decision, which will prevent the people of the area from enjoying a fast, modern service to Hobart and return daily. As a result of the decision, T.A.A. has been forced to cancel the arrangements for the new service and resort to the use of DC3 aircraft, which are at a disadvantage against A.N.A.'s larger aircraft, for which the field is now wide open.

The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) has made inquiries, as I have done, and, this evening, he received a reply from the Department of Civil Aviation, which he read to me in his office about half an hour ago. He is not satisfied with it. I certainly am not satisfied with the explanation that has been given, and no

Tasmanian representative would be. The department states that the tire pressure of the Viscount aircraft is 110 per cent ratio in tire coverage, whereas 85 per cent, is the permissible limit. Therefore, Viscount aircraft have been prevented from using the aerodrome. The tire pressure of Convair aircraft has been reduced to comply with the limit set. The department states also that it would cost £35,000,000 to bring all the aerodromes in Australia to the standard required for Viscount aircraft. We are not asking for that. There are 600 aerodromes in Australia and only fifteen are capable of taking the modern Viscount aircraft. That is a tragic statement from any department in this modern age, and we need to bring many more aerodromes, including Pardoe, up to Viscount standard.

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