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Thursday, 15 October 1964

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) .- It is obvious that in sending in to bat the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) - the 12th batsman in the Cabinet - the Government was expecting a very sticky wicket. There is no doubt that the issues under consideration at present are some of the most important which have had to be discussed at any time since Federation, with the possible exception of the issues involved in the celebrated banking legislation of nearly 20 years ago.

The Government finds itself heavily on the defensive, lt finds arrayed against it not merely the Parliamentary Opposition, representing 47 per cent, of the people of Australia, but also at least five arid probably six of the sovereign States of the Commonwealth and their Governments, and, further, public opinion. There is an apocryphal story told of pre-World War H Germany which may illustrate my point. lt has a devastating moral impact. It is a story of a brilliant engineer who was a political novice and who was chosen by the Hitler regime to do certain engineering work in charge of a factory. In his innocence he sent back to the central authority a complaint that although he was supposed to be in charge of a perambulator factory, no matter how he tried to fit together the different pieces fabricated from the blueprints, they always made up machine guns. No matter how you look at the facts of this case, no matter how you examine. the various regulations and acts, you find that there emerges a pattern of monopoly, a pattern for Ansett, a blueprint for complete monopolisation of Australian transport..

Plan A has already been accomplished and has resulted in the blatant and obvious conferring on Ansett-A.N.A., a subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd., of equality of status with Trans-Australia Airlines in relation to interstate air travel. Plan B is obviously designed to confer on Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. full control of intrastate air navigation. Plan C will obviously and logically appear in its turn, and its purpose will be to show that the Ansett interests, having equality of status with T.A.A. in interstate air travel, and having a complete monopoly of intrastate air travel, are in a position to handle all Australian interstate air travel more efficiently than T.A.A. We will hear a spate of oratory to the effect that inefficiency exists and that there is no need for competition. No doubt we will hear cited what happened in regard to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., the Colonial Oil Refineries Ltd. and other Commonwealth trading interests which have been successively sold out by this Government . to private interests. The pattern that was followed in the cases of those undertakings will again be followed.

After these plans - plans for the future, but nevertheless definite plans - for the

Ansett empire to gain a monopoly of Australian air transport have been accomplished, the way will then be cleared for the Ansett interests to take over road transport. Perhaps there will be a twopronged attack, not merely on road transport but also on rail transport. What juicier plum could there be, with its splendid opportunities for obscene and almost embarrassing profits, than a proposal - backed by specious arguments - that our railway system should be integrated and co-ordinated with the rest of the Ansett transport empire?

So much for the future. Now let me consider the present. I heard the Minister say that he was no lawyer. I certainly agree with him. The Government in this case is speaking with its tongue in its cheek. Without the new regulations the Government had every power that could possibly bc needed to regulate - I emphasise the word " regulate " - intrastate air services. The Air Navigation Act is quite specific in regard to the powers it confers on the Federal Government. First there is the power to regulate internal transport within any State. Secondly there is the power to regulate interstate transport. Thirdly there is the power to regulate transport between any of the States and the Commonwealth territories. Then there is the power to regulate air transport within Commonwealth Territories, and finally there is the very special power regarding " controlled air space " which is the subject of discussion, and which will no doubt be the subject of litigation in the High Court - the power relating to the control of air space.

The Government has not been frank, and I suggest to the people who are listening in today that they might well examine the details of the judgment that was given in the High Court, because in it there is no positive brief for the Government to walk in as it has done and legislate for every phase of the regulation of air transport. I quote a passage from the judgment of the Chief Justice in the case of Airlines of New South Wales Pty. Ltd. versus the State of New South Wales and others -

A study of the Schedule (to the Act) suggests that obligations are placed upon the Commonwealth which extend over the whole territory of Australia and that in almost all respects- " Almost ", mark you - the legislative power which arises from the need of carrying out the Convention given by s. 51 (xxix) would suffice to support laws made with a complete disregard of the distinction between interstate and intra-State trade.

For many years, in fact since 1937, there has existed a perfect system of intrastate air regulation and control. The Commonwealth Government has issued licences in respect of interstate transport. It has determined standards of airworthiness of aircraft. It has decided the routes for interstate and other air travel, with the exception, of course, of intrastate air transport. It has in all respects defined the principles of air navigation and the rules of the air which are to be followed in the navigation of aircraft. But in all cases its licences have been issued subject to the special powers of the State transport co-ordination acts. Conversely, the State Governments have issued licences in respect of air routes and have prescribed times of operations. But in respect of airworthiness and the rules of air navigation they have attached to their licences a proviso that these aspects shall be subject to Commonwealth law. There was complete reciprocity on a decent and sensible basis, and that situation existed despite the position postulated in the decision to which I have referred. There has been complete reciprocity. The question of urgency does not arise. There is no particular crisis which warranted the immediate implementation in intrastate transport of the Convention International Civil Aviation decided on at the Chicago conference.

This is a most serious matter for the State Governments. I speak with the experience of 13 years' service in the Parliament of New South Wales. I understand the feelings, the motives and the objectives of the Governments of sovereign States and I also understand my responsibility as a member of the National Parliament. I am supported in this by the comments made by each of the Premiers in the replies, as publicised, to the Prime Minister's letter which is the subject of discussion. I would say that in each of those cases special emphasis has been laid on the fact that the proposed action of the Commonwealth Government would totally destroy co-ordinated . transport services within each of the States.

Let us hark back to 1931 when the Government ©f New South Wales deliberately and systematically drew up legislation, which by definition included aircraft, for the purpose of co-ordinating the respective transport services in the air, on the roads and by rail. The Prime Minister may prate about a £60 million investment in aerodromes and utilities that are associated with air travel; he may prate also of another £30 million to be spent; but the State of New South Wales alone has £290 million at stake in its railway system. In the aggregate, investment in the railway systems of Australia, owned by the respective States, not yet paid for, and accounted for in the public debt of each State, amounts to more than £700 million. That amount is in jeopardy, because transport must be considered as a whole.

If the control of intrastate air transport is to be taken out of the hands of the State Governments we will have a situation where transport co-ordination within the three fields I have mentioned will be completely and utterly destroyed. The problem must be considered as a whole, Sir, instead of becoming the subject of the arrogant, unprincipled, cavalier and unscrupulous actions of this Government. There is no precedent in the constitutional history of this Commonwealth for the activities of the Government on this occasion. Deliberately it chose the day after the Parliament rose for the introduction of these regulations, needlessly and unnecessarily. The more one looks at it the more convinced one must be that that is so. I need not convince the public of this, because the public is already awake to the situation. Honorable members can be certain that when this matter goes before the people, as it undoubtedly will in a test of public opinion in the forthcoming Senate election, there will be a resounding verdict given against this infamous Government.

It is a scandal that any private enterprise should receive the preference that comes from this Government. But, after all, what is this Government? It was Lord Acton who said that power always corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I have been amazed to see the arrogant use and abuse of power by this. Government, to see its slovenly administration, to see its failure to reason out thoroughly the principles of decent and democratic relationships between the Commonwealth and the

State Governments. It has failed utterly and completely in this respect. The Minister, for whom I have every respect as a gentleman, has shown that for all he knows about the transport services of New South Wales and the other States they might as well not exist. I agree that in the ultimate it would be in the best interests of Australia for transport services to be under national control, but let there be a decent, fair, democratic and sensible way of achieving this. Let the people of Australia be consulted. Let the facts be put before them and, above all, let us purge public life of the preferment which exists today for this individual, Ansett.

This Government is a government of monopoly. It is a puppet of monopoly. It has been a noteworthy fact, commented on by most ecologists, that in Australia we have not a natural balance in some respects. Pests have been introduced into Australia. We have had the rabbit, the sparrow and the prickly pear, all of which have proliferated because there has not been a natural balance to control them. In the same way, there is no counterbalance in this country to the ramifications of monopoly, because this Government believes in monopoly. It is starry eyed when it looks at monopoly. There used to be a gibe against the people of Britain that they dearly loved a lord. This Government dearly loves a monopoly. It gets starry eyed when it looks at a monopoly. It drools; it positively genuflects. It hastens, childlike, it runs to attend to the whims of monopoly, to do everything it can to nurture monopoly. This present situation is a disgrace, because there is no worse form of monopoly than the one we are discussing. Here we have a conspiracy within the Government to ensure that this private monopoly will become the ultimate transport dictator of Australia. Do not accept my word as expressing the thoughts of a partisan or of a political party; I quote the words of the " Canberra Times" in an editorial on Saturday, 3rd October 1964, under the heading "How Much Competition in Airlines? " The editorial refers to the perilous system of operations today and states -

It has also been claimed that this particular system is a particularly happy invention of the Australian genius. But perhaps it is time to ask whether the system wit] really work when the private company is itself a monopoly protected from other competition. The trading banks are not in this position; their competition is real enough. The commercial television companies must compete with each other as well as with the A.B.C. But it looks as if the Federal Government wishes to put Ansett-A.N.A. beyond the reach of competition from other airlines and to guarantee it a privileged position with every chance of high profits in perpetuity.

I repeat - with every chance of high profits in perpetuity.

Mr Cope - Is that a Labour paper?

Mr CONNOR - No. It is a moderate conservative paper which, nevertheless, can speak in the national interest. The editorial continues -

If this happens a good many people outside the Labour Party may begin to wonder whether the right answer is not to nationalise all air transport. If fares, timetables, meals, and the aircraft used are all virtually controlled, so that the only competition is between the public relations firms of the two airlines, what useful purpose is served?

I echo that sentiment: What useful purpose is served? I come now to the obvious reluctance of the present Government to allow T.A.A. to take a part in intrastate air services. The obvious reason is that it wants to keep T.A.A. out. The Government wants, by the present arrogant seizure of power, to ensure and guarantee in perpetuity the control that Ansett now has in intrastate air line activities. It wants to expand that activity further to the point of absolute monopoly of intrastate transport. In the fullness of time and by the normal democratic processes we will see the question of the ultimate control of Australian air transport resolved, but the Government's action is not the way to do it. It is unfair, it is undemocratic, it gives no consideration whatever to the genuine interests of the various States^ and the Government has consolidated public opinion against itself in a way that is without parallel in our history.

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