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Thursday, 15 October 1964

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- What would the attitude of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Sinclair) have been if the Menzies Government had introduced this legislation by enactment instead of by regulation? What would his attitude have been if the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) had waited for a conference with the Premiers and there had been a disagreement between the Prime Minister and the Premiers? All that emerges from his speech this afternoon is that he would not have agreed with his predecessor, the Honorable David Drummond, on the desirable extent of Commonwealth powers and that he does not agree with his State colleagues in the Country Party, the honorable members for Tamworth and Armidale, on the desirable use of State powers.

The honorable member has touched on two significant matters of procedure. He said that this big change in legislation should have been made by act instead of by regulation. Of course, the Prime Minister could not wait to do this because he had to act quickly in the interests of his backers. Again, this is why the Prime Minister could not wait for another conference with the Premiers, because the Premiers' Conference had concluded before the Privy Council refused leave to appeal from the High Court and matters became urgent. The Prime Minister has dishonoured undertakings both to the Parliament concerning this legislation in the form of regulations or in any other form and to the Premiers. Let me recall to honorable members that on 20th August he said that, as soon as he had the approval of all the Premiers to publish his air navigation proposals, he would table them in the House and permit a debate upon them. Five days later, he tabled the proposals and said he would provide an early opportunity to discuss them after the Budget debate. We have now begun that discussion, but not until almost a fortnight after the regulations were brought in. They were promulgated the day after the Parliament rose for the last recess of one week.

The Prime Minister, in his recent letter to the Premiers, stated - in regard to intrastate air transport coordination, the Commonwealth would propose to act only after consultation with the State transport authorities.

His Minister brought in the regulations and then issued licences, without any consultation with the Premiers and before the Prime Minister received the replies of the Premiers concerned. The Prime Minister had no consultation at all with them. He broke his promises to the Premiers as well as to the Parliament.

These, it may be, are matters of procedure, even if they are the only significant matters on which the honorable member for New England is prepared to commit himself. Everybody else in this House, on both sides, agrees, I understand, that the Commonwealth should regulate all air navigation within Australian territory. The difference between those on opposite sides of the chamber is about whether the Commonwealth should so exercise its powers as to give Ansett Transport Industries Limited the same preferential treatment in all intrastate aviation as it has received in all other fields. There is nothing sacrosanct about the name "Ansett Transport Industries Limited " and nothing indecent in mentioning it. That name appears in four or five acts of this Parliament. The company which bears it is one of the few companies whose rights are enshrined in Federal statutes.

It is significant that the present honorable member for New England is even wary about mentioning the name of EastWest Airlines Ltd. There were no such hesitancy and no such timidity on the part of his predecessor, who forthrightly stood for the Commonwealth's obligations in air navigation throughout Australian territory and also for the rights of the company centred on his electorate. The preceding representative of that electorate, for his pains and for the fact that he stood up here and disclosed the pressure brought to bear on East-West Airlines by the previous Minister for Civil Aviation, was rubbished by the Prime Minister and disowned by all his colleagues. They turned their backs on him. But, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said this morning, we knew that the honesty and integrity of the former member for New England were beyond challenge and that he stood for what he knew to be the truth and what he thought was the proper course.

Let me now pass from the attitude of the Australian Country Party which is split into four sections on this matter. These are, first, the Country Party members in the Federal Parliament, except for the honorable member for New England; secondly, that honorable member; thirdly, the members of the Country Party in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly apart from the members for Tamworth and Armidale; and, fourthly, those two members. Let us turn to the Liberals, who exhibit a frightening unanimity on this subject. They believe in State rights when those rights can be manipulated by Liberal backers, as they have been in respect of intrastate air navigation in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, where Ansett companies have a monopoly. Liberals will override State rights when those rights cannot be manipulated by Liberal backers, as in New South Wales. State rights are never as important to Liberals as the rights of individuals, especially if the individual concerned happens to be Mr. Ansett.

The Prime Minister has spoken often about outside control of the political parties represented in this Parliament. Every action and every word of his in relation to air navigation show how his Party is manipulated by Mr. Ansett. The right honorable gentleman often seeks to give the impression that his Party represents the whole community. He speaks of a property owning democracy and free enterprise. Suddenly, however, when the vital property interests of his friends are at stake, the mask drops and we see starkly what and whom the Liberal Party of Australia represents. The leopard cannot change its spots, much as it likes to mask them. The Government puts party and property interests before national interests. It does so on such a large scale as sometimes to make it difficult for ordinary people to grasp what is involved. The Government works on the principle of the big lie: Do anything on a big enough scale and you will get away with it. The Government has got away with it every year for the last seven years with respect to the interests of Ansett Transport Industries Limited.

I have mentioned the remarks made by the honorable member for New England. Perhaps I should now mention some of the points made by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty). First, he allowed himself one very small disparagement of East-West Airlines. He said that the average number of passengers carried by this airline to and from Albury in its DC3 aircraft daily was three. In fact, the number is 10, as it has been throughout this year. The Minister made a comparison with the service to Albury operated by Trans-Australia Airlines in lieu of its former service to Corowa. T.A.A. operated to Corowa twice a week. It provides a service to Albury every day. This is a matter of fact which we can test. The Minister was in error. He said also that Mr. Borthwick had been charged with the task of deciding which routes within New South Wales were to be re-allocated to achieve an equal share between East-West Airlines and Airlines of New South Wales Pty. Ltd. The Minister stated that the sensible thing to do would be to discuss the routes and not the shares. How far would one get with such a discussion with a representative of Ansett Transport Industries? Clearly, the shares should first be determined and then one has to determine what allocation of routes will provide those shares. That is what the Commonwealth has done in interstate civil aviation. The New South Wales Government has purported to do within the boundaries of the State exactly what the Commonwealth claims should be done with services between the States. There is a lot of speculation about how Labour would exercise air navigation powers. For three years in New South Wales a Labour Government has been trying to bring about an equal share of routes within the State, just as there is an equal share of services between States.

The Minister for National Development slated that the Commonwealth should have been consulted about the re-allocation of services within New South Wales. When Mr. Borthwick began his investigations, the State Government asked for experts from the Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation to be made available to advise and assist him. These were the circumstances in which the letter from the Prime Minister to the New South Wales Premier, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), was sent. The request was made by the Premier and rejected by the Prime Minister. So, three years ago, the Commonwealth was asked to advise on intrastate air routes in New South Wales, but it boycotted the proposed conference. In those circumstances, why should the Commonwealth assume that the determination made was a false one? The Commonwealth now proposes to complete its review of New South Wales intrastate routes by the end of next January. But why should it meastime displace the determination made by the arbitrator whose deliberations it boycotted?

The three years' delay has meant that East- West Airlines has lost £1.5 million in revenue and £150,000 in profit. The Minister for National Development now suggests that it should enter into litigation again. How is the viability of this airline to be established if, once again, it is to become involved in litigation extending over three years? This was the time for which the litigation in the last case was protracted by the Commonwealth's dilatoriness and tardiness. That litigation came to finality only when the State Government asked the High Court of Australia to direct the Commonwealth to speed up its pleadings. Will this company's viability be assisted by depriving it again of £1.5 million in income and £150,000 in profit? Is this the best contribution that the Minister ls able to make to the solution of this problem?

The Commonwealth Government's motives in this matter are shown very clearly by its timetable. The last referendum on this subject alone was defeated in 1937, when the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) all were members of this Parliament. They showed no interest in the subject over the next 27 years. The Convention on International

Civil Aviation, which is shortly known as the Chicago Convention, and which is being fully applied now, came into force in 1944. The three right honorable gentlemen took no interest in its terms for the next 20 years. They ignored this Convention on civil aviation, just as they have ignored about a dozen maritime conventions, SO conventions of the International Labour Organisation and a great number of other international conventions. This Convention was a dead letter as far as they were concerned until Ansett's application to the Privy Council was rejected. Then, within 24 days, the Prime Minister writes to all the Premiers. He announces that he will consult with them. He does say, when Sir Thomas Playford discloses that a letter has been written to the Premiers, that he will have a debate here. But he cannot wait for a debate. He cannot wait for the consultation with the Premiers. There is a special meeting of the Executive Council, the regulations are gazetted and the licences are issued - all before the new arrangements in New South Wales can come into effect.

Let me say something more about the court proceedings. After all, it was Mr. Ansett's company that went to the High Court, just as Australian National Airways Pty. Ltd. went to the High Court when Trans-Australia Airlines was to be established. Complaints have been made ever since because the High Court said: "T.A.A. cannot have a monopoly of interstate trade, but it cannot be excluded from interstate trade." On this occasion the Court has held that the State Government, under the law as it stands, can regulate intrastate trade. When the Ansett companies lose in the courts they come along and ask their friends in the Comonwealth Government to change the rules, to alter the legislation.

All the defects which have been said to exist in the present system - duplication, inefficiency and expense - have all existed presumably for years. The only new factor is that Ansett has lost another case, and that is why the law is being changed. This change was threatened by him and by the Commonwealth Government last April, after the High Court judgment when all counsel involved in the case before the

High Court, including counsel for the two parties I have mentioned, signed undertakings which applied to proceedings taken under the law as it existed at the time of the suit, 1961. That is, at that time Ansett already knew that the Commonwealth would alter the laws in the light of the High Court decision if the appeal to the Privy Council failed. The Commonwealth Government had told Ansett at that time that if his appeal to the Privy Council failed it would alter the law.

The issue in this case is not the power but the exercise of it. The Liberals believe in a two airline policy between States and a one airline policy within each State.

Mr Daly - They split their ethics.

Mr WHITLAM - Well, they are up for sale to the highest bidder. They ensure that there will be a monopoly within each State - a Government-guaranteed monopoly for Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. - by refusing to allow T.A.A. to operate flights which commence and end in any one State, and by refusing any other potential operator, such as the dispossessed Mr. Butler, all means of setting up a competitive service. When Mr. Butler asked for currency to import Caravelle aircraft the Menzies Government said: "No, we will not let you import them." Again when he said: " Let me have hangars at the various aerodromes so that I can use charter planes which are already in Australia ". the Commonwealth said: " No, you cannot have them ". It is by these methods that the Government has ensured that there is a monopoly in intrastate air navigation in the hands of Ansett, except in New South Wales. It was not concerned when Ansett took over Butler and tried to take over East-West; in fact it abetted him. It is only concerned when Ansett has to make do with an equal share in New South Wales.

What is it about East-West Airlines Ltd. that irritates the Government and Ansett? It is the fact that it is the only surviving competitor other than T.A.A. It is because it is the only source of on-carriage for T.A.A. It is because it operates under the only mainland State Government that the Commonwealth Government cannot domin ate. The principle is that what T.A.A. has it must share; what Ansett has or can acquire he must have for himself. I heard interjections earlier today about robbing Ansett. Nobody in the Government parties complained when T.A.A. was robbed of £400,000 in fuel tax which it alone was obliged to pay until Ansett acquired Viscount aircraft under an agreement of which Australian National Airways Pty. Ltd. had refused to avail itself. Nobody in the Government parties complained when T.A.A. lost £400,000 while waiting for the Electras it was compelled to order. There was no cross chartering of Electras at that time, as there was no tossing of a coin to ensure that the Electras were equally shared from the beginning. Nobody in the Government parties complains yet at the fact that T.A.A. loses £300,000 a year because it has had to share the Darwin route. And, of course, 1 have already pointed out the amount that East-West Airlines Ltd. has lost in three years of litigation.

My leader cited a series of preferences granted to Ansett over T.A.A. It will be remembered that T.A.A. has been refused the rights that Mr. Hawke of Western Australia and Sir Thomas Playford of South Australia asked that it should have within their States. On 31st March 1960, Senator Paltridge said -

Having regard to the fact that T.A.A. enjoys a monopoly of the service to Darwin, it is not considered that T.A.A. suffers any competitive disadvantage by not being able to trade intrastate in four of the Australian States.

Two years later, however, T.A.A. was forced to give up half of its Darwin operations. It is robbery if the Ansett organisation is compelled to give up some of its routes in New South Wales; it is perfectly legitimate if T.A.A. is forced to give up half its Darwin operations. When T.A.A. wanted to appeal from this decision to the body set up by Parliament for such a purpose, Senator Paltridge intimidated the members of the administering body of T.A.A. and forbade them to prosecute the appeal. Since then T.A.A. has been refused leave to share the new Darwin-Perth route. It has been refused leave to land its aircraft at Wagga or Cooma in the course of interstate trade.

It might not be inappropriate to mention the latest preference shown in connection with television licences. Honorable members will remember that Ansett applied for the third TV licence in Brisbane and was refused on the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. What does he do then? He buys up the shares in the successful company. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) then says he will alter the law and the harassed AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden) says he will alter the proposed law on restrictive trade practices. But the Cabinet says: " No, lay off ". It overrules its own Ministers in and out of the Cabinet.

This is all part of a pattern. East-West Airlines Ltd. was refused a permit to import a Friendship aircraft to improve its services. It was refused a Government guarantee so that it could get a lower interest rate on its loans, although Ansett had been given this concession. Only now is East-West Airlines Ltd. able to buy a new Friendship. The Government's motives in this matter are as obvious at its methods are devious. Arrangements which had the approval of the electors of New South Wales and are supported by judgments of the High Court have been cancelled. Undertakings to this Parliament have been disowned. Electors, judges, parliamentarians carry less weight with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet than does the most powerful of his backers, Mr. Ansett.

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