Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr CHARLES JONES - Let us put it this way: Probably he was under great stress. I have some figures with me which make interesting reading. They disclose that a lot of the people who have hijacked aircraft throughout the world likewise have been under great mental stress at the time. So far as Australia is concerned, internally we have an Act called the Crimes (Aircraft) Act which was introduced by this Government in 1963. Information I have discloses that there have been only 5 convictions under this legislation. They were as follows: In May 1965, impersonating a Commonwealth officer on board an aircraft, fined $20 plus costs; in December 1964, making a false statement inferring intention to endanger safety of an aircraft - a bomb hoax - a bond of $20 against good behaviour for 12 months. He got out of that charge pretty lightly. He also must have been a little bit upset. The next case was in August 1965 when a person was charged with being in possession of a firearm on an aircraft. This resulted in the imposition of a $200 good behaviour bond for 2 years and $200 surety. The next case was in August 1967 when the charge was one of making a false statement inferring intention to endanger safely of an aircraft - a bomb hoax - for which the fine imposed was $75. In April 1968, a person was charged with carrying explosives and other dangerous goods while a passenger on an international flight. This resulted in a fine of $300 plus costs. That was the first time we got fair dinkum. Then, under the New South Wales Crimes Act, in November. 1964 a person was charged with larceny involving an aircraft. That person received a bond and surety of $200 plus compensation for damages. In March 1968 a person was imprisoned for 18 months for the illegal use of an aircraft.

Of all those charges there are probably only 2 cases in which we were fair dinkum; first, under the Commonwealth legislation, when a person was fined $300 for carrying explosives and other dangerous goods on an international flight, and secondly, in March 1968 when a person was imprisoned for 18 months for illegally using an aircraft. At this stage I do not know what has happened to the fellow who tried to hire an aircraft, or borrow it, to take him from Sydney to Brisbane.

Taken all round the situation is quite satisfactory. The Crimes (Aircraft) Act imposes severe penalties because a person who takes control of an aircraft by force or violence or by the threat of either can suffer a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment. The death sentence is applied if there is destruction of an aircraft with intent to kill or with reckless indifference for life. The Crimes (Aircraft) Act applies to any Australian or foreign aircraft, either in flight between 2 Australian States or Territories, or between Australia and overseas countries, or any aircraft wholly outside of Australia. There are also air navigation regulations which prohibit the carrying of firearms on an aircaft, even by the crew. These regulations preventing people from carrying firearms on board an aircraft are excellent ones. There is an exception in that approval can be obtained from the Director-General of Civil Aviation.I think it is as well to make sure that air crews are not allowed to take firearms on board because many things can happen. If a pistol or gun is fired on board an aircraft many things could happen which could bring about the destruction of that aircraft. The cabin of a pressurised airliner could be depressurised; the oxygen lines could be hit and this in turn could cause a fire or explosion; some electrical gear could be broken which could cause a short circuit resulting in the aircraft catching fire.

From Australia's point of view we may have covered the internal position fairly well. Australia is fortunate not to be faced with the turmoil that exists elsewhere in the world today. The United States has huge racial problems and is faced with the proximity of Cuba. There is general turmoil today in the United States and South America. The same can be said about Europe and the Middle East where wars and hatred exist. We have our political differences in Australia but we are not faced with the problems that exist in other countries. It is interesting to look briefly at the facts and figures. This legislation does cover the eventuality of crimes aboard aircraft but the main thing to remember is that in these instances we are dealing with people. The whole problem is that when dealing with people one has to contend with all sorts of things. I have some interesting figures contained in an extract from the 'American Journal of International Law', volume 63 of October 1969. It gives a list of the successful aircraft hijackings between 1st January 1968 and 8th September 1969 and also the States of registration of the successfully hijacked aircraft and the United States air carriers which have had aircraft hijacked between 17th February 1968 and 8th September 1969. The document is available in the Parliamentary Library. I understand that the American Journal of International Law' is a reputable journal that is published in the United States of America. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate it in Hansard.


These tables disclose that from 1st January 1948 until the end of 1960 there were 135 hijackings. In the period from 1st January 1969 to 8th September 1969 there were 46 hijackings and in 1968 there was a total of 30. For the whole of 1969 there were approximately 60 hijackings. So one can see that out of a total of 135 hijackings 90 occurred in the years 1968 and 1969. It is obvious that in those 2 years there was a substantial increase. I do not want to make a speech about Communism versus the West but 1 want to draw attention to the fact that none of the Communist countries has signed the Tokyo Convention. Yet if one examines the table that has been incorporated in Hansard one will find that Communist countries are subjected to hijacking as are other countries. Bulgaria has had 1 hijacking, Cuba has had 7, Czechoslovakia has had 7, Hungary has had 2 and Poland has had 1 . I am referring to the period from 1948 to 1969. I have not taken into consideration the case that was reported at the weekend in which a young fellow held a bomb at the pilot's head and said: 'Right. Take me off to Denmark or else we will all go.' Poland had had 1 hijacking prior to that. Rumania has had 2 hijackings, the Soviet Union has had 1 and Yugoslavia has had 2.

It is interesting to note that the United Kingdom has had only 1 hijacking. I understand that that occurred in 1967 when a charter aircraft carrying Mr Tshombe was forced to land in Algiers. After that took place those concerned with the hijacking removed Mr Tshombe from the aircraft and the aircraft was permitted to leave. These figures give some indication of the extent of hijacking in the world today. It may be of interest to honourable members to take a cross-section of the events that have taken place. In 1961 a United States aircraft was detained for 3 weeks in an effort to recover certain Cuban aircraft which had been attached by a court order in the United States. The Cubans tried to blackmail the Americans into releasing some of their aircraft in return for the aircraft that had been hijacked to Cuba and which they, were holding. Finally a settlement was made on the basis that the American company received back its airliner and the Cubans obtained some patrol boats which had been detained by the American authorities. A Venezuelan aircraft was detained in Cuba for 4 days while the Cubans demanded 531,466. On another occasion an American aircraft was hijacked to Cuba and on the way over the hijacker demanded the personal belongings of the passengers. When the aircraft arrived in Cuba the Cubans returned the money to the passengers. I give these few examples because I want to convey to honourable members that while most of the hijackings take place while aircraft are flying from America to Cuba, Cuba is not altogether a mecca for hijackers. On many occasions the Cubans have detained hijackers and many of them are still in prison in that country today.

As I said earlier, countries are greatly concerned about hijacking today. When one realises that between January 1968 and October 1969 on American , aircraft alone 2,916 passengers and crew have been hijacked one gets some idea of the number of people involved. Therefore the Bill that is before the House is worthy of consideration. In the Middle East we have seen some fairly vicious actions. Aircraft have been blown up and attempts have been made to destroy aircraft. We have read in the news the stories* - I do not know whether they are distorted but it is claimed that they are factual - of gun fights having taken place between Arab guerillas and security guards on Israeli aircraft. There was a case in August 1969 of a Trans World Airline Boeing 707 aircraft being held by the Syrians. When the passengers, with the exception of some of the Israelis, were released Trans World Airlines got their 707 back. These are some of the things which have occurred and which 1 think are worthy of mention.

I have in my possession some information released by the United States Department of Justice during 1969 which discloses the types of people who are hijacking aircraft in the United States. The summary which has been made available covers the period to which I have referred. Of the people known to have hijacked aircraft 14 had criminal records, 4 were wanted for offences ranging from passing bad cheques to the attempted murder of a policeman, 3 were military deserters, 2 had domestic relations difficulties and 6 were discontented with living in the United States of America. Cuban refugees and American citizens were dissatisfied with life in the United States and the refugees decided to go back home. They hijacked some aircraft. There were 3 cases of kidnapping for political reasons. One of them involved a Cuban who had become an American citizen. The aircraft was hijacked in order to kidnap the captain. In addition to the cases I have mentioned, 10 mentally disturbed people were involved in hijackings. Honourable members can see from these facts that very few of the people involved in hijacking in the United States of America are people who want to get out of the country for political reasons. The cases that concern me most are those involving the 10 mentally disturbed people. Such people do not think clearly. They have an obsession of some type or other. There was a case last week of a fellow in an aircraft in America who had a persecution complex against the United States Supreme Court and the taxation department. He felt that he had been wrongly treated by them. Such people are liable to do anything.

Every effort should be made to stop hijacking. As to how that is to be done, Mr Deputy Speaker, your guess is as good as mine. Between 196 1 and 1969 in the United States of America 24 people were arrested on charges ranging from piracy to concealing weapons. Of these 13 cases have been disposed of and the remainder are still awaiting court action.

It is interesting to see just who were involved. There were 8 adults convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 1 to 21 years. Four servicemen were court martialled, 4 juveniles were sent to reformatories, and one person was acquitted on the grounds of insanity. Records of hijackings have been kept from 1961 until 1969. Four of the people who had successfully hijacked aircraft to Cuba had returned to America. One came back via Mexico. Three of them who came back via Mexico finished up in Canada, and the Canadian Immigration Department caught up with these people and deported them to the United States of America. Of all those people who have been responsible for hijacking aircraft to Cuba, some have gone back to America and found themselves in trouble. No doubt they were the people who were given sentences ranging from 1 to 21 years.

One could give numerous examples of the hijacking which has taken place. I do not propose to do that. I feel that I have fairly extensively described the types of people who are hijacking aircraft today. I feel this gives the impression of what is taking place. Whilst the Bill sets out to ratify the Tokyo Convention, I do not know whether it will do any good. When you decide to have hare pie, you first of all have to catch the hare. The same principle applies here. Before we can deal with the hijacker we have to catch him. The main thing is to stop the hijacking. As I have said, there were 135 cases of hijacking up to the end of last year. Judging by the figures, very few of these people have been apprehended. I do not know what the real solution to the problem is. I do not know whether this legislation will be of any great value internationally, because up to date, as I said earlier, we have not had the strain of a hijacking. None of our aircraft have been involved in it as Australian carriers. We are very fortunate in this, and let us hope that it continues in this way.

However, I feel that there are probably a number of things that could help to overcome this problem. For example, a young fellow who hijacked an aircraft to get out of Poland late last week held a hand grenade at the head of the pilot and said: "You either take me to Copenhagen or you will go to other places.' Greater freedom of movement between countries may have the effect of minimising hijacking. Those people who are dissatisfied with living conditions in the United States at least should be allowed to leave the country and . return to Cuba. This could also be said about the Pole, and about people living in East Germany or Czechoslovakia. Al] of these people wanted to get out of the country. I know that it is difficult to get out of some countries. It is much more difficult to get out than it is to get in. But I feel that the freer movement of people between countries is one of the methods that should be looked at on an international level. If a person does not want to live in a country, why should he be compelled to stay there? If he wants to get out, the Government of the day should release him. I know it is easy to say that when we live in this country where movement is quite free. In other countries this does not apply and the authorities have pretty hard ideas on it. I make this plea and express the opinion that it would eliminate at least some of the hijackings. It would not have eliminated the hijackings that took place in the Middle East in recent years when the hijackers have set out to get people. It would not have eliminated the hijacking of the British aircraft on which Tshombe was a passenger. The hijackers were out to get that person and they got him. But at least where people want to move from one country to another they should be allowed to do so. Barriers or prohibitions should not be placed on their movement.

As far as dealing with hijackers is concerned, I think that the Communist and Fascist countries have the same problems. If honourable members read the paper that I tabled earlier they will find that Portugal and Spain, which are Fascist countries in my opinion, have had the problem of aircraft being hijacked. The Fascist countries, the Communist countries, and the Western powers all have the problem of hijacking. They have to get together. I know the Convention makes provision for it. I know that the International Civil Aviation Organisation at the Buenos Aires Conference in 1968 made recommendations in relation to the deportation of people. I think the authorities have to get together on this and make sure that when a hijacker takes an aircraft into a country the same situation does not- apply as applied to aircraft taken to Sweden or the aircraft which was hijacked last week and taken to Copenhagen. In those cases the persons concerned were dealt with by the court in that country. There is only one way to settle it and that is to send the hijackers back to the country from which they came. Then they will know that when they hijack an aircraft they will not get away. When they land the aircraft in some place they will be deported back to the country from which they came. T think this will eliminate some of the hijacking that occurs when people do not want to live in a country. If they want to leave they should be allowed to leave. I know that has problems too. That is airy-fairy and it sounds good, but we know in international affairs today it is not a practical proposition. But at least it is a practical proposition for the various countries to get together and say: Any hijacker who lands in our country will immediately be deported to the country from which he came.' They should be able to get some agreement on that.

The International Federation of Airline pilots and its various branches - the American Airlines Pilots Association, the British Airline Pilots Association and our own people here in Australia - have been talking about imposing an embargo on flying aircraft to any country which does not penalise a hijacker. To my way of thinking this is certainly outside international law. They "are taking the law into their own hands. But to me it is common sense. If ah aircraft is being flown from one country to another that is not prepared to observe the terms and principles of the Tokyo Convention and to penalise those people who hijack aircraft, I agree that the International Federation of Airline Pilots should say: That country is out. We will not fly any aircraft into that country until such times as it adopts the principles of the Tokyo Convention and is prepared to penalise hijackers.' I know that is taking the law into your own hands, but I think it is possibly one of the most effective ways of dealing with those people who want to hijack aircraft just for the sake of getting away from a particular place.

There is a lot of talk in airline circles today of X-raying passengers, their luggage and the cargo. I think we have to realise what is involved because of the numbers of people who are travelling today. Just imagine the number of airports throughout the world today which deal wilh internal services. Australia is an island continent and all of our aircraft operating internally are controlled completely here. When we consider that flying from .one country to another in Europe is just like Hying from Sydney to Melbourne or Sydney to Brisbane, we have to try to appreciate the difficulties of these countries. It would be a mammoth task to introduce equipment that will X- ray the passengers, their luggage and the cargo which is going on board an aircraft to try to find whether they are carrying any bombs or whether they have any firearms in their possession. All that could be done is to try to get a line on the people who have troubles and investigate them. This in itself is a mammoth task. 1 think the Australian Post Office has made a practical approach to this problem in relation to mail sent to Israel, i understand that if a person wants to send a parcel to Israel he has to deliver it to the Post Office in an unwrapped or an open condition. The officer accepting the parcel examines it and says: 'Yes, that is all right. There are no bombs in this. There are no firearms. There is no risk of you blowing up an aircraft.' Possibly that is one way of countering the destruction of aircraft. I would not like to estimate the cost, first of all, of installing X-ray equipment at every international airport and, secondly, of operating it. To me it is a mammoth task, lt all comes back to the countries themselves getting together. I think there should be greater co-operation between the various countries. Countries may have different political ideologies but they should come together and work together to try to solve this problem which is not confined to any one country. Whilst America has the greatest number of aircraft hijackings a number of other countires experience the same problem.

The Opposition supports this measure. 1 personally question whether it will achieve anything of any great moment but at least it is an attempt by countries that are troubled by and have a major problem with the hijacking of aircraft to meet the situation. We are prepared to have Australia sign the Convention, even though it is a belated signature, it having taken the Government almost 7 years to decide to ratify the Convention. We support it because we think it is a step in the right direction.

Suggest corrections