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Thursday, 11 June 1970

Mr REID (Holt) - First, I should like to thank the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), who is of course an ex-Royal Air Force pilot from the First World War, for withdrawing from this Grievance debate to give me the opportunity to take part. I think that most honourable members and a large number of visitors to Parliament House are aware of the Austin Byrne exhibition that has been on display in Kings Hall for the past 2 weeks. This exhibition has given promi nence to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and crew members who flew with him in the Southern Cross'. The exhibition is a priceless collection of records of the 'Southern Cross' and our courageous pioneers who flew in this remarkable aircraft. This aircraft was a 3-engine Fokker with 3 Wright Whirlwind engines developing approximately 220 horsepower each, lt had a wing span of approximately 23 metres and a cruising speed of about 100 miles per hour. Total fuel capacity of this aircraft was 1.080 gallons, giving it an endurance of 37 hours and a range of approximately 3,230 miles, which was remarkable for an aircraft of that time.

The 'Southern Cross' circumnavigated the world. It was the first aircraft to do so. This is remarkable, as very few navigational aids were available in those days. I consider the flying, navigational and maintenance skill of Kingsford-Smith. Ulm, P. G. Taylor and other crew members who flew in this aircraft on their pioneering world flight with little more to assist them than instinct, sheer courage and a display of great pioneering spirit - a far greater achievement than landing the first men on the moon. This exhibition in Kings Hall would not have been possible but for Austin Byrne, who at considerable personal expense, has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to arranging this historic collection of Kingsford-Smith, Charles Ulm and Southern Cross' records. All those interested in aviation owe Austin Byrne a great deal.

I want to give a few statistics concerning early aviation in the day of Australian pioneers. It is not generally known that when the Federal Government, through Sir Archdale Parkhill, the then Minister for Defence, acquired the 'Southern Cross' on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia he made a solemn promise that it would be housed in Canberra. That was on 18th July 1935 - 35 years ago. This is the most famous aircraft in aviation history. At that time it was known right throughout the world, lt was then forgotten for 22 years. Owing to the endeavours of Mr Bruce White, a brother of Sir Thomas White, and a few enthusiasts an annexe was built at Brisbane Airport and the aircraft is housed there today. We must not forget that Smithy and Ulm flew the 'Southern Cross' on their great pioneering flight of the Pacific from the United States of America to Australia and not to any particular city. For those reasons it is felt amongst the early pioneers that the 'Southern Cross' should be housed in Canberra. This also applies to the Vickers Vimy in which Sir Ross and Keith Smith with Shiers and Bennet, their mechanics, blazed the trail from England to Australia in 1919. Owing to the efforts of a few loyal citizens this aircraft is now housed in an annexe at Adelaide Airport. 1 would like to suggest that the Government accept the Byrne collection and the Kingsford-Smith/Charles Ulm-'Southern Cross' tribue to Australian aviation. I also suggest that an historical areonautical centre be planned to house these and other valuable aviation records. The time is now overdue to begin this project. It is 5 1 years since Ross and Keith Smith blazed the trail from England. It is now 42 years since KingsfordSmith and Charles Ulm were the first to fly the vast Pacific Ocean from the United States of America to Australia and later made the first crossing of the Tasman to New Zealand and the first east-w,:st crossing of the Atlantic. Had Harry Hawker, prior to Lindberg's flight, had a little more petrol and not gone down in the sea in sight of Ireland, Australians would have pioneered every trans-ocean flight in the world, including those across the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific.

Any further delay in coming to a decision will rob posterity of the memories of those still living and who also retain very valuable records of the finest pioneer pilots of their time and are ready and willing to give when there is somewhere to house these aircraft and the records. These early pioneers have so much to give if a historical aeronautical centre is available. Tradition is something that we in this country sadly neglect. Young people are being deprived of the wherewithal to inspire them and stimulate their desire to play their part to further the illustrious record of those who made aviation history. We cannot afford to pass this opportunity over and go on procrastinating and forget the days of the world's greatest aviation pioneers. For those reasons I would like to see a historical aeronautical centre planned for Canberra as soon as possible.

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