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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 4106

Mr Calder asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:

Will the Minister institute an inquiry into the operations of the subsidised airline operator Connair Pty Ltd of Alice Springs in order to ascertain by the thorough taking of evidence (a) what alternatives there are to the present Connair regular public transport standard operations in the Northern Territory and outback northern Australia (b) what is the requirement of these areas, in its fullest context, for the provision of adequate air services having regard to (i) economy (ii) safety and speed (iii) passenger comfort (iv) proper freight handling and (v) suitable aerodromes (c) what is the ability of existing or aspiring operators in these outback areas to give the standards of service, safety and maintenance to which travellers in the Northern Territory and outback Australia are entitled and (d) what is the feasibility and practicability of Connair's F-27 aircraft proposals as a replacement for current similar operations by major airlines.

Mr Swartz - The Minister for Civil Avi ation has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

When the Government reviewed the operations of Connair in 1965, it considered whether there were suitable alternatives to these operations for the provision of services in the Northern Territory and outback northern Australia. Such matters as are mentioned by the honourable member were considered at that time, and the Government also had before it a detailed report on Connair's operations prepared by an Interdepartmental Committee.

As a result of this examination of the matter, the Government concluded that it was appropriate for Connair to continue its services and for the Commonwealth to provide a loan of$620,000 to meet the company's requirements for new equipment and development and to continue its annual subsidies to meet the losses incurred by Connair in providing the air services. Agreements covering these arrangements were entered into by the Commonwealth and Connair. These agreements do not expire until 1980.

More recently, consideration has been given to proposals that Connair should expand its opera tions by acquiring large turbo-prop aircraft and taking over the F-27 services to northern Australia now provided by the major airlines. The conclusion reached was that these proposals would be a very costly venture and that they went beyond what is considered to be the true role of Connair, namely the provision of regular services to the remote outback areas in northern Australia where traffic is small and other means of transport are inadequate or not available.

In the circumstances it is not considered that a special inquiry along the lines suggested by the honourable member is warranted.

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