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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2395

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - I support the Bill. I thought that ail honourable members would have taken a similar attitude towards it, firstly, because what is being sought in the terms of the Bill is in line with the proposals which appeared to me to be agreed to by the previous Government and, secondly, because honourable members opposite are supposed to believe in competition between business rivals. How often have we in this country heard brave statements, particularly from the Liberal Party and its supporters, about the need for competition. However, whilst they appear to believe in competition, when some instrumentality has been able to put forward real competition in the past private enterprise has been protected by the government in office. It appears that, according to them, in the field of air transport competition the private airline company should receive the additional cream in an area in which the people's airline should not be permitted to participate.

The views of the previous 2 speakers from the. other side of the House appeared to me to be in contrast with the views expressed by Sir Peter Abeles who is a director of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. In the 'Australian' newspaper today he is reported as saying that he could see nothing sinister in the Federal Government's plans to widen the powers of Trans-Australia Airlines. The article goes on to express the view that this appears to be a progressive move. Despite some of the opinions that have been expressed, I am confident that the Government is not seeking an advantage for TAA over the other airline. 1 believe that the proposed policy which will be applied to TAA's extended activities will stringently relate these activities to its airline business and will prevent them from proving to be an advantage for TAA over Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. This surely can be interpreted only as a fair approach and one which deserves commendation - not condemnation, which appears to be the attitude of honourable members opposite here today.

The Government is making a genuine endeavour to provide an opportunity for TAA to compete on an equal footing with Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. There is no intention of legislating to give TAA an unfair advantage, nor is the Government attempting to threaten other commercial enterprises in the fields of road transport and accommodation. The people whom we believe are important - the people of Australia - are the ones who will benefit from the proposals being put forward by the Government. For far too long, I submit, there have been advantages made available to Ansett which have provided beneficial results and which have reacted against the interests of TAA. For example, in 1960 an exercise took place which went under the redoubtable title of 'an exchange agreement'. At that time AnsettANA took over 3 Viscount aircraft from TAA and in return handed over 2 DC6 aircraft. According to the then Minister for Civil Aviation the values accepted by the operators were £560,360 for the 2 DC6 compared with an amount of £677,700 for the 3 Viscount aircraft. From that deal it can be seen that Ansett came out in front by about $250,000. It appeared to be a good business deal for Ansett-ANA at the time and one which was not so good for TAA. That is only one instance of action which was taken by the previous Government which provided an advantage to the private airline, an advantage which as I have stated reacted against the interests of TAA, the people's airline.

Over a period of years we have witnessed many actions which have resulted in favourable treatment being given to Ansett Transport Industries. This has resulted in the revenue earned by that company exceeding the earnings of TAA. The returns for 1971-72 show a total income of $208m for Ansett Transport Industries while TAA earned $120m. In airline revenue alone Ansett Transport Industries' income of $150m exceeded TAA's income by 25 per cent. I submit that this was not because of any better management provided by Ansett Transport Industries but because of the operational advantages which governments permitted. The dedicated people who manage and those who operate TAA have done a magnificent job at times against very heavy odds. Given an opportunity to conduct an expanded operation of business activity these people will provide the nation with an example of what can be achieved through fair competition. 1 repeat that I am a little astounded to hear some of the honourable members opposite objecting to competition. I have heard over many years many people of Liberal Party persuasions say that we must have competition, that it does some wonderful things for the country; it brings down prices and it provides better services. For that reason it is somewhat bewildering to find that when an opportunity is provided to give competition in the airline field there is opposition to the move.

There has in recent times been in circulation much propaganda concerning TAA not paying rates and taxes. I believe that honourable members opposite know that that is not correct. While there is no legal obligation for TAA to pay certain rates and charges the practice has been for TAA in fact to pay these in some way. One would only have to examine the annual reports of TAA to see that this is correct. Since this Bill was proposed parliamentary representatives have been contacted by Flag Motels Ltd through telegrams and letters. I received a telegram pointing out that there was some concern in the minds of the people conducting Flag Motor Inns, and that they were protesting against the terms of the proposed Australian National Airlines Bill giving Trans-Australia Airlines unfair powers of competition. As I continue I hope to show that there is no desire by the Government to gain any unfair advantage whatever for TAA. However, I was wondering whether the people associated with Flag Motor Inns and others who are so much opposed to the expansion of the Australian people's airline - TAA - and who now come to the defence of private enterprise had the same concern when means were made available to Ansett Airlines of Australia and others to expand and whether they then forwarded telegrams and made protests about that.

On the question of business acumen, it will be recalled that about one year ago when the takeover battle by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd for Ansett Transport Industries Ltd was in progress, ATI shares were valued at $1.10. By majority the shareholders rejected a proposal for a takeover, and there can be no doubt that they took notice of the advice, presumably given by Sir Reginald Ansett, not to sell. I believe the current value of ATI shares is 71c. I suppose the shareholders can be excused for believing that they have suffered a loss in the value of their shares because they took the advice of this business leader at that time, advice which now appears to have been very bad. One may well ask why, in 1973, there is so much opposition from honourable members on the other side of the House to the Government's action which will permit TAA to compete on a very fair basis. One may well ask whether they have changed their minds since the latter part of 1972. If they have not, it appears either that the previous Government provided false information to TAA and the nation or that at least some honourable members opposite did not support what the previous Minister for Civil Aviation had promised. In August 1972 the former Minister for Civil Aviation said:

The Government has decided further to give TAA greater opportunity to undertake outside engineering works, including Government contracts, and to enter into mutually beneficial arrangements with surface transport carriers and hotel/motel operators. This is designed to improve Trans-Australia Airlines ability to continue to compete effectively, especially now that it faces additional competition.

Those remarks of the previous Minister for Civil Aviation were important at that time to the airline operators in this country, particularly to Trans-Australia Airlines, and of extreme importance to the Parliament and consequently to the nation. I make this claim because the former Government was in the process of introducing an airlines Bill. In the Senate on 31 October 1972, not very long after that first statement was made, the following statement is attributed to the then Minister for Civil Aviation:

The Government has recognised the need to widen TAA's base. It has undertaken to legislate accordingly in the next session of the Parliament. I have mentioned that I have presented to the Senate on 29 August 1972 a comprehensive White Paper on civil aviation policy. This is not done very often in the Australian Parliament, but I have regarded it as a useful way to proceed in regard to civil aviation. I have done this on more than one occasion. The purpose of this Paper was to give the Parliament and the Australian community an opportunity to examine the relevant facts before the legislation came forward or before the issues were decided.

It appears that not only on 29 August but also on 31 October 1972, admittedly in the dying stages of the last Parliament, the former Minister for Civil Aviation made statements explaining that TAA's base of activity was to be expanded. Of course, that was the purpose of the promise that was made.

As I stated earlier, TAA has first class administrative officers and, generally, its personnel are dedicated and efficient. Its record proves the truth of this statement beyond any doubt. I suggest that, had the Government in 1972 not provided some incentives for future expansion of TAA's operation, it would have been politically embarrassed towards the close of the last Parliament when introducing its Australian National Airlines Bill. The previous Government - I am sure that most honourable members here and many people throughout this nation will recall this - pushed that legislation through towards the end of the last Parliament, only a few short months before the new Parliament met early this year. By taking that action, it extended the agreement from 31 December 1977 to 31 December 1982. At that time, the action, taken virtually at the end of the last Parliament, was described by a Labor member as being 'typical of handouts the Government gives to its friends'.

With the knowledge of the competent administrative officers of TAA, I for one cannot imagine that an agreement would have been reached unless, as I stated earlier, some incentives had been provided for expansion in the future. Therefore, I expect that this is why the Minister at the time gave assurances to Parliament and to the people that certain additional operational activities would be entered into by TAA. The present Government is taking steps to see that the pledge that was given is not departed from. If some honourable members opposite wish to welsh on the pledge of a Minister of the previous Liberal Government, given only 8 months ago, that is their business. I support the Bill as I believe that the nation will benefit from the action that the Government proposes.

I listened to the speech of the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who took the Parliament and those people of Australia who are listening to the broadcast of this parliamentary debate on a trip. He had the Government taking over vineyards and poker machines, manufacturing motor vehicle tyres and expanding and breaking out into various fields of industry. I submit that that sort of submission to this Parliament and to the people of Australia from an honourable member who should know better not only is getting away from what the Bill is all about but also is a means of endeavouring to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Australia and to instill into the minds of the people fears about what this Government will do. Unforunately, for far too long those have been the tactics of some people who are opposed to the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party. But, fortunately, we have found that, by and large, the average Australian today is a wake-up to the tactics of people who want to instil fear into his mind.

There is nothing to fear from any legislation an Australian Labor government puts forward in any (field because our policies are aimed at giving a better deal for this nation and its people and providing, particularly to the efficient instrumentalities within this nation such as TAA, the opportunity to compete and to provide better working conditions and services to the people in order to make this country of ours a better place in which to live. I do not accept the type of propaganda which has been expounded here by people who should know better. I can point, as can any member of this chamber if he is honest, to legislation which has been passed by Labor governments, not only in this session but also by previous Labor governments, and which has lifted the standards of the people of this country and certainly has done much for the progress of Australia. I have not been here for very long, but I advise people who should know better not to get into this habit of trying to introduce side issues and to tell fairy stories to the people of Australia, because the people are too intelligent to fall for that line. I certainly support the Bill.

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