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Friday, 22 April 1921

Senator ELLIOTT - Can we have copies of the Air Force Act, which is embodied in this Bill, for perusal before this Bill is passed ?

Senator PEARCE - I shall endeavour to get them. Senator Newland also referred to the early age for retirement, and expressed sympathy with those who would be required to retire. The fact of such an early age being fixed has already been taken into consideration in determining the rates of pay. Rates of pay for these officers are considerably higher, especially in the lower ranks, than the rates of pay for officers of similar rank in the Military Forces. They have been based on the rates of pay for officers in the submarine branch of the naval service. That applies particularly to the lower ranks, and this fact is regarded as some compensation for the earlier retirement.

Senator Fostersuggested that the Government should take practical steps to assist civil aviation. I assure the Senate that we are doing this as fast as we can, consistent with having a concerted plan. It is obvious that we could waste a lot of money if we said to every company that came to us with a proposition connected with civil aviation, " We will give you what you ask." I have had one proposition put before me that a firm to carry mails in one part of Queensland should be subsidized to the extent of £58,000 per annum. For that sum we could buy the machines, pay the pilots, and run the ser vice for the whole year. That is to say, they are asking us to put up, in the shape of an annual subsidy, not only the cost of the service, but also all the capital required to start it going. Any Government that, under the guise of assisting civil aviation, agreed to hand over such a subsidy might make itself extremely popular for a little while, but before long Parliament would have something to say about the way Ministers were scattering the money about.

Senator Reid - What part of Queensland was that company to operate in?

Senator PEARCE - I do not wish to indicate that. I merely mention the case as a proposition put up to us. There are companies in this country that we are desirous of assisting to the utmost on sound lines. One of them has already received from the Government assistance which has enabled it to keep going. We are also assisting them in preparing surveys of aerial routes and landing grounds ; but in many cases this means the acquisition of land, and it is not desirable at this juncture to say too plainly what we are doing in that regard, because land values have an uncanny knack of going up when the Government is known to be in the market ae a purchaser.

On the question of manufacture in Australia, negotiations have been entered into recently, and a proposal which was placed before the Government is now before the Air Board, from a Sydney firm, for the manufacture, not of engines, but of machines in Australia, of Australian timber. I am assured by the representative of this company that they have had exhaustive tests made of Australian timber, and that weight for weight, and size for size, the Australian timber has given 20 per cent. better results than the spruce which is generally used in the aeroplanes made overseas. If that is so, it is very satisfactory, and we shall do all we can to assist that or any other company in any way within our power consistent with proper regard for the finances. We can- . not be expected to squander money.

Senator de Largie - Did the company mention what kind of Australian timber they were using ?

Senator PEARCE - They have not disclosed that information. Senator Foster raised the question of the efficiency of the gift machines. I have already explained that some of them are obsolete for fighting purposes, but there are sufficient of them absolutely effective for fighting purposes to arm our establishment.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Progress reported.

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