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Wednesday, 27 April 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I want to be perfectly clear as to what these powers are really going to be, and the reason why I am a little more insistent than usual, is that I foresee a very great development for civil aviation throughout Australia in the near future, and as a result of our experiences of arbitrary action on the part of the military authorities, I feel that if any sort of control is. going to be vested in the naval or military officials, it may be at the expense of those ' interested in the development of civil aviation. It is reasonable to suppose that if these powers are given, and. if civil aviation develops as we anticipate, the military authorities may attempt to interfere with civil aviation on the ground that it is necessary to do so for the defence of Australia. It is not difficult to visualize the state of affairs that may arise as the result of authority exercised by the Air Board over aerodromes and aeroplanes, landing places, and routes for private aviation companies. It is quite possible that such regulations may harass these companies, and retard their development to such an extent as to interfere very materially with the progress of civil aviation.

Senator Pearce - You know that we have dealt with civil aviation under a separate Bill, which is now an Act of Parliament. ( Under that Act we have appointed a controller of civil aviation, who has power to advise the Minister on all matters affecting civil aviation. This Bill will not give the Air Board any control over civil aviation.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have already, pointed out that it is possible the regulations made under this. Bill may over-ride that Act.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, because these regulations will prescribe the duties of the Board.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the duties of the Board will also include the activities of the Board, and those activities might very well be extended in the direction I have indicated. I repeat that the experience of the past is that 'if the military or naval authorities want to interfere with civil aviation they could very quickly do so under regulations authorized by this Bill, on the ground that - it would be necessary to safeguard the safety of Australia. In all seriousness I direct the attention - of the Minister to the possibilities. I know that he- has to approve of the regulations, and I know that Parliament will have the power of veto; but I also know how difficult it is, in the stress of political life, to focus attention upon an apparently innocuous regulation which might very vitally affect the development of civil aviation in many directions. Now that the war is over, I cannot see why the Minister cannot put in the clause something definite and in keeping with the assurance he has given us to-night.

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