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Wednesday, 16 September 1936

Senator HARDY (New South Wales) . - From newspaper statements, I understand that it is the intention of the Government . to establish inter-capital air mail services in the near future, and that, in o 'der to expedite the carriage of mails between lV,e capital cities it ; proposed to subsidize a service of fast-flying aeroplanes which will travel at night. To that I have no objection, but I have a very definite complaint that the claims of intermediate towns between tue capital cities are not to be considered in that project. It seem: to me to be uneconomic to fly the mail from Sydney to Melbourne and not to serve the intermediate towns en route, many of which, such as Wagga, the capital of the Riverina, and Albury, are re-distributing centres for large" districts. The Government should seriously consider the adoption of a system of dropping mails byarachute at intermediate towns, as is one in the United States of America, or of providing intermediate stopping places at the more- thickly populated country centres. There is no reason why the proposed fast mail planes, which will also carry passengers, should be limited to inter-capital services. The service should be extended to any centre where a large population is concentrated.

My second complaint is one, the justice of which will be readily recognized by any one who has used the CanberraMelbourne aerial service. The route now followed between Canberra and Melbourne is definitely not compatible wilh the best interests of safety. The tragic disappearance of the air liner SouthernCloud a few years ago provided a striking instance of the unsuitability of this route. From all material evidence, it appears that the bones of the Southern Cloud are lying in the ranges between Canberra and Melbourne. That, at any rate, is the almost unanimous opinion of people who have studied the circumstances of that tragic disappearance. I am sure that anybody who travels in the Canberra-Me' bourne plane over the Southern Alps which constitute some of the most precipitous and rugged country in the Commonwealth, will agree that such a route is not compatible with the best interest's of safety. Under certain weather conditions the plants operating on that service have to fly as high as 12,000 feet, and fight their way through blizzards. Only six weeks ago, one of the mail planes engaged on that route, because the accumulation of ice on the wings rendered it unsafe to attempt the crossing of the ranges, had to be diverted from its course and make a landing at Cootamundra. Instead of crossing country in which emergency landing grounds can never be provided, the route should take in Wagga and Albury, following the chain of well-lighted towns on the southern railway. Only a few months ago the Dutch air liner was saved from certain disaster because, instead of taking the direct route to Melbourne, it followed the direct line of well-lighted towns. On that historic occasion, the promptitude and resourcefulness of the people of Albury guided the liner to safety. For the sake of a saving of fifteen or twenty minutes in travelling time, the Civil Aviation Department cannot ignore the desirableness of altering the route so that the aeroplanes will fly over open country instead of being forced to cross the rugged and precipitous mountains.

Another important mutter which comes under the heading of civil aviation is the provision of landing grounds at country centres. When a country town desires to construct a landing ground, the usual procedure is to ask the local governing body to set aside land for the purpose. But, because of the density of settlement in the large country towns, it is difficult to set out an area containing the one-half square mile required by the authorities for classification as an A-class aerodrome. The provision of A-class aerodromes is a matter, not for the local authorities, but for the national authorities, and the Commonwealth Government should not hesitate to come to the aid of any local governing body by resuming land, and providing the necessary funds for its preparation. Officers of the Civil Aviation Department will substantiate my statement that, in many country towns, the aerodromes are of all shapes and sizes, some triangular and some rectangular. Is it wise to permit this haphazard state of affairs to continue? Australia is about to embark upon a large civil aviation programme, and it is essential that we should have first-class aerodromes which conform to the strict specifications of the Civil Aviation Department, and which are in accordance with a national plan. I trust that the Minister will ' give an affirmative reply to my three requests - fir-t. that the Government shall seriously entertain the question of serving intermediate towns with fast air mails, and that it will hot reserve this privilege for the capital cities; secondly, that the direct air mail route between Canberra and Melbourne be further investigated, with a view to its deviation to cover the chain of well-lighted towns; and, thirdly, that the Government shall take a national view of the construction and selection of aerodrome sites, and that it will assist local governing bodies to construct landing grounds which may become a part of a national plan of civil aviation.

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