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Wednesday, 16 September 1936


Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - I notice that provision is made for the expenditure of £20,000 on the development of civil aviation; but I do not know whether that is to meet the cost of the personnel, or if it is to be expended in equipping aerodromes. If for the latter purpose, the amount is totally inadequate, particularly as the encouragement of civil aviation in Australia has been seriously neglected. I have been flying since 1915, when I used what was known as a " Farnham pusher ", and even then I realized the great dangers that were incurred owing to the absence of suitable landing grounds. Unfortunately, there has been very little development since that time. There is not one first-class aerodrome in Australia, and the number at present available is inadequate. There is not even a proper landing ground at Albury, a most important centre, with a large population, and if an aeroplane is forced down at that point, the only ground on which it can land is the racecourse, where pilots incur great risks in avoiding wire fences used in connexion with coursing. Even if an aeroplane succeeds in landing safely the occupants are immediately hunted off the ground. I do not know if a suitable landing site is now available at "Wagga, but when I landed there some years ago the conditions were most unsatisfactory. While we have the best pilots in the world, our ground organization is most unsatisfactory.


Senator Hardy - It is beyond the means of local-governing bodies to establish efficient aerodromes.


Senator GUTHRIE - Australia is far behind other nations in the matter of equipment, and until the importation of aeroplanes from the United States of America recently our machines also were inferior. In Melbourne, which has a population of over 1,000,000, the landing ground at Essendon is not only unsuitable but is also dangerous owing to a water tower in the centre. The site at Fishermen's Bend should be acquired by the Commonwealth and developed because it i3 suitable for both aeroplanes and seaplanes. The parochial spirit displayed by some in the protracted negotiations is largely responsible for the delay in the development of a landing ground at Fishermen's Bend. The construction of an aerodrome there should be regarded as an important national work. I am pleased that the Commonwealth Government has made a straight out offer of £100,000 to the Victorian Government for the site, and I trust that before long Melbourne will have a properly equipped air port. I agree with Senator Hardy as to the advisability and practicability of dropping mails from aeroplanes at the more important cities and towns. ThiB system has already been adopted in other countries; and has resulted in efficient mail services. The other day I read that in Russia, a country which claims to be more advanced in aviation than any other, light tanks and guns were transported by air and landed behind the lines. Moreover, it is almost compulsory for the Russian people to become proficient in the use of parachutes and in that way. develop an air sense.


Senator Sir George Pearce - The light tanks and guns were not dropped by means of parachutes?


Senator GUTHRIE - Perhaps not. Even children are trained in the use of parachutes to make them air minded and alert. In Australia, governments have not done sufficient to develop aviation, military or civil.

Senator SirGEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External senators should await the works estimates before discussing undertakings for the present financial year. In discussing the schedule of a supply bill, it is not desirable to deal with the civil aviation policy of the Commonwealth. The speech delivered by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) in the House of Representatives on works estimates covers all the subjects dealt with this afternoon, including intercapital services. This measure does not commit the Government to establishing services, but only to the ground organization to permit services to be provided. Two subjects raised to-day are relevant to the vote and to the main estimates, and it is upon these that I should like to speak briefly. One suggestion is that the Commonwealth should provide aerodromes at every important town in Australia. If that suggestion were adopted the development of civil aviation in Australia would be retarded because the Commonwealth would have to provide such large sums of money that it would not have funds available for wireless direction control, lighting equipment, and other ground organization. ' If honorable senators refer to the Estimates they will find that a large proportion of the expenditure proposed this year is for bringing our aerodromes up to date. Senator Guthrie, who said that our aerodromes are inefficient, should remember that large sums are needed to bring them up to date. Money is being expended so that it will be possible for aeroplanes to engage in night flying. If sites are to be purchased at specified centres, money will not be available for work such as I have mentioned. The Commonwealth should not be expected to purchase land, because it would be expected to pay more than would be asked of local authorities. Local-governing bodies have a responsibility to themselves and to the country, and should make available areas suitable for development as landing grounds. Much of such land is held in reserve. In Western Australia and in South Australia, adequate reserves are provided, portions of which can be used for aerodrome sites. Why should the Commonwealth be asked to resume land at fancy prices ?


Senator HARDY - Why cannot the Commonwealth loan the money to the local governing authorities?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.Where would be the difference? The Commonwealth would have to raise the money. A tremendous amount of money would have to be expended, whereas the most sensible way to deal with the problem would be for the local authorities to earmark lands for aerodromes. In that respect Tasmania has set an excellent example to the rest of the Commonwealth. The State has, at its own expense, developed some very fine aerodromes, and only in few instances has the Commonwealth been invited to assist in the work. In one instance, I think, £100 was obtained from the Commonwealth, and, in another instance, £200. Those aerodromes are on the main routes, not on the spur lines. The Commonwealth has helped in the development of aerodromes in other parts of the Commonweath. It ia much better for the Commonwealth te spend money by subsidizing local effort, than for it to undertake the resumption of lands and the development of aerodromes throughout Australia. If local authorities in districts which are not at present on the main air routes wish to encourage aviation, so that some day regular services may come their way, they should set aside cheap land for the purpose of laying out landing grounds.

Another point on which I wish to speak is the suggestion made by Senator Hardy that stops should be made by mail planes at the towns along the routes. I was Minister for Defence when civil aviation began in this country, and I have some knowledge of its development. Senator Hardy, with characteristic devotion to Wagga and the other beautiful provincial towns of New South Wales, wants these aeroplanes to stop at all of them. I remind him that the tendency of the railways is to cut out unnecessary stops. For instance, between Melbourne and Albury the only stop made by the Melbourne express is at Seymour, whereas iu the early days of parliamentary sittings at Canberra the train conveying members from Melbourne to the Federal Capital made nine or ten stops. The abolition of the unnecessary stops is due to a desire to reduce the time occupied on the journey. The mail planes which travel between the capital cities are intended to distribute the mail quickly. If they were compelled to make halfadozen stops between the cities the time occupied on the route would be lengthened instead of being curtailed.


Senator Guthrie - Senator Hardy did not suggest that the planes should stop at those towns.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.At present I am dealing with what is practicable. The practicability of dropping and picking up mail by aeroplanes in flight has not yet been demonstrated; at present the only practical and safe way for aeroplanes to pick up and dropmail is for them to land. If a plane conveying mail between the capital cities had to land at even the important towns en route the service would be slowed down and we should have a reversal of the policy of fast mail deliveries. As to the alternative suggestion that instead of mail-carrying aircraft making definite stops at towns the mail should be picked up and dropped by some patent device - parachutes for example, I venture to say that tho adoption of such a method would be accompanied by considerable danger. These planes travel at high speeds and, if for the purpose of picking up or dropping mail, they came near to the earth we should have a few more jobs for the Air Accidents Investigation Committee. When the mail planes are approaching the end of their journey the engines are shut off and, losing speed, the planes glide to the ground. If honorable senators contemplate, what Senator Hardy suggests they must also contemplate the risk of machines keeping up speed on their route while endeavouring to pick up and drop mails.


Senator Hardy - Does the Leader of the Government think that the present route from Melbourne to Sydney via Canberra is a good one?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.That is a matter upon which I am not qualified to express an opinion. I assure honorable senators that all representations made on the subject of civil aviation will be brought under the notice of the Minister. Senator Duncan-Hughes advocates the distribution of the overseas mails from Darwin to Adelaide direct, instead of via Sydney and Melbourne, being transported thence to Adelaide by train. When I gave up control of civil aviation the idea was that mails from overseas destined for Adelaide should be dropped at Cootamundra and thence carried by plane to Adelaide via Broken Hill. It was the intention that Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth would each receive their mails on the same day. Tenders were called for such a service, but some hitch, of which I forget the details, occurred in the acceptance of the tender. When that was overcome and we were ready to call for further tenders, the contract for the carriage of mail between the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom came under consideration. We thought it advisable, therefore, to defer letting the contract for the distribution of the Adelaide mail until we had come to a determination regarding the air mail services to and from the United Kingdom.

I assure honorable senators generally that the development of civil aviation, is occupying a good deal of the time of the Government, with a view to the full utilization of this valuable means of transport. We are also endeavouring to induce the States to recognize the necessity for the Commonwealth to have complete control of civil aviation in Australia. At the Premiers Conference in Adelaide a fortnight ago, the States indicated their concurrence in this, and indicated their willingness to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government.

I suggest to Senator Guthrie that Australia has no reason to be ashamed of what it has done in civil aviation. It was one of the pioneers in this field. For some time Australia had the longest subsidized regular air route-of any country in the world, and for some time had flown a greater mileage than had been flown in any other country. It was overtaken by the United States of America, but if honorable senators compare what Australia is doing to-day in the matter of civil aviation with what other countries are doing, they will see that it has no reason to be ashamed.


Senator Guthrie - Does not the right honorable senator think that we have reason to be ashamed of our aerodromes t

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.No; I do not accept the honorable senator's sweeping - condemnation of Australian aerodromes. There are places in Europe - London, Paris and Berlin for example - where the vast populations to be served enable the provision of aerodromes altogether beyond what are yet possible in Australia. I have read reports made by distinguished airmen who have visited Australia in which they have expressed themselves as being very well satisfied with what we have done in the provision of facilities for civil aviation. Nevertheless the Commonwealth Government realizes that the aerodromes have to be made more modern, and that is why we contemplate spending the money set out in the Estimates for the improvement of landing grounds and the provision of such refinements as wireless directional control, beacons and other modern developments of flying. Looking back on the past, we have every reason for pride; but that is no reason why we should stand still. We must not be content with what has been done. We must expend money on further developments, and we must get full value for that money.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.







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