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Thursday, 19 November 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - in reply- Several honorable senators referred to the control of civil aviation by the Defence Department. Although the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) is also the Minister directing civil aviation, the two departments are quite separate, and civil aviation itself ;s controlled by a board of three members. The matters raised by honorable senators in this regard have not been lost sight of, and if the administration of the branch should become so heavy as to require the full attention of one Minister, no doubt a separate portfolio for civil aviation will be created.

Some honorable senators referred to the hostile attitude of employees of a certain industry in New South Wales towards the proposed referendum. I can only conceive that their remarks were directed at the. railway employees of that State, because they have been making their voices heard in connexion with the proposal to confer upon the Commonwealth control of aviation. Whether or not this power is granted to the Federal Government, nothing can arrest the tide of progress of civil aviation. I have seen illustrations in the departments over which I have, for the time being, the honour to preside, of the advance which has occurred in transport and communications in connexion with the Postal Department alone. Whilst I do not control civil aviation, other than to provide a considerable sum of money annually for subsidies and loads for the various services, I have had submitted to me from time to time statements of cost in regard to the carriage of mails and freights by air, which have been a revelation to me. Civil aviation, over which the Commonwealth is now endeavouring to secure control on a national basis, is only in its infancy. The other day, much to the disappointment of certain South Australian interests, I was able to let a contract for an aerial mail service to Kangaroo Island without any surcharge being payable upon the mail matter so carried. A better and more frequent service than the former means of communi cation could give will be provided, and the price is below the tender submitted by the other contractor. It is the first time that the Postal Department has ever carried mails in this country without a surcharge; but this innovation demonstrates the progress which civil aviation is making. I also remind honorable senators that Australia is not yet equipped with the cheapest and more advanced machines for the carriage of goods. I have heard from the Leader of the Senate(Senator Pearce) accounts of the feats of transport which have been performed in Papua and New Guinea in connexion with the transport of large heads of' machinery, small goods, and livestock to the gold-fields. Senator DuncanHughes.may remember the time when such a. form of transport in the. territories was. considered to be impossible. I am reminded that my old friend, Mr. P. McMahon Glynn, was parodied in song when he proposed to lock the River Murray -

Glynn will look the Murray,

When the pigs begin to fly.

To-day pigs are actually flying - in aeroplanes in the territories that I have mentioned. It is futile to consider that any industry or means of communication is static. Although we must feel concerned for the plight of the States in regard to railways, it is inevitable that in future they will become only great trunk lines; all other transport will be by air. Sometimes I regret that the Australian people are not more alive to their own interests in regard to our railway systems, which are practically responsible for the budgetary difficulties of every State at the present time.

Senator AllanMacDonald referred to subsidized services, and asked whether the. judgment of the High Court would disorganize them. In my second-reading speech I pointed out that 95 per cent, of aviators in Australia had agreed to abide by the regulations made under the Air Navigation Act of 1920, and that the Government had a very forceful means of dealing with gentlemen who receive a subsidy and do not propose to obey the law. I do not think that I need to carry this matter further than that, because I believe that every subsidized service in Australia, until the power now sought by the Commonwealth is granted to it, will abide by the air regulations.

Senator Hardy asked me to inform the Senate whether, if the regulations which have been declared invalid in this case, had been made in accordance with the international convention, they would have been held to be invalid by the High Court. I have read that judgment, which was delivered on the 10th November. There are 84 closely typewritten pages. I should say that it represents a variegated leaf; there are various hues of colour and various lines of reasoning; and unless honorable senators are extremely interested, I do not propose to go through it in detail. The Chief

Justice, Sir John Latham, and Justices Dixon, Evatt and McTiernan, while varying in the views which they expressed, all appeared to be of opinion that an international air convention, signed by this country under its powers in connexion with external affairs, would enable us to legislate in the terms of that international convention. Some of the judges found that the regulations which were declared invalid had not been made in the terms of that convention ; but Mr. Justice Starke found that they had been, and on that ground would have disallowed the appeal. The remaining four judges -one being absent - for varying reasons allowed the appeal, and the Chief Justice limited his views on the matter to the very point under consideration. A large point will emerge from this, and if the Commonwealth can under its powers in connexion with external affairs, conferred on it by section 51 of the Constitution, enter into international arrangements which are not forbidden by the Constitution - all the judges stated that we could not violatesection 92 by any international arrangement - at should be in a position practically to subvert the constitutions of the States. Such action would go much too far; it was not the intention of the framers of the Constitution; but I can see an interesting vista of litigation down the lines suggested in this judgment. From that I am too old to take any comfort, but my profession will be very interested in the tenor of this judgment. That is the only answer which I can give to Senator Hardy, who spoke so ably concerning this aspect of federal power. I am gratified at the reception which honorable senators afforded the bill ; I am sure that the States will fall into line with the Commonwealth in connexion with this matter, because in 1920, 1929 and 1934 they have already expressed their willingness so to do. As I said previously, I doubt whether some of the constitutional authorities will be satisfied with that method of conferring powers on the Commonwealth through the medium of international conventions. I think that the proper and sure procedure is for this Parliament to seek from the people, in the terms of this bill, the power which the Government has been advised to get, to which the States have agreed and which theRoyal Commission on the Constitution suggested this Parliament should have.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committeewithout amendment or debate; report adopted.

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