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Thursday, 15 October 1964

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) .- The Senate has been engaged today in a discussion of the constitutional and parliamentary affairs of one of the really great industries of this nation. Inasmuch as the Constitution has been referred to from time to time - and I submit that it is very relevant to this debate - it is proper that we should remind ourselves that it was not until 10 years after the Constitution was adopted that the first powered flight occurred in Australia. It was not' until 1920 that the first statute was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to air navigation. In that year, four. States passed acts referring their powers in relation to aviation to the Commonwealth.

Subsequently in 1937 when a reorganisation of the industry was co-operatively attempted, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania passed acts referring to the Parliament of the Commonwealth power to legislate on air navigation. But with the exception of the Tasmanian statute, none of the acts came into operation and they were all repealed. There was a joint conference at which the Commonwealth agreed to take one field of this power for the application of regulations which related to interstate and overseas trade, Territories and the external affairs power. The States agreed that they would either refer power or have the Commonwealth regulations applied in thenStates for the purposes of intrastate power. That is where the position remained until recent events.

With reference to the industry that has had that history, it might be pertinent for those Australians who wish to claim any element of statesmanship, if we remind ourselves that in 1938-39 in round figures 95,000 paying passengers were carried on the regular domestic air services of Australia. In the subsequent 20 years, that figure had grown to 2,150,000 passengers. That gives an indication of the order of growth in this industry. To take just one other figure as an index, the Prime Minister stated in his letter that the Commonwealth had more than £60 million invested in facilities for international and domestic air services. It is surely one of the great prides of Australia that the record of the civil aviation industry in Australia has been unsurpassed in the world. Its standard of safety is a byword everywhere.

But the industry is bedevilled by political contention misconceived in the mildew of the last Socialist Government whose first postwar Socialist grab was to nationalise all domestic airlines, lt was Sir Ivan Holyman, in charge of Australian National Airways Pty. Ltd., who had the honour to defeat the proposal in the High Court, to the extent of preventing not the establishment of a Government airline but the destruction of a private enterprise comepetitor. Let us remind ourselves that the survival of A.N.A. rested solely upon the guarantee of section 92 of the Constitution. If A.N.A. or its successor could be destroyed, the Socialists, despite that High Court decision, would succeed. Resentment flows from the fact that, when Sir Ivan Holyman's company wilted in the middle 'fifties, Ansett had the enterprise and courage, against which few Australians were prepared to compete, to take over that enterprise and carry it on. Hence we have this display of bitterness. It is not a pathological state, as Senator Cohen said, or a psychological state as Senator Sir William Spooner suggested. We have on the other side of the Senate a psychiatric paranoia - a complete obsession. Repetitively month by month we have this innuendo slimed across the floor like the trail of a serpent.

Senator Murphy - Tell that to Mr. Butler.

Senator WRIGHT - It comes from people like Senator Murphy, to whose remarks I want to direct attention. This afternoon 1 listened to him invoke the chapters on decency, honesty and fair play in public conduct. On Tuesday I heard him ask a question which was couched in these terms: Wouldn't it be fair to assume that there was ground for corruption?

Senator Murphy - I did not ask that question at all.

Senator Henty - Yes, you did.

Senator WRIGHT - He used words to that effect. We have had suggestions from the other side that the motive behind this legislation was to assist the private interests of Ansett. We have had that double tongued hypocrisy that 1 despise. I am not making any suggestion against anyone; I have not the material to make a charge of impropriety. We have had this tactic of despicable smearing. I listened to Senator Cohen last night. Until I heard this morning the remarks of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who represents the AttorneyGeneral in this place, I must say that Senator Cohen's defence of private reputation in this House appealed to me. But when 1 see him surrounded by the barrowload of innuendo that has been tipped on the floor of this place today, I despise the whole outfit from which that innuendo against Ansett has come. The first thing that is bedevilling the civil aviation industry is that so far Ansett has been able to maintain his existence as a private enterprise undertaker in the industry. It is the continued existence of his undertaking that prevents-

Senator Murphy - He is an undertaker all right. He buried Mr. Butler's company.

Senator Paltridge - That is not true.

Senator WRIGHT - -What did Senator Murphy say?

Senator Henty - He said that Mr. Ansett buried Mr. Butler.

Senator WRIGHT - The existence of Ansett's undertaking has prevented what? We have determined that the Socialist baby, T.A.A., which under the conditions laid down has performed a good public service, shall continue, but we are not going to permit it to grow into a national monopoly.

The civil aviation industry is bedevilled not only by the rather frustrated and gradually diminishing stature of the Australian Labour Party - the gradually withering image of the Labour Party which is without purpose, pulse or spirit - but also by State politics. I wonder what Sir Henry Parkes, Toby Barton, Sir Samuel Griffith, A. I. Clark and the other great fathers of Federation would have said if they had been called into a company of statesmen from the States to discuss whether or not there should be unified control of civil aviation. Let us consider the political risks which were taken by the great statesmen who contributed to the framing of the Constitution in persuading their people to give to this Parliament the 39 powers that are enumerated in section 51 of the Constitution. Then let us note that today we have a unanimous chorus from the State Premiers just because a Liberal Government is putting forward a proposal for the evening out of the civil aviation power so that there will be one undivided control with one undivided and exclusive responsibility.

The first point I make is that we in the National Parliament are dealing with an industry which is of vital importance to the existence of this nation from the industrial point of view and from the point of view of communications and defence reserves. Therefore, it ill becomes the Senate to deal with this subject on the miserable, snivelling basis of innuendo, personalities and bona fides so called. I submit that the argument that has been put to us is the sort of thing which makes Canberra unpopular with people in the States. If it is recognised that some people are concerned with civil aviation as an important national industry, then we should get from the Labour Party and the State Premiers a little objective consideration of the Government's proposal.

I noted that Senator Cohen, who preceded me in this debate, said that the proposal before us was a claim for a farreaching assumption of power. He was good enough to elucidate what he said. He made it clear that he did not deny the existence of the power. He did not state as his opinion that power existed but expressed his assumption in this way: Does the power exist? He said that the exercise of this power by regulation was not bona fide and, secondly, that the power should have been exercised by statute and not by regulation.

Debate interrupted.

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