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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) .- The Opposition does not oppose the Bill although we are concerned about the mounting costs that the Commonwealth is incurring in providing air navigation facilities. According to what 1 may say is an excellent report by the Department of Civil Aviation - I hope to say more about that later, as well as about another report which is not yet to hand - total air navigation costs for 1963-64 amounted to £18.28 million. In return, the Commonwealth received £1.87 million in air navigation charges. As the Minister said when introducing the Bill, it is expected that air navigation charges for 1964-65 will amount to £2.1 million, although the increases proposed under this measure will not take effect until the beginning of 1965. I shall deal wilh that aspect later.

According to the report of the Department of Civil Aviation, the Commonwealth has spent, in round figures, between £79 million and £80 million on the provision of air navigation facilities. This is made up of £18 million for air route and airway facilities, £8 million for movable assets including aircraft, launches, and motor vehicles, £10 million for the acquisition of sites and buildings and £43 million for buildings, works and fittings. It is interesting to note that to date the Commonwealth has received £10,407,000 from the charges levied on these facilities.

The civil aviation industry in this country is in a very fortunate position because the taxpayers are contributing a considerable amount of money to it. One wonders whether these charges will ever sit squarely on the shoulders of the civil aviation industry as railway charges sit squarely on the shoulders of the various States. While admitting that the Airlines Agreements Act 1961 gives the Commonwealth the right to raise these charges by not more than 10 per cent, each year, it does not place on the Commonwealth an obligation to raise them by 10 per cent, each year. It is true that since the Act was passed the

Commonwealth has raised them by 10 per cent, each year but the only obligation placed on the Commonwealth is that it shall not increase the charges by more than 10 per cent, each year. It is not my purpose to have these charges raised unduly but I hope that the Government will continue to raise them because I believe that all people who use the facilities should ' pay for their use. I admit that if the whole of those costs were placed too soon on a growing industry they would have a very bad effect.

It is rather interesting to trace the history of the legislation, which was introduced in 1947. It will be recalled that there were two civil airlines in Australia at that time, Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Pty. Ltd. One of these, the private airline, refused to pay the charges. The Commonwealth instituted proceedings to collect the moneys that were owing to it. Then there was a change of government. The amount owing at the time was about £1 million. In 1952 the present Government made an agreement with A.N.A. to collect only one-third of the amount owing. It also decided that T.A.A., which had met its commitments, should receive back from the Government about £440,000. So in effect from 1947, when the legislation to provide air navigation charges was passed, till 1952, the private airline of the time paid only one-third.

Since then there have been increases. In 1952 an act was passed to raise the airline charges by 50 per cent, of the rate fixed in 1947. The Government undertook not to increase the charges except insofar as increases became necessary to provide additional facilities for civil aviation. In 1957 air navigation charges were increased by 10 per cent, and in 1960 they were increased by 60 per cent. There were fits and starts. As I have stated, the Airlines Agreements Act laid down that there could be no larger increase than 10 per cent, each year. The Government has adhered to that arrangement.

While the Opposition is anxious to see that both major airlines pay their fair share, we admit quite candidly that a tremendous number of aviation facilities could be used for defence in time of war. Therefore,, some rational method must be worked out. What is a fair thing? The airlines are competing with the various State railway systems. The

States have to meet payments due on the money that they borrowed for railways, as far as I understand the position. I hope that I am right. I am speaking from my recollection of the position as it was a long time ago. I understand that Victoria borrowed about £103 million for railways and that the principal repaid would not reach' double figures. This debt becomes a charge, and fares are affected accordingly. I hope that they maintain the increase of 10 per cent, because neither T.A.A. nor AnsettA.N.A. should have an unfair advantage over other transport operators. On the figures I have quoted and in view of the fact that all the Government is getting back is about 8 per cent., it will be a long time before the status quo is restored. The Opposition docs not oppose the Bill.

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