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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) .- I shall conclude the case that I submitted earlier by referring to the report of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) for 1963-64. In the introduction to the report, the Minister stated -

In the domestic airline industry, air traffic increased by 11.2 per cent, in 1963, and in the first quarter of 1964, was 18.9 per cent, higher (ban for the same quarter of 1963. Preliminary figures for the second quarter of 1964 show that this growth is continuing. Features of the first Quarter of 1964 were a 21 per cent, increase over Mie same quarter for 1963 in passenger traffic - the highest increase recorded since the quarter ended December, 1959 - and a most encouraging 9.3 per cent, growth in air freight.

The next page of the report states -

Despite the financial success of the year just ended, prospects for the coming year have been affected by the rising cost of wages and salaries for Increased operating and traffic staff. As a result, the domestic airlines, which have absorbed all cost increases since May, 1960, without major fare inertia ses, were forced to seek approval for a 6 per cent, increase in passenger fares. It is pleasing, however, to record that notwithstanding this increase, the average Australian inter-capital city fares of 6.83d. per passenger mile for first class and 5.54d. for tourist class are still substantially lower Ulan those in most other countries of the world.

I have quoted what the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Sir Giles Chippindall, has said to the effect that the operating costs of Trans-Australia Airlines in the current year will total f 800,000. So the Minister will have to find another excuse for the increase in fares. Why was an increase necessary? I am not arguing with the statements contained in the Minister's report. Both airlines sought an increase in fares but the Minister's explanation does not go all the way. I have not too much faith in part-time boards and commissions and I would not worry too much about what they request. The Minister has the final responsibility in these matters and for the life of me I cannot see that the arguments given in the Minister's report carry any weight in relation to an increase in fares in view of the figures presented in the report. If there is some other reason for the increase, why was it not stated in the report?

The Minister has stated that the airlines were affected by the rising cost of wages and salaries for increased operating and traffic staff. I have been quite fair and have quoted also the statement of the Chairman of the Commission. I do not say that he was wrong. However, I think the principles underlying a national industry are broken down when, as in this case, we have to bump up air fares irrespective of whether the increase is sought by the Commission running the national airline, simply to satisfy apparently other people in the industry. I repeat that I have no quarrel with the private airline if it wants to increase its fares by 6 per cent, or more. Under our democratic system, a private operator has a perfect right to do that. But I do not think the Government has to follow that lead with the national airline. I would like to know the reasons why the fares were increased. There must be reasons other than those printed in the report on civil aviation for 1963-64.

Senator 1 Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [8.26]. - I direct my remarks to Division No. 144 - Development of Civil Aviation, item 06, Aerodromes - Development grant. The appropriation last year was £375,000 and actual expenditure was £368,009. The proposed vote for this year is £500,000. I should be interested to have more information about this item. In the development of Australia, particularly of a large State such as my own State of Queensland, the provision of all-weather airstrips for civil aviation is of tremendous importance. I know the Government wants to develop northern Australia including the north of Queensland. If we want families to live there, the provision of aircraft and air services is essential. I pay tribute to the work that has been done by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) and his predecessor, Senator Paltridge. What are the proposals for the future? I am pleased to note that the proposed vote is larger than the appropriation last year. As I have said, the construction of all-weather airstrips and the aviation link between all parts of our great continent are of tremendous importance to those who go into the outback areas. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to those who are working for the development of Australia through aviation.

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