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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator HENTY (Tasmania) (Minister for Civil Aviation) . - I apologise to honorable senators for the fact that we have not before us the annual report of TransAustralia Airlines. I shall do my best to see that in future it is available to honorable senators when they are discussing the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation. It should be here. Indeed, all annual reports should be available to honorable senators when they are discussing the Estimates. It so happens that the Auditor-General's supplementary report was made available today. So, although T.A.A. was not able to have its annual report ready, the relevant figures may be found in the Auditor-General's supplementary report. As those figures are now public property, I think it is quite fair for me to discuss them.

Senator Kennellyhas always interested himself in the development of T.A.A. Indeed, he has adopted a somewhat broader approach than have some of his colleagues on the other side of the chamber. He joins with me in expressing the belief that a government enterprise should be managed efficiently, should be able to pay taxes like anybody else and should be able to declare a normal dividend. That has been done in the case of T.A.A.

Senator Marriott - It was not done when Labour was in office.

Senator HENTY - I admit that it took us a while to get the airline on its feet. It is now an efficient airline. Senator Kennelly referred to the increase of 6 per cent, in air fares and asked why I had approved it. The Auditor-General's report discloses that the net operating profit of T.A.A. for 1963-64 was £640,691 and that after payment of taxes and a dividend of 7 per cent, a sum of approximately £100,000 was left swinging.

The figures which were submitted to me by the two major airlines and which were substantiated by my Department showed that following the increase in the basic wage operating costs would rise by a little over £800,000 with the result that in the current year there would have been a deficit of £700,000. So we took into account the deficit of £700,000 and the estimated additional revenue and the estimated rise in costs, and reached the conclusion that to pay a dividend of 7i per cent, in the current year an increase of 6 per cent, in air fares would be needed. The figures were carefully checked by my Department. Remembering that we still have one of the cheapest air services in the world and the fact that T.A.A. wishes to maintain its position. I approved the increase. "That covers the matter raised by the honorable senator.

Senator Kennelly - Does it?

Senator HENTY - I am afraid the honorable senator was very much in error When he said that the income of Trans-Australia Airlines would rise by £2.5 million in the current year.

Senator Kennelly - I was quoting your figures.

Senator HENTY - The honorable senator said it would cost half a million pounds to carry the estimated additional traffic.

Senator Kennelly - Tell us how much it will cost.

Senator HENTY - I am giving the facts as they have been presented to me. Quite frankly, the honorable senator will not be able to refute them. Senator Ormonde referred to crop dusting, which is relatively new in Australia. For a period there was a great increase in the number of accidents to aircraft engaged in crop dusting. My Department was greatly concerned about the position. Special consideration was given lo certificates for pilots engaged in this work, with the result that the standard required by the Department has been raised considerably. Anybody who has seen this work done will realise the difficulties that are involved. I recall seeing a demonstration at

Bankstown. The aircraft flew over the aerodrome, released superphosphate and then turned back into the cloud of dust with the result that the pilot, one might say, virtually lost his whereabouts.

At one stage 40 of one type of aircraft were grounded. The life of a particular part which was causing most of the trouble had been fixed at about 1,000 hours. So in order to be serviced properly this particular type of aircraft had to have a new part installed every 1,000 hours. However, experience showed that for aircraft engaged in crop dusting that period of use was too long. In the light of experience it was suggested that the part should be replaced every 400 hours, but because of the hazards experienced in this particular industry the Department of Civil Aviation decided that it must be replaced every 200 hours. That is the sort of thing we are doing to reduce the number of accidents to crop dusting aircraft. I am very happy to be able to say that we have been able to reduce the number of accidents by 50 per cent, since we commenced to take these strict measures. The machines are improving, of course, as the makers understand the hazards and difficulties of the industry.

Senator Ormonde - Is a limit imposed on the load?

Senator HENTY - Yes. I think a limit is imposed which varies according to the type of aircraft which is used.

Senator Kendall - Has not the Minister found that high tension wires are a major cause of accidents?

Senator HENTY - Yes; and after I observed the demonstration I could understand why they are. After an aircraft has down over a crop or an orchard and released its spray or fertiliser, should it turn back into the cloud it has created, on a day that is free of wind, high tension wires may be obscured from the pilot's view. It is one of the hazards.

Senator Morris - And it is very low flying:

Senator HENTY - Yes. Senator Ormonde raised some interesting points about the Government's two airlines policy. He said that one airline is a socialised airline. I was rather interested in his reasoning. He said that the Government had gone half way towards socialism by supporting a government-owned airline under a two airlines policy. When this Government came into office it was faced with a fait accompli, because the two airlines were already operating. At that time the government airline was busily engaged in driving the private enterprise airline out of the air so that only one airline would remain. We thought it proper to develop a two airlines system, so that the two airlines, using the same type of equipment, would compete for passengers on the same routes. It would therefore be necessary for them to attract passengers by providing good services, and in my view this policy has proved to be a pretty good thing for the air travellers of Australia. I believe that it is one of the most popular policies that this Government has introduced.

Senator Ormondereferred to the ontraffic that flows from intrastate air routes. It is not as large as one would imagine; it is not as large as I would have thought before I examined the matter. I have found that intrastate airlines carry to the capital cities many passengers who want to travel only to the capital cities and stay there. Some passengers who travel on intrastate airlines proceed from the capital cities and if one airline were to gain all that business it would obtain an advantage. Interestingly enough, passengers on an intrastate airline owned by private enterprise may travel on from the capital city in an aircraft owned by the government airline, or vice versa. In New South Wales Trans-Australia Airlines receives on-traffic from an intrastate airline, and Ansett-A.N.A. also receives ontraffic from an intrastate airline. In Queensland quite an amount of on-traffic comes from intrastate to T.A.A. In the Northern Territory on-traffic arrives at Darwin from Alice Springs and may use either airline to travel from Darwin. The honorable senator has raised a good point and the position should be watched to see that one airline does not gain an advantage in on-traffic business.

Senator DameAnnabelle Rankin referred to the appropriation of £500,000 for the development of aerodromes. Some of this money is provided for reimbursement to local government authorities for expenditure on the development of locally owned aerodromes, on a 50-50 basis. I refer to the local ownership policy which has been established for some time. It is working very well because the local people and the local authorities work very hard to keep their aerodromes in order and to maintain their development. The expenses are shared 50-50 in the development and maintenance of aerodromes which are covered by the local ownership plan.


Order! The Minister's time has expired.

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