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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) .- I am rather amazed at the answer given by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty). He said that he approved of a 6 per cent, rise in fares because TransAustralia Airlines showed a profit of £X, after providing for taxes, and because of the increased amount of expenditure that T.A.A. had incurred - a figure we agreed upon. However,, the Minister did not seem to agree with his own figures. In the report by the Minister for Civil Aviation it is stated that air traffic engaged in by T.A.A. should increase by 121 per cent, in the current year. The Minister did not say a word about that. Is the Minister seeking to forget about the estimated increase in income of about £2 million? He queried my figure of £500,000. Very well. Call it £1 million, because the facts are still on my side. The Minister said - in a very polite way, it is true - that I am well out in my figures; that I am a bit light - by about £500,000. I do not wish to be slangy, but that is the way I want to put it. I will give the Minister £1 million in. I am a very generous person in this debate. Without any increase in fares the airline would still gain over £750,000.

If the Minister wishes, I can turn up a lot more figures. I have found an extremely interesting page in the annual report. TransAustralia Airlines started with assets of £7i million. The Minister should ensure that the accountant who prepares the figures is paid an extremely high sum, because he seems to be adept at losing millions of pounds. The Minister has said that there is about £100,000 left over.

Senator Henty - It is £115,000.

Senator KENNELLY - That is the amount left after taxes and payment of all other expenses, which I believe ought to be paid. But the Minister does not take cognisance of the other side; he cannot have h both ways. The Minister's report states that it is estimated that T.A.A. 's business will increase by about 12? per cent, in the current year. Nobody can argue that Hi per cent, is not one-eighth. As T.A.A.'s passenger revenue was £16 million, the increased revenue will be about £2 million. So at least I think, with great respect, that the Minister should inform the people of Australia about this matter and should put up a much better case than he has presented. 1 think, with respect and without wanting to be hurtful to the Minister, that it was not a fair case that he tried to present concerning this situation because he told us only a part of the story.

Senator Cavanagh - There might not be an answer.

Senator KENNELLY - Well, 1 do not want to be unfair, but I am certain that these people did not want the money. I do not know what they are going to do with it. If I was in the Minister's position 1 would not let them off with a payment at the rate of 71 per cent. 1 would say to them: " Remember that you once borrowed £7.5 million from the nation to start the show. Not only had you better pay the interest, but you had better give us back a bit of the principal." I am not as fortunate as the Minister. The relevant figures might not be in the report. But if the Minister looks at page 33 of the last report of this body, three parts down the page he will see particulars of its assets. One would say - and I think I am justified in saying - that whoever is the accountant for this firm is worth a lot of money. If it were my company I would think nothing of giving him £20,000 a year if I had to pay tax only at the rate the Minister mentioned.

I doubt very much whether private interests can get away with this sort of accounting. I think the taxation officials of this country are very able people and they would not let firms get away with what this company is allowed to get away with. I have no great reason to stand up here and rubbish this company but I do feel that the Minister is not justified in allowing T.A.A. to increase fares by 6 per cent. I reiterate that I do not care whether Ansett increases fares by 10 per cent. That will not worry me one iota. Under the law, Ansett-A.N.A. can charge what it likes. But we have a responsibility to the taxpayers. We hear that statement pretty often in this chamber. I think we heard it a good deal this afternoon, and when all is said and done, we do have such a responsibility. I do not think we are entitled to fleece them as we have fleeced them. With respect to the Minister I say that bis answer was most unsatisfactory. I think he will admit that himself. He has been in business and I am certain it would not satisfy him if his accountant came along and gave him the sort of explanation that he has given us. I again say that T.A.A. does not want this money. It does not know what it is going to do with the extra £1 million that it will get from the 6 per cent, increase in fares. Whoever is the accountant for the company will have to rack his brains to find out where he is going to put the money because, over the years, the company has put a lot away.

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