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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) . - The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) announced on 1st April 1965, that work on the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport and the Tullamarine airport in Melbourne originally scheduled for completion in 1967 would not now be completed until 1969. If the work is completed on time - and I think that is a pretty big " if " - one can say that there has been a delay of two years at a time when the existing facilities, particularly at Melbourne, are very inadequate to meet the requirements of the travelling public.

The Minister gave two reasons for the alteration in the time of completion of the work at the two aerodromes to which I have referred. First, he said that the traffic in recent years had grown beyond what could have been foreseen, and that larger aerodromes would have to be planned, and extra time would have to be taken in their construction. Secondly, he stated that the cost of the projects, if I remember correctly, was £16 million at Sydney and £.16 million at Melbourne. He also said that those sums should be considered alongside other Government commitments, and that the Government proposed to spread the expenditure over a five year period.

Let us look at the reasons that the Minister gave which have caused a delay of at least two years in the construction of the aerodromes that I have mentioned. I say a delay of at least two years because I think the Minister himself will admit that he would be pretty fortunate if he could assure the Senate that what he has stated is correct, namely, that these two aerodromes are to be completed by 1.969. As I say, let us have a look at the two excuses that have been offered for the delay. The Minister referred first to the increase in the number of people travelling by the airlines. The Minister did attempt to justify this excuse but, to my mind, the situation proves extremely poor planning on the part of his Department. He said that the original decision that the terminal was to be built at Tullamarine was made some years ago. Now we are told that, in fact, the aerodrome is to be twice as large as was originally planned.

Let us look at the figures that the Minister gave in his first excuse. He states that in the 10 year period ended 1962, traffic increased at the rate of 4 per cent. In 1963. traffic increased by 11 per cent, and it is now 16 per cent, above that for the previous year.

I found the quotation of these figures most interesting because. I remember that, last year, when the Minister introduced a Bill to increase air fares, I attempted, although 1 do not have any accountancy qualifications, to work out the figures in this regard to show him that the profits which would be made by the two airlines through the increase in the number of passengers did not justify an increase in fares. That argument was dicounted at the time. I produced those figures from the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation, if I remember correctly. The figures I produced did not seem to satisfy the Minister although that report stated that the number of passengers carried in the last 12 months had increased by 17 per cent. When 1 calculated those figures, I said that even without any increase in fares at all the airlines could meet the anticipated expenses. There was a paragraph in the report which stated what those expenses were, and those figures came from the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Sir Giles Chippindall. It is amusing to note that that situation did not suit the Minister's argument at that time but that he now says that this increase, which was stated in the report of the Department of Civil Aviation, is one of the reasons why this project has been put back for two years. He asks us to accept that decision in the light of these figures.

The Government should have foreseen and could have foreseen the need for the terminal that is now proposed because of the huge increase in the volume of traffic that has taken place. It seems to me that this was very poor planning on the part of the Department of Civil Aviation, which advises the Minister. What are the reasons for this huge increase in the number of passengers carried? Honorable senators will recall that, at the end of 1960, there was a credit squeeze. One would imagine that the credit squeeze automatically curtailed any dramatic rise in the number of people using the airlines. The Minister said that in 1962 there was a jump cif i I per cent, in passenger traffic. That increase could or should have been understood. One of the effects of the credit squeeze was to warn off people from travelling by air, and it is only natural that, after the credit squeeze, a larger number of people would use this modern method of travel.

Then, the Minister says that we should reflect upon the increase of 17 per cent, in the number of people flying last year. I ask the Minister: Was not that increase due to the introduction of jet planes on the main routes between the capital cities? It is only normal, I would have thought, to expect a very big rise in the number of people using this faster method of travel. Passengers can leave Melbourne and arrive in Sydney in about 65 minutes if they travel by the Boeing 727 jets. I think I am right in saying that I believe that very little thought was given to this matter if the Department of Civil Aviation did not expect a rather large jump in the percentage of people who were using this means of travel. Therefore I do not think that the excuse or the reason submitted by the Government for this action can be justified.

It should have been easy for the Department of Civil Aviation to get much nearer to the mark in this respect. I do not want people to be perfect. I do not want even the Minister for Civil Aviation to be perfect; that would be asking a great deal. But the facts are that the credit squeeze in 1960 curtailed the number of people using this modern means of transport, as one would naturally expect. Then, with the great impetus given to this method of travel after the credit squeeze with the introduction of the new jets which started flying between the capital cities in 1964, surely one would expect an increase in passenger traffic somewhere near the increase that was later shown to have occurred. The Minister has stated that the large increase in air traffic could not be foreseen when the runways etcetera at both Mascot in Sydney and Tullamarine in Victoria were being planned, but I still think that he has a case to answer.

Now let us look at the second argument he has advanced in regard to priorities. I agree with him when he says that the Government needs extra money for defence, but surely expenditure of the extra money that he now says will be needed for those two aerodromes could have been foreseen much sooner. What did the Government really expect? This country is enjoying a state of prosperity, as a result of which more ordinary people are travelling by air. If the female work force in this country embraces 42 per cent, of the married women, one may say that at least 40 per cent, of the people of Australia are enjoying what is called a two wage packet economy. Taking that factor into account, and also the fact that the credit squeeze of I960 held back air travel and the fact that new jet aircraft have since come into service within Australia, surely the Government could have foreseen that its plans would not be adequate to cater for the increase in air travel.

The people of Melbourne, who have been looking for an airport at Tullamarine for a great number of years, are not satisfied with being told in April 1965 that instead of getting this airport in 1967 they will have to wait until 1969. And there is a very big " if " attached to that date. The reason that has been advanced for the delay is not a sound one, because a substantial part of the cost of aerodromes in question will be incurred in construction of the airport itself, its runways and aprons. As I said, the Government originally intended to complete these projects by 1967. It cannot very well argue now that large terminals will require such a great reallocation of priorities. To put the matter bluntly, it seems to me that the arguments that have been advanced are only a smoke screen for bad planning and for not forming a better judgment about the likely increase in the number of people who travel by air. I repeat that the Government has a case to answer.

Most people, particularly the people of Melbourne, know that existing facilities are not adequate to handle the present traffic at peak times with anything like the speed that is an essential part of air travel. I said earlier that we now have jet aircraft that travel from Melbourne to Sydney in 65 minutes. But in Melbourne it takes a person from 10 to 15 minutes to be ticketed, and when he arrives at his destination it takes at least another 15 minutes for him to collect his luggage. Unless facilities can be improved at both ends of the journey, we will soon be spending almost as much time on the ground waiting at one aerodrome before we commence to fly and in waiting for our baggage at the other end as we will be spending in the air. One wonders why in this modern age the position should have been allowed to drift as it has drifted. The people of this country, particularly in the two major cities, should not be placed in this position.

One wonders whether we will ever have an international airport at Tullamarine, [f people want to travel by Qantas or Air

New Zealand aircraft to Christchurch, they must travel from Melbourne to Sydney and then take a plane across the Tasman Sea. Is it any wonder that people in all walks of life in Melbourne are asking themselves: " How much longer must we wait before we will be able to travel direct from our own city to our sister dominion or further afield without having to board the aircraft in another State?" Not for a moment do I believe that an international airport will ever be built at Melbourne to rival that at Sydney, but I do not believe that we should have to wait, as it seems we must, for the international airport to be built at Tullamarine. The excuses - if I may call them that - given by the Minister in his statement cannot satisfactorily explain the delay that he states must take place. Our only hope left is that the Tullamarine airport will be finished by 1969, but I have very grave doubts that it will. We are hopeful that we will not be told later that a further reason has arisen to delay the construction of the two aerodromes. The Minister's predecessor stated a time by which the aerodromes would be completed. I sincerely believe that it is the responsibility of the present Minister to ensure that the Tullamarine airport, at least, will be constructed in accordance with the time schedule he has stated.

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