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Thursday, 22 October 1931

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN(Mr Keane (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - Will the honorable member indicate in what way he. is connecting his remarks with the Supplementary Estimates?

Mr WHITE - I am speaking in relation to division 75, sub-division 4, miscellaneous - Civil Aviation Branch.

The TEMPORARY" CHAIRMAN.That item is contained in Supplementary Estimates for 1927-28. The honorable member must, therefore, confine bis remarks to that year.

Mr WHITE - If I cannot discuss air accidents, I shall refer to the subject on another occasion. I wish now to call attention to the manner in which the Air Accidents Investigation Committee conducts its inquiries. The committee consists of three officials of the department, who do not sit in open court. It should sit in open court like the Marine Court, which is a court of record. It is high time that the Minister, and, in fact, the Cabinet instituted a thorough investigation into air accidents. This committee inquires into all cases of injury to aircraft passengers, forced landings, incompetence of personnel, and so on; but it is composed purely of departmental officers who, while desiring to do their work well and conscientiously, are in an invidious position, as only their finding and not the evidence is disclosed to the public. Such finding may be at variance with that of a coroner, as has happened, and is therefore not acceptable to the parties concerned or the relatives of the deceased. I therefore suggest that the Government should replace that committee by a body constituted on the lines of a marine court, on which a magistrate and other skilled persons would sit. [Quorum formed.] I point out that the Commonwealth Parliament has no express power under the Constitution to make laws in respect of aviation, although it has some power in this direction under its trade and commerce powers. It was only because the Commonwealth was a party to the International Convention for the Regulation of Aerial Navigation that it was able to pass the Air Navigation Act, the onepage statute to which I have referred. TheRoyal Commission on the Constitution made the following specific recommendation in regard to aviation : -

We recommend that a power to make laws with respect to aviation he conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament.

All the expert witnesses on this subject who appeared before the commission were agreed that the Commonwealth should have this power, and, as is shown elsewhere in this report, the State Premiers at one time passed a resolution that it was desirable that the power to make laws with respect to aviation, with certain reservations, should be transferred by the States to the Commonwealth.

Effect could, we think, be given to this recommendation by inserting insection 51 of the Constitution the following paragraph : - (vib) Air navigation and aircraft.

In all the circumstances, I ask the Government first to review the regulations under which the Air Accidents Investigation Committee was appointed, with the object of appointing a court; secondly, to take steps to give effect to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, so that an adequate statute may be framed; and, thirdly, to call a conference of those interested in military, commercial, and amateur aviation with the object of ensuring greater safety for passengers, and thus encouraging the advancement of aviation in Australia.

Motion agreed to.

Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -

That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1928-29 for the several services hereunder specified, viz. : -



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