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Wednesday, 10 April 1946

Mr DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) (Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation) . - by leave - A little over a year ago, on my return to Australia after haying attended the International Civil Aviation Conference held at Chicago during November and December, 1944, I made a statement to the Parliament on civil aviation. Much. has happened since then, in both the international field and the domestic field, and- 1 should like honorable members to be informed of those developments. Honorable members will recollect that in January, 1945, I reported to the House that, notwithstanding the excellent work done at the Chicago conference in respect of the technical side of civil aviation, failure to reach agreement on such matters as allocation of routes and services among those nations which wish to operate international air transport services, and the establishment of controls over fare and freight rates and the payment of subsidies, meant that the conduct of air commerce would have to be left to the negotiation of bilateral agreements between nations. Australia is now in the process of negotiating such a bilateral agreement, with the United States of America, which will confer, reciprocal commercial rights in the United States of America and Australia, respectively, upon the scheduled airline operators of the two countries, and it is hoped that a satisfactory agreement will shortly be concluded in order to 'permit the establishment of regular civil air transport services across the Pacific.

It is expected that Pan-American Airways will operate a service on behalf of the United States of America. The British Commonwealth service will be entrusted in the initial period to a wholly government-owned company, which will bp registered in Sydney and will be called " British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines ". Both services will probably commence simultaneously; the date of commencement will depend entirely on thespeed with which satisfactory ground organization and meteorological facilities can he established on the route, and on the successful conclusion of bilateral agreements between the United States of America on the one hand, and Australia and New Zealand on the other.

The arrangements for the operation of

Hie British Commonwealth service across the Pacific provide for an interim service, to be. followed in the shortest possible time by the permanent service. The permanent arrangement for the Commonwealth and Empire services across the Pacific, as evolved, first, at a conference held at Montreal in December, 1944, further developed at a conference in London in July, 1945, and finalized at the conference held at Wellington, New Zealand, in March, 1946, provides for two British Commonwealth airlines to operate complementary services in partnership. One of the airlines operators will be British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, based on Sydney, the shareholding in which will be: - Australian Government. 50 per cent.; New Zealand' Government, 30 per cent.; United Kingdom Government, 20 per cent! The other British Commonwealth operator will be Trans-Canada Airlines, based probably on Vancouver. These two operators - British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines and Trans-Canada Airlines - will conduct their services on the basis of a parallel partnership, which provides for the employment of the same type of aircraft, the provision of facilities on the basis of joint user, the pooling of traffic, and also the pooling of revenues, which will be divided not on the volume of traffic carried by each, but on the basis of scheduled operations. The aircraft which it is proposed ;-.) employ is known as the DC4M. This aircraft is now in production at Montreal in Canada, and is being built under licence from the Douglas Aircraft Corporation, Santa Monica, California, but will be powered with British Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, which, as honorable members will remember, gave wonderful service during the war. The DC4M aircraft will have a. better performance than the standard DC4 machine. DC4M aircraft are not likely to be available until next year, but, in order that a British Commonwealth service may be started at the earliest possible date, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines have been authorized by the governments that will own the company to make arrangements for a service to be conducted by contract during the interim period. Those arrangements are . practically concluded, but it -would be premature for me to announce at this moment the operator that will be chosen.

Suffice it to say for the present that it will he an Australian operator.

Arrangements were also concluded at Canberra just recently .between my colleague, Lord Winster, Minister of Civil Aviation in the United Kingdom, and myself for parallel operation in partnership of the services between London and Sydney, via India, the chosen operators being British Overseas Airways Corporation and Qantas Empire Airways. In the initial period the types of aircraft to be employed will be " Lancastrian " land, planes 'and " Hythe " flying boats, tie Lancastrian providing a . very fast mail service and the Hythe a somewhat slower but more comfortable service from the viewpoint of passengers. The types of aircraft employed are to be reviewed in September next, when the results of the trials with the Tudor II. aeroplane will he known.

Dr Gaha - How much faster will the Lancastrian service be than the flying boat service?

Mr DRAKEFORD - The Lancastrians will take two and a half days from Australia to England and the flying boats five clays.

During Lord Winster's visit to Australia there was also drawn up a bilateral agreement ,with the United Kingdom for the exchange of reciprocal commercial rights in the United Kingdom and Australia respectively.

At the recent conference held at New Zealand, certain important decisions were taken in regard to the provision and maintenance of civil aviation facilities in the South Pacific. Under- the provisions of the Chicago Convention, each signatory nation is, obliged to. provide whatever facilities are necessary for the conduct of international airlines .traversing its territory. Insofar as. British territories in the South Pacific .area are to be equipped for international flying, Australia and New Zealand have agreed to establish and maintain the necessary organizations in two defined zones, Australia being responsible for- the area west of 170° E. longitude and New Zealand for the area east of that line. The costs, will, however, be borne by the United Kingdom in United Kingdom territories, but assistance in this regard, if it is required, will not be withheld where the facilities are clearly of value to the defence of Australia and New Zealand or for the development of the civil aviation organizations of. the two dominions.

At the Wellington conference three other important matters were resolved. The first affects Tasman Empire Airways. As* honorable members are aware, at the present time the arrangements for capital contributions are that the United Kingdom Government, through British Overseas. Airways Corporation, is responsible for 38 per cent, of the capital, New Zealand, for 39 per cent. - 20 per cent, being held by the New Zealand Government and 19 per cent, by Union Airways - and Australia 23 per cent., held by Qantas Empire Airways. In future, capital requirements are to be allocated as follows: - New Zealand 50 per cent.., Australia 30 per cent, and the United Kingdom, 20 per cent..

The second matter relates to the operation of regional services in the South Pacific. Under the agreement reached at Wellington, Australia and New Zealand may each operate regional services in defined zones in the South Pacific area. For example, Australia may', if the services are justified, operate services to Fiji and to the islands north and northeast of Australia. New Zealand may also operate services from Auckland to Fiji arid to the islands east of that line.

The third and rather important step taken at the Wellington conference was the establishment of an advisory body, to be known as the South Pacific Air Transport Council, whose constitution and functions have been defined, and the membership of ' which is open to the following governments :- -United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Fiji and th« Western Pacific High Commission. The main functions of this body will be to keep under review and to promote the progress arid development of civil air transport in the South Pacific; to serve as a medium for the exchange of views and information between member countries on civil air transport matters; to advise member governments on the policy of operation, development and finance of air services employed on the Trans-Pacific, Trans-Tasman and regional routes; and generally to- carry out any functions regarding air services ir. the Pacific area which may be delegated to it by the Governments. I am sure that honorable members will approve of this further evidence of Commonwealth and Empire co-operation in respect of civil air transport matters.

What I have said will give honorable members a somewhat sketchy and necessarily brief understanding of developments, insofar as Australia is concerned, in the international civil aviation field. 1 feel certain, and I am sure that honorable members will be satisfied, that the Commonwealth and Empire conferences held at Montreal in December, 1944, at London in July, 3945, and at Wellington in March, 1946, have been productive of plans which, when they are put into operation, will provide a solid- basis for the future development of those Commonwealth and Empire air services in which Australia has a vital interest. At these conferences, and in the outcome of them, honorable members will appreciate that Australia's role has been that of a partner with other countries of the Commonwealth and Empire whose interests, as well as those of Australia, had to be given full consideration. Critics may say that Australia should have done this and might have done that, but then: must be a full appreciation and understanding of all the factors that had to bc taken into account before informed criticism may be made of what has been decided. For the Government and for myself, I may say that I am satisfied that each step we have taken since the Montreal Conference in 1944 has been a wise one, having regard to the welfare of Australia and of those countries with associated interests, and has been placed on solid, ground. The work at the conferences, whilst always strenuous, has been both a pleasing and an educational experience, not only in civil aviation planning 'but also in Commonwealth and Empire collaboration. I believe, and 1 know my colleagues from other Commonwealth countries would willingly acknowledge, that Australia has made and will continue to make a real contribution in the development of external civil air routes in which this country is interested.

T'n this regard, I desire, to record a word of praise to the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation who accompanied me as advisers to these Commonwealth and Empire civil aviation conferences.

Developments in domestic civil aviation, particularly within the last two years, justify the inclusion in this statement of a brief summary o£ activities in connexion therewith. The most important step taken was the establishment of the Australian, National. Airlines Commission to operate interstate air services on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. The commission has now been established and has commenced the preparation of the necessary organization to enable the conduct of competitiveinterstate airline services. The trade name selected by the commission is " Trans-Australia Airlines ", and I am certain that this organization will, within a short time, justify fully the steps taken by the Government in its establishment, and will emulate the achievements of its counterpart in Canada, Trans-Canada Airlines. During 1945 the Department of Civil Aviation was completely reorganized in order that it might be expanded to encompass more effectively the work associated with anticipated developments in the post-war years. All of the staff required has not yet been obtained, but the Public Service Board is doing its best to procure the necessary personnel. In 1945 a most extensive survey was- completed of the requirements of an international airport at Sydney, and the Government recently approved of the plan recommended as the result of this survey and of the expenditure involved. A new site has been selected for an airport at Adelaide. Extensive works are now in hand for the modernization of Essendon airport in Victoria. Eagle Farm aerodrome at Brisbane is , taken oyer by the Department of Civil Aviation and will become the civil airport of that city. Relatively large quantities of radio equipment have been purchased and are now being installed as quickly .as possible in order to provide modern airways and to ensure, as far as possible, safe flying in all weather conditions. The Department's navigational and safety procedures are in process of revision, and new standards are being- adopted with, the object of progressively raising the standards of safety in civil air transport. During 1944 and 1945 approval was given for the procurement by airline operators of over 30 military aircraft of the DC.3 type, for conversion for civil transport operations. All the necessary conversion work is being carried out in Australia. Recently the \Jovernment approved of the purchase of four DC.4 aircraft, which are due for delivery later this year and which will bc taken over by the Australian National Airlines Commission for use on its interstate air services. These four aircraft are in addition to the four DC.4 aircraft which the Commonwealth Government lias authorized for purchase by Austalian National Airways Proprietary Limited.

The Government is determined to facilitate and foster with all the resources ar. its command, the development of civil aviation in Australia. Our climate is ideally suited for all-the-year flying, We have relatively large centres of population which are separated by distances of 500 to 600 miles or more, and are poorly served by surface transport. In the outback, means of transport and communication are relatively non-existent. These are all' ideal conditions for the development of internal airline services. We need rapid communication with the rest of the world because Australia is one of the most remote lands from the centres of world thought and world power. Australia must play its part in those places. Our citizens in commerce and industry, with limited leisure, are almost precluded from travelling overseas unless they can travel by air. Finally, we have a very long coast line and many scattered territories to defend in time of war. The development of civil aviation is fundamental to the development of air power, on which our future safety largely depends. On every count - climate, topography, distribution of population, links with overseas countries and military security - aviation should reach a high standard of development in Australia. The Government is alive to its obligations and opportunities. There is no reason why Australia, in- the realm of air transport, should be behind any other country, and the Government is determined that it shall not. I lay upon the table the following paper : -

Civil Aviation Developments - Ministerial Statement, and move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies} adjourned.

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