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Tuesday, 9 May 1961

Mr WARD (East Sydney) (1:47 AM) .I would not have attempted to address the House at this hour if it were not for the fact that very few opportunities to raise matters will present themselves before the House goes intorecess, and that the matter to which I wish to refer is of great importance and of some urgency. It relates to preferential treatment that the Government has extended to the private airlines which compete with Trans-Australia Airlines, the government service.

Honorable members will recollect that in late 1959 and early 1960, as a result of accidents with Electra aircraft in the United Stales of America, it was decided to operate these aircraft in Australia at a slower speed than previously until such times as they could be taken to the Lockheed works in America for certain modifications to be carried out. The aircraft that were operating on Australian services were to be taken to America in accordance with an arranged schedule. Apparently T.A.A. and Qantas Empire Airways Limited sent their aircraft to America in accordance with the schedule, but Ansett-A.N.A. declined to take the company's aircraft out of service because it was more profitable to keep them operating and has continued to postpone the time for sending the aircraft to the Lockheed works at Burbank for modification.

According to an officer who is in a position to know the facts, work has been completed on the aircraft operated by T.A.A. and Qantas but not on those operated by Ansett-A.N.A. For some extraordinary reason, although the modifications have been completed, T.A.A. is not allowed to run its aircraft at the permissible higher speed. Instead, they have been kept to the reduced speed of 225 knots although, according to the Lockheed Corporation, they are now ready and quite safe to operate at 275 knots. Because Ansett-A.N.A. is not ready, this Government has taken action to prevent T.A.A. and Qantas from using their Electra aircraft in Australia at the higher speed. That appears to me to be an extraordinary situation.

I am given to understand by the officer to whom I have referred that that is the present position in regard to these aircraft. It seems to me to be an outrageous thing. The Government has stated repeatedly that it would act fairly and impartially in regard to the two major airlines and that they would be placed on a competitive basis. How can that argument be put forward, in view of the fact that when Ansett-A.N.A. should have been consigning its aircraft overseas to have the modifications carried out, it refused to conform to the schedule that had been laid down. The company was told, when it was not ready to send the aircraft forward, that they would be put to the end of the list. The company was quite happy about the position. Evidently the company knew it could afford to accept that situation, knowing the Government would see to it that T.A.A. did not get the advantage of having its aircraft back on the run at a much earlier date.

Honorable members will recollect the many occasions on which the Government has showna preference for the private airline. If T.A.A. had had its way, it would not have purchased these aircraft and would not therefore have been put to the trouble of having the modifications carried out. Mr. Warren McDonald, who was then in charge of T.A.A., sent the aeronautical experts overseas to select the best aircraft that was available, and they recommended the purchase of Caravelles. Those aircraft would have involved the outlay of sterling instead of dollars, which were then in short supply. But because Ansett-A.N.A. have taken Electras - evidently they were not proving as satisfactory as Caravelles would have been - the Government decided that T.A.A. also had to have Electras. Everybody knows what happened thereafter. AnsettA.N.A. had DC6 aircraft which also proved to be unsatisfactory in respect of economical service, and the Government, in trying to even matters up, compelled T.A.A. to take DC6 aircraft and to allow some of its Viscount aircraft to be transferred for use by the private airlines.

I do not want to go into any further details of the matter, but I should like the Government to tell me whether the information which has been furnished to me by an officer who is in a position to know the situation, is true. Is it true that the public today, who show a preference for T.A.A. when they can get the service, are to be denied the faster travel in Electra aircraft merely because Ansett-A.N.A. has not had its aircraft converted, or because the modifications as prescribed by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation of America have not been carried out? If that is the position, it is outrageous. It is obvious that if T.A.A. aircraft could operate at 275 knots, as they should, instead of 225 knots, much more economical service would be possible. It would be more profitable for T.A.A.

This Government, which has never been favourably disposed to government enterprise, has favoured the private airlines, as I have indicated. I hope that the Government has an explanation of this extraordinary position. I feel that the general public of Australia, who regard T.A.A. as its own air service, will resent very much this action of the Government in prejudicing this efficiently run service and favouring its rival, . Ansett-A.N.A.

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