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Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1798

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett (CANNING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Order! I ask the honourable member for Newcastle to address the chair.

Mr Swartz - Those statements about my colleague are quite inaccurate.

Mr CHARLES JONES - They are true as far as the agreement was concerned. We are all aware that it was in July of this year that the American Civil Aeronautics Board advised Qantas that because Pan American's request for additional 747 flights in place of 707 flights had not been granted and because American Airlines' request for an additional 2 flights to Australia had not been granted, Qantas would not be permitted to land its new 747s in America. Let us look at the real position concerning flights between Australia and America. There is a shocking over-capacity at the present time, on the figures that I have in front of me. In March of this year Qantas made a statement to the effect that it had 1,540 seats available each week. Qantas had a 42 per cent loading, which meant that 640 seats were filled and 900 seats were empty. Pan American had 1,406 seats available. It had a 39 per cent loading, which meant that 547 seats were filled and 859 seats were empty. American Airlines had 420 seats available. It had a 34 per cent loading, which meant that 143 seats were filled and 277 seats were empty. So in March, at the end of the first quarter of this year, the average number of seats available weekly was 3,366, of which 1,330 were filled and 2,036 were empty. The position has continued to deteriorate.

Qantas made the statement that it would lay off a considerable number of staff. On page 3 of a Qantas publication the following paragraph appears:

The Americans argue that by providing a better service across the Pacific they will generate more business, some of which would inevitably fall into Qantas' lap. But this they have lamentably failed to do. Indeed, the situation is now so bad that most planes on the route are flying with only 30 per cent capacity. On Qantas flights, this includes passengers going to Europe via North America.

I do not have time to go through the figures for each individual airline, but summarised the position at the end of July of this year was as follows: The number of seats available weekly with the 3 airlines, Qantas, Pan American and American Airlines was 3,366, of which 1,010 were filled and 2,356 were empty. This is the equivalent of 161 Boeing 707s leaving Australia empty every week. The new agreement gives American Airlines 2 additional 707 services a week and it gives Pan American a 747 service in lieu of a 707 service. This gives Pan American an additional seat capacity of 210 and American Airlines an additional seat capacity of 280. Qantas will cease to fly 2 freighters and will use them as passenger aircraft, giving it a total of 13 flights per week. So Qantas will be given an additional 280 seats per week'. A total of 770 additional seats will be available. With the present loading of 30 per cent, it will mean that on the average there will be 3,126 empty seats on aircraft flying between Australia and America each week while only 1,010 will be filled. The equivalent of 22i Boeing 707s will leave this country each week empty.

What is the answer to this problem? What can be done about it? At the present time British Overseas Airways Corporation has 5 Boeing 707 flights a week between Australia and the United States, UTA French Airlines has 2 flights, Air New Zealand has 4 flights and Qantas has 11 flights and 2 cargo services, but under this new agreement it will have 13 nights. Pan Am has the equivalent of 10 Boeing 707s, that is, 5 Boeing 707s and 2 Boeing 747s, which will be increased to 3 Boeing 747s a week, and American Airlines will have a total of 3 Boeing 707 flights a week. In addition, Canadian Pacific has one flight between Sydney and Vancouver each week. This means that there is the equivalent of 30 Boeing 707 and 2 Boeing 747 flights a week between Australia and America. There are 6 flights on Monday, 3 on Tuesday, 4 on Wednesday, 3 on Thursday, 5 on Friday, 6 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. So no-one can argue that there are not sufficient flights between Australia and America or between America and Australia. What we should have said - and what we should still be saying - to the Americans when they said that Qantas could not fly 747s to America was: 'All right, you cannot fly your Pan-Am 747s to Australia, so you had better revert back from 747s to 707s'.

I turn now to the question of the purchase of new aircraft. In the last 10 years Qantas has bought $3 65m worth of aircraft from America. Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia between them have bought $175m worth of aircraft. This does not include the famous F111 aircraft. Commuter aircraft flying in Australia today which were purchased from America are valued at $6.25m. Yet these are the people who have said to Qantas: 'You cannot fly your 747s to America unless you grant us additional flights'. The Government has been weakkneed and spineless in this matter. It should have been prepared to stand up to this great friend and ally of Australia - America is continually referred to in this way - and to say: 'Not only can you not fly your Pan-Am 747s to Australia, but we are not going to buy any more aircraft from you.' Trans-Australia Airlines recently placed an order for 4 Boeing 727 200 series at $7m each, making a total of $28m. No doubt Ansett will be wanting the same aircraft because TAA and Ansett are like twins; what one gets the other wants. That means that sales of aircraft totalling $5 6m are immediately available to Boeing. The internal airlines, the domestic airlines, are considering purchasing wide bellied jets. They should be instructed by this Government not to display any interest whatsoever in the Lockheed L1 01 ls or the Douglas DC10s or any other American aircraft, but to place an order for the European Airbus A300. We should be taking this reprisal.

No-one can expect any reduction in fares under this new arrangement. The most heavily trafficked route in the world, the London to New York route - and I have not time to quote the figures - is one of the most expensive routes. The cost per passenger seat mile on that route is as high as on any other route in the world today. If this Government had any courage at all it would do the things I have suggested tonight. For the reasons I have put forward I believe there is a crying need for this Parliament to display some interest in what is happening in the Department of Civil Aviation today and in what this Govern ment is doing in the field of civil aviation. The members of this Parliament should be permitted the opportunity of investigating and examining all the books available and also the facts on the matters I have referred to tonight so that at least the Parliament will be aware of what is happening. If this Government had any decency and if it had nothing to be afraid of it would support the amendment I have moved.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Order!The honourable member's time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Stewart - I second the amendment.

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