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Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1818


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not intend to enter this debate, but because my electorate has been receiving such frequent mention it is appropriate that I say something on behalf of the people there. The accident referred to in the amendment occurred at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. One must ask why it happened. Briefly, the area is too small and the airspace is too crowded. That evidence was given to the appropriate committee of this Parliament when it sat in Melbourne last year. The Air Traffic Controller said that there is a grave safety danger at Mascot aerodrome because the air itself is completely saturated. This is the basic problem. The 2 accidents that have been referred to in the amendment were directly related to that.

Firstly we have the fantastic result that, because we constructed a major runway, at enormous cost to the taxpayer, some 13,000 feet out into a bay - which was a bad decision in the first place, but nevertheless that has happened - we now find the 747 Jumbo jet weighing 750,000 lb coming in on the small runway. Because it did that and because, obviously, there was some error, it overshot that runway. That runway cannot be extended. It should never have a parallel. At one end of it there is a river and at the other end there is a highway. But the 13,000 feet runway is not used. The major international terminal has been located on the other side of the runway from the domestic terminals. So an accident happens when an international aircraft makes a left hand turn across the main runway. It would be the greatest traffic hazard one could have if one were in a motor car let alone in an aeroplane travelling at enormous speed.

We have been very fortunate that we have had none of these accidents actually on the aerodrome. But what about the people whom I represent, what about the 200,000 people who live on the flight paths in the Mascot and Botany areas? If a 700,000 lb aeroplane crashes it is not only the occupants of the plane who are involved, but also schools and hospitals. It is an indictment of any government that this sort of situation can develop at what is termed the major international airport for Australia. The Opposition has endeavoured to have a committee of this Parliament set up to look at alternative sites. I welcome the suggestion made by the honourable member for Calare (Mr England). Let us hope he is successful. The Opposition would encourage adoption of his suggestion, not just from the point of view of political expediency but from the point of view of what is fair and reasonable. The people in my electorate put up with enough flights now. A lot of money has been wasted in that area. It is incredible to think that no committee of this Parliament has been allowed to have a say in the planning or to investigate why there are so many hazards there now. It has always been left to the departmental heads, and the result has been bad planning. They are the ones who are still planning. They are the fellows who have made the mistakes. The people whom I represent should not have to put up with it.I would be recreant to my trust if I let this debate go on and did not say something on their behalf.

There ought to be a select committee set up to find out why the terminal was located where it was and how perhaps $100m of the taxpayers' money has been wasted in developing an airport in this fashion. That is all the amendment is asking. It would provide for the setting up of a committee. There should be no further expansion of the Mascot airport. If there is a disaster there it must be odds on in the normal course of events, because of the number of planes involved, that there will be loss of life. This danger should not be inflicted on people living in residential areas. There are approaches over the bay, and they should be used all the time, porticularly by the heavy aircraft. I will not go into the problems of noise now. There has been no Government action to stop it. There has been Government inaction.It becomes political intrigue to set up a committee to say: 'We are going to have another committee and it will make a decision'. We can foreshadow that it will make a decision after the next election and not before.

Let me refer now to Qantas Airways Ltd. The pilots in my area are very concerned. Many of them have lost their jobs and they feel that there is no real future for them. It is questionable whether the Board is able to handle the situation. Perhaps it would be appropriate if some of the pilots were represented on the Board. Obviously the operation of charter flights is a high-powered game. I think it is significant that one of the most profitable aircraft companies in the world does not own one aeroplane. It hires the lot of them and uses all the charter flights to make the money. Obviously if the pilots, who are the people in the business, had had their way Qantas would have been in the charter business long before this.

I have had a question on the notice paper for some months asking whether Australia is under some restriction because it bought American planes and the Americans will not allow us to fly into Communist countries. If this is so and there is a restriction on our planes being able to take international routes to Russia or somewhere else why are the Americans doing it all the time? This is a point we ought to look at from the Board level. Perhaps it would be a good idea if there were a direct representative of the Government on the Board. I do not necessarily think that would be an improvement. It would depend on who it was. It is not good enough for people to say: 'We are running this on behalf of the Government. We are making decisions. They must be right, because we have got some experience'. Let us look at what is happening to Qantas now. Its profit is down. Its future is limited. The pilot training scheme has been abandoned. There has been so much recession in that industry that the future of it is very bleak.

As the amendment suggests, it would be appropriate for the committee to look at the composition of the Board and see what could be done to enliven it a bit and to get some effective competition on behalf of Australia and the airline pilots. This is what should be done. The present situation is that a man is on one board and he knows a fellow on another board. In the finish - this may come out in the foreshadowed debate on the Banks (Shareholdings) Bill - one will find interlocking directorships between Qantas and banks that could well lead to an American influence. This could well be the cause of some of the disasters we are suffering here. I support the amendment fully. It ought to be carried. It is doing no harm to the legislation and it would encourage this House to do some committee work which would be to the advantage of the people in my area.







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