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Tuesday, 9 November 1976
Page: 2493

Mr COTTER (Kalgoorlie) - I wish to draw to the attention of the House an injustice to the people who live in a large part of my electorate. I refer to the hardy race of people who live and work in the harsh environment of the Pilbara area of Western Australia and who put up with the heat, the dust, the flies and the loneliness. They are faced with the immense cost of living 1000 miles north of the capital city of Perth. The cost of living is high, the cost of transport is enormous and the cost of damage to private vehicles on bad roads etc. is astronomical. These people of the Pilbara produce a huge percentage of the export income of Australia- proportionately far more than any other group of Australian citizens. They are prepared to work in adverse conditions in order to produce Australia 's wealth.

The Pilbara people want the alternative outlet of being able to go to Bah on their days off instead of the long tedious haul down to Perth. It is almost the same cost for a return flight from Port Hedland to Perth as it is from Port Hedland to Bah. MacRobertson Millar Airline Services quoted $250 Port Hedland-Bali return as against $207 Port Hedland-Perth return. However because of problems with our overseas airline agreement and the request by the Indonesian airline for reciprocal rights, it has been decided to allow only Qantas Airways Ltd to implement the service. Qantas will fly Perth-Bali-Perth at a fare of $514 or will fly a package tour PerthBaliPerth for 8 days for $455 including accommodation. Qantas will fly another package tour Perth to Bali for 7 days then to Singapore for 7 days and return to Perth for $662 including accommodation. Despite being 1000 miles from Perth and approximately the same distance from Bah and the fact that Port Hedland or Learmonth are almost on the direct route from Perth to Bah, Qantas plans to overfly the Pilbara without stopping.

In an answer to a question I asked this morning, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) may have given the impression that Learmonth was unsuitable as an international airport. He could have been mistaken as Learmonth is already designated as the international alternative within Western Australia and is regularly used by the largest planes operating in Australia today, including Jumbos. In fact a giant American Air Force Starlifter aircraft lands and takes off from Learmonth on a regular round-the-world trip every week. The demand for this overseas flight to Bah originated in the Pilbara and has the support of all local government bodies, all the mining companies and chambers of commerce as well as the 50 000 people living in the immediate vicinity. It also has the support of the State members for Pilbara and North Province who have put forward strong representations on the matter.

It would be criminal if Qantas were to be allowed to overfly the Pilbara without stopping and so force the people living in that area to pay an additional $450 to $480 and be forced to travel an extra 2000 miles. I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision and to require Qantas to land at Learmonth on the way to and from Bali. I ask the Minister to identify the deficiencies at Port Hedland with a view to upgrading this airport to the standards necessary to allow use by international flights. When these deficiencies have been remedied Qantas should be required to land at Port Hedland. If this leads to a move to reciprocal flights to and from Port Hedland by the Indonesian airline it will be a desirable extension of the service to the people of Pilbara.

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