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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3065

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins (SCULLIN, VICTORIA) -A wide-ranging debate has been allowed by my predecessor. I was listening carefully. The honourable member has connected his remarks with the subject matter. I suggest that he not persist for too long with that line.

Mr MORRIS -I submit that my remarks are quite relevant to the Bill. The Minister referred to air safety equipment and I was referring to an air safety procedure- security checks at airports. I believe that members of Parliament have a responsibility to undergo those checks, the same as anybody else. As I understand it from inquiries I made into the incident, it probably occurred.

Mr BOURCHIER (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) -Probably occurred?

Mr MORRIS - I think it occurred.

Mr Bourchier - You are making a statement that is not based on facts. You cannot say that it definitely occurred.

Mr MORRIS - He will have his opportunity to rebut it.

Mr Bourchier - You are saying that it probably occurred. In other words, you are casting aspersions without proof. That is typical slander.

Mr MORRIS -If the honourable member for Bendigo checks with Ansett Airlines of Australia he will find that a long series of complaints have been made about the activities of the gentleman concerned at the airport. I do not want to say any more than that because the honourable member for Bendigo might not like what else I say. The member of the public had a perfectly good reason for bringing this matter to my attention. She rang me as shadow Minister for Transport and she complained, in fact demanded, that I do something about it. I have brought the facts to the attention of the Parliament. It is up to the Minister for Transport to make up his mind on what he wants to do.

The other matter on air safety which I want to mention relates to the fire at Mascot a few weeks ago. That fire was the result of a tragic accident in which a petroleum tanker overturned. Flaming spirit poured down the drains outside the airport, travelled underground for some hundreds of yards and surfaced between No. 5 and No. 6 passenger bays and the aerobridges of TAA, in the Qantas power house, in a Qantas hanger and in a TAA hanger. I drew attention to the danger. In good airport design external drains do not flow under airports. It is a safety requirement a basic requirement of airport design that drains from outside an airport should not flow under an airport. The position at Mascot is that the drains in the nearby streets flow under the airport, under the buildings, into a pond in the inner part of the airport environs, across to Alexandria Canal and into Cook's River. When I drew attention to the danger, the Minister's response was that it was a unique accident.

I again put to the Minister and to the Government that the situation is very serious. It was just plain good luck that nobody other than the unfortunate person in the motor accident was hurt. The situation exists and the Government is aware of it. If anything happens, the Government is responsible. There is one facet which I have not mentioned previously. During the period of tension in the course of the delay after this incident occurred, TAA aircraft could not unload. Aircraft were on the tarmac. Flames had surfaced between No. 5 and No. 6 aerobridges and at other places. There were not sufficient fire engines to deal with a Jumbo crash or anything above a Fokker crash during the major part of this crisis.

I wish to inform the House of what happened in one aircraft that was waiting to unload at one of the aerobridges. This is a perfectly human side of what happens in these situations. During that period a passenger became very concerned because the aircraft had landed and the passengers were not being unloaded. Apparently, from what

I can gather, the passengers did not know what was happening. The aircraft were waiting on the tarmac. As honourable members know, the airline companies are very happy to serve alcohol on aircraft. I understand that in this case some kind of sedative had probably been imbibed during the course of the journey. The passenger became excited and broke into the flight deck of the aircraft and demanded to know what was going on. This is the kind of thing that happens. In this case the aircraft was stationary and no injury or further damage was caused. The unfortunate passenger, for his pains, was arrested and charged. Who is responsible in a situation such as this?

For the Minister to regard lightly the Mascot incident, the drainage problem there and the lowering of standards of fire fighting appliances is just not good enough. To say that it was a unique accident is not good enough. We are extremely lucky that something far more serious did not occur. An aircraft could have been between No. 5 and No. 6 aerobridges. There were not sufficient engines present. There could have been an incident in aircraft which were waiting on the tarmac because they could not unload their passengers. The Opposition has a commitment to restore aircraft safety standards to those that prevailed prior to the change in government. The next Labor govemmment will give top financial priority to ensuring that aircraft have the proper standards of safety and that the aviation industry has clear guidelines.

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