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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 1237

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - lt seems a long while ago that I rose briefly to speak in the debate on the first reading of this Bill and was requested to accede to the wishes of a number of honourable senators to speak on a fairly broad range of subjects. They certainly have done that. I think that on the last occasion I was speaking I was endeavouring to have a discussion with Senator Wilkinson on the pronunciation of 'Khmer'. I think I covered the points that I needed to make on that.

Senator Wilkinson - It was long ago; it was this morning.

Senator COTTON - I thought so. I think the honourable senator and I should either undertake an education programme or seek leave and be paid to go over there again to refresh our minds. Before I move on to some areas which have been raised I should mention that there was one matter to which Senator Turnbull adverted in regard to Jetair Australia Ltd and the Department of Civil Aviation. I thought it would be appropriate if I cleared up that matter now. Contrary to what Senator Turnbull said, at no stage was Jetair Australia Ltd granted an airline licence. The carriage by the company of fare paying passengers between fixed terminals and the publication of timetables by the company were authorised in accordance with Air

Navigation Regulation 203. Under this regulation the holder of a charter licence may be permitted to engage in this carriage without the necessity of obtaining an airline licence. Operators holding exemptions of this nature are known as commuter operators.

Jetair Australia Ltd was granted a charter licence on 9th September 1969 and an exemption under Air Navigation Regulation 203 was granted on 17th December 1969. At the time of the issue of the exemption to the company some 40 such exemptions had been issued to charter operators in Australia. A prime objective in the authorisation of commuter services is the provision of regular air services between centres not served by the major airlines or from which airlines have withdrawn at their own initiative. The Department of Civil Aviation did not believe that the operations proposed by Jetair Australia would be profitable and we so advised the company both orally and in writing. A specific advice to the company contained in the letter forwarding the regulation 203 exemption stated quite clearly:

During the course of several discussions on the subject of your application for the MelbourneSwan Hill route you were advised that it was the view of the departmental officers that the operation had little if any chance of economic success. The decision to go ahead with the operation is one for your directors and it must be on the clear understanding that there is no prospect of the Commonwealth subsidy being available to support the service in the event thai final results fall short of your estimates.

I was kept fully informed throughout all this process and 1 agreed with the issue of a regulation 203 notice as I would have done with previous operators or other operators who sought to supply a service that was no longer in existence. But in no way was the granting of the exemption inconsistent with the principles of the 2- airline system, nor has it been in any other case. The maintenance of the 2-airline system is firm Government policy, as outlined in our statement to the Senate on 29th August this year. I shall make some observations in the process of helping our colleagues in relation to DC3 aircraft and their costs as we know them in the Department of Civil Aviation. The price of my aircraft depends on many factors, including not only the market situation for the type of aircraft but also the time remain ing before the airframe and engines become due for major overhaul. A DC3 airframe overhaul costs in the vicinity of 535,000 and each engine overhaul costs in the vicinity of $10,000. Other factors, such as the radio and navigation equipment installed, passenger facilities and interior furnishings, have a bearing on the price. So, the only comment that we make on this DC3 cost situation is that the 6 DC3s were purchased as a single package, including some spares, for $275,000. They had been fully overhauled, as far as we know, prior to purchase and they had been fitted with first class passenger fittings and interior furnishings. So, the price would appear to be reasonable having regard to those factors.

A number of other matters were raised in this debate. Unfortunately, it was some time ago. I tried to recollect them and to make what I could of the notes I had available. If I do not deal with the matters in order, I trust that honourable senators will understand that I am not being 'ti le to anybody, and if I fail to cover any of the points the reason will just be that time has elapsed. Senator Douglas McClelland referred to answers not being provided to him by the Department of Trade and Industry through me. 1 shall certainly check that matter out. But I think I should observe in passing that from the end of February until 31st August I was asked by various honourable senators about 300 questions over a range of 8 departments. So, it is to be expected that from time to time the usual Cotton courtesy, alacrity and efficiency in service might slip a little. But we do our best.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not blaming you.

Senator COTTON - I did not think the honourable senator was blaming me. I assure him that I shall be following the matter up, as I always do. This first reading debate has had a fairly wide compass. As a senator, I have been concerned for quite some time now about the work load of senators. In my view, it is quite substantial; in fact, it is heavy. I believe that senators perform extremely well. The work load of Ministers also is heavy. However, 1 will take up the matter Senator Douglas McClelland mentioned. I was interested in bis observations on Austraiian artists and entertainers and on the 'Adventure Island' series. I was interested also in the comments made by Senator Hannan. I do not wish to intrude into that matter. Obviously it is one for those with more specialised knowledge than I have. Nevertheless, '«i respect of debates of this character it is my practice to raise the matters referred to with the responsible people in the departments concerned, and that will be done in this case.

Early in the debate Senator McAuIiffe dealt at quite some length with the matter of national fitness. For my sorrows, an uncle of mine, Professor F. S. Cotton, was the beginner of sports medicine in this country and was notable in trying to build up the standard of medical fitness of Australian sportsmen. His work has been carried on by Dr Corrigan, who was a student of his. So, in common with the honourable senator who mentioned this matter, I have a strong interest in looking towards a greater degree of national fitness. The proposal which somebody made to the effect that gymnasiums and swimming pools in schools might be worthy of attention in regard to Commonwealth assistance as in the case of libraries and science blocks, in my view, has much to commend it. I can see merit in that and I intend to raise the matter with the responsible Minister.

Senator Keefferaised the matter of people in Antarctica not being able to vote. We have already sent that matter to the department concerned. Senator Gietzelt made some observations on taxation matters in general. They have been sent to the Taxation Office. No doubt other honourable senators will be speaking on those matters in the second reading debate on this Bill. I think we should now proceed to that debate, which will allow a critical examination of some of the taxation items to be made in more depth and more detail.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.

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