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Wednesday, 26 November 1941

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) (1:40 AM) . - Briefly, I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) an injury done by the last Government to the residents of Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Until August, 1940, two air services catered for the requirements of those areas, one being run by MacDonald North Queensland Air Services and the other by Air Lines of Australia. I hold no brief for either service., but I am concerned about the residents of the far north of Queensland. Statutory Rules 1937, No. 81, Regulation 79, provided -

Aircraft shall not bc used by any person in the operation of a regular public transport service except under the authority of, and in accordance with, a licence issued to that person by the board.

The following amendment was made to that regulation in August, 1940, for the express purpose of curtailing the activities of the MacDonald North Queensland Air Services.

For the purposes of this regulation, a public transport service shall be deemed to bc a regular public transport service if it is operated on two or move occasions within any period of four weeks between any two places situated more than 50 miles apart.

MacDonald was doing charter work; but when that regulation came into force, he was able to visit centres in the Cape York Peninsula only once a month. He had commenced his service in August, 1939, but for ten years previously had been operating aircraft in the far north. He was the pioneer airman, and was responsible for making air-minded the people of that part of Australia. In August, 1939, having had two years' rest from aviation, he started this fresh service. It was not a regular service: he had no fixed, schedule, but did charter work, whenever required, to any part of the Peninsula. He was well known and very popular throughout the Peninsula, and down through the Gulf country, and the people had great confidence in him. On one occasion, the elements caused damage to his plane, valued at £1,000, at Wenlock, a mining centre. Overnight, the miners subscribed sufficient to enable him to purchase another plane, in order that he might continue to give to them the service that they so badly needed, being 400 miles north of Cairns., high up in the Peninsula. He has rendered great sei' vice, and has saved the lives of many miners and employees on cattle stations, from the manager down to the humblest stockman. He has landed his plane under all sorts of weather conditions, and brought patients back to hospital. His charges have never been exorbitant, and he picked up whatever freight offered along the route in order to reduce to a minimum the cost to the charterer. His services were in great demand. The regulation which forced him out of the air was the result of a conference which was attended by representatives of the major companies. I quote the following from Tha World, volume 3, No. 1, page 21 : -

A three-day conference of representatives of twelve airlines and of the Department of Civil Aviation was arranged in May last by the Director-General of Civil Aviation. The subjects discussed were, " Methods for increasing public interest in air transport for mails, freight and passengers; combined advertising and booking; combined action to reduce overhead costs; mutual assistance in maintaining time-tables; prevention of irresponsible and unreasonable competition to ensure the best results from subsidized services ".

That conference was designed to eliminate competition. The Civil Aviation Department claimed that it welcomes competition, and that the service rendered is the best obtainable. My concern is, not for MacDonald or Air Lines of Australia, but for the people up there who have been denied a service which they had enjoyed for some considerable time, and to which they are entitled. MacDonald has been permitted, by the good grace of the Civil Aviation Department, to do an occasional ambulance job. Since petrol rationing was enforced, he has had to apply to the Civil Aviation representative for his ration of petrol whenever anybody has required him to do ambulance work; and if Air Lines of Australia can undertake the job, he is not permitted to do it, although its charges are much higher than his. The people who live in these far northern parti have sent to the Civil Aviation Department petitions protesting against the treatment meted out to

MacDonald. There was a conflict between the two services. Before MacDonald came into the field, there was a fortnightly service in the Peninsula, but since his advent the service has been somewhat improved. It was said, that if he presisted in running a service, the work would be made unprofitable. Air Lines of Australia is subsidized, whereas MacDonald is able to make his service pay without any subsidy. It was said that he had contravened regulation No. 79 by carrying on an air service. The general complaint was that he was operating his planes over the routes of subsidized services, but the Civil Aviation Department would not supply him with a licence. Had he obtained such a licence he would have been prepared to carry on an air service. From August, 1939, to August, 1940, his business grew enormously, because of the confidence of the people in him as a pilot, and because of the service which he rendered to them. In the wet season, in the early part of the year, it happened that Air Lines of Australia was not able to get through to the mining settlements, whereas MacDonald succeeded, and landed certain foodstuffs and mining machinery that were urgently required on the fields. He had purchased two aircraft for the purpose of carrying on his charter work, in order to give to the people the service to which they were entitled, but, sin.ce the promulgation of the amended regulation No. 79, his planes have been grounded except on rare occasions. He has made application for permission to provide a service from Cairns to Port Moresby via Thursday Island. At the present time, W. B. Carpenter and Company Limited operate a service from Sydney to New Guinea by way of various towns in Queensland, and carry passengers, freights and mails for these towns in Queensland as well as New Guinea. MacDonald seeks permission to do the same. "When the. Minister for Civil Aviation gives consideration to this application, I hope that he will allow MacDonald to carry passengers, freights and mails to the Peninsula as well as to New Guinea. The people in the north are complaining of the curtailment of the air services. They do not enjoy the rail and steamship services that are available to people in the southern portion of Australia, and, as they are almost entirely dependent on air services, 1 urge the Minister to give favorable consideration to MacDonald's application.

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