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Wednesday, 7 December 1960

Mr FAIRHALL (Paterson) - I rise to thank the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) for having acceded to the request of the Public Works Committee that, in presenting a resolution that it is expedient to do work which is referred to the committee, he should make some rather extended explanation of the work actually to be done. In the past, when a resolution is submitted that it is expedient to do a work which has been referred to it and which has been reported upon by the committee. I think there has been a tendency for the House to assume that the work to be done is in accordance with the recommendation of the committee. This is not to say that the committee, or even the House, does not appreciate that there is no obligation on the Government to accept the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, but 1 think it would be an extraordinarily good thing if the House clearly understood that, in presenting these resolutions, the Government does not always feel itself obliged to accept the recommendations of the committee. In that way. there is likely to be some thoughtful and informed discussion of the projects, and in the long run I think the public purse will be safeguarded.

I think I detected some faint note of reproach in the Minister's comments at the fact that the Public Works Committee had extended its inquiry into the proposal for the extension of runways. If he feels that way - I do not think he is very serious - I remind him that the reference to the Public Works Committee was to consider also the extension of the north-south runway, without any precise direction as to the type of aircraft service to be catered for. lt is certainly quite true that the Works Department's proposal to extend the north-south runway only to 6,500 feet was contained in the details of the reference. Having some ministerial experience behind me, 1 have always made it my constant endeavour to see that the committee does not extend or intrude into the field of policy, but in a case of this kind, when something over £1,000,000 is to be spent on the provision of a modern airport at Perth, and having regard to the fr.ct that this is one of the great outlets for Australia for overseas air routes, and having regard also to the fact that Perth was once an international airport but. due to the development of big jets on international services, it has now been down-grade A and is no longer an international airport, the committee decided to bring forward this recommendation that the runway should be extended, not only to 6,503 feet, but to 7.450 feet, at an additional cost of £120.000. If. early in the new year, after the modified Boeing 707 has completed ils airworthiness trials, it is found that an additional 500 feet might be required for safe operations, the Government might be well advised to face up to the expenditure of an additional £40,000 to extend the runway up to 7,950 feet and so bring the Perth airport up to first-class world airport standard. The total cost of turning Perth from a rather localized form of airport into a fully fledged international airport would be. at the most. £160,000.

Mr Duthie - How far short is the runway of what is required?

Mr FAIRHALL - It is suggested that it will be 6,500 feet in length. It needs at least 7,450 feet for the operation of the modified Boeings, and may conceivably need 7,950 feet. That will not be known until these new aircraft have airworthiness certificates issued early in the new year. But £160,000 would be the full cost involved in extending this runway sufficiently to make Perth a proper international airport. If this were done, Australia's main international operator, Qantas, would be able to take its p,stoned-engined aircraft out of operation. The evidence given before the Public Works Committee by Qantas was that the annual saving which would be made by enabling jet aircraft to land at Perth would exceed in one year the amount by which the estimated cost would be exceeded if the runway were to be extended to 7,950 feet. Qantas is a statutory authority of the Commonwealth and it would seem like good business to spend £140,000 extra to turn Perth into an international airport and allow Australia's statutory airline to save itself £200,000 a year.

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