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Wednesday, 7 December 1960

Mr O'CONNOR (Dalley) .- I was interested in the statement of the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) that he considered that the Public Works Committee had gone somewhat beyond its original commission. That brings me to another statement made by thi Minister in this House when speaking on another matter a few days ago. If, as suggested by the Minister, all that the Public Works Committee has to do is to ermine whether it is expedient to carry out a work, then the committee could hardly justify its existence. I have been a member of the committee for about eleven years and others who have been members for even longer than that have told me that

I disagree very strongly with the Minister when he says that, in his opinion, all that the committee has to do is to report as to whether it is expedient to carry out a work. Down the years, the committee has been responsible for saving the Commonwealth considerable sums of money. In one instance, if my memory serves me rightly, the committee altered original proposals to such an extent that it saved over £1.000,000 on a project in Brisbane. The committee has always regarded itself as being at liberty to set out all the circumstances relating to its reference and also to state how the money can be spent to the best advantage. Furthermore, it has been an accepted principle of the committee when dealing with projects, that it is not unreasonable to plan not merely for the next five or ten years, but for development for periods of up to 25 years.

On the issue before the House, we have a somewhat ridiculous situation. The House has been asked to authorize expenditure of a large sum of money on preparing runways which will not take jet aircraft, lt is not possible to have an international airport without providing for the landing and take-off of jet aircraft. At the moment, the aircraft which use Perth airport have piston driven engines. South African aircraft are going through there, but this type of aircraft is gradually disappearing. It will only be a matter of two or three years before they are completely out of service. Qantas, a government instrumentality, is using the same type of aircraft for its service through Perth. It rs costing Qantas about £200,000 a year to keep these aircraft going through Perth so as to maintain an international service. The Public Works Committee has recommended to the Government the construction, at a cost of about £160,000, of runways which will cater for jet aircraft. So, if this expenditure is incurred, a Commonwealth statutory body will save more than that amount in one year.

If Perth airport is to develop into an international airport, it must have runways capable of taking jet aircraft. The trend in aviation to-day is for piston-engined aircraft to be replaced completely by jet aircraft. What is to be gained by having a runway which is incapable of taking jet aircraft as was proposed in the original submission to the committee? The extension of the runway to a stage at which it will still be incapable of taking jet aircraft is a sheer waste of money, because the airport will still not be an international airport.

In my opinion, the Government is not facing up to the situation. I believe that it is far preferable to complete one job so that it will be serviceable for ten or fifteen years rather than leave it at a stage at which it will serve its purpose only for a short time. J think that is the opinion of most people, not only in the Department of Civil Aviation, but in all departments which are responsible for planning. For some reason or other, if the Government decides, for example, to make £1,000,000 available for works, it uses that sum on projects throughout Australia with the result that further work is required on each project after two or three years.

A classical example of this practice is the air terminal at Adelaide, which is now completely inadequate to meet the demands made upon it. If the Government does not accept the submission of the Public Works Committee in relation to the runways then there is no chance of Perth developing into an international airport. All aircraft will have to be of the jet engine type. Unless the Government provides runways at Perth to take jet aircraft at this stage, whatever public money it now proposes to spend will be wasted.

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