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Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1799

Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) - I had intended to give an intelligent and historical speech on the formation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation but my intention has been diverted and I now have to reply to the attacks made by my novocastrian brother the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who on behalf of the Opposition moved this amendment:

That all words after' That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading the House is of opinion that a joint select committee should be established to investigate and report upon accidents involving international aircraft and the serious problems of Qantas and the South Pacific route'.

Anyone with any knowledge of aviation would realise how abortive such a select committee would be. It would be impossible for people without any specialist knowledge to determine the technical details alone. The suggestion of the appointment of a select committee to inquire into this very major and vital segment of aviation is beyond my comprehension. The honourable member for Newcastle has attacked the Government in regard to aircraft travelling between America and Australia. For years the Government has been endeavouring to reach an agreement with the American Government on a government-to-government basis, and now this has been achieved. This is the first time that Australia has been able to get this breakthrough, and in contradiction of what the honourable member for Newcastle said the Australian Tourist Commission has expressed its view in regard to this matter and in very definite terms. The Australian Tourist Commission believes that a most significant breakthrough has occurred in the new AustraliaAmerica air agreement on specific frequencies and in the imminent prospects of an agreement on charter flights.

The Commission has advocated for some time increased frequencies on the route, particularly for direct flights into Melbourne and to tap more traffic from the eastern and mid-western regions of the United States which together represent the biggest travel market of the world. The Commission is concerned by some of the suggestions during the last week that the agreement was a surrender to the United States and against our best interests. We believe this to be a shortsighted view. We believe that the Australian delegation led by the Director-General of Civil Aviation, Sir Donald Anderson and which included the General Manager of Q antas, Captain R. J. Ritchie, faced up realistically to the rapidly changing situation in international civil aviation and the opportunities available to us as a country for a large volume of lower fare traffic.

The delegation secured an important new position for Australia. It has for the first time negotiated an agreement which can put the Pacific frequencies under review on a government-to-government basis. We see this as a considerable protection in the national interest to enable the Australian Government to intervene if necessary to ensure the viability of Qantas Airways Ltd as our international carrier. The agreement removes the uncertainty which has for so long existed with respect to orderly development. It is a reasonable assumption that the increased capacity should be quickly absorbed by the high growth rate, particularly by United States visitors to Australia, which for the year ending 30th June 1971 was up 42 per cent. We are already seeing evidence of marketing campaigns involving millions of dollars being spent by United States carriers in North America. It has increased the flow of tourist traffic to this area. Qantas also is a substantial promoter in the North American market and a large provider of the regular frequencies to this area which must gain in the long run from the additional traffic that we believe will certainly be generated.

The Commission has informed the Department of Civil Aviation of its full support in the establishment of a Qantas charter subsidiary. We also welcome the prospect of bilateral exchanges of charter rights which will enable charter operators to bring here a new type of tourist business. Unlike other long-haul destination countries in Africa and Asia, Australia has so far missed out on this very vast charter market. Its development here will act as a badly needed spur for our tourism and will further highlight the need for specialist assistance as in the case of other countries to encourage the building of more international class hotels and to bring our resorts and attractions up to world standards.

That is the view of the Australian Tourist Commission, the organisation which is vitally interested in aviation which will bring to Australia a great influx of people. This organisation congratulates the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) on what he has achieved through his Department, but we heard tonight his Department castigated for making the best of deals that could possibly have been made in the circumstances. I did want to give an intelligent resume of the history of the International Civil Aviation Organisation but I have now spent much of my time in this debate refuting the statements of the honourable member for Newcastle. At the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly held at New York on 11th and 12th March 1971 the International Civil Aviation Organisation unanimously adopted a protocol amending Article 50a of the Chicago Convention to increase the number of members of the Council from 27 to 30. The amendment requires ratification by 80 states out of the total membership of 120 before it comes into force.

The primary purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for Australia to ratify this protocol. The Air Navigation Act 1920-60 sets out in the Schedule the Chicago Convention which was ratified by Australia in 1947 and the two protocols amending the Convention in minor respects. This Act was amended in 1961 and 1963 to approve the ratification of other minor amendments to the Chicago Convention, including that of increasing the size of the Council from 21 to 27 members. These amendments being set out in further schedules to the principal Act, the present Bill continues the practice by inserting the new protocol in the 7th Schedule of the principal Act.

So we have in front of us tonight a Bill to ratify this agreement We have heard a discourse in regard to air accidents and to the pact made in regard to the ingoing and outgoing tourist traffic by American airlines. I think that the Department has done a very good job. My friend the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) was to have led in this debate but he has been called away and I stood in for him at the last minute. I congratulate 'the Minister and the Department of Civil Aviation in at last bringing about a government to government agreement. We would like more of the traffic with America. It is human nature to want more. One has to remember that America has a much greater population than Australia has and, human nature being what it is, it wants the lion's share of the cake. I think that under the circumstances the delegation that represented Australia, led by Sir Donald Anderson, has done a great job for Australia. Members of Parliament should not belittle those representatives. After all, they are great Australians. They have a great record of military and civil service to Australia. They would not go to America and willingly give away one iota in regard to this matter.

I do not think that members of Parliament should belittle and castigate them. They have gained the absolute maximum benefit they could by their representations. I think that part of the Australian way of life at the present time is to play ourselves down - not play ourselves up and live up to the great traditions of our pioneers and the people who made Australia great. I deplore this attitude. The people who made up the delegation are great Australians. They did the best for Australia. It is about time we put our petty differences to one side, supported them and gave them the encouragement to do something for Australia. They are great Australians, and this is substantiated by the Australian Tourist Commission which has a vital interest in this matter. I strongly oppose the amendment and commend the Bill to the House.

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