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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2419

Mr THORBURN (Cook) - It has been very interesting to listen to the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) and before him to the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) on this subject because, after 23 years in government, every time the present Government presents to the Parliament some progressive legislation we hear them say: 'We were going to do that. It was our intention to do something about that'. But the inescapable fact in this case is that over the years the previous Government gave a particular advantage to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and showed a particular bias against the government airline. The previous Government would have liked to do away with the government airline, but it was not game to do so because over the years the support by the Australian people for the people's airline became well known and that action would not have been tolerated.

Over the years Trans-Australia Airlines has tried, unsuccessfully, to compete with Ansett Airlines on an interstate basis, but the previous Government consistently refused to allow it to do so. Before that, when TAA wanted to purchase a plane the LiberalCountry Party Government would not allow it to purchase them until Ansett was prepared to purchase the same plane. TAA had to wait. At all times TAA has been unable to compete on fair terms with Ansett Airlines. Let me instance one case. It has been well known around Sydney for years that Ansett Airlines receives freight at airline charges to be sent to Melbourne and other places. Although the freight can be transported to Melbourne by road overnight, people have to pay airline costs to have goods transported from Sydney to Melbourne. The goods are loaded on to express semi-trailers at the terminal near Mascot airport and transported overnight to Melbourne. Of course, TAA is not entitled to be in the business of road transport and it has to transport its goods by plane.

If the former Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) was sincere in what he said, perhaps he will tell us why, on 7 occasions over the last 5 years, his Government refused TAA the right to operate between Perth and Darwin, even though it was not an intrastate activity. This Bill seeks to put on some basis of equilibrium the rights of the people's airline - TAA - which has been such a successful venture. I assume that this offends the free enterprise ambitions of honourable members opposite, but the Bill will give the people's airline - the airline that has served this country so well over the years - the right to compete on the same basis as its competitor. I can see no reason why the Government should apologise for this.

The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) made a great song and dance about what appears in the platform of the Australian Labor Party. Let me say this: The Australian Labor Party has a platform. It makes no apology for that. It is a democratically decided platform which is freely available to all people and which was freely available before the people made their decision last December. The 'Australian' newspaper today says that the 2 key pamphlets, the Federal constitution and the official party platform, of the Liberal Party are not available to anybody. Not only are they not available, but also one cannot find out whether there is any platform setting out the aims and aspirations of the Liberal Party. The article says that the pamphlets will not be available until February or March next year. So, while the honourable member for Griffith is having a go at the Labor Party for what it is prepared to put before the people of Australia, he should remember that his own Party is not prepared to place before the people what it has in mind.

The reason for such a hullabaloo from honourable members opposite is that their great benefactor, Sir Reginald Ansett, is highly offended by the thought that this Bill may introduce into his business some competition that he does not want. Over the past 2 decades he has had a pretty fair run and he does not want to see the government airline put on a basis where it might be able to compete freely and provide a very good service for the Australian people. So much for the crocodile tears of the Opposition! It would defend Sir Reginald no matter what the situation happened to be,, as it has done over the years. All the Government is doing now is - as the Opposition freely admits it wanted to do - placing TAA on a fair competitive basis with the other airline that operates in Australia.

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