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Thursday, 15 October 1964

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) . - The real problem involved here is the naked use of power to assist a monopoly. There is no doubt where the Australian Labour Party in this chamber stands on the question whether the Commonwealth should have power over civil aviation. We believe it should have that power, and that the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee should 'be adopted and put into effect. There is, however, a great difference between the existence of a power and the exercise of that power.

The Australian Labour Party objects to these regulations and asks for them to be disallowed because the Commonwealth's power is being improperly exercised. Every power is given to be exercised for proper, bona fide purposes, and with due regard being paid to the rights of the persons affected by it. The question is not whether this power should exist, but whether it should be exercised at this time, in this manner and under these circumstances. We on this side say that it should not. We are saying what the ordinary man in the street is saying. He knows that this is not right. I think that the consciences of honorable senators on the Government side are troubled. I believe that individually they are decent, honorable people and that they do not like what is being done. They are not happy about it. They know that their party is being used as a puppet. They know that they are landing themselves with something that nobody likes. Nobody likes to think that the powers of government in this country can be used to advance the interests of certain private persons aginst the interests of others or that the Government can be manipulated and made to carry out the will of a monopoly, as is being done in this case.

What is being said by the Government to justify what it is doing? Senator Henty has said that he wants to save the taxpayers' money. Ha has spoken about the subsidies being paid to airlines and about what could happen in New South Wales. An effective answer was given to that proposition by the " Sydney Morning Herald " on 1 4th October, when it said -

It will cut short a lot of unnecessary argument to point out that the total amount paid by the Commonwealth to the two N.S.W. intrastate airlines is some £56,000 a year. It is a minute percentage of their annual turnovers and applies strictly to the marginal services.

Even if there were a question of the taxpayers' money, the taxpayers of this country are concerned also about other things. They are concerned about decency, honesty, justice, fair dealing and propriety in Government.

The Minister for Civil Aviation made some statements which can be regarded only as sheer hypocrisy. He said, in effect, that he had always thought that intrastate aviation was a proper matter for the exercise of Commonwealth power, and that he agreed with the Constitutional Review Committee on that. He implied that it was only accidental that New South Wales was to have a reallocation of air routes on 12th October and that the Commonwealth came into the field on 10th October. He made out that there was nothing sinister in all this, and that the Government was just moving in to fix up air services which ought to be better co-ordinated. What nonsense and hypocrisy. What has been the Government's attitude to the report of the Consitutional Review Committee? The Leader of the Government in this chamber, then Senator Sir William Spooner, was asked a question by Senator Cohen on 5th March of this year in these terms - 1 direct to the Leader of the Government in the

Senate a question supplementary to that asked earlier this morning by the Leader of the Opposition. In view of the Government's failure since 1959 to act on any of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, even those which were unanimous, are we justified in regarding the whole report as "being pigeon-holed for the duration of this Government's occupancy of the treasury bench?

The answer by the Leader of the Government, was -

I think the only fair answer I can give is that I discern no enthusiasm on the part of my colleagues or myself to implement the recommendations, but that does not mean that the report will be permanently pigeon-holed.

There was no enthusiam on the part of the Government to implement any of those recommendations until it became necessary in the interests of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. What is it but improper for the Government to decline to act on this report, or to do anything about matters relating to the Constitution until the interests of Mr. Ansett and his company are concerned? When one speaks of Mr. Ansett, one speaks not only of that gentleman but also of the powerful interests behind him - the oil companies and those associated with them. They are the people who support this Government, the people who supply the sinews of war to it in its political campaigns.

It is said that the Government did not take this action to help Mr. Ansett. On Tuesday of this week Senator Henty said in this chamber: "The Government has at no time intervened to help anybody." I had asked him why the Government had intervened on behalf of Ansett to prevent the re-allocation of air routes by the New South Wales Government. The suggestion that the Government did not intervene to help Ansett must be the greatest joke of this year. What other construction could possibly be put on the circumstances than that the Government moved in to assist Mr. Ansett in his battle with East- West Airlines and the State of New South Wales? It is complete and utter hypocrisy to suggest that that is not what the Government is doing. Everything points to it.

Here we have a matter which is of high constitutional importance. We have a situation where the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are being affected. We have the whole question opened up as to whether the Commonwealth can legislate under the external affairs power in any field where it has some international convention or obligation. This matter extends far beyond the field of civil aviation. It extends into every field of legislative power in this community. If that is correct, it means that the

Commonwealth Parliament can legislate in fields into which it has hitherto considered it has been unable to move. These are matters of the utmost importance for the States, for the Commonwealth and for everyone to consider, lt is the most complicated and, perhaps, the most important constitutional matter which has arisen for many years.

What does the Government do? It races in to make a regulation in order to assist Mr. Ansett, even at a stage when the States have asked for further time to consider these matters. The Government has treated the State Premiers like dirt. When they asked for further time to consider the implications, they were brushed aside. It is sufficient to refer to the reply of the Premier of Tasmania on 7th October 1964, when he said - lt was with surprise, therefore, that I learned from the Press on Saturday last that, without further consultation with the States, the Commonwealth had gazetted amended regulations under the Air Navigation Act to give effect to its proposal.

Apart from the civil aviation action, your Government's action has very far reaching general implications in relation to the sovereign powers of the various States, and is causing my Government serious concern.

Senator Henty - What is the date of the letter?

Senator MURPHY - 7th October 1964.

Senator Henty - The Premier replied two months after he received the letter.

Senator MURPHY - That is an illustration' of the feeling of the State Premiers on this matter. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) rushed in to say that that was two months after the Premier had received the letter, as if two months was some terrible time lag so far as this Government is concerned, even on a matter of the most serious constitutional import, a matter with such far reaching consequences as this.

Let us judge the consistency of what the Minister has said by turning to the field of restrictive trade practices. The Government has said that we need legislation in this field. It is true that Sir Garfield Barwick, the former Attorney-General, issued pamphlets showing the detrimental effects which were being caused daily to the community by the existence of restrictive trade practices. What happened? The Government went to its masters outside, and when they told it that they did not want this legislation, the legis- tion was shelved. The Government is constantly telling us that the matter is complex, that there are a lot of people to be considered, and that it has to get the views of the community. It says in effect, that even when legislation is introduced, it is not going to attempt to have it passed by this Parliament. All it proposes to do is to drop the legislation gently on the table and then steal away and think about it for a few more years. That happens when the monopolies, which might be affected by such legislation, tell the Government that they do not want any action taken. But when the same monopolies tell the Government that they want some action, we see how quickly the processes of government and of drafting delegated legislation can operate.

The Government has moved in with lighting speed to chop off the re-allocation of air routes by the Government of New South Wales - co-incidentally, of course. It is said that action was not taken for the purpose of preventing Mr. Ansett's air routes being taken away from him. It was merely a coincidence that this happened on 10th October, two days before the re-allocation by the Government of New South Wales was to come into effect. It is not honest, it is not decent and it is not being truthful to the Australian people when it is suggested that the motives were other than to assist the Ansett monopoly.

The Minister for Civil Aviation has come into the chamber today and, under the pressure which has been exercised on the Government, is starting to shift his ground a little and to give the impression that, after all, East-West Airlines Ltd. is going to be preserved in some way. What was his answer to a question I asked him about this matter on 27th August 1964? The question was as follows -

I wish to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Did not his predecessor frequently declare that the Government has a two-airline policy and that its continuing objective is to build an industry comprised of one Government airline and one privately-owned airline? If this policy is carried into the intrastate field, is it not clear that it can be achieved only if East-West Airlines Ltd. is taken over or squeezed out?

His reply was -

What the honorable senator says is quite correct. The Commonwealth Government has always pursued the policy of having two airlines in competition on trunk routes. That is quite correct. It has also pursued the policy of subsidising intrastate airlines and, without that subsidy, a number of the present intrastate airlines would not be running. It is because of this subsidy which keeps intrastate airlines going that the Government has felt that there is no room for competition on an intrastate airline when it is subsidised. The honorable senator mentioned one airline in New South Wales. As I understand it, what is happening in New South Wales is that there are two private enterprise monopolies, both licenced by the New South Wales Government.

That was a pretty clear indication of what was going to happen in New South Wales. East-West Airlines is to be taken over or squeezed out and the Government is not going to allow competition in an intrastate airline when it is subsidised.

Senator Henty - That is right.

Senator MURPHY - That is right, but who in this chamber has any doubt about what would have happened if the Minister for Civil Aviation, and more particularly his predecessor, had had control of the intrastate airlines when the battle with East-West Airlines was going on? East-West Airlines would have been wiped out of existence, and everybody knows it.

If government power can be exercised in any way to further the interests of the monopoly, this Government consistently has exercised it. There has been no inconsistency in its attitude. It has always been, and always must be, the same as we have seen on this occasion. Government senators need not have troubled consciences, because their role and the role of their party has always been to act for the monopolies. It is only in an issue such as this, when the line becomes clear and when the motives and purposes are clarified, that the Liberal Party's role is fully disclosed. The Liberal Party exists only for the maintenance and extension of private monopoly.

From time to time it will do things to gain votes and to cloud the issue, but whenever the issue is clarified, whenever there is a collision between a great monopoly and other interests in the community, decency, justice, common fairness and fair dealing go out the window. The Government then is prepared to act, if necessary with indecent haste, in the interests of the monopolies which it is pledged to support and which in turn support it. Without the assistance of the great monopolies, this Government would not be in office, so it is bound - it has no choice - to come to their assistance when they are in trouble.

What does it mean when the Commonwealth Government treats the State Governments in a way that is contrary to all the assertions that are made in this chamber about the sovereign rights of States, about courtesy being extended to the States and about not moving into State spheres? Time and again we have heard the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) say in this chamber: " I cannot do that because it is a matter for the States. I cannot move into that field." Has there been any haste on the part of the Minister for Health to introduce legislation pursuant to the external affairs power in relation to all the health conventions to which Australia has subscribed? Has the Minister made any endeavour to do that? Where is the haste in that direction? Why were not the processes of Government put into effect? Why were not the draftsmen and other officers mobilised so that that power could be exercised in the interests of the people? Why have not other powers been exercised? What attempt has been made to invoke the powers which the Constitutional Review Committee suggested should be used by the Commonwealth in the interests of the people7 None whatever. The Government is stirred into action only when the interests of some rich monopoly are affected.

It might be pertinent to refer to the report of the board of inquiry into the acquisition of land at Mount Eliza by the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in Victoria. The following appears on page 17 of the report -

It is true, as was submitted on behalf of Mr. Ansett, that it is not a crime to be rich, nevertheless it is wrong that the rich should be able to obtain from a Public Authority treatment which is not open to the less financial members of the community. If it were otherwise, it may well result in different considerations being applied to citizens according to their wealth.

Here we have the greatest authority in the community - the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - giving treatment to this rich corporation which would not be given to a body or a person of lesser wealth and influence. The real issue here is the Government's misuse of power. No question has been raised by the Opposition as to the existence of power. We claim that the Government has abused its power at this time, in these circumstances and in the manner in which that power has been invoked.

Senator Sir WILLIAMSPOONER (New South Wales) [5.1]. - I cannot refrain, in entering this debate, from making a passing reference to the importance of civil aviation throughout the world. I do not propose to take any great time to paint my picture. As honorable senators know, I have just returned from abroad after not having been overseas for some years. To me, one of the most interesting things I saw was the tremendous additional capital investment in aircraft and airports and the great increase in the number of air regulations and arrangements for the carriage of passengers and freight and everything that goes with them.

Perhaps I am a little prejudiced, but when looking at all these things overseas I made my contrasts. 1 came to the conclusion that we were handling things in Australia much better than were overseas countries. Our air services and our airport facilities, even though they are not as grand as those overseas, were much more efficient and were better operated than were those that I saw. Our own airline Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. is easily the best international airline in the world. With those kind of feelings of satisfaction at the back of my mind, and believing that what we have done so well in Australia has been very largely the result of the Government's successful two airline policy, I say that we need to be careful before attempting to interfere overmuch with the existing arrangements.

We are now debating the respective rights and powers of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales. I shall not go into questions of law - I leave those to the legal members of the Senate - but the practical situation, which I hope I do not overstate, is that throughout the years in which these successful airline establishments have been set up in Australia, the States have left all the work to the Commonwealth. That perhaps overstates the position a little, but the Commonwealth has provided the funds for the construction of airports; the Commonwealth has subsidised the airlines; the Commonwealth has set up the civil aviation organisation and the Commonwealth has taken all the responsibility. For those reasons I believe that the Commonwealth has the moral right to say what should be done in certain circumstances as they arise.

Two points have emerged in this debate. I propose now to discuss them. The first one is that a State election is coming in New South Wales. Do not let us walk away from the fact that that is one of the principal reasons for the Opposition's proposing this motion in the Senate this afternoon. The New South Wales Labour Government has made a mess of things. It started off on a completely unfair, illogical and irrational basis by attempting to allocate on a 50/50 basis the freight traffic of certain airlines, which was being shared, because of competition, on a 70/30 basis. As a result, it ran into litigation. It did one thing after another. It got itself into this tangle. It brought down this outrageous legislation in order to attempt to solve the problem. I venture to predict that the next result of the blundering will be that there will be no air services to these country districts in New South Wales, because both of the airlines will be too nervous, too frightened, to buy into litigation and to buy into the savage penalties that are set out in the State legislation.

Whatever tangle occurs, whatever disadvantages occur, whatever might be the inconvenience suffered in the country districts of New South Wales, only one party is responsible for it, and that is the State Government. I read in this morning's paper that in the State Government's extremity, the Attorney-General, Mr. Downing, had made overtures to the Labour Party in Canberra to come to its rescue with motions such as this. I do not know whether or not that report is true. I take the report from the newspaper. I read it. I have a very high regard for Mr. Downing personally and for his political acumen. If I were in his place I would be looking for some one to lend me a helping hand to get out of this tangle.

The other point that is to be discussed is this extraordinary obsession of honorable senators opposite against Ansett and Ansett Transport 'Industries Ltd. This is a psychological condition. There is no logical explanation for it that I can find, and I propose to turn to that matter. In this rather peculiar debate, the Opposition does not take any objection to the policy that the Government has adopted. As I understand it, by and large the Opposition supports the Government in principle, but objects to the method and alleges that favouritism is shown to Ansett. One of the most extraordinary things I have heard in this place was Senator Murphy's saying that we were supporting the monopoly of Ansett airways. Fancy a member of the Labour Party saying that. The whole policy of the Labour Party is to have a Government monopoly in airlines. What right has the Labour Party to criticise monopolies, if such monopolies exist? None at all. Its whole political objective is to have a government monopoly, to have only a government airline.

For years in this Senate chamber - I speak for myself only - I have been nauseated by the attacks that have been made on Ansett and on Ansett airways. I cannot help trying to sort out the reason. I believe the whole situation is explained by the usual socialistic approach. It is the hymn of hate against a successful man and a successful business. What is the situation here? As a government, we thought that the right thing to do was to have competitive airlines, a government airline and a private enterprise airline. Over and over again we have announced that as our policy, and over and over again we have done things which are aimed at making that policy successful. Every time we have done something and every time some argument has arisen, there has been this hymn of hate from the Opposition against Ansett airways. I listened to Senator Kennelly this afternoon when he recited them all. There was nothing in that list that I had not heard him mention over and over again. There was nothing in that list that had not been taken onto the floor of the Senate and debated, with the point of view that Senator Kennelly advanced thoroughly thrashed, thoroughly defeated. Yet every time he produces this long list of soiled linen and attempts to give it a fresh airing. He attempts to put life into a corpse.

What I object to most of all is that after being beaten in fair debate, after having the pros and cons discussed, he comes back and makes a personal attack upon the bona fides of my colleague, Senator Paltridge. That is one of the meanest things that has been done in this Senate and he ought to be ashamed of himself for doing so. Senator Paltridge, as the responsible Minister in this matter for years, never at any stage did anything but carry out the directions of Cabinet, and Cabinet has always been so careful, whenever there has been an oppor tunity, whenever it was possible, to see that things were done only after independent investigation. Things were done only as a result of some intermediary sorting out the pros and cons and making recommendations. All these things, to the utter discontent of the Opposition, have proved so successful. As a result, we have in Australia today, I believe, the best or one of the best internal airline systems in the world.

The Opposition makes these attacks on Mr. Ansett so personal. I have met Mr. Ansett only four or five times. I do not know him as well as I know senators in this chamber, but I want to state this point of view. It is not only unfair to Mr. Ansett personally. Last night I heard Senator Cohen take up the cudgels for some one who he thought was treated unfairly. I should like to hear him take up the cudgels for Mr. Ansett in view of the way he has been victimised by Senator Kennelly and others in this chamber.

It is not only a case of a personal attack upon Mr. Ansett. Mr. Ansett is the head of an organisation. I obtained the last balance sheet of his company, which shows that he has no fewer than 29,416 shareholders and no fewer than 30,056 other investors in his company, and that the company employs no fewer than 7,638 employees. So when the Opposition attacks this man, what it is doing is attacking some 67,000 Australians who have linked their fortunes with this company, who have invested their savings in it, or who depend upon it for their employment. An attack of that kind is not the spirit in which I understand cricket is played. You do not smear a man, make statements which you are unable to substantiate in debate, and be completely biased and overworked in your approach, because you see the principle of free enterprise successfully installed and operated in a major transport industry in Australia.

The next point I want to make is in regard to the position in New South Wales. Let me amplify it a little. New South Wales - the best State in the Commonwealth, in my view - needs greater encouragement and more airlines than other States because of ite great distances and particular circumstances. In respect of air navigation and in so many other things the New South Wales Government has been so lacking. It does not stepout of the arena and let the Commonwealth do the job, nor does it do the job properly. It has been playing around, standing on its dignity, taking silly little points and causing pinpricking. As a result, those in the airline business in Australia have become undecided and are not going into the business as they should. What an extraordinary thing it is that the New South Wales Government claims that it is protecting New South Wales from the monopoly of the Ansett organisation. I repeat that the great objective of the New South Government, like the former Federal Labour Government, is to have a monopoly for Trans-Australia Airlines as a socialist government airline.

Senator Hendrickson - Hear, hear.


Senator Hendricksonsays: "Hear, hear". That is the Labour Party's policy. But if the Opposition believes that, it should not criticise others. It should not be afraid to stand up to criticism and competition. Those who hold that belief should be sportsmen when the competition against their monopoly is successful. They should give credit and not throw mud. The Commonwealth Government has been criticised for the way it has gone about this matter. Anybody with any sense of reality would agree that, without doubt, immediately the Commonwealth Government started to do what it thought was right, the New South Wales Government would begin to throw a spanner in the works. I do not think anybody would deny that it would be expected to do so. These are the facts of political life. The New South Wales Government is unpopular. It has to face an election in the near future. It is twisting and turning in every direction to attract a little favorable publicity. This is something we understand. We know the position. We know what the New South Wales Government is doing and we could anticipate it.

When this began, the Prime Minister acted as he always does in such cases because he is a stickler for etiquette. He wrote to the State Premiers and told them what he had in mind to do. According to the normal procedure, in the fullness of time, the State Premiers would write back. In this case there is no doubt that they took the fullness of time; it was a couple of months before they answered the Prime Minister's letter. But one of the State Premiers, acting according to his own judgment and wisdom, released the contents of the Prime Minister's letter and so let the cat in among the chickens. The moment the contents were revealed, off went the New South Wales Government at a tangent. In effect, it said to itself: "This is the chance for us. To hell with the paying passengers. To hell with whether we can get good airlines or not. Here is a chance by which, perhaps, we can get the newspapers on our side and win a few votes in New South Wales." Senator Cavanagh. - And it succeeded.

Seantor Sir WILLIAM SPOONER.- It may succeed until this debate becomes publicised. I am certain that when there is political conflict or argument, the right way to settle it is on the floor of the Parliament where both sides can speak. Then the public can hear what it is all about and make a decision. I have no doubt whatever that any advantage the New South Wales Government might have gained up to this stage will be lost as a result of this debate. The New South Wales Government started to move in and what did the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) do? He is a sensible man. He looked at the tactics of the New South Wales Government and moved in with these amendments to the Air Navigation Regulations.

I have no doubt that, prior to this manoeuvring, the matter would have taken its course and there would have been discussions. One of the most significant things said by the Minister in this debate was his statement that in the discussions he had with the airlines, East-West Airlines Ltd. were given a letter from the Department of Civil Aviation stating that the policy, the intent, the desire and the result of the Department of Civil Aviation's inquiry would be to stabilise the position of East-West Airlines, make it a profitable airline and put it in a good, sound position. I hope that the people of Tamworth and Dubbo, who probably will lose their air service temporarily, at least, as a result of this fumbling by the New South Wales Government, realise that the purpose of the Department of Civil Aviation in proposing rationalisation was to give a good service and a fair service to those people who live in those country districts. Its purpose was to give a profitable service to the airlines concerned so that we would get the best of both worlds - a good service for the people in the country districts and a reduction of the subsidy that has to be paid to keep the air services going. That is the atmosphere of this matter. There has been an upset as a result of a political contest. Talk in terms of whether the formalities have been properly observed leaves me cold in the circumstances.

We are in a situation where there is agreement on both sides of the chamber that, in general principle, this is a good thing to do and the right way to go about it. The Opposition is critical and is saying in effect that what has been done should not have been done in this way. The Opposition has said that what has been done has been done for the benefit of the Ansett organisation. Both charges do not stand up to examination. 1 do not think anybody will deny that the Department of Civil Aviation is a really expert department. I am proud of the results it gets throughout Australia when I see what has happened in similar fields overseas. Here we have a department which is subsidising the air services.

I do not think I overstate the position when I say that every State Government in Australia leaves the practicalities of these matters to the Department of Civil Aviation. They are able to approach the Department and talk over civil aviation matters. They take the benefit of the expert advice given by the Department of Civil Aviation. Every State except one does that. That is the State which I think is probably the most backward in the Commonwealth in civil aviation. It is the State that is always out to try to create trouble instead of working in conjunction with other Governments. It is the State with the Government that, in these circumstances, is more concerned with its own feelings and its own dignity than it is concerned with giving good service to the people it represents.

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