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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator MORRIS (Queensland) .- I am delighted to have the privilege of following in this debate my very highly knowledgeable and most respected colleague from Queensland, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin. Everyone in Queensland, and I think almost everyone in Australia, knows that very few people in that State have a better knowledge of its needs than does the honorable senator. Although she may be of the gentler sex, she puts some of us to shame - I must confess that I am included in this - in the amount of travelling that she does throughout the State.

I most strongly support her. I take great pleasure in noting that she paid a compliment to the Department of Civil Aviation for the excellent work that it has done in Queensland. There is no doubt that it has done splendid work. From the New South Wales border to the point of Cape York we have very large and important cities and towns, each of which has its own airport - remarkably good ones too, thanks to the Department of Civil Aviation. As Senator Wood has told the Senate on many occasions, Queensland is very proud - I say this humbly - of being one of the leaders, probably the leader in Australia, in the field of tourism. We have been endowed by nature with many wonderful tourist facilities. To use these to advantage we need good airports and facilities for our aviation services. I believe we are getting these rapidly, but I do not think that is any reason for us to lose our sense of proportion when considering the problems associated with our capital city airport. While we recognise that the Department has done much for Queensland, and probably in the aggregate has spent more there than anywhere else, this has been not only by virtue of the interest of the Department - I say this in all friendliness - but also largely by virtue of the fact that the kind of development which has taken place in Queensland has required a continuous improving of our facilities.

There is no doubt that Brisbane airport suffers badly by comparison with other international airports. I emphasise that there are only five international airports in Australia. In order of size they are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Darwin. Darwin becomes even less important when we remember that it is not an initiating international airport; it is merely a staging international airport. This does not downgrade the importance of Darwin's runways and terminal buildings, but it places a heavier emphasis on those airports from which passenger traffic originates.

The Minister's statement caused a great deal of controversy, especially in Queensland. I was interested to see another reference to it in today's newspaper. It has been mentioned in the Press for the last two or three weeks. Much interest attaches to the Department's future activities in relation to Brisbane Airport. In this morning's " Courier Mail " there is an article headed " Another Critic of the Terminals ". It goes on to say that Brisbane's air terminal came under fire yesterday from a New Zealand airline official. Amongst other things he said that the terminal in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he lived, was only six years old. It was one of the most modern in the southern hemisphere but the population of Christchurch was less than one-half that of Brisbane. He went on to say that Brisbane, and the airlines, deserve better than this. We should not forget the remark that the airlines deserve a better deal. The article then goes on to speak of the work to be done in Queensland on behalf of New Zealand.

I return to the point I made a moment ago about the relative importance of the various terminals and should like to refer to statistics prepared by the Department of Civil Aviation relating to passenger, freight and aircraft movement at principal Australian airports. I think that the figures for the years ended 30th June 1963 and 30th June 1964 should be recorded. The airport from which the greatest number of services emanate and from which the highest number of passengers travel is Sydney. For the year ended June 1963 there were 1,566,778 travellers on domestic airlines and 249,959 on international airlines. By the 30th June 1964 that number had increased from., I think, 1,800,000 on domestic services - that figure is not very clear on my photostat copy - and 299,823 on international services.

The second largest airport is Melbourne. In 1963 there were 1,210,093 travellers on domestic services and 26,231 on international. For the following year the numbers had increased to 1,393,227 on domestic services and 33,788 on international. The third most important airport is Brisbane. To 30th June 1963 there were 548,044 travellers on domestic services and 9,238 on international. The numbers increased to 635,468 on domestic airlines and 15,320

On international airlines for the year ended 30th June 1964.

I have cited those figures to indicate the way in which the activities at international airports have increased. Let us not forge! that the reason why such large sums have been appropriated and expended on Sydney and Melbourne airports is the tremendous growth in the use of air services. If you examine these services carefully, you find that the growth of air services to and from Brisbane as an international airport has been greater proportionately than the growth of services to either Sydney or Melbourne. One must remember that Sydney - not so much Melbourne - is fed as an international airport by all other places to the south and to a great extent by Brisbane. Relatively, there are not many services that call at Brisbane. When you realise how Sydney is fed from all other parts of Australia, you see that the increase in Sydney's international traffic is not as great as it would appear to be. Even on those figures, the growth of international services from Brisbane is greater.

Senator Hannan - Most of the passengers are on their way to Melbourne.

Senator MORRIS - A great number of them are. We people in Queensland do not adopt a dog in the manger attitude because the Government is planning to spend so much money on Sydney and Melbourne. We know that this will improve the quality of terminal facilities. However, we do have one reservation on a matter which also appears in the statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation on 1st April. Senator Laught quoted the final paragraph of the Minister's statement. In this paragraph, the Minister stated that the Government was considering a number of other airport projects in its review. He said -

These include terminal and runway extensions at Adelaide, strengthening of the runway at Brisbane to handle the heavier type of international jets, extension of the Perth runway, major extensions to the terminal at Canberra, some further runway works at Coolangatta and Mackay, a new terminal at Port Moresby and also some temporary extensions to the existing international terminal at Sydney.

Then the Minister concluded -

The Government has decided that this group of projects, which also involve a further large sum of public money, should be referred to a special interdepartmental committee for further investigation for possible Budget consideration in the next few months.

I realise that, as the Minister said at the beginning of his statement, this applied mostly to Sydney and Melbourne. But I do feel a little uneasiness that it is still necessary to refer these proposals to a special committee. I cannot understand that and this ls the aspect of the proposals that troubles me. The reason for this uneasiness may be illustrated by a statement which was issued by the Minister for Civil Aviation last Friday under the heading "Sydney Operations ". The Minister stated -

The existing runways at Sydney and operations from them are quite safe. There are certain limitations imposed on the operation of certain heavier jet airliners at Sydney but these limitations are economic and involve a reduction in aircraft pay load.

I might interpose here that all I have seen of the operations of the Department of Civil Aviation and the administration of the Minister gives me complete confidence that the safety of the passengers is safeguarded. Passengers travelling inside Australia and those travelling to and from Australia are travelling under the safest conditions that may be found anywhere in the world. This is terribly important. It is much more important than almost any other aspect of air travel. The Minister continued in his statement -

The north-south runway at Sydney is being extended to 8,000 feet with a 500 feet stopway. The runways now being built at Tullamarine will be 8,500 feet long and 7,500 feet long.

The point I am making is that Brisbane is an international airport. I am not an expert but I believe we probably have the potential to make better runways at Eagle Farm. I believe we have the potential to build runways in Brisbane of greater length than those at either Sydney or Melbourne. As I see it, the extension of our runways to carry a maximum payload while ensuring maximum safety would be very much easier than it is in Sydney. I do not know the cost of extension in Melbourne. I make a plea to the Department of Civil Aviation to do what it can to direct the attention of the airlines to the Brisbane airport so that it can gain greater status as an international airport more rapidly than it would in normal circumstances.

I recall that five years ago no international aircraft used Brisbane as a terminal. After a great deal of persuasion, we in Queensland convinced the New Zealand Government that it would be desirable to use Brisbane as a terminal for services from New Zealand for an experimental period. We were able to get Tasman Empire Airways Ltd. as it was then - now Air New Zealand - to use Brisbane as its Australian terminal once a week for an experi mental period. The airline did this with a great deal of reserve and doubt as to whether it would prove economically satisfactory. However, the experiment was a glorious success. In the following year instead of operating for less than half a year, the airline extended the period of use. As a result, trade between New Zealand and Queensland grew. The Brisbane airport grew in importance as an international terminal. We attained something only because of our persistence in pestering the airline to give this service a trial.

If we study a map of the world we realise that Brisbane with a coastline full of tourist attractions can become an extremely important terminal. Traffic coming down from the north - I do not say necessarily from the United States - and from European and Asian countries could pass through New Guinea and make Brisbane the Australian terminal. This would not only be advantageous to Queensland; it would also be helpful to those who want to travel through New Guinea to and from the east. It is only through persistence that we have got where we are as far as international air travel is concerned. If we are given an even break, the international airport and terminal at Brisbane will leap ahead in comparison with those in Sydney and Melbourne. To achieve this only a little encouragement is needed. It would seem that the required length of runway cannot be provided in Sydney without a great deal of expense and that only 8,500 feet of runway can be made available. It would seem also that only 8,500 feet of runway can be provided at the Melbourne airport, although the newer jets require a 10,000-foot runway and heavier tarmac, if that is the right word. For heaven's sake, let Queensland have its jet airport. Give us stronger runways and an airport and a terminal of which we can be proud.

I have not seen an occasion when the Brisbane terminal has not been able to handle the number of people it has been called upon to handle. This is because we have only one call each week by the aircraft of two overseas services. I think Brisbane is a natural for an international airport, if only it is given the opportunity. I have asked for a long time for these facilities to be made available and have pleaded with Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. - the airline born in Queensland - to make Brisbane one of its more important terminals, and it is doing so. Brisbane can get more and more overseas air traffic if given the facilities. Having said that, I repeat that all Queenslanders are very grateful to the Department of Civil Aviation for the work it has done on a huge number of aerodromes in that State.

The Department is called upon to spend some £16 million more as a result of the growth of air traffic throughout Australia, and we plead with it to remember that the growth of traffic at the Brisbane airport is greater in proportion than that in some other places. While we recognise the justification for what the Department is doing at other airports, we ask it to realise that, although we do not make a great deal of fuss about our requirements, Queensland really needs assistance. I think the Minister, who has already done so much in this field - he is already helping us with regard to runways in the northern part of the State - will recognise the justice of our claim and help us to make our capital city terminal one of which we can be very proud.

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