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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 904

Senator BYRNE (QUEENSLAND) - I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In the case of an attempt by another company to take over an Australian domestic airline operator, what general authority resides in the Department of Civil Aviation or the Minister to affect the outcome of such a manoeuvre? What, if any, approval, permission or consent is required from the Department or the Minister to the transfer of the operating licence, the hypothecation of contracts, the transfer of assets, the transfer of a franchise or licence and the use of airport facilities? Does the Department require any proof of administrative and technical competence in the prospective new operator? If the Minister is not in an immediate position to answer these questions will he prepare and lay down a paper detailing the role which the Department, or the Minister is, by law, required to play or may play by the exercise of departmental or ministerial discretion?

Senator COTTON (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Civil Aviation) - I thought that today there would be some interest in the Senate in this general matter. Accordingly I have some information which I shall give to the Senate. In addition I shall advise the honourable senator in relation to those areas which are not covered in this matter. I will have attention directed to them because, at the moment, they are the subject to study in a general context, looking at the 2- airline policy, and in a specific context.

The Government is determined to maintain the 2-airline policy. The policy has given Australia a safe, modern, competitive and efficient domestic airline system which, by any standard, is one of the best in the world. We are proud of it and we plan to maintain it. During the past few weeks conversations have been held between representatives of Trans-Australia Airlines, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd and senior Government advisers. In those discussions the Government has emphasised its desire to see the 2-airline policy continue in the interests of the Australian and travelling public. Of course the Government naturally and quite properly will pay regard to its guaranteed commitments for loans raised by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd to purchase jet aircraft.

An interesting and important point to emerge from the discussions I have mentioned is that both ATI and TNT have said that whatever the outcome of the present bid for control, it is intended to separ ate the activities of ATI and to publish separate airline accounts. This is welcomed by the Government. We regard it as a desirable development. For its part TAA has urged the Government to ensure that its competitive ability is not impaired. The Government is giving careful consideration to this aspect as part of its current review of the 2-airline policy. Air transport is a vital national enterprise and the Government has been always interested in the ownership of the major private enterprise airline. We would not approve any transfer of ownership which resulted in foreign domination of this sector of the airline industry or which would lessen the benefits which the 2-airline system has produced for Australia.

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