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Tuesday, 25 September 2001
Page: 31420

Mrs HULL (8:56 PM) —I support the Air Passenger Ticket Levy (Imposition) Bill 2001 and the Air Passenger Ticket Levy (Collection) Bill 2001 although, as a very active member of the tourism industry in the past, and as one of the friends of tourism in this House, I understand the difficulties that the industry is experiencing at this time. It was a difficult decision for me to support the levy and it may well have been an option to apply a departure levy and not penalise our domestic businesses. However, I am fully committed to the tourism industry and clearly remember going through this debate when the New South Wales Premier, through the New South Wales government, applied a bed tax.

I understand the crisis the industry is facing and it will take strong, cohesive and positive leadership and ownership of this magnificent industry to assist this sector to overcome the hurdles that confront it. However, I must empathise with those people who have found themselves in a position not of their making. Many of them have trained for all their working careers to attain certain positions and they now find that they cannot utilise their skills and that they need to undertake a new approach to their working futures.

My unrelenting support for Kendell Airlines employees in my electorate is well known in the House, in the city of Wagga Wagga and in the home of Kendell. Kendell Airlines employed 900 people. The wages and salaries were around $38 million. It serviced 19 ports of destination and had a fleet of seven CRJ 200s, 29 Saab 340 A/Bs and 19 Metroliners/Metro 23s. In Victoria, Kendell employed 322 people. Its wages were around $12 million and it serviced five destinations. In New South Wales, Kendell employed 328 people. The engineering and maintenance was carried out in Wagga Wagga, the home of Kendell. It serviced the Wagga Wagga, Albury, Ballina and Coffs Harbour areas, with around 200 of those employees being employed in the central city in the Riverina of Wagga Wagga. In Queensland, it serviced Rockhampton and Mackay. In South Australia, it employed 127 people and had wages of around $6 million. It serviced seven destinations: Mount Gambier, Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Ceduna, Olympic Dam and Coober Pedy. It had about 120 through movements per week, encompassing about 90 per cent of the government travel. In Tasmania, it employed 37 people. Kendell serviced Launceston, Burnie, Devonport and King Island. In the ACT market, it serviced the route from Sydney to the ACT and it employed 42 people.

All of this—the generation of income and the creation of jobs and services—resulted from one man and his wife. This airline, which has contributed so much to rural and regional Australian people, was founded by a most wonderful man, Don Kendell, and his wife Eilish. They commenced a charter and flying instructor's business in Wagga Wagga in 1967. Don and Eilish built their business and commenced the first airline service between Wagga Wagga and Melbourne in 1971. This commitment from this family established a quality of life for so many rural and regional Australians. This man has enabled us to have medical specialists visit our electorate. At times, the services that this man has provided have determined whether Riverina people live or die.

Do not ever underestimate the service that Don Kendell and his wife have provided to rural, regional and remote Australia. We have managed to attract industries that have provided employment opportunities for our people, all on the back of this airline. We have remained competitive with the nation by offering a reliable service to and from the major capital cities and all over Australia. Our business houses have utilised these services to their capacity and have enabled them to offer employment and to generate expansion in the areas of rural and regional Australia.

As one of the loyal Kendell staff members said, when speaking of the demise of Ansett Australia and the position that Kendell Airlines now finds itself in due to that demise, `This would never have happened in Don's day.' Under the chairmanship of Don Kendell and the general management of Geoff Bruest, the Kendell company was profitable. No dividend was paid to shareholders, and all profits went back into building the company. That is how small business goes on to become large business, like Don Kendell's. It is through blood, sweat and tears. You have to apply yourself and work long hours. You have to determine how to build your business, and you and your family have to make sacrifices to build your business. Don was always honest with his staff, and there were no fancy overheads. He ran a lean, efficient operation.

Don has found difficult times with his health now. It must be very stressful to see all that he has worked for collapsing around him. The first words Don Kendell said to me after the horrific events in America were, `It shatters me to see that they used civilian aircraft to commit this atrocity.' Such is his commitment and such has been his commitment to the field of aviation. It is without doubt, Don, that I am very proud of what you have delivered. I thank you for your commitment to us. The least I can do is to support your dedicated staff in this mess, because it has been brought about by a company that does not understand the commitment and sacrifice it takes to ensure that an operation continues to run.

It may seem odd that I have concentrated thus far on Kendell in this speech and not on the issues of air services to my electorate and across rural and regional Australia. However, this may very well be the last opportunity I have to speak about a man that I have looked up to and to have him read my sincere thoughts and gratitude to him for the wonderful asset he has given to the Riverina.

Let me take this opportunity to offer my thanks and my sincere gratitude to John Anderson, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, the Leader of the National Party and the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Through his diligence and his desire to see Kendell fly again, the airline is flying again in three states. This must be a source of enormous pride for Don Kendell.

It is only today that the federal government—under the leadership of John Anderson, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party—announced that the administrator of Kendell will be given a $3.5 million loan to help the airline fly again. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, has enabled Kendell to resume services in South Australia and some flights between Melbourne and Tasmania. The airline will operate from Adelaide to Port Lincoln, Olympic Dam, Whyalla, Broken Hill, Coober Pedy, Mount Gambier, Ceduna and Kingscote. These services will start from Thursday, 27 September. Hopefully next week the airline will operate from Melbourne to Burnie and to Devonport and to King Island. These were great routes for Don Kendell. It is sensational to see this taking place.

The loan to Kendell Airlines administrators will be from the rapid route recovery scheme, initiated by the Deputy Prime Minister and announced last week. That scheme will help airlines to restart services on the routes that were serviced by Ansett or by Kendell Airlines, one of Ansett's great subsidiaries. Today's announcement was fantastic news not only for South Australia and Tasmania but also for the people in Wagga Wagga, the home of Kendell. They are determined, committed and dedicated to Don Kendell for what he has achieved for them in all the years that he has provided services to the Riverina and to other areas across Australia.

It is so pleasing to see that the Deputy Prime Minister is continuing the discussions with the administrators about restoring services on other routes that were previously serviced by Kendell. I look forward to any positive announcements from the Deputy Prime Minister. I cannot thank him enough for his untiring effort, dedication and commitment to rural and regional people in seeking to provide them with opportunities and to gain services back into their communities. It has not been easy for him—it has been most difficult for him, as it has been for all of us—but we have five Metros and three Saabs of Kendell Airlines that are going into the air, which is of enormous benefit to all of us.

Hazelton Airlines also flies into my electorate. I am so pleased that the Deputy Prime Minister was also able to support Hazelton Airlines. Hazelton Airlines services the communities of Narrandera, Leeton and Griffith, and we have found it most difficult to operate in those communities since the demise of the Ansett enterprise. The service operated by Hazelton utilised Griffith, Narrandera and Leeton aerodromes and serviced a population of around 45,000 between these three centres. It should also be noted that other local government areas within the region, including Hay, Carrathool and the Murrumbidgee, also utilised the service. The Narrandera-Leeton airport caters for a direct population in excess of 20,000. It has been a viable service, with passenger numbers for the last financial year being approximately 12,000. My communities have enjoyed a service that is significant, due to people such as Max Hazelton and Don Kendell.

In supporting this legislation this evening, I note that it is undoubtedly difficult for us to support something that may have some adverse impact on the tourism industry—but it has not been difficult for me to support two people I admire tremendously, Don and Eilish Kendell.