Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 4 December 1985
Page: 2905

Senator SANDERS —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aviation whether the Government is aware of a questionnaire being circulated by the Independent Review of Economic Regulation of Domestic Aviation which is worded in such a way as to slant the answers in favour of retention of the two-airline policy and, specifically to indicate that lower air fares could be introduced only if there were slower planes, no meals and a reduction in seating space? Will the Minister allow the immediate importation of East-West Airlines of Australia jet aircraft? Furthermore, will he allow East-West to operate the Launceston to Sydney run as the previously issued licence from the Department of Aviation actually entitles it to do?

Senator GIETZELT —I am aware that the Independent Review of Economic Regulation of Domestic Aviation is currently conducting a survey to discover what consumers think about domestic air services in Australia. It is the first such survey designed to establish customer preference; what passengers require from our domestic airline services. I gather that the question that I have been asked, that is, whether there are any objectives that would establish a preference for a reduced form of service in lieu of lower air fares, would be one of the questions asked of consumers to establish their general reaction to the existing services provided by the two main airline operators. I point out to Senator Sanders that 49 such questions are being asked in the survey and that is only one of the options that have been placed before consumers. The reason is that cost reduction avenues have to be explored to see whether they would involve any effective trade-off so as to establish their feasibility, depending upon the reaction of consumers. The survey, which is being conducted by an independent government organisation, has to have regard to that approach, bearing in mind the two-airline agreement, to which Senator Sanders has expressed his own opposition.

I have pointed out on previous occasions that the Government's hands are tied in respect of the two-airline agreement. It has no flexibility whatsoever. Whatever surveys are conducted the Government has to take its legal position into consideration. The two-airline agreement, which was entered into by the previous Government, binds this Government from 1985 until 1990. The Australian Government cannot certify that the importation of an additional F28 is justified having regard to the legal position it finds itself in. It is not a decision of this Government but a decision of previous governments which binds the views of this and succeeding governments until 1990 when the agreement will be up for renegotiation.

I repeat, as I did on a previous occasion when this question was asked of me, that East-West is fully aware of the restrictions of the two-airline agreement and the restrictions placed on services on the trunk route from Launceston to Sydney to which the honourable senator has referred. Of course, there are different views. I stress that, until 1990, there is no way in which this Government or any succeeding government can alter that existing three-way agreement between Ansett Airlines of Australia, Trans Australia Airlines and the Commonwealth Government. It is a binding contract. As such, East-West Airlines has no recourse to this Government to import any new planes or to operate any routes having regard to the existing arrangements in that two-airline agreement.