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Thursday, 31 August 1989
Page: 701

Senator RICHARDSON —I was asked a question yesterday by Senator Newman and a further question today by Senator Reid on certain matters relating to the use of defence aircraft in the current pilots dispute. I will attempt to answer both questions now. Ticket proceeds from civilian passengers on Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) flights are to be retained by the airlines. The airlines have reached an agreement with the Department of Defence under which they will either provide or pay for fuel and other operational and maintenance costs on an hourly basis. In effect, therefore, they are chartering the aircraft from the Government. The precise costs of this sort of operation are not yet clear as the RAAF has not undertaken this sort of operation on a scale of this kind before. If the revenue received by Defence from the airlines does not in the end fully cover the RAAF's additional expenses for this operation, the Minister for Defence will seek supplementation for the shortfall through the Additional Estimates.

RAAF staff are clearly working very hard to sustain this operation. They deserve praise and gratitude for it. RAAF personnel are paid a service allowance in lieu of overtime of over $4,000 a year. This was increased by 123 per cent last year. Since the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal was established by this Government, all national wage increases have flowed on to the Defence Force quickly and in full. Additional rises have also been granted under productivity and anomaly provisions. Because of this, the Defence headquarters have decided that the two-year review allowed for in the Act has not been needed.

In answer to Senator Reid's question on Hamilton Island, the agreement between the Department of Transport and Communications, the RAAF and the airlines is that they will all work out flight details together. The understanding is that the RAAF will service routes that cannot be serviced by other measures. These will include isolated areas like Western Australia and Tasmania and, judging by the advertisement from which Senator Reid has quoted, it would appear that the airlines are seeking to include Hamilton Island in that as well. Given that they are chartering the aircraft, that would be a matter for them.

When it comes to Kangaroo 89, however, to which Senator Reid referred and about which Senator Newman put out a press release yesterday, they are in fact quite wrong in their assertions. Number one priority is being given, and will continue to be given, to defence personnel returning from Kangaroo 89. Qantas Airways Ltd will be taking up what the domestic airlines may have taken up had they been in full operation. There is no truth to the claim that defence personnel are being downgraded in any way in priority. They are priority No. 1 and will remain so.