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Wednesday, 26 October 1949


Mr DRAKEFORD - The only reference that the Auditor-General made was in respect of some deficiencies of stores that had been transferred from disposals. I ask the honorable gentleman not to rely on what appeared in the AuditorGeneral's report for 1947-48 without being fair enough to consider what he said in his report for 1948-49, when he definitely referred to the fact that a good deal of the sources of complaint had1 been remedied. He did not use these actual words, but that is the effect of his statement. When this airline was inaugurated it bought a great quantity of disposals stores, just as other airline companies, such as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, also did.. I am not criticizing any company for doing that. It is probably good keen business tactics. From the brief that was prepared for him, the honorable member for Flinders-


Mr Ryan - No brief was prepared for me.


Mr DRAKEFORD - The honorable member presented an alleged analysis of Trans-Australia Airlines balance-sheet, but failed completely to pin any cause for complaint upon Trans-Australia Airlines or my department or myself. I suggest that if the honorable member studies 'the newspapers which published his charges under big headlines he would find that my answer was not published under similar headlines. It certainly appeared in those newspapers, but it' was not given the same prominence as was given to the charges.


Mr Ryan Mr. Ryan interjecting,


Mr DRAKEFORD - The honorable member obviously becomes ' rattled when his statements are refuted. He alleged that a car had been provided for branch managers to drive around in and that the wages of various people had been doubled because of overtime worked. I do not know whether I should mention what I am about to say, but I 'pointed out to the honorable member outside this chamber that I thought he was on the wrong track, and he said that he would ask some' :md-re questions about the matter. I prepared answers for him, but he did not ask thos*? questions, because he knew he was on the wrong track. He knew that it would be dangerous for him to ask those questions.The information that has been furnished to the House completely refutes hig statements.

The honorable member said that branch managers had been using motor vehicles for private purposes. It is true that a motor vehicle has been allocated to the branch office in every capital city. It is placed at the disposal df the manager, but is not for his sole use. Does the honorable member suggest that an instrumentality of the size of Trans- Australia Airlines should not have a motor car allocated to it in each of the capital cities for staff purposes? That practice is commonly followed even in private businesses, but no comment is made about that. However, when Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Empire Airways Limited adopt a similar practice, honorable members opposite characterize it as a sheer waste of public money. They know very well that, in bringing these complaints before the House, they are not animated by pure motives ; they do so solely to bolster their charge that a government instrumentality cannot pay its way.


Mr MCBRIDE - Government instrumentalities are not paying their way.


Mr DRAKEFORD - In the two periods covered by the reports 'of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, that organization has made a profit. No doubt that fact has caused honorable members opposite some concern. They do 'not like to have their allegations refuted. I believe that Trans- Australia Airlines will also show a profit. I assure honorable members opposite that the answers to their questions are being prepared. I am not by any means running away from them. If the honorable member for Balaclava will examine the notice-paper, he will see that the question that he has asked in \ relation to the carriage of mails by Qantas Empire Airways Limited is covered by a question in almost similar terms which has been placed on the notice-paper by the Leader of the Australian Country "party (Mr. "Fadden). If the honorable member' had taken the trouble to investigate the ' position, he would know that the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and Qantas Empire Airways Limited operate in a parallel partnership and that, in order to obtain the information for which he has asked, it is necessary to ascertain the proportions of mail carried respectively by the two companies. A great deal of investigation is needed to elicit that information. However, honorable members are entitled to that information, and 1 assure them that it will be supplied to them.


Mr White - The answer to my question will probably be supplied by post.


Mr DRAKEFORD - It will not be sent by post. It will be conveyed personally to the honorable member either at the conclusion of this sitting or during the next sitting of the Parliament. A good deal of the delay that has taken place in obtaining information of this kind arises from the obscurity with which honorable members opposite surround their questions.

The honorable member for Flinders has said that certain stores which were issued in Sydney have not been properly accounted for. I have made specific inquiries in relation to that complaint, and I have been informed by responsible officers of Trans-Australia Airlines that they have no knowledge of any stores being unaccounted for. If the honorable member will furnish particulars of dates and the persons concerned, I shall have the matter investigated without delay. I hope that his allegations on this occasion will prove to be as ridiculously om justified as the other allegations that he has made. The honorable member has also complained about over staffing in TransAustralia Airlines. 'I assure him that the staffing of Trans-Australia Airlines bears the same relationship to the work done as is the case with Qantas Empire Airways Limited. It has taken over under my direction as Minister lines that were known to be non-paying. I point out that no complaints were made on this score when Qantas Empire Airways Limited was operating under a subsidy which enabled it to guarantee a 7 per cent, return on the captial invested in one branch of its service. It was because of the payment of subsidies that the private companies, which are so loudly applauded by honorable members opposite, were able to earn profits for a long period of years. Subsidies are paid to the MacRobertson Miller Aviation Company Limited, Airlines (Western Australia), Guinea Airways and others. All airline companies, with the exception of EastWest Airlines and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, receive subsidies. Butler Airways Limited receives a small subsidy and these are essential if air services are to be supplied in sparsely populated areas.

The questions that have been asked by honorable members in relation to this matter have necessitated the making of lengthy investigations. The answers are now available and will be supplied without delay. I warn honorable members opposite, however, that if they propose to use the information during the election campaign they will find that those for whom they obtained this information will be somewhat upset by the fact that the answers completely refute the allegations, expressed or implied, in the questions. The complaints made by the honorable member for Flinders to-night have no more substance than those which the honorable member made on the previous occasion and which I was able to show were completely without foundation. I do not accuse the honorable member of wilfully making false statements. I do not think that he would do so. Probably, he is the innocent victim of people who, in pursuit of their own interests, make suggestions with the deliberate intention of doing damage to a government instrumentality of which I feel proud and of which honorable members opposite, if they were reasonable men, would also feel proud.


Mr Ryan - Will the Minister answer one further question ?







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