Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 30 September 1958

Mr HOWSE (Calare) .- Honorable members opposite speak about competition between the airlines yet stress that they want only one airline, T.A.A. Such talk makes absolute nonsense. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), the last speaker on the Opposition side, spoke about country aerodromes, but he did not really know what he was talking about, because it is quite clear that this bill will assist in the provision of, and improvement of, aerodromes in the country. Indeed, the major part of the bill is designed to facilitate assistance in the establishment of country aerodromes, for the benefit of country people. For instance, there are now, I think, 60 DC3's in use, some of which are to be replaced by twenty Fokker Friendships next year. The purchase of those Fokker Friendships is to be financed as a result of the measure we are now debating.

The honorable member for Werriwa tried to make out that by taking Viscounts off certain runs we will be depriving country people of proper air services. The fact is that the Viscount can use very few airstrips in the country, whereas the Fokker* Friendship can' use practically every strip that is usable by a DC3. So I say that; instead of- depriving country" people- of' proper airservices, the effect, of the measure will beto - bring' air- services to- trie- country up to date. The Fokker Friendship can fly above the weather, it can fly above the turbulence, and it can fly at more than 100 miles an hour faster than the DC3. In addition, as I said a moment or two ago, it can use country aerodromes now used by DC3's.

Under this measure the Government has set aside £600,000 for direct assistance to shires and other local authorities, to reimburse them for money that they have spent on aerodromes. Further than that, country centres which wish to establish aerodromes will receive the most generous treatment, because the Government will bear half of the cost of maintaining the aerodromes.

By financing the purchase of Fokker Friendships for use in the country the Government will be assisting local authorities because, owing to the superior performance of the Friendships, country airstrips can be reduced in size and will therefore, from the financial point of view, become more manageable. The result of all this will be that country people will be able to enjoy the same standards of comfort and luxury in aircraft as city people travelling interstate now enjoy. Practically all development in the air since 1946 has been directed to services flying between the capital cities. So, under this legislation, direct government assistance amounting to £600,000 will be pumped into municipalities and shires. This shows that country people have not been forgotten by the Government in spite of all this talk from the Opposition about the purchase of Boeing 707's for Qantas.

There has been a. great deal of misleading talk from the other side of the House; Honorable members opposite have deliberately tried to create the impression that: the Government is- simply handing out' money to the Ansett-A-.N.A. interests. If. honorable gentlemen opposite had read the Airlines Equipment Bill they would have seen quite clearly that clearly laid down in clause 9 are the terms and conditions of th& guarantee that the Government will give in relation to the purchase of new aircraft.. The- Government, is protected under this measure: in. that regard;, but the. Opposition: has deliberately, I repeat, tried to create the impression that money is just being handed over recklessly by the Government.

I think that the first consideration in relation to the Airlines Equipment Bill should be that of how the Australian public can best be served. That is the test, and it is the Government's responsibility to see that the Australian public enjoys the most modern, most economical and, above all, the safest air services available. The Government has clearly demonstrated that it has this in mind and is encouraging the two airlines in this direction by the most practical means possible. It is in the public interest, first, to achieve stability in airline operations; secondly, to provide efficient airline services with healthy competition; and thirdly, to establish the airlines on a sound economic basis.

Now, how can these goals be achieved? They cannot be achieved by a monopoly, whether it be a private monopoly or a government monopoly. The public has no wish to have a monopoly foisted on it, because with a monopoly the public has no choice of service, and monopolies are notoriously careless of the public's interests.

What is the basic problem facing the airline operators? Honorable members opposite have talked about the international airline operators. Take Qantas, for instance. I shall deal with the one route that I happen to know a bit about, the route to Papua-New Guinea. Why should the people of Papua-New Guinea and Norfolk Island have to put up with old aircraft like the DC4, a non-pressurized aircraft which runs at inconvenient times because there are no night landing facilities in Port Moresby? These people should be able to enjoy the same standard of aviation as we enjoy in Australia. Qantas, acting on the advice of its experts, decided that the Electra aircraft was most suitable for that run. It believed that it could provide an adequate service to Papua-New Guinea, and it made its choice after the most careful study. I am not going to argue about it. It was the choice of Qantas, and Qantas is a very successful airline operator, as it has proved over the years.

Then we turn to the problem of the internal airlines. What is T.A.A.'s problem? The main problem of that airline, with its present fleet, lies in the long haul between

Adelaide and Perth. With its present Viscounts, T.A.A. has to reduce passenger and freight loading in order to get across to Perth against the prevailing adverse winds. The airline wants an aircraft that is more suitable for this run, and it, too, has ordered Electras.

What has happened with Ansett-A.N.A.? That airline has operated at a serious disadvantage from the stand-point of competition in equipment, compared with the turbine-powered fleet of T.A.A. It is necessary for Ansett-A.N.A. to meet the competition - and it has to be fair competition. Ansett-A.N.A. must have modern planes. The 1952 Civil Aviation Agreement has provided assistance for these two airline companies to purchase modern aircraft. If we are to have only one airline we must face this fact: At present, the two airlines - T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. - employ practically 8,000 persons. The majority of them are highly skilled and many of them are semi-skilled. All of them are trained. If thi airlines are reduced to only one, men will be put out of work and we will lose a most valuable source of supply of skilled manpower for defence.

I turn now to the advantages of the Electra aircraft because they have come under severe criticism from the Opposition side. I shall refer to the defence aspect. As honorable members know, the Government has purchased a fleet of Hercules transport aircraft. These are large military aircraft and form a very important part of our defence set-up for the transport of troops and equipment. I understand that the Electras are complementary to the Hercules transport aircraft. Therefore, in time of national emergency, there would be an immediate advantage from possession of these two planes as the Electra and the Hercules have similar engines and are similar in type. The skilled men who maintain both aircraft could immediately be used by the R.A.A.F. and other defence services on both types of aircraft.

We should not lose sight also of the second-hand value of the Electra aircraft. I understand that many of them are used throughout the world and,' therefore, they have a ready sale. We should remember that fact particularly when we are considering the economic side of this matter.

Through this legislation, we are dealing with a purchase of American aircraft and we should consider the effect on the standardization of our aircraft. I will not argue the technical points because the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) has done that very ably. I am not qualified to do so and I shall leave that side of the matter to the experts in the airline companies and to the airline operators. They know what they are doing. They have decided that the standardization of aircraft by using the Electras with Qantas, T.E.A.L., T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. could effect considerable dollar savings. Such a saving can be made also in the purchase of spare parts, tools, general equipment and ground handling equipment. It has been estimated1 that there will be a saving of approximately 6,000,000 dollars. This represents a substantial saving to the Commonwealth Treasury.

Flowing from this, we have the additional advantage that engine overhauls on all these aircraft can be done by one single authority operated by Qantas which can undertake the overhaul of the Electras as well as the Hercules aircraft. The standardization of equipment will reduce costs and make transport more efficient.

There has been a lot of loose talk about the dumping of British manufactures and buying only from the U.S.A. I believe that that matter should be put in its right perspective. The fact is that Australian airlines have made very substantial purchases from the British aircraft industry. T.A.A. already has thirteen model 700 series Viscounts with two model 800 series Viscounts on order. Ansett-A.N.A. has two model 700 Viscounts and four model 800 Viscounts on order. As to the Fokker Friendship, it has a high United Kingdom content in its manufacture totalling more than 60 per cent., including its engines. T.A.A. has twelve of the Friendship model on order and Ansett-A.N.A. has ordered six of those aircraft. Therefore, any accusation that the Australian airlines are abusing British manufacturers is purely fiction based on inaccuracies and is unworthy of further comment.

The Government has maintained the spirit of the 1952 agreement which was passed by this Parliament. Further, it has sought ways and means of maintaining two airlines within Australia and the airlines operating outside Australia at the highest efficiency. I submit that the bills now before the House represent the result of intelligent and most careful study by experts, by the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of the Treasury. If the Treasury has looked over these bills and passed them, they must be very good.

The Government has made sure that the best available equipment is provided for Australian air passengers and that the most economical and proven equipment has been provided to permit profitable non-subsidized operation. It has assured the preservation of practical competition and rationalization within the spirit of the Civil Aviation Agreement of 1952. It has provided the maximum benefits from, the standardization of aircraft and substantial savings of over 6,000,000 dollars of expenditure. Above all, it has seen that the requirements of the R.A.A.F. from civil aviation in time of national emergency have been given full consideration.

Finally, I should like to say that the first consideration must be given to the Australian public. This is not a matter of a political philosophy; whether you like monopolies or believe in the nationalization of industry. The first consideration must be the Australian public so that the people have a free and unfettered choice to travel in any aircraft as they wish. They should have safe, efficiently run and economic airlines because Australia, with its great distances, is an ideal country for flying. Do not let us put on blinkers. I suggest that if any honorable member were to ask whether an airline would prefer a monopoly, any intelligent member of either airline company would reply " No. Give us competition. We can stand on our own feet. If we cannot we will go out." Australia expects and has been accustomed to air services second to none. These bills provide an opportunity for the encouragement of air travel of a high standard in Australia.

Suggest corrections