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, 31 May 1960

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- We have had a very great number of bills dealing with civil aviation since the present Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) assumed office. He sponsored three acts in 1957, four acts in 1958, three acts and an abortive bill in 1959, and now two further bills are before the House. The Parliament passes more acts concerning civil aviation than it does concerning all other forms of transport. We pass very few bills concerning rail, road and sea transport. We pass no bills providing for the co-ordination of the four means of transport.

Road transport is entirely in private hands. It is subject to State regulation, insofar as section 92 of the Constitution allows this. It is the beneficiary of Commonwealth largesse insofar as we choose to disperse sales tax and petrol tax to it. Rail transport is, with a few negligible exceptions, entirely in government hands. It is mostly in State hands, but in a few important stretches, it is in Commonwealth hands. The Commonwealth and State Governments have taken inadequate steps to dovetail the operations of the Commonwealth and State railways. They have taken sluggish steps to standardize the gauges of the State railways with the Commonwealth railways, and no steps to standardize the equipment of the State railways with the Commonwealth railways or the State railways one with another. Sea transport is under a dual system, private and government. The Commonwealth regulates the operations of its own shipping, largely by limiting the operations and expansion of its shipping line to the operations and expansion of the private shipping lines. Air transport also is under a dual system, private and government, but again the Commonwealth makes the laws and provides the subsidies. As the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wil frid Kent Hughes) has very well said, the Commonwealth provides much heavier subsidies in total, and certainly per head or per pound, for air transport than for all other forms of transport combined.

The bill regularizes civil aviation law in this country in some important respects, lt at last puts on the statute-book the international agreement of 1944, as amended by the protocol of 1954. We have, in recent years, passed specific acts to put on the statute-book other international agreements. In 1958, by the Civil Aviation (Damage by Aircraft) Act, we put on the statute-book the Convention on Damage caused by Foreign Aircraft to Third Parties on the Surface, which had been concluded in 1952. Last year, by the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act, we put on the statute-book the protocol amending the Convention of 12th October, 1929, for the Unification of Rules relating to International Carriage by Air, the protocol having been signed in 1955. There is still another treaty, the Convention on the International Recognition of Rights in Aircraft, to which we subscribed in 1948 and which we have not yet put on the statute-book. I should like the Minister to say whether we are likely to ratify that twelve-year-old convention. We signed it on 19th June, 1948; it is still not operative in this country. Are we going to ratify it? If not, why not; and if so, when?

I have mentioned the acts of 1958 and of last year in which we ratified, as far as the Commonwealth can ratify them, these two international conventions. As the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) pointed out, the Commonwealth's capacity to regulate civil aviation is still seriously limited. It cannot pass laws concerning intra-state flying, and the States have yet to pass laws on the important subjects of those conventions which we made the law of our country in 1958 and last year, and they are taking their usual tardy time about it. New South Wales in 1952 and Victoria in 1953 passed acts concerning damage by aircraft to persons on the surface. The legislation, so the Minister told me last November, followed correspondence between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers. He told me that to that date other States had not taken similar action but consultation would1 continue. I therefore ask: What other States have yet acted upon the correspondence and the consultation with the Prime Minister?

The Minister also told me that he had contacted the State authorities with the object of obtaining State co-operation in extending the principles of the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act of 1959 to intra-state carriage by air. The Minister told me that his proposals were currently being examined by State authorities. I therefore ask as a third question: What stage have those proposals reached in the hands of the various States?

These instances illustrate the unsatisfactory position of civil aviation law in this country. We may have different rights and compensation at different rates may be payable, although we fly on the one airline, according to whether our flight is wholly within the State in which we board the aircraft, is intra-state, is from a State to a Territory, or is from one Territory to another Territory.

This all comes back to the recommendation made by the Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee in 1958, for which the committee gave its reasons to the Parliament last year. As honorable members will recall, there were six members of the Australian Labour Party, four members of the Liberal Party of Australia and two members of the Australian Country Party on that committee. They unanimously and strongly reported that the Parliament should seek to amend the Australian Constitution in order to provide that this Parliament could legislate with respect to aviation. I submit that the administrative, financial and international reasons which were given are completely persuasive. I therefore ask the Minister for Civil Aviation as a fourth question: What is to happen about that recommendation? A great deal of the legislation of the last few years would have been unnecessary if we had had that power, and still more of the regulations of the last few years would have been unnecessary if we had had it. It would be unnecessary to wait for the States to carry out their obligations and complete their proposals if we had that power.

Politics should not come into this matter. The States, in effect, allow the Commonwealth to spend all the money which is spent on civil aviation in this country.

Some States are blithely going about committing the Commonwealth to further expenditure without consulting it, because the States can licence air routes for intra-state services and the Commonwealth is then expected to provide the meteorological information, navigational aids and landing grounds required for those services which the States have licensed. In fact, the Commonwealth may have to undertake added expenditure in providing those facilities for airlines which operate on routes where the Commonwealth itself provides a service through Trans-Australia Airlines or subsidizes a service through Ansett-A.N.A. or one of its subsidiaries.

The position is quite unsatisfactory. In dealing with this latest of a very great number of civil aviation measures, we should be told what has happened to the remaining international agreement which we have not ratified, what the States are doing about the other two international agreements which we have ratified as far as we can, and what the Government proposes to do about the unanimous and strong recommendation of the Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee.

I conclude by saying that there seem to be two very desirable features of this bill. The first is that we are now putting on the statute book an international agreement. There will be more and more international agreements to which the Commonwealth Government will be a party, and to which it alone among the seven Australian governments can be a party - agreements which will govern our citizens and people visiting our shores and trading with us. In many of these cases, it is quite difficult to get the text of the law. This bill represents a great improvement by giving us the text in a ready form.

The other feature which I should like to commend is the provision that there shall be an annual report to the Parliament on the operation of this measure. There are, 1 think, some 60 acts of this Parliament under which the government is required to make an annual report to the Parliament. The practice of requiring an annual report to us is salutary. The Parliament should be told how its acts and its international agreements are operating, and it should be given that information promptly and fully. This bill will ensure that that is done in one further field.

Suggest corrections