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Tuesday, 31 May 1960

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,as there is not any real opposition to this bill but, apparently, just a small measure of criticism, it is not necessary for me to detain the House very long by going into the fine details of the measure. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), in his secondreading speech, said -

The federal regulation of civil aviation in this country is rendered unusually complex because of constitutional limitations . . .

As aviation was in its infancy at the time of federation it is not surprising that there is no direct reference to civil aviation or air navigation in any of the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution.

Immediately after the turn of the century, there was no idea of the great spread and progress of aviation, and therefore it is to be understood that the Constitution makes no provision for present-day needs in respect of civil aviation.

I have listened with interest to the speeches made in this debate. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) objected to what he termed a subsidy paid to each airline passenger a subsidy which he said amounted to more than £3 per air passenger. I suggest to him that it could be said with emphasis that a subsidy is being paid per passenger on the railways. What the honorable member really meant to say in the extravagant language that he used is that every person who flies is subsidized more than £3 for his flight. I suggest that every train passenger, also, is subsidized because, apart from the Commonwealth Railways, every railway system in Australia goes more heavily into debt as the years go by, and these debts will never be met. Therefore, there is an indirect subsidy to passengers.

The honorable member for Chisholm said that road users contribute to the cost of road transport by paying sales tax on motor vehicles and by paying petrol tax. I thoroughly agree with him there. But the situation is very complex and many people who travel over the roads do not pay anything in petrol tax or sales tax except indirectly in the same manner as a subsidy is paid on the railways with their ever-accumulating debts.

I was interested to see that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James

Harrison) contributed to this debate in a speech lasting for three-quarters of an hour. I listened to him with interest, as I always do. At one time, the honorable member spoke only on union matters, but he now does not hesitate to give us a speech on matters affecting all sorts of people, and even the primary producers, whom we claim to represent. The honorable member said, I think, that the Australian Country Party would even agree with him that people in country areas should have adequate air services. Nobody could agree with him more on that than do members of the Country Party. We believe and advocate that country people must have air services for the good of this great Commonwealth. Efficient air services to country areas, I believe, will be one of the great factors in decentralizing the population. Perhaps I should not use the expression " decentralizing the population ", because it is difficult to get people back to the country once they get to the cities. But I believe that good air services will be an important factor in preventing a further drift to the cities.

I am very interested in intrastate air services. We have been told I repeat it only to remind the House that the Federal Government cannot allow Trans Australia Airlines to operate intrastate unless the State concerned gives that airline a charter to do so. Leaving the other provisions of the bill aside for the moment, because I am in agreement with them, this matter of intra-state services is a vexed question in many parts of Australia. Recently, it was stated that T.A.A. would be interested in an air service to parts of the Mallee electorate and also to the electorate of Wimmera, but there was no charter for such a service. Already I have had a letter from a certain shire authority telling me that the Commonwealth Government had not granted a charter for a service to operate within the State. Actually, as we in this House know, such a charter can be granted only through legislation passed by the Parliament of the State concerned. Then the problem of competition between the State railways and civil aviation arises.

I believe that something should be done even if we have to go as far as holding the referendum suggested by the honorable member for Blaxland to take this matter further and provide that the Commonwealth Government may legislate to grant a charter when the State governments refuse to act. If that were done, the T.A.A. service which is owned by the Commonwealth Government, could operate intra-state.

Until recently, a company known as Southern Airlines Limited operated a service between Melbourne, Kerang and Swan Hill. That company was never in a strong financial position and finally its finances were so deplorably bad that it ceased to operate. At that time it was gaining more and more passengers and many people believed that if it could have continued to operate, it would have been very successful. I suggest that a charter should be granted to T.A.A. - which has shown some interest in the air service route - to operate a service from Melbourne to Kerang and Swan Hill where there are two excellent aerodromes, across to Warracknabeal where there is an approved airfield, and back to Melbourne. That could be an initial stage in a service which would do much for the fairly extensive population in that country area.

The honorable member for Chisholm referred to the subsidy for civil aviation. If we are subsidizing passengers to the extent stated by the honorable member, how much better it would be to subsidize passengers travelling by air from country areas rather than those who travel from one city to another. This is not the first time that I have referred to the current leaning towards quick flights between capital cities although I do not oppose them. Do you believe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that a quick flight from Sydney to Brisbane or from Melbourne to Adelaide will bring to Australia more produce or earn more national income; or do you agree, as one man has said, that in travelling that way we are getting nowhere fast? If we could extend our T.A.A. air services into country areas, even with the help of subsidies, we could almost guarantee a paying load so that the subsidy would not be large if it were necessary at all. Would not that give impetus to decentralization, stop the drift to the cities and lift primary production? Would that not result in fostering increased primary production which is not only important to primary industries, but also would build up our exports and credits overseas and enable us to buy vital raw materials to keep our secondary industries in operation? That is the view of the Australian Country Party as I see it, and we will continue to advocate action along those lines in this Parliament.

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