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Thursday, 2 November 1967

Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs) (Minister for Civil Aviation) - by leave - The Government has approved a proposal by Qantas Airways Ltd that it be authorised to order four Boeing 747 Jumbo jets for delivery in 1971 and to take options on a further two of these aircraft to meet possible requirements beyond 1972. This approval is subject to the completion of satisfactory arrangements for financing the purchase of the aircraft. Approval has also been granted for Qantas to pay further, deposits to retain delivery positions which it has obtained for six United States supersonic transports, the Boeing 2707. These payments, totalling $US600,000, are to be made on the clear understanding that neither the Government nor the company is committed in any way to the purchase of these aircraft at this stage. Deposits to secure delivery positions for four Concorde supersonic transports were made in 1963.

Qantas has been aware for some time that overseas airlines will be introducing Boeing 747 aircraft on its routes prior to moving into the supersonic era in the mid 1970s, and it is obviously essential for the company to have comparable equipment if it is to compete effectively with them on the air routes to and from Australia. The company will, in any event, need additional aircraft as traffic increases during the next few years. In considering this matter, the Government has reviewed its general policy on international aviation, particularly the role it contemplates for Qantas in the future. It has readily concluded that the national interest is best served by continuing to encourage the operation of fast, frequent air services to and from Australia with modern, comfortable aircraft and by the further development of Qantas as a major operator of such services.

In this respect, I need only mention the important part tourism is playing in the nation's economic growth, contributing substantial sums in foreign exchange expenditure by tourists on accommodation, transportation and purchase of consumer goods. Rapid air services, with reasonable fares, are essential for growth in this industry and the airlines are looking to the jumbo jets to provide a healthy stimulus in this way. It is most desirable that Australia be in a position to participate in the worldwide expansion of tourism expected to eventuate from this next generation of jet aircraft. The Government has therefore accepted the Qantas proposition that it should plan on the introduction of Boeing 747s on its services as soon as possible, and the latter half of 1971 is the earliest this can be achieved.

The Boeing 747 is about three times the size of the large Boeing 707s now operated by Qantas, carrying over 300 passengers together with up to 27 tons of freight and mail, it will provide a greater degree of comfort for passengers and its operating economies will help the airlines to combat the effect of rising cost levels in other directions. The cost of purchasing four aircraft with associated spares and equipment will be $A123m, and another $A12m will be involved in providing special hangars and buildings necessary for the maintenance and operation of this large aircraft.

As I have indicated, the purchase of the aircraft will be subject to satisfactory arrangements for their financing. If, as is usual, these involve overseas borrowings by the Commonwealth for the purpose, appropriate legislation will be introduced when required. The airport requirements of the Boeing 747 have not yet been finally determined, but the technical advisers of my Department have concluded that a runway length of about 12,500 feet will be needed for economic operations over long stage flights. The detailed airport requirements, including estimates of cost, will be reported on by the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works and will then be examined by the Government as precise proposals are developed.

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