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Wednesday, 8 November 1967


Mr DEVINE (East Sydney) - I wish to voice my opposition to the manner in which the Government is raising loans overseas for the purchase of aircraft for Qantas Airways Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines. As an Australian who is a shareholder in both these companies I am one of those persons who believe that Qantas and TAA should expand. We are all -aware of the wonderful work performed by those companies and the names that they have established for themselves in the airline industry both in Australia and internationally. My colleagues have stated that we are opposed to money being raised overseas for the purchase of aircraft by these companies because high rates of interest will be paid to people who do not live in Australia. The Australian Government will reap no benefit from payments of interest. The people who will provide the money do not reside in Australia, yet they will be the ones to benefit greatly from the high interest rate. I think it is important to mention that on almost all occasions we find it necessary to go to the United States of America to raise money for the purchase of aircraft. There is no doubt that we are tying ourselves to business corporations in the United States. They are the ones who benefit most from these transactions.

I do not believe that there is a reciprocity extended by the United States Government. It has imposed import restrictions on Australian goods, both primary and secondary, and we do not receive favourable treatment of the kind that we extend by borrowing money from Americans at exorbitant rates of interest. Honourable members will be aware that the Boeing Company is one organisation which will benefit greatly from these agreements. But it will be the Australian taxpayers who will pay for this in the long run. This is one of the main reasons why we on this side of the House are opposed to interest payments going out of Australia on money invested by overseas interests. We feel that whatever is required could be raised in Australia. If the other airline company operating in Australia can raise funds by issuing debentures to enable it to buy aircraft overseas, why cannot TAA raise finance in the same way? But of course the Government's policy does not allow TAA to borrow on the Australian market in opposition to the other airline company. The result is that we are forced to go overseas to raise funds.

We know that in the airline industry today there is a change. Automation is coming into the industry. It is quite natural that TAA, which at present is selling some of its older type aircraft such as Viscounts, will soon be getting rid of the Electras and will be looking for other aircraft to replace the smaller aircraft now used on the shorter routes. We know that over a period the people of Queensland, Tasmania and some of the other States have been suffering because some airline services have been taken from their States. The six Twin Otter aircraft which TAA intends to buy will assist in providing services to people in country areas. We know that the people will appreciate this and we support it.

I am a little disappointed at the Government's attitude towards TAA. For some months now, the airline has been crying out for permission to import more DC9 aircraft, which are larger than other types of aircraft now in service - but the Government has not allowed it to do so. The airline maintains that if it could get the additional aircraft it could ultimately provide cheaper air fares for its passengers. The Government should help the airline by allowing it to import the aircraft so that it can give a better service. TAA is very concerned about the Government's veto. It says that without the extra aircraft it will not be able to keep air fares down to their present level. The Government should give further consideration to the request of TAA. Big changes are occurring in airline operations. The airlines are changing to automation and this will affect the public as well as the pilots. One of the larger aircraft, say a Boeing 727, is equal to four Viscounts, two Electras or five Fokker Friendships. Automation can have a serious effect on the employment of pilots in the airline industry. When the smaller aircraft are taken out of service, one Boeing will take the place of four Viscounts and fewer pilots will be required by the airlines. I sincerely hope that there will be no retrenchment of pilots.

Recently airline pilots have been agitating for better superannuation benefits. They want the basic hours on which superannuation is calculated increased by 10. One company within New South Wales has already given this increase and the other two companies may agree to do so in the future. If this happens, the pilots will be rostered" for an extra 10 hours. This will be coupled with a reduction of the number of aircraft flying in Australia. TAA has 462 pilots. The increased hours will mean that these pilots will be flying around Australia for an additional 4,620 hours and sufficient aircraft may not be available for them to do this. The result may be a retrenchment of pilots. The Government should examine this position. It may look good on paper to the pilots who want the extra 10 hours so that they will receive a larger superannuation payment, but we should consider whether it will cause any retrenchments. I do not know whether the Australian Federation of Air Pilots has considered this aspect, but it could have a serious effect, especially on the younger pilots.

I raise these matters because they are important to the Australian airline industry. As I said previously, I agree with my colleagues that the money required by TAA could be raised in Australia. But the Government is not attempting to raise it in Australia. It should consider doing so, because if the money were raised in Australia the people of Australia would benefit. Interest on the loan would then be paid to Australians and the whole of the community would benefit. Of course, the Government's policy of all the way with LBJ requires us to purchase capital goods and raise the moneys we need in the United States at exorbitant rates of interest. Of course, the people who suffer from this policy are the poor old Australian workers and the poor old battlers. Although I and my colleagues keep raising these matters in the Parliament, it is just like pouring water on a duck's back. In the future, and not far in the future, there will be a change of government. There will then be a change of policy and both airlines as well as the people of Australia will benefit. I put these propositions Before the Government for its consideration.







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