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Thursday, 29 October 1970

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I would like to participate in this debate as a member of the Public Works Committee and to support the concluding remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton). I believe that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) moved this amendment as a form of protest against the absence of foresight by the Government in not planning for the foreseeable future. I join with the honourable member for Leichhardt in saying that the Public Works Committee is not prepared to be censured by anybody in this House. It is a dedicated Committee and the members of it have worked very hard. We have examined every possible aspect of the proposals set out in the report now before the Parliament. We flew over Avalon in light aircraft. We stood in the classrooms of Geelong Grammar School. We went into the streets and into the shops of Lara and Little River and made one of the most thorough examinations that could be made by any committee in connection with the problems of aircraft noise.

The executive officers of Geelong Grammar were not hostile about aircraft noise. I thought they were very decent in thenoutlook. But they did express an opinion that it would be better if the 707 jet pilots under training kept closer to the organised and restricted pattern of flight, which would keep them about a mile away from Geelong Grammar. But they said in all fairness that they realised the difficulty in training pilots who occasionally drifted over Geelong Grammar and sometimes caused up to 11 interruptions to student classes in a matter of an hour. We realised this difficulty but we also realised, as every member of this Parliament acknowledges, the rapid advances that have been made in the aircraft industry in recent years. Probably our Committee was a little overcensorious in the concluding pages of its report when censuring the Department of Civil Aviation.

The aircraft industry is one of the most rapidly changing industries. We planned and prepared the Amberley air base for the FI 1 1 bomber, but no-one now knows whether the Fill bomber will ever be used there. One can plan too far ahead at times in connection with the aircraft industry. Aircraft engineers are talking about designing a vertical takeoff aircraft.

Mr Griffiths - And they have done.

Mr JAMES - The honourable member for Shortland says they have done it. I do not think it has come on to the commercial market or will do so in the foreseeable future. To use the vernacular, what a bunny the Government would be if it built great expensive airstrips and then aeronautical engineers came out with a vertical takeoff aircraft. We would look rather stupid. The great concern of the Committee was that our great international airline, Qantas, would not be held up with the conversion courses to the jumbo jets of its pilots. 1 endorse the remarks made by my colleagues that the Department of Civil Aviation officials have shown great courtesy and are skilled and dedicated men. Under cross-examination before the Committee the DCA officials said that there was no suitable training airfield site on the east coast between Sydney and Melbourne. This makes it difficult. We must accept this testimony on oath from men of great integrity and learning.

Despite the irritations caused to certain people in the area by aircraft noise, if we are to advance in this industry the unfortunate people who find the aircraft noise causing them mental distress will have to put up with it. f say that with deep feeling for their problem. The honourable member for Newcastle raised an interesting point when he said that the pilots could be trained overseas while we search around for another airfield. But I recollect evidence being given to the Public Works Committee from members of the Department of Civil Aviation to the effect that Avalon airport is ideal for training our jet pilots because of the crosswinds and because of the low cloud that settles over Avalon airport at frequent intervals throughout the year. That gives the pilots the opportunity of flying and making land ings where there is a cloud hazard which they frequently encounter at overseas airports. Climatically, from the crosswinds and the cloud cover, Avalon airport is ideal for the purpose of training these pilots.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They have to descent to 500 feet.

Mr JAMES - At times, as the honourable member for Hughes reminds me, the pilots have to descent to 500 feet. Under cross-examination we asked DCA officials why the pilots have to fly so low during their training periods. The answer was that at certain airports throughout the world which do not have modern landing instruments the pilots have to make visual landings. Therefore they have to practise low flying below cloud to become skilled in bringing these giant planes down when electronic facilities are non-existent in some of the airports throughout the world. I have said, and I reiterate, I consider that the referring back of this report to the Public Works Committee will be futile. But I appreciate the motives which inspired the honourable member for Newcastle to bring forward this amendment.

As I conclude my remarks I desire to point out also to the House that backgrading the Avalon airport is something that we cannot afford to do. When the jumbo jets, the 707s and, later, the Concordes come onto the international runs, if a plane catches fire at Tullamarine the only alternative international airport where another plane could be brought down would be Avalon. The same would apply if Tullamarine were closed by fog. The alternate airport, which is nearby, would he Avalon. These are important things which I do not think have been brought forward in this debate, despite the great skill and knowledge displayed by Government supporters and honourable members on this side of the House. Therefore, the Parliament should be very clear about my attitude to the situation. Unfortunately. 1 find myself and the Committee - particularly the Labor members of the Public Works Committee - generally over the barrel, in virtually having to support the amendment because of a Party decision when we feel that, if the amendment were carried and the report referred back to the Public Works Committee, it would be rather futile.

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