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Thursday, 25 February 1971

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - by leave - 1 am certainly not satisfied with the statement which was made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) on the sale of aircraft of Jetair Australia Ltd to the Commonwealth Government. When the Leader of the Government began to read his statement I thought he had perhaps made a mistake in the year he read out because he began by referring to the year 1969. However, he was correct. It seems to me to be very strange that negotiations which commenced in 1969 to assist Nepal and Laos should take almost 2 years to reach a decision, especially if these aircraft were required urgently. If the matter was so urgent I should imagine that these aircraft could have been obtained well within 2 years.

Senator Prowse - Where does the honourable senator read that into the statement?

Senator GEORGES - Let us have a look at what the Leader of the Government said. In the early part of his statement he said:

Following negotiations between the departments of Foreign Affairs and Supply five of these aircraft were bought for a total of $60,000. Two were purchased on 21st November 1969 and three on 15th April 1970.

Two of these aircraft were purchased in November 1969. The request was first made early in 1969. There did not seem to be any urgency about supplying them then, but suddently there was an urgent requirement to supply to Cambodia aircraft which were available for purchase from Jetair Australia Ltd. In fact, so urgent did the requirement become that certain procedures were circumvented. The Government went steadily about the matter at the beginning and took almost 2 years to reach a decision and then, because Jetair suddenly became defunct and its aircraft became available for purchase, the matter was expedited to such an extent that tenders were not called

I am not satisfied with the details which were given in the statement about the Department of Supply being asked to proceed with preparing the formal contracts and to make inquiries to ascertain whether other suitable aircraft were available. It would be interesting to find out what those inquiries were, how widespread they were and whether any advertising was carried out. The Leader of the Government went on to say that the Department of Supply's inquiries revealed that other suitable aircraft were not available and that the Chairman of the Contracts Board therefore issued a certificate that it was impractical and inexpedient to call tenders. I find this to be particularly unusual. It fits into the pattern of a sudden urgency to purchase aircraft from Jetair. Tn certain questions I have asked I have implied that there has been malpractice. I will continue to ask questions and to seek out information on this subject. I am of the opinion that the Department suited its requirements to the specifications of the Jetair aircraft.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - To which department are you referring.

Senator GEORGES - The Department of Foreign Affairs. It suited its requirements to the specifications of the aircraft of Jetair. For this reason I think it is vital that the whole matter should be investigated thoroughly. I am pleased that the Australian Labor Party will seek to adjourn the debate to a later date.

Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.

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