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Tuesday, 4 May 1971

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - That refers to the expenditure on the Avalon airport. This was referred to in a speech in the Senate by Senator Rae, and, as it has now been raised by Senator Wilkinson, I think probably the comment that I have here will be useful to Senator Rae and the Senate and. indeed, to Senator Wilkinson as well. Senator Rae, in speaking about this matter, which was of concern to me as well, quoted from the Public Works Committee report in noting that the Committee felt that more efficient planning by the Department of Civil Aviation would have given more time for the Committee to better scrutinise the proposals, that in rushing such a project there must be some penalties in terms of higher construction costs, and that the Department appeared to be indifferent towards the requirements of the Public Works Committee.

Senator Raewent on to ask, in effect, why the Department was unable to include the $6.4m in the 1970-71 Budget presented to Parliament in September 1970 when in fact it was able to go to the Public Works Committee with the same information in September 1970. Senator Rae asked what was being done to avoid a repetition. The Boeing company decided to go ahead with the Boeing 747 development in 1966. In 1*967 it was decided that Qantas Airways Ltd should acquire the jumbo jet, and in 1968 the Department decided to extend the north/ south runway No. 5 at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport to 13,000 feet. This decision was based on tentative aircraft performance data which was the best then available. The Boeing 747 first flew at the turn of the year 1968-69 and Qantas decided to buy the Boeing 747B some 5 months later. This, in turn, confirmed the runway requirement of 13,000 feet at Kingsford-Smith No. 5.

After clearing complementary developments at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport, the Department then had the problem of determining what was needed for Boeing 747 training at Avalon in the face of certain training techniques. In fact, this information was not forthcoming until a few days before the Department appeared before the Public Works Committee. Up until that time there was an insufficient, pool of practical experience to make a firm decision where very expensive runway construction costs were involved. The Department, to some degree, had to anticipate the requirements in respect of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. It was able to act with full confidence insofar as the Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport later project was concerned, but it had to wait for additional operating experience in order to arrive at the more difficult to define training requirements by September 1970. At the same time, the airport development branch had to prepare for the Boeing 747 at Perth, Darwin, Port Moresby and, in the role of alternate airports, at Learmonth and Adelaide. In parallel with this, the airport development branch has been looking after major projects at Canberra, Sydney (Kingsford-Smith), Brisbane, Kalgoorlie, Learmonth and Lae. I have other notes here about the problems of airport planning and the difficulties of anticipation with the changing of types of aircraft, but they are not relevant. I think what I have said explains to Senators Rae and Wilkinson and to the Senate what this was all about.

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