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Tuesday, 4 March 1980
Page: 488

Senator CHANEY -On 20 February Senator Rocher asked me a question on meat exports to Saudi Arabia and on charter or cargo airlines. On the same day Senator Thomas followed it up with a question. I now have an answer which has been provided to me by the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt). As it is a fairly lengthy answer, I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

I have made enquiries and can confirm that British Cargo Airlines have not stopped operating to Saudi Arabia. The company operated a meat export flight to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on 1 March. I understand that the company informed the Department of Transport in late January that they were cancelling one flight and that they would not supply meat to Saudi Arabia pending changes in the rules concerning the inbound cargoes that they carry. However, following that advice the airline continued to carry Australian meat to another Middle East destination under these rules, operating two flights to Abu Dhabi, and it has since operated the flight mentioned above to Riyadh.

Prior to these events, British Cargo Airlines had informed the Government early in January that it would cease operating meal export flights to the Middle East unless the Government changed its international air freight policy immediately to implement freight option D of the ICAP report. Under that option charter airlines could carr)' consignments as small as 500 kgs and could also carry consolidated freight. Effectively, that option would give non-scheduled airlines access to the entire inbound freight market. This would affect existing services:

Scheduled airlines provide important regular services to Australia's major markets, and carry the bulk of Australia's air freight, including meat. Any liberalisation of our freight charter policy would divert freight from scheduled airlines, reducing their revenues and requiring compensatory increases in passenger fares. In accordance with the bilateral air services agreements Australia has with other countries, any increases required in fare levels would need to be agreed by the other countries concerned.

There is much unused cargo capacity on scheduled airlines, particularly to the Middle East.

At present there appears to be a shortage of meat products available for shipment, and the scheduled airlines have recently experienced large cancellations of space that had been booked by meat exporters.

In these circumstances, it is inappropriate to rush any changes in freight charter policy. Proper consideration of the matter should await the result of careful examination of the complex issues involved. The Government has such an urgent examination under way and will be dealing with the issue during March.

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