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Tuesday, 29 April 1980
Page: 1878

Senator KILGARIFF (NORTHERN TERRITORY) - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. By way of a very brief preamble, it would be true to say that the people of the Northern Territory are getting heartily tired of the machinations of the domestic airlines and their attitude in regard to cancelling and rescheduling their jet services to late night flights, particularly those to Darwin, which in some instances affect Alice Springs, during school holidays and holiday weekends. Is it a fact that once again, with holidays occurring, people of the Northern Territory will in some cases be reduced to using Fokker Friendship services, which aircraft have a small capacity, and that Territory citizens will be forced to travel between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., when curfews are lifted in southern States? Will the Government intervene in regard to this rescheduling as it forces Northern Territorians into late night travel which is as unacceptable to them as it would be to seaboard dwellers?

Senator Walsh - We have been putting up with that for years.

Senator CHANEY - I can understand the feelings which lie behind the question asked by Senator Kilgariff and which are underlined by an interjection from a Western Australian senator opposite, who points out that people in Western Australia put up with some very inconvenient scheduling for roughly the same reasons, namely, that the curfew arrangements at other airports mean that there are flights in and out of Perth at what I can only describe as quite ungodly hours. That is a matter of considerable personal inconvenience to many travellers and to many honourable senators and members of the other place who have to travel either from the Northern Territory or from Western Australia. The difficulty faced by the airlines is that at times of peak demand, particularly around school holidays when there are many additional travellers, the airlines have to look to getting maximum use of their aircraft. This means that they are rearranging schedules to ensure that they get maximum capacity on all routes. The only alternative to the sort of rearrangement which the honourable senator has raised is for the airlines to have considerably greater capacity, which would enable them to cope with the busier periods. But that extra capacity would be idle during the less busy periods.

Bearing in mind the real concern expressed in this chamber about air fares, particularly by senators from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and north Queensland, I think all honourable senators will agree that we cannot expect the airlines to create a lot of excess capacity just to meet particular peaks in travel. So it appears that there will be some continuing inconvenience for those of us who come from more remote parts of Australia. The best hope I can offer the honourable senator is that there will be substantial rearrangements of airline scheduling over the next few years because of the large reequipment programs which have been announced. Trans-Australia Airlines is to be reequipped with Airbuses and Ansett Airlines of Australia has recently announced a very large reequipment program with various Boeing aircraft. That program will change the shape of the airline business in Australia considerably. It is to be hoped that some of the inconveniences about which Senator Kilgariff understandably complains on behalf of his constituents will be removed by those very substantial advances in equipment over the next year and a half to three years.

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