Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1801

Mr BENNETT (Swan) - I agree with the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) that this is a very vital area of aviation. He went on to quote the present general manager of Qantas Airways Limited. Let me quote the former general manager of Qantas, Sir Hudson Fysh, in a letter to the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 21st September 1971. The letter is headed 'Qantas under pressure'. It reads as follows:

The reported result of the recent negotiations between Australia and the US ('Herald', September 20), in which Australia has been forced to give way in allowing a greatly disproportionate number of seats per week on the South Pacific services between the US and Australia to the US operators, and a great increase in seats, at the very time when aircraft of both countries are operating on an average far less than half full, can only come as a shock to all those who have at heart the interests of Australia and Qantas, and of good international relations.

In fact, a case could have been made out for a conference to reduce the number of seats being flown till traffic improved, not to increase them.

The flat refusal to allow the Qantas Jumbo jet to fly to the US though Pan American Airways were flying the type to Australia illustrates the Western-type pistol-point negotiations which took place and which stood Australia up in a corner, and can be described as a triumph of might over right.

The result of the negotiations, or the way in which they have worked out, denies the right of one of the participants to equal ownership of the inter-country air traffic on a basis calculated to produce operation without financial loss. This denies the very basis of international air transport negotiation as I have always seen it.

It is to be hoped that a new and equitable agreement can be negotiated speedily and before irreparable harm has been done to the Australian operator, which, unlike the mighty US companies, cannot afford to operate one of its important routes on the basis of half empty, unpayable seat places.

Meanwhile, Australians will rally round their own company, Qantas, and the superlative service it provides.

I think that answers anything that may have been said by the honourable member for Mitchell. It is with genuine alarm for the wellbeing not only of the air traveller but also of those people who live near our airports - in particular, our international airports - that I rise to support the amendment of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). We have had two near airline catastrophes of a major nature which have virtually been dismissed with a slight note of reproval to the parties concerned, in a way so casual that it raised the ugly suspicion that this is a common occurrence and that it was just unfortunate that the matter became public knowledge. No other explanation could be offered for the inactivity of responsible bodies by way of inquiry. Must we wait until a crash actually occurs, wiping out not only the passengers and crew but perhaps a school or hundreds of nearby residents?

This is of more concern to people living in areas adjacent to the Perth international airport where the runways are currently being extended to take the jumbo jets. These runways will place flight paths over populated areas so that these people have not only the invasion of privacy by aircraft noise but now the added fear that safety standards are much lower than was previously thought. Even if the authorities are satisfied in their own minds that all is well they should have taken steps by now to ensure that their convictions were backed by evidence produced at a properly constituted inquiry and that the inquiry's findings and recommendations for steps to be taken to prevent such further incidents will be made public and put into practice immediately. The Western Australian public has had its fears aroused by the contents of an article published in the 'West Australian' newspaper on Thursday, 22nd July of this year.

The article referred to the refutation by the spokesman for the Australian Federation of Air Pilots of the statements of the Director-General of Civil Aviation. Terms such as 'pre-judging the issue' are used to refer to the Director's allegation that a pilot of a Pan-American Boeing 747 had made a major error in judgment. So we have a public situation of two responsible bodies making statements of blame in a manner which can only alarm the public. Still there has been no Government move to bring reassurance to the situation. There has been no suspension of Boeing 747 flights until the suitability of the airport landing system is resolved. Surely this would have been a reasonable action in view of reported statements by Federation spokesmen that the airline wanted a further test conducted on the T-VASI system before allowing their 747 pilots to use it for landings, particularly when the visual approach slope indicator system, the system employing red and white guide lights, is known and accepted as being unsuitable for jumbo jets. Is it not reasonable that, if there are doubts about the so-called accepted system and there is no acceptable alternative, flights be suspended until all possible doubts are eliminated? Once these doubts have been expelled, the public must be informed fully and assured that these matters have been investigated fully and properly. A joint select committee which will properly investigate all the aspects mentioned in the amendment and which will report to the Parliament and the public is the answer.

The suspension of flights by overseas airlines into the United States of America is not such a terrible challenge to the United States, which is threatening to ban Aer Lingus, Ireland's international airline, from New York a year from now unless American carriers are granted permission to land at Dublin. However it will allow Aer Lingus to continue less lucrative services to Boston and Chicago. The United States has been trying for 25 years to obtain permission for its international airlines to land aircraft at Dublin, but the Irish will allow them to operate only through Shannon. It would appear that if it is possible for the Irish to negotiate in this manner on landing rights, it should be possible for us to take a stand on safety. In particular, whilst our Director-General of Civil Aviation was in the United States of America to discuss the United States ban on Qantas jumbo jet flights to America, with the disadvantage of having had one Australian compromise deal rejected by the United States of America, he negotiated from a situation of weakness, with lack of government action to support Qantas and a heavy commitment to purchase the United States Boeing 747B at $21m odd. All the problems which have been facing Qantas must be investigated. With aircrew insecurity, a record unemployment level among aircrew and an international monetary crisis taking place, it will be a national disgrace to allow such major expenditure to continue. Unless all aspects of operations by Qantas are investigated by a joint select committee we will create a situation in which we could be compounding errors in management or errors in judgment.

It rests with the Parliament finally to make a decision to involve itself in the task of finding out why our major international airline cannot be put in a position similar to British Overseas Airways Corporation, which made a substantial net profit of $6,857,280. Why can Qantas not be put into a similar situation? BOAC has a triple automatic pilot system fitted to its Boeing 747 jumbo jets to allow automatic landing in bad weather. It is all this kind of information which must be placed before a joint select committee for evaluation. From evidence arising from intensive research presented to such an inquiry it may well be found that existing airports are in fact unsuitable for the Boeing 747 and its approach systems. We must bear in mind that we are currently expending large sums of public moneys, millions of dollars in fact, to extend runways and provide landing systems for flight paths over densely populated areas, without due consideration to the safety of those people under the flight paths or to the noise nuisance to which they have so strenuously objected. It may well be found that international airports need urgent resiting to cater for new aircraft not now in use but which it is envisaged will be in operation in the foreseeable future.

The existing system of deciding to purchase an aircraft, then making landing sites and systems to suit the purchase at public expense needs investigation, more so when public expenditure is demanded to allow foreign competitors to land in Australia to the disadvantage of Qantas and to the disadvantage of Australia's foreign exchange balance. In the proposed inquiry we should look at the effects on our foreign exchange balance, of our policy of allowing our airlines to purchase aircraft fully constructed overseas when we have a failing aircraft construction industry in Australia. A proper look at all aspects of Australian aircraft assembly may well reveal that a heavy protection policy for Qantas is justified. After all, this policy was adopted for the motor industry. Why must we continue to be a slave to American industry and to American airlines, which are in turn heavily supported by their government? Let us take an independent, comprehensive look at the overall situation which is now facing the airline industry by utilising the services of a joint select committee.

We must bear in mind that supersonic aircraft and flight are with us. It is imperative that the select committee look at this

18938/71- J».-|64J

aspect. It may well find that Qantas, which I understand has options on supersonic aircraft, is intending to use these aircraft at airports totally unsuitable because of their siting. Perhaps for safety reasons only it will be found that most major Australian international airports need to be shifted. This Parliament must be fully informed. Are the Qantas Concorde and supersonic flight aircraft be become another Fill fiasco? This can be avoided by proper investigation now. There is evidence available that must be investigated. To give a few examples of the things that should be investigated, I quote from the 'Paddington Journal', which has done a lot of research on this matter. It states:

The Real Cost

All aircraft cost millions of money, but that's only metal and paper and doesn't hurt anyone. What we also have to pay, as revealed by SST tests over 7 United States cities and by Concorde flights over England and France, is a feeling of human despair at forever surrendering peace and quiet, damage to property that may or may nol be compensated (and will take a long time), aborted young in humans and animals (one Mink farmer lost 2.000 kits) landslides and animal stampedes in the path of the sonic boom (from 40 to 60 miles wide on the ground along the whole flight path of the 'plane), pollution from highly dangerous industrial poisons' added to SST fuel, as well as other fallout; the gigantic noise of the SST especially at airports; the danger to buildings (a Reuter report in the Guardian (London) on 5/8/67 said the French Government paid £143.000 in 1966 in compensation for damage and that ' . . . a fresh wave of anxiety swept France this week when a farmhouse in the north-west collapsed, killing 3 people. Survivors said they heard a loud sonic boom just before the roof beams fell in'); the upset of the stratosphere - 'It is known that SST operation will introduce substantial additional moisture into the stratosphere. This moisture may destroy some fraction of the ozone in the atmosphere leading to an increase in the ultra violet radiation on earth. . . . Life could not exist if the earth were not shielded by ozone from the full effects of ultraviolet radiation; it is not presently known just what adverse effects small increases in ultra violet radiation might have on leafy plants and sensitive life forms. . . .

All this evidence is available and should be looked at. Remember, these are problems in flight, and we must investigate all these aspects if we are to operate international airlines and aircraft. We must have an investigation on world standards. Let us not continue eternally to bury our heads in the sand on the question of aircraft safety and aircraft noise. These matters all are associated with Qantas not only of the future but of today. This Parliament will be asked to ratify purchases of aircraft, expansion ofairports, and underwriting to the extent of millions of dollars of public funds. The Parliament should be fully informed of the consequences of its vote. We must take action before a major tragedy initiates world sympathy and belated public protest and even belated Government investigation. We have had the good fortune of near misses. We have not had a 747 come down in one of the crowded suburbs that are adjacent to all our major airports, or a Concorde creating damage in the countryside or devastating our metropolitan suburbs. It may well be found that our fears are groundless but we should have a proper investigation to be assured and take whatever action is required in the Parliament.

Suggest corrections