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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2397

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) - We are all entitled on occasions to indulge in flights of fancy and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) has had his fling this afternoon. I should have thought, speaking for myself, that it was fancy in the extreme when he declared that the people of Australia have nothing to be frightened of from the Labor Government. I do not want to inflict a lesson in history upon the honourable gentleman but that argument would have been hard to sell in 1947 when the cry went out to nationalise the banks. As you know, Mr Speaker, instinctively I shy away from saying anything that is hurtful or upsetting to people and, as a consequence, I am sorry that I cannot agree with the honourable member for Lilley that this is simply a contest between Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. It is to do the Queen's English a singular form of violence to read this Bill and then to conclude that all that it concerns is a conflict between TAA and Ansett Transport Industries. A more superficial reading of a Bill would be impossible to make.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his constant regard for me, on a personal basis. When I took to him a copy of the 'Platform, Constitution and Rules' of the Australian Labor Party he wrote in it an inscription. I will spare him the embarrassment of reading what is in it but I indulge myself to the extent of saying that it is couched in felicitous language. I think it adds little to the authenticity of the document when I say that the inscription was written by none other than the Prime Minister of Australia who leads the Labor Government. The relevance of that is simply this: The prime objective of the Government, which my honourable friend leads and of which the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is a distinguished member, is democratic socialisation. That, in a word, is the ultimate aim and this Bill, far from being a conflict between 2 airline operators, is the first significant expression of the Government's basic socialist belief. I do not condemn honourable members opposite who hold those beliefs and who expound them but what I do confess to is a mild form of irritation that they do not do so boldly.

I know that there are those valient souls, many of whom support my side of politics albeit fitfully, who say: 'Well, of course, the Constitution is against any form of socialisation.' I have heard the Prime Minister himself say words to this effect: 'There is section 92 of the Constitution - a barrier over which the socialist cannot clamber.' Of course, that simply is not true and the Bill says in the most explicit of terms that that is not the case. This is the first significant foray by the new socialist Government into the world of commerce.

Mr Charles Jones - Ooh!

Mr KILLEN - Ooh, says the Minister for Transport. I must say to him that I owe him an apology. I never thought for one moment that he had a sense of humour, let alone a robust sense of humour, until I listened to his speech when he said: T need not go into the Bill in any detail.' I say to the honourable gentleman that he made a grand imperial job of not going into the Bill in any detail. So, if people want to find out what is in the Bill they should look at the Bill. To read the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport and then to imagine that they will apprehend from that an understanding of what the Bill is all about, would be like look ing for Alice in Wonderland in a meeting of the Labor Party Caucus, and I do not think that is quite on. The Australian National Airlines Act was first introduced in 1945. The then Minister for Civil Aviation was the late Mr Drakeford and he had this to say - these are the words he actually used: in introducing this measure: for the nationalisation of airlines.

He went on to propound his argument. I mention that because there was a vigorous display of frankness by a Labor Minister in introducing this measure for the nationalisation of airlines. But in this instance all we hear from the Minister sitting at the table is: I need not go into the Bill in any detail'. Was it modesty that swept over the honourable gentleman? Does that draw him back from being frank with this House and the country? If it is modesty I congratulate the Minister on having added another virtue to those that now adorn him.

After Mr Drakeford introduced the Bill there was one of the epic struggles in the courts as to whether there could be one government-run airline in the country or otherwise. The socialists lost out and they did not take the loss with any great sense of grace.

Mr Beazley - And you lost out when you tried-

Mr KILLEN - If the Minister for Education wants to come into the debate, I would welcome his intrusion rather than his sitting on the sideline making observations which are desperately academic and highly irrelevant and for the most part grossly inaccurate. This Bill is an emphatic expression that the socialists have not lied down - and I use 'lied' not in its vulgar sense but in its technical sense, as to whether you are horizontal or perpendicular. This is the first major attempt by my friends opposite to show that they are not as overwhelmed, that they have not been put out of business, to the same extent that many people thought was the case.

The honourable member for Lilley and the Minister himself have said: 'Well, TAA is a first rate airline operator'. That is not under challenge. I do not know any honourable gentleman on the Opposition side who contends that for one moment. It has been a superbly run airline staffed by people with a sense of vocation for their industry. That is not the question. The question is: To what extent is the Government prepared to branch out into a great field of operation? This Bill seeks to test to the ultimate the corporations power of the Commonwealth. They may be wrong but even if they fail on this occasion they will know precisely to what extent they may go in order to set up structure after structure after structure of government run enterprises. Never before, or rarely, have I seen put in a Bill where they propose to get their head of power from. I invite the country to look at clause 6 which deals with a reference of power before or after the commencement of a particular sub-section. Since when is a government, no matter what its political kidney may be, entitled to assume that there will be a reference of power made to it either by the people or by the State? No government and no parliament should seek to legislate in anticipation. It could well be that the other 4 States which have not been attracted to the idea of making a referral would say: 'No, we will have nothing at all to do with it'. But here, the honourable gentleman, led by the Minister for Transport, is proceeding on the basis that this power will be referred to this Parliament.

My friend the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) spoke earlier this afternoon about the advantages which are to be conferred upon this enterprise. One cannot, you know, simply describe it as TransAustralia Airlines from now on because, if this power is a valid use of power, TAA is put in a position where it can branch into any form of activity at all. We could even have established the Charlie Jones health camps run by that sympathetic PT instructor, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James).

Mr Keogh - And you would be the first there for a holiday.

Mr KILLEN - No doubt the honourable member for Bowman would be the person who would do the ringing of the bell first thing in the morning.

Mr McLeay - He would be in charge of recreation.

Mr KILLEN - That may well be the case. The simple truth is that under this Bill, if it is passed into law, this body, the commission, will have passed through some metamorphosis and become something else - will be able to enter into any form of business. Is that seriously disputed? It will be able to form any form of company. Is that disputed? It is all very fine for the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) or any of his colleagues to say: 'Ah, that is not what we intended'. It is not what they intended that counts. What counts is the language used in this Bill. After all, in the years to come we may not have such gentle, moderate-thinking people as the Minister for Transport. Who knows, we may have some of the wild men who come out of the West and seek to administer this Bill in a way that would bring fright to the Australian people.

Under this Bill the Commission, or whatever it may be called, will be able to purchase or acquire any form of shares. Is that contested? Under this Bill the Commission would have access to a completely unstated amount of capital. Is that contested? Also, this capital will be at an unspecified rate of interest. There is nothing in the Bill to say that it has to be at bond interest or at the prevailing bank interest rates or due competitive interest rates or anything of the sort. When the honourable member for Lilley asks the question rhetorically: 'I did not know that honourable gentlemen opposite were worried about competition', of course, he is asking a question which is perfect in its sense of absurdity. It is not competition that we complain about. What we complain about is the possibility of manifestly unfair competition. What other transport body in Australia, be it Ansett or any other body, can have access to capital in unspecified quantities and at unspecified rates of interest? If honourable gentlemen opposite, know what that body is, and possibly they may be aroused from their massive silence to say what it is.

Mr Beazley - Perhaps IPEC would have been-

Mr KILLEN -I would be grateful if at long last the Minister will get on his feet and give us the benefit, dubious as it may be, of his view on this Bill.

As the honourable member for Gippsland pointed out also this afternoon, the other advantage to be thrust upon this body is that it will be put in a trading position where it will pay no State transport taxes of any description. What other body in Australia is put in that position of advantage of not having to pay road tax or stamp tax? If this body goes into the hotel business no obligation will be thrust upon it to pay any licensing fee. The contentions which I make are not a matter which stem from the prejudice of partisan politics. I submit that the points I am raising can be seen by looking at the Bill itself. Simple English is used in clause 5 and surely its meaning is clear. This clause provides that under proposed section 19 (1), the Commission can enter into any form of transport partly by air and partly by land between prescribed places. And it is not limited in terms of saying it must be closely connected with an airline.

If honourable gentlemen opposite want to be upstanding about this and sweep themselves to the sense of virtue where they already regard themselves as having been entrenched, why do they not put in these provisions in matters closely allied or connected with air transport? I would have thought that would not be imposing too great a strain upon them. Another provision in the same proposed subsection of the Act is 'land transport and engineering services and such other services as can conveniently be provided' for the Commonwealth and authorities of the Commonwealth. What is the limit to that? Under this provision any engineering work could be established anywhere in Australia not for the purposes of servicing an airline operator but for the purposes of servicing the Commonwealth. It could service any department of state whatsoever. If my honourable friends opposite hold the views they have expressed I do not object to their holding them, but what I do object to is the reticence they have in stating their views so that we and the people of Australia may understand what they are about.

The second provision to which I refer is the proposed section 19e. It provides:

The Commission may . . establish, maintain and operate, or make arrangements with other persons for or in connexion with the establishment, maintenance and operation of, hotels-

That is not for the purpose of being closely connected with airline operations. But under the power provided in this proposed new section a hotel could be established at Cunnamulla for the purpose of providing a country retreat for members of the Labor Caucus. The term 'recreation' you will agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, is most expansive. Some of us indulge in various forms of recreation which may not always be looked upon with admiration by others; it is all a matter of taste. But in the Bill we have this generic term 'recreation*.

Under this provision Harry Miller could be put out of business. Is that the intention of the Minister for Transport? It is to no avail him getting up and indulging in banalities and saying that this is not what the Government intends. The intention of a Bill is to be gleaned from the 4 corners of the Bill. I have stated the language which is used in the Bill. Again, what is meant by 'entertainment'?

Mr Nixon - I will give you some idea.

Mr KILLEN - The honourable gentleman, of course, has most artistic and cultural instincts which he reveals in a most becoming fashion. But I am not quite so sure that this would always be the case with what the authors of this Bill propose. Under this Bill the casino in Hobart could be taken over some time in the future. Some people take the view that horse racing is a form of recreation. The Brisbane Amateur Turf Club could be taken over under the heading of providing recreation and entertainment.

The Bill goes on to refer to 'services or facilities'. It is a test for the Minister for Transport to specify in the Bill that all of these services and provisions are to be closely allied with the air transport industry. That is a simple request to make. It does not ask the honourable gentleman to do very much. In one blow he could cut back all of the criticism that is made of this measure. The honourable gentleman should not think for one moment that it is only Ansett Transport Industries that may have some concern with this Bill. There are hundreds of motels which have been established throughout Australia and on current indications they are not making much of a do of it. Under this Bill the Commission at some time in the future would be able to exacerbate whatever economic distress those motels may be afflicted with.

Just in passing, I say to the Minister, really and truly, of all the oddities to be put into a Bill the preposition 'if is the greatest. I refer to the words 'if Papua New Guinea becomes an independent country'. Would the honourable gentleman be prepared to address a mass rally at Port Moresby or in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea and say: 'I have just written into a statute of the Australian Parliament the words: "if Papua New Guinea becomes an independent country".' This wording is an insult to the whole independence movement of Papua New Guinea. The honourable gentleman would be well advised to get rid of it.

I warn this House and I warn the country that this Bill is the first major foray by the new socialist Government to test the extent of the Corporation's power. This is the first major expression to see that the basic political belief which the Government holds, is given expression to. If the Minister wants to have a quarrel about that he can have the quarrel here in the Parliament. I can assure him that when the fighting starts outside he will know that he is being punched.

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