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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2401

Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - I am afraid that I cannot repeat some of the remarks I made last week when I entered a debate after the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I knew his attitude could not last. Today he does not have on his Australian jersey. He is not speaking as an Australian. I think that for a moment during his speech he thought that he was taking a trip to fantasyland with the Premier of Queensland, who was there last weekend. His remarks were typical of the style we have grown to expect from the Opposition in the few months that I have been able to judge its performance. It is still the same old Liberal Party that was discredited to the extent that it was defeated in such a resounding way at the polls last December.

I noticed that in an article in the 'Australian' this morning dealing with the Opposition, headed 'The Opposition - Six Months Later', the author considered the way that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has been performing. The article contains a remark which is true of the Opposition's attitude to this Bill and true of its general performance. It is:

Perhaps without realising it, he-

Meaning the Leader of the Opposition - gives a series of clues to the fact that his is the same Liberal Party with the same faults, the same lack of flexibility and the same preoccupation with protecting big business interests. The Opposition today, Country Party and Liberal Party alike, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and perhaps to a less extent the honourable member for Moreton, have come out with the same propaganda that we would expect to hear from them. They put forward the same philosophies that were put forward in the leading article in the 'Courier-Mail' this morning by Alan Underwood. Obviously the speeches of Opposition members are in the style of that article. It is the same propaganda which

Ansett Transport Industries Ltd has been putting forward in recent days. It is the same propaganda that was mouthed this afternoon by Opposition spokesmen.

As the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has assured the House and as I am certain he will state in no uncertain terms in his summing up of this debate, it is not the intention of this Government to put TransAustralia Airlines at any advantage in comparison with Ansett Transport Industries. It is the endeavour and the intention of the Government to put TAA on an equal footing with Ansett Transport Industries. It is the intention of the Government to put into effect matters on which it had been the intention of the previous Government to legislate should it have been the Government of this country following the last election. Clearly, the previous Minister for Civil Aviation expressed these intentions when he introduced the Airlines Agreement Bill into the Senate on 26 August last year. These intentions were fully known to TAA, to Ansett Transport Industries, to the members of this Goverment and I am sure to the honourable member for Farrer and the honourable member for Gippsland. They knew that it was the intention of the previous Minister for Civil Aviation to introduce similar legislation to the Bill now before the House, should the previous Government have been in a position to do so after the last elections.

This was the assurance given to TAA. It was in terms that the Australian National Airlines Commission accepted the extension of the 2-airline agreement which Ansett Transport Industries wanted so badly. My understanding of the situation at that time was that TAA would not have signed the agreement if that assurance had not been given. The assurances were given and the 2-airline agreement was signed. It is on the basis of those assurances that this Bill is today before the House. The conditions of this Bill are based on the objectives of the previous Government. They are in the form that had been intended by the previous Government. The fear campaign and the fear tactics that the Opposition is sponsoring in this House today, which have only recently been devised, arise from the carefully contrived fear campaigns brought to the attention of the Opposition by Ansett Transport Industries. As I said earlier, today honourable members opposite are speaking in this

Parliament on behalf of Sir Reginald Ansett, and I would not doubt that we might hear during the course of this debate from such honourable members as the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), a former Minister, who probably has every reason to get up and speak today on behalf of Ansett Transport Industries. He will be quite anxious to pay his debt of gratitude to the Director of Ansett Transport Industries who, I am led to believe, played a very prominent role in the honourable member's last election campaign. This is the big pay-off to these people.

Mr Nixon - Mr Deputy Speaker, I must draw your attention to the speech which the honourable member is making. The words which he has just used are a direct reflection on a member of this House and I object to them. I ask for their withdrawal. They have nothing to do with the Bill.

Mr KEOGH - I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. It would not be my intention to say that these things were an accomplished fact. They just left me open to the suspicion that they might be. It is the Government's intention to allow TAA to diversify its activities and to enter into the type of enterprise in which we have seen Ansett Transport Industries successfully engage. Surely the Government airline is entitled to have the power to engage, in a small way, in these additional activities. After all, they are related to the airline's basic function, which is to provide airline services, ft is for this reason that the previous Government and now in turn this Government have recognised that the carriage of people and goods by road, in an area in which previously TAA has been denied the opportunity to operate, needs the flexibility that is contained in the provisions of the Bill.

I do not doubt that TAA will use the services of existing companies. After all, they are the experts in their field of operation. But it is clearly unacceptable for the airline to be in the position that it has to rely entirely on these services and not be in a similar position to Ansett Transport Industries which in the past has had the opportunity to develop such services for itself when it saw the need so to do. If nothing else, surely it would provide an incentive to the existing road transport operators to enter into more mutually beneficial arrangements with TAA than they have been prepared to do in the past.

A similar comment applies to the hotel field, which is the other field mentioned in the fear campaign that was introduced into the debate today. TAA could benefit its passengers if it had ready access to accommodation, preferably by means of arrangements with existing hotel operators. This is not to be taken as a threat to the established interests in the hotel and motel field. Surely it is reasonable for TAA to have the same opportunities as have been extended to Ansett Transport Industries in the past, when TAA sees the need for the establishment of these facilities. If the present facilities operating in this area are inadequate, TAA must be in a position to establish such facilities. Until now it has been denied the opportunity to do so.

I am sure that there is no intention by TAA to engage in the construction of large hotels throughout Australia. I believe that projects of this kind would be frowned on by the Government. The simple provision is made for TAA to do as we, in Opposition last year, suggested it should do when we introduced into this Parliament discussion on a matter of public importance. This will enable us to have an even-handed 2-airline policy. That is the Minister's intention in the provisions of the Bill and he is to be complimented for it. The Government does not intend to make TAA into a great hotel and motel accommodation chain, which the Flat motel interests have suggested is the intention of the Bill. Neither, would I believe, are we interested in the Airlines Commission using Government money to establish uneconomic accommodation facilities. The facilities which presently exist and which are shown to be economic are the facilities which TAA would use, as it has used them in the past. This legislation gives TAA the flexibility in its operations which the previous Government denied the airline. lt has been suggested also in the fear tactics used in the campaign against the legislation before the Parliament that TAA gets away without paying any of the taxes, charges and rates which its competitor, Ansett, has to pay. As with all other Commonwealth instrumentalities, TAA is not legally liable for such taxes or rates. However, the practice adopted by the previous Government - and I see no reason to suggest that the present Government will not continue the practice - was that TAA, in the same way as other Government instrumentalities, was either made legally liable to pay the bulk equivalent of such taxes or directed to make equivalent ex gratia payments to the State or local authorities in lieu of these taxes. In other words, TAA pays all the usual State and local taxes. It always has paid these taxes, and I believe that it would be the Government's intention that TAA should continue to do so.

This would happen even if TAA branched out into the road transport field. So the fear tactic that was used in argument today, that there would be competition in the road transport field by an organisation that would not be paying road taxes has no sound basis for consideration as a worthwhile argument against the provisions contained in this Bill. I understand that in the past the only taxes from which TAA has claimed exemption have been land tax and stamp duty. But the savings from this exemption amount to the colossal sum of $12,000 per annum. During 1971-72, TAA paid the following amounts: municipal rates, $103,292, water rates, $72,177, garbage rates, $2,064, land tax, $5,973, and Department of Civil Aviation water rates, municipal rates and sewerage rates, $25,697, making a total of $209,203. So, of course, the argument that TAA does not pay taxes does not stand up under examination.

The provisions in the Bill which extend to TAA the opportunity to compete with Ansett Transport Industries so that TAA receives a fair share of the internal revenues from airline passenger and freight activities show that these provisions are warranted when a comparison is made of the revenues achieved from both of these sources in 1971-72. TAA now earns 58 per cent of the total Ansett Transport Industries revenue. I sought and obtained the agreement of the shadow Minister for Transport to incorporate a table in Hansard.

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