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Tuesday, 21 August 1973
Page: 24

Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) (Minister for Civil Aviation) - I heard a whisper that the Opposition intended to do some bragging this afternoon when I accepted the amendment. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) inquired at my office yesterday as to what the Government would do about this matter. I very openly and frankly told him that we would accept the amendment. I wish to clarify a few points. What a difference there is between the crowing of the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) this afternoon and the laudatory remarks which he made after I had accepted all the other amendments when the Bill was dealt with by this Committee before it went to the Senate. I wish to make it clear that the reason I accepted those amendments on that occasion was that I preferred to have the Bill dealt with by this Committee rather than by another place. In this Committee I had some control over what was going on. Let us not make any bones about why 1 dealt with them here. The only reason I accepted the amendments was that the Government does not have the numbers in the other place. Let us be frank about that too. I give the honourable member for Gippsland and the honourable member for Farrer credit for being prepared to sit down and negotiate in relation to the amendments. The Government did not agree to everything they put forward but at least in this case we were able to work out a compromise in this House rather than it going before the other place.

The honourable member for Gippsland said that we accepted the amendment previously put in this House by the Opposition. We have not accepted that amendment because the Senate did not move as an amendment the amendment which was moved here by the Opposition. It moved a different amendment containing some of the proposals which the Opposition had written into its amendment. The Senate wrote into the amendment some additional points which the Government has accepted. So far as I am concerned we can live with the amendment which we are accepting from the Senate, but we do not agree with it 100 per cent. When the sta tement was made dealing with the 2-airline agreement I said that I would not accept this amendment. That was the Government's attitude and if we had the numbers in the Senate we would not accept it now. Let us not have any illusions about it. It is only because the Opposition has the numbers in the Senate that we are accepting it -

Mr Nixon - Go to the people on it.

Mr CHARLES JONES -We are doing all right out of the amendment and honourable members opposite will squeal their heads off when they find what we have done with it. I am going to do some bragging as well. On the question of the 2 airlines being on an equal footing, I point out that members of the Opposition have been under the domination of the Ansett Transport Industries Ltd for the 23 years they were in government. Ansett Transport Industries told the previous Government what it was to do and it toed the line. Let us make that point clear. The Liberal-Country Party Government toed the line when Ansett called the tune. Members opposite have done so on this occasion. The amendments which were moved by the Opposition were amendments it was told to move by ATI. When it comes to a comparison, what I have stated is a fact and the honourable member for Angus (Mr Giles) knows it because he is one of those who toed the line with the rest of the members of the Liberal and Country Parties.

So far as ATI is concerned let us be clear. Trans-Australia Airlines has a much better superannuation fund than does ATI. It costs TAA more than Sim a year more than it costs ATI. What the Opposition hoped to do was to place TAA at a disadvantage of about $1.5m a year compared to ATI. Do not let honourable members opposite forget that when they were in government they directed Qantas Airways Ltd to adopt a similiar method of investment for its superannuation fund as TAA was doing. TAA followed the previous Government's policy for 23 years and it was only in the dying hours of the last Parliament that the previous Government once again toed the line- that is the Ansett lineto extend the terms of the 2-airline agreement for another 5 years when there was no justification for it. Sir Frederick Scherger and other members of the Board at no time agreed to it. It was only under duress and pressure that the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe, leaned on them because ATI was leaning on him. Honourable members opposite should get the facts clear.

With respect to the interest being charged on these funds, the former government allowed TAA to get away with a 5.5 per cent interest charge on the funds it was using. One of the things I did was to say 'that is not fair and reasonable; it should be at a rate higher than that', and I required the Company to charge itself what was then the long term bond rate, which I considered was fair and reasonable. That is the situation. I think it was the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) who used the expression that Trans-Australia Airlines was prepared to take the cheese but not to spring the trap. Let me point out to the honourable member that the person who took that action was the Minister for Transport- me. I was the one who directed the management of TAA and the Board not to transfer the funds. I emphasise that very early in the piece I directed them not to transfer the funds. As far as I was concerned, if I could have left the funds under the previous system they would have been left under that system without any change being made. It is only because the Australian Labor Party does not have the numbers in the Senate that members of the Opposition were forced by Ansett to write in the amendment which we have been pushed into accepting. So, it was not TAA that did this.

Incidentally, Sir Frederick Scherger at no time has agreed to the proposition relating to superannuation funds which honourable members opposite have tried to force on him and other members of the Board. So, he has not reneged on any agreement which he entered into. What are honourable members opposite going to do about the service in Western Australia? At the moment, Ansett Transport Industries is lobbying members of the Opposition in the Western Australian Parliament not to permit TAA to operate an intra-State service in that State. What are honourable members opposite going to do there? Are they going to support TAA's entry to intrastate operations in Westeran Australia? After all, one of the conditions of the extension of the 2- airline agreement for another 5 years was the transfer of superannuation funds out of TAA's hands. If the Western Australian Parliament does not agree to TAA operating intra-State in Western Australia, will members of the Opposition parties in another place amend the Bill, withdraw the amendment and allow TAA to operate on the superannuation funds as was previously the practice for 23 years under Liberal government? I do not think that they will, because they must toe the line as Ansett Transport Industries tells them to. We accept.the amendment because of the reasons I have outlined. We can live with it and we will live with it for as long as we do not have the numbers in the other place.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolution reported; report adopted.

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