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Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1223

Dr JENKINS (SCULLIN, VICTORIA) -Does the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation recall my question to him during the last sessional period of Parliament regarding deaths in aircraft accidents due to fire and noxious gases emitted from internal fittings of aircraft of varying chemical composition? In view of further recent reports regarding these factors in aircraft accidents overseas, has the Minister taken any further steps in the preliminary investigation he then made to assess whether such materials and risks exist in Australian airline operations?

Mr JONES (NEWCASTLE, VICTORIA) (Minister for Transport) - I appreciate the interest of the honourable member for Scullin in the problems associated with the toxicity of fumes resulting from aircraft accidents. It has been alleged in a number of countries that after an accident takes place and there is a fire, the fumes which are emitted from the internal furnishings of the aircraft rather than the accident itself have brought about the deaths of the passengers in the aircraft. As a result of the honourable member's questioning of me in the last sessional period I arranged with the Department of Civil Aviation to convene a meeting of the airlines to discuss this matter. As a result of this discussion a working party has been set up comprising 4 scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation who are now authorised and have been asked to carry out detailed research into the effects of fire in furnishings in aircraft. They have been asked to determine the best system - whether to reduce the prospects of fire or to prevent the emission of toxic gases. They have been asked to determine whether the treatment of the furniture in aircraft can be improved whereby, firstly, the prospects of fire can be reduced and, secondly, the emission of toxic gases can be reduced. That is what is happening at present. I am looking forward to the report in the same manner as is the honourable member. Just as the former Minister for Civil Aviation was able to raise the whole question of aircraft noise at an International Civil Aviation Organisation meeting, if the scientists' report justifies it, this subject will be raised at an early date with ICAO.

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