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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1893

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I wish to speak to the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation. The Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) seems to think that it is detrimental to have been on the board of a developmental airline. It so happens that I was a member of the board of Connellan Airways. I am not trying to hide that fact. I resigned from the board of Connellan Airways because I knew very well that his colleagues would consider my position on it to be some sort of political angle on which they could attack me when I first stood at a House of Representatives election - and they did. But they did not know that I knew that that would be their form and I had resigned previously. Why should I not have been on the board of Connellan Airways? I built the airstrips for it, I flew for it and I would have had more experience of the conditions that prevailed in the part of the Northern Territory in which it operates than the Minister or anyone else. I am not ashamed of having been on the board of Connellan Airways, which is now known as Connair Pty Ltd.

The Minister referred to a racket involving Connair. I draw his attention to his previous statement that he would make other arrangements. I pay him a compliment for what he did in signing the contract for Connair to fly 2 DC3s. Uneconomic though they may be, at least Connair is to be allowed to escalate its services. I do not know whether Connair will be able to do so economically, but by all means let it face up to the competition that is about. I hope that the Minister, being a fair man, will allow Connair to hire or run prop-jet aircraft and earn an income with them if it can. Connair has an engineering set-up and staff which are just as efficient as those of Trans-Australia Airlines. The members of its staff live in central Australia and know the central Australian conditions. They can provide air services for - I will not quote the exact figure - half the price that TAA can, and the Minister knows it. So much for Connair; but I do appreciate the fact that the Minister is prepared to give Connair a go.

While I am on my feet I would like to refer to an entirely different subject, that is, charter aircraft operations off certain strips in the Northern Territory. The Minister will know that the recognised operators have to fly according to RPT - regular public transport - standards and meet very severe standards with regard to maintenance schedules and overhaul periods. The Minister will know the situation pertaining to the operations of the airstrip at Darwin. He also will know about the bandit operators - or whatever they are called - who haul passengers and freight out of mainly the Darwin airstrip in the face of the people who have to pay for the facilities provided and to maintain the Department of Civil Aviation's strict standards, that is, the 2 recognised charter airline services. I will name them. They are Arnhem Air Charter and SAATAS. Connair, which is not so much in the charter business as in the business of providing a regular airline service, also could be included. One cannot run a proper charter business for peanuts. One has to insure one's passengers, ensure that one's maintenance schedules are kept up and so on. As well as the regular operators who operate off the airstrip at Darwin, there are many charter operators whose licences, operations, loads and maintenance schedules should be investigated by officers of the Department of Civil Aviation. They are ruining the light aircraft business in northern Australia. The light aircraft industry is of great importance to the people of the Northern Territory. The Minister should make a thorough check of the maintenance records of those who operate in this manner throughout the Territory. I am not attacking the Minister on this issue. I am quite serious about what I am saying.

Mr Maisey - The honourable member sound awful vicious at the moment.

Mr CALDER - As a former airline operator, why should I not be vicious? I plead with the Minister to look at this matter. These companies are in trouble or will be in trouble. People are running charter aircraft all around the place. The maintenance standards being adopted should be checked. I do not know whether the Department has an examiner of airmen in the area. It should have. I do not know what the Department's maintenance checks are like. I understand that the Commonwealth Police are supposed to make arrests in these matters. That is just not good enough. The people who travel in aeroplanes have to be looked after insofar as insurance and all other relevant matters are concerned. I leave it to the Minister to sort out what is happening in Darwin with respect to the operations of illegal air charter operators.

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