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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 4024

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage (CHIFLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister may answer when he replies.

Mr NIXON -With great respect, if the Minister is able to answer-

Mr Charles Jones - I wanted to say something a while ago but you would not let me.

Mr NIXON - I further ask: Will the Minister give an undertaking to consult in the future? Has there been an economic evaluation - as the Treasurer promised - on this Western Australian deal? If not, will he proceed with one before the work is commenced? I should like answers to those questions when the Minister replies because I believe that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) will restrict the time for debate. I would appreciate answers when the Minister replies in this debate. If the Minister is unable to answer the questions because he does not know the answers then that is OK.

Another gratifying aspect of the legislation which emerges from the Minister's second reading speech is the Minister's assurance that the new agreement does not mean that charges to TAA and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, which provide the bulk of the revenue, will automatically be increased by IS per cent each year. Nor does it depart from the principle contained in the 1961 airlines agreement that in implementing the policy of full recovery the Government will take into account the level of air fares, the rate of growth of the industry and the requirements of the airlines to provide a reasonable return on capital. The Minister has also given an assurance that expenditure on aviation facilities will be kept to a minimum consistent with safe and efficient operations.

I want now to turn to the proposals as they affect the general aviation industry - that is, private owners, charter, agricultural and general aerial operations. The Minister states in his second reading speech that it cost $8 .25m to operate the general aviation aerodromes Moorabbin, Parafield, Bankstown, Archerfield, Cambridge and Jandakot and the total revenue including sales tax on fuel was some $3.6m. In line with the policy of recovering 80 per cent of costs the Minister has increased the rates of charges for general aviation by 15 per cent while the weekly charge for private and aerial work aircraft will be doubled and that for charter will rise by two-thirds. He then says that a rebate of one-third of the higher charges payable from 1 December 1973, will be made in respect of such aircraft as are not normally based at a Government aerodrome or at an aerodrome which is subject to Government financial assistance under the aerodrome local ownership scheme. The opposition believes that these charges are outrageous. These aircraft, along with the aircraft on previously subsidised routes, have played a tremendous part in the development of Australia. Now the Government turns its heavy hand, guided by the destructive Dr Coombs, to make life in the outback, life in areas away from the capital cities and life in agriculture more difficult and more costly.

The proposals in this Bill are expected to raise about $300,000 this year and $600,000 in a full year. Combined with the extra fuel tax of 5c a gallon, which will raise a further $800,000, the total amount raised will be $1.4m. This still leaves a gap of over $3. 5m which by next year, with increasing costs, will probably again be about $4m.

What concerns the Opposition is the Government's hell bent approach to increase the charges in this area of aviation which cannot simply increase fares to recover costs as can civil aviation. We believe that the general taxpayers are concerned to see that every encouragement should be given and that every opportunity should be taken to ensure that there should be transport opportunities equal to those available to people who have the benefits of civil aviation. We also believe that agricultural operators should be encouraged not discouraged, because they provide the most efficient and modern means of boosting agricultural production. Because the Minister has not foreshadowed what charges he proposes to make in future years and because any further increase would lead to a serious deterioration in services, I move the following amendment which has been circulated in my name:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that the general aviation industry, which is so important in national development, should have a clear and precise understanding of future Government charges.

There is one other matter about which something must be said and that is the strike by TAA pilots following the grounding of an air pilot for apparently following the wrong procedures when landing at Wynyard, Tasmania. A pilot coming in to land at Wynyard has to follow a flight pattern that brings him in at 1,200 feet. It appears that because of bad weather the pilot on this occasion came in, I believe, at about 200 feet. Either there are explicit instructions laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation in respect of landing at Wynyard and diverting in bad weather to another port or there are not. If there are explicit instructions then there can be no deviating from them by any pilot who wants to give it a go. The pilot has not only his own life but also the lives of the passengers at stake. The passengers have the right to expect when they are issued with a ticket that there will be no breaking of a long standing safety regulation. Indeed that fact should be unquestionable. The pilot's salary level is commensurate with that responsibility, and indeed Australia has the best safety record in the world in civil aviation because the procedures are followed so closely and so correctly. There can be no argument about 'giving it a go'. Nor should there be any argument about having the rights of appeal on matters so absolute, because safety of lives in civil aviation is a matter that is absolute.

There should be no shifting of the responsibility in this matter for the serious mistakes made by the pilot. Whether TAA is engaged in a lockout should not be taken by way of an appeal to the courts. The matter of public safety cannot be allowed to be lifted to a situation where there can be an appeal if a pilot has breached safety procedures. There is no second chance with the lives of the passengers in these matters. The Government is quite right in standing by TAA. Whilst the loyalty by the pilots to a member of the Federation is admirable, the Federation must recognise how necessary it is to preserve the integrity of the safety procedures that have given Australia the best safety record in the world.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage - Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Street - Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak to it.

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