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Tuesday, 12 September 1972
Page: 678

Senator BISHOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, refers to the congestion and delay which took place at the Sydney international airport last Sunday as a result of the arrival of 4 Jumbo jets within 60 minutes of each other. Is it a fact that the problem was caused mainly by the failure of the authorities concerned to roster sufficient staff? If so, what action is proposed to overcome similar occurrences in the future? Was the delay attributable in any way to the actions of the Department of Civil Aviation?

Senator COTTON - When I came in from Papua New Guinea fairly late last night I naturally sought some information on this matter. As the honourable senator says, substantial delays were experienced by passengers arriving at Sydney airport on Sunday, 10th September. The circumstances were quite unusual. Eight aircraft, including four B747 jumbo jets, arrived over a period of 67 minutes carrying a total of 1,634 passengers. Several aircraft had been delayed en route for operational and technical reasons causing them all to come in at the one time. It should be made perfectly clear that the delays were not the result of any fault in the terminal design or facilities. Both Sydney and Melbourne termimals are designed to handle mass flows of passengers and new processing techniques have been adopted with excellent results and with the full cooperation of customs, health and immigration authorities. However, when there are large and unexpected inflows of passengers it can strain the resources of any airport in the world. One of the problems is to bring quickly to the airport the trained personnel on very short notice. The Department of Civil Aviation in conjunction with the other authorities - customs, health, immigration and the airlines - is reviewing the problems shown up last Sunday in an endeavour to ensure that if this happens again passengers will move through the terminal without so much delay. I have rather a great problem because I speak for myself as Minister for Civil Aviation and I also respond on behalf of the Minister for Customs and Excise and Qantas Airways Ltd. There is some difference of view. But I assure the honourable senator that the matter is being taken up. The facilitation committee will be looking at it as it has in the past and it is hoped that we will learn something out of this to help on future occasions.

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