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Tuesday, 19 September 1972
Page: 910

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - by leave - Honourable senators will recall that, during a statement to the Senate on 29th August outlining recent Government decisions on civil aviation policy, I said that, in the light of early self government and independence, I proposed to visit Papua New Guinea to discuss a programme for the transfer of civil aviation responsibility to the local authorities. Those discussions between myself and the Chief Minister for Papua New Guinea, Mr Somare, were held in Port Moresby on 3rd, 4th and 5th September and I believe it would be appropriate if I outlined the results to the Senate.

A major point to emerge was the strong desire of the Papua New Guinea Government to establish a single national airline as soon as possible. Such an airline would become a symbol of the development of national unity within Papua New Guinea. The Papua New Guinea Government expressed appreciation for the past and present services of the Department of Civil Aviation and the Australian airlines in providing a first class aviation system within and through Papua New Guinea and indicated that it wanted to utilise their accumulated expertise, experience and many skilled personnel. Mr Somare said his Government, in addition to its own substantial investment on behalf of its people, wished to offer shareholdings in the new national airline to Trans-Australis Airlines, Ansett Airlines of Papua New Guinea and Qantas Airways Ltd. Discussions will have to be held in the months ahead between the Australian airlines and the Papua New Guinea Government on the ways this proposal can be implemented.

Mr Somarealso indicated that it was his Government's intention to ask Qantas to provide the senior managerial staff for the new airline. Qantas has been operating services through Port Moresby to Singapore, Hong Kong and Manila for some time now. The Papua New Guinea Government also is obviously mindful of Qantas's record in providing senior managerial staff in the past in Fiji, Singapore, Malaysia and the New Hebrides. It was agreed that the timetable for the establishment of the new airline initially was a matter for the Papua New Guinea Government and that, although Australia agreed in principle with the proposal, there was no financial commitment by the Australian Government. The new national airline also will operate services between Papua New Guinea and Australia when it is able to do so. Until these aspirations are realised, the Australian airlines will provide the services. After Papua New Guinea becomes independent, Qantas will be the Australian designated international carrier under the air services arrangements which will need to be made between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Papua New Guinea Government indicated also that it wants Qantas to continue to provide international air services on its behalf until its own national airline is able to assume this role as well.

The second major area covered in my discussions with Mr Somare involved the transfer of the civil aviation functions in Papua New Guinea that are now performed by the Australian Department of Civil Aviation. This transfer is to be achieved as early as possible. However, as the Papua New Guinea Minister for Transport Mr B. R. Jephcott had explained earlier, the local Department of Transport has neither the staff, finance, nor expertise nec essary to consider any large scale involvement in DCA operations in the foreseeable future. Under these circumstances it was agreed that the Australian Department of Civil Aviation will continue to carry out the entire range of civil aviation functions, but that the appropriate local authorities will be fully and continuously consulted on aviation policy matters as they affect Papua New Guinea. This consultation and involvement is already taking place so that long range planning and policies can be developed. Consideration will be given in the meantime to the machinery which would allow the Department of Civil Aviation to provide, beyond the commencement of full internal self-government, functions of a specialist and operational nature on an agency basis for the Papua New Guinea Government. The Papua New Guinea Government indicated it would wish the Department to do this. It expressed satisfaction with the Department's performance and expressed a desire to retain its expert assistance in an agency role.

To assist the consultative processes the Papua New Guinea Government has decided to appoint a civil aviation adviser, who will be directly responsible to the appropriate Papua New Guinea Minister. The person who is to be appointed is a widely known international expert in aviation policy, operational and technical matters, Dr K. N. E. Bradfield, CB.E. Dr Bradfield, who is at present the Australian representative on the Internationa] Civil Aviation Organisation Council in Montreal, has had wide experience advising developing countries in the Caribbean, Middle East and the Pacific. Dr Bradfield will be under contract to the Papua New Guinea Government, and will provide Papua New Guinea with its own specialist aviation expertise. He will report direct to the appropriate Minister and will act also as a consultant to the Administrator. He is there to be used in the consultative processes between the Papua New Guinea authorities and the Australian authorities. He will also, immediately upon taking up duty, be advising the Papua New Guinea Government on all policy aspects. One of his first tasks will be to build up the competence and expertise in the Papua New Guinea Public Service to enable it ultimately to take over full responsibility for civil aviation.

In this context, I should perhaps mention the record of the Department of Civil Aviation in developing local expertise. The Department of Civil Aviation does have, and will continue to have, programmes for training Papua New Guineans in various technical and operational functions. In fact the total staff of 1,710 in Papua New Guinea includes 1,160 local officers. Since the early 1960s more than 400 Papua New Guineans have received some formal training provided by the Department - for example, as airport firemen, airways operations officers, administrative staff, artisans and apprentices of various trades. By the end of 1973, to take one area alone, the regional fire officer will be the only expatriate on the fire service staff. In implementing its training plans it is the policy of the Department to take full advantage of training facilities offered by existing institutions. Accordingly, the Department is sponsoring trainees in professional and sub-professional courses at the Papua New Guinea Institute of Technology at Lae. Trainees have also been sponsored in the preliminary year of the University of Papua New Guinea preparatory to airways operations training. However, there are certain specialised functions and equipment which are peculiar to civil aviation and for which standards of performance in some cases are prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation - ICAO. In order to cater for these specialised training requirements and to maintain the necessary control over standards it is common practice for civil aviation authorities throughout the world to provide special training schools. ICAO has encouraged this practice and in some cases has established its own regional schools.

Therefore it was my very great pleasure while in Papua New Guinea to open a $665,000 civil aviation training college at Taldora, near the Port Moresby airport. The college, which costs some $100,000 annually to run, will provide specialised training for airways operations officers in communications, flight service and air traffic control functions, and for radio technicians in the installation and maintenance of radio navigational aids, communications and air traffic control equipment. In addition it was decided that fire service and apprenticeship training should also come under the direction of the newly established college. The Department has drawn up detailed training programmes extending well into the 1970s and covering engineers as well as the categories I have already referred to. The Department has also renewed an offer to train in Australia 2 or 3 selected Papua New Guineans in policy and management functions.

All these matters I have outlined will take some time to resolve in detail. However, I believe that the Papua New Guinea Ministers whom I met were completely satisfied about the intentions of the Australian Government in respect of transfer of responsibility for civil aviation and the positive steps which we have proposed and which I have just outlined. I was also able to tell the Papua New Guinea Ministers about plans to develop the Papua New Guinea airways and ground facilities system. In addition to the decisions I had announced during the previous week to construct a new runway for Port Moresby airport and to develop a new airport for Lae at Nadzab, night flying facilities will be established on selected Papua New Guinea air routes at a cost of $300,000'. Airport lighting and landing aids will be installed at Lae - Nadzab, Madang, Wewak, Kavieng and Momote. These aids are available already at Port Moresby. It is planned to begin installation of the facilities towards the end of the year for completion about mid-next year. The introduction of night flying facilities will allow greater flexibility in scheduling and provide additional utilisation for aircraft in Papua New Guinea.

In my view the visit I paid to Papua New Guinea was most fruitful. My meetings with the Papua New Guinea Chief Minister and other Ministers were constructive and cordial. Also, I could not let the opportunity pass here without paying the highest tribute to my colleague the Minister for External Territories, Mr Andrew Peacock, for his deep interest and assistance during these negotiations. I had too, the benefit of the advice and help of senior officers from the Department of Civil Aviation, External Territories and the Papua New Guinea Administration and for this I am truly appreciative also. I believe the talks laid a most helpful basis for the development of more detailed proposals, within the context of the overall arrangements for attainment of full internal self-government, for the smooth and efficient transfer of responsibility for civil aviation,I move:

That the Senate take note of the Statement.

Debate (on motion by Senator O'Byrne) adjourned.

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