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Tuesday, 19 November 1974
Page: 2494

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - It was arranged that a cognate debate should take place on these 3 Bills, two of which are the responsibility of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) who is represented in this place by Senator Wriedt, and one of which is the responsibility of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) whom I represent. I did not think it would be necessary for me to come into this debate until Senator Sim rose for the purpose of attacking what the Minister for Transport had done. Senator Wriedt will close the debate when he speaks on these Bills but before he does so I wish to say a few words in defence of the Minister for Transport whom I represent here. Senator Sim takes a very peculiar attitude to this Bill and to what the Minister is trying to do. The Minister in his second reading speech condemned I think very severely Ansett Airlines for taking court action which had the effect of stopping Trans-Australian Airlines from operating a competitive service.

Senator Sim - Why should they not?

Senator CAVANAGH - Because, as the Minister described it- although I would not- it was a phoney action.

Senator Sim - Why was it a phoney action?

Senator CAVANAGH - I will come to that. Whether the action succeeds or not, Ansett must come out the winner because the money it will save by not having competition will pay all the costs involved in the litigation. If the Minister were inspired by anything on this question he was obviously inspired by his predecessor in the Liberal-Country Party Government who took the same attitude.

Senator Sim - I was critical of that too, as the then Minister will recall.

Senator CAVANAGH -Yes. As the argument develops it will be seen that the honourable senator would be critical of anything to the detriment of the vested interests of Ansett, regardless of the welfare of the people of the north of Western Australia. He will sacrifice the people of the north of Western Australia as long as there is a profit for Ansett. That is his concern.

At page 477 of Hansard of 29 August 1 972 the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, in outlining the Government's proposals on the future of civil aviation, said:

Another major decision arising from the Government's review is to give additional routes and opportunities to the Government's own airline, Trans- Australia Airlines, which will be authorised to operate air services between Perth and Darwin in competition with the Ansett subsidiary, MacRobertson Miller Airline Services. These TAA services will be phased in over a 2-year period starting next June -

So the service should have started last June-

And having regard to the state of the traffic on the route from time to time. This arrangement is designed specifically to minimise any disruptive effect on the staffing of MacRobertson Miller's present operations. Although traffic growth on routes throughout Western Australia has fallen considerably in recent months, due mainly to reduced mining activities in the north west, the Government nevertheless decided that the Perth-Darwin route could no longer be denied the benefits that competitive services have brought on other major trunk routes throughout Australia.

In this case, not to permit the competitive service would be a denial of benefits to the people of the north-west of Western Australia- a denial of benefits to the electors whom the honourable senator represents. He is not concerned with the benefits that may flow to people living in the north west, he is concerned with the profits of Ansett. In his second reading speech the Minister for Transport referred to what the service will mean to the people. We are told today that there are only 103 people who travel weekly from Perth to Darwin and that it would not be a profitable competitive route because people cannot afford at the present time to travel with Ansett which has the one service. As the Minister said, under the present monopoly situation MMA offer only one fare but under the proposed competitive service TAA will offer first and economy class fares, the economy fare being 20 per cent below the current MMA fare. As an example of fare saving, on a return trip from Perth to Port Hedland there would be a saving of $48.20 and on a return trip from Perth to Darwin there would be a saving of $85.40. Anybody using the Ansett service from Perth to Darwin would be paying an additional $85.40 for the return trip. When this is related to the 103 passengers weekly, one can imagine the profits to Ansett when compared with the fares that TAA would charge. The longer the operation by TAA of the competitive service is delayed the greater the profits of Ansett will be.

Here we have a senator who says: 'It does not matter about the people of the north. We want a monopoly service to operate. The use of jets could necessitate the upgrading of the air strips and at this stage such upgrading is not justified. ' Everywhere you go you hear the demand for a decent air strip, yet here is an honourable senator who claims to represent these people but who is not concerned about their air strip and is not concerned about the saving of fares as long as Ansett retains the monopoly. Senator Sim seeks to justify Ansett 's action in going to court in order to keep the monopoly. It is doubtful whether Ansett will succeed in this action. But if Ansett is defeated in this action, it can take the matter to a higher court and keep on appealing to get injunctions in order to keep the competition out. The profits that Ansett makes are all right with Senator Sim. I think that Ansett, as a public company, has a responsibility to the travelling public, in the same way as TAA and the Minister have a responsibility to the travelling public, and that it should be playing the game with the people who wish to go to the north of Western Australia by giving them an effective service at reduced rates and not using the judiciary for the purpose of preventing competition from coming into the most lucrative field in which Ansett operates at the present time.

Then the Minister for Transport is criticised for exerting some pressure of a political nature in order to get a particular type of jet introduced onto Australian air routes. He did not do that. The Minister in his second reading speech said:

I expect the Australian airlines to provide the community with the most suitable modern aircraft types.

Who would disagree with that? Is it so strange that the Minister expects the Australian airlines to provide people with the most suitable modern aircraft types? That is all that the Minister wants. Whether Senator Sim would call that a political or an economical consideration, I do not know. The Minister justifies the introduction of wider jets by saying:

They are quieter than the earlier Boeing 727-100 models in use in this country.

The Minister is condemned because he seeks the introduction of a quieter plane. The wider jets are quieter than the present jets in operation in Australia. The Minister also said:

Another favourable consideration is that the greater passenger capacity of wide-bodied aircraft, which will be used on the very high density routes, will enable airline schedules to be reduced, say to a level of once every 2 hours for each airline between Sydney and Melbourne.

Senator Simis afraid that one service will be taken off the Melbourne to Perth route which he travels.

Senator Sim - Hear, hear!

Senator CAVANAGH - Honourable senators can see that it is important to Senator Sim. It does not matter about the electors in the north-west of Western Australia, or about introducing a cheaper service, or about providing greater comfort, or about reducing noise. As long as we can get Senator Sim a jet when he wants it we should sacrifice the nation and the travelling public. That is the purport of Senator Sim's argument. What does he care about the electors of Western Australia? What does he care about the people of Western Australia? There were 2 things in Senator Sim's whole advocacy today: Ansett 's profits and Senator Sim's comfort. They are the only things about which he is concerned. The Minister also said in his second reading speech:

Another real benefit of wide bodied aircraft is that they are less demanding on energy and resources. Fuel required per passenger-kilometre on these large aircraft will be less than that on present airline aircraft.

That is a great consideration for Australia. It may also result in reduced fares for people travelling to the north-west of Western Australia. But it may inconvenience Senator Sim. This is an indication of the great statesmen that we have. As the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech, the Australian Government is willing to grant the privilege of an Australian guarantee for a loan to a company which is in competition with the Australian Government company. The Government could neglect Ansett, simply not give a guarantee on behalf of Ansett and run that company out of business. But the Government is doing the right thing. All that the Minister seeks in his second reading speech- and he has been criticised for it- is some reciprocal arrangement from Ansett in order to allow the people of Western Australia to get a cheap and decent service, although it may reduce Ansett 's profit and inconvenience Senator Sim.

Senator SIM(Western Australia)- Mr Acting Deputy President, I claim to have been misrepresented. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) claimed that my only interest -

Senator Cavanagh - Only apparent interest.

Senator SIM - The Minister did not say that. Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask for leave to make a statement.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator SIM - The Minister said that my only interest was in Ansett's profits. I deny that completely. I made it clear throughout my speech that I was interested in the air services to the north and the interests of people in the north, particularly in areas such as Geraldton, Carnarvon and Learmonth. The Minister's statements are a complete and utter misrepresentation of my views.

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