18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minis ter for External Affairs whether the Dutch Minister called upon him yesterday and made a strong protest concerning the speech delivered by the Minister for Immigration during the debate on the deportation of the O’Keefe family that took place in this chamber. In view of the serious nature of this protest, and the possibility of international complications arising from the remarks madeby the Minister for Immigration, will the right honorable gentleman state whether any assurances were given to the Dutch Minister, and will he indicate to the House just what those assurances were? If no assurances were given, will the Minister for External Affairs state whether the speech made by the Minister for Immigration represents government policy, and whether the Dutch Minister wag advised to that effect ?
– If the honorable member thinks about his question a second time I am sure that he will realize that it is quite impossible for me to report a private conversation which the Minister for the Netherlands and I had yesterday. That conversation covered a wide field, and was quite friendly. No official action was taken by the Minister yesterday-
– The right honorable gentleman can inform us whether the statement of the Minister for Immigration was government policy or not.
– I am disturbed to think that a call on me such as that made by the Dutch Minister should be used to extenuate or menace the friendly relations existing between this Government and that of the Netherlands.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs taken any steps to repair the damage to Australia caused by the speech of the Minister for Immigration in this House the other day concerning the O’Keefe case, or is the speech that the Minister for Immigration made to be regarded throughout the world as expressing the views of the Government in respect of foreign affairs?
-The last part of the question has already been asked this morning.
– The second part of the question has already been asked and answered, and the answer to the first part is the same as the answer to the second part.
Statements bt Colonel Thyer - Nursing Sisters - Medical Services.
– Has the Minister for the Army Been a report which appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail and other newspapers during the week, in which a Colonel Thyer is reported to have said: (1) that the Minister for the Army employed a special staff to open letters of complaint written by the rank and file about conditions of service in the Army; (2) that a major and staff officer were employed as “ pimps “, and four “helpers” were needed to open such letters; and (3) that trade unions and other Labour organizations had not assisted the recruiting campaign? Can the Minister say whether those statements are correct, and on what authority Colonel Thyer is entitled to make such public statements?
– I have seen pressreports of words supposed to have been uttered by Colonel Thyer at what was, I understand, a conference of the Legion of Ex-servicemen in Perth. In fact, yesterday I gave a considered reply to the representative of one daily newspaper, butit is significant that my statement does not appear in this morning’s issue of that newspaper. At the outset I want to say that I do not employ “ pimps “ ; I have no time for them and would not be associated with them. I do not employ any one to open personal letters for me, and no one, either in the service or on my personal staff, has authority to open personal letters addressed to me. The honorable member referred to an allegation that the trade unions are not supporting the recruiting campaign. I have had wholehearted support from every trade union organization in Australia. The trade unions have allowed me free time over their broadcasting stations to encourage recruiting throughout the Commonwealth. I do not know whether Colonel Thyer made the statements which have been attributed to him, or whether he has been misrepresented. Colonel Thyer is not a member of the services. He is on the reserve of officers.
– He is an ex-colonel of the regular forces, and has agood record.
– I am not questioning his record or his integrity. Do not misunderstand me. Colonel Thyer comes from my own State, South Australia, and I doubt whether he would make the statement that he is reported to have made. I should like to know why the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which published the statement, did not also publish a statement that I gave to its representative last evening for inclusion in today’s issue. I challenge Colonel Thyer to name any officer employed by me as a “ pimp “. Of course the honorable member for Balaclava is one of those chaps who know everything, but I know Colonel Thyer better than he does, and have a very high regard for him. I do not believe that he made the statements which have been attributed to him, but I should like honorable members to know that I supplied a reply to the article published in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph and that it does not appear in to-day’s issue of that newspaper. I emphatically deny the statements attributed to Colonel Thyer.
– Will the Minister for the Army say how many nursing sisters of the Australian Army Nursing Service are at present attached to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan? Is it proposed to return them to Australia? If so, when? Is it the Army’s policy to discontinue the enlistment of women nurses? In the event of the nurses in Japan being returned to Australia or discharged from the forces, who will look after the wives and families of British Commonwealth Occupation Force men, wherever they may be?
– I cannot inform the honorable member of the exact number of nursing sisters who are serving with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force at the moment. It is not the intention to discharge the nursing sisters who are serving with that force. They bill remain in Japan as long as Australian forces are there. Irrespective of that, they will be retained in various camps throughout Australia so long as the policy that we are adopting at the present time continues. There is no suggestion that we shall discharge all nursing sisters.
– I am credibly informed that at Puckapunyal and Ingleburn, where detachments of the regular army are quartered, no arrangements for medical services havebeen made in the camps for the wives and families of soldiers, who have to travel to nearby villages when the need arises. Will the Minister for the Army give an assurance that such medical services will be provided, at the earliest opportunity?
– I cannot say whether the positionis as stated by the honorable member, hut inquiries will be made.
– I should like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to explain to the House the present position of contracts for supplies of meat to the United Kingdom. Will he state whether any new contracts are being completed ? If they are, what is their duration and what prices have been agreed upon ? If a contract has been completed, does the figure provide a satisfactory floor price for the present, and allow for an adjustment covering any increases of costs that may eventuate, and thus guarantee continuity of supply?
– No new meat contracts have been entered into with the United Kingdom since the contract that was signed last year. If the honorable gentleman will place his question on the notice-paper I shall furnish any additional information that I can.
– Is the Minister for the Interior in a position to make available to the public maps and descriptions of the new electoral boundaries?
– The maps of the new electoral boundaries in New South Wales and Western Australia will be made available before the end of this month, and the maps for Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will be issued before the end of March.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that yesterday the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, criticized the inaction of the Federal Government regarding the whaling industry? Has the Government any definite plans which include the development of the whaling industry in Tasmania? If not, why not, as he has given previous assurances that Tasmania’s claims would be considered ?
– I did not see a report of the statement by Mr. Cosgrove but I heard a reference on the radio to the fact that he had expressed some criticism regarding the proposed whaling plans that had been announced by either the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture or myself. Those plans related to shorebased whaling in Western Australia. 1 mentioned to the House previously, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Wilmot, that the Government’s intention was to encourage shorebased whaling in Western Australia subject to certain arrangements being made to obtain the necessary equipment and labour. I also said that we were interested in the development of that industry on the New South Wales coast. I added that when the Government was able to engage in pelagic whaling, that part of the industry would be based in Tasmania. I also stated that there was great difficulty, apart from the very great expense of establishing such a whaling industry in Tasmania, in the first place, of obtaining a factory ship. A factory ship would be expensive and would take a long time to build.. It is the Government’s intention, as I made clear to the honorable member for Wilmot, that with the inauguration of pelagic whaling a factory ship would be based on Tasmania, and I have nothing more to add to that statement.
– Can the Minister for the Navy give me any information about the possibility of discharge from the Navy of a number of doctors who were to have served during the war period only and who have been seriously inconvenienced through an enforced additional period of service?
-It is true that there are certain doctors still serving with the Royal Australian Navy who are reservists as distinct from members of the permanent force. As I have advised the House ona previous occasion, the Naval Board has been endeavouring to recruit doctors to replace them. Such efforts here in Australia have not proved particularly successful.
– Then make the conditions more attractive.
– If the honorablo gentlemen listens he will learn something. The Naval Board called for recruits in the United Kingdom, and I am in a position now to advise the House that it appears that ten docters have been entered in the United Kingdom, one has been lent from the Royal Navy, and one has been entered in Australia, making a total of twelve, whilst six more may be entered by the end of June next. Two doctors have already arrived in Australia from England, and three more are due on the 21st of this month. Of these five, four are being used to replace four hostilitiesonly medical officers at the head of the roster, of whom three are to be demobilized on the 25th of this month. Of the seven remaining medical officers still in the United Kingdom, two have been appointed to H.M.A.S. Sydney, an essential new commitment and three are expected to sail in Stratheden, due in Australia early next month. On their arrival it is proposed to demobilize the next three hostilities-only medical officers on the roster and it is hoped that a minimum of nine medical officers will be demobilized by the end of June next.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen a statement incorporated in the leading article of to-day’s Canberra. Times which reads -
Unfortunately, while the Opposition claims to agree to uphold the White Australia policy, it has permitted itself to be the victim of hysteria, and now the ninnes of 22 of its members are indelibly recorded in the proceedings of Parliament as having voted against the maintenance of the White Australia policy.
In view of the importance to the people of this nation of the maintenance of the White Australia policy, can the Minister for Immigration make arrangements with the Opposition to enable honorable members opposite to indicate clearly where they stand in regard to this matter?
– I rise to order. You have frequently ruled in this House, sir, that no honorable member can import argument into a question by way of reading an opinion expressed outside this Parliament. In what way does the quotation that was read by the honorable member for Martin escape that ruling?
– It is true tnat from time to time I have ruled that argument on any matter relating to public affairs cannot be imported into a question that is askedin this chamber. Insofar as the honorable member for Martin has imported any such argument into his question, the question is out of order. The latter part of the question is in order.
-If I heard the honorable member for Martin aright, and I think my auricular functions are in order, he asked whether I would give the Opposition an opportunity clearly to state its position in regard to a White Australia. The offer that I made to the Opposition some days ago still stands. Under the Standing Orders, members of the Opposition have the right to table a private members’ bill to alter the Immigration Act, if they do not agree with its principles or if they desireto put something into it to ensure that it is administered in a way different from that in which I am administering it and in a way different from the manner in which it has been administered during the past 50 years. Alternatively, and I should prefer this course, the Opposition could move a motion of want of confidence in me for my administration of the immigration laws. If that were done, we could see whether honorable members opposite would vote differently from the way in which they voted the other day and whether they stand for a black Australia.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the action of South Africa and other countries in selling part of their gold production on the open market? If so, will he take similar action within Australia in order to enable companies that are now operating to carry on, and thus maintain in existence towns which are facing possible extinction because of the losses involved in gold production in Australia?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I have seena report that the South African Government, due to financial difficulties, particularly with respect to outside foreign exchange, has decided to send each month, or each fortnight, a certain amount of gold to London. However, that will not be done for monetary purposes. That gold will be used only for trade purposes, such as, I presume, the manufacture of jewellery and. that sort of thing. The South African Government is merely following that course, as a temporary expedient to enable it to earn foreign exchange. It is a striking fact that although South Africa is one of the greatest gold-producing countries in the world, it should find itself in very serious financial difficulty. The Minister of Finance in South Africa, Mr. Havenga, has intimated that his Government may find it necessary to restrict sterling as well as dollar imports. South Africa’s experience provides clear evidence that under present conditions the production of great quantities of gold will not necessarily stabilize a country’s economy. It is not within my province to comment upon actions of the South African Government. I understand that its proposed action in respect of gold will be the subject of discussion by the Monetary Fund of which South Africa and Australia are members. I repeat that from the statement I have read it is intended that the gold shall be used not for monetary but for trade purposes.
– Would similar action be of assistance to the gold-mining industry in Australia?
– What the honorablemember says has been considered previously, but no reason has become apparent why similar action should be taken here.
M.r. DAVIDSON.- I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel with respect to the shipping service to Gladstone. At. present, it is extremely unsatisfactory, the only general cargo service to that port being provided by Delamere, which calls every two months. Recently, four vesels, Allara, Aldinga, Bundaleerr and Barossa, all of which are owned by the Adelaide Steamship Company, after discharging cargo at Brisbane, called at Gladstone for bunker coal. Their holds were practically empty. It is contended that the service to Gladstone could be augmented if in similar circumstances such vessels were given the opportunity to carry general cargo for Gladstone. Will the Minister confer with the Director of Shipping with a view to arranging in. all such instances for the carriage of general cargo for Gladstone offering at southern ports?
– I shall bring tho honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. From what the honorable gentleman lui 3 said, it is evident that the inadequacy of the shipping services to Gladstone at present is due to the fact that certain vessels under the control of private enterprise which have called there have not loaded cargo for that port. The Government cannot interfere with the movements of private shipping. However, I am quite sure that when I direct the attention of my colleague to this matter he will do his utmost to see that the shipping needs of Gladstone are met.
– In view of the doubt that still exists in the minds of many Tasmanians about the ultimate base for the aluminium industry in this country, can the Prime Minister say whether the site on the east of the Tamar River in Tasmania has been definitely decided upon? Is it a fact that about 1,000 tons of machinery and plant are on their way to Tasmania from England and the Continent. Has the financial arrangement between the Commonwealth, Tasmania and the British Aluminium Limited yet been finally decided upon?
– There has been no change with relation to the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania, and the general intention of the legislation covering the operations of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. During the last six months proposals have been made with relation to the operation of the joint company proposed to be operated by the Australian and Tasmanian Governments in conjunction with British Aluminium Limited, for a very wide extension of the production of aluminium in Australia, but fruition has not yet been reached in such negotiations, which are still the subject of discussion. I have already intimated by letter to the Premier of Tasmania, however, that the intended industrial activity in connexion with the aluminium industry in Tasmania would not be interfered with in any way. Whilst in Tasmania recently I discussed this matter at some length with the Premier of that State, and he intimated that if the negotiations with the British company succeeded and a decision was finally reached on this matter, the Tasmanian Government should like to join in the venture. He said that even if the present agreement was altered, his Government would like to join in any new arrangement. Progress has been made in connexion with the proposed production of aluminium in Tasmania, and last month plant was unloaded and work commenced in that State at the site mentioned by the honorable member for Wilmot. At the moment no change in the original proposal is contemplated.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether, during the recent recess, the Government had an opportunity to examine the report that was presented by the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court and the Chief Conciliation Commissioner? Is it a fact, as reported by a section of the press, that the Government contemplates amending the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act? If so, will the amendment incorporate the recommendations made, by the Chief Judge and the Chief Conciliation Commissioner?
– Although the matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner has not yet been considered by Cabinet, my colleague the Minister for Health, who was Acting AttorneyGeneral during my absence abroad, has mentioned it to me. and we shall discuss it next week.
– In view of the findings contained in the Lynskey report, will the Prime Minister take action to circulate copies of the report amongst all Ministers and departments, directing attention to the danger of persons occupying responsible official positions, performing services for big business and then accepting gifts and entertainment? Will the right honorable gentleman also consider adopting the practice of the Congress of the United States of
America of registering lobbyists and political contact men, and the clients that they represent, so that this information can be made available to the public? Will he. also consider the holding of a public inquiry into the activities of these lobbyists, similar to that ordered by Mr. Attlee in Great Britain?
– The Lynskey report is a voluminous document, containing between 50,000 and 60,000 words. I shall endeavour to make available a number of copies of the portion containing the final decisions of the judge in relation to the matter mentioned by the honorable member, although I cannot undertake to supply copies to all members of the Parliament. I understand that it is quite a common practice among business people to make gifts to various people with whom they are engaged in business. However, my views in relation to persons occupying responsible positions accepting gifts from people who are engaged in business activities are well known. I have always held that no Minister or private member of the Parliament should be under an obligation to any person engaged in business, because he may be called upon in his official capacity to make decisions affecting that particular business or some other business. I have stressed that view on a number of occasions, both privately and publicly. The Government does not propose to register lobbyists or so-called “ contact men “. I do not know how a “ contact man “ could be defined. For instance, a businessman may be interested in a number of commercial organizations. We all know of nien who are on the directorates of perhaps 20, 80, or 40 companies. Such a person may approach a Minister on one matter, but, at the same time, he might raise matters connected with other companies with which he is associated. I aru sure that the honorable member for Reid has had much wider experience of lobbyists and “ contact men “ than I have. He knows, as many others know, that there are in this country some people who act as agents for various organizations. So far as the Commonwealth Parliament is concerned, their number is not great, but the honorable member for Reid could mention a few of them. I know of several men who come into this building from time to time to represent certain interests on behalf of which the.y make submissions. I have never felt that there is anything improper in that practice. It is no more improper than a man making representations on behalf of his own business. It would be most difficult to draw a line between lobbyists and “ contact men “ and businessmen who wish to make representations on their own behalf. The Government does not propose to appoint committees, or to compile a register of people who come into this building.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the reported statement of the royal commissioner, Mr. Justice Ligertwood, in tb, course of the inquiry into the New Guinea timber lease case that at almost every turn one found irregularities? In view of His Honour’s reported remark, will the Attorney-General examine the terms of reference of the royal commission with a view to widening their scope, so that the widest possible investigation of all aspects of this case may be made?
– I shall answer the question because when this matter arose the Attorney-General was abroad and it was handled by the Acting Attorney-General and myself. After a thorough examination, all phases of the incident which appeared to involve the honour of the Minister for External Territories were included in the terms of reference to the royal commissioner which is now sitting. There is no intention on the part of the Government at this stage to extend the terms of reference. Such action would be considered only at the request of the royal commissioner himself and, to date, no such request has been made. If such a request were made I have no doubt that serious consideration would be given to it, but in the absence of such a request, the Government does not propose to take any action.
– In the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister. Will he ask the Minister to have an inspection made of all the places where pension payments are regularly made? Considering the effect on old persons and invalids of the oppressive summer weather, will he see that sufficient seats are provided in those places, so that pensioners will not have to stand while they wait ?
– This matter was brought to the notice of a Minister some time ago, when it was urged that seating accommodation should he provided where pensioners usually gather to collect their pensions. 1” believe it was pointed out by the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services that pensioners do not need to go any place and wait. They can have their pensions forwarded to them by cheque. I understand, however, that many persons regard the collecting of their pensions as constituting something of the nature of a social gathering. Pensioners meet, and have a bit of a chat about things, and that is very human. Many pensioners prefer to go to the place where they will meet others in the same position as themselves, rather than have their pensions sent to their homes. In the cities and larger towns, quite a large number of pensioners congregate on such occasions, and the provision of seating accommodation would present si difficult?- because of lack of space, apart altogether from the cost. I know that the honorable member takes an interest in pensioners, and I shall see whether the Minister can have some seating accommodation provided, at least for those who are not (physically fit.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me when I may expect a reply to a question which I asked ten weeks ago about the number of motor vehicles operated by the ‘Commonwealth, their total petrol consumption and the number of motor cars purchased, by the Government since the beginning of last year? Does the Prime Minister’s failure to reply indicate tha.t this information is not available, or that the Government fears the resentment of the primary producers, who are .sorely in need of a bigger petrol ration ?
– I am sorry if the honorable member was promised a reply to a question, and has not yet received one. Sometimes, the answering of questions asked by honorable members involves a great deal of research and preparation by departmental officers. I do not think that honorable members always realize the amount of work involved. However, if the honorable member asked a question ten weeks ago, and I promised to reply to it, he certainly ought to have had some kind of a reply before this. I shall follow the matter up. I assure him that there is no desire to conceal anything. If the information is readily available it will be given to him. If it is not, he will be so informed.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories whether the Australasian Petroleum Company Prorietary Limited has found evidence of the existence of oil deposits at Kariava, in Papua. Has the Australian Government received any information concerning the reported discovery, and will the Minister inform the House of any progress that has been made in the search, giving the fullest possible details?
– Although the question was addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories, all discussions concerning the provision of equipment required in the search for oil have been conducted through me, as Treasurer. Investigations by oil companies in our external territories and elsewhere require certain plant which must be purchased with dollars. The honorable member asked whether the Australasian Petroleum Company Proprietary Limited had made any disclosures relating to the discovery of oil. The most that I can tell him is that the people interested in the search have stated that very favorable evidences of the existence of deposits have been found. However, I understand that there are no signs of “ gusher “ strikes or of highly profitable deposits of that nature. Nevertheless, additional plant has been brought into operation in order to increase the depth of bores both in New Guinea and in various parts of Australia. The most optimistic statement that I can make is that the people concerned in the search have very high hopes.
Air Conditioning of Chambers
-I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, concerning the air conditioning of this chamber. Honorable members on both sides of the House have complained about the undue discomfort caused by the atmosphere in this chamber and, after I had made my speech yesterday on the subject of posters issued by the Commonwealth Office of Education, I went with the Minister for Information, who also felt uncomfortable, to examine the thermometer that is usually situated behind your chair. The thermometer had disappeared, and it was reported later that the mercury had burst the tube. I want to know whether the cold air which is supposed to come into the chamber is capable of coping with the hot air that is in the chamber, and whether it is possible to rectify the condition which causes our discomfort.
– I anticipated that this subject would be raised because I, too, have suffered discomfort. Therefore, I asked for a statement from the Chief Engineer, who yesterday supplied me with the following report: -
During the present hot spell it is impossible to hold consistently low temperatures in either the Senate or House of Representatives chambers.
Contractors responsible for the installation of new plant have reached a stage where new “ supply “ ductwork has been installed, but the ducting to carry the “ return “ air is still incomplete. In consequence, air circulation within the chambers is impossible.
Efforts are being made with the aid of block ice to reducewater temperatures and enable the supply of air toboth chambers to keep temperatures at a more comfortable level.
I understand that the major difficulty is that work on the new air conditioning plant, like the additions to Parliament House, is still in progress and that only one section of it has been installed. That section is the one which forces air into the chamber. Unfortunately, the section which is designed to remove hot air has not been completed.
LOSS of AIRCRAFT “Lutana “ : Report ofaircourt of Inquiry.
Debate resumed from the 10th February (vide page 199), on motion by Mr. Drakefobd -
That the following papers be printed: -
Report of Air Court of Inquiry, and
Ministerial Statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation regarding the report.
– in reply - It was natural that a tragedy of the nature and magnitude of that which happened to the Lutana should of itself arouse public interest and anxiety. This, I think, was accentuated by several other air accidents which occurred in a very brief period about the same time. As Minister for Civil Aviation it is my duty to do everything in my power to ensure that as far as it can be made preventable such a tragedy can never happen again. I would be loath to believe that any honorable member of this House is not actuated by an identical motive. In promptly ordering the inquiry the Government made it quite clear that it was anxious to have the fullest investigation of all the circumstances and, the report having been presented, it was my duty to go through it carefully in order to ascertain where we could profit by the court’s recommendations and strengthen our organization wherever any weaknesses may have been found. A suggestion was made yesterday that delay had occurred in deciding whether a court of inquiry was or was not necessary. Let us examine the facts to ascertain whether there is any foundation for such a statement. The accident took place on the night of Thursday, the 2nd September. On the following day, the officers of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee investigated a number of reports that had been furnished. Some were alarming and others were very misleading. Many of them were published in the newspapers. One was to the effect that men working on a ship en route between Newcastle and Sydney said that they had seen an aircraft flying at a height of between 200 feet and 300 feet above the water.
Naturally, all reports of that kind have to be investigated. The location of the aircraft was not determined until the Saturday, the 4th September. On the following Monday, after the staff of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee had had an opportunity to view the wreckage, and it seemed that the accident had been due to some mysterious causes, I decided to establish an air court of inquiry. If honorable members will examine the civil aviation regulations they will see that responsibility for making such a decision rests upon the Minister for Civil Aviation. My decision was promptly communicated to the Prime Minister, and on the following day, the 7th September, the Prime Minister announced in this House the decision of the Government to appoint the air court of inquiry. What justification can there be for the suggestion made by honorable members opposite that the court was established only under pressure ? Suggestions of that kind do a grave disservice to the Department of Civil Aviation and to civil aviation generally. Honorable members opposite sought to create the impression that the Government was trying to cover up something. The facts which I have just recounted make it abundantly clear that there is not the slightest justification for such a suggestion. I regret that so discordant a note should have been introduced into the debate. What we asked the court of inquiry to do was to find out why the Lutana went astray, and to recommend, if possible, how such an occurrence could be avoided in the future. The court painstakingly took more than 1,000 pages of evidence. It has done work of value in sifting the varying reports relating to where the plane flew and the conditions under which the flight was made, and in examining the facts as far as they could be ascertained. In respect of many air accidents, not only in Australia but also in other countries, it has not always been possible to ascertain the facts. In such matters we have too often to resort to the realm of assumption or conjecture. When I first presented the report to the Parliament I indicated that the conclusions which the court drew from the evidence did not enlighten us on why the Lutana went astray. Some of those conclusions were, unfortunately, misleading. I do not say that in any resentful way; I merely state what I believe to be true. Let us examine the track taken by the Lutana, as officially established by the court. For that purpose I have brought into the chamber a reproduction on a. larger scale of the map which the court used, and I propose to indicate the track which the court established, on most reliable evidence, as that taken by the aircraft. This and other evidence is available to honorable members and has been ever since the report was tabled. In my opinion that evidence shows clearly that there is no justification for the suggestion that the pilot might have been misled by the Kempsey radio range. The aircraft left Archerfield radio range on a diversion which was ordered by the control authorities, crossed the Archerfield radio range at Kyogle and proceeded on a path in between the lines shown on the court’s map in a completely wrong direction. One of the matters which honorable members should consider is’ where the plane was actually flown, because evidence of that is available from a number of witnesses who saw it in flight._
– Did witnesses see it at places other than Kyogle?
– Yes, the aircraft passed over a number of places and was seen by witnesses in towns such as Kingston, Somerton, Tamworth and Malan.ganee. It could be seen even in the dark if its lights were on. The map also illustrates that when the pilot discovered that he was on the wrong track at Bundella, he descended from a height of 6,000 feet, after obtaining permission to do so on the range, and crashed into the mountain at Crawney Pass. I indicate an area, which is marked green on the map, in which no reception from the radio ranges can take place. There is no question of Captain Drummond having flown in the gap between the two radio ranges as suggested by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) because from the evidence it is perfectly clear that he crossed the Archerfield range and left the field of its radio signals. I invite honorable members to examine the map carefully, to make themselves as conversant as possible with the evidence, and to form their own conclusions. It will be seen that the Lutana travelled far to the west of the Kempsey radio range, right out into a region where the pilot could not hear any range signals at all. It will be seen that the aircraft had started its fatal deviation nearly 100 miles before it came within the area of the Kempsey range. The tests conducted for, and accepted by, the court prove that on this course the pilot could have received from the Kempsey radio range only fringe signals that would be barely distinguishable, and then only for a very short time. For the rest of the time he could not have received any signals at all. There is no argument about that; it is sworn evidence, and it has not been disputed. Yet the court says, in paragraph 35 of its report, that the pilot’s radio range receiver must have been working, because if he had not been receiving signals he would have reported the fact. That is the key to the main conclusions of the court, which undoubtedly proceeded on that assumption, f think if honorable members approach the matter fairly and analyse the finding of the court objectively, they must realize that the court proceeded on the assumption that the radio range receiver was in order.
– Does the Minister know that signals from Perth have been received in Townsville?
– I am aware of that fact, which arises, I understand, from “ skip “ signals - that is radio signals which strike against the sporadic “ E “ layer in the atmostphere, and are deflected. While that may happen to signals from Perth to Townsville and to signals from Darwin to Hobart, it cannot happen at intermediate points at the same time. “ Skip “ signals would not continue for 36 minutes after the pilot had crossed the Archerfield radio range at Kyogle. Admittedly there are a number of puzzling features about the whole disaster, and I do not think that any one is entitled to be dogmatic. I think that every one interested should examine the possibilities connected with the disaster, in the hope that we may be able to avoid a repetition of such a tragic occurrence. However, the fact remains that whether or not the radio ranges were working and whether or not the pilot’s receiver wa3 working, it was technically impossible for the captain to receive any continuous signal from any range for the greater part of his flight to the south-west. Yet, in paragraph 57 of its report, the court attaches great importance to the possibility of a fault in the Kempsey radio range having occurred, and mentions it as a strong possibility in having led Captain Drummond to follow the course that he did. I think that that fact has been stressed by honorable members opposite. In point of fact the condition of the Kempsey range and the fault which developed in it fifteen days after the crash appear to have captured the imagination of the court and to have coloured its findings. I do not say that in any blameworthy sense, but merely in explanation of the attitude adopted by the court. Although the functioning of the Kempsey radio range transmitter had no bearing on the accident to the Lutana, let us look at the basis on which the Court bases the “ strong possibility “ that the Kempsey radio range was temporarily broadcasting an all-round “ on-course “ signal. About a. fortnight after the accident a fault in the signal transmitter was observed and reported by Captain Warlow-Davies, which was subsequently found to be due to a broken spring. On the night of the accident six aircraft were using the Kempsey range, including two aircraft which used it at the identical time that the Lutana should have been using it, and each of the pilots swore that the range was functioning perfectly. For the fault to have occurred at the time the Lvto.no. was going astray, the spring would have had to break, dislocate the range for a few minutes, and then miraculously, and without human aid, right itself, because it functioned perfectly for another fortnight. Yet the court put forward this unlikely theory in preference to the evidence of the pilots who were using the range at the time, because the court believed that pilots “only listen to the range intermittently “. However, the court specifically exempted Captain Drummond from that comment, asserting that he must have thought that he was flying on the radio range, otherwise he would have reported not receiving signals. In the opinion of the court he was a “ confirmed radio range flyer “. So, on the basis of Captain Drummond’s habit of flying the radio range, and on no more concrete evidence, the court based its theory that the radio range misled the pilot. Although the evidence, and the weight of evidence-
– The evidence is that the range did go out of order.
– Yes, but not until a fortnight had elapsed. I am pointing out that, if we are to accept that theory, the range would have had to right itself miraculously at the time and continue to function normally for fourteen days after the happening. The available evidence in connexion with that aspect of the matter satisfies me that the court’s deduction was an erroneous one, and that its other assumptions were developed to fit in with that theory. Even so, the court has not been able to suggest any reason for the pilot’s initial mistake of flying 20 degrees off course - a mistake, moreover, that occurred when the pilot was in the vicinity of Kyogle and should have been receiving strong signals from the Archerfield radio range. There is no doubt about that.
– At the end of the Archerfield range, he might not have got the signal.
– I refer the honorable member for Balaclava to the map that is attached to the findings of the court. The Archerfield range had nothing whatever to do with the Kempsey range. There is no doubt that had the radio range receiver in the aircraft been working, and had the pilot tuned in, he could have received the Archerfield range signal. In this matter, I am relying on the map that the court has produced. The pilot was well within the area of the Archerfield range when he crossed over to go on the fatal deviation. He should have been able to get the signals. If he could not receive them he should have returned to his base. I do not make that statement in condemnation of the captain of the aircraft, but that would have been the proper procedure. I do not want to belittle the responsibility of pilots. I have the greatest regard for them.I know that there is no real comparison between the job of a locomotive engine driver and the pilot of an aircraft, but, in each instance, the engine driver or the pilot has charge of the lives of his passengers, and if he does not do the things which are necessary to protect their lives, something may well happen that will lead to a disaster. I have had that experience as the locomotive engine driver of express trains. Later, I shall refer to the pilot’s kit and maps. I have the highest regard for air crews in Australia. Sir Harold Hartley, who is the chairman of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, has remarked on the high standard of Australian commercial pilots. They profoundly impressed him. I also heard a broadcast statement, but I did not read it in the press, that the general manager of a London insurance company, Sir Arthur Morgan, before leaving Australia by Orcades last week, paid a high tribute to Australian air services. He said that in four months, he had travelled 10,000 miles by air in this country, and that the experience had convinced him that Australia’s air services were the most efficient by which he had ever travelled. I am satisfied that the pilots and navigators are doing a splendid job for us, but no one is infallible.
All I am doing is to put forward a counter theory to the court’s theory for the cause of the loss of the Lutana. Last night, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) dealt with this matter. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) alleged vehemently that the honorable member for Watson was the mouthpiece of the Government. I emphasize that the honorable member did not receive any advice or instruction from the Government as to what he should say. He made his speech as a man who has had training and experience as a pilot, and I am sure that a grave injustice was done to him when it was said that he was endeavouring to blame the pilot of the Lutana for the disaster. The honorable member made it perfectly clear in his speech that he did not blame the pilot, yet some honorable members opposite emphasize repeatedly that he did. The honorable member for Indi undoubtedly suggested that the honorable member for “Watson was the Government’s mouthpiece, who was put up for that purpose. I give to that allegation the strongest possible denial. Such a statement did a grave injustice to the honorable member, who made a useful contribution to the debate.
– The Minister, in his speech this morning, has cast a suspicion on the pilot.
– I have not. J do not know what kind of a mind the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has, unless it is a suspicious mind. As soon as I put up a theory contrary to that of the court, he says that I am throwing suspicion on the pilot of the Lutana. I am not, but I am submitting a theory as to how the accident could have happened. If the honorable member is not prepared to listen to that theory and to weigh it carefully, he has no sense of fairness.
– I prefer to accept the theory which the court has expressed.
– The honorable member may do so, but I desire to put another theory about the cause of the accident. I say quite frankly that the court, having reached certain assumptions, proceeded to develop other assumptions to fit in with its theory. The court has not been able to suggest any reason for the deviation by the pilot, and his failure to contact Archerfield range when he was within that range. let ns examine what occurred later. Over Bundella, beyond the help of any radio range, Captain Drummond radioed Mascot that he was over “Williamtown, and was given permission to descend on the radio range. I emphasize the words “ on the radio range “. They are most important. He was given permission to descend on the radio range from 6,000 feet to 4,000 feet. Any pilot will agree that it is suicidal to reduce height before he knows exactly where he is. Captain Drummond must have taken a radio compass bearing on “Williamtown, which gave him the direction of Williamtown hut did not tell him how far he was from it. He was given permission to descend on the radio range but not to descend anywhere he liked. He obviously descended, but not on the radio range, and discovering that he was not on the track that he expected, bt turned east to find the coast and struck; the high ground near Crawney Pass. Theevidence proves conclusively that heturned practically direct east. It may bethat be turned slightly south of east, i think that the court reported that he turned north of east. However, he turned so nearly direct east that we need not worry about it. He certainly flew east after leaving Bundella, and crashed, into the range.
– How long would it have taken the aircraft to travel between those two points?
– A matter of fifteen or twenty minutes, if he was flying, as he probably was, at 160 miles an hour. However, it could have taken only twelve minutes.
– Does not the evidence indicate that the pilot thought that he was on the range?
– No, not necessarily; the pilot turned direct east at the moment he discovered that he was flying on the wrong track. Unfortunately he believed, as he indicated, that he was somewhere near Williamtown, and he was descending from 6,000 feet to 4,000 feet. He had a right to believe, I suppose, as long as he felt satisfied that he was near Williamtown, that there were no mountains between that point and Mascot. He felt safe, no doubt, in taking that step, but he was undoubtedly lost. If only he had admitted that he was lost the accident could have been averted. Honorable members will recall that he was speaking to the control tower at that time, and if he had asked Mascot to check his position, the tragedy would not have occurred. In spite of those facts, the report gives no hint that the pilot might have made a mistake. I do not say that he did make a mistake.
– But the Minister is implying that he made a mistake.
– The interjections by the honorable member for Went-‘ worth are so inane that I shall take no notice of them.
– There was as much justification for blaming the pilot as for blaming the Department of Civil Aviation. The evidence is inconclusive.
– All I am submitting to the House is a different theory from that which the court put forward. That there is room for different theories about the cause of the accident has been freely admitted by honorable members opposite. The House will also see the reason for the theory of the Department of Civil Aviation that it is more probable that not the radio range transmitter but the radio range receiver in the aircraft was out of action. That is a likely theory, but I am not dogmatic about the matter. We say that the theory is just as likely as is the court’s theory about the cause of the accident. Indeed, it is a more likely theory.
– Does the Minister say that the wiring in the aircraft might have been out of order?
– I shall refer to that matter. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) mentioned that the radio range receiver had been used in five aircraft. What. I have said is supported by the fact that the Australian National Airways pilot who brought the Lutana from Townsville complained, on landing at Brisbane, that the radio range receiver was out of order. A new receiver was placed in the aircraft. Tests of the receiver taken from the Luta.na and made while the aircraft was on the ground at Brisbane showed that it was operating perfectly. This suggests that the fault was in the wiring of the aircraft - that is, in the aerial or power supply or something like that, which is the responsibility of the operating company. Of course, as soon as Captain Drummond found that his receiver was not working, he should have reported that fact and turned back, because the radio range is his primary ground navigation aid.
– How does the Minister know that it was not working?
– If he tested it and it was not working, he should have known. He should have tested it when flying across the Archerfield range, and that is one of the things that he did not do. As soon as I, as Minister, endeavour to put forward another theory which is, and should be, just as acceptable as the court’s theory, it is inferred that I am throwing some suspicion on the pilot. Engine drivers, car drivers and aircraft pilots frequently make mistakes. Such mistakes may not be culpable, but if they bring about disaster, what happens ? The newspapers immediately headline the matter and look for a culprit. I do not believe in doing that. I believe in looking for the causes of accidents, but if there is a culprit who caused the accident by carelessness, whether that culprit be the pilot, the operating company or the Department of Civil Aviation, we should take steps to correct any fault, and may have to take punitive measures. I think it will become clear as I continue that in this matter we are not taking a dogmatic attitude that there was no fault in our administration and that everything that the courts report had to say about the department was unjustified.
– The Opposition is only opposing the assumptions the Minister has made.
– The Opposition may do so, and it has already had an opportunity to put up strong support of one assumption. I am taking the same opportunity. The honorable member for Franklin said that the radio range receiver taken from the Lutana on its arrival in Brisbane from the north on the night of the accident was tested in five other aircraft and found to be faulty. If that is true I am amazed that the operator should continually have put back into a machine something that he knew to be faulty.
– He put it back only to test it.
– These instruments are not the responsibility of the Civil Aviation Department at all. The honorable member for Franklin knows that the radio range receiver, the magnetic compass and the radio compass are all the responsibility of the operating company. Yet the debate has proceeded on the lines that what is in the aircraft is the responsibility of the department. That is not so and I want to say it most emphatically. The radio range receiver, magnetic compass and radio compass are part of the working tools of the pilot and of the company, and the responsibility is entirely on them. The honorable member for Franklin did not say that the faulty range receiver was in the aircraft for a period;, and was actually in use for 63 flying hours before being removed. Does the honorable member suggest that the pilots concerned relied on it for 63 hours’ flying time although it was unserviceable? I suggest that if there had been any doubt about ihe receiver it would certainly not have been left in the aircraft all that time. Those facts, in any case, have no bearing on the serviceability or otherwise of the wiring in the Lutana. We simply put forward the proposition that either the pilot did not use his radio range receiver at all, as he should have done, or else there was some defect that prevented him from getting contacts. If the court’s report is inconclusive - and I say it is, and shall not say more than that about it - and if it has not been able to suggest any initial reason for the accident, honorable members are naturally inclined to ask, what was the real cause of the Lutana getting off its course ? The court says that at least two of the navigational aids must have failed for the pilot to take the course he did, but it does not say which navigational aids they were, whether in the aircraft or on the ground. Probably nobody will ever know the full answer, but any one who is looking for it will have to search near Kyogle rather than Kempsey. Here is one theory which at least fits all the facts: The aircraft left Brisbane on the usual 30 degrees diversion to the east to avoid incoming traffic, and then flew parallel to the radio’ range for the specified time. The pilot was then in daylight and had good visibility and there was no call for the use of his radio range receiver. Converging on the Archerfield range at Kyogle, still in clear weather - which can be proved by the evidence - he switched on the radio receiver and found to his disappointment that it was not working, although a new receiver was fitted at Brisbane. So he decided to proceed, relying on his magnetic compass to take him to Sydney without the assistance of the radio range. In plotting his course he made a mistake that all pilots and navigators will know is not uncommon.
– The Archerfield signals would be too weak for him to discern them.
– That is not so. He was well within the limits of the range. The suggestion that the signals would be too weak has been used all along by the Opposition. The radio range is used all the way to Casino, and beyond Casino, and the signals are heard by any pilot who runs the range. I have talked to pilots and asked for their views, and they have had no complaint about not receiving signals at that distance. The honorable member’s interjection, therefore, is not based on a reasonable assumption drawn from the facts.
To resume at the point where the honorable member interjected: The pilot calculated his magnetic variation in the wrong direction. He put on 10 degrees west instead of 10 degrees east, making an error of 20 degrees. Whatever the cause, it is now clear that a course was set that was 20 degrees west off the correct one. That happened nearly 100 miles before the aircraft came to where it could possibly receive signals from the Kempsey range, and also before the aircraft went into the thunderstorm which, it was suggested might have affected the magnetic compass. A navigational assessment of a course so arrived at agrees exactly with the actual times of the fatal flight and brings the position of the aircraft to within a short distance of Crawney Pass. Of course, this is merely a theory, but it does have the virtue of fitting the ascertained facts. No other set of facts will logically account to experienced airmen for the actions of Captain Drummond and the course of the Lutana on the night of the accident. Let us scrutinize the court’s recommendations. Here again it is my duty to give the House the benefit of the department’s examinations of these recommendations and to inform the House what is being done to implement them. I shall have something to say later about my alleged unethical conduct in asking for advice. I do not think that the honorable member who made that statement last night, as if he were completely sure of his ground, had taken the trouble to have a look at the regulations governing air navigation.
– The court’s report should have been placed before the Parliament before the Minister made his own report.
– The court’s report was furnished at the same time as my statement, after an examination of it by people qualified to dissect it and understand the technicalities in it. I do not claim to be capable of dissecting such a technical report, and I do not credit the honorable member for Wentworth with having the knowledge that would enable him to dissect it. I was criticized for holding the report for one week before tabling it in the House. The report was furnished and was available here for honorable members at the same time as we made our own report. If I had failed to do that I should have failed to do my duty. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its courtesy in granting me an extension of time. This is a matter which should be covered, as far as possible, from all points of view. Regulation 296 reads as follows: - (1.) The Court shall, as soon as conveniently may be after the holding of an inquiry, forward to the Minister a report setting out its findings on the matters referred for inquiry, together with notes of the evidence taken, and adding any observations and recommendations which the court thinks fit to make with a view to the preservation of life and the avoidance of similar accidents in future. (2.) The Minister may cause any such report to be made public in such manner as he thinks fit.
The regulation throws the responsibility on me, and I did what I thought to be right. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that my conduct was unethical, although I did exactly what the regulations authorized me to do. The honorable gentleman makes many statements in this chamber in a pontifical manner, as if he were an authority on every subject. I acted fully in accordance, not only with the wording of the regulations but also with their intention. The argument that was adduced by the honorable gentleman last night had no foundation whatever. That is common to many of his arguments.
Let us scrutinize the recommendations. I have said before, and I say it again, that some of the court’s recommendations are excellent. It is my duty to inform the House of what I propose to do to implement them. Can thatbe done without making a proper examination of this report, which runs into 29 pages? Is it expected that if I receive a report of this kind at 5 o’clock in the afternoon of one day I shall walk into the House the following day, without having made any examination of it, and say, “ Here it is, and this is what is proposed to be done “ ? I wanted to know what was contained in the report. After all, 29 pages take some reading and studying. The report is a comprehensive one. The judge was very painstaking in going through the evidence. I think that an atmosphere was created in the court which did a grave injustice to the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation, who were put into the position of criminals on trial. Mr. Shand, towards the end of his address, made reference to the fact that the newspapers bad made misleading statements. He did not hesitate to say that. His method of approaching the witnesses was more in the nature of saying, “ Here you are, old. chap. You are in the dock and you must answer for yourself “. Every onehas the right to his own opinion, but I feel that theproper approach that should have been made to the witnesses was, “ Can you help us to find out ? Have you any responsibility with regard to this? Which of the people working under you failed to carry out their instructions?” I am afraid that that did not happen.
– The Department of Civil Aviation had its own counsel.
– That is so, and he put forward various arguments, but it was for the court to say whether it would follow that line. Some of the court’s recommendations are excellent. Others are obviously desirable developments that have long been the aim of the department, and others deal with matters that have been thought of before but have been found to be impracticable. I want to show that some of the suggestions are impracticable and that it would be unwise to implement others. That is what I had to consider. I had to inquire from my experts whether the suggestions were practicable or wise. In some instances, suggestions were immediately adopted, which shows that there was an appreciation of what the court proposed. It has been suggested that we have completely ignored the report and are more concerned with defending the Departmnt of Civil Aviation than with taking advantage of good recommendations. There is no intention whatever to do that, and I should not be prepared to permit it.
A t no time has the court suggested that the tragedy was the result of any shortcoming in the air traffic control system. The court propounded at length what it considered were the problems involved. The judge said - 1 nin satisfied that the department’s officers are agitated hi their minds over the control of aircraft in the air, largely, as I have said, with a view to avoiding collisions. It appears to rue that this has been over-accentuated.
I.’n paragraph 95 the judge went on to say that the problem appeared to him to be much smaller than it appeared to the department. The court was probably unaware that air traffic control is one of the most difficult problems to which humans have been called upon to find a solution. It is to sort out, without seeing them, bodies travelling in three dimensions at hundreds of miles an hour. The court was probably also unaware that air traffic control is considered to be the major unsolved problem of air transport, that it is the limiting factor in the use of the great airports of Europe and the United States of America, the vital factor in the operation of the Berlin airlift, and one of the greatest worries of planners who are hoping to use jet aircraft in the next few years. Mr. Peter Masefield, the DirectorGeneral of Long-term Planning in the British Ministry of Civil Aviation, is regarded as an authority on those matters. I read his recent work, which is very highly thought of. I do not pretend to understand all the graphs and other technical matter contained in it, hut there is a summary which any intelligent person can understand. Mr. Masefield, in a recent address to the British Institute of Civil Engineers, said -
Air traffic control is costing some millions nf pounds u year at present-
In Great Britain its primary responsibility is collision prevention - but is losing many more millions of pounds because air traffic has outgrown the control. Improved methods of air traffic control are essential. Indeed, turbine aircraft cannot be operated efficiently until that progress has been made . . . Cheap, fast air transport depends on the solution of the problems of air traffic control.
That is the problem about which the court thought we were unduly worried.
– When was that statement made?
– Probably in September or October of last year. I received my copy of the speech in November of last year. Granting that nobody anywhere has the final answer to air traffic control, what has Australia done? Honorable members are entitled to know that. Misapprehensions have been created which I should like to remove. Starting from very small beginnings at the conclusion of hostilities, Australia has built up an air traffic control service capable of handling traffic which, at Sydney and Essendon, is as dense as that at many of the world’s greatest airports. It has trained staff and issued orders. Those orders are, through the rapid growth of this science, continually being improved. I think it is reasonable to say that the court has paid the department a very pretty compliment. With all the legal talent at the inquiry focussing a critical spotlight on the Manual of Air Traffic Control, only two alterations were suggested. Both of them were good ones and both have been adopted. The first was that action should be taken to obtain a missed position report within a defined period of time rather than “ after a reasonable period of time”.
– The court said that the department was not using modern scientific aids.
– I shall prove that that statement is unfounded. The second of these recommendations was to delete the reference to consulting the operator before instituting the search for a missing aircraft. As the court said, this was unnecessary in Australia, because the operators, unlike those in other countries, do not have their own aeradio links with aircraft in flight. Incidentally, in their continual desire to improve air traffic control procedures, the air traffic control branch is incorporating a number of points which were raised during the inquiry, but not included in the specific recommendations of the court. That proves conclusively that the department is endeavouring to gain all the information it can. That the head of Australia’s air traffic control branch is recognized as having some knowledge of the subject is illustrated by the fact that last year he was elected chairman of the Air Traffic Control Division of . the International Civil Aviation Organization, which was meeting in Montreal. That is a significant fact but it is not generally recognized. There are 21 representatives of different nations on the council of the International Civil Aviation Organization and all of the 39 nations, including many small countries, which are members of that organization, are invited to supply to it all the information that they possibly can. Consequently, the election of any representative to be chairman of a division of the organization is a tribute not only to that representative’s knowledge and ability but also to the country which he represents. It is also acknowledgment of the work which that country is doing. Therefore, I am hurt by the suggestion that Australia is not doing anything. Indeed, the implication is that we are not even trying to do anything to keep in line with what is being done in other parts of the world. Yet, representatives whom our delegates meet at international conferences freely acknowledge that Australia, is second only to the United States of America in the progress it is making in civil aviation ; and I need not point out that the United States of America has more than adequate financial resources to finance its progress. I pay a tribute to Great Britain also for what it has done in the field of radio control. The honorable member for Franklin referred to Sir Robert Watson Watt, who was one of the men responsible for evolving the radio devices which contributed so much to victory in the Battle for Britain. It is also true that our own scientist, Dr. Bowen, is a highly qualified man. I am annoyed and grieved at the suggestion that Australia is not doing a’nything in this field. Such a suggestion is completely unfounded. I am pleased with the efforts which the Department of Civil Aviation is making in order to keep Australia right up to date with modern developments overseas.
While the head of our air traffic control branch was abroad he studied the latest systems of handling a vast volume of traffic, and as the result, an improved flight recording system based on the best American practice will be introduced a.s soon as operational trials have been completed. I hope that honorable members will realize the significance of that statement. The new system will do what the report says should be done - “show at a. glance where aircraft should report and when “. It is clear that the air traffic control branch was well aware that its organization could be improved before the Lutana inquiry, and I do not now propose to deal in detail with such matters recommended by the court as, for instance, reducing the amount of recording work to be done by communications officers. This is inherent in the new system, in the development of which we have had the benefit of the experience and advice of the air traffic control staff of the United States of America, a member of which was kindly made available to come to Australia to assist us in that respect. That fact emphasizes that we are endeavouring to obtain the best technical assistance that we possibly can.
The court suggests that there be a safety officer at each air traffic control centre in addition to the men who are busy with the routine work of keeping proper separation and control of aircraft in flight. This also is in line with the department’s policy, and we are glad to have the court’s endorsement of it. The court, however, overlooked the fact that officers performing this function are already on duty at the majority of the busier airports. Apparently, it missed that point. Similarly, the court could have looked at the Air Traffic Control Manual again before recommending that under certain conditions pilots should be allowed to leave the range, because it is already provided that when conditions of weather and traffic justify it, pilots may be allowed, or directed, to follow a different route. The court criticized the fact that the two area controllers on duty at Mascot differed in their belief as to whose duty it was to follow up missing position reports and to keep the flight checking officer informed. It does not suggest that this had any ‘bearing upon the navigation of the Lutana, which, of course, it did not. The department has of course issued a number of manuals denning the procedures to be observed in the control of air traffic and the responsibilities of the various sections of the organization. It also had under preparation at the time of the Lutana accident a comprehensive administrative manual covering the detailed day to day duties of each individual member of the air traffic control branch. [Further extension of time granted.] This administrative manual was published towards the end of 1948 and is now in the personal possession of every air traffic control officer, who is obliged periodically to satisfy inspectional staff of his knowledge of its contents. It is believed that this action should prevent any possibility of any officer not being aware of his specific duties at any time in the future. The accident occurred towards the end of 1948. I am not suggesting that the manual was published before the accident occurred, but it was in course of pre.peration and about to be issued at that time. Regulations can only be evolved from the experience gained from time to time.
Of course, the human element must always play its part, and the department is conscious of the fact that only the most highly trained and competent officers can be entrusted with air safety responsibilities. Accordingly. in 1947, it established a school for the training of air traffic control officers and so far as is known this school has no counterpart in any other part of the world. Does that not reflect some initiative and resourcefulness on the part of the departments?
– There is a similar school in England.
– Is that so? Kew Zealand has been making inquiries on this subject and it will probably adopt the Australian school as its model. However, no similar schools exist elsewhere. Honorable members should realize that all this progress has been made since the cessation of hostilities. We obtained men from the Royal Australian Air Force, some of whom had air traffic control experience at various places. Recruitment standards have, of course, been high, and it is considered that as the result of the policy pursued over the last few years the air traffic control service is now staffed with officers, most of whom are ex-Royal Australian Air Force aircrew, with a lively appreciation of the responsibilities of captains of aircraft and of the disciplinary factors associated with safety in the air. This action, it is thought, should reduce to an absolute minimum any imperfections in the control system emanating from the unpredictable factor of human fallibility.
The court also recommended that aircraft when reporting their positions should not be obliged to announce their height. Surely, the danger from this procedure should be obvious to all honorable members. That is one recommendation made by the court which we cannot accept. That instance illustrates the need to be guided by expert advice on matters of this kind. Yet, that point has been seized on for political purposes to make it appear that the department is unduly delaying the presentation of the report. There is no truth in such a suggestion. Occasions do arise when, for some reason or other, an aircraft assumes an incorrect cruising level, a fact which can be discovered by air traffic control only from the reports received from the pilot. Without that information avoidance of collision could not be ensured. The recommendation that the collision hazard can be solved merely by telling pilots where the other aircraft are and let them look after themselves is not a well considered one. Sometimes, there are fifteen aircraft in the air simultaneously on the same route between two capita] cities, for instance, between Melbourne and Sydney. The idea is impractical for busy inter-capital city routes, but is used for air routes on which there is little traffic as for instance, between Adelaide and Perth. The Australian air traffic control service is probably the only one in the world which sets out to provide aids to captain;s of aircraft to cover every aspect ofsafety in the air from the ,.time they leave the tarmac until they reach their destination. In the face of all the evidence produced at the inquiry, it is difficult to understand what the court had in mind when it stated that the department was more concerned with avoiding collisions than with safety. The department must be concerned with avoiding collisions, and I am thankful to. say that so far it has succeeded. It is quite clear, however, that the department is concerned at all times with measures for the preservation of safety in flight, and with arrivals and departures from airports.
When talking of methods of control honorable members must, and, I think, do, realize that the pilots of aircraft are highly qualified officers with responsibilities comparable to those of the captain of a ship. The department’s efforts have never been directed at eliminating or. reducing the need for skill in the flying and navigation of aircraft, but at providing aids for pilots, which will increase the safety and regularity of air services. We still have to rely greatly on the skill, initiative and intelligence of captains in command of aircraft, and, in my humble view, that will always be so. I do not think that any mechanical means could be invented that would replace the responsibility of the pilot in charge of an aircraft. Once he takes off into the air the responsibility is his, and he should have the best possible equipment and be given the best possible aid. I consider that to direct him to do this or that, when he may be encountering unpredictable conditions, would be doing something disadvantageous to him and dangerous to the aircraft itself.
Honorable members will see from what L have already said that, far from rejecting the court’s report, the department has been eager to implement any suggestions which could contribute to safety and efficiency. An example of this is the immediate acceptance of the court’s recommendation on the radio range monitoring system. The 33 megacycle radio range system had worked well for the last nine years. During that time the faults reports received have been so few that there can be no doubt as to the splendid record of efficiency of these radio ranges. Yet, as mentioned before, the Kempsey range did develop a fault for a short period of time on the evening of the 15th September, a fortnight after the Lutana accident, indicating that the half-hourly monitoring was not really sufficient. That fault had not previously been experienced in its nine years of operation. In the meantime, until the new ranges are working, the department has lost no time in tightening up the monitoring system. I mention here that there have been tremendous developments since the radio ranges were put in,, and the new ranges now being installed, for which provision was made previous to the Lutana accident, will include automatic monitoring devices. It will be apparent to honorable members that we are not rejecting those sections of the court’s report that will prove helpful in preserving or increasing safety, or for making improvements in any way.
Another suggestion which is heartily endorsed by every member of the Department of Civil Aviation is the court’s recommendation that .something must be done to improve the accommodation of operational staffs, especially at busy airports such as Sydney and Melbourne. Reference was made to this aspect by several honorable members, particularly in relation to Sydney. It is admitted that the space available for the establishment of the facilities is restricted, and that the work is done under difficult and unsatisfactory conditions. For all construction work we have to compete with housing for materials and labour, and normally housing has first priority. That is why passenger terminals recently provided are only temporary structures, mostly converted Air Force huts. We have even had to build runways of bitumen instead of concrete, because we could not utilize cement required for housing. But in air traffic control, where safety is involved, it is essential for new and better accommodation to be provided, and whilst the final decision does not rest with the civil aviation authorities, I am personally doing all that I can to expedite the work.
Another recommendation concerns the question of aeronautical maps. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) made some reference to this aspect. On the night of the 2nd September no map could have helped the captain of the Lutana,, because he was apparently quite unaware of his position. That is to s.ay, if Crawney Pass had been marked on the map in red letters an inch high “ 10,000 feet, pilots beware ! “, Captain Drummond would still not have been worried, because he thought that he was 1 35 miles to the east of that point.
– But other pilots might be saved.
– It was clear from his report that he believed he was in the vicinity pf Williamtown. I am not discarding any suggestions about improvements to maps. If he had known where he was he would have seen that the colour tinting of deep green on the map indicated heights up to- 4,921 feet. Under the Air Navigation Regulations for instrument flight rules, a pilot must fly at a height of not less than 1,000 feet above the highest point on the route that he is following. In other words, Captain Drummond would not have descended below 5,921 feet, and he would have been perfectly safe. So the map can not be blamed in any way for the accident, lt must be remembered that the compilation of maps covering a huge continent is a tremendous task, and it will probably be a long time before Australia is mapped with the same accuracy as are Europe and the more populated parts of the United States of America. The Royal Australian Air Force and the Army Survey Corps are carrying out flight survey work in this connexion, but as honorable members know, it takes time and skilled mem In addition, particulars taken from various reports, including land surveys by the Department of the Interior, are endorsed on the maps. In the meantime the Department of Civil Aviation must depend on existing surveys. The department agrees with the court that the highest points in any area should be marked, and it will continue to improve its maps as additional information comes to hand.
During this debate reference was made to pilots not carrying maps, and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) suggested that that was a reflection on the Department of Civil Aviation. I should like to take this opportunity to make it clear that the department does not take from the captains of aircraft any of their responsibility for the safe navigation of their aircraft. It must, of course, lay down certain standards as an elementary requirement to be observed by pilots in the performance of their duties but the department cannot arrange for some one to examine the instruments before each flight. The position is analogous to that of a locomotive engineer, who draws a personal kit comprising various items, which then becomes his responsibility. It would be impracticable for another official to examine that kit prior to each journey that he made. I point out that if the pilot of this unfortunate aircraft had consulted the map he would have known by the coloured shading that he was in an area where there were mountains of different heights.
– Does the department require the captains of aircraft to carry maps?
– The department lays it down that maps must be provided for the information of pilots. I have personally seen them being carried by Royal Australian Air Force and civil aircraft pilots. It is not possible to force a man to carry them.
– Does the Minister know of an instance where an airline pilot does not carry maps?
– We cannot check everything. I consider that the comments of the honorable member for Watson were completely justified. Whilst I am not a pilot, I know that provision is made for maps to be supplied to pilots to enable them to discover the height at which they are flying.
– That being so, I think the suggestion that the captain of the Lutana could not have had one is not fair.
– I have not suggested that.
– But it was suggested.
– Another honorable member said that the honorable member for Watson was the mouthpiece for the Government. The House has already been told that he could not be regarded as spokesman for the Government, but that he had made a very good contribution to the debate from his point of view. [Further extension of time granted.] Whilst the department prescribes certain standards, it must rely on operating companies and pilots of aircraft to observe them. A policeman is not responsible for seeing that a motorist has his licence with him each time he undertakes a journey in his car, but if the motorist is found not to be in possession of the licence, the responsibility is his - not that of the police department.
The court has suggested that consideration be given to the installation of an additional remote reading magnetic compass in the aircraft, because of the possibility that a lightning strike on the aircraft may cause the one normally fitted to be deflected. The magnetic compass provides the primary means of navigation, and recorded instances of it having been affectedby electrical disturbances are rare. The accuracy of the compass can always be checked against ground radio navigational aids such as radio ranges and beacons, plus the elapsed time interval factor in air navigation. Any discrepancies noted by the pilot should automatically evoke a request for the provision of radio direction finding bearings from ground stations provided for this purpose. If the magnetic compass is properly adjusted and maintained by the operating company - and the captains of aircraft should be interested in this - there should be no need for a second compass for domestic airline operations. Such a need has not been indicated in the many years of operational service of the DC3 type of aircraft. It is considered that the radio navigational aids at present available on the ground provide an accurate check on the accuracy of the magnetic compass, and that airline companies could not he reasonably asked, even on the ground of safety, to bear the expense of fitting an additional compass.
One of the pointed references in the report is the court’s assertion that “ the lessons learnt from the Kyeema inquiry have been forgotten “. Rather than say anything about this myself, let me quote from an article in the Australian aeronautical magazine Aircraft. Referring to this particular finding, it says -
This, perhaps, was the “most unkindest cut of all “for a Department facing in this case its first passenger aircraft disaster in21/2 years: a Department, moreover, that, realizing there were shortcomings in its system arising from rapid postwar growth, was working months prior to this inquiry to prepare areally up-to-date A.T.C. system. A complete changeover is promised within six to nine months.
The Kyeema disaster occurred when A.T.C. was in its infancy. In aids and system it has improved out of all recognition since then. The reference to the Kyeema. report of 1938 as a criteria of modern needs, and certain of the recommendations which show an illinformed visionary rather than a practical outlook, rob theLutana report of some of the respect to which it should be entitled.
– Is the Minister quoting from the letter of a correspondent to the journal, or from a leading article?
– I am not sure but I shall examine the article and make certain.
– I do not think that the quotation represents the opinion of the journal.
– I think it is the opinion of the journal, and not merely that of a contributor. I believe that the report cannot be regarded as satisfactory, not because it criticized the Department of Civil Aviation, but because so many of the criticisms that it made were not based on sound premises. If theLutana accident was due to weaknesses in the Australian airways system, in the organization of the operating company or in the training and skill of its aircrews, then the report did not disclose them.
Now, as to the handling of the inquiry. There has been criticism in the aviation press and by the Civil Air Operations Officers Association of Australia of what they call the inquiry’s “ criminal court technique and atmosphere of trial with an accused in the dock “. The association met, and carried a resolution of protest. Representatives approached me about the matter, but I have not previously mentioned it, or issued a press statement about it.
Opposition members have suggested that I have tried to shield the department from criticism of its organization and methods. If I hare given support to the department against criticism, it is because I thought it my duty to prevent a serious injustice from being done - an injustice which would have had long-term damaging effects on civil aviation. The department went to the inquiry with a desire to assist in locating the cause of the accident, lt had nothing to hide. It did not prepare a case for itself because it expected that the inquiry would be a factfinding investigation of all the factors leading to the accident. There would be no “ sides “. It wished to contribute what it knew to help to solve the mystery. But to have transparently honest and sincere, and highly qualified technical officers - men who had never been in the witness box before - sweating under hostile cross-examination was a spectacle that made a holiday for some sections of the daily press. Over and over again, the press has quoted particular passages of the evidence which give exactly the opposite impression from the point those men were trying to make.
I mention this, because il believe that it was owing to the way in which proceedings developed that the court failed to get to the truth of an important matter, namely, the department’s plans for modernizing the radio range system. It is probably the reason why the court formed the opinion that Australia is not using the modern scientific aids now available. That is probably the most erroneous conclusion in the whole of the report, because the aviation authorities, both here and overseas, know quite well that Australia is among the world’s leaders in the provision of modern navigational aids. Since the officers of my department at the inquiry were not given a full opportunity to explain Australia’s programme in this respect, it is desirable that I should make the position crystal clear.
Before the outbreak of war, Australia through the enterprise and foresight of two of its senior technical officers, Mr. Wiggins and Mr. Badenach, became the first country in the world to use a very high frequency radio range system. It was the 33-megacycle range that I have referred to earlier, and it is still giving good service, day in and day out. There were, of course, homing beacons and other aids, too, but I am dealing with the radio range programme at the moment. The only other country so far using the very high, frequency radio range system extensively is the United States of America.
With the development of the science of electronics, experts have produced a radio range of still higher frequency and better signal characteristics, namely, the 112- megacycle equipment, and this is now replacing the 33-rnegacycle equipment in A ustralia. This equipment does not yet completely cover the airways system of the United .States.
Without going into technicalities, I can say that the ranges now in our possession represent a big advance on previous radio ranges, and that they provide four courses, approximately at right angles. Since the war, a new addition to the broadcasting system of the ranges has been devised to provide a great number of radiating tracks, instead of only four. This is called the omni-directional range. The only difference between the fourcourse range and the omni-directional range is in the number of courses broadcast. The nature of the signal, which has a frequency of 112 megacycles, is the same in both cases. In January, 1947, the Radio Technical Division of the International Civil Aviation Organization tested all the track guidance equipment available in the world, including the Australiandeveloped multi-track radar range. The division decided that there was nothing that completely met requirements for short distance navigation, and that, as an interim measure, the 112- megacycle range should be the international standard until at least 1955. The omni-directional broadcast principle has been the centre of controversy in the United States, the United Kingdom and the International Civil Aviation Organization itself, and the council of the International Civil Aviation Organization has so far failed to approve the omni-directional radio range as a world standard. In fact, the question is under discussion in Montreal at present, and as recently as this week, the department was asked for an expression of its views on certain aspects of omni-directional ranges. Aviation magazines have recently contained articles doubting the efficiency of the omni-directional broadcast and the American Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics reported last May that -
The VHF omni-directional type radio range is a desirable static-free air navigational aid. However, it is pointed out that extensive re-siting of facilities must bc accomplished if the system is to become progressively of greater value to aeronautical operations . . In certain areas where the very large number of courses obtained with the VHF omnidirectional range is not required and a more accurately denned airlane is necessary the use of a four-course VHF facility is recommended.
– That problem does not arise with multiple tract range.
– I have quoted the opinion of one of the most authoritative organizations in the world, the American Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics. The view of the commission is that whilst very high frequency omni-directional type radio range is desirable, certain re-siting of facilities must be carried out. These things are being developed, and until they are properly established their adoption would be a waste of man-power, time and money, because early replacement might be necessary. I am endeavouring to show that Australia is keeping up to date with the latest developments. The words “ staticfree “ in my quotation relate, of course, to the signal produced by the 112-mega- cycle equipment, which, with the fourcourse broadcast, Australia already possesses and is now installing. Meanwhile, in America the same four-course range is being installed where the density of traffic does not require an omnidirectional broadcast.
The honorable member for Franklin suggested that in the United Kingdom the pulse system was being used in preference to the continuous wave broadcast of the 112-megacyele equipment. The latest information to reach Australia is, however, that the United Kingdom recognizes the value of the omni-range broadcast for traffic control at busy airports, and is planning a number of installations for this purpose.
– Whose statement is that?
– It is a statement obtained by the department.
– Obtained from whom?
– From the civil aviation authorities in Great Britain.
There are many other matters to which I should like to refer but I do not wish to try the patience of the House much longer. However, I shall deal with radio range and’ “ Loran “ which the honorable member for Franklin mentioned. I shall put the department’s point of view on those matters. In the existing circumstances, and with the responsibility of spending large amounts of public funds to the best advantage, what was the wisest course for the department to take - experiment with the still controversial omni-directional range, try some completely new system such as the multi-track radar range, or install the reliable four-course range which will meet the requirements of Australian air traffic for some years to come and which can also be easily converted to the omnidirectional broadcast by a comparatively inexpensive modification ? I am sure that no one could with justice criticize the department ‘ for going ahead with the installation of four-course ranges which, according to the reports of experts, are the very best available in the world to-day.
– When will the equipment be installed?
– As soon as possible. I do not propose to say now that by such and such a date the work will have -been completed, but it is proceeding and I ask the honorable member to accept the assurance that there will not be any unnecessary delay.
– Is it true that the department has had the sets for six years already?
– No, not complete sets. That is a mistake. The equipment to which reference has been made was probably left over from the war, and we are endeavouring to use it. I intended to refer to the “green light”, but I am afraid that I shall not have time to do so fully. That is adapted war -material, and the green light has nothing to do with the efficiency of the radio range. The monitoring of the radio range is done by other means. The VHF radio range is in operation for both day and night flying between Darwin and Adelaide. The installation was made quite recently. As I have said, we a.re proceeding as rapidly as possible.
The International Civil Aviation Organization is concerned with international traffic, and subject to the eventual adoption of the omni-directional broadcast for international purposes, Australia has agreed to provide such a broadcast on those of its 112 megacycle ranges which are used for international traffic. [Further extension of time granted.]
The court criticized the department on the ground that it was - not using the modern scientific aids which were discovered and used during the war such as radar and automatic position fixing by cathode ray direction finders.
It was also claimed by the court that the department - was requiring information from the pilot which should be known to them or which could be obtained accurately and instantaneously from the ground without choking the communications channels.
Those statements apparently refer to such devices as “ Loran “ and have inspired the honorable member for Franklin to adopt a similar basis for criticism having himself used “ Loran “ under war conditions with success.
– I said that “ Consol “ had superseded “ Loran “.
– The honorable member referred to “ Consol “, “ Gee “, “ Loran “ and one other. The name “ Loran “ indicates its purpose, i.e., to aid long range air navigation. It was used during the war to guide aircraft across the ocean or other areas from which no co-operation from ground stations could be obtained. There are many “ Loran “ stations throughout the world but no country uses this system for internal airline operation, although it is used over certain ocean routes. “ Loran “ operates on the normal broadcast wave band, and it is affected by all the noise and interference that can be heard on a home radio receiver. It involves the use of special interpretation charts instead of giving a direct instrument reading in the pilot’s cockpit. Experence has indicated that the high noise level in this part of the world is not very sympathetic to “ Loran “ operation.
During the war, Australia established and operated a “ Loran “ chain of one master and two slave units in northern Australia. The system was only partially successful because of high static interference. Ten men are required to operate each “ Loran “ station and 35 stations manned by 350 men would be needed to cover the domestic air routes of Australia with this aid. It does not compare with radio ranges as an aid for short range navigation, and it is certainly not required in addition to” them. We have the radio ranges and they are being installed. It would be a waste of public funds to replace them with a less efficient system such as “ Loran “.
– I did not recommend “ Loran “. I recommended “ Consol “.
– The honorable member made some reference to “ Loran “ having been used successfully as well as “ Consol “. I am prepared to examine “ Consol “ if it is superior. We have no wish to reject these things. I am merely replying to what has been suggested from time to time, particularly in the, press. I recall that the honorable member for Franklin made a press statement in which he advocated “ Loran “.
Australia is the first country in the world to bring radar distance-measuring equipment to the stage at which it could be used commercially throughout our air routes. This was a heavy, cumbersome war-time device which required an extra crew member to use it and interpret its signals. It could not have been installed three years ago as suggested by the honorable member as considerable developmental work had to be carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I pay a tribute to that organization for the work it has done in making the system suitable for civil aviation. Australia has adapted it for use in an aircraft carrying only a pilot and co-pilot. It gives its readings on a dial rather like a speedometer and, used in conjunction with the radio ranges, tells the captain of the aircraft exactly how far he is along the air route he is following. Other radar devices also are in daily use. In the congested areas at the airports of Sydney and Essendon control radar, developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Radio Physics Division in collaboration with the Department of Civil Aviation, is in use for checking the positions of aircraft and to enable the controllers to see whether traffic rules are being obeyed. I say most emphatically that there is no founddation for any claim that there has not been complete co-operation between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Department of Civil Aviation. They are working together all the time and are of great assistance to each other. We are already at work on a longer range radar for surveillance of aircraft operating at some distance from terminal airports, but up to now this has not been perfected either here or anywhere else in the world. Certain experiments have been conducted in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. It is possible that, in such a small country as England, those experiments have resulted in equipment being developed, hut, when Australian departmental experts inspected radar surveillance experimental units in the United Kingdom three or four months ago, there was certainly no sign of any imminent installation of equipment that would give precise radio surveillance over the whole country.
– That will come.
– Perhaps. I do not want to neglect that possibility, but the fact is that there was no sign of it being done when our experts visited the United Kingdom. Certainly no specifications for such equipment had been given to a manufacturer. The position in the United States of America is much the same as that in the United Kingdom. Experiments are taking place, but there is no certainty of the installation of manufactured equipment in the near future.
I could deal with the programme of re-equipment, but there is no need for me now to weary honorable members with details of the several million pounds’ worth of advanced electronic equipment for which provision has been made in the Estimates already passed by the House. It provides for a network of radio teletype links between Australia and adjacent countries with the most modern radio equipment used for any purpose in the southern hemisphere. It includes new static-free VHF communications between aircraft and the ground, robbing thunderstorms and atmospherics of much of their power to interfere with such communication. Work is being done on airport lighting and instrument landing equipment to enable aircraft to come in safely in low visibility, and many other projects are in hand. It will be seen from what I have said that the department is intensely alive to the latest scientific developments in aviation safety aids. A suggestion has been made that radio homing beacons provided by the Department of Civil Aviation are too low in power, are badly located, and have inefficient aerial systems. The subject of the location of homing beacons and the aerial systems used was not raised during the inquiry, and it cannot be agreed that the beacons are inefficient. There are, of course, certain inherent weaknesses in low-powered homing beacons, which are well known in all countries, and those beacons are to be replaced with DME beacons as quickly as possible. It is npt a fact, as the honorable member for Franklin suggested, that the Aviation Radio Research Committee has not met for two years. Several meetings, including equipment demonstrations, were held in 1948. This body, which operates under the aegis of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has, in fact, been very active in the last two years, and it is as the result of its efforts that such aids as distance measuring equipment and control radar have been adopted for use in civil aviation.
Reading the report and listening to this debate, I have tried throughout to retain the Lutana inquiry in its proper perspective. What permanent effect will the accident and the report have on the future of civil aviation? First I want to say that the good safety record over the last few years has not been due to chance. It has been due to hard work, careful planning and unremitting vigilance on the part both of the department and the airlines. In the report there are a few sweeping criticisms, such as the one about radio aids, which are obviously in error, and I believe that these have been completely refuted. There are too, several suggestions for air traffic control which, if implemented, might easily result in a diminution of our enviable record of safety in air transportation. These cannot be accepted or applied. Finally, there were some recommendations in addition to those which were completely in line with the approved policy of the department, which have been accepted and implemented. Perhaps the most lasting effect of these proceedings is that they have made veryclear the shortcomings of the present method under which a nontechnical person, highly qualified as be may be in other respects, presides over an inquiry which is essentially technical from beginning to end. Following the recommendation of the court, consideration is being given to improving the machinery for ascertaining the causes of air accidents where these are not brought to light by the inquiries of the Air Accidents Investigations staff.
A regrettable feature of the unfortunate accident was the tendency, almost from the time when it happened, to impart a political flavour to the subject. Some newspapers did not hesitate to suggest that an attempt would be made to avoid an inquiry, and on that assumption they created an impression that there was something to be hidden. The next step in the technique, after the decision to establish an air court of inquiry had been announced, was to suggest that its terms of reference wouldbe so restricted as to prevent the cause of the accident from being clearly ascertained. There was no justification for either of those suggestions at any time. Honorable members may rest assured that the Department of Civil Aviation is fully alive to all the possibilities of increasingthe safety of air travel. It wants to have the best possible equipment, to give pilots and operators the utmost possible assistance, and to maintain Australia’s great safety record. While I remain in charge of the department, I shall endeavour to ensure that those aims shallbe carried out. I have no reason to believe that anybody employed within the department desires to achieve any other end. When menuse such tragedies as the Lutana crash for political purposes, as a means of attacking a department which they themselves may some day be required to administer, I refuse to submit to their tactics. I have dealt with this subject in great detail in order to inform honorable members as fully as possible of what the department has done. I have not been able to say all that I wished to saybecause of the limitation of time. Never theless, I believe that I have now satisfied honorable members that there are no causes for complaint such as have’ been suggested by newspapers and by honorable members opposite, who seek merely to criticize for the sake of criticism.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Works and Housing - L. GriffithsBowen.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defencepurposes - Linden Park, South Australia.
Meat Export Control Act - Thirteenth Annual Report of the Australian Meat Board, for year 1947-48, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 12.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions, were circulated: -
Royal Australian Air Force :
r asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 February 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490211_reps_18_201/>.