20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday, I issued a writ in connexion with the by-election for the Division of Werriwa. The dates fixed are those that I announced to the House on the 14th October.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. The Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act, which was sponsored by the Curtin Government in 1943, provides that a temporary employee of the Public Service shall be entitled to six months’ long service leave for twenty years’ service, and to a pro rata period of leave for less than twenty years’ service, provided that the employee has reached the age of 60 years. I f an employee were engaged at the age of 52 years and remained in the Public Service continuously -
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is giving a lot of information.
– I am informing the House of these details in order to explain my question. The operation of the act gives rise to an anomaly. As the Public Service is now dispensing with the services of some employees who are married women under the age of 60 years, and as the termination of their employment will automatically disqualify them from entitlement to long service leave, will the Prime Minister’ consider whether it would be desirable to amend the act in order to remove an anomaly that exists as a result of Labour administration?
– I agree that the problem that has been mentioned by the honorable member is a very important one. As he has pointed out, in a certain contingency, an amendment of the act would be required to remove an anomaly. The Public Service Board has gone into the matter and has made a report upon it. A sub-committee of Cabinet has considered the report, and has evolved certain proposals. The matter will now have to come before Cabinet. A decision will be made at a very early date.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether all the nations that contributed to the victory of the Allied powers in the last world war were consulted before the decision was made to release convicted, war criminals before completion of their sentences ? If so, what view was expressed by the Australian Government? If those nations were not consulted, has the Australian Government made any protest against the decision? If such action has not been taken, can it be assumed that this Government approves of the course that is being followed ?
– Quite obviously the question requires a fairly documented answer. I shall therefore have one prepared.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that a prominent London business man who represents a big English firm, which has made extensive investments in Australia since this Government took office, has stated that Australia was a “safe bet” for the investment of capital, and that other countries were not to be compared with it in the investment field, Canada alone being comparable in the development race?
– Order! The honorable gentleman is giving qiiite a lot of information.
– Did the gentleman concerned further indicate that Australia would forge ahead rapidly.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is apparently quoting a statement and asking for confirmation of it. In effect, he is giving information, rather than asking for it.
– I have only a few more words to my question, Mr. Speaker. Did that gentleman also say that any fear of a recession was only a phase due to false propaganda and a misunderstanding of the good corrective actions taken by this Government to attack an inflationary spiral ?
– I rise to order. First, is it in order for an honorable member to base a question upon what is undoubtedly a newspaper report? Secondly, has the Prime Minister any control over the matter to which the honorable member has referred?
– I am not aware of whether the honorable member for Bennelong is quoting from a newspaper report. Neither am I aware whether the Prime Minister has any control over the matter referred to.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh is quite correct in suggesting that I have no control over what appears in the newspapers, although in the present connexion I am bound to say that I entirely agree with what I have read in the press.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to reports that cattle of the Santa Gertrudis breed from Texas and other parts of the United States of America are being imported into Queensland for the purpose of testing whether they can be efficiently bred there?. Has his attention also been drawn to a report that cattle of this breed recently imported into Victoria have been found to bo infected with the scourge of warble fly? In view of the tremendous damage that this insect has caused to herds in other parts’ of the world, particularly Europe, can the right honorable gentleman assure the House first, whether every step has been taken in Victoria to prevent the spread of the disease, and, secondly, whether similar action has been taken in Queensland? Finally, will he say whether any effective action can be taken to prevent cattle suffering from this scourge from leaving the country in which they have been bred?
– I shall examine the matter and give the honorable gentleman a complete answer to his question.
– By way of explanation to a question that I direct to the Prime Minister, I point out that some months ago I asked the right honorable gentleman a question regarding a case, which was before the High Court, that affected the taxation of supplements to . ex-servicemen’s pay paid by employers during the war. The Prime Minister advised me in a written reply that the case to which I had referred, Commissioner of Taxation v. Fletcher Clarence Dixon, was set down for hearing by the High Court in September last. Can the right honorable gentleman now inform me whether the court has yet disposed of the case? If it has, what was its finding? If the case has not yet been heard will the Prime Minister use his best endeavours to have the matter finalized, in view of the number of ex-servicemen who desire to have their taxation accounts cleared up?
– I do not know what has become of that case, and I do not know whether I should know, but I shall at once find out and inform the honorable member to-morrow morning if he will renew his question then.
– By way of explanation of my question, which is directed to the Treasurer, may I say that it has come to my notice that some woolgrowers, having deducted 40 per cent, when paying their provisional tax for 1951-52, have now received notices demanding the 40 per cent, that they have deducted, plus 6 per cent, interest for the period that they have withheld the 40 per cent. Are there any circumstances in which a taxpayer, whose income for 1950-51 included 10 per cent, proceeds from wool, is excluded from the 40 per cent, deduction provision, and are there any conditions under which interest can be charged by the Taxation Branch on the 40 per cent, deduction?’
– The position is that taxpayers whose taxable income for 1950-51 included at least 10 per cent, from wool proceeds, are entitled to a right to deferment of provisional tax up to 40 per cent, without any conditions about the payment of interest. However, where taxpayers claimed the 40 per cent, deduction and did not satisfy the Taxation Branch that at least 10 per cent, of their taxable income was from the proceeds of wool sales, interest was probably charged in addition to the 40 per cent, of the amount of deferment. It is therefore the responsibility of those taxpayers to prove to the satisfaction of the Taxation Branch, where they have not done so. previously, that at least 10 per cent, of their income came from wool proceeds. If they do so, no interest will be charged. If interest has been charged, when the conditions that I have mentioned are satisfied the interest will be remitted.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether engine overhauls in the Royal Australian Air Force are wasteful in capital cost and man-hours. Is it proposed to have the overhaul of aircraft engines carried out by private enterprise and, if so, will every precaution be taken to ensure that the .standards of efficiency previously maintained by the Royal Australian Air Force will continue to be maintained ?
– I assume that the honorable member for Canning is mindful of the fact that the efficiency of the Royal Australian Air Force is well known throughout the world. I assure him that nothing will be done which will diminish that efficiency in any way. I have heard it mentioned, but not on an official level, that it may be wise to farm out our maintenance work to private enterprise, but I must confess that I have not discussed that matter with my air staff, or the secretary of the Department of Air. I do not think that the maintenance work can be done better by private enterprise than by the Royal Australian Air Force, but I shall examine the problem and give the honorable member a considered reply.
– Will the Minister for Air inform me of the reason for the excessive delays that have taken place in the payment of allowances to instructors of members of the Air Training Corps? I refer to the reserve of officers. Will the Minister ascertain the causes of these delays, and have them remedied ?
– This is the first time I have heard the phrase “ excessive delays “ U3ed in reference to the payment to the personnel mentioned by the honorable member for Franklin. If he will give me particulars of the alleged delays, I shall be the happiest person in the world to have them rectified as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Is the Royal Australian Air Force wing in Malta yet functioning on an operational basis? If so, what special duties has it undertaken? Have the wives and families of personnel of the wing arrived in Malta, and has satisfactory accommodation been provided for them on the station ?
– The Royal Australian Air Force_ wing in Malta has been placed under the Middle East Commander. I do not think it would be correct to say that it is performing an operational role. It is carrying out training in co-operation with the Royal Air Force. I believe that the role that has been allotted to it tentatively, in any emergency which required it to engage in actual operations, is that of a day fighter and ground support wing. It is performing its duties in a magnificent fashion, as one would expect any unit of the Royal Australian Air Force to do. During the last few weeks, very complimentary remarks have been made and complimentary letters have been written about the wing by members of the Royal Air Force. I am not certain when the families of the personnel of the wing will arrive in Malta, but I think they will arrive some time during the course of next week. The Royal Air Force has allotted accommodation for them. To the best of my knowledge, that accommodation is suitable for the requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force.
– I direct to the Minister for Air a question that arises from a previous question that I asked him early this month regarding the proposed transfer of the marine section of the seaplane base at Rathmines to Sydney, and the dismissal of a number of men employed at the base, fifteen of whom are to cease work in a few days. These men have written to me a letter in which they state that eleven Italians are to take their places and are to be employed on mowing lawns and similar work. The men concerned are prepared to perform such work, and they have their homes in that locality. Will the Minister ensure that the principle of preference to exservicemen instead of preference to ex-enemy aliens will apply in this case?
– Two distinct problems are involved in the matter that the honorable member has raised. The first relates to the transfer of the marine section from Rathmines to Neutral Bay. That transfer will not involve the dismissal of any Royal Australian Air Force personnel. Such personnel, who are employed in the marine section at Rathmines, will be employed on similar work at Neutral Bay. It is true that some civilian clerks employed by the Royal Australian Air Force on a temporary basis will be replaced in the near future by permanent Air Force personnel. Those civilian employees were told, when they were originally employed by the Air Force, that their positions were temporary only, and that when sufficient permanent personnel were available to take their places they would lose their jobs.
– The men concerned are ex-servicemen.
– I grant that some of them are ex-servicemen. We are anxious to ensure that they obtain some kind of alternative employment, and shall do our best to see that they find such employment. Italian immigrants will bc employed on jobs such as gardening or other domestic jobs in the Air Force on which the average Australian or Australian ex-serviceman cannot be employed. Their employment will be on ii temporary basis, however, and will last for only a few weeks, after which they will return to the camps from which they came. I know that the honorable member for Hunter is very interested in this matter, and I assure him that we shall do our best to ensure that the people dismissed from the Royal Australian Air Force will be suitably employed elsewhere.
– Has the Prime Minister read a statement issued by an eminent professor of nuclear physics, which deals with the danger of “trojan ships “ carrying atomic bombs into our seaboard towns and cities? In view of the fact that the majority of the Australian people, and our heavy industries, are located on the coast of the continent, what action, if any, does the right honorable gentleman propose to take in order to meet the threat to which the ominous statement’ of the professor directs attention ?
– The question asked by the honorable member for Macquarie obviously relates to Government policy, and also to a problem which has existed in this country ever since the first atomic bomb was launched. If the honorable gentleman will cast his mind back to that time, he might ask the Leader of the Opposition about that matter.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman any sympathy for the tired and care-worn looks of his colleagues, and the Parliament generally? If he has any sympathy for them, will he give some consideration to the atomic effects of Flemington next Tuesday ?
– I am quite well aware of tired and care-worn looks. I see them in my own shaving mirror every morning. Am I correct in. assuming that the honorable gentleman refers to a certain sporting event that will take place next Tuesday?
– I leave that to the Prime Minister’s imagination.
– I think that it may be in accord with the sentiments of this extremely sporting body of people if the House resumes next Tuesday at an hour that will enable the minds of honorable members to be refreshed, and bring them into the chamber suffering from either profits or losses, to do the business of the country.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, refer to the Standing Orders Committee the interpretation that has been placed by the Chair on Standing Orders 7S and 79? Will you ask the committee to determine whether any alteration or clarification of those standing orders is desirable with a view to preserving to honorable members their right and privilege of free speech in this House? By way of explanation, I remind you that a series of rulings which has gradually developed now appears to prevent honorable members-
– Order ! The honorable member may not comment upon rulings when asking a question.
– I am simply explaining the matters to which I believe the attention of the Standing Orders Committee should be directed. Those rulings appear to prevent-
– Order ! The honorable member may not at this stage comment upon rulings from the Chair.
– I am not commenting upon any rulings at all, but am simply endeavouring to define the matters to which I am referring. I am not endeavouring to say whether the rulings are proper or improper; but they appear to prevent honorable members-
– Order ! The honorable member, obviously, is commenting upon certain rulings.
– No ; I am trying to point to the rulings to which I am referring. I am not endeavouring to comment upon them in any way.
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed on those lines.
– Will you, Mi-. Speaker, direct the attention of the Standing Orders Committee to the possibility that the proper and original purposes of the standing orders that I have mentioned may have been exceeded by reason of the development of a series of rulings which has been given from the Chair?
– I shall undertake to bring the matter that the honorable member has raised to the notice of the Standing Orders Committee, which, of course, must report back to this House.
– May I ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, on a matter which I am confident, or at any rate which I sincerely hope, is not a matter of policy? I ask you, sir, as Chairman of the Library Committee, are you aware of the high level of noise which usually persists in the reading room of the library, and if so will you take steps to have it lowered? I refer, sir, not only to the noises made by members reading, or making other uses of the reading room such as holding meetings or discussion groups, but also, and particularly, to the continued loud buzzing sound that is emitted by the new, and allegedly improved, system of lighting in the Library.
– The question of noise in the Library was considered by the Library Committee yesterday. One of the rules of the Library is that honorable members shall maintain silence while they are in it. The difficulty about lighting is that, no matter what system is installed, we find that a number of members are in favour of it and an equal number opposed to it. There is a proposal before me now that the whole of the lighting system of this House shall be completely altered. I have no doubt that if it were altered, as many honorable members would complain about the new system as are complaining now about the present system.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether a deputation, which represented the large pastoral interests in the Northern Territory, interviewed him recently with a view to seeking his aid to have the lands ordinance now before the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory amended in their favour? Did the right honorable gentleman give the deputation an assurance that the ordinance would be amended in accordance with its request? Is it a fact that the ordinance was drafted personally by the Minister for Territories and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture after taking into account the unfavorable record of some of these large companies in the past?
– It is true that I received a deputation of the kind referred to by the honorable member. It is quite untrue that I gave that deputation an assurance of any kind. Following my normal practice, I heard what these gentleman had to say. They were quite representative people, and they had a case to put. I told them that that case would be considered, first of all by my colleague, the Minister for Territories, and then by Cabinet if he thought fit to bring it to Cabinet. That is the state of affairs. No obligations have been assumed and no promises made, except the very proper promise of full consideration of the views that they put.
– Does the Prime Minister consider it proper that representations should be made to this Government upon a matter that is being considered by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory? Does he not believe that it would be proper to make such representations direct to the Legislative Council? Was the deputation of wealthy pastoralists that waited upon him arranged so that members of the Legislative Council appointed by the Government could be instructed to vote for the amendments of the law proposed by wealthy pastoral companies?
– In reply to the speech delivered by the honorable member, I say that I have no knowledge whether the pastoralists are wealthy or not. I know that it is in accordance with the cant phraseology with which the honorable member has grown up to describe all pastoralists as wealthy, except when they vote for the Labour party. I want to state quite frankly that, subject to the limitations of time - there being only 24 hours in a day - I have never thought it proper to refuse to hear representations upon important matters from Australians, whether they be pastoralists or otherwise, or whether they be rich or poor. I propose to continue to observe that rule in the future, so far as I can do so.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs whether Australia is one of the nations represented on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations?
– It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be able to inform the honorable member, and the House, that at the current session of the General Assembly of the United Nations Australia was elected to the Economic and Social Council for a term of three years to commence on the 1st January. One aspect of this matter which gives entire satisfaction, is that of the 60 members of the United Nations, 52 gave their first ballot votes to Australia. That total is far greater than has ever been cast for Australia in any previous election of the United Nations, and is a reflection of the present very high standing of Australia in international regard.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs inform me of the number of students from foreign countries who are attending universities and technical colleges in Australia? From what countries have these students come, what is the term of study arranged for them and what subjects are taught them? What allowances are paid to these students and what is the total cost to Australia, of their education and travelling facilities?
– It is beyond my capacity and memory to give the detailed information requested by the honorable member. The Asiatic students who are attending Australian universities and technical colleges are attending under a variety of arrangements. Some are attending under arrangements made entirely by themselves, some under arrangements made by Australian organizations, and some under arrangements sponsored by the Australian Government. I shall obtain the detailed information that the honorable member has requested, and provide him with it.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs whether the Japanese Government is demanding that Japanese pearling vessels be allowed to operate in waters to the north of Australia on the same scale as that on which they operated before the recent war. If this be a fact, what stage has been reached in the negotiations between the Australian and Japanese governments in the matter?
– The answer to the honorable member’s first question is “ No “. The general position is that the future of fisheries in Australian waters was referred to in the Japanese peace settlement and consequential on that settlement negotiations with the Japanese Government are proceeding.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that superannuated public servants and other persons who have retired from employment and are in receipt of superannuation benefits are not eligible for social services benefits or may receive only a proportion of the maximum pension rate ? As such persons have contributed towards their superannuation benefit, will he consider progressively reducing the amount maintained in the calculation by one-third each year for three years in order to permit the persons affected to obtain full social services benefits in that period?
– I shall be pleased to examine the proposition that the honorable member has put forward in order to see whether “anything can be done along the lines that he has indicated.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health that relates to the hospitalization of invalid pensioners. My attention has been directed to instances in which a pensioner has been ordered into hospital and as no bed has been immediately available in the local public hospital, the pensioner has been placed in a private hospital, the only other hospital in the district in which accommodation was immediately available. In such instances, will an invalid pensioner be required to meet the hospital fees or will his expenses be paid under the hospital benefits scheme?
– Provision is made under the hospital benefits scheme for a benefit at the rate of 12s. a day to be made available in instances in which an invalid pensioner is placed in a public hospital, regardless of whether it is a public or other ward bed. If a pensioner is hospitalized in an approved private hospital, the benefit is at the rate of 8s. a day.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in possession of the annual reports of the Government airlines, Qantas Empire Airways Limited and Trans- Australia Airlines? If so, will he make them available immediately for the information of honorable members so that they may be better informed to discuss the legislation that was recently introduced in this House? Will he also make available the report made by an independent accountant who investigated on behalf of the Government the operations of both TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, so that honorable members, and the public generally, will understand the basis on which the Government has framed its legislation in relation to the two organizations ?
– Qantas Empire Airways Limited is not, so far as I know, involved in this matter. The annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines has become available during the last few days. It is to be laid on the table to-day by the Minister for Civil Aviation. When I was informed that it. had become available, I arranged, with the concurrence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, that a copy of it should be made available to the Leader of the Opposition. That has been done. The special reports by a firm of accountants on the operations of both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited were made on a purely confidential basis. Both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, very properly I think, insisted on that. If their affairs were investigated
– If the honorable member does not want to hear my answer, T shall be saved a great deal of wear and tear.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation quoted from those reports the other day.
– That is a matter that the honorable member might raise in argument, unless he wishes to ask a question at this stage, in which case it will be a very easy question to answer.
– Why the secrecy ?
– Because organizations usually do not willingly disclose details of their business operations to their competitors. At any rate, I make it clear on behalf of my Government, as distinct from the hypothetical government that the honorable member for East Sydney hopes to lead, that, when we receive information, in confidence, it will be kept in confidence.
– To facilitate the debate upon a measure that will come before the House at a later stage to-day, will the Prime Minister make available immediately to all members of the Parliament a copy of the latest report issued by Trans-Australia Airlines?
– I do not know how many copies of the report are available
– The report has been printed.
– Apparently the honorable member does not want me to answer his question.
– By way of explanation of the question that I wish to ask the Treasurer, I point out that I have received many complaints recently concerning the dirty, dilapidated condition of many Australian bank notes now in circulation. The complaints apply particularly to £1 and 10s. notes. Will the Treasurer discuss with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank the possibility of retiring and replacing bank notes somewhat earlier than appears to be the practice so that, in addition to the right honorable gentleman’s unswerving and courageous efforts to restore value to the £1, he will also succeed in giving it a cleaner face?
– The condition of the currency, and particularly of £1 notes, is constantly under consideration. Bank notes are subject to withdrawal by the Commonwealth Bank from time to time. I shall consider the honorable member’s question and will ascertain whether anything further can be done.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a Japanese shipping company has opened negotiations for the purchase of the Commonwealth shipping fleet from the Government on the basis of a price of £2,000,000, a sum stated to have been mentioned by the right honorable gentleman? If the fleet should be sold instead to another company, will provision be made to prevent it from reselling the ships to the interested J Japanese company ?
– I confess that, until the honorable member had asked his question, I had not heard of this fantastic story, and I doubt whether anybody else had. Do I understand that the honorable member says there is a proposal to sell the Commonwealth shipping line to some Japanese people for £2,000,000? If so, I say that that is utter childish nonsense. We have made it clear from beginning to end that the first interest to be served in this matter is the interest of the Australian people in a first-class coastal shipping service. That interest will be regarded by us as being of paramount importance. The story told by the honorable member is utter nonsense.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that it has been estimated that exports of butter during 1952-53 will be four times as great as during 1951-52? Will the Minister obtain estimates of the exports of other primary products during 1952-53, in order to ascertain whether they will be greater than the exports last year, as a result of the Government’s policy of providing incentives to primary producers ?
– I have not in my mind the current estimates of the percentage increases of our exports of butter and cheese during this year, but I know that the increases will be very substantial. Probably they will be at least of the order mentioned by the honorable member. I have not the slightest doubt that the incentive payment to primary producers that was instituted by this Government and commenced to operate last year is a most important factor in the increased production of butter. The policy of giving a fair price to the primary producers of this country is already showing signs of producing a sharp upward curve in the volume and value of our exports.
– Does the Prime Minister know of the view expressed recently by a former Chief Justice of the High Court that it would be wise to invest the Commonwealth Parliament with power to make laws with respect to the terms and conditions of industrial employment, and then to establish a tribunal empowered to collect factual information and, acting thereupon, to deal with national matters on a national basis, instead of retaining the 50-year-old and out-moded conditions under which the only way we can got a decision upon anything related to the national economy is to await the creation of a dispute? If the right honorable gentleman is aware of that view, will he examine closely the principles that were outlined by the former Chief Justice, with a view to considering whether this would be an appropriate time to re-submit to the people at a referendum the principles that were embodied by the Chifley Government in the referendum of 1946, which were in line with the view expressed by the former Chief Justice?
– Question time seems hardly a suitable occasion to debate constitutional amendments. I have noticed from newspaper reports that the former Chief Justice has made a speech on this matter, and I have promised myself the pleasure of reading it with great care and attention, because I am certain that it will be well worth studying.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is prompted by the fact that the NewSouth Wales Supreme Court has given the Commonwealth leave to intervene in an action in which a .Sydney transport firm is asking the court to declare invalid the New South Wales transport coordination legislation, which imposes a heavy tax upon road transport operators. In view of the necessity to encourage road transport in Australia, will the Government intervene in that case?
– I shall refer the matter to the Attorney-General.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs confirmed the existence of a nest of traitors in the Department of External Affairs?
– I do not regard that as any of my business.
– Will the Minister for Social Services say whether the Government assists State governments to subsidize municipal housekeeper services? If it does so, is he aware that the Victorian Government has recently directed the municipality of Richmond to cease providing this housekeeper service for the care of old and sick pensioners, who have nobody else to look after them? In view of the grave problem of such sick and aged people, I ask the Minister whether, if the Government does subsidize the State in connexion with this matter, he will make representations to the Victorian Government with the object of having this housekeeper service extended to include sick pensioners.
– The honorable member did not specify which particular Victorian government he had in mind. The Commonwealth grants the Victorian Government £4,100 a year for the conduct of a housekeeper service. It is the responsibility of the State Government to make its own domestic arrangements in regard to the matter. If there is any feature of the service in Victoria that is contrary to the wishes and ideas of the honorable member he must take that matter up with the Victorian Government.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service submitted any proposals to the Premier of South Australia in relation to the provision of kitchenettes in hostels for British immigrants? If he has done so, what was the Premier’s response to the proposal? Has the Premier submitted any proposals to the Commonwealth regarding the provision of such kitchenettes and, if so, what has been the Commonwealth’s response ?
– I informed the House some time ago that, following representations that I had received in connexion with this matter, in particular from the honorable member for Sturt and some other honorable members, consultations had taken place between this Government and the South Australian Premier. I arranged for the permanent head of the Department of Labour and National Service to visit South Australia and confer with the Premier and with officers of the South Australian Housing Trust. As a result of that discussion some proposals have recently been formulated, a draft of which I approved yesterday. I do not know whether the letter containing the proposals has actually been forwarded yet to the South Australian Premier, although I assume that it would have gone through the Prime Minister’s Department in the usual way. I can inform the honorable member, however, that matters have reached a stage at which proposals are in form and are ready to go to the South Australian Premier for his consideration.
– by leave - I wish to announce that the first advance to growers on the wheat of the impending wheat harvest, which will constitute No. 16 Pool will be 12s. a bushel, less freight, for bulk wheat, and 12s. 9d. a bushel, less freight, for bagged wheat. The advance will be made in the usual way by the Australian Wheat Board on delivery by growers of their wheat into the pool. It is estimated that the advance to the growers will be £85,000,000, less freight. This first advance on wheat from the 1952-53 crop is at the highest rate ever paid in respect of any wheat pool in Australia, and conforms to the announcement of policy made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), on the 28th March, 1952. At that time the Prime Minister promised a first advance of 12s. a bushel bulk basis f.o.r. ports or, alternatively, 85 per cent, of the estimated pool return, whichever was desired. The Australian Wheat Board recommended payment on the 12s. bulk, 12s. 9d. bagged basis. This recommendation was adopted by the Government, which has arranged for the necessary accommodation with the Commonwealth Bank. The first of the 1952-53 season’s wheat will be harvested in Queensland at the beginning of November, and harvesting will be in full swing by Christmas, by which time the board will have paid out substantial amounts against deliveries by growers. The advance indicates the intention of the Government that the wheat-growers should, on delivery of their wheat, receive immediately as near to its total value as was consistent with ordinary financial prudence. Until last year the first advance on wheat had always been made upon a most conservative basis. Last year, for the first time, the Government arranged that a first and immediately following supplementary advance should, between them, reimburse growers up to the cost of production of their wheat. This year, as an encouragement and assistance to wheat-growers, a step further has been taken in making the maximum advance which could prudently be made against the estimated final average realizations from home and export sales.
- by leave- I have listened with interest to the statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). I note that he claimed that this amount of distribution is the largest amount ever advanced in respect of a wheat pool. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that this has been made possible only by the Government’s abandonment of the principle, provided in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act, that required the deduction of an amount equivalent to approximately 2s. 2d. a bushel on exported wheat.
– It does not require it.
– It requires it, at the option of the Minister. This year the Government has abandonedthe levying of the tax on the incoming wheat crop. In order to do so, it has held in a trust fund an amount that is equivalent to approximately 2s. 2d. a bushel from the proceeds of the 1950-51 wheat sowing harvested and marketed in 1951-52. In the normal course of events, the farmers who will now receive this higher advance on their wheat for the forthcoming season, would have received, in accordance with the principle of the rotating fund, more than 2s. a bushel on the wheat which they exported in 1950-51 and 1951-52. The farmers will undoubtedly receive a higher advance than hitherto, but the amount of tax that they paid in 1950-51 and 1951-52 will not be refunded to them at present. It is estimated that the total amount involved is approximately £19,000,000. Some of the farmers who contributed to those two pools will not be growing wheat next season, yet their contributions will be retained. The people concerned should understand that position clearly, and recognize exactly the confidence trick that has been practised on them.
– Order! Those words are unparliamentary, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– I withdraw them. I could substitute a more suitable term, but I shall allow the matter to rest there.
– On behalf of the Minister for External Affairs and myself, I lay on the table the following papers: -
International Labour Organization - Thirtyfifth Session, Geneva, June, 1952 -Reports of the Australian Government, Employers’ and Workers Delegates.
In the interests of economy, I do not propose to move that the reports be printed, but copies of them are available from the Clerk by those honorable members who may wish to peruse them.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian National Airlines Act - Australian National Airlines Commission - Seventh Annual Report and Financial Accounts, for year 1051-52.
The report is accompanied by financial accounts, and a balance-sheet certified by the Auditor-General.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1952.
National Welfare Fund Bill 1952.
States Grants Bill 1952.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to charges in respect of Commonwealth air navigation facilities and services.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr. HASLUCK (Curtin- Minister for
Territories) [3.25]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will recall that in my second-reading speech on the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill 1952 last Friday, I referred to three other bills which were associated with it, and explained the general provisions of them. Honorable members agreed that the four measures should be treated as cognate bills and be dealt with in the secondreading debate on the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill 1952. In those circumstances, I do not propose to say any more about this bill at the present time. The principles of it vere squarely placed before honorable members in my second-reading speech on the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill 1952, and any detailed aspects of its several clauses can be discussed in committee when the measure is considered separately from the other bills.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-47.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The remarks that I made in my secondreading speech on the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1952 also apply to this measure.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the assessment of income tax and social services contribution in respect of taxpayers affected by the partial refund of, or the settlement of claims for payment of, charges in respect of Commonwealth air navigation facilities and services.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
My remarks on the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1952 also apply to this measure.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 24th October (vide page 3744), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– Four bills, which deal with civil aviation are at present before the House. They are the Australian National Airlines Bill 1952, the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment (Air Navigation Charges) Bill 1952, the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1952 and the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill 1952. They are all to be considered together, but the essence of them all is contained in the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill which is “ to approve an agreement made between the Commonwealth and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and for purposes connected therewith “. It is important at the outset that I should make a few explanatory observations. Trans-Australia Airlines was originated by the Australian National Airlines Commission which wa3 set up in 1945 to operate interstate and territorial air services within the Commonwealth. It is a statutory corporation, not a mere government agency. That is to say, the commissioners have a great degree of discretion and independence. In effect the corporation is the trustee of an airline organization solely and exclusively for the benefit of the people of Australia. Under the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1947 it is the primary duty of the commission not to seek profit but to administer the airline with safety, efficiency and economy. “Where, as a result of government direction, the commission has to establish a new airline service and loses because of it, the Commonwealth has to reimburse the commission. The affairs of TransAustralia Airlines are known to all the world. The commission has to furnish estimates of receipts and expenditure to the Government just as if it were a government department. It must keep proper accounts, which are subject to inspection, check and audit by the Auditor-General.
It is bound to pay all rates, taxes and charges with the exception of income tax.
I now turn from that character to the second character in the drama now being played. That is Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The structure of that company is completely different from that of Trans- Australia Airlines. It is a proprietary company, incorporated in Victoria. The shareholding of that company will be sufficiently indicated by referring to five corporations. They are Huddart Parker Limited, Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited, Holyman Brothers Proprietary Limited, Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited. Each of those organizations owns approximately 1,119,000 shares, valued at 5s. each. Another company lias a smaller shareholding. Having regard to the interlocking of those interests, which is well known, and which form what is known as the shipping combine, the effective ownership of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is vested in a trust or combination of overseas and interstate shipping interests. The balance-sheet and the accounts of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are not open to public inspection. That, of course, is the right of the company, but honorable members should remember that that company is now asking the Parliament for an enormous grant of money for its own benefit. That alters the whole position, as the House will shortly realize. The company is entitled to take advantage of the law, as is any citizen, but I contrast that company with the organization of Trans-Australia Airlines, whose report and balance-sheet has been placed before the House to-day. It is impossible for this Parliament properly to approve th is agreement without full investigation - and there has been no investigation and none is intended - of the causes of the losses said to have been sustained by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in recent years.
– Did they really occur?
– That is one of the matters that should be investigated. Another matter for investigation is whether, if the losses did occur, why they occurred. The sale of oil is the best example of the activities of overseas interests. The profits of oil companies operating in Australia may be considerably reduced because losses which are not legitimate may be charged against them. There may be a very low overall profit shown in one account, but a corresponding gain in some other account. Honorable members should remember that Trans-Australia Airlines is owned by the people, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is owned by the shipping combine.
– “Who are the members of this shipping combine ?
– The honorable member knows them and I have already named them. Since the Vend case in Newcastle, the honorable member has been aware of this shipping combine. I am not dealing with its legality, but with its effect. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has asked the Government for enormous financial assistance and is asking this Parliament to reduce the public business of Trans-Australia Airlines in order to benefit the rival company. The Civil Aviation Agreement Bill is designed to secure parliamentary approval of this agreement. The agreement has been reached by the Commonwealth and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Trans-Australia Airlines is not a party to the agreement, because under clause 5 of the bill -
The Australian National Airlines Commission constituted under the Australian ^National Airlines Act 1945-47 shall do all such things as the agreement referred to in section three of this Act provides that the Commission will do.
That means that Trans-Australia Airlines has refused to become a party to this agreement, and the Government is now asking the Parliament to order that organization to carry out an agreement to which it is not a party. That is the essence of that part of this bill. The bill will force Trans-Australia Airlines to act contrary to its own charter under the 1945 act, which defines its duties. The terms of the agreement show that Trans-Australia Airlines can never be a consenting party to such an agreement without destroying the whole life of the charter given in 1945. According to that charter, it has to operate its airlines for the benefit of the people- of Australia with safety, efficiency and economy. It has to compete with other airlines and carry out its business to its best advantage.
The agreement will compel the Australian National Airlines Commission to act in breach of its trust to the people as defined in the 1945 act, and under the new agreement it will play a part relatively subordinate to that of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This agreement is deliberately designed to stifle the enterprise and initiative that has made Trans-Australia Airlines such an outstanding success. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited cannot stand competition and has now asked the Government for protection. It is to be protected, and that is what the Government calls “ free competition “. The agreement is in the form of a schedule to the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill. The agreement was signed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and by Mr. Holyman and Mr. Declerck for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. In the view of the Opposition, the agreement is completely unjustified. But there is one thing in it that puts responsibility for it fairly on the shoulders of all honorable members in this House. That is, that the agreement shall be subject to the approval of the Parliament. The question is, dare the Parliament approve it after honorable members have fairly analysed it? The features of the agreement are startling and unprecedented, and out of all understanding from a fair business point of view. Clause 3 of the agreement contemplates a loan of £3,000,000 to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited by the Commonwealth Bank for the purchase of six heavy aircraft. The Commonwealth Bank is the guarantor, and therefore this Parliament is bound to ascertain the precise purpose of the loan and inquire into the financial position of the company. Clause 3 contemplates a loan of £3,000,000 by the Commonwealth Bank to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the purchase of not more than six heavy aircraft; but if, in the future, Trans-Australia Airlines should be authorized to purchase heavy aircraft, the Commonwealth undertakes to facilitate additional borrowing by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the purchase of an equal number of comparable heavy aircraft. The Government might either guarantee or lend the money to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This is an odd and unprecedented transaction, but it is only part of a pattern to use Trans-Australia Airlines for the purpose of building up its rival. The total amount of loans to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited that will be permitted to be outstanding is not to exceed £4,000,000 at any time - we can be sure that the amount outstanding will be to the limit that is allowable - and new borrowing cannot take place after a certain date. But as that date is not to be 1952, or 1953, but 1902, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be permitted to have £4,000,000’ outstanding on running account at any time. Four million pounds ! When the States ask for £4,000,000 for the purpose of financing housing programmes, this Government replies that it is unable to raise that amount. But when Holyman and company come to Canberra and rely upon their reputation with members of the Government, the Government, apparently, can make available £4,000.000 to them.
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order ! I must ask honorable members to give a fair hearing to the Leader of the Opposition. There has been a considerable amount of interruption ever since the right honorable gentleman commenced his speech.
– It has all come from the Opposition side.
– I do not mind that kind of interruption.
– Order! On this occasion, it is not what the right honorable gentleman minds, but what I mind.
– The final repayment of the loan is due in 1967 because this agreement is for a period not of three years but of fifteen years.
Under the agreement the Government will guarantee to Australian National
Airways Proprietary Limited - these are simply the introductory provisions - this enormous loan, at a time when the States are unable to obtain anything like that amount for housing and other purposes although they have been continually beseeching the indulgence and generosity - justice is out of the question, apparently - of the Treasurer for such financial assistance. The essence of this agreement, which is to be for a period of fifteen years, is that the Government will guarantee to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, in respect of airmails, substantial equality. The Government itself now carries its own airmails. The next point is that the holder of a government warrant shall have a free option as to the service that he will use. Honorable members will perceive the full implication of that provision. Government supporters who so often profess their belief in fair competition now propose to compel TransAustralia Airlines, which has been successful, to hand over to its rival a great slice of its business. That is the kind of competition in which Government supporters believe.
I turn now to the vital provision of the bill which seeks to regulate what is called the rationalization of services.
– Not nationalization?
– No, rationalization. I thank the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) for his assistance. Under this agreement, both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are directed to take immediate steps to review and keep under review at all times during the whole fifteen-year period of the agreement air routes, time tables, fares and freights. The stated purpose of that provision is to avoid over-lapping of services and to bring earnings into proper relation to costs. If Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines should disagree, it is provided that the Minister for the time being shall appoint not a judge but a retired judge to decide these vital matters which affect the whole of the business of both organizations. That provision reveals the true object of this agreement. Air routes may be cut down and fares and freights may be increased while time tables may be limited ! If Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited desires to act in such directions it may not do so on its own initiative, but if there is a disagreement the matter in dispute will be referred to a chairman, who will be appointed by the Minister, and he will decide the issues. This proposed rationalization scheme is the very antithesis of active and competitive air services. On the contrary, it could prevent the development and extension of air routes in remote areas in which respect Trans-Australia Airlines has, up to date, done a very good job. This provision, clearly, is designed to establish and retain a new vested interest of a very valuable financial character for Australian National Airways Proprietary LimitedIndeed, the clause goes further and provides that Australian National AirwaysProprietary Limited may challenge any existing service on the ground that it is unnecessary, and thus bring such a service under review. In that event, all relevant documents must be furnished by both organizations to the chairman and, consequently, a dispute of that kind might conceivably last for a long time.
Clause 8 of the agreement, in the same strain, provides that Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited cannot even purchase, or hire, any aircraft from the Commonwealth, or any Commonwealth authority or any corporation in which the Commonwealth has an interest, without the approval of the chairman of the rationalization committee. That provision, of course, places a restriction on Trans-Australia Airlines. It is clearly aimed against Trans-Australia Airlines which is a Government organization. The Government has an interest in British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited. Let us suppose that that organization has certain aircraft which it desires to dispose of. Under this provision, TransAustralia Airlines is not to be permitted to acquire such aircraft but, at the same time, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is not to be restricted from buying, or hiring, aircraft from corporations in which it is interested. Even when the chairman of the rationalization committee approves of a purchase, or lease, of aircraft from the Commonwealth, the aircraft so made available must be divided equally between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. The Government is most punctilious about that provision, because the agreement provides that should an odd number of aircraft be made available, say eleven, the chairman of the rationalization committee shall decide to which organization the odd aircraft shall be made available.
Under the provision in respect of air route charges Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be given a further substantial pecuniary benefit. The route charges have been revised retrospectively for a period of approximately five years ended the 30th Jun’e last, and the two organizations are to be obliged to pay only one-third of the amount of the charges that were fixed by ministerial order in 1947. Under that provision, each organization will pay, in respect of the five year period, route charges amounting to £337,000, instead of £1,000,000. Whilst Trans-Australia Airlines has regularly paid such charges in full to an amount of £694,000, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has failed to meet its commitments in that respect. If the charges paid by Trans-Australia Airlines had been taken into the account put forward, its aggregate profit for the three years ended the 30th June, 1951 would have been £6SS,000, instead of £325,000, and, moreover, the loss of £74,000 shown in the accounts of that organization for the present year, which has been due to extortionate prices of aviation fuel, would have been converted into a substantial profit. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been conducting a delaying action in respect of route charges, relying on a legal point that the Minister was not authorized to fix such charges. But that point has never been decided in the court, and, even if it had been upheld, a new statutory authority could have been sought without involving any form of retrospective injustice to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. In the result, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has carefully and skilfully escaped payment of the charges for five years. But TransAustralia Airlines being a government instrumentality owned by the people, has paid in full. 1 do not pretend to know anything of the drafting of the agreement, but it shrieks of the fact that it emanated from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Obviously it was drafted by that company, because every clause is loaded against the Government and the people of Australia.
The air-route charges are to be reduced by 50 per cent. That will be another large concession to the private company. Having regard to the purchasing power of the £1 to-day, compared with that of the halcyon days of 1948-49, the benefit to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be very considerable. The charges are to be frozen for fifteen years unless higher costs demand increases. The agreement contains an undertaking that the Parliament shall not exercise its statutory powers in relation to the charges for that period of time. The undertaking will affect parliaments to be elected years after this Parliament has been dissolved, when this Government will no longer hold office. I understand, too, that the new route charges will not be adequate. A leading Melbourne newspaper declared yesterday that the deficit caused by the reduction would be charged against good old Consolidated Revenue, which means the ordinary taxpayer. That represents another huge, concealed subsidy to the private company. The transactions of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should be carefully scrutinized in order to determine whether the provisions of the draft agreement are just or necessary, apart from other objections that may be taken to them. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should not be exempt from having the whole story of its business brought before a proper body for public inquiry. The States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are obliged to submit their affairs to the scrutiny of the Commonwealth Grants Commission when they apply for financial assistance from the Australian Government. It is important that the accounts of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which show an aggregate loss of £427.000 sustained during the 30 months to December, 1951, notwithstanding its failure to pay air-route charges, should also he examined. On the surface, that loss seems to have disappeared in the year 1950-51.
I have discussed the clauses of tha bill in substance. “What will be their aggregate effect? It is apparent that the Government’s assertion that the draft agreement is aimed at the establishment of “conditions of active competition”, to use the words of the Minister, is completely untrue. In fact, for all practical purposes, the agreement will put an end to real competition between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Under the terms of its charter, Trans-Australia Airlines exists solely to promote an efficient and safe air service, not to make private profit. But Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, according to its charter, is compelled to do its utmost to increase its profits for the benefit of its shareholders, the overseas and Australian shipping combines which control it. Political fair play and social justice are the only principles involved in this matter. There is no question of the relative merits of the personnel, either operational or managerial, of the two organizations. I assume efficiency in both organizations. Certainly, the Hying staffs of both Trans-Australia. Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are of the highest standard. I say so. without any qualification. The real issues at stake affect management on the highest level, and the policies of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the LiberalCountry party coalition which is responsible for this legislation. I say unhesitatingly that it is false to contend that the agreement, which will deprive TransAustralia Airlines of an important pur; of its business and goodwill for fifteen years and transfer it to a rival organization, aims at securing active competition between the two organizations. The plan for rationalization makes my point crystal clear. Every aspect of the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines that, can produce revenue will be affected by the agreement.
Trans-Australia Airlines will not be allowed to retain any advantage such as a competitor normally tries to acquire over a business rival. It will not be permitted to develop new air routes if Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited objects, unless the chairman of the proposed committee gives it permission to do so. Time-tables may be foreshortened at the will of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, if it has the support of the chairman, The assessment of fares and freight charges - the life blood of such organizations - will be governed, not by the spirit of competition and rivalry, but by a procedure deliberately designed to prevent competition, under which the available market will be divided arbitrarily. Pioneer companies, such as Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited and Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited, will gain nothing under the terms of this bill. It is a measure to enrich Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited at the expense of Trans-Australia Airlines, other civil airline operators, and the taxpayers of Australia, and I do not think that the taxpayers will stand for it. Honorable members surely can see that the bill provides that strict control shall be applied to routes, fares, and freight charges and to the acquisition of operating equipment. The provisions of the agreement are typical of the internal arrangements made by a commercial trust or combine to divide the available market for its goods or services. It reproduces the features of the typical international cartel, such as the oil cartel which we discussed recently when the House considered a bill to deal with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The principle of the agreement is not that of active commercial competition but that of the private cartel, the private trust, the private monopoly. The agreement is heavily weighted in favour of one profitmaking element in the air services of Australia.
I stress the fact that Trans- Australia Airlines is not a profit-making organization. It has no object except to conduct an efficient, safe, and economic service for the benefit of the people. It has made large profits, not because it has sought profits, but because it has done its job well under its statutory charter. It can have no lawful object except to conduct an efficient service on the great trunk routes. Yet it is to be compelled, against its will, to carry out an agreement to which it is not directly a party and to join the proposed new combine. Why should one-half of the Government’s air freight and airmail business be taken from Trans-Australia Airlines and handed to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited? The whole principle of the postal system is challenged by such an arrangement. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, no doubt because of its close connexion with shipping and other freight business, flew 14,000,000 freight tonmiles in 1951-52, which was almost twice as much as was flown by Trans-Australia Airlines, which flew 7,500,000 freight ton-miles. But what of passenger traffic? During the same year, Trans-Australia Airlines flew 320,000,000 passenger-miles, compared with 277,000,000 passengermiles flown by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. What justice is there in a provision that will compel the Government to surrender a vital part of its airmail and freight business to a private competitor while that competitor retains its ordinary freight business, whatever the source of that business may be?
– Is there any provision for the division of the freight business of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited with Trans-Australia Airlines?
– The honorable member’s question anticipates my criticism. The figures that I have stated demonstrate that, notwithstanding a deliberately organized business boycott against TransAustralia Airlines at the inspiration of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited - an elaborate boycott, dreadful in its intensity, of which everybody in the eastern cities of Australia knows - the operation of Trans-Australia Airlines has been so efficient that, in 1951-52,. it assumed the lead in its race with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited by no less than 43,000,000 passenger-miles. If a government is running a public utility in the public interest in competition with a private company, there is no reason why that government should not employ its own utility for the purpose of transacting its lawful governmental affairs. What the agreement does is to force into the hands of a private company a half of the government business that should flow naturally and normally to a government utility, subject always to its efficient performance of the function of transport. When Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited makes these preposterous demands, it would be just as logical for Trans-Australia Airlines to demand that the shipping combines which control Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should place a half of their air transport operations in the hands of Trans-Australia Airlines. That demand would be absurd. So is the demand of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, yet this Government has yielded to it, without thinking of the consequences. I want to know why it has done so.
I go further, and say that what is being clone by this agreement is unfair and unjust to Trans-Australia Airlines, to other private airline operators and to the taxpayers. The scheme of the Government is being unfolded. Instead of an open attack of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited variety, where the Commonwealth’s interest was completely sold out, we have a less direct and more stealthy approach. But the true aim is just the same, and is just as predatory. It is being carried into effect by a thoroughly vicious ‘ agreement. Everything that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited could possibly have dreamed of gaining and more, appears to have been conceded. It was stated some time ago that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) and a few other Ministers and backbenchers of the Government parties had successfully resisted all attempts to get rid of the Commonwealth’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited or to sell TransAustralia Airlines. But, during the Minister’s absence abroad, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has gone. Whilst the Commonwealth’s interest in TransAustralia Airlines has not been sold, everything possible is being done to see that Trans-Australia Airlines will get as bad a deal and Australian National Airways
Proprietary Limited as preferred a deal as this Government can give. If the Minister for Civil Aviation were here, I believe that we should see a far stronger resistance to the forces in the Liberal party that stand for private monopolies, private trusts and private combines against public utilities. We know from the last speech of the late Mr. Hughes on Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited what he would have said about this agreement. I could not do better than to repeat his language.
A very serious responsibility arises when proposals of this nature are placed before a responsible parliament - and it is not accidental that they are being discussed this afternoon. Honorable members who know of the widespread popularity and proved success of a great enterprise like Trans-Australia Airlines cannot support the agreement. It is quite wrong to suggest, as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has done, that the success of Trans-Australia Airlines has been duc entirely to airmail contracts. Its success has been due to a number of factors. Doubtless, the airmail contracts were a very important help initially, but they did not guarantee the support of the travelling public. The progress of TransAustralia Airlines has been due to public confidence in the technical efficiency and the safety of the services it has provided. That is proved beyond doubt by the enormous increase of passenger mileage from non-governmental sources. Despite the business boycott organized by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Trans-Australia Airlines leads the field in fair and open competition. TransAustralia Airlines was most fortunate to acquire, under the nomination cf the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), when he was Minister for Civil Aviation, the services of Mr. A. W. Coles as its first and leading administrator. Mr. Coles is no less than a business genius. He devoted himself unsparingly to the task of trying to make a success of the new venture, and he succeeded. Trans-Australia Airlines showed superlative enterprise and initiative when it ordered Convair aircraft even before the first flight of the new production unit. That enterprise and initiative shocked its rival because the initiative was shown by a public utility. Sheer jealousy of that bold and statesmanlike step has poisoned the approach of Australian National Airways ProprietaryLimited to this matter. It was madeobvious in this House that the previous^ Minister for Civil Aviation, who is now the Australian High Commissioner in London, and other members of the Government parties could never forget their political and personal hostility to Mr. Coles because he supported the Curtin Government during the war-time. On one occasion, the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said in a public speech, having previously referred to Mr. Wilson, that Mr. Coles would have to go. Mr. Coles did go in the end. He resigned.
The people of this country do notbelieve in government utilities as an end in themselves or as mere political shibboleths. The platform of the Australian Labour party makes it clear that governmental intervention is sought by the Labour movement only in so far as it is intended to prevent exploitation or oppression of the people, or social injustices. That principle has won recognition in all British countries. The real question is how it should be applied. I say that the Menzies-Fadden coalition has a fetish against all utilities owned by the people, whether their operation be good, bad or indifferent. The pattern of its prejudice is clear. The Government ruined the shale oil industry at Glen Davis. It was responsible for the sell-out of the Commonwealth’s interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It proposes to sell the assets of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool,, in which ex-servicemen in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne have played such a prominent part. It proposes to do so. because the Government owns them, despite the fact that they are profitable and efficient. The Government is trying to sell . machinery that belongs to the Joint Coal Board, which is a joint enterprise of the Commonwealth and New South Wales. That machinery, bought by Mr. Chifley from the United States of America, has been directly responsible for the enormous increase of the production of coal from open-cut workings, but the ‘Government will sell it as soon as it can do so. The people’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has gone. Trans- A ustralia Airlines is under an immediate threat, as is the Commonwealth shipping line, which the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is hawking round the world In the long run, Japan would not be excluded from the list of purchasers of that shipping line, because if it were sold to private interests, doubtless the Japanese would get some of the ships, in the same way as they got some of the ships that were sold by the Commonwealth in the 1920’s. The uranium deposits in this country, which the Chifley Government nationalized for defence purposes, subject to just compensation, will never be safe under the Menzies-Fadden coalition and its doctrine of laisser-faire, which means, in practice, private monopolies or trusts for private profit, regardless of whether the public suffers injustice, exploitation or oppression. So it takes the side of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the shipping combines against the airline owned by the people.
Much has been said by the Government about the worth of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in the aviation field, and I do not dispute it. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, however, knows how much public money was poured into aviation in this country. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited derived great benefit from it. When I think of air services, I think of some names that were not mentioned by the Minister. I think of the true and greatest pioneers - men like Kingsford Smith, Ulm, Hinkler, Keith and Ross Smith, and P. G. Taylor. They pioneered the airways of this country, but they received no financial reward. After a few years, some of them were on the beach. Over and over again, Government spokesmen have claimed that the Government is seeking only to promote active competition. But the primary objects of this pernicious agreement are not only to deprive TransAustralia Airlines of a vital portion of ite business, but also to limit real competition for fifteen years by preventing TransAustralia Airlines from holding the business lead which it gained fairly and honestly after years of efficient competitive services, despite the private boycott by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and carping criticism from Liberal party and Australian Country party politicians.
Something was said by the Minister about a proposal for a single statutory corporation to amalgamate Trans- Australia Airlines with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government has said that it rejected that proposal because it is opposed to monopolies. I deny that. The Government will accept or support trusts, combines or monopolies as long as they are conducted for private profit. What the Government is really opposed to is a public utility, whether it be a monopoly or not. It opposes such a utility because it is conducted in the public interest, and solely for the benefit of the public. But if private profit is the purpose, Government members bow down to any monopoly, trust or cartel, and appear almost ready to worship it. I have frequently advocated the principle of partnership between government and private investment in particular projects. Organizations that I have used to illustrate my arguments are Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. They were established, maintained and supported by outstanding Australian leaders of all political parties, including Hughes, Bruce, Scullin, Lyons, Curtin, Chifley and, until recently, Menzies and Fadden. One lesson that we have learned from the Government’s actions in connexion with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is that, if similar projects are started again, a minimum safeguard must be the prohibition of the sale of the people’s assets or interests in such concerns without their consent, expressed either at a general election or at a special referendum. There must be certainty in these great matters, to preclude instability caused not only by sell-outs like those in connexion with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but also by the deliberate weakening or injuring of government investment at the mere will of the parliament of the day as illustrated in this case.
It is ironic for any parliament, and especially for this Parliament, which has completely lost the confidence of the people, to try to bind future parliaments for such a period as fifteen years. When this proposal is understood by the people, they will condemn those responsible for it. I ask the Parliament to make the most searching inquiry into the facts that I have presented and the point of view that I have expressed. If that is not clone, and if the Government continues to drive on at the dictates of private commercial interests, to the prejudice of the public, a future parliament will be forced to right this wrong that is to be inflicted upon the people of Australia. I say, in conclusion, that the parliamentary Labour party has carefully considered what should be done in connexion with this proposal. I have called it a pernicious proposal, but that is an understatement. The Government has no mandate or support from the people of Australia to do this, as it well knows. That is why it has not sold TransAustralia Airlines. In principle, the matter was decided by the verdict of the people of Flinders on the sale of the Commonwealth’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I say, on behalf of the Labour party, that we shall take every available step to oppose the bill. If, notwithstanding that, the bill be passed, a future Labour government will frankly tell the people that the new parliament will not be bound by its predecessor. We shall take every lawful step to set aside this agreement. As a party, we shall undertake to restore the status and activities of Trans-Australia Airlines te the position that they occupied before this measure was introduced.
.- If more evidence were required to show how demoralizing the ownership of public utilities by a government can be, it was supplied by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The right honorable gentleman has shown clearly that when this kind of problem is discussed in the House, it can demoralize r lie whole of the thinking of honorable members. Normally, the Leader of the
Opposition states his case reasonably and fairly, but in this instance he was entirely unfair. This matter is really only a part of the political philosophy of honorable gentlemen opposite which is wrecking the whole of our economy. We must be careful that by retaining government ownership and control of public utilities we are not simply demoralizing the people as well as the Parliament. The agreement with which the measure deals can be taken as symbolic of the belief of honorable members on this side of the House that in connexion with this matter all the conditions that make for private enterprise, initiative and integrity in public life should have full play. It would be worthwhile for me, before I deal with the various issues that the right honorable gentleman has raised, to refer to the purpose of the agreement. It is one of a series of measures. True, it is a compromise between those who would have preferred the field of civil aviation to be occupied entirely by free enterprise and those who are prepared to accept a measure of government competition with private enterprise in it. I consider that it is reasonable to doubt whether the objective of a fair field and no favour which is the aim of the agreement will te realized, and I am not sure whether it will be possible for the lion of public ownership to lie down with the lamb of private enterprise and be indifferent to what the lamb is doing. All the care that has gone into the drafting of the agreement, and all the ingenuity that has been used to ensure that the agreement will be sacrosanct for a period of fifteen years may be, as the right honorable gentleman has said, jeopardized by its being brought into the political arena as, he said, it would be at the next general election. We have tried to assure, by means of the agreement, that it will be possible for TransAustralia Airlines to be kept in the strict path of open competition with private enterprise and not be in a position to monopolize the whole of the field.
The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition about the favouritism shown to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are entirely false. The position should be approached from exactly the opposite direction. What airlines were operating before TransAustralia Airlines was formed, and where did Trans-Australia Airlines suddenly obtain the business that enabled it to achieve the results that it has shown ? Was not all that business taken from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the other airlines that were in operation when Trans-Australia Air.lines was formed? Surely it is true that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was carrying mail, public freight and members of parliament up to the time that Trans-Australia Airlines was brought into the field and it was decided that it was to be given a monopoly of the carriage of mails, public officials and public freight. Then, instead of there being the desirable competition which it is the purpose of this agreement to make possible, we had in existence the very kind of monopoly of which the right honorable gentleman has complained. TransAustralia Airlines was developing into a complete monopoly. If it had had to go out and look for business, as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited have had to do, there would be an entirely different story to be told now about Trans-Australia Airlines. I wish to make it clear that, instead of undermining Trans-Australia Airlines, as the right honorable gentleman has said, the agreement will restore something like justice and equity, and will ensure that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited shall have restored to it the right to carry some of the passengers, mails and freights that Trans-Australia Airlines now monopolizes. Only by doing so can we prevent a continuation of the kind of monopoly that the right honorable gentleman has mentioned.
It is well to consider the history of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The firm of Holyman and Sons started steamship operations in Tasmania in 1870, and carried on a considerable business with the mainland. As time went on it became associated with Huddart Parker Limited, the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited, and the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited. Later, when Holyman and Sons decided to go into the airline business the shipping companies that had been associated with it before became shareholders in the new venture, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Honorable members should remember that when Ivan Holyman set out to develop this undertaking he did not do so merely because he wanted to develop an airline organization. Honorable members who recall the tragic history of the Holyman family will know that Ivan Holyman set out to devote his future years to the development of a model airline, in memory of his elder brother, who was lost in the tragic Loina disaster in 1935. Ivan Holyman established this great enterprise and extended its operations over the whole Commonwealth. It is unfair of the Leader of the Opposition to sneer at the fact that the shipping companies to which I have referred are partners in it with Holyman. It is perfectly clear that an enterprise of this nature cannot be financed by the means used by ordinary industrial companies. It is necessary to deal in millions of pounds in order to ensure that the enterprise will be up to date and capable of meeting contingencies. It is, therefore, necessary to have access to infinitely greater funds that are drawn from sources entirely different from those used So finance ordinary activities. It was to be expected that the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited would also be interested in associating an airline business with its shipping business. One of the unfair statements that the right honorable gentleman has made to-day was his insinuation that there is something sinister in this connexion. There is a malignity in all this talk about whether private enterprise should make, profits. It misses the whole aim, because it is perfectly clear that unless there are profits to be made there will be no standard of living for people to enjoy there will be nothing but losses to be made up by the taxpayers until they are bled white, and there will be no progress or development in the community. Unless there is private profit the development of the community will be retarded.
In his opening remarks the Leader of the Opposition directed attention to the provision governing the period for which the agreement was to operate. That provision is a cardinal feature of the agreement. Unless there be an assurance that the company will be able to plan its business over such a period the company might well consider that it would be of no use its going on with the business at all. The right honorable gentleman’s attack on the length of the period proposed in the bill indicates the degree to which party politics can play a part in destroying our economy. The fact that we intend to give to the pioneer airline of Australia an opportunity to reestablish itself, and enable it to obtain its share of whatever business happens to be offering does not justify sneers. That is one of the ways in which we shall be able to ensure that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be able to continue in existence and recover from the pressure that was exerted upon it by the previous Government in an effort to destroy it. It is not a proposal to give that company more than an equitable share of the available business.
I should have liked the bill to include a provision under which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department would call for tenders for the carriage of mails, as was formerly normally done in the case of the carriage of interstate mails by sea. In the old days tenders for the carriage of mail by sea were under constant review. I should imagine that the same principle could have been applied in this instance and I believe that each of the airline companies should tender for the contract to carry mails.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that Trans-Australia Airlines, as a result of its own enterprise, initiative and integrity, had been able to develop a very large business. It was able to do so, in truth, only because it had no competition. Had it had competition from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited there would now be a different story to tell. I hope that a new story will be told when Trans-Australia Airlines is carrying out its operations in open competition with other airlines. The right honorable gentleman also condemned the proposed rationalization of the airline services. Rationalization is the only possible course for us to pursue in con nexion with this matter. Competition can exist to such a degree as to destroy all the several airlines, and rationalization is a means of ensuring that the airlines will each operate to the best advantage. It is a perfectly normal procedure in business. Rationalization is not being forced upon Trans-Australia Airlines, as the right honorable gentleman has claimed. It is to be achieved, in the first place, by agreement between the two parties. If the representatives of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and. Trans-Australia Airlines cannot agree then, and only then, will the chairman give his decision on the matter at issue. In the event of agreement between the representatives of the two parties there would be no necessity to call on the chairman for a decision.
The Leader of the Opposition also mentioned the integrity of government. Integrity is precisely what we are trying to achieve by this measure. We wish to show that the association of government with business is always disastrous. The right honorable gentleman talked in terms of Trans-Australia Airlines being a statutory corporation which was a trustee for the people. How can it be a trustee for the people if it is to be compelled to do whatever the government of the day declares it must do? He said that his Government acted as if it were itself the people, and should therefore decide what Trans-Australia Airlines was to do. In other words, instead of Trans-Australia Airlines being independent, it was being run as a government agency. There is no escape from the consequences of that. Once an undertaking is run as a government agency, it is used as an instrument by the political party in office at the time to carry out its social policy. The idea of a trusteeship fades into the background, and all that happens is that the government decides to use the agency - in the words of the Leader of the Opposition - “ in the interests of the people “, to do whatever it chooses. That is the line upon which much of the corruption that we have known in this community lies. Every honorable member knows that as the result of the establishment of almost every government-owned utility, there has been opened up the widest field for official and political corruption-
– That is a frightful statement.
– I do not care what exceptions the Opposition makes; the rule is clear. There may be exceptions to the rule, but it is perfectly clear that whenever there is an opportunity to make a gain at the expense of the public, the government-owned utilities are the means by which that gain is taken. Royal commission after royal commission has been appointed to clear up charges of corruption or charges of mismanagement.
I return to the matter of the Government’s integrity. During this sessional period, much time has been occupied with debates, urgency motions and questions about public utilities, such as government ownership of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, or the Glen Davis undertaking. The capacity of a government to do the things which should be done will be destroyed if so much of the time of Ministers is occupied day after day with Cabinet meetings in order to decide policy in relation to banks, airlines, Glen Davis or Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. If so much of the time of the Parliament is occupied with those subjects, the things that really matter are neglected, because we do not get an opportunity to deal with them. That is the reason why we believe that there should be less government in business, and more business in government. The way in which business intrudes into the work of government, and the constancy with which it intrudes, make us fear that the integrity of our whole political system is at. stake. It is definitely at stake when we recollect the threat made by the Leader of the Opposition in this debate. The agreement set out in the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill 1952 will be ratified by the Parliament. On the basis of that agreement, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines will do certain things. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has told us that this agreement, although it has been signed by the Government and will be ratified by the Parliament, will be reconsidered and jettisoned by the next Labour government. Do not honorable members see how such a policy leads to corruption ? Do they not realize thai ‘ the taxpayers will bc mulcted in order to pay for the cost of breaking the contract ?
I desire to refer for a few moments to the nonsense spoken by the Leader of the Opposition in recent weeks. He has frequently referred to the “ people’s assets “, and insisted that there is something sacrosanct about Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Trans-Australia Airlines, or what-you-will. This is characteristic of the way in which Opposition members are tyrannized by abstract nouns. I shall examine these abstractions. Who are the people in this case? How did they acquire the assets? I ask any honorable member opposite, who has any grey matter at all in his head, whether he, as a member of the Parliament or as a private individual, has any more control over the assets of the Commonwealth Bank or Trans-Australia Airlines than he has over the assets of the Bank of New South Wales or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited? Who exercises the control over those assets? Where does the trusteeship lie? The Leader of the Opposition would be wise not to speak of parliamentary sovereignty, or trusteeship of the people’s assets, because members of the parliamentary Labour party take directions from an outside body, which decides what is to be done with the people’s assets.
I point out that public utilities, far from being assets, are mostly liabilities. It is futile to attempt to conceal the facts by saying that some public assets have made money. The truth is that the great majority of them have incurred losses. If honorable members will examine the causation of events, they will see that a government has set up an undertaking in the belief that it will provide a service for the community. As a matter of course, it does not provide a service effectively or efficiently, and begins to incur losses. The taxpayer has to make up the losses, and his standard of living is thereby reduced. The stage is reached at which the whole community is being debilitated bv th° retention of so-called assets, which are, in fact, liabilities. Ultimately, there may be no way in which the losses can be made good.
So, we are reminded of the Greek, or Christian, truism, that we must live before we oan live well. Opposition members constantly claim, when they talk about nationalization, that the Government can do things, in some mysterious manner, more profitably than the ordinary private entrepreneur can do them. Experience disproves that claim, and, instead of living well, we continue to live badly. “We shall never be able fo live well unless we get rid of the incubus in the form of these undertakings. Let us hand them back to private enterprise, which can operate them effectively, efficiently and economically, because it will handle them as a business rather than a political proposition.
The decision that the Leader of the Opposition has made regarding this matter is not a business decision. He is not interested in the business side. He has made a political decision. The whole of his speech was based, not mi economics, but on politics. He spoke in terms of having something merely for the sake of having it. This is an occasion when we should face the position realistically, and declare that the Government should not operate utilities merely for the sake of operating them.
I remind honorable members that the measure on which we are engaged to-day is an act of retributive justice. The present Government is handing back to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited what was unjustly taken from that organization by a Labour government in 1944, when Trans-Australia Airlines was established. The Labour Government at that time made a deliberate attempt, not merely to create a government monopoly, but to get rid of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which had done all the pioneering work in this branch of civil aviation. Had Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited not done all that work. Trans-Australia Airlines would not have been able to function. When the agree- in ent is operating, Trans-Australia Airlines will no longer be in the privileged position of having everything handed to it on a platter, but will have to compete with private enterprise for freight, mail and passengers. It will bc the first time that Trans-Australia Airlines has ever felt the stimulating effect of the cold breeze of other people’s ideas. It may have such a stimulating and tonic effect that, as the result of this agreement, we shall enter an entirely new era of airline operations in Australia.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has added little of value to this debate. He has not defined in any way the real objective of the Government in introducing this legislation. As a matte*of fact, he never at any time got far from the political tarmac. He was never airborne on the wings of rhetoric. He concluded his speech with a lecture on economics in relation to private enterprise as against socialism. But the subject now before the House is a matter of hard, cold politics, even if the honorable and learned member does not consider it to be so. I regard this decision as one of the most treacherous and coldblooded acts ever perpetrated in this Parliament. The Opposition can refute in a few seconds any claim that the Government proposes to return to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited something that has been unjustly taken from it.
At the outset, I shall discuss the economics of the matter, if the learned professor so desires. Can any honorable member uphold the contention that a company which has a paid-up capital of £1,500,000 is in a financial position to run, in conjunction with another company under cartelization, the airline services of Australia? Of course it cannot! It must lean heavily upon the Government, under the terms of the fifteen-year contract. If that be so, the fact is established that the control of major airlines in a community tends more and more to belong to the Government. If the House requires substantiation of that statement, I cite as examples the Irish Airlines, the consolidation of government airlines in Denmark and elsewhere, and the partially nationalized airlines in France, and many airlines in various South American republics. The reason is obvious. How can a company, with a paid-up capital of £1,500,000 in 5s. shares, acquire turbo-jet aircraft at a cost of £650,000 each, except by obtaining financial assistance from the Government?
Why has the Government introduced this bill? Obviously, the Government has chosen this mean and miserable way to pay its political debts. In due course, this measure will be completely repudiated by the community. TransAustralia Airlines is a. successful organization. I do not consider it necessary, for the purposes of this debate, to analyse the beginnings of Trans-Australia Airlines or to contest even the statement of the Government on the reasons why it was established. The Labour Government of the day believed that TransAustralia Airlines should be established, in the public interest, and, accordingly, it was established most fairly and adequately. At that time, we were lucky enough to have a financial and business genius at the helm, and, in addition, a splendid, wise and considerate Minister for Air. As the result of those happy circumstances, we established an enduring organization. Quite apart from the mere economics of the matter, the safety measures taken by Trans-Australia Airlines are a by-word, and its service is excellent. Why is the Government chasing the buggy of history without any chance of overtaking it? The Labour Government decided, in its wisdom, to establish Trans- Australia Airlines, which has been successful and profitable. What is the reason for this mewling, mealymouthed attitude about what has been done to private enterprise in the pa3t? The present scheme is the result of a barefaced demand by private enterprise to bc permitted to form a cartel with a government utility in order to run the air services of the country. The record of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited with respect to finance is not strong. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the organization has 6,000,000 shares, of a nominal value of 5s. each, and the paid-up capital is £1.500,000.
He also pointed out the origin of this organization. It comes from another section of the transport industry, and has fonsistently fought for its monopoly on the seas. I remind honorable members that there is nothing closer knit than a monopoly of shipping interests and this organization became a monopoly of overseas shipping and local coastal lines.
The representation within the monopoly is very wide. The monopoly members are Huddart Parker Limited, The Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited, the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited. Within the organization are nominees, managers and others who hold about 1,500 shares each. When honorable members consider that matter they will perceive that the history of Australian National Airways Limited is that it originated as a shipping monopoly and then transferred its activities to another form of transport. It must have known at some time or other that it would lose money through its airline activities, because the history of airlines throughout the world indicates that they must lean on governments. Therefore, honorable members will realize that it was a clear-sighted, laudable and decent action by the Labour government to establish a government-controlled airline for the Australian people. The then government realized that no airline could operate successfully without government assistance, and so it decided to establish its own airline. It did so, and Trans-Australia Airlines has been remarkably successful. The Labour party does not need to apologize for the establishment of the organization, or for its success, and it is ready to debate the matter with the Government on the hustings at any time. The previous Labour government saw beyond doubt that money must be put into private enterprise to enable it to keep going and it decided to establish its own airline in order that the air services of the country could be maintained on a proper and profitable basis.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in his second-reading speech, spoke of pioneers. I suggest that the Government should give more consideration to the pioneers of the Northern Territory and the interior of this country, who fly their little aeroplanes into almost inaccessible regions, than it has given to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. They are the real pioneers of aviation in Australia. Neither TransAustralia Airlines nor Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited have ever considered developing that remote section of our airways because their hands are filled with their activities in the more populous part of the country. To talk of pioneers as the Government has done, is to pay scant courtesy to the real pioneers of aviation - Kingsford-Smith, Hm, Hinkler and others - who got nothing out of aviation and gave everything to it.
What good will this bill do for Australia ? The agreement has a term of fifteen years, and it is merely another attempt by the Government to put the feathers back on to the plucked fowl, and to reverse Labour’s policy. The only thing that the public is concerned about is that this successful, highly efficient airline should be maintained in its present form. The public does not want it to be sabotaged, and I use the word ! sabotaged “ because every line of the bill now before honorable members is malicious and is intended to act to the detriment of Trans-Australia. Airlines for the benefit of Australian National Airway?! Proprietary Limited. The Minister for Territories, who has some element of liberalism in his makeup, even though it may be deep down within him and is getting deeper as he becomes more experienced, probably thought along the lines that I have mentioned because his replies to interjections while he was making his second-reading speech were more caustic than usual. He realizes that something useful to Australia is being sabotaged to honour a political promise. The Minister and the Government should learn that they cannot; turn back the pages of history nor roll back the scroll of time. There j- no doubt that some, government ownership of our main air services is essential because of the money needed to operate the air services and because of their defence value. This bill is not relevant to our present time; it refers more to :I 11 era of some ten years ago.
It has been suggested by some honorable members on the Government side that the amount of airmail business given to Trans-Australia Airlines and the quantity of freight carried have caused a loss of profits to Australian National Airways Pro prietary Limited. If that is so, why is it that to-day Trans-Australia Airlines, because of the highly inflated price of petrol and other essentials, is also suffering a loss? How is it that the Government airline is feeling the strain of our present financial circumstances? Airline operation is a millionaire job to-day, and cannot be handled adequately by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or any other private enterprise. The services, personnel, organization and management of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are above reproach. It is not a matter of dispute that the present company is efficient. The Opposition is concerned with policy; and we shall maintain our point to the very last speaker from this side of the House. Honorable members on the Government side made a charge that airmail business was given to TransAustralia Airlines to the detriment of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I remind honorable members that there is no indication that the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited intends to hand over its rights in the mails to the new Italian lines or other shipping lines that are now plying between Australia and Europe. The overseas shipping industry is knit in a very close combine, and that combine will yield none of its profits or privileges for the sake of private enterprise. Indeed, it will use all its endeavours to squeeze out its competitors and destroy them. The Government will not concede that, for defence and financial reasons, the Commonwealth should nourish its own airline. Surely the Government should not allow our own air service to starve to death through lack of the nourishment of Commonwealth contracts? I suggest that TransAustralia Airlines is an excellent example of a government organization that has prospered in competition with private enterprise, and which is now to be destroyed simply because it is an efficient competitor. My limited time does not allow me to speak of other aspects of this matter that are well worth investigation, and I suggest that honorable members should judge this case in the light of a few extracts from the speech of the Minister who introduced the bill. The Minister for Territories said -
I said curlier that the Australian internal air services were the finest in the world. Their excellence was, in the Government’s opinion, due on the part of each organization to the competition which the other provided.
A Labour government tried to create competition between the air services to make them efficient, but now this Government has decided that that good work shall be undone. I invite honorable members to read Hansard, in which they will see that when Trans-Australia Airlines was being established every speech made from the then Opposition side was full of hatred and contempt for what was being done. Honorable members then sitting in Opposition were full of denunciations of the scheme. Yet the Minister has now paid honour to the efficiency of the air service that was in large part due to the actions of the previous Labour Government. The reason why Australia has such a good name among the airlines of the world is that Labour policy enabled our airlines to compete one with the other for efficiency and safety. But if the party to which the Minister belongs had had its way, this enterprise would have been strangled at birth. Honorable members need not believe what I am saying, but they will surely believe Hansard. The Minister also said -
The Government believed that it was its duty to ensure that the excellent services provided by the two operators should be maintained for the benefit of the Australian people.
That is not true. The Prime Minister has stated that he will get rid of TransAustralia Airlines as soon as possible. Constitutional and other difficulties, including difficulty with some of the Government back-benchers and at least one of the Ministers, prevented him from doing away with Trans-Australia Airlines. Consequently he has adopted this miserable and sneaking alternative. He has determined that Trans-Australia Airlines shall die by suffocation and strangulation. We agree that no government is to be bound by the actions of its predecessor; but, in fairness to the public and to the future of the country, the Government should not have attempted to strangle Trans-Australia Airlines in the way contemplated. The complete cynicism of the Minister for Territories is indicated by this statement, made during his second-reading speech -
Active competition could not be maintained if one of the two companies had a precarious existence, which depended on the policy of the government of the day.
The Opposition does not accept that. One company admits to losses, and the report of the Australian National Airlines Commission also admits to losses. Therefore, the Government, which says that it hates the very word “ socialism “, has not hesitated to use this type of legislation to bring in a sort of socialism of its own. It is binding two airline enterprises closely together. I suggest that that i3 double-barrelled nationalization. The generous terms offered by the Government to this private airline company are extraordinary. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has a capital of £1,500,000, and in ordinary circumstances it could not get £3,000,000 from the Commonwealth Bank. Yet the Government has guaranteed £3,000,000 to the company through the Commonwealth Bank, and when the aircraft purchased with that money have worn out, against the accepted principles of private enterprise that a borrower must have enough collateral security before it can get money, the Government has guaranteed more money. I remind honorable members that although the Government has done that, it will do nothing for the age pensioner, the ex-serviceman settler, the ex-prisoner of war and the unemployed, because of its rigid financial policy. Yet the Government can order the Commonwealth Bank to make £3,000,000 available to a company whose capital is £1,500,000. If there is not something sinister and ugly in the whole of this matter, why have the company’s affairs not been laid before the Parliament?
T suggest that when he is replying to this debate the Minister might consider these matters. I should have thought that the Government, would have been sick and tired of the word “ retrospectivity “. However, air route charges are now to be paid by Trans-Australia Airlines retrospectively to 1947. The Government is pursuing the successful concern right back to the moment of its first successes in order to bolster up its failing competitor. Such retrospective legislation has never been heard of in this Parliament, and it is all the more difficult to understand when it is realized that honorable members do not know the financial position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited because it is a private company, and only an hour ago the Prime Minister, with a fine gesture and thumping himself on the chest, said he would not be a party to producing private documents. I suggest that if the Parliament is to furnish the money it will want to know the position of the company. To know the financial position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is all the more urgent, because we already know the position of Trans-Australia Airlines. After the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt.) had demolished the pretentions of the Government, and had revealed its skullduggery about lending money and making retrospective charges, he drew attention to the hidden clauses of the agreement which will allow Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to resuscitate its business. Then he turned to the other clauses of the bill. If a dispute occurs between the two companies an inquiry must be held. And who is to pronounce judgment in such a dispute - the Delphic Oracle of private enterprise, whose judgments, according to the professor from Warringah, must be everlasting? Nothing of the sort. We take it that a retired judge is to be trundled in on a. stretcher. Most retired judges are over 70; and 0111 of that collection the Government, if it runs true to form, will appoint for this purpose some one who, whilst he will do the job honestly, will not be a young man. Tie will decide, dealing with the matter on a judicial level, whether a certain figure is right or wrong. I am sure that the Minister for Territories would want a person of that type to do this job, because he found that a great administrator was worn out at the age of 63, and for that reason was unable to continue his wise administration in New Guinea. But on this occasion the Minister talks about wheeling in a nonagenarian to decide whether Trans-Australia
Airlines or the Government’s new whitehaired boy, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, has a case.
One concludes from the Minister’s second-reading speech and from the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah that the case against TransAustralia Airlines is loaded. This agreement has been demanded by private enterprise. The Government should approach this problem in a common-sense way. Can the resuscitation of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited as a strong force in this sphere from a defence point of view be sustained without expending money that belongs to the people and which should be used for the development of the organization that has already been established under the ownership of the people to provide air services, not only on an ordinary commercial basis, but also in relation to defence? Is there any common sense in trying to resuscitate this private organization in this way? If there has been some squeezing in this matter, as has been alleged, has the Government itself looked into the question of compensation? This has been a long and tortuous debate. I am sure that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who played a magnificent part in the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines, will put these matters in their proper perspective. It is impossible to deny the fact that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, with all its business efficiency, is undercapitalized for the project in which it is engaged and, therefore, it must lean upon the Government for financial assistance. This proposal involves the destruction of Trans-Australia Airlines by Government supporters merely on the pretext of fulfilling an election promise. Honorable members opposite should forget their shibboleths because the people have long forgotten them. In Trans-Australia Airlines this country already possesses an efficient air organization. Throughout the world, the trend is towards government ownership of airlines, because of the relationship of such services to defence and also because private enterprise, under the competitive urge, eventually deteriorates into the practice of squeezing more and more freight and passengers into aircraft. I invite honorable members opposite to read the horrible statistics of air accidents in the United States of America that have been compiled as a result of impartial investigations, which showed that most aircraft accidents resulted from the anxiety of private enterprise to make more dollars regardless of the sanctity of human life. I mention that as something which could happen under the much vaunted system of private enterprise in this sphere. It has never been validly suggested that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited might render a. useful service from a defence point of view. On that ground the case in favour of TransAustralia Airlines as the best organization in the national interest is unanswerable. That organization has already done good work in this sphere, and it should not be destroyed. In this matter the mumbling words of an accountant do not count. This is a. matter of high policy. We must consider the value of Trans-Australia Airlines from the point of view of the defence and safety of this country as well as from that of its ability to provide an efficient transport service.
Every provision that is contained in the bill attempts in a miserable, subversive and indecent way to take from a successful venture that which it has rightly earned. There is no crime in Trans-Australia Airlines being a national organization that has been created by the people and the profits of which are paid into Consolidated Revenue. The crime is that so many people who are screaming for money are prepared to destroy an organization that has been established and developed on a sound basis and, at the same time, to bolster up another organization, which in the long run, must finish just as broke as it is to-day. Because of the high cost of aircraft, now nearly £1,000,000 a piece, and also because new and safer types are being developed from day to day, a venture of this kind is precarious for private enterprise, and can be undertaken with certainty only by a government. The provision of modern air services is not only a business, but also a social service. This is a sphere in which private enterprise must eventually be forced to the wall because of its inability to make profits. I support with the warmest feelings of gratitude the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, who stated Labour’s case clearly. He has left no doubt that Labour, when it is returned to office, will take steps to remedy the injustice that will be perpetuated under this agreement. Labour undertakes to investigate every angle of this agreement. The Opposition repudiates it now; and when Labour is returned to office, it will act in accordance with sanity and justice to insure that Trans-Australia Airlines, which was established by a national government in the interests of Australia, shall be sustained.
.- The reason for the wrath that has been engendered among honorable members opposite in this debate is that they realize that this bill releases from socialization another valuable asset of the people. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who temporarily leads the Opposition, again peddled the phrase, “ The Government is selling the people’s assets “. What the Government proposes to do under this measure, as it will continue to do, is to protect the people’s assets. If Government supporters sell out on anything it will be socialization. We are pledged to such a policy, and we shall carry it out. Our record to date in this respect is quite good. Consequently, we shall hear more and more of the spurious wrath of the Opposition as the Government introduces measure after measure to cripple the attempts that a Labour government, power-crazy and control-hungry, made in the post-war years to fasten socialism upon the people of this country.
First, I turn to a statement by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) which I. consider should never have been made by any honorable member. He compared Australian National Airways Proprietory Limited with private airlines in the United States of America, and implied that if Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had its way the profit motive would impel it to stack its aircraft with passengers and thus endanger their lives. That was a scandalous statement.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member is not entitled to draw an inference so wide as that which he has drawn from my remarks. With his usual imbecility he has uttered a dangerous lie.
– Order ! The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– Apparently, you will let him tell all the lies in the world.
-Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark and apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize.
– The honorable member for Parkes implied that I was an imbecile. I ask that he withdraw that remark.
– Did the honorable member make that remark?
– Yes. After looking again at the honorable member for Capricornia, I realize that it was perhaps an overstatement.
-Order! The honorable member will withdraw the remark objected to and will apologize.
– I withdraw it and apologize.
– Long before TransAustralia Airlines was established by a Labour government to smash private airlines and to assume control over air services in this country, various companies, including Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, were operating in the Australian sky. Those companies established an enviable record for safety which was equal to, if not better than, that of similar companies in any other country. In their developmental stages, when they were building up their assets and winning the goodwill of the people, those companies could have taken advantage of the circumstances that then existed in order to make inordinate profits, but to their credit they preferred primarily to render a splendid service to the community. They operated their services, as they continue to do to-day, with a great margin of safety. Therefore, it is regret table that a statement “of the kind that was made by the honorable member for Parkes and to which I have referred should be made in the course of this debate.
One might be led to believe from the remarks of members of the Opposition that Trans-Australia Airlines has been operating for very many years, and that it enabled Australia to emerge from the Stone Age so far as air services are concerned. As the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) pointed, out in his second -reading speech the history of civil aviation in this country, goes back to 1932. Pour years later, in 1936, the first trunk service between capitals in this country was established, and in that year Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, as we know it to-day, came into operation. It was established because the people who formed it saw the opportunity that existed for an efficient company to render a. vital service to the community. That company accepted that challenge and it made a small profit, as, surely, it was entitled to do. It met the challenge of its time. During the postwar years a group of socialists who were in control in this Parliament and who were keen to do everything possible to socialize Australia and thus open the door to communism, established TransAustralia Airlines. I admit that the people were to blame for giving a socialist government the opportunity to implement its policies. They did so because they did not take full cognizance of Labour’s platform and objectives. Consequently, a Labour government was able to establish Trans-Australia Airlines in 1946. If I am on common ground at all with members of the Opposition in this debate, it is that I also regret that this measure has been introduced, but my objections to it rest on different grounds. I regret that the Government has found it necessary to introduce this measure because of the fact that in 1946 a socialist government attempted to nationalize airlines in this country. If that attempt had not been made the introduction of this measure would not be necessary. That government had no mandate from the people to make such an attempt. No government has ever received a mandate from the people to say to them, in effect, “ You cannot invest your money wisely; we will take it. from you and invest it for you”. The Labour Government had no business in entering this field. If it could be said that an opening presented itself to a government to enter this field such an opening existed ten years prior to the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines Proprietary Limited and that opening was taken by private individuals, who invested their money and provided up-to-date air services which they operated on the principles of private enterprise. Those private companies were financed by private citizens. In that respect a big difference existed between events in 1936 and those which occurred in 1946. In 1936, private citizens met the demand for additional air services by voluntarily investing their money in private companies; but in 1946 the people were compelled to finance the institution of Trans-Australia Airlines for the purpose of smashing existing private companies. Surely no member of the Opposition will attempt to deny that the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines was the first step in the Labour Government’s plan to drive all other civil airlines out of business. That was the stated aim of the socialists. I hope that the people will take note of the statements that have been made this afternoon by honorable members opposite, who have declared that, if they regain power, they will continue with their socialistic plans. The Leader of the Opposition even said that, in the future, a Labour government would ensure that any socialistic legislation that it enacted would contain a prohibition against desocialization. That was a threat to the continued existence of private airlines and to the freedom of the people. A country under the heel of socialism is not, a free country. The honorable member for Parkes sneered at Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited because its paid-up capital amounted to only £1,500,000. He has no cause to sneer, because he played a part in placing a limitation upon the capital of that, company. The amount of £1,500.000 was sufficient for the needs of the company in 1946, when TransAustralia Airlines was established. Had it been allowed to expand and to submit a solid proposition to the people, I haveno doubt that its paid-up capital to-day would be four times that amount. But,, from 1946 onward, the Labour Government set out to squeeze Australian. National Airways Proprietary Limited1 out of the air. Had the people not realized the significance of the Chifley Government’s socialistic aims, the company would have been rendered bankrupt. That was the aim and the ambition of the Labour Government, and. under the conditions that were imposed by that Government, it was useless for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to ask the people to subscribe additional capital for its activities. The Labour Government tried to force it out of the air, although it had no right to do so. Therefore, it is futile for members of the Opposition to sneer at the company on the ground that it has failed to plan for the future.
The honorable member for Parkes talked of the pioneers of aviation in thebackblocks and the men who flew on the feeder routes. I know something of what has happened to feeder services in Queensland. Some of the young men whopioneered feeder services, such as the service from Townsville to Mount .lsa, were driven out of the field of civil aviation by the activities of TransAustralia Airlines. I could tell the House how an airline company, which is still operating fortunately, was gradually being forced off aerodromes because Trans-Australia Airlines flung its resources into the field against it regardless of cost. Trans-Australia Airlines tried to strangle such small enterprisesin order to further the crazy ambitions of the Labour Government. That Government did a great disservice to the pioneers of aviation in Australia when it entered1 the field of aerial passenger transport in 1946 in violation of the true principles of democratic government. A government should govern, and not attempt to engage in business undertakings. The honorable member for Parkes said that all airlines throughout the world had to have government assistance. Therefore, he argued, this Government should force the people to help Australian airlines.
That is merely his own idea. A government has no right to enter the field of civil aviation or to say to the people, “ We are going to take your money from you because you are incapable of investing it wisely. We shall invest it for you, but there will be no dividends “.
One of the greatest victories achieved by the Labour Government occurred in 1949, when representatives of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited were forced to come to Canberra to ask for its help. That must have given the socialists a great deal of satisfaction. It showed that the squeeze that they had applied to private airlines was beginning to take effect. They were within sight then of exercising full control over civil aviation in Australia. Had they remained in office, they would have been able to decide who should move and where they should move along the airways. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had to seek government help because the Labour Government was trying to acquire a complete monopoly of air services in Australia.
– I was Minister for Civil Aviation at that time, but the representatives of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not appeal to me.
– They showed a great deal of wisdom. They probably went to somebody who would have been able to do something for them.
Under the terms of this bill, both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be able to continue operations. I have no complaint against either TransAustralia Airlines or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Both organizations render excellent service to the people. The bill represents the only way out of the present undesirable situation for any government that wishes to serve the best interests of the people. The people should learn their lesson from this legislation. They should remember in future that any industry that is socialized cannot be desocialized. Once an egg is scrambled it cannot be unscrambled. Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited conduct the best air services in the world. .Australians who have returned from visits overseas have told me repeatedly that the air services in Australia are the best that they know. The Opposition has confirmed that view. Many former Labour Ministers, who were noted globe-trotters when they were in office, have said so. The agreement that will be approved under the terms of this bill will operate for fifteen years. The Leader of the Opposition has said, and doubtless he spoke for once on behalf of a unanimous Opposition, that, if the Labour party regains power, it will take steps to have the agreement set aside.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– That unanimity amongst honorable members opposite, which is unique in my experience as a member of this House, points to the only danger in relation to the Government’s plan. It represents a threat to the future of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Should this Government be overthrown, which is unlikely, honorable members opposite, who have thrown away their right to vote as free men in order to pledge their support to socialism, would apply the pincers to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited once more and try to force its aircraft out of the skies. Fortunately, the decision will rest in the hands of the people, and I think that they have learned from experience that the socialists cannot be trusted. I expect the present Government parties to remain in power at least for the duration of the agreement. That is a modest expectation when one thinks of the intelligence of the people.
Many crippling handicaps that were imposed on Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited by the Labour Government in order to give an advantage to Trans-Australia Airlines will be removed by this bill. Under the terms of the agreement, each organization will be given a substantial share of airmail business. That is a good provision, and I do not believe that any honorable member can honestly quibble about it. The late Mr. Chifley said during the 194*9 election campaign that all he wanted was a fair go. This ‘bill will give a fail- go to the airline operators. Government business will be freely shared by tha two organizations. If one party to the agreement should provide a better service than the other provides, it will be entitled to a greater share of business. Thai, will be in accordance with normal business practice. The agreement will encourage healthy competition in order to win government business. Each organization will be assisted financially t-> acquire new heavy flying equipment. I strongly support that provision. One aspect of the policy of the Labour Government to which I objected strongly, was the way in which it allowed TransAustralia Airways to increase its capital resources at the expense of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited by expending dollars. The private company was almost forced out of the air because the Labour Government refused to provide it with dollars for the purchase of new aircraft and replacement parts. The socialists were determined to own all airline organizations in Australia. One outstanding item of evidence in support of that statement is the fact that TransAustralia Airlines acquired five Convair aircraft, whereas Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited acquired none.
Trans-Australia Airlines was spoon-fed I ry the Labour Government, as were all the socialist enterprises of that Administration. It was used as an instrument to force private enterprise out of business. This Government will endeavour, while it remains in power, to free the people of the yoke that was placed upon their necks by the Labour Government. The establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines was only one move in the campaign by the socialists to gain complete control of the people in every sphere of human activity. Had that Government remained in power after 1949, the people would have been completely shackled by the socialists, who would have opened the door and allowed communism to enter Australia. This bill represents a common-sense solution of the problem that was caused by the Labour Government’s action. The fact that this problem arose in the first place will be to the discredit of the Labour party for all time. It dared to interfere with the liberties of the people and to say to them, “ You do not know how to invest your money. We shall take it from you and invest it as we think fit The people, fortunately, threw it out of office. We look to the people to keep this Government in power so that socialism shall never be given a free hand in Australia again. Their wisdom and good judgment will warn them not to trust the socialists. This Government will continue to protect their assets and to sell out all socialistic enterprises.
.- The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has spoken of the pioneering work of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The picture that he conjured up to entertain the House was that of a struggling pioneering company. Before Trans-Australia Airlines existed, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had received subsidies from the Commonwealth amounting to £2,500,000, and the Commonwealth had expended upon civil aviation projects, very largely upon interstate airports, a sum of £11,000,000. Those airports were used almost exclusively by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on its interstate traffic. A sum of £13,500,000 of public money had been invested in interstate airways. Some of it had been paid as a direct subsidy to the private company, and some of it had been expended for the company. Before honorable members opposite indulge in romantic nonsense about the pioneering work of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, let them remember that that company made no expenditure of a heavy capital nature upon the development of Australian air services. It was heavily subsidized, and was left with the cream of the interstate air traffic - the operation of aeroplanes. It was not called upon to make the heavy expenditure that was necessary to provide the facilities that aeroplanes require.
The honorable member for Capricornia was entirely incorrect in his assertions about dollars. He said that the possession by Trans-Australia Airlines of Convair aircraft - which I think, speaking personally, is one of the worst features of Trans- Australia Airlines - gave it an advantage over Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. In the period after that in which DC3’s were almost the only civil passenger aircraft in use, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited bought eight Skymasters, and Trans-Australia Airlines bought four Skymasters and four Convairs. Trans- Australia Airlines had Convairs as a result of the judgment of its management. If it had made the same decision as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, it would
Iia ve had eight Skymasters. Personally, I do not feel nearly as secure in a Convair as I do in a Skymaster, due to a number of experiences that I have had in Convairs. I believe that four engines in an aircraft is an advantage. The point that I want to make about dollars is that, over a period of time, both companies made similar purchases of heavy aircraft.
Why has Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited been selected as the company that should receive this most favorable treatment from the Commonwealth? It is entirely unreal to speak, as the Minister did, about the losses of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited during the last few years. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is a subsidiary of a shipping combine. One of the shareholders in it is the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which made a profit of £19,000,000 last year. The Government is very keen to conceal the list of shareholders in the company. It is not true to speak of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited as having made losses, when it is, in fact, a department of a transport cartel. It would be just as logical to say that if the men’s wear department of David Jones Limited made a loss, profits made by other sections of the firm should not be taken into consideration.
I propose to speak bluntly about the safety record of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, because 1 have not the least doubt that if what can he said about that company could be said about Trans- Australia Airlines, it would be said. Of all the airline companies in Australia, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is the most unfitted to receive favorable consideration from any government. In the space of a comparatively few months, it had five major crashes. When the relatives of deceased passengers attempted to sue the company, it was wise enough to settle their claims out of court. If those crashes had happened to Trans-Australia Airlines, they would have been invoked by this Government as a reason for disposing of the company, and we on this side of the House would have regarded that as an irresistible argument. The crashes began with the Amana and the Lutana. Then there was the episode at Mount Macedon. Last week, there was an episode at Mascot, about which the Minister will give no information, when an Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited Skymaster with 40 passengers on board crashed down on the runway. The safety record of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is gravely open to doubt. If the Government wanted to give favorable treatment to Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, which has a record of nineteen or twenty years of perfect safety, it could have come to this House with a clear conscience and put that company forward as one that it ought to support. But nobody in this chamber can be satisfied with the record of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited during the last few years. It is one of the worst records of any airline operating anywhere in the world, including the American companies, which have had some disastrous experience with Skymasters.
The Government will not inform the House of the interests that really own Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. It dare not discuss why a company with a safety record that is so bad has been singled out for such good treatment. It insists that there shall be no publication of the affairs of the company, which is to enjoy the advantage of being a private company, with its affairs concealed from publication, whilst it is receiving public money. If Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had to go to the market to get £4,000,000- and nobody here believes for a minute that any one would subscribe £4,000,000 to it - it would be a public company and its affairs would be made public; but, under this agreement, it will remain a private company, as far as the concealment of its affairs is concerned, whilst obtaining the benefit of public funds. I say that it could not get from private sources the loan that it is to get from this Government. The honorable member for Capricornia could think of no better way in which to deal with the argument of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) than to say that he was sneering at the fact that the capital of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was only £1,500,000. The honorable member for Parkes said that no bank would advance £3,000,000 to a company that possessed assets worth only £1,500,000. He explained that, in ordinary banking practice, £1,500,000 of rapidly deteriorating assets of an airline would not be treated by any bank as satisfactory collateral security. The Government knows that. Therefore, it does not dare to impose upon the Commonwealth Bank an obligation to find £3,000,000 for this company, and it has underwritten the position of the company. We hear a lot said about private enterprise. It is assumed by the Government that this private company will be unable to repay the Commonwealth Bank and, accordingly, the Government itself has underwritten the ability of the company to repay. That is one of the most remarkable features of this agreement.
The second extremely interesting feature of the agreement is the manner in which it deals with landing dues. Either landing dues should be paid, or they should not be paid. Nobody could honestly defend an intermediate position, but the Government, in this agreement, has taken up an absurd intermediate position. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited promises to pay to the Commonwealth, a year after the agreement has come into operation, a sum of £337,000 in respect of landing dues. The company has made a loss of not less than £200,000 over the last few years. If it is to be treated in isolation as a company unconnected with shipping firms, as the Government is treating it, from where on earth will it get the money to pay those landing dues? Is it going to pay them to the Government from the loan which the Government itself is guaranteeing? What a masterpiece of business for the Minister to present such a proposal to this House !
The company is virtually bankrupt. The honorable member for Capricornia said that it would have gone out of existence but for this effort to salvage it. Yet it isto pay a part of its landing dues, and, iri consideration of that, the Commonwealth is to call off its action in the High Court on landing dues. It does not appear tome that the company was very confident that it would win the case in the High Court. I am strongly opposed to the idea of landing dues being paid by any airline in Australia, notwithstanding that a Labour government imposed them. If there is to be a waiving of landing dues it should be complete. The half-way proposal in the agreement is merely an effort to make it appear that the Commonwealth will get something from it. Ostensibly, the arrangement is that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will pay £337,000 to the Commonwealth, but, in fact, the Commonwealth has waived its claim to a sum- of £600,000, and is to receive some of the money that it will lend to the company..
Every member of the Government parties who has spoken in this debate so far has attacked Trans-Australia Airlines. Every honorable member on the right of the Chair attacks TransAustralia Airlines except when-, it comes to travelling. Then he votes with his ticket for Trans-Australia Airlines, and travels with it. Having regard to the attitude that the Government has adopted, why has not Trans- Australia Airlines been sold ? We have heard a great deal of talk about desocialization. The sale of Trans-Australia Airlines would be in conformity with the policy of desocialization. Surely honorable gentlemen opposite will not tell us that what is proposed in this agreement is in accordance with such a policy? Is it seriously suggested that, if the Government has to find £4,000,000 for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the company will continue to exist as an independent organization ? Do honorable gentlemen opposite believe that future governments will constantly pump millions of pounds into Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and then, whether they be conservative or Labour Governments, refuse to have any say in the conduct of its affairs? This agreement is a step towards the socialization of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. If the company accepts a government guarantee to this extent, its independence will go. It is only a pretence to say that, somehow, this agreement will salvage its independence.
The reason why Trans- Australia Airlines has not “been sold by the Government is a technical reason. But for the fact that we are . in . a transitional stage in the development of air services, TransAustralia Airlines would have been sold. If it bad been sold, the Government would have had to get rid of D.C.3’s, Convairs and Skymasters, every one of which will be obsolete junk within two years. They would have had to be loaded on to a private company. With a change of government, a new government airline would have been formed, with a fleet consisting entirely of jet and turbo-propellor aircraft. Then, the company that was operating the ancient aircraft would have gone out of ‘existence. Because we made it perfectlyclear that that would happen if Trans-Australia Airlines were abolished, the Government could not dispose of the assets of the company, because no other airline would wish to carry so much obsolete or obsolescent equipment. A great deal has been said about the alleged refusal of Labour governments to make dollars available to private airline companies. Between 1946 and 1949, when the Chifley Government was in office, eight new Skymasters were bought by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and eight major aircraft by Trans-Australia Airlines. The dollars for the purchases were made available to both companies. New aircraft were bought. At that time, Australian civil aviation was confident and optimistic. A government that has imposed the most stringent restrictions upon all kinds of imports, including new aircraft, should he the last to accuse its predecessors of stifling civil aviation in Australia. Not one new aeroplane has been added to Australian civil aviation services since thi3 Government took office. It is apparent to any personwho has the misfortune to travel a great deal by air over long distances, as do most honorable members from Western Australia, that there has been a gross deterioration of the efficiency of the services provided by Australian civil aviation. We should not have economized upon the purchase of new aircraft, whatever else it was necessary to economize upon. It does not matter that, in 1954, we shall have an entirely new class of aircraft - the Vicker’s “ Viscount “. Every year, new aircraft should be added to Australian airlines. That is one reason why it is extremely difficult for a private company, which is concerned exclusively with profits, to conduct air services. I do not think that profits should be a consideration in the operation of airlines. Safety should be the paramount consideration. If it is an enterprise which must be conducted at a loss, then I know very well what will happen. Private enterprise will get out of the field or, alternatively, the Government will have to subsidize it. No country makes a religion of private enterprise more intensely than does the United States of America, but the Civil Aeronautics Board in America is subsidizing private company after private company simply on the consideration that airline companies must constantly purchase new aircraft. That is a feature of civil aviation in America to-day.
– That is not socialization.
– I agree that it is not socialization, but at least it is a recognition that there is a social aspect connected with the purchase of aircraft, whether for a private company or for the Government. The deterioration over the last few years of the services provided by airlines in this country has been spectacular. Aircraft have aged and have not been replaced owing to the Government’s policy of restricting imports. Because Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited could not afford to spend £8,000 or £9,000 a year to provide passengers with newspapers, TransAustralia Airlines was compelled to abandon its newspaper service to passengers. We have heard from members of the Government about the increased efficiency that results from competition, but when Trans-Australia Airlines was more efficient in competition, honorable members opposite did not advance that as an argument for raising the standard of efficiency of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to the standard of Trans-Australia Airlines. No, quite the reverse ! Trans- Australia Airlines had to come down to the standard of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited ! Trans-Australia Airlines imposes more stringent tests on its pilots than does Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and puts them through training school once every three months instead of once every six months, as is required by law. That is one of the expensive services undertaken by TransAustralia Airlines that the Government has so far not dared to interfere with in order to bring Trans-Australia Airlines clown to the standard of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
I turn now to the subject of the carriage of mails by air, about which honorable members opposite have had so much to say. Where is the sense or logic in asserting that the carriage of airmails ought to be shared between two companies, when one of the companies is owned by the Government? Since the Commonwealth has to pay the cost of the carriage of the mails, why should it not pay itself for carrying them ? Is it the intention of the Government to give money away just for the sheer pleasure of giving it away, and in order to enable a private company to increase its profits ; then, having increased the loss on the government airline, make the taxpayer carry the burden? Is that supposed to be a businesslike approach to this problem?
– The Labour Government robbed Australian . National Airways Proprietary Limited of the mail contracts in the first place.
– The Australian Government is a sovereign government, and has complete responsibility for the carriage of Her Majesty’s mails. It is not robbing anybody if it declines to renew a contract. If it was robbery to take the mail contracts from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, then it is also robbery every time the Postal Department transfers a contract from one mail contractor in a country area to another. It is no more logical to contend that half of the Royal Mail must go by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited planes, and half by Trans-Australia Airlines planes, than it would be to contend that private truck drivers should carry half the letters from the Postal Department to the airport and government truck drivers should carry the other half. Such arguments from the other side of the chamber illustrate the intellectual level of the debate.
I should like to hear from Ministers more about this agreement than they have yet been willing to disclose. If public funds are to be put into Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, why should the Minister for Territories boast that the bill is based on an investigation the terms of which he will not reveal to the House? This is what he had to say -
To this end the Government arranged for an independent analysis of the financial structure and operating costs of both airlines on a basis of strict comparison.
He pointed out that Trans- Australia Airlines made a profit of £214,818 in 1949-50, whilst Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited showed a loss of £216,6S2 in the same year; and that Trans- Australia Airlines had made a profit of £205,799 in 1950-51, whilst Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had made a loss of £10,221. Of course, his figures are out of date, because the Government, in an attempt to salvage Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, had to hand back to both companies the landing dues that they had paid. The result was that TransAustralia Airlines’ profit of £214,S18 rose to £336,000, and the later profit of £205,799 rose to £341,000. Trans-Australia Airlines has certainly been a paying concern for the Government, without taking into consideration the fact that it has saved the Government from considerable expenditure by its performance of services for the Commonwealth. We should like to know why Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been selected as the company to share in this proposed rationalization, having regard to its safety record over the last few years. Why was that safety record ignored? What considerations caused the Government to ignore it? If Trans- Australia Airlines had had the same safety record, what would have been the Government’s attitude? Every honorable gentleman opposite knows that it would have been adducing that record, if held by TransAustralia Airlines, as an argument for the abolition of the airline and as a basis for claiming that government-run airlines were inefficient. The Government has not answered that question. It has not stated why it will not publish the affairs of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. If we are asked to impose a special charge of £337,000 for the benefit of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, how can wa tell whether or not it is justified if we do not know the company’s affairs. If we are asked to waive £450,000 due to the Commonwealth from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, how can we know whether that action is justified or not if the Government does not give us the facts? If we are asked to force the Commonwealth Bank, as we are asked to do in this bill, to advance £3,000,000 to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, how can we know whether the loan is justified if the Government refuses to give us the necessary facts on which our judgment could be made? The honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Bland) has at least had the logic to point out that this is not a business proposition, and also that it is not an effort of desocialization, as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) claimed. Honorable gentlemen opposite have accused us of having, when in office, attempted to nationalize the airlines. That was undoubtedly the case, but the attempt was prevented because the High Court declared the legislation to be invalid. I believe in the nationalization of airlines on the ground of safety, and because I hold that private profit ought not to be a consideration in the management of airways. If honorable gentlemen opposite like to quote me on that matter on every platform in the country, they are welcome to do so, because I have made that statement on every platform on which I have spoken about national airways. The idea held by honorable gentlemen opposite that the public is fervently in favour of a desocialization policy seems to me to be a great illusion. If I were asked my opinion of the public’s feelings on that issue I should say that it does not favour either the destruction of private enterprise by the Government, or the flinging away of government assets to private enterprise. As I interpret the wishes of the community, the people are struggling to find a mediate position between the two positions taken up by the opposing sides in this Parliament.
The agreement with which the bill deals is a scandalous one. An amount of £3,000,000 is to be advanced to a company which has inadequate assets and a poor safety record. At the same time there is a deliberate concealment of the affairs of the company concerned by a government that has caused a most serious deterioration in civil aviation standard? over the last few years. The argument advanced by the Minister neither adequately described the bill nor justified the agreement. Back-benchers on the Government side have attempted to justify the agreement by all sorts of claims about the pioneering work of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the untruth of which is apparent to anybody who has even a nodding acquaintance with the fact that subsidies were paid to the company by the Government before Trans-Australia Airlines came into existence, and who is also acquainted with the fact that the Commonwealth spent millions of pounds on civil aviation facilities, purely for the benefit of private companies, also before the inception of Trans-Australia Airlines. I do not think that any logical argument can be advanced to justify the bill. It is noteworthy that the Minister for Territories, and Government speakers who followed him, have evaded mention of the terms of the agreement that are contained in the schedule to the bill, and have contented themselves with general statements about the agreement’s fairness. They have done so because they have flinched from a discussion of the actual clauses that provide for this scandalous advance of public moneys to a company that has no assets, and the waiving of its landing dues, irrespective of whether or not they were legally imposed. In the not-distant future this country will depend largely on aviation transport, and I consider that it is absurd to make either private or public airline companies pay petrol tax, and so raise the cost of the services they render. Since this Government came into office the price of petrol supplied to airline companies has risen from 3s. to 4s. 2d. a gallon. I consider that that is an extremely strong argument for remitting petrol tax to airline companies. I also regard the imposition of landing dues as no better than the medieval tolls that were charged on the highways.
– What about harbour dues imposed on ships?
– It is quite useless for the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) to attempt to make that point against me. I have criticized the imposition of landing dues as an action of the Chifley Government. I am simply making the point that I do consider that landing dues should not be imposed. The Government, of course, has abolished them, but requires Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to make a payment of part of the landing dues that it owes to the Government. However, as the company will be able to make the payment only out of money lent to it by the Government itself, that appears to me to be a completely indefensible proposition. I certainly concur with the view of the Opposition that not the least scandalous feature of the bill is the attempt by the Government to bind future governments to this agreement for fifteen years. If there is any means whereby this utterly unjustified agreement, which the Government proposes to impose on its successors irrespective of what the people may decide at general elections, can be evaded, I should strongly support its being evaded. I consider that a royal commission should be established to inquire into this measure and all the circumstances surrounding it. It is noteworthy that all the forces that supported the Government at the 1949 general election, the private banks, the oil companies, and now this airline company, whose leader, Mr. Walsh, was a conspicuous figure in the general election campaign, have been paid off, and I think the explanation might be found by an audit of party funds.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has referred to the safety records of Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited respectively. For a gentleman who pretends to have some experience and training in the search for knowledge and truth, and who has always led us to believe that he lays claim to be one of the more decent members of this House, he has uttered some of the most poisonous, malicious and false distortions that have been heard in this chamber. The record of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited over a long period is an admirable one. I direct attention to the fact that in the period 1938 to 1948, it had a completely accident-free record. It is only by good fortune that Trans-Australia Airlines has had an equally good run since it was established in 1945. The honorable member for Fremantle, with a commendable regard for his own safety, recounted how he had had some nasty experiences in the Convairs operated by TransAustralia Airlines. I suggest that upon reflection, he will agree that those experiences could, as easily as not, have ended in disaster. If he has any regard for the truth and statistical integrity, he must realize that the situation could change in the next week or fortnight, and that, on the law of averages, the accident rate of Trans-Australia Airlines could easily exceed that of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited over the last few years.
– Does the honorable member intend to return to Western Australia by train?
– I have done more flying than the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The truth of the matter is that all the rules governing flying are laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation, and it has not found fault with either Trans-Australia Airlines or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited regarding any of the accidents that have occurred.
The honorable member for Fremantle then submitted the amazing proposition that, because private airlines operated for profit, they were not concerned with safety. That proposition is amazing and completely false. “What would be the greatest obstacle to any airline making a profit? The obvious answer is: “ Because people were frightened to fly in its aircraft, as it had a bad safety record “. “Which would have the greater desire for a high safety record - a private company which depended for its existence on providing an efficient and safe service, or a government company into which capital could be poured unceasingly, so that it did not matter whether the public utility gave a profitable and safe service? The answer is obvious. The honorable member for Fremantle, in his desire for safety, has got right off the rails.
– It is the function of the Government to prescribe the rules governing flying.
– As the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) rightly reminds me, it is the function of the Government to make the rules and regulations to provide for the safety of those who travel by air, and it is the responsibility of those who provide air services to abide by such rules and regulations. Both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited have abided by those rules and have consistently endeavoured to maintain a very high standard of air safety - a standard which, as has been remarked, is higher than that in any other country. I suggest that if there were not two companies operating side by side in Australia, it might be much more difficult to maintain that standard.
The honorable member for Fremantle again showed a pitiful disregard for accuracy when he asserted categorically, and despite vehement interjections from honorable members on this side of the chamber, that we have consistently attacked Trans-Australia Airlines. Of course, the honorable member was entirely wrong. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) and other honorable members on this side of the House have consistently praised Trans-Australia Airlines.
– Only in this debate.
– The honorable member for Fremantle was referring to Government supporters who had spoken in this debate. Obviously, he had prepared his speech in advance, and paid no regard to what had been said in the chamber this afternoon. No one on this side of the House has any grudge against TransAustralia Airlines as such. “We all recognize that it provides an excellent service, and we are trying to preserve an element of competition between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– The Government is- selling out one of the people’s assets.
– I remind the House that the primary purpose of the Australian National Airlines Act of 1945 wasto put all the private airlines completely out of business. Did we hear any reference then to the people’s assets? Whoseassets did the Labour Government propose to confiscate at that time ? The very suggestion that this Government is selling out the people’s assets is fantastic. Weare trying to protect the assets of those who engage in legitimate business in thiscountry. If there is any doubt about theintentions of the Labour Government - and, thank goodness, the Labour Government was prevented from carrying out those intentions by the High Court of Australia - we have only to refer to the words of the former Labour Minister for Health, Senator McKenna, who, speaking, about the proposed nationalization of airlines, said -
I sympathize with organizations such asAustralian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which have rendered an excellent service, and which may go completely out of existence due to this legislation.
The Labour Government found no fault with the services provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited,, but set out quite ruthlessly and pitilessly to destroy that organization. On that occasion, Senator McKenna had thecolossal impudence to say that he sympathized with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The bill now under consideration may not be the most desirable way in which to organize air services for the public, but, at any rate, its introduction is necessary because of the avowed intention of the Labour party to rid Trans-Australia Airlines of any competition. The Labour party could not achieve that objective by the Australian National Airlines Act 1945, because of the ruling of the High Court, but it has made no secret ever since of its intention slowly to strangle Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which ithe major rival of Trans-Australia Airlines.
A few moments ago, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) interjected that the Government proposed to sell out one of the people’s assets. A great deal has been said in the last few weeks about the sale of the people’s assets. That spurious and “ phoney “ slogan has been uttered ad nauseam by members of the Labour party. What are the people’s assets? They are something which are of value and use to the people. Suppose the Government owned every factory, motor car, farm and every other material item in this country-
Opposition members interjecting.
– The Opposition does not like these hard facts. I am merely asking honorable members opposite to think a little honestly about this “ phoney “ slogan that they have been uttering in the last few weeks throughout the countryside. Do they honestly suggest that any asset or material item, because it is owned by a government, is of more value to the people than it would be if it were owned by private enterprise? An asset is of use to the country only for the services that it provides. Honorable members opposite who speak about the people’s assets must admit that the undertaking at Glen Davis was a colossal liability. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) referred in his speech this afternoon to the fact that the Government proposed to make available to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited money that should have been made available to the States for various purposes. Does he suggest that we should continue to pour millions of pounds down the drain in order to maintain the socalled asset of the people at Glen Davis? Strict accountancy alone should compel him to recognize the falsity of such an idea. I ask honorable members to consider whether the State-owned railways are such a colossal asset to the people. Had they been run by concerns other than governments, would they be the liability to the taxpayer that they are to-day? Would they have been allowed to decay, and fall into the sorry state of disrepair in which they are today? Honorable members who represent electorates in New South Wales in particular, know that the transport system of that .State is in a mess. I do not know whether they claim that various State governments pioneered many transport services for the benefit of country areas, and that is why the railways are not a paying proposition. The truth of the matter is that it is in metropolitan areas where population is densest and where services could be expected to be most profitable, that State transport services in general - there may be one or two exceptions - have fallen into a state of disrepair, for which there is no valid excuse. Bungling and inefficiency on the part of governments are responsible for that state of affairs. The governments did not know how to handle the people’s assets. In this legislation, we are ensuring permanent protection for the assets of the people against bungling socialist inefficiency. I hate to think what would be the future of airlines in Australia with a government monopoly airline, a government that “ ran the show “ to suit its own political purposes.
– What about the Postal Department?
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) can offer no proof that the Postal Department is 100 per cent, efficient. I consider that there is a case to be made out in support of a charge that there is gross inefficiency in many branches of that department, regardless of the government that is in office.
Opposition members interjecting,
-Order! I ask the House to come to order. The debate cannot proceed satisfactorily with this continual interruption. I ask honorable members on both sides of the chamber to remain silent.
– Let us not hear again this spurious slogan about the people’s assets ! I emphasize that assets are of use to the people only when they are used to their maximum efficiency. This bill is designed to preserve for the people of v.ustralia competitive and efficient air services. One of the grave defects of any government organization which is not obliged to preserve a tremendously high standard of competitive efficiency, is that it becomes a plaything for political patronage. Honorable members opposite must be deeply conscious of that fact. I do not need to remind them of recent appointments to various positions because the government concerned had it in its power to make those appointments. Men were appointed to various positions, not for their skill or efficiency in particular directions, but because of their political services. I have in mind particularly the Honorable James McGirr, formerly Premier of New South. “Wales, who was recently appointed to the position of chairman of the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales. I do not know what sort of a sailor he was. I also have in mind the Honorable J. A. Ferguson, a prominent member of the Labour party, who has been appointed chairman of the Milk Board of New South Wales, and Mr. 1. M. Baddeley, a former Deputy Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, has been appointed director of State Coal Mines.
– What about the appointment of Mr. Cleland to the position of Acting Administrator of New Guinea.
– The names on the list are legion. I do not care which government has made the appointments. The tendency is obvious in government enterprises for positions to be filled by political patronage. The people’s assets,’ that honorable members opposite have spoken so glibly about, are dissipated in politically controlled undertakings. The Government that stands aside and watches the people’s assets being dissipated is not acting as a responsible trustee. All governments should ensure that these assets shall be efficiently used, and even increased. Until the people’s assets can be properly used, and they cannot under socialist control, business enterprises will be best left in the hands of those with the skill and experience of properly conducting businesses and making a profit. The Leader of the Opposition said time and again that the people’s, assets would be dissipated because the Government intended to make enormous grants to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in order that that company should be put on the same financial footing as Trans-Australia Airlines. The right honorable gentleman was asked, at least twice during the course of his speech, to correct his statement that the Government intended to make grants to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but he refused to do so. If he had read the schedule to the bill he would have discovered that the Government does not intend to make any grants at all to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The proposal of the Government is merely to guarantee loans by the Commonwealth Bank to this organization.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I appreciate that honorable members opposite do not relish hearing the facts about this measure, and I repeat that the facts are that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been given, according to the agreement, permission to obtain a loan from the Commonwealth Bank, and the Government has- agreed to guarantee the repayment of that money. If Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited borrows the money from the Commonwealth Bank it will have to pay interest, and will ultimately have to repay the loan. Of course the Government will guarantee the repayment of the loan, but then the Government will have a mortgage over the assets of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited so that the loan will be quite secure. There is no suggestion at all in the measure that Australian National Airlines Proprietary Limited will recklessly borrow the money, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) suggested, in order to pay landing dues. To suggest that this company, which is a business concern, will borrow money that it sees no prospect of repaying, mortgage its assets to do so and engage to pay heavy interest, is fantastic and childish nonsense. Honorable members opposite will at least credit Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited with sufficient business common sense not to do that. The company will borrow money only if it can make the maximum profitable use of the money. Therefore, I suggest that the Commonwealth will be making a good investment to lend money which will provide good interest and ensure a better airline service for Australia.
– The Government should show honorable members the balance-sheets of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. They would be very interesting.
– The honorable member has suggested that it would be interesting to see balance-sheets. I suggest that it would be interesting to see the report of Mr. A. B. Corbett, M.B.E., who was chairman of an inter-departmental committee on civil aviation, and who made a report to the previous Labour Government. Mr. Forde, who was then Minister for the Army, commenced to quote that report in the Parliament, and I think that you, Mr. Speaker, asked that the document be tabled. When you did so, there was a frantic flurry among the members of the Labour Government to have it declared a secret document. Since that time the document has not seen, the light if day. The reason for attempting to keep it in obscurity is obvious, because Mr. Corbett later said -
Mr. Forde is reported to have said that the committee of which I was chairman recommended a national corporation. That seems to infer some corporation owned and controlled by the Commonwealth Government to operate airlines. I can only say that no such recommendation was made by the committee, and in the unanimous report it gave reasons for opposing nationalization.
It was obvious why the government of the day hurriedly declared this report a secret document, because at that time it was attempting to wipe the private airlines out of existence. The honorable member for Fremantle suggested that profits should not be considered in the operations of an airline, and that landing dues should not be paid. In other words, he suggested that the taxpayers, and I suppose that 99 per cent, or them do not use the airlines; should provide a luxury service with all modern conveniences for the people who do want to use them. I do not know whether the honorable member realized at the time the implications of what he said, but he should now realize how completely absurd his proposition was. Because the Government provides aerodromes and landing and other facilities for the airlines, honorable members opposite have suggested that the Government is already making a. direct subsidy to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Again that is a completely absurd proposition. Are honorable members opposite so far gone in socialist nonsense that they consider that because the Government constructs roads and bridges and so forth, it should own all the cars that are driven on the roads? That is the parallel to the argument of the honorable member for Fremantle.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) must maintain silence.
– Honorable members opposite have made no secret of their sinister designs on this private company, and they have never suggested that they are in favour of fair competition between the airline organizations. How else can they oppose this agreement? Apparently honorable members opposite want the Government monopoly to operate without the slightest losses being incurred, and to charge more than the price at which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was prepared to carry the mails. Yet they ask why the Government should not provide its own service. That is their idea of trusteeship of the people’s money - that the people should pay more than they need for air services. They suggest that government business should not be shared, and that Trans-Australia Airlines should have a monopoly of it. All that they have said to-day indicates that they have every intention, as the honorable member for Fremantle candidly admitted but as some of his colleagues were not candid enough to admit, of doing constitutionally by slow pressure methods what they once tried to do unconstitutionally.
– Hear, hear !
– It is interesting to hear honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear ! “ to that. The people of Australia will be pleased to hear the parrot-like repetitions of certain honorable members.
– The honorable member must not use expressions such as “ parrot-like “.
Mr.FREETH.- I apologize, but I do suggest that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was being provocative.
– Order ! If honorable members would maintain order these incidents could not arise.
– I appreciate that honorable members opposite do not wish to hear any more from me about this matter-
– Hear, hear !
– They do not want to hear any more because I have convinced honorable members that the suggestion of the Opposition that they would be better equipped than the Government to handle the goods and properties which they have called the people’s assets, is a spurious and “ phoney “ claim. This Government is determined that it will not sell out the people for socialist claptrap, but will preserve the people’s assets for them. I suggest that Australia will be much better off for the agreement that has been signed by the Government.
– One of the most outstanding features of this debate has been the lack of enthusiasm for the measure displayed on the Government side. It is strange that many Ministers have been absent from the chamber to-day during the debate. Not one Minister has participated to-day, and so. far we have heard only speeches by obscure backbenchers on the Government side. We have heard from the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is one of the most barren debaters in the House and who, as a rule, contributes nothing worth while. He did not break his unenviable record to-day.
– He is one of the most distinguished members of this House.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Warringah to-day did not break his undistinguished record for barren debating.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) would not have the brains to know whether he did or did not.
– Order ! Personal reflections are out of order.
– Then wa heard from another honorable member on the Government side, who is usually expected to make some sort of funny speech noteworthy for its rash and silly statements about the Opposition. That, of course, is the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), and his speech was no exception to his general rule. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) shouted and yelled his head off about socialists and made a lot of silly statements about the schedule.
– Order ! The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) is on the treasury bench and therefore is out of order.
– The honorable member for Forrest spoke about bungling and inefficient socialists. I suggest to him that if Trans- Australia Airlines is an inefficient socialist enterprise, then how much more inefficient must Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited be to need the assistance of this bill in order to compete with TransAustralia Airlines? The latter company must be a far more bungling enterprise. I draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that the most junior member of the Cabinet was the only Minister who could be persuaded to in-‘ troduce the measure. One would have thought that the Minister who signed the agreement would have had the courage to present the bill-
– The honorable member knows that he was ill.
– The Minister who signed the agreement, even before the Parliament had given its assent to the measure, is Rohert M’enzies-
– Order !
– I should have thought that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would at least have had the courage to introduce the bill, hut apparently that is not the case. The honorable member for Forrest referred to political patronage. That comes rather odd from him, because one might draw attention to the fact that there has been continual lobbying going on in Canberra ^for some two or three years. For the last two or three months Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has employed a person full time at the Hotel Canberra buying drinks and giving parties in the hope of influencing Government supporters. The lobbyist to whom I refer is at present sitting in the visitors’ gallery in this chamber to observe how honorable members behave. I assure the House that he is not watching me because he has not bought drinks for rue. 1 can only assume that he is watching some other honorable members.
– I rise to order. If I understand the remarks of the honorable member correctly, he is suggesting that honorable members on this side of the chamber have been influenced by some one outside in their attitude to this bill. That is a most serious reflection upon the conduct of honorable members. May lays down that if an honorable member makes a charge as serious as this charge is and cannot prove it, he should either be obliged to withdraw it or be dealt with by the House.
– I rise to order. Apparently, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) objects to a remark that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has made. I submit the honorable member’s remarks are a part of the case that the Opposition is (making in this debate, and that it is open to Government supporters, if they are able to do so, to answer the contention that he is putting forward.
– I heard the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh and I am afraid that he went farther than the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has indicated, because he said that a person was at present in the chamber watching honorable members for the purpose of influencing them. That is the sort of charge which I hoped would not be made in a debate of this kind in which tempers are likely to rise. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has submitted that, according to May, the House may call upon an honorable member who makes a charge of that kind to prove it. That submission is well made; but that is not a matter for me at this stage. It is a matter for the House.
– The person to whom I have referred is not watching me; and I can only assume that he must be watching other honorable members. “What is the composition of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited ? Let us look at the list . of its shareholders. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is nothing more nor less than a combination of shipping companies. It includes Huddart Parker Limited, Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited, W. Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited, the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, each of which owns 1,119,000 5s. shares. The shareholders of that company also include smaller fry. Mr. Holyman and certain other private individuals also hold a few shares. These interests, since Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was formed, have received no less than £2,500,000 in subsidies from the Australian people for the purpose of carrying on their business.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is a person in the visitors’ gallery permitted to take notes during the course of a debate in this chamber?
– If any person is taking notes, that person must surrender them to me. The Standing Orders absolutely forbid a visitor to take notes in the chamber. Will the honorable member indicate to me the person who, he says, has been taking notes ?
– I saw a gentleman in that corner taking notes.
– I summon the Serjeant-at-Arms. I desire it to be clearly understood that no visitor in this chamber is permitted to take notes. The person who was taking notes must see me in my room forthwith. Mr. Deputy Speaker will relieve me in the chair.
– Although the taxpayers have been called upon to provide the sum of £2,500,000 in direct subsidies to this wealthy combination of shipping companies and have made available no less a sum than £11,000,000 to provide for its benefit aerodromes and navigation facilities, they now find that they must provide a further £4,000,000 in the form of a. guarantee to this company in order to enable it to continue operations and compete against TransAustralia Airlines, which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) described as a “ bungling, inefficient, socialist enterprise “. The funny thing about this proposal is that although the Government is able to find this sum of £4,000,000- there is a possibility that it will supplement this amount with a further £2,000,000 or £3,000,000- it cannot find any money at all to enable the States to provide housing for the ordinary, little people. The Minister for Territories in his second-reading speech said -
After the most earnest consideration, the Government adopted a series of principles which followed from its basic policy that the major internal services should be conducted under conditions of active competition. Briefly these principles are -
1 ) Each operator to be given a proper and substantial share of airmail.
Government business to be freely available to both airlines.
Each operator to be assisted financially to acquire new heavy flying equipment.
Let us examine those principles. The first is, “ Each operator to be given a proper and substantial share of airmail “. Why should Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited be given any share of airmail at all? The conduct of airmail services is a government responsibility, and if the Government already controls an air service which is capable of transporting mails, then surely, it is bound to use that service for that purpose. Failure on its part to do so would be much the same as a person who owns a motor car hiring a taxicab whenever he wanted to be conveyed anywhere. The second principle that the Minister enunciated was, “ Government business to be freely available to both airlines “. What would Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited say if the Government introduced a measure in order to compel the shipping companies, which, in the main, constitute that company, to make freely available to Trans-Australia Airlines a share of their shipping business? In that event, they would be horrified and would scream that such a proposal constituted unjust interference with private enterprise. The third principle that the Minister stated was, “ Each operator to be assisted financially to acquire new heavy flying equipment “. On what ground can any one say that it is a function of a government to provide financial assistance to any private enterprise? If private enterprise is so much to be desired, because it is so much superior to socialism, as Government supporters suggest, why does not this private enterprise finance itself? One of the arguments that Government supporters always advance in support of private enterprise is that it saves the public from having to provide finance for socialized undertakings. Members of the Liberal party merely say that they believe in competition, yet, under this measure the Government proposes to force Trans-Australia Airlines to hand over half of its government business to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The handing over of such business could be justified only if it can be shown that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited provides a cheaper and better service than Trans- Australia Airlines provides.
– Not an equally efficient service ?
– No; it needs to be shown that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited provides a Abetter and more competitive service than Trans-Australia Airlines provides. Until that is done, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has no right to be given a share of government business that is now handled by Trans-Australia Airlines. Survival of the fittest is the basis of business competition - the organization that is most capable of providing an efficient service will survive. If Government supporters really believed in competition, they would realize that the Government is not justified in any way whatever in introdducing this measure under which it proposes to enable Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to interfere with the time-tables or air routes that Trans-Australia Airlines may decide to observe or inaugurate. If Trans Australia Airlines desires to provide a new service in any area, or to improve an existing service, it should have a perfect right to do so without being obliged to consult with Australian” National Airways Proprietary Limited at all; and the latter company should have the right to take similar action without being obliged to consult Trans-Australia Airlines. Under this measure, TransAustralia Airlines is to be prevented from hiring, or purchasing, aircraft from any government subsidiary, such as. Qantas Empire Airways or British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, but no provision is made in the bill to give to TransAustralia Airlines a similar privilege in respect of the hire, or purchase, of aircraft from subsidiary companies of the shipping combines that constitute Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This measure, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has so ably pointed out, is completely one-sided. Under the proposed agreement Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is to be relieved of the obligation to pay the sum of £679,000 in respect of air route charges, which that company became indebted to pay during the period of five years ended the 30th June last
– And which Trans-Australia Airlines has paid regularly during that period.
– That is so. Litigation against Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the recovery of that sum for air route charges in respect of which the company has defaulted, was commenced in 1947, but it has not been proceeded with since the present Government assumed office. It would be interesting to learn why members of the Liberal Party are showing such great compassion and tender feeling for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
An Opposition Member. - They may be short of electioneering funds.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. You have already directed attention to the fact that an honorable member who makes a charge against other honorable members is obliged to substantiate it. I submit that the honorable member who has just interjected should be obliged to substantiate his statement.
– If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) wishes to take action along the lines that he has indicated, he must do so by a motion. He may give notice of such a motion forthwith.
– I agree with a previous speaker that it would be most interesting, in view of the allegations that have been made in this chamber, to learn whether or not the Liberal party has, in fact, received contributions to its election funds from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– I rise to order. I ask that the filthy insinuation be withdrawn.
– Order ! That is out of order.
– I ask that the insinuation
– Order ! The word “ filthy “ will be withdrawn without any qualification.
– I withdraw the word “ filthy “ and ask that the honorable member for Hindmarsh be made to withdraw his statement. His suggestion that we have accepted money and have allowed that fact to influence our decisions in relation to legislation is offensive to me as a member of the Liberal party, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order ! Whether the statement be true or untrue, I consider that I am not bound to ask for its withdrawal. I shall have to consider the position if exception is taken to it by any individual member. I suggest that the tempo of the debate be reduced.
– I find the honorable member’s remark grossly insulting to me, and 1 ask that it be withdrawn. .
– Order ! The remark has been described as insulting to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). I must ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw it.
– I rise to 01 aer, Mr. Speaker. iTo reference was made to the honorable member for Lilley by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Any responsibility must be a collective one on the part of the Government and its supporters. No reference was made to an individual Minister or supporter of the Government. I. ask you to consider that fact.
– Order ! I call upon the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– If honorable members on the Government side of the House feel so keenly on this point, I shall not upset their tempei’3 by referring to it again.
– Order ! Does the honorable member withdraw the remark?
– Yes, sir, if you wish me to do so.
– The honorable mein- ber for Lilley has clearly expressed a wish that the offensive remark be withdrawn. Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh withdraw it?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, but I ask you to rule whether, if any reference is made to a political party, any member of that party in this chamber has the right, which the honorable member for Lilley has just exercised, to demand a withdrawal of that reference.
– I think that honorable members have such a right if they consider that the reference applies to them personally. If the position were otherwise, I shudder to think of the damage that might be done to the sensitive feelings of some of my friends on both sides of the House.
– As you have indicated that the honorable mem ber for Lilley considered that the remark referred to him personally, I withdraw it.
The Liberal party, and particularly its mem!bers in this chamber, seems to espouse the principle that socialist undertakings should be condemned when they are unprofitable and sold when they are profitable. Then, when it is in power, it is in the happy position of being able to dispose of the successful undertakings and to use the argument that socialism is bad because the undertakings that remain are not profitable. I have said enough to indicate that the bill deserves much more careful consideration than can be given to it in this Parliament. I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that a royal commission should be appointed to examine all aspects of the agreement to which the bill refers. The full implications of the document cannot be brought to light in the course of a debate in this chamber. Therefore, the agreement should be carefully studied by some competent authority with power to call witnesses and demand, if necessary, the presentation of bank accounts of -persons and organizations. A searching public inquiry should be made into the affairs of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which, up to date, has refused to make information about its financial transactions available to the public. Such an examination, I am confident, would confirm the suspicions that members of the Opposition entertain. I remind the shareholders of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited of the warning by the Leader of the Opposition that their joy at the introduction of this hill may be short-lived. There may be a new government in office after the next general election.
– There will be.
– There is no doubt about that.
– I, too, am certain of the fact in my mind. I warn the shareholders of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited that, if the Labour party wins the next general election, as it is certain to do, it will explore every legal means of invalidating the agreement, which seeks to bind future governments for the next fifteen years. The Labour party will endeavour to re-establish TransAustralia Airlines on its present footing. It will withdraw from the wealthy shipping companies, which have refused to disclose their financial affairs or even to state whether they have earned profits or sustained losses, the concessions that will be given to their airline company under the terms of this bill. TransAustralia Airlines will then once again be able to operate profitably and to continue to provide safe and efficient transport for the people of this great country.
Mr. FAIRHALL (Paterson) r/8.52].- If ever we witnessed a demonstration of the Russian propaganda technique, we did so in this House earlier to-day, when the Leader of-the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) accused his opponents of his own crime. The right honorable gentleman has complained because a statutory corporation is to be made to obey the behest of the Government. Plainly, the Australian National Airlines Commission was established as an instrument of socialism. The Labour Government at the time apparently hoped to hide behind the corporation and prevent its misdeeds from being rectified by a succeeding government. The Leader of the Opposition put a novel construction on the Government’s proposal by suggesting that the taking of business from TransAustralia Airlines would involve a denial of fair competition. In the circumstances, it is reasonable and proper for us to ask the right honorable gentleman whether the taking of business from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in the first place - I refer to the airmail business that was given to TransAustralia Airlines on some arbitrary basis, which involved charges that were certainly in excess of the rates that would have been fixed by means of open tender - was not, in fact, a denial of fair competition.
The Leader of the Opposition based a great deal of his criticism of the proposal on clause 8 of the agreement, which provides that neither the Australian National Airlines Commission nor Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited shall purchase aircraft without obtaining a certificate from the chairman to be appointed under the agree ment. He declared that this would hamstring Trans-Australia Airlines. But he knows well that the Government has interests in Qantas Empire Airways Limited and British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines. We may reasonably judge the Labour party by its behaviour when it was in office, and we have every reason to believe, therefore, that a future Labour government would not hesitate to buy aircraft through either of the organizations and pass the machines to their cousin, Trans-Australia Airlines, to the detriment of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Thus, if the provisions of clause 8 were not included in the agreement, the whole purpose of this measure might be defeated. I pass lightly over the shedding of crocodile tears by members of the Opposition who have lamented the fact that organizations like Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited will be denied entry to the field in which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines operate. The whole purpose of the Labour Government’s action in establishing the Australian National Airlines Commission was to prevent any private company from continuing to operate interstate air transport services.
I support the bill because it will maintain competition. I believe in competition, and I have no apology to offer for my statement that I should prefer to have seen competition in the field of interstate aviation between two privately owned companies. However, we must accept the facts as we find them, and I pay tribute to the quality and efficiency of the -service given by Trans-Australia Airlines, which is not under attack. We may be thankful for the constitutional limitations that prevent Trans-Australia Airlines from establishing a national monopoly of civil aviation. Rather than such a monopoly, I should prefer to have one corporation with 51 per cent, of its shares owned by the Government. The interests of the owners of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, whoever they may be, must be preserved. This Government has a responsibility to those who have subscribed the millions of pounds of capital in that organization.
Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was developed with the aid of private capital. The source of that capital is of no concern to us. It is not a crime for anybody to invest capital in an enterprise in Australia, except, of course, in the view of honorable members opposite. Trans-Australia Airlines was established for the purpose of eliminating competition and establishing a monopoly. That fact was made clear by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) when, as Minister for Civil Aviation, he introduced the measure under which the Australian National Airlines Commission and TransAustralia Airlines were established, with the following words : -
In introducing this measure for the nationalization of interstate airlines .
Of course, there was no reason for us to be astonished by the Labour Government’s action. The policy of the Labour party always has been to introduce complete socialization.
This Government gladly accepts the responsibility to ensure that the reward of the initiative and courage of private enterprise in developing air communications in Australia shall not be extinction by a government corporation backed by all the resources of the nation and aided by a perversion of administrative responsibility in the hands of a government hostile to private enterprise. This agreement represents an attempt to equalize competition between Trans-Australia Airlines, the government undertaking, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the privately owned organization. It provides that the two organizations shall share airmail business and other government business and that finance shall.be made available through government channels, or with a government guarantee, to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the purchase of heavy flying equipment. I remind my complaining friends opposite that there is a need for the Government to make such financial provision only because the confidence of private investors has been undermined by persistent Labour attacks. I do not believe that equitable competition between a government organization and a private organization in the same field is possible.
The Government now proposes that the Australian National Airlines Commission shall pay taxes. This is an empty gesture, in fact, but at least it will give us an opportunity to compare, on something like equal terms, the economic results of the operations of the two organizations. Any suggestion that the* two services will be brought into equal competition by that device would be a» mere fiction. It is not necessary for Trans-Australia Airlines to show any profit upon the capital invested in it. We know that the Treasury will meet any deficit that it may sustain. Therefore, there is no penalty for inefficiency in the operation of Trans-Australia Airlines. I do not intend to imply that there is at the present time or will be in the future inefficiency in that organization. I pointed out a moment ago that TransAustralia Airlines is not under attack in this bill. But it must be realized that a loss incurred by private enterprise in any field of endeavour is a guarantee that investors will deny it further accretions of capital. That circumstance alone indicates the colossal gulf that separates a; government organization from a private organization in the field of airline operations.
The Labour party suggests that the Commonwealth, having established TransAustralia Airlines, is obliged to protect its own undertaking, because it is responsible for the expenditure of public money. I suggest that a greater responsibility rests upon the Parliament. It is a responsibility to protect the principle of impartial government. That principle is always in great danger when a government goes into business in this way. Trans-Australia Airlines is not to be destroyed. It will not be destroyed unless it cannot meet the fairest possible competition that this Government can ensure. Pair competition is a hazard that private entrepreneurs are always willing to face. The aim of the Labour party is to destroy private enterprise in the airlines field by the power and patronage of a government. Labour knows very well that private enterprise does not flourish except in an atmosphere of confidence - confidence that it will be able to carry on its business in a fair field with no favour, and that it will not be plagued from month to month or from year to year by doubts about the whim of some government that is unfavorable to it.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that the airlines industry is a big capital industry and, therefore, is suitable only for conduct by governments, because only governments have access to the capital required. 1 remind the honorable gentleman that the ability of private enterprise to secure the considerable volume of capital that is required for the operation of airlines has been destroyed by the threats of the Labour party. Those threats have been made not only in this field. During the last week, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, which is prepared to expend £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 upon developmental work in this country, has been threatened with a virtual expropriation of a half of its capital investment. What confidence can investors in this country have when there is any prospect that a Labour government will be in office? The members of the Labour party, having destroyed the confidence of investors, say, as socialists always do, that private enterprise has failed, and, therefore, that the government must step in.
The honorable member for Parkes said also that the aim of private enterprise is to make profits. There is nothing very criminal about that. I suggest to my friends opposite that if there is one thing that this country needs more than anything else, it is large accretions of investment capital. Since we are either unwilling or unable to produce that capital ourselves, we must look for it overseas. It must come either from private investment or from the pockets of the taxpayers. Let honorable gentlemen opposite ask the taxpayers which course they would prefer the Government to adopt. I ask my Labour friends also to bear in mind that SO per cent, of the employment in this country is maintained by private investment. For every job in industry in Australia, somebody in private enterprise has invested £800. For every job in this country, £800 has been invested in plant, land, buildings, tools and so on. if we want an expanding economy to take up the unemployment which is the hobby horse of honorable gentlemen opposite, we must have more private investment in business. If the members of the Opposition study this matter a little further, they will find that it is no accident that wages are highest and conditions are best where capital investment is high. Nor is it an accident that capital investment is higher where profit is higher. If my friends opposite want to study facts, let them look at the output of some industries in America, where wages, capital investment and profits are high. Becauseof those factors, and owing to the operation of capitalism in a market that permits adequate profits to be made, theAmerican economy is supporting a half of the world. It is Labour’s continued attack upon private investment and the returns from that investment which constitutes the real attack upon the public interest.
This agreement is an unfortunate compromise. Nobody says that it is perfect, but, having regard to the very difficult position in which the Government was placed, it was the best solution of the problem that could be found. It will be profitable to draw some conclusions from the position with which the agreement attempts to deal. It is a plain warning tj the people that a government does not need to pass a law to crush private competitors, but needs only to use a government enterprise, backed by the resources of the Commonwealth, and to practise a little unscrupulous use of administrative power to complete the economic squeeze. The late Herr Hitler, of unhappy memory, had a .perfect recipe for the destruction of private enterprise. He called it economic annihilation. He applied the same kind of squeeze as that which, but for a High Court decision, the Labour party would have applied to privately owned airlines in this country. The circumstances that have made the agreement necessary are a plain warning to the people of this country, who voted out socialism in 1949, that, despite a certain amount of washing of hands after the general election of that year, socialism remains the platform of the Labour party. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is playing a waiting game for the leadership of his party, has made no bones about the fact that his belief is that broadcasting, insurance, banking and transport should be socialized. That is a warning which the people of this country should keep well in mind.
The position in which the Government found itself in relation to these two airlines demanded this agreement. The demand arose only because of the dangers that are inherent in government participation in business enterprises. Nc Liberal government could stand aside and see a private enterprise wantonly destroyed in the pursuit of socialist policy. Of course, we have some reservations about the provisions of the agreement. We know very well that, if this Government tries to protect its legislation by a long-term agreement, it will evoke, as it did this afternoon, the threat that another government will attempt to upset the agreement. This battle may inflict some deep wounds on the institution of .parliamentary democracy. But, finally, the decision of this matter will rest upon the good sense of the Australian electors. They will have to make up their minds whether we shall have in this country a socialist police state or a democratic free enterprise economy. I repeat that the bill does not represent an attack upon Trans-Australia Airlines. Nothing is to be destroyed, except, perhaps, the policy of economic annihilation, which the Labour party has instituted in connexion with Australian National Airlines Proprietary Limited.
Labour has talked about selling the people’s assets. Did the people of this country ever demand that money should be taken from their pockets by taxation and invested in an airline? The capital for Trans-Australia Airlines came from the pockets of the taxpayers, as will the additional moneys that the organization will require to enable it to remain in this field in competition with private organizations. The charge has been made that we have no mandate for what we are doing at the present time. Let anybody search the records as diligently as he likes, but he will find no shred of a mandate for the establishment of Trans- Australia Airlines in 1945. If the Labour party were entitled at that time, under the general powers of a government, to establish Trans-Australia Airlines, this Government is equally entitled to take this step to protect a private enterprise that pioneered air services in this country. The Labour party, in opposition, tries to prevent the passage of this measure by empty threats. I suggest that this is a matter that will be looked at carefully by the electors at the next general election.
– The electors of Flinders looked at it recently.
– The Opposition can use the result of the Flinders byelection in an attempt to justify almost anything, but nothing will alter the fact that this Government is charged with a responsibility to introduce impartial legislation, and to correct a wretched situation to which the intense partisanship of the Australian Labour party gave rise. The Government accepts that responsibility gladly. I remember that, quite recently, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) said in this chamber that the Labour party is pledged to run Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited out of the air, purely in pursuit of a socialistic policy. If this question has to be determined ultimately on the basis of socialism versus democracy, I have every confidence ‘ that the Australian people will know where their best interests lie.
.- The honorable member for Patterson (Mr. Fairhall) talked a great deal about capitalistic investment in private companies, but he omitted to state why, in his view, the Parliament should agree to this bill. He side-stepped the main features of the agreement. Wild statements about Labour and socialism will not hide the faults of the measure. I oppose the bill. 1 think it is the most outrageous piece of legislation that has yet been introduced by this Government. It is one of a series of bills, each of which was a little worse than the previous one. I remind the House that quite a number of the business organizations in which the Commonwealth has participated over the years were not purchased or established by Labour governments. Shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and in Commonwealth Oil Refineries
Limited were not purchased by a Labour government, but we have been told that those investments by the Commonwealth represent the worst form of socialism and that, by them, the Labour party hopes to be able to control the whole of the industrial and commercial life of this community. A Labour government was not responsible for the purchase by the Commonwealth of 51 per cent, of the shares of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and 51 per cent, of the shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but a Labour government was responsible for the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines. In the case of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Australian people will get something back after the sell-out, because the shares owned by the Commonwealth have been sold at a fairly reasonable price. The taxpayers of Australia will also get something back from their investment in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. But in relation to Trans-Australia Airlines, which was established by the Labour party, this Government has adopted the policy, not of selling’ the undertaking to private enterprise, but of strangling it slowly. The actual effect of the agreement will be that Trans- Australia Airlines, as we know it now, will bo slowly done to death. The agreement will prevent the development of that airline and transfer the business that it now carries on successfully to a private company which is owned by a shipping monopoly whose only interest in airlines is the profit that it can make out of them. Instead of the taxpayers getting back their capital, which has been invested in Trans-Australia Airlines, all of it will be lost. Honorable members opposite have told us all sorts of fancy stories about this matter. It is significant, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) pointed out, that the measure was introduced by, and is in charge of, the second most junior Minister of the Government. Not one Minister has yet risen to defend the bill or explain why it was introduced. Evidently the senior members of the Government have run for cover, and have left the job of endeavouring to convince this House and the people that the agreement is fair to young, inexperienced back- benchers of the Liberal party who are babes in politics, and do not understand the political situation, but who have been taught a few little lessons about the evils of socialism and now come here like parrots and repeat the lessons-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not use such terms. Parrots or birds of paradise or any other ornithological species have nothing to do with the measure.
– I withdraw the term “ parrots “. I shall leave birds out of the matter, but I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that the speeches of the Government backbenchers to-day have all had a similar ling. To listen to them was like listening to a gramophone record being played again and again. In fact, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) sounded as if the record had become cracked, and the needle were repeatedly jumping back to the same place, because he reiterated the same phrases over and over. We have heard from honorable members opposite the argument about fair competition. I shall use the Minister’s own figures to make a point in relation to that matter. He made the following statement : -
By .194.4-45 the passenger miles then be iii: flown on regular routes were approximately 130,000,000. By June, 194G, this figure had increased to 228,000,000 passenger miles.
I remind the House that not all of those passenger miles were flown by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but were flown by other companies also, as the Minister’s statement later made clear. He said that by the 30th June, 1952, the number of passenger miles flown annually had increased to 756,000,000. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had an equal opportunity with Trans-Australia Airlines to capture the additional traffic available. The Minister’s statement that in the year ended the 30th June last Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had flown 277,000,000 passenger miles, whilst Trans-Australia Airlines had flown 320,000,000 passenger miles, means that airlines other than Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines flew about 105,000,000 passenger miles in that year. So whilst small companies such as Ansett Airways
Proprietary Limited, Butler Airways Limited and MacRobertson’s Airways Limited were able to increase the number of passenger miles that they flew, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited achieved only a small improvement. In seeking a reason for that fact we are justified in asking whether Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is being operated on such good business lines as is Trans-Australia Airlines or Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, or any of the other small companies that are not coming cap in hand to the Government to ask for agreements or financial assistance to enable them to carry on.
– The shipping companies do not own those other companies.
– That is so. It appears to me that the shipping companies are not good airline operators, and their airlines cannot stand up to competition. Increased business was available to any airline operator, and the operators who got the business offering were those that could offer the most attractive service to customers. Trans.Australia Airlines was able to provide a better service than was Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and so it obtained most of the business That was available. Probably most honorable members know that many big business organizations in Australia boycotted Trans-Australia Airlines for a number of years, and it is possible that a number of them is still adhering to such a policy. I have met individuals connected with big industrial organizations who have informed me time after time that they would prefer to travel interstate by Trans-Australia Airlines, but that their firms have instructed them to travel by the aircraft of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or else go by train. Many industrial organizations have boycotted Trans-Australia Airlines in relation to the carriage of freight. In the not very distant past I found that on certain days of the week copies of the Melbourne Herald were obtainable in the Parliamentary Library by about 7 p.m. on the day of issue, but on other days they were not available, and could not be obtained until the following morning. I sought the reason for this anomaly and discovered that copies of the paper were available in the Library on days on which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had operated an afternoon service to Canberra from Melbourne, but on days when that company was not operating such a service, although Trans-Australia Airlines was operating one, copies of the Melbourne Herald were not delivered in Canberra. The reason was that the Melbourne Herald was one of the firms that were boycotting Trans-Australia Airlines. So there has been a great deal of unfair competition which has been directed against Trans-Australia Airlines and not against Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. With that form of unfair competition operating in its favour Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited could have captured plenty of new business if it had been operating in a businesslike manner, and Trans-Australia Airlines, and not Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, would now have been languishing, and there would have been no argument about the carriage of interstate mails by air, because that business would only be a small part of the additional business that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited could have obtained by efficient methods. It is because Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has definitely failed as an airline operator that it was not able to capture additional business. Tha figures that I have cited are staggering. They show not only that the establishment of another major airline company in addition to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was necessary to meet the existing demand, but that some airline operators require to smarten up their business methods. TransAustralia Airlines delivered the goods and has done its job successfully despite its having had to face the most unfair competition. The Government is now prepared to jettison it simply because it has succeeded and has become one of the most efficient business organizations in Australia, in order to ensure that a company owned by private interests, most of which operate from outside Australia, shall make increased profits. So as to produce that result the Government asks us to authorize an agreement whereby the taxpayers will subsidize this private company to a greater degree than ever before.
Mr.Bowden. - Not a penny!
-It is asking us to do so in order that the company will be able to make profits to pay to overseas shareholders who are raking off much larger profits at present than they are entitled to. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has interjected to the effect that no subsidies have been paid. I do not know whether it is worthwhile to explain the situation to him, because I do not think he is capable of understanding an explanation. I shall point out to him something that is known to all other honorable members, which is that between 1936 and 1945 Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received the equivalent of more than £2,000,000 in subsidies from the Government.
– -Rubbish !
– It is not worthwhile to explain the matter to the honorable gentleman, because he has heard it explained in this House many times in the past, and if it has not registered before it will not register now.
Weha ve heard a great deal from the other side of the chamber about the unfair tactics of socialist governments in relation to air travel in this country. Let us examine the . provisions in this agreement for financial assistance by the Government to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. We are told that we must enter into this agreement to ensure fair competition and efficient airline services and so that the companies will bc able to compete fairly against each other. But what do we find? The first proposal in the agreement is for the Government to guarantee a Commonwealth Bank overdraft of £3,000,000 to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in order to enable that company to buy new aircraft. I suggest that every other company in this country has required ‘additional capital in recent years. Most of our big business organizations have increased their capital in recent years, in some instances by two or three times, but I have no recollection of any trading concern having come to the Government, cap in hand, and asked it to guarantee an overdraft. As the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) has said, they obtained the money they needed from private investors. I mention, incidentally, that we have seen private transport services competing against the State railway systems, without asking for Government assistance. They found the necessary capital for themselves. Every other kind of business organization that has required additional capital has obtained it from private investors. Why, then, should this company, which is owned by some of the biggest shipping combines in the world, that have capital to burn and are making millions of pounds of profit every year from shipping and other activities, come cap in hand and ask the Government to guarantee an overdraft of £3 000,000 so that it can buy half a dozen new aircraft in order to compete against the Government’s airline? That is, in effect, what is being done. This generous Government says, “ We shall lend you £3,000,000. If Trans- Australia Airlines buys more than £3,000,000 worth of new equipment, we shall lend you an additional £1,000,000, and you need not begin to repay it until after the expiration of ten years. We shall also reduce your ground charges, although Trans-Australia Airlines has been able to pay the full amount and show a profit on its operations “. According to the scanty information given to the House, I find that in the last couple of years Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has refused to pay ground charges amounting to between £800,000 and £900,000, and has shown a loss on its operations in that period. Because of those factors, the Government now says, “If you will pay one third of the amount you owe, we shall not ask you to pay the other two-thirds, and shall enter into an agreement with you so that, in future, regardless of what it costs to provide the necessary equipment and services for the operation of your aircraft, we shall charge you only 50 per cent, of the existing charges “. That is a good thing for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Evidently it is the Government’s idea of free competition between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
The Government claims that it desires to strengthen Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited by reducing its costs and lending it money so that it will be able to compete successfully with Trans-Australia Airlines. Clause 7 of the agreement relates to the rationalization of air services. What is meant by that proposal? Services will be rationalized in such a way that competition between Australian ‘ National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines will be abolished. One suggestion which has been made is that it is uneconomical for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines to send planes from say, Melbourne to Sydney, or from Melbourne to Perth, at approximately the same hour. The idea underlying the rationalization of services is that if Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited despatches a plane at S a.m. from Melbourne to Sydney, Trans- Australia Airlines will despatch its aircraft at 11 a.m. or noon, so that one service will not compete against the other, and each aircraft will have a full complement of passengers. Under that form of rationalization, the traffic will be divided between the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. This week, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will make all the daylight flights, and TransAustralia Airlines will make all the night flights. Next week Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will make all the night flights and Trans-Australia Airlines will make all the day flights. Under such an arrangement, is not competition between the two services abolished ? The possibility of fair competition between them is effectively killed.
– So is the service to the public.
– Yes, because there is no need to worry about the requirements of the travelling public. The people will have no choice. A person who wishes to take an aircraft leaving Melbourne at 8 a.m. to-morrow may have to travel by the Trans-Australia Airlines service. If he wishes to leave Melbourne at 8 a.m. next Thursday, he may have to travel by the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited service.
Clause 8 of the agreement relates to the hire or purchase of aircraft. If the Trans-Australia Airlines service becomes more popular with the public than the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited service, despite all the restrictions that will be placed upon it, and Trans- Australia Airlines desires to buy a new aircraft, the Government is prepared to lend any amount up to £1,000,000 to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in order to enable that organization to purchase a similar aircraft. In that w-ay, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be saved from slipping too far behind TransAustralia Airlines. Such a proposal will effectively kill every form of competition between the two services. The whole proposal is outrageous and disgraceful. The Government insults the Parliament by asking” it to agree to this bill.
I say deliberately that Ministers, instead of adorning the treasury bench, should be standing in the dock, facing the serious charge of conspiracy to defraud the people of Australia, in the sense that they are taking millions of pounds of the people’s money and handing it over to a private shipping monopoly, so that it may effectively kill a first-class business organization that has been established with the taxpayer’s money. It is only because of the undoubted success of Trans-Australia Airlines that this particular attack is being made on it at the present time. The Government is determined that no public enterprise shall be permitted to carry on efficiently. At every opportunity the Government is attacking a public utility that is showing a profit. I have no doubt that the Government, if it were able, would be prepared to hand the Postal Department, which is one of the best organized and most efficient business organizations in Australia, over to private enterprise. The Government is hawking Commonwealth-owned ships all around the world, and will be prepared to sell them, to any bidder. It is quite a possibility that if the Government succeeds in selling those ships, we shall see them under the Japanese flag successfully competing for business on the Australian coast a couple of years later. We must take precautions against such a happening.
This Government is definitely setting out to destroy the assets of the people. I use that phrase deliberately, because the young and inexperienced honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) thought he was very clever in asking what are the assets of the people. I have pleasure in informing him that Trans-Australia Airlines, the Postal Department and the Commonwealth shipping line are assets of the people. While those assets are owned by the people, they will be controlled and conducted in the interests of the people, and not in the interests of a small body of capitalist monopolists, such as the small group of shipowners who now control Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I, as a representative of a section of the people, will do my best at all times to ensure that the assets of the people shall be protected, and that the people shall obtain the full value of them. If the proposed agreement in this bill comes into operation, it will be only a short time before the shipping combine will control all air services in Australia. When that combine has complete control over Australian air services, as it has succeeded in gaining control of the shipping around the Australian coast, we shall find that a valuable asset of the people has gone, and that an individual who wants to travel by air or send freight by air will be “bled white” by excessive charges. The first and only consideration of the combine will be bigger and better profits for its shareholders.
If the young member for Forrest could remember what happened in 1924 and 1925, he would have a knowledge of our experience with the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers in those days. An anti-Labour government purchased a number of vessels, which performed a fine service for the people, particularly primary producers.
In competition with private enterprise, the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers kept fares and freights down. Eventually, an anti-Labour government sold those ships for a fraction of what they were worth. The government received about one-half of the purchase price, and the balance of the money has not yet been paid. The honorable member for Forrest should study what happened in those days, because many of his constituents are primary producers. As soon as the Bruce-Page Government sold the Commonwealth-owned ships, in the late 1920’s, private shipping companies increased the freight on wheat carried between Australia and England by from 25 per cent, to 35 per cent., and the freight on wool by more than 25 per cent. If the Commonwealth-owned ships arc again sacrificed by an anti-Labour government the primary producers, whose alleged representatives are present in this chamber–
-Order! I ask the honorable member to bring his remarks somewhere within the scope of the bill.
– I shall do so. The alleged representatives of the primary producers advocate the giving away of Trans- Australia Airlines. If this Government disposes of the Commonwealthowned ships, the primary producers will be the first to suffer. I am not making a prophesy. I have merely been giving the honorable member for Forrest a brief lesson in Australian history, which hy failed to learn in the past. Unless the Parliament rejects the proposed agreement, the successful governmentcontrolled airline will pass into the hands of a combine. I oppose this bill with all my strength. In my opinion, it is the most iniquitous measure this Government has yet introduced. It should be put in the wastepaper basket, where it rightly belongs.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has accused the Government of selling out the assets of the people. 1 suggest to him that if he is of that. opinion, he should get in touch with his colleagues in the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, because they have sold, or are in the process of selling, many things which the honorable member would call the “ assets of the people “. I need only mention that the New South Wales Government has found it necessary to sell the State brickworks, and proposes to allow private enterprise to rebuild the Hotel Kosciusko, which was destroyed by fire. In other words, the Labour Government in New South Wales believes that such concerns can be conducted more efficiently by private enterprise than by a government. Various undertakings hitherto conducted by the States are being sold, because socialist, enterprise has been quite incapable of running them efficiently. But this Government is not selling the assets of the people. It is protecting the assets of the people, and is selling socialism.
The honorable member for Wills has complained that the Government is relying on its supporters on the hack benches, instead of on Ministers, to carry on this debate. All I can say is that if the Opposition members who have spoken so far are to be regarded as the big guns of the Labour party, the calibre of later speakers will be pretty small. The honorable member for Wills, in company with other Opposition speakers, considers that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has failed as an airline operator. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) believes that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should get new business only if it can provide more cheaply a service similar to that now conducted by Trans-Australia Airlines. I know that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has a particular interest in aircraft. According to him, you get into the aircraft at Parafield, take six dramamine tablets and become violently ill, and leave the plane at Canberra. He should realize that there is more than that to the operation of an airline. He has said that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is not operating its services as cheaply as is Trans-Australia Airlines. If he will examine the figures, he ‘will find that his statement is incor rect. I think I can show that in almost every case-
– Why does not the Government produce the document?
– Why did not the honorable member for Maribyrnong produce the document in 1945, when he was the Minister for Air?
– I was not asked to produce it.
– The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Forde, was asked to produce the document. It is a fine distinction. Every increase of fares and freights that has occurred in recent times has been brought about by TransAustralia Airlines. In 1945 Trans- Australia Airlines took over Guinea Airways which operated an air service from Adelaide to Darwin. That air service was taken over by the simple process of refusing to renew Hs licence and offering to buy it. Within three months of that action the fares on the Adelaide-Darwin route were increased by 50 per cent. I now refer honorable members to a report that was tabled in this House to-day and which indicates that the fares of airline operators were put up by 15 per cent. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) asked why Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not charge less for its services. Honorable members should know that airline companies are not allowed to charge less than the fixed amount. If honorable members will read the report about airlines operations during last year they will discover that Trans-Australia Airlines made representation for an increase of 15 per cent, in their charges a considerable time before Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited agreed to that rise. The report reads -
At the beginning of the financial year, costs had already risen so greatly beyond the levels on which the tariffs then existing were based that an early increase in fares of 15 per cent, was fully justified in order to maintain profitable trading conditions.
The matter was discussed with the other major operator in July 1051 and it was obvious that the impact of rising costs was felt similarly by the Airline. However, agreement to adjust the fare structure by 15 per cent, was not reached until April, 1952.
Therefore, far from Trans-Australia Airlines assisting the public by maintaining cheaper services, it is rather the private airlines that are trying their utmost to keep fares down. They are doing so because they know that they will only get the business necessary to keep them going if they can give the public the service they require at a price that will compete with the fares charged, not only by TransAustralia Airlines, but also by all forms of rail, road, and sea transport. The Opposition has made great play about what it has called the Government’s attempt to undermine Trans-Australia Airlines. The one thought in the minds of honorable members opposite seems to be that at all costs the general good of the Government airline should be maintained and that the good of the general public does not need to be considered. When this Government assumed office, it could have done several things. It could have taken no action at all about airlines, in which case it was certain that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited would have been forced out of operation and Australia would have been left with one airline which could have charged whatever it liked, with the proviso that it would still have been competing with road and rail transport and would therefore have had to charge economic fares. However, the Government decided that it would be far better to maintain competition between our two big airlines. The Government could have amalgamated Trans- Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited into one large company, but decided against doing so. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said to-day that the Government had no mandate for the action proposed in the bill. I refer him to the joint policy speech by the Government parties that was delivered before the general election in 1949. On. other occasions copies of this speech have been very evident among honorable members opposite, but to-day they have been conspicuous by their absence. In the joint policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
As for the Government airlines, which were designed by the Chifley Government to bring monopolies (and failed to be so only because of a High Court decision) we shall put them on a true competitive basis with no preferences either in cheap capital or dollar expenditure.
The intention of the Labour party was perfectly obvious. It wanted to arrange for complete nationalization of our airways, and when it failed to do so because of the High Court, it attempted to do so by other and more subtle means. The means that it adopted was to give all airmail business to Trans-Australia Airlines. When the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) was introducing the Australian National Airlines Bill in 1945, he claimed that the amount that was then being paid to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to carry airmail was about 50 per cent, more than what it cost to carry the mail. At u at time he said -
It can be demonstrated that all payments for the carriage of mails on a poundage basis at present rates constitute a subsidy of at least 50 per cent, of the payment that is made.
At that time Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was being paid 025d. per lb. a mile. Its total payment for the carriage of airmail was £155,000 a year. Now, the charge which we were told was 50 .per cent, too high, is paid to Trans-Australia Airlines, and it has increased to .06d. per lb. a mile, and brings in £600,000 to Trans-Australia Airlines.
– It is £540,000.
– I stand corrected on that matter, but I do suggest that this sum is a direct subsidy to Trans-Australia Airlines, which makes it impossible fo” Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to compete with that organization. The Government intends to divide that amount almost evenly between the two major airlines, and I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who is at present at the table, to tell the House how much of that money has already been paid. I have been informed that sonic time ago Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received a letter from the Prime Minister stating that mail business would be given to that company immediately, but so far T believe that very little has been so given. It is time that the promise was implemented. Another means used by the Opposition to drive Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited out of the airline business was to impose exorbitant landing charges. 1 would be the first to admit that we spend enormous sums of money on aerodrome construction and maintenance, and on other aircraft facilities. This year the cost of air facilities will be more than £11,000,000. That sum will be made up of £4,000,000, which will be expended on works, the remainder being expended on maintenance and air facilities. Honorable members may consider that a proportion of that sum should be paid by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and I believe that that company is quite prepared to assume responsibility for a proportion of it. Then the question arises, what should the proportion be? Australian National Air ways Proprietary Limited has stated that since its inception in 1937 it has paid £3,780,000 in primage and duty on petrol alone, and also £3,000,000 in income tax, pay-roll tax, and other taxes. Surely it has contributed something towards the enormous cost of the Department of Civil Aviation.
– How much has it paid in route charges since 1947?
– If the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) will’ read the bill he will discover that. If he reads the paper that was tabled in this House to-day he will gain more information. I consider that it is not fair to expect Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to pay a great proportion of the amount that is expended by the Department of Civil Aviation, because that money is expended without reference to the company, and in many instances the company considers that money is spent which should not be spent. To illustrate my argument I shall mention the case of the aerodrome at Narrandera. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited operated from that aerodrome in 90 per cent, of all weather conditions. In the other 10 per cent, of all weather conditions, when the aerodrome was out of service, the company used the Forest Hill aerodrome at Wagga, or the Uranquinty aerodrome. When the company did that it had to carry its passengers only 40 miles by motor vehicle, and it considered that its service was adequate. However, the Department of Civil Aviation considered that the
Narrandera aerodrome should be an allweather landing field. Under this bill, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be asked to bear a share of the cost of making the aerodrome into an all-weather field, even though it does not believe that such action is necessary. Another example which may be considered by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, is the case of the aerodrome at Warrnambool, in Victoria. About £100,000 is to be spent there on aerodrome construction. Warrnambool is close to Hamilton and in the event of the Warrnambool field not being serviceable, the Hamilton field could be used. Eventually, of course, the air service to Warrnambool will be put out of business by the Victorian railways, if that organization puts in an efficient diesel-electric service. The Victorian railways have already arranged a diesel-electric service to Benalla, and have put the competing air service out of business.
I suggest that it is of no use to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on aerodromes which will be serviceable for a few years and then will be unnecessary. The only way that air transport can compete with railway transport to Warrnambool is by the use of helicopters. At the present time two types of aircraft are suitable for this service. One carries 24 passengers and the other 40. They could be used for a direct service from Melbourne over a distance of 200 miles. They cruise at about 150 or 160 miles an hour, but they do not need enormous aerodromes to land or take off. Unfortunately, the whole of our air development seems to be along the lines of larger and larger aircraft, which require longer and longer runways. The time has now arrived when aircraft constructors must consider that the aircraft they construct will have to operate from reasonably sized runways. In order to bring the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome in Sydney up to international standard, about £20,000,000 has been spent on it. Now, because of the opening of the new route to Europe from Western Australia through Cocos Island, that aerodrome will no longer be our international airport. Aircraft will no longer come to it from England and Europe, although it will still cater for the Pacific services.
Now we shall have to spend an enormous amount of money to construct a suitable aerodrome in Western Australia. It is time that we looked into the policy that causes the unnecessary expenditure of large amounts of money. I consider that the only work necessary at the Fairbairn aerodrome, at Canberra, is to increase the apron way, but it is intended to expend £40,000 on improvements. I recommend that the Government should obtain the services of a recognized expert on civil aviation, so that we shall be able to obtain the benefits of his experience about the building of aerodromes. In a country of this size we cannot expect that all our aerodromes will be permanent all-weather structures. When Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was operating in the Kimberleys, it built an aerodrome for £100. That was the cost of grading two runways at right angles to each other. Yet that aerodrome was sufficiently serviceable for the company to carry 5,000 head of cattle from it in one year.
We must abandon our policy of enormous expenditure, and we should invite a man of international standing, such as Dr. Plesman. of K.L.M., possibly the most eminent aviation expert in the world, to come here and advise us about aviation matters. Alternatively, we should invite Air Vice-Marshal Bennett, who is an Australian and was operating the British-South American Airlines for some time, or some other eminent authority. If a person of that type came to Australia and showed us that only one of the 238 works proposed by the Department of Civil Aviation was unnecessary, the saving would pay for his services. If that were done we should have a sound policy. At present, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is obliged to pay air route charges without being given any say in the expenditure of that revenue. The third method that the Labour Government used to fight Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was to provide that Government business should be handled entirely by Trans-Australia Airlines. Such a provision is unfair. Consequently, this Government proposes to give to holders of a Government warrant the option of travelling by either service.
Evidence is not wanting that many departmental officers are antipathetic to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That attitude must be broken down. Indeed, Ministers could set an example in that respect by patronizing the organization which they really believe suits them better. Labour’s fourth method in fighting against Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was to make dollars available and to grant import licences to Trans- Australia Airlines whilst refusing such facilities to the private organization. Whilst the Labour Government financed the purchase ‘ of Convairs for Trans-Australia Airlines it refused to permit Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to purchase additional aircraft from overseas.
– That is untrue.
– If the statement I have made is incorrect, I apologize; but I have been informed on good authority that when Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited sought a permit to purchase DC4’s overseas the Labour Government rejected its request. That government also greatly assisted TransAustralia. Airlines by relieving it of the obligation to pay income tax. Labour’s attitude towards Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be completely altered under this measure. The Labour Government in its fight against Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited adopted a policy under which Trans-Australia Airlines provided a service in areas in which services were already being provided by private companies and in which the traffic offering was not sufficient to warrant. the introduction of an additional service. In such instances, Trans-Australia Airlines said to the private operators, in effect, “ We are going to knock you out “.
– Where did that happen ?
– In the belief that the average person would prefer to travel by the more modern plane, TransAustralia Airlines placed a DC3 aircraft on a service from Townsville in competition with a service that was already being provided with a private company called Tacar. However, that idea <lid not work out in that way, and the private company was able to survive. The Labour Government also used various other sharp practices. Tor instance, Trans-Australia Airlines is listed in every telephone directory under the entry, “ Australian National Airlines Commission “. It is so listed in the directory for Canberra and for every other centre, but the fact is that the commission is in Melbourne and has no officers in any other city, or town. The idea in listing Trans-Australia Airlines in telephone directories in that way is to confuse people who might naturally assume that the number shown beside it is the number for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is commonly known as “ A.N.A.”. I know that certain persons who intended to ring Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited have been confused by that entry and when they have asked, “ Is that A.N.A. ?”, have been answered in the affirmative.
– That is deliberate deceit.
– Yes. Honorable members opposite have made great play on the safety factor. My colleagues have dealt adequately with that aspect. Surely members of the Opposition realize thai no aircraft is permitted to take off unless it complies with the regulations which are enforced in respect of every aircraft. For instance, I should not be allowed to take off in my own aircraft with a load in excess of 2,000 lb., or if the centre of gravity of the aircraft were less than twelve inches or more than 21 inches from the leading edge of the mainplane An airworthy certificate must be issued in respect of an aircraft before it is allowed to take off, and the regulations require that each aircraft shall be fitted with proper wireless equipment and shall not be overloaded. Obviously, no aircraft operator would be so foolish as to try to break the law. He realizes that he cannot afford to do so because of the risk that he may lose his licence.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that this Government is preventing Trans-Australia Airlines from continuing its pioneering work. That was a remarkable statement, because I have not been able to ascertain any instance in which that organization has done pioneering work except in providing a service to Corowa and a service to a few places in the Gulf country. The main pioneering work in civil aviation in this country has been done by private companies. Recently, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited achieved one of the greatest pioneering feats in this sphere in any part of the world when it established the air beef service in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
– Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited jumped in oil that service after the MacRobertsonMiller Aviation Company Proprietary Limited had pioneered it.
– Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is planning to extend that service to an enormous degree. That company intends to purchase in England Blackburn freighters, which are capable of carrying loads of up to 26 tons, to replace the Bristol freightors which have a capacity of only 6 tons. That is the latest evidence of pioneering work on the part of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Trans-Australia Airlines is not engaged in similar activity. The Leader of the Opposition, who is a lawyer, said that if and when the Australian Labour party is returned to office, it will immediately reverse this programme. I am not a. lawyer, but I have been informed that, legally, this agreement will remain binding upon any government that succeeds the present Government, just as it will remain binding upon Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Recently I made inquiries in respect of an agreement that related to a lease to which the Government was a party, and I was informed that Queen’s Counsel had given the opinion that even if the present Government decided that the terms of the lease were unsatisfactory, it could not break the lease without the consent of the other party to it. I thoroughly agree with the provisions of the bill, which I believe will be the means of giving to Australia an excellent standard of competition between our two existing major airline organizations.
.- The Australian Labour party makes no apology whatsoever for saying that the present position of Trans-Australia Airlines should be maintained. The members of the Australian Labour party have always advocated, and as far as possible, have implemented the principle that transport services should be publicly owned and controlled. We are not alone in holding that view. Eminent figures in other political parties have made announcements in conformity with that principle. For instance, Viscount Bruce, when he visited Australian in 1947 said -
The apostles of private enterprise realise that there are certain activities - such as transport, electrical power, and ether vital services - which should be controlled by the State on behalf of the people as a whole.
No one would suggest that Viscount Bruce is a supporter of the Australian Labour party. On the 24th July, 1943, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
Few people would have any quarrel with government control of railways, or tramways, or water supply, or such other great public utilities.
Therefore, members of the Australian Labour party are not alone in advocating that the present position of TransAustralia. Airlines should be maintained. The object of this bill, which, of course, is sugar-coated, is ultimately to eliminate Trans-Australia Airlines. For many months past the future of this organization has been in the melting pot. Various propositions have been canvassed in public by interested parties which have utilized every conceivable method to attack Trans-Australia Airlines. Over a period of months, inspired articles were published in the newspapers with the object of implanting in the public mind the idea that there is no need for the existence of two major airlines. It is apparent that Government supporters in this chamber hold that view. A certain amount of kite flying was indulged in by these interested parties in order to learn the trend of public opinion on this matter. First, it was rumoured that the Government intended to sell Trans-Australia Airlines to private enterprise. As such a proposition would mean the establishment of a monopoly in civil aviation, the public reaction, which was instantaneous, was adverse, and consequently the Government dropped that proposition as though it were a hot cake. The second proposition that was put forward was that Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should be amalgamated. That proposition also caused a public outcry because the general feeling, as it still is, was that it was difficult to see how the public interest could be served by such a merger. Everybody realized that Trans-Australia Airlines was operating successfully, and that the danger of a monopoly was inherent in such a proposition. Gallup polls showed conclusively that the public would not have anything to do with a merger. Even the newspapers, of which nine out of ten support this Government, opposed that proposition in no uncertain terms. For instance, editorials were published in Melbourne newspapers warning the Government that it would do a great disservice to the country if it brought about such an amalgamation. The Government was obliged to jettison that proposition. All the time, however, the Government has had at the back of its mind that, ultimately, it must dispose of TransAustralia Airlines. Consequently, it has now introduced this bill under which it proposes, not to dispose of Trans-Australia Airlines, but to hamstring that organization by handing over half of its governmental business to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government’s avowed objective is the destruction of Trans-Australia Airlines. It is all very well for Government supporters to say that there is room for the two major airlines. I have no doubt that if the Government had been able to get its way in the first instance, it would have taken action to destroy Trans-Australia Airlines, but desisted from doing so only because of the public outcry that was raised in protest against such a proposal. However, it is patent that the ultimate objective of this measure is to destroy the people’s airline. I have not the slightest doubt that, should the present Government remain in power for four or five years longer, Trans-Australia Airlines would cease to exist. Fortunately, that will not happen, because the people will certainly change their government eighteen months hence, and the security of Trans-Australia Airlines will bc assured.
Trans- Australia Airlines was established six years ago in very difficult circumstances. As the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has said, an unofficial boycott was imposed upon it by many business houses, whose principals considered that the Government should not have entered the field of air transport. Scurrilous attacks were made on the organization, both inside and outside this Parliament. For example, when the Australian National Airlines Commission decided to buy aircraft of a certain type, members of the anti-Labour opposition at the time declared that the machines were dangerous and would crash. Those machines have flown many millions of miles without accident. Members of the anti-Labour parties did everything possible to sabotage public confidence in the young airline. Nevertheless, Trans-Australia Airlines emerged triumphant from its trials, and to-day it enjoys the complete confidence of the people. No other commercial enterprise of that nature has achieved such a meteoric success in such a short space of time against such obstacles. The organization stands high in the public esteem. It is a shining example of a successful government enterprise, and it renders a service that is unsurpassed in Australia. This bill will stultify its future development, and will nullify much of the good work that it has already done. The Government realized that it could not attack Trans-Australia Airlines on the ground that it usually selects for its condemnation of government enterprises. Its standard complaint, as we know, is that socialized enterprises do not make profits, and. therefore, must be sold to private enterprise. That argument does not apply to Trans-Australia Airlines. From that point of view, the organization that should be sold is Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which has not paid its way.
The Government has decided to make a pretence of placing Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on a competitive basis. In fact, it intends to impose re strictions upon Trans-Australia Airlines for the deliberately calculated purpose of making its operations unprofitable. This is intended to be the first step towards its ultimate destruction. As soon as its operations are conducted at a loss, the way will be made clear for its sale to private enterprise. The main fault of Trans-Australia Airlines in the eyes of the Government and its supporters is that the organization has been too successful. Had it not been so successful, it would not have become the target for the attacks of Government supporters to-day. Its success has aroused envy and jealousy amongst Government supporters. They do not like successful government enterprises, which confound the principles that they have espoused for the benefit of vested interests. The confidence of the people in their own airline organization is undoubted. The volume of passenger traffic handled by Trans-Australia Airlines is the best barometer of public confidence. By that standard, it is forging far ahead of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Because it enjoys the confidence of the people, the Government has deliberately planned a surreptitious and furtive method of assassination. The Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation engaged in specious reasoning in his secondreading speech. He referred to the straitened financial circumstances of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and said that the company had to be fortified by a government guarantee. The Labour party has legitimate reasons for its opposition to that contention. The proposition is most unbusinesslike. It is ridiculous for a so-called business government to suggest that 123 members of this House should pass judgment on the proposal without familiarizing themselves with the relevant facts. We have not been able to ascertain the true financial position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
Surely we are entitled to examine its balance-sheets before we are called upon to give our decision.” ] doubt that the straitened circumstances of the company envisioned by Government supporters are a reality. A quick examination of the list of shareholders of the company, to which reference has been made by previous speakers, is sufficient to engender the gravest doubts on the subject. Those shareholders are not poverty-stricken organizations. They consist of five affluent shipping companies, which have long waxed fat on the profits that they have won from the Australian people. They have paid large dividends to their shareholders consistently year after year. We may be pardoned, therefore, if we are sceptical of the Government’s suggestion that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is in financial difficulties. A very dangerous precedent will be established by the Government if it guarantees the overdraft of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for a large sum. I submit that the company should be placed in exactly the same position of that of a man who applies to his bank manager for an overdraft. Such an applicant is required to explain his financial circumstances and to satisfy the manager that he will be able to repay the loan that he seeks within a specified period. He is subjected to a most searching inquiry. That is the proper procedure, and I know that members of the Government and their colleagues agree with me on that point because they constantly praise businesslike practices. However, they tell us that it is a different matter when the Parliament is asked to act in the role of bank manager to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. They say that we must not inquire into the company’s financial circumstances before we agree to guarantee its overdraft. But we have every right to demand that the method of doing business that is followed by the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks be followed in this instance.
The companies that own shares in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited command an immense concentration of capital. Goodness knows what their resources aggregate. The total must be at least £30,000,000, although it is probable that, they far exceed that amount. Surely these shipping companies could have provided an amount of £3,000,000 without calling for a government guarantee. The Government’s proposal does not make sense, and it will not make sense to the Australian people when they learn all the circumstances. It is the height of absurdity that the Government should assist the rival of Trans-Australia Airlines. I have been interested to hear the unusual arguments that some of the protagonists of private enterprise in this House have employed in order to support the Government’s plan. The bill represents a very poor compliment to private enterprise. Honorable members on the Government side of the House frequently tell us that the main qualities of private enterprise are a sturdy self-reliance and a wholesome independence. They say that business should sink or swim by its own efforts and should not be dependent upon government benevolence. But, in this instance, we are told that a private commercial enterprise cannot survive without government support. Therefore, I consider that the bill is a poor tribute to much -vaunted private enterprise. The position would be Gilbertian if it were not so serious. Gilbert never in his wildest flights of imagination envisaged such a ridiculous situation as will arise under this bill. If he were alive to-day, he would certainly conceive a comic opera that would surpass any of his previous efforts.
This Parliament will be recreant to its trust if it passes legislation that will weaken Trans-Australia Airlines in any way, because Trans- Australia. Airlines has the whole-hearted support of the people and the Parliament has a duty to them to ensure that this fine enterprise shall not be strangled. The history of the organization records a steady process of expansion year after year in all phases of its activities. It enjoys the confidence of the airtravelling public. Last year the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked the Minister for Civil Aviation to disclose the percentage of passengers to available seats carried by the aircraft of the three major airlines in Australia. The Minister replied that the percentages were as follows: -
Those figures show that Trans-Australia Airlines was more popular than were the two private companies. The details of passenger-miles flown by Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft, which other honorable members have mentioned, prove that the government undertaking has a more satisfactory record than has Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Trans-Australia Airlines carried 670,000 paying passengers in 1951-52, which represented an increase of 9.9 per cent, over its total for the previous year. Those results have not been achieved merely by accident. They are due to overwhelming public confidence in Trans- Australia Airlines. The organization has become an essential part of Australia’s transport system.
The Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation referred to seven principles upon which the bill was based. I shall refer to each of those principles, because the reasoning by which the Government seeks to support them is quaint, to say the least. The first principle, according to the Minister, is that every operator should be given a proper and substantial share of air mail business. Government supporters declare that Trans-Australia Airlines is successful and that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been failing because all airline is carried by the government airline. T point out that, during the last twelve months, the revenue earned by Trans-Australia Airlines from the carriage of airmails has represented only 7.2 per cent, of its total revenue. The financial success of the company has been due, not to the airmails contract, but to a combination of factors. The main reason for its success is that the people of Australia have confidence in it. This bill proposes that the carriage of airmails shall be shared by the two companies. I. cannot follow the Government’s reasoning on that matter. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which wants airmails to be carried, is a government instrumentality, conducted in the interests of the Australian people. TransAustralia Airlines is also a government instrumentality, conducted in the interests of the Australian people. Yet it is to be treated savagely. Half of its airmail contract is to be taken from it and given to its rival.
For seven years, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had a contract from the Government to carry airmails. On the termination of the contract, the Government had every right to give a fresh contract to another organization, if it so desired. In the business world, it frequently happens that one firm loses a contract and that the contract is given to another firm. The Government had a very good reason for giving the airmails contract to another organization. When the contract terminated, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was charging an exhorbitant price for the carriage of airmails. That is the main reason why it lost the contract. In 1943-44, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received from the Government £7S3,000 for carrying 3,368,000 lb. of airmails. In 1950-51, Trans-Australia Airlines received £540,000 for carrying 5,694,000 lb. of airmails. Trans- Australia Airlines charged less than did Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I remind the House that in 1943-44 wages were lower than in 1950-51. Operating costs were also lower, and petrol was much cheaper. In addition, the network covered by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was much smaller than that covered by Trans-Australia Airlines during the last four years. I repeat that the main reason why Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited lost the airmails contract was that it was profiteering at the expense of the Australian people, and was charging greedy prices. It could not expect a government such as the Chifley Government, which had the interests of the Australian people at heart, to continue to pay ridiculously high charges for the carriage of airmails when its own airline could carry those mails much more cheaply and satisfactorily. I suggest that that argument cannot be contraverted by any Government spokesman. The fact that Trans-Australia Airlines has provided a much cheaper service is a legitimate reason why the existing arrangement should not be altered, but the Government, in its frenzied endeavours to do the best that it can do for its friends, is prepared to take a half of this lucrative business from Trans- Aus tralia Airlines and to give it to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, with the idea that, in three or four years, Trans- Australia Airlines will go out of business and the way will be open again for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to raise the charges for the carriage of airmails to the level that obtained in 1943-44. Unfortunately, in this proposal to share the carriage of airmails, the Government is actuated not by motives of common sense but by the motive of assisting Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, regardless of the damage that may be inflicted upon TransAustralia. Airlines in the process.
The second principle stated by the Minister is that Government business should be freely available to both airlines. I find it difficult to follow that line of argument. Surely a government should give its buisness to its own airline. Private enterprise, as far as possible, keeps business within its own ranks. If a firm has a subsidiary company, it gives its business to its subsidiary whenever it is possible to do so. That is common sense and accepted business practice. Therefore, whenever possible, Government business should be given to Trans-Australia Airlines. It is not sound business tactics for a so-called businessminded government to help the competitors of Trans-Australia Airlines in their openly avowed efforts to force that company out of business. That is the purpose of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited under present circumstances. It will utilize all possible means and methods to achieve its purpose. This is one method of doing so. The Government is not prepared openly to assist Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to force Trans-Australia Airlines out of business, but, having taken business from Trans-Australia Airlines, and having made it an unprofitable undertaking, it will say to the people that the undertaking must be abandoned.
The third principle stated by the Minister is that each airline should be assisted financially to acquire new heavy flying equipment. That appears to be a most illogical approach to the problem. Why give financial assistance only to Australian National Airways Proprietary
Limited ? Why not assist all other private airlines? They have an equal right to assistance from the Government. They have no wealthy shipping companies to back them. On a basis of equity and justice, the Ansett company and other airlines have a far greater right to assistance from the Government than has Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. My strongest objection to giving any financial assistance to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is that the biggest shareholders in the company are wealthy shipping interests. I must emphasize, even at the risk of being called to order for indulging in tedious repetition, that it is extremely dangerous for the Government to inaugurate this practice. It is quite clear that the Government is determined to help its friends in their campaign to smash Trans-Australia Airlines, regardless of the methods used.
The fourth principle to which the Minister referred was that the level of airroute charges paid by airline operators should be substantially reduced. There is something humorous about that. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has not paid a brass farthing in respect of air-route charges, whilst TransAustralia Airlines has paid £682,000. The government instrumentality accepted its obligation,, but Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was not prepared to do so. It is supposed to be a law-abiding firm, but it connived to evade the law. It said that it thought the law was unconstitutional, and stated that it was not prepared to pay air-route charges until that matter had been decided by the High Court. For some reason, the case did not come before the court. Apparently, the Government kept it back. I have not the slightest doubt that the Government did not intend that the case should ever be heard. It wanted to devise methods to assassinate the people’s airline.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.– It is evident that members of the Opposition are endeavouring to give the impression that this bill is designed as an attack upon Trans-Australia Airlines. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) admitted that his statements that it was an attack upon Trans- Australia Airlines verged upon tedious repetition. I assure him that these statements were not only tedious but also entirely false. The reverse is the case. As that charge has been made, let me point out that Trans-Australia Airlines was established by a Labour government as a socialistic enterprise, for the purpose of smashing one of the pioneer aviation companies in Australia. There is no question about that. Honorable gentlemen opposite have admitted in this debate that that is so. They have gone as far as to say that, when they are returned to power, whenever that may be, they will reverse the action that the Government is taking to protect both companies, and will revert te their original plan.
It is a matter of history that that plan was frustrated. Nevertheless, the Chifley Government did not abandon its basic purpose that Trans-Australia Airlines should operate in such a way as gradually to force the other company out of business, and so enable it to achieve its socialistic objective, despite the ruling of the High Court. I want to place upon record my opinion that Trans- Australia Airlines, as a result of the splendid work of its staff and management, has become a very successful enterprise, and must be continued in its present form. I know that that opinion is held strongly by honorable members on this side of the House. Therefore there is no foundation for the cheap sneers of honorable gentlemen opposite that the bill is designed to smash Trans-Australia Airlines. When TransAustralia Airlines had been operating for some time, it became possible as a result of the very fine work of its staff and of the increasing demand for air services throughout Australia, for the two major companies to operate side by side, to the great advantage of the people of Australia. In my opinion, as a result of the development of a second company, there was an improvement of air services. Having said that, I point out that the basis upon which Trans-Australia Airlines was established remained unchanged. The intention of the Chifley Government was that ultimately Australian National
Airways Proprietary Limited should be unable to continue in business.
If this Government, which believes in fostering private enterprise and in fair competition, had permitted the present state of affairs to continue, it would, either directly or indirectly, have followed the policy of its predecessor. It is obvious that, in introducing this measure, the Government is acting in conformity with the policy upon which it was elected. If it had permitted a state of affairs to continue in which one company had an unfair advantage over the other, ultimately Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited would have been forced out of business. The position that would have existed then would have been that for which the Chifley Government had planned. There would have been one big monopolistic airline in Australia. I have no hesitation in saying that monopolies of any kind, either private or governmental, are anathema to this Government. We will not tolerate the existence of either, in this measure, the Government has set out to rectify a state of affairs in which a monopoly, either government or private, would eventually have been established. It has recognized the great services to aviation in Australia that have been rendered by pioneer companies, foremost amongst which is Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government has said, in effect, that it will not tolerate any action that would mean that an organization such as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited could be crushed as the result of government policy. Another purpose of the legislation is to preserve for the people of Australia the fine service that has been established by the management and staff of Trans-Australia Airlines. That is a brief summary of the objects of the legislation. The Opposition has criticized the Government’s proposals. It seems to me that its criticism stems from the desire of honorable members opposite to prevent the people from realizing the real truth about this measure. It is the same kind of attempt as is often made by honorable members opposite to mislead the people about the real meaning of the Government’s actions. The honorable member for Batman, in such tedious repetition as he himself referred to, charged us with having the avowed objective of smashing Trans-Australia Airlines. He said that the bill “ sowed the seeds of ultimate destruction of Trans-Australia Airlines “. Let us examine some of the provisions of the bill, in order to ascertain the nature of the seeds and to judge whether or not they will have the result that the honorable member has forecast. The main provision of the agreement to which the bill is intended to give approval is that government business will be shared equally between the two major airline companies. That is to say, when members of the Parliament or Government employees travel by air, they shall have the right to select the service by which they will travel. Is there anything wrong with that proposal? After all, is it not right that members of the Parliament and public servants should be given the opportunity to choose how they shall travel? Why should they be instructed that they must travel by a particular air service? Honorable members opposite have had a lot to say about freedom of choice. The rule, previously in force, that members of the Parliament and government employees might not choose the air service by which they would fly, was nothing but a socialistic proposition and was directly opposed to the free choice of individuals. So that seed is obviously a very infertile one.
The bill also provides that the carriage of mails shall be shared between the two major airline companies, and it may be shared possibly with other companies in the future. It is interesting to note that although the honorable member for Batman contended that those provisions would have the effect of smashing TransAustralia Airlines, almost in the next breath he said that the loss of airmail business would mean nothing to Trans-Australia Airlines, because it represented only 7 per cent, of its total business. According to that honorable member, while Trans-Australia Airlines will not be concerned about having its mail-carrying activities cut in half, the loss of that business will smash it. Another A’ery infertile seed !
I turn now to route charges. After a considerable investigation by a committee it was decided that, in the interests of the development of civil aviation throughout Australia generally, and particularly in outlying areas, and in view of the increasing costs of operating air services, it was reasonable for the Government to reduce route charges to give a fair opportunity not only to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but also to TransAustralia Airlines and other companies, to operate at a reasonable profit and so be able to develop in consonance with the i: creasing demand for air services.
Mr. Drakeford interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) must remain silent. He is stating his ideas now quite explicitly.
– I was only asking a question.
– Another of the seeds which will apparently smash TransAustralia Airlines! The Government’s proposal to give financial assistance, first of all to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, to ensure that aircraft used in the service of the people shall be up-to-date, has aroused the criticism of the Opposition. I do not see that any charge can justly be levelled against any government that sets out to ensure the provision of the best possible services for the people. Furthermore this so-called seed is also available to Trans-Australia Airlines and any other air service that might later be included in a similar agreement. So there we have another most infertile seed ! Finally, the bill provides that Trans-Australia Airlines is to pay taxes. That may be said to be a new departure, but, after all, was it not a result of a provision of the original arrangement that, although Trans-Australia Airlines did not actually pay taxes, all its profits went into the Consolidated Revenue Fund? TransAustralia Airlines might find it a relief to become a taxpayer rather than to pay all its profits into government revenue. Those are the main provisions of the bill, which the Opposition regards as the seeds that the Government is sowing which will result in the smashing of Trans-Australia Airlines.
I believe I have shown the statements by the honorable member for Batman and other honorable members opposite to be nothing but sheer balderdash. The honorable member for Batman has also contended that, as a result of the operation of this measure, Trans-Australia Airlines cannot possibly succeed. He referred in one breath to the meteoric success of the airline, and in the next breath said that as a result of the operation of this measure that company must inevitably fail. The two statements do not seem to be consistent. If honorable members opposite care to ask members of the staff of Trans-Australia Airlines whether they believe that Trans-Australia Airlines will fail as a result of this measure they will very soon find their minds disabused of that false idea, because my impression of the opinion of the members of the staff of Trans- Australia Airlines, many of whom I know, because I always travel by Trans-Australia Airlines, is that there is no need to fear that this measure will in any way affect the successful operation of the airline. They would also tell honorable members that they would not mind if any other company were to share the carriage of mails, or other government business, with Trans-Australia Airlines, because the, are confident that their own initiative, capacity and efficiency will enable them to continue on their present successful course. I consider that the statements, made in this House for political purposes, that Trans-Australia Airlines must fail as a result of the operations of the measure, will be strongly resented by members of the staff of Trans-Australia Airlines. I suggest that honorable members opposite take opportunity to check my assertion when they next come into contact with members of that staff.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) made other criticisms of the measure. He criticized the provision under which the Government, in his own words, will “ give a grant “ to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. He said it was a terrible thing that we proposed to “ give “ that company an amount of £3,000,000. That statement is entirely incorrect. We do not intend to give anything to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. We are simply guaranteeing a loan to it to the amount of £3,000,000. At the same time, themeasure contains certain provisions under which Trans-Australia Airlines might be placed in a similar position should the necessity arise. The honorable member also said that it was scandalous for the Government to propose a long-term agreement. Apart from the fact that it is perfectly obvious that a company of the size of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which will require to expend many millions of pounds in the years to come in order to operate efficiently, must have some long-term security, there is a point that the honorable member for Fremantle has apparently missed completely. When he accuses this Government of doing a scandalous thing by tying future governments to a long-term agreement he is, in effect, condemning the Chifley Government, of which he was a supporter, because it made agreements to which this Government became heir, and which in many cases have stultified Australian progress. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has faced, and faces, great difficulties in relation to the development of our primary industries because he is heir to a number of long-term agreements that were effected by the Chifley Government, in which were laid down conditions that this Government was in honour bound to observe. It is, therefore, foolish for members of the Opposition to criticize us because, in order to give security to a valuable institution, we have entered into an agreement to which, if by any mischance they are ultimately returned to office, they would be forced to subscribe, lt has been enlightening and interesting to hear honorable members opposite continually reiterate the assertion that immediately they attain office they will scrap this agreement. Such assertions will at least let the electors know what is likely to happen if the Labour party should regain office.
The honorable member for Fremantle attempted to make disgraceful and scandalous play, to use adjectives that he himself used, with the safety factor in air travel. He stated that the safety record of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was one of the worst in the world. I say that that was a disgraceful statement, because it cannot be sustained by proof, and also because it will cause, entirely without basis, a certain amount of distrust and disquiet in the minds of people. I recall that, when the Chifley Government was in office, and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) was Minister for Civil Aviation, questions were asked by members of the then Opposition about certain things that had happened in relation to Convair aircraft, soon after they were first used in this country. The then Minister for Civil Aviation was at great pains to charge the members asking such questions with the desire not only to discredit Trans-Australia Airlines, but also to cause a feeling of disquiet in the minds of the people generally. He condemned such actions. The statement made by the honorable member for Fremantle is of a much graver nature than were those questions, and should never have been made.
– It was, in effect, a criticism of the Department of Civil Aviation.
– Tes, because, after all, the safety of our airways is primarily in the hands of the Department of Civil Aviation, and, secondly, in the hands of the mechanics who service the aircraft and the pilots who fly them. It is disgraceful to level such a charge against a company for the purpose of gaining political capital. To suggest that the Department of Civil Aviation is not carrying out its job in relation to the proper supervision of safety precautions ; that the mechanics would service aircraft in such a manner as to make flights dangerous, and that the pilots would fly aircraft in such a way as to endanger their own safety as well as that of the people flying with them is utterly deplorable. It is a regrettable fact that on a few occasions in the past, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was unfortunate enough to suffer accidents of the sort that are associated with every kind of transport. To suggest that the fault lay with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is, in my opinion, a great deal more scandalous than anything with which the honorable member could charge the Government. I am convinced that the real motive of the opposition of honorable members opposite to the bill is their disappointment that the Government is carrying out one of the pledges on which it was elected to office, which was the breaking up of socialist enterprises and the encouragement of free private enterprise. Apparently, they were beginning to believe that the Government would let them get away with one of their chief socialist enterprises. They are bitterly disappointed because their hopes have not been realized, and are trying to do everything in their power to discredit the Government, and create a false impression in the minds of the people about our objective. One of the principal pre-election promises that we made in 1949 was that we would encourage the development of private enterprise. We are honouring that promise, and shall continue steadily to carry out that policy, whilst at the same time refraining from any mad destructive action in the opposite direction. I commend the bill, because I consider that it is one of the finest pieces of legislation that the Government has yet introduced.
Mr. W. M. BOURKE (Fawkner) f 11.1 J. - The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson), like other Government supporters who have spoken on this bill, was obviously ill at ease when he tried to defend what must surely be regarded as the most scandalous piece of legislation introduced during the current session. The honorable member did not analyse the provisions of the bill, or attempt to justify them, or give us reasons for their insertion in the legislation. He merely picked out small, irrelevant and unassociated scraps from speeches of previous speakers, and proceeded to answer those points without relating his remarks to the really basic provisions of the legislation.
– He put up an Aunt Sally or two.
– Yes, he put up a few of his own making, and proceeded to bowl them over. However, he paid a well-deserved tribute to the work of Trans-Australia Airlines, and denied that this legislation was intended to smash that undertaking. According to him, Trans-Australia Airlines is an institution that should be retained. He then mentioned that Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited would share mail contracts and government business, but it was most noticeable that he skimmed over the really outrageous provisions of the legislation, which undoubtedly constitute a grave public scandal. I refer to the provisions under which the people of Australia will guarantee the overdraft of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and, in certain circumstances, will actually make advances to that organization. The honorable member for Dawson did not mention those matters, or analyse their dangerous implications. I propose to examine the bill clause by clause, which he failed to do. The Civil Aviation Agreement Bill 1952 is a remarkable piece of legislation, which contains only five clauses. The first is the short title, and the second informs us of the date on which the measure will come into operation. Clause 3 reads as follows : -
The agreement made between the Commonwealth and Australian National Airways Proprieta ry Limited, being the agreementa copy of which is set forth in the schedule to this Act, is approved.
The agreement contained in the schedule has a currency of fifteen years. In this innocuous-looking clause, we have a very dangerous principle. The Government, which represents for the time the people of this country, has entered into an agreement with a commercial organization. That agreement is to continue for fifteen years. Opposition members take serious objection to the agreement, but it cannot be altered. The agreement is n binding contract between the Commonwealth of Australia and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. No matter how vehemently and definitely the people may indicate their opposition to this legislation, this agreement will continue. If a Labour government, which represents the intentions of the people on this matter, decides later to terminate the agreement or refuses to continue some of its scandalous provi sions, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will have ground for legal action against, and will be able to obtain compensation from, the Commonwealth. Therefore, that clause is dangerous. The Government knows that its popularity with the people is rapidly receding and that it will meet its fate next time it faces the electors, yet it is binding the Commonwealth of Australia to an agreement so that future governments will be committed to a course of action of which they are not likely to approve. The introduction of such a principle in legislation is dangerous and undesirable.
Clause 4 of the bill reads as follows: -
The Commonwealth may give such guarantees, and make such advances on loan, as are provided for bv the agreement referred to in the last preceding” section.
That clause introduces another remarkable departure from established practice. The Commonwealth is not merely guaranteeing the overdraft of a private commercial organization, but is actually agreeing, in certain circumstances, to advance money to it, despite the fact that the organization has practically unlimited financial resources at its disposal. However, the Commonwealth, under this clause, assumes authority to give guarantees, or make advances to this commercial organization.
The last clause of this short bill is as follows : -
The Australian National Airlines Commission constituted under the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1947 shall do all such things as the agreement referred to in section three of this Act provides that the Commission will do.
This is another really amazing principle being written into legislation. The Australian National Airlines Commission, which conducts Trans-Australia. Airlines, is declared to be bound by the provisions of the agreement, to which it is not a party. To say that such a provision is astonishing is to put the case very mildly indeed. The commission is not a party to this agreement, yet it is being compelled to accept conditions which will clip its wings, reduce its volume of work, and strengthen its competitor. I have examined the seventh annual report of the commission, which was laid on the table of the House thi» afternoon. In that document, this instrumentality expresses its views on the Government’s airlines policy. Of course, those views are very guarded. One would not expect that such a corporation would criticize Government policy. But it is clear, when we read between the lines, that the commission is by no means happy about the action that the Government is taking in this bill. The commission states, in its report: -
Associated with the Government’s decision is a direction that airmail which previously had in the main been carried by T.A.A. shall lie shared between T.A.A. and A.N.A. Pty. Ltd. on the routes where they are competing.
Another paragraph to which I draw attention reads as follows : -
The Commission has throughout made it clear that transference of portion of the airmail will have an unfavorable influence on its overall finances, and must affect the ability of Trans-Australia Airlines to itself bear the cost of unprofitable but highly valued developmental services, particularly in the Gulf Country and Channel Country of Queensland.
As I read that paragraph, I detect a clear protest of the commission against the reduction of some of its profitable business, and a warning that its finances will be affected, and that its capacity to carry on developmental work, which is of great importance in the outlying parts of the country, will be curtailed. I shall complete the paragraph, so that I shall not be accused of taking matter out of context. It reads as follows : -
We have been assured that special provision will he Hinde to meet any loss on these services in future.
The hill makes no provision for a special payment in order to enable TransAustralia Airlines to meet any loss on these services in future, and we can only come to the conclusion that, if as the result of being deprived of governmental business Trans-Australia Airlines ceases to operate on a profitable basis, as it has been in the last three years, the provision to enable the organization to carry on its developmental work in the outback areas will be met by a subsidy from general revenue. In other words, the Australian taxpayer will be called upon to foot the bill, and make good the losses that will be incurred as the result of the Australian taxpayer being called upon to subsidize Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
I desire to pay some attention to the financial aspects of the agreement. This matter was barely mentioned by the honorable member for Dawson. This amazing agreement provides that the Government shall guarantee the repayment to the Commonwealth Bank of loans not exceeding a total of £3,000,000 which will be made by that bank to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in order to enable the company to purchase six Vickers Viscount aircraft. The first point that occurs to me, when I examine that clause, is that it appears that the Commonwealth Bank has been made an indirect party to this arrangement, whether it desired to be a party to it or not.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I presume that the Commonwealth Bank has been instructed to make this advance of £3,000,000 to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. We do not know whether the company has adequate security for such a loan, because £3,000,000 is a considerable amount of money. The paid-up capital of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is only £1,500,000. According to the Minister’s secondreading speech, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been making losses over the last fewyears which amount to approximately £400,000. On the inadequate information that has been given to the House, the lack of security is such that any bank would look twice at such a proposition before it would be prepared to advance the considerable sum of £3,000,000. A few moments ago, the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) asked how I know that the Commonwealth Bank has been made an unwilling party to this arrangement. If the bank was prepared to advance that sum of money on a straight-out business basis, and the security was available, there should not be any need for the Government to give the guarantee. The fact that the Government has felt itself constrained to guarantee that amount indicates that, in normal circumstances, the bank would not be prepared to take the risk.
The next clause in the agreement is even more astonishing than the previous one. There is considerable justification for the assumption that, even with the Government’s guarantee, the company may have difficulty in obtaining finance. In order to enable Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to replace its present aircraft as they become obsolescent, a further advance up to a total of £4,000,000 will be either guaranteed by the Government or, if the finance is not obtainable on that basis, the Government actually agrees to advance the money on loan from its own revenue.
– A scandalous provision!
– It is a scandalous clause. The agreement is to the effect that during the next ten years Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be entitled to draw under Commonwealth guarantee or loan up to a maximum amount of £4,000,000. In most agreements under which money is to be advanced, or guaranteed, there is a considerable amount of detail about the method of its repayment. However, in this agreement the only such provision is that the money advanced or guaranteed shall be repaid by regular instalments in the shortest time practicable, but in any event before the expiration of the period of the agreement in fifteen years time. I maintain that the action of the Government is unprecedented, in so guaranteeing or contributing money out of its own resources to enable a company to purchase modern aircraft to carry out its operations.
The most scandalous part of the proposal is that this company which the Commonwealth proposes to subsidize, is not a pauperized company, because its shareholders are mainly wealthy shipping concerns which could quite easily find the £4,000,000 if they so desired. Any one of the five shareholding shipping companies that control Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited could probably find £4,000,000. In order to substantiate this argument I propose to refer to the balance- sheets and financial records of these shareholding .companies. The Government should advise the House why such discriminatory treatment should be given to these shareholders, in the light of the fact that they could supply the money themselves. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is a proprietary company registered in Victoria, with a paid-up and issued capital of £1,500,000. There are a number of small minor shareholders in the company, but the five major shareholders are shipping companies, each of which holds 1,119,636 5s. shares. One of the shareholding companies is Holyman Brothers Proprietary Limited, but no information is available about its financial resources because it is a proprietary company. Another shareholding company is Huddart Parker Limited, and, without going into full details of its financial position, it has assets valued at £5,145,170, and of those assets, shares and debentures in other companies are valued at £1,400,000 and cash and bonds at £1,254,310. Therefore, that company has sufficient money on hand to subscribe over £1,000,000 to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Moreover, this concern made a profit last year of £255,000 and paid a 12 per cent, dividend on its shares. The Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, another major shareholder in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, has fixed assets valued at more than £4,000,000, and government securities, bank deposits and cash on hand of £1,190,482. Therefore, that company also could immediately obtain more than £1,000,000 in cash, and subscribe it to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
The other two shareholding companies are the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited and the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited. They both have resources worth millions of pounds at their disposal, and both are subsidiaries of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the assets of which run into tens of millions of pounds. Therefore, honorable members will realize that we are dealing with a shipping combine that is .one of the wealthiest groups operating in the world. The assets of the Orient
Steam Navigation Company Limited, according to a British shipping finance book that I have studied, were valued at more than £12,000,000 in 1949- the latest figures available. Of that sum, government and other quoted securities which could be immediately realized were valued at £4,988,000. Honorable members will perceive that this company alone could subscribe to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited the £4,000,000 which the Government intends to advance to it. The assets of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited are valued at more than £7,000,000. Therefore it could make its contribution. The Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited and the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited each possess enormous assets, including tremendous cash resources, and t!u;y are practically wholly owned by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company whose assets are valued at more than’ £39,000,000, including £11,723,685 invested in government stocks. It could subscribe £4,000,000 to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited from its liquid resources. What is the reason why the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the other shipping companies do not intend to put money into Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited? Is it that they do not regard it as a good investment? I suggest that honorable members on the Government side might answer those questions.
It is astounding that companies which own such huge liquid resources should not make them available to their subsidiary company in order that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should be permitted to carry on. I suggest that they should be happy to invest their surplus funds in one of their own subsidiaries. In view of the facts that I have put before the House, the Government should explain why it has guaranteed money which the shareholding companies of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, could very well afford but apparently will not advance. Despite the fact that the Australian Government is proposing to make this unwarranted and un justified contribution to the resources of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, it has not placed the financial position of the company before the Parliament. Honorable members, as the representatives of the people, are being forced to give the sanction of the Parliament to these amazing financial arrangements in the absence of any information about the financial position of the company itself. That is an astonishing state of affairs. If Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should convert itself into a public company and invite the public to subscribe to its capital, it would be obliged under the law to make it3 financial position public and to publish its balance-sheets so that the public could be informed about its assets and liabilities. In this case the Government, which represents the people, is putting money into Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but there is no clause in this astonishing agreement to provide that the company shall reveal to the representatives of the people, and consequently to the people, anything about its financial position. If the Government proceeds with this legislation it should at least lay before the Parliament full details of the financial position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government has ample precedent for such an action. Recently, the House adopted a measure under which assistance was granted to the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. In order to become entitled to that money, these sovereign independent States had to place before the Commonwealth Grants Commission, an agency of the people, full details of their financial affairs.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12 midnight.
Thursday30, October 1952.
– I listened attentively to the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), but his logic was somewhat puzzling. His principal criticism of the agreement embodied in this bill was that the Government proposes to lend money to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on what he considers is poor security. He doubts the capacity of that company to repay the loan. But his next argument was to the effect that, in any event, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not need the money, because its shareholders were wealthy shipping companies and its resources enormous. The honorable member cannot have it, both ways. Hp then criticized the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) who, he said, was not at ease in defending this measure and alleged that other Government supporters were speaking under difficulties when they defended the bill. I can disabuse his mind of these fears. I have no hesitation in supporting this measure. I sincerely welcome its introduction. Its general provisions, which have been well known to members of the Government parlies for some considerable time, have been received by Government supporters with unanimous approval. The measure can be understood only when one considers it against the background of air services in Australia. It sets out to right a wrong that was done by the clumsy attempt on the part of the Chifley Government to socialize airways in this country. The first attempt was by legislation and the High Court declared the relevant measure to be ultra vires the Constitution. Following that setback, the Chifley Government, dismayed and angered by its inability to ride roughshod over the Constitution, proceeded to achieve its objective by stealth. It established TransAustralia Airlines with the declared’ intention of driving Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited out of the air. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) directed the attention of the House to a plain and unvarnished statement made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) that the Australian Labour party was out to drive Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited out of the air. That peculiarly damaging admission by that honorable member will not be forgotten either in this House or outside it.
The issue before the House is socialism versus private enterprise, and that issue is posed for honorable members in a particularly clear form. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was doing extremely well in the early post-war years. At that time, it was well able to cope with increasing traffic and to maintain a high standard of service. It had a safety record that was more than comparable with that of the best air services in any other country, and it ran its service economically. It carried the country’s airmail and developed a freight traffic ; and, in addition, pioneered new routes, in which sphere it had done more than its share in the early clays of civil aviation in Australia. Then, in 1946, the Chifley Government, adhering to its harmful doctrinaire policy, determined to nationalize air services. We know that its first attempt failed when it was challenged in the High Court. Subsequently, that Government determined to nationalize air services by the back door method. The dispute which had occurred between the private operators, of which Austraiian National Airways Proprietary Limited was only one, and the Chifley Government, arose, if my recollection is correct, over the payment of charges by the Chifley Government for the use of aerodromes. The private companies successfully challenged the validity of those charges in the court. The Chifley Government, piqued at it0 inability to do as it liked with private enterprise, decided to drive them out of the air. A situation then arose similar to the one created by the Chifley Government’s attempt to nationalize the private banks. The Government placed more and more onerous obligations upon the private banks until, eventually, one of them successfully contested its latest and most harmful attempt to control them. Mr. Chifley then announced that he would nationalize the lot. Thus began the eclipse and downfall of the Austraiian Labour party in this Parliament. It was a similar attitude of mind that moved that dictatorial Government to endeavour to drive private operators out of the air. Having failed to achieve outright nationalization, it deliberately, stupidly and obstinately brought about created a situation from which there could be no satisfactory exit. Thus, if members of the Opposition object to certain aspects of this bill they have only themselves to blame. By establishing Trans-Australia Airlines with the object of driving Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited out of the air, the Chifley Government, but for the intervention of the people at the ballot-box, would very soon have been left in undisputed possession of the airways of this country.
Do the people desire that air services should be nationalized ? Do they desire that the Government should have a monopoly of such services? I say emphatically that they do not. A study of the Australian nationalized railway system and of the nationalized road transport services in some of the States, reveals the effect of over-capitalization, over staffing, the subordination of efficiency to the political search for votes, an inability to keep abreast of the times and a steady and inexorable decline. The people of Australia recoil with horror from the prospect of the air services in this country being brought under the same dead hand of bureaucratic control, unenlivened by even a semblance of competition. And they rightly ask whether the present undoubted high standard of Trans-Australia Airlines could be maintained if it were given sole possession of the air. Members of the Opposition have not been unduly scrupulous in their search for sticks with which to beat Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which, to them, is a symbol of sturdy independence and which, in their Marxist zeal, they are determined to crush. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), in a speech which did him little credit, compared the safety record of Trans-Australia Airlines with that of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I was sorry to observe that other honorable members opposite made a similar comparison. The fact is that Australian aviation, as a whole, has a very high and enviable safety record that has not been achieved by air services in any other country. I earnestly hope that that record will be fully maintained in the future. But, in the field of aviation, the possibility of human error is always present, not only in flying operations but also in the maintenance of aircraft. There is always an element of chance. Consequently, I listened to those comparisons of safety records with dismay. Whilst the record of one company is unblemished and that of the other is very high, the balance between the two could bo altered by misfortune practically overnight. Honorable members will do well to remember that Australian safety records in civil aviation are very high. Sordid comparisons of the kind that honorable members opposite have made savour rather of tempting providence. The making of comparisons did no credit to honorable members opposite.
I emphasize that the purpose of this bill is, as far as it is possible to do so, to right a clumsy socialist wrong. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) used the notorious metaphor of his socialist superior and suggested that one could not put the feathers back on a bird that had been plucked to make a Marxist triumph. One cannot completely rectify a wrong. I repeat that if the bill contains provisions of which members of the Opposition do not approve, they have only themselves to blame. The introduction of this measure has been rendered necessary in order to right a wrong that Labour perpetrated in defiance of the Constitution. The Chifley Government established a situation to which there could be no satisfactory conclusion. But in this situation, the present Government has done remarkably well in reaching this agreement with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited which it now asks the Parliament to ratify. The agreement will ensure that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited shall be enabled to continue operations assured, as far as it is possible to provide such an assurance, that it will compete on equal terms with Trans-Australia Airlines. I say as far as it is possible to provide such an assurance, because I doubt whether fair competition is really possible between a government organization and private enterprise. When two great enterprises, one of which is government controlled and the other is controlled by private enterprise, exist side by side, the advantages that lie with the government organization are so great that I doubt whether it is really possible to provide effectively for fair competition.
However, so far as the Government can ensure such competition, it seeks to do so by this measure. Whether it will succeed remains to be seen; but this bill is an attempt on its part to do so. Therefore, the measure should be commended.
As the honorable member for Fawkner did, I propose now to examine the agreement. I draw from it very different conclusions from his. First, the agreement is to operate for a period of fifteen years. The honorable member for Fawkner objected very strongly to that and argued that this Government should not seek to bind future governments by concluding an agreement operative for a period of years. But, when the Opposition adopts the wholly reprehensible tactics of declaring that whatever the Government does to-day it will undo to-morrow, I consider that the Government is entirely justified in endeavouring, when righting this socialist wrong, to give some assurance of continuity to the company concerned. The agreement is entirely justifiable in those circumstances, and, if the Opposition objects, it should blame its own dishonorable tactics. The agreement provides for the financing of the purchase of new aircraft by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This provision binds the Government not to lend, but to facilitate the borrowing by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited of £3,000,000, in the first instance, and other sums later, the total not to exceed at any time £4,000,000, for the purchase of aircraft. The company must pay current rates of interest for the money. T stress the difference between this treatment of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the Chifley Government’s action in providing TransAustralia Airlines with millions of pounds of capital entirely free of charge.
– How many millions of pounds?
– I find it very difficult to answer the honorable member’s question because the greatest care was taken by the Labour Government to disguise the total amount invested in Trans-Australia Airlines, and also the early enormous losses of that organization. The honorable memlber is not likely to find the truth unless somebody high in the ranks of the Labour party will take him into his confidence. The Chifley Government took great care not to take the country into its confidence, and it used all the skill and cunning of which it was capable in order to conceal the cost of the enterprise. The agreement next deals with the thorny subject of outstanding air route charges, in which the dispute between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the Chifley Government had its genesis. I hope that the matter will be satisfactorily and permanently settled by the agreement, which appears to be likely. The Government undertakes to share its airmail business equally with Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The honorable member for Hindmarsh had something to say on this subject, and I shall comment on his remarks later.. If there is to be any competition between the two organizations, it is obvious that airmail and other government traffic must be shared equally between them. The agreement also includes a provision to ensure that, if the Government has any new or second-hand aircraft for sale, it will offer them equally to the two organizations.
Next, there is a very important provision, which is wholly to the advantage of the Government. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited undertakes, in effect, that it will not sell its aircraft without the permission of the Government, and that it will retain them for service in Australia. I impress upon the House the importance of that undertaking by the company. Before the execution of this agreement, if Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had decided to go out of business, liquidate its assets, and sell its aircraft on the world market, it could have done so very profitably, and Australia would have’ been left without adequate provision for its air services. The only alternative that the Government would have had, in those circumstances, would have been, in effect, to commit an act of confiscation by refusing to allow the company to take its aircraft out of the country. Such an act would have been of very doubtful constitutional validity.
I remind the House that this provision is entirely in favour of the Government, it provides us with important safeguards against the loss of air services, which did not previously exist. Finally, the agreement provides that, if the. Government declares a state of emergency, the whole of the air services of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, including not only its aircraft, but also its hangars, workshops and equipment, shall be at the service of the Government. That is a very useful and sound provision for the benefit of the country.
This debate has raised in clear form the issue of socialist enterprise against private, or free, enterprise. I by no means hold the view that government control cannot be justified in any circumstances. There can be at times, in certain fields, good reasons for government intervention in business undertakings. Furthermore. 1 believe that there are some fields of enterprise in which a government monopoly is justifiable. This is traditionally held to be so in Australia. For example, I refer to the Postal Department. Communications generally are accepted as being a proper field for government enterprise. The Opposition contends that all transport is in such a field, but 1 deny that contention. Because the history of railways in Australia has been one of government ventures, that is no reason for supposing that air transport must follow the same course. A government has no right to interfere with any private enterprise which caters satisfactorily for the public need and does so profitably and efficiently. That is the test which we should apply to determine whether or not socialization is justifiable. Governments do not and cannot make profits. They do not and cannot create wealth and prosperity. They spend money, they lose money and they interfere with the creation of wealth and prosperity, but, almost without exception, whenever they put their hands on any profitable business, that business declines and becomes a charge on the revenue so that it is supported at the expense of the taxpayers. This leads me to another matter.
The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) reminded the House of the parrot cry which we hear with monotonous regularity from the Opposition - “ Hands off the people’s assets “. How often do we hear the Opposition raising this nonsensical and meaningless cry? What are the people’s assets? Is a socialist enterprise conducted at a loss an asset of the people ? The reverse is the truth. One of the assets of all Australians, including members of the Opposition, is the right, by the exercise of their own skill, energy and enterprise, to share in the profitable use of the nation’s resources. Those resources are much more profitably and efficiently used by private enterprise than they can be by any government through the medium of socialized industry, bureaucratically controlled. Once this truth is accepted, every unnecessary interference with independent initiative and effort is seen as an attack upon the assets of the people, because it means the withdrawal of one more undertaking from the general pool of profitable enterprises from which we all draw our wealth and prosperity. Every act of socialization is, therefore, an attack on the assets of the people.
These things must be kept in mind if we are to see this agreement in its true perspective. If we do not keep them in mind, we shall fall into the fallacious thinking of which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has been guilty to-night. The honorable member criticized the division of airmails between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, for which this agreement provides, and he stated that because the Government owned an airline it must look after it and ensure that all airmail traffic was carried by it. I hope that honorable members are able to see the fallacy of such an argument. If his argument were accepted, there would have to be a bolstering up of every socialist enterprise by other resources of the Government. The Government would be obliged to divert all its airmail to Trans-Australia Airlines in order to bolster up its own socialist enterprise. If that process were followed to its conclusion it would mean inevitably that all enterprise would fall under government control. We should then have a Communist state, to which socialism in practice inevitably leads.
I know that problems still confront the air services of this country. I think it not improbable that some rationalization of individual services may be necessary to prevent wasteful competition between the two major organizations. I know that the use of aircraft from overseas ser vices on the internal services of Australia during periods when local aircraft arc laid up will be necessary in the cause of efficiency. There are other difficulties in connexion with the future operation of this agreement which arise from the fact, as I stated earlier, that the advantages are so heavily on the side of the Government enterprise that I doubt whether fair competition can be definitely assured. I know that difficulties of this kind must be watched. I ask the House, however, to remember that the situation arises from the wrongful act of the Chifley Government when it tried to nationalize our air services, despite the lack of constitutional power to do so. This bill is a real start to deal with the problems of our internal air services. Those problems were greatly added to by the wrongful act of the Chifley Government, to which I have referred. I hope that the bill will be received by the country in that spirit. I assure the Opposition and the people at large that honorable members on this side of the House are very determinedly behind the measure.
– I am reminded by the attitude of honorable members opposite that conscience does not prevent one from doing wrong; it merely spoils the enjoyment associated with wrongdoing. Conscience causes the guilty to look for all kinds of excuses for their wrongful acts. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) repeated what has now become the stock excuse of honorable members opposite, when he stated that because Trans- Australia Airlines had been socialized it was now necessary to desocialize it. Stripped of all subterfuge, the fact is that the Government is bent on the destruction of Trans-Australia Airlines.
The conduct of an air transport organization is far beyond the capacity of any private company, no matter how great it may be. The sooner honorable members opposite appreciate that fact, the sooner will this nonsensical talk about socialized industry cease. Everybody knows that, from the very inception of air transport, air services have had to be nurtured by governments. Subsidies in the way of essential amenities have had to be provided. It has been revealed that some of the subsidies and amenities which have been provided for air transport services in Australia have cost approximately £13,500,000. That sum takes no account of the cost of providing meteorological data and essential safety devices. So far in this debate, nothing has been said about that matter. Air transport is not merely a matter of flying an aeroplane from one point to another, nor is it a mere matter of the cost of petrol, landing fees, and so on. The huge subsidiary organization which is essential is so important that it cannot possibly be overlooked in a debate such as this.
The arguments presented by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and other honorable members opposite seem to me to have produced every paradox that one could imagine. If the honorable member for Capricornia and other reactionary conservatives opposite really believe that the Government had no right to enter the field of air transport, as it has done, why do not they also apply that argument to other services, such as education, the Postal Department, railways, and irrigation, to mention just a few? I point out that education in this country was a going concern before the Government decided to step into the field. Could any honorable member opposite imagine anything more horrible than a socialized education scheme? Yet such a system is in operation throughout the continent, and honorable members opposite do not object because education is not a profitable enterprise. Precisely the same argument applies to the railways. Other forms of transport were in operation in -this country before the railways began to function. Why is it that there is no objection to socialization of our railway system? Could it be that there is no profit to be made from essential developmental works? Let me ask the members of the Australian Country party why it is that no squeal ha3 been raised about irrigation works, in which the Commonwealth is playing a very important part at the present time. Irrigation works were undertaken in .this country long before the Government participated in them, but it became necessary for private enterprise to vacate that field because it did not have the capital required to enable irrigation systems to be developed adequately. Irrigation has been socialized, but the Government does not claim that that is an undesirable form of socialism. It has become customary for honorable gentlemen opposite to use the word “ socialized “ in a derogatory way. Nationalization has little or nothing to do with socialization. Why cannot Government members face that fact, and be honest about the matter? Nationalization could be a step along the road towards socialization. If honorable members opposite regard nationalization as a dangerous step, why do they condemn it on some occasions and condone it on others? Why do they condone nationalization when it is applied to the postal department, educational services and irrigation works, and condemn it when it affects a company that could get a pay-off from the use of the public moneys, as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will do under this measure ?
We know that about £4,500,000 was required to establish Trans-Australia Airlines. That investment was made in the interests of the public. The Chifley Government invested money in TransAustralia Airlines as the servant of the people of Australia. It did so, first, in the interests of rational national development, for which only the State could find the necessary capital; secondly, in the interests of defence and the safety of this country; and, thirdly, in the interests of progress in air transport. At that time it was not envisaged that as much money would be expended upon air services as has actually been expended. TransAustralia Airlines had its struggles in the early stages cf its development. Those struggles have been referred to in the course of this debate. Ultimately, it became very successful. Now that the time has arrived for the next rational step to be taken, I say advisedly that this Government intends to strangle TransAustralia Airlines and to prevent the progress that might have been made either through that organization or through the private company which has now been amalgamated with it, to the very great advantage of the private company. The money that is to be found for the private company should be made available instead to Trans-Australia Airlines, to enable it to advance and to take advantage of the progress that science has made in the field of air transport. But, because of the action that the Government has taken to bolster a very shaky concern, the progress of Trans-Australia Airlines will be stifled.
What is proposed is completely paradoxical and ironical. The progress of the people’s air service is to be halted to bolster what is virtually a bankrupt private company. That company is being bolstered by the people’s bank, backed by the people’s government. Even though I do not like the political complexion of the present Government, it is the people’s Government because it has been elected by the people. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is being further bolstered by the arrangement under which it will carry a half of the airmails. That is being done to enable this enterprise to keep its head above water. The socialized bank and the socialized postal department are being used as bladders to keep the pirate afloat. People who travel on government warrants have a significant place in these proposals. Honorable gentlemen opposite have given the impression that Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are the only airline companies that are competing to serve their convenience, but that is far from the truth. Advice should be tendered, for instance, to the Pioneer Tours organization to the effect that it should present a claim to the Government that members of Parliament be given an opportunity to travel in its coaches instead of by rail. Such a claim would l>e no more ludicrous than what is proposed in this measure. I can see no reason why the Mayne-Nickless organization in Victoria should not claim to he permitted to compete with the postal department in carrying airmails from various airports to post offices. That would be no different from what is proposed in this bill. If that is the principle that is to be applied, I see no reason why companies of the type to which I have referred should not present, claims along those lines.
Wo have been told that the arrangements in relation to the transport of mails and passengers have been made in the interests of fair competition. There is to be an equal division of the carriage of airmails. In the last twelve months. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited carried double the volume of freight that was carried by Trans-Australia Airlines, but it will be noted that no arrangement has been made for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to divide its freight traffic with Trans-Australia Airlines. It appears that this is a very one-sided bargain. It might almost be described as one-way traffic. There is to be equality of purchasing power between the two companies. Arrangements are to be made concerning the purchase of aeroplanes and other equipment. This provision will be enforced whether there is good or indifferent management of the two companies. I think it can be fairly claimed that, of the two companies, TransAustralia Airlines has a marked superiority in management. There is also to be an agreement in relation to time-tables, and if no arrangement can be made between the two bodies in relation to a particular matter an arbitrator is to decide the point at issue. TransAustralia Airlines is the only party that could lose by such arbitration. This arrangement seems to me to be analogous to an arrangement for arbitration between the robber and the robbed.
As has been stated already in this debate, Trans- Australia Airlines has an enviable safety record. In this connexion the Government could not criticize TransAustralia Airlines, which has played a larger part than any other company in creating confidence in air travel. It has had no major accident since its inception. I agree with Government supporters that it is most unfortunate that accidents have occurred. I believe that all companies take every possible precaution to prevent accidents. That is natural. But Tr anaAustralia Airlines compares more thuan favorably with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in this respect.Why has no honorable member opposites explained why Australian National AirWayS Proprietary Limited was selected to enjoy this very precious gift from the Government? It seems to me that persistent representations have been made by this company and that the constant dripping has worn away the stone. The Government has delayed for as long as possible the destruction of a very successful national enterprise. Undoubtedly certain people have reminded the Government of its obligations to them. No one has attempted to explain why a socialist enterprise is to be used to guarantee the continued existence of what is virtually a bankrupt private enterprise which can only continue in, business with the aid of government warrants and mail contracts.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) humorously remarked that the Government had rejected the request by the principals of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for amalgamation. He claimed that the Government only wished to rationalize air services. These arehighsounding phrases. What does the Minister mean by “ amalgamation” and “rationalization”? The Government appears to find it convenient to use the term “ rationalization “ to describe the conversion of a tottering private enterprise into a socialized enterprise. It is obvious that the Government is merely fulfilling its obligation to certain interests. Attempts appear to have been* made in the Postal Department to terminate the services of private contractors as rapidly as possible. This move seems to have met with the support of the public. Yet, after providing millions of pounds for experiments in the field of meteorology and for the provision of airfields, the Government appears to be content* that the benefit of these services should go to private enterprise. The Government’s duty is to recoup its expenditure on experimental services as rapidly as it can and it can only do that by operating its own air services. Instead, it has resolved to give all that it can to a private industry which is not able to stand on its own feet. The Government’s action is completely indefensible and honorable members opposite have been unable to justify it. The Government wishes to pay for the support that it has received from private enterprise. It will be difficult for it to offer any explanation of its actions when next it has to face the public. This will be among the actions on which the public will judge the Government harshly when next it goes to the polls.
– The Government’s intention is to prevent the airways from becoming a monopoly either of the government or of private enterprise. All honorable members on this side of the House believe it to be important to have competition, wherever possible. We have heard from honorable members opposite statements about the people’s airways, the people’s bank, the people’s this and the people’s that.. We hear exactly the same kind of statements from Communist China, whose leaders speak of the people’s republic, the people’s court, which is chopping efi” thousands of heads every day, the people’s this and the people’s that. These are stock phrases of the socialists and, as we learned from our friend, Mr. Willie Gallacher, the president of the British Communist party, the only successful end to socialism is communism.
Honorable members opposite have painted for us a dreadful picture of the terrible things that will happen to TransAustralia Airlines as a result of the operation, of this measure. The Government has no- desire to wipe out Trans-Australia Airlines. We consider, however, that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which pioneered major air services in Australia, should have the opportunity. te run in fair competition with Trans-Australia Airlines. We are told that the- Government subsidized Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to the tune of £13,500,000. That is a ridiculous– statement. The amount or £11,000,000 that was expended on airfields wa3 not expended only for the benefit of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, because the air-fields on which that money was expended are still in existence to-day and have been improved considerably. In those days, it was thought cheaper for the Government to subsidize private air companies than to start doing the job itself, otherwise such airlines would not have been subsidized.
When the Chifley Government wanted to nationalize the country’s airways it was prevented from doing so by the High Court, and reacted as it reacted on every other occasion on which it was halted in its move towards socialism. Finding that it could not achieve nationalization in one way, it decided to establish a government airline, and put other airlines out of business by making it a monopoly. Why do the socialists want a government monopoly of such public services? The answer is simple. A government cannot run anything efficiently under conditions of fair competition. If the State railways, for instance, had to meet fairly competition from private enterprise they would have to improve their efficiency. The whole trouble with the socialist is that he cannot face fair competition. Now we are being told that Trans-Australia Airlines will not be able to operate successfully because of this measure, but will be gradually pushed out of business. Why should Trans-Australia Airlines be pushed out of business under fair competition any more than the Commonwealth Bank will be pushed out of business under fair competition? The socialist cannot bear competition because he cannot afford to have any measuring-stick available to enable the people to compare the efficiency of socialist enterprises with that of privately conducted enterprises of the same kind. When the Chifley Government established Trans-Australia Airlines it started to run Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited off the airways. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) forecast that the extension of Trans-Australia Airlines’ services will cease as a result of this measure. He mentioned that Trans-Australia Airlines was opening up services in the
Channel Country of Queensland. Why is that airline opening up such services, when there is already a private service operating profitably there? It wants to run that service out of business, even if it loses in the process. The Government airline, however, does not mind operating unprofitably, because it knows it can fall back on the taxpayer. We saw the ruses adopted by the Chifley Government to disguise the losses made by socialized airways. I wish to make it clear that we have nothing against Trans-Australia Airlines, but we object to a government enterprise fixing its books in such a way as to hide losses by writing up stock in hand to much more than the real value. That action was taken under the Chifley Government, and attention was drawn to it by the auditors.
The honorable member for Fremantle made a statement to-day of which he should be very much ashamed. He sought to depreciate the safety record of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Not satisfied with that, he sought to throw doubts on the reliability of some of the aircraft used by TransAustralia Airlines. He attempted to give the impression that the Convair aircraft used by Trans-Australia Airlines were unsafe. He said he had had experience of a number of incidents, and he attempted to cause doubt in the minds of people about the airworthiness, not only of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited’s fleet, but also of TransAustralia Airlines^ fleet. By doing so he disparaged the Department of Civil Aviation.
– If one believes it, should not one say so?
– Everybody knows that the Department of Civil Aviation checks on the airworthiness of all aircraft, and accepts responsibility for the safety of the flying public, yet the honorable member for Fremantle vent to the trouble, not only of knocking Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but of endeavouring also to knock Trans-Australia Airlines. The Chifley Government used to speak about the prevention of exploitation. That is the La hour party’s constant excuse for socializing industries. However, after Trans-Australia Airlines had been established the Chifley Government threatened to take disciplinary action against Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited because Mr. Ansett refused to increase his charges. That is a beautiful example of a socialistic act.
– It tried to force hire to raise them.
– Yes, it did. The Labour party would wipe out all competition if it could, so that there would be no measuring stick available to enable the public to make a comparison of the efficiency of government enterprises with similar private enterprises. There is no reason why Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited cannot run in competition, but it must bc fair competition. We have been told that Trans- Australia Airlines has carried airmails far more cheaply than Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited carried them. Members of the Opposition seem to think that we have short memories. I know that after the mail contract was taken from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited it was found, after a lot of trouble, that Trans-Australia Airlines was being paid an amount of £750,000 by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in a lump sum which had no bearing on the amount of mails carried and was far in excess of the amount paid to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– It was an amount equal to the deficit of the previous year.
– Yes, and it had no bearing on the quantity of mail carried. We have been told by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) that the Government is acting contrary to the wishes of the general public. I remind him that the Government parties stated in their joint policy speech at the last election that they would deal with the matter of airways. They are now doing so. It is all very well for the Opposition to tell us that we are acting contrary to the wishes of the public. Honorable members opposite apparently have forgotten about the 1947 banking legislation. There was no mention of that in Labour’s policy speech at the preceding election. They seem to have forgotten the uproar that the bank nationalization legislation caused throughout the community. That legislation was introduced because the High Court had refused to allow the Chifley Government to smother the banks under the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1945.
– Crusty old judges.
– I remind the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) that an honorable member may not criticize the judiciary. I also heard another honorable member opposite refer to the justices of the High Court as “ a lot of old deadbeats “.
– Order ! Any criticism of the judiciary is completely out of order.
– When this legislation has been passed there will be free and fair competition between these airline operators. Each will get a fair deal. I do not think there is any occasion for doubt about the value of the Government’s investment. If Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited were forced to cease operations, TransAustralia Airlines could not possibly carry on without many more millions of government funds. I support the bill.
Mr. Ward and Mr. Riordan .having risen,
– I call the honorable member for East Sydney.
– I am prepared to give way to the honorable member for Kennedy.
– It is immaterial to me who speaks. I call the honorable member for Kennedy.
– Before I address myself to the bill, there are one or two observations that I should like to make in reply to certain statements made by honorable members opposite. Both the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) and the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) referred to a statement alleged to have been made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) about five unfortunate crashes.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! If the House insists on sitting at this late hour, it must maintain order.
– The honorable member for Dawson castigated the honorable member for Fremantle for having referred to the five major crashes involving aircraft controlled and operated by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Both he and the honorable member for Gwydir said that the honorable member for Fremantle had reflected not only on the Department of Civil Aviation but also on employees of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I heard the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle, and a very good speech it was. He did not reflect on the Department of Civil Aviation or on the employees of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. What he said was that if Trans-Australia Airlines had had five crashes, TransAustralia. Airlines would have been wound up, and it would have been difficult to oppose the winding up. He felt that he was justified in applying the same argument to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
The tenor of the remarks of honorable members opposite is that this bill has been introduced to prevent the development of a government airline monopoly in this country. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) said that Trans- Australia Airlines had been established to drive Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited out of business, and that this bill had been devised to prevent a monopoly. The honorable member for Gwydir said that he was in favour of the bill because he did not believe in either public or private monopolies. The honorable member for Dawson also said that he was opposed to a monopoly in air services. I point out that the only monopoly that existed in air services in the Commonwealth at the time of the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines, was Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited itself. All this talk about Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited having pioneered air services in Australia is so much eyewash. The only competitor of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, prior to the establishment of TransAustralia Airlines, was the ordinary surface transport organization. There was no real competition, because the Department of Civil Aviation would not permit more than one airline company to operate on any particular route. The department believed that a multiplicity of airline operators on one route would force up freights and fares because there would be competition for the limited freight and passenger traffic available. One of the forerunners of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, as we know it to-day, was “Western Australian Airways Limited, which was formed about 1921. Another was Adelaide Airways Proprietary Limited, which was formed in 1936. Both those companies were absorbed by Australian National Airway? Proprietary Limited when it was established in 1936. In addition, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited incorporated Tasmanian Aerial Services Limited and Holyman’s Airways Proprietary Limited. In 1934, New England Airways Limited was formed. That organization was absorbed by Airlines of Australia Proprietary Limited, about 1935. A similar fate befell Northern Airways Limited and Northern Airlines Limited. In 1936, Airlines of Australia Proprietary Limited also absorbed the Rockhampton Aerial Service, and in 1938 it absorbed North Queensland Airways Limited. Ultimately, Airlines of Australia Proprietary Limited was itself absorbed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) referred in his second-reading speech to the fact that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was the only major airline operating in this country at the outbreak of war in 1939. He said -
It was Australian National Airways which had by the outbreak of war established the aircraft as a major mode of transport between capita] cities in Australia.
I have referred to the absorptions which took place, the culmination of which was the establishment of this privately owned monopoly.
Repeated reference has been made to the fact that this Government is opposed to monopolies, and, on that account, has introduced these four bills. The honor able member for Evans said that the Labour Government established Trans-Australia Airlines with the object of driving the private airline operators out of the air. As I have indicated, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited drove its competitors out of the air, and established one organization, which existed at the time of the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines. Government supporters do not appear to be aware that the Labour Government established Trans-Australia Airlines for two reasons. The first was to break the monopoly that had been set up by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The second was to make- it possible for ex-members of the Royal Australian Air Force, who had been trained at the Commonwealth’s expense, to secure employment in civil aviation after the conclusion of hostilities. They were readily absorbed by Trans- Australia Airlines.
We all know that Trans-Australia Airlines has prospered despite the fact that, in its initial stages, certain chambers of commerce, chambers of manufactures, and other organizations of employers urged their members to support Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Despite that attempt to boycott Trans-Australia Airways, the little people, the common people, the ordinary man in the street supported it, and made it possible for it to succeed. The commercial interests were not responsible for the success of Trans-Australia Airlines. It was not Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited that made the man in the street airminded. World War I. gave us the motor car, and World War II. gave us the aircraft as we know it to-day. It is true, of course, that there were motor cars prior to World War I. The limited outlook of Government supporters is revealed by the fact that they cannot realize that the aircraft, as we know them to-day, reached their highest peak of efficiency in World War II., and engendered the confidence which is so manifest today among those who travel by air.
The honorable member for Gwydir has tried to show that the. phrases “ the people’s bank “ and. “ the people’s airline “ are merely tags attached by the Labour party to the Commonwealth Bank and Trans-Australia Airlines respectively. The honorable gentleman is wrong. Trans-Australia Airlines is owned by the people, by virtue of the fact that they have subscribed its capital. The success of Trans- Australia Airlines is due to the fact that it has received the support of its shareholders - the people themselves. I have listened with a great deal of interest to the way in which. Government supporters have approached these four bills. They have had the greatest difficulty in trying to justify their support for this legislation, because they all state that they are opposed to a monopoly and favour the introduction of these measures in order to prevent a public or governmental monopoly of airlines. The result of this legislation will be that Trans-Australia Airlines will go out of the air, and a private monopoly will be entrenched more strongly than Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited might have been at the outbreak of World War II. Ever since the present Government assumed office in December, 1949, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been in .consultation with it with a view to effecting an amalgamation with Trans-Australia Airlines. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not offer to buy out Trans-Australia Airlines for two reasons. First, it wanted a share of the airmail contracts. Secondly, if Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited were to purchase the assets of Trans-Australia Airlines, it would be buying aircraft which would be obsolete in 1954, when the Vickers Viscount and other jet, aircraft would be available. In consequence, the capital which .Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited would have invested in Trans-Australia Airlines would have been tied up in obsolescent machine”. Therefore, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited desired to effect an amalgamation with Trans-Australia Airlines so that both organizations would be in the same position. Negotiations were instituted with the Government, and these four bills are the result.
If I were a director of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, I should be very happy about this agree- ment. All the risks are to be taken by the Government, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, if I may use a racing term, has everything going to nothing. The Minister said, in his second-reading speech, that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had been running its internal services at a loss for some years. That statement is true. Later, in his speech, the Minister informed the House of the losses that had been incurred by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on its operations in the last two years. But we have not been informed of the result of the private inquiry held into the financial affairs of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The books of Trans-Australia Airlines are open to the world to see. This House should be supplied with all the statistical data in relation to the position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited because at least £4,000,000 of the taxpayer’s money could be involved in the company’s affairs under the terms of the agreement we are being asked to approve. For a time, that amount will be only guaranteed by the Government, but there are provisions for the termination of the agreement that make it possible for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to have everything going to nothing, and for the Government or Trans-Australia Airlines to be left carrying the swag, to use a queensland term.
The Minister also stated in his secondreading speech that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was in a difficult position. It needed new equipment and, in particular, the latest passenger aircraft, if it were to provide competition. An examination of the situation reveals that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has nine DC4 aircraft. 27 DCS aircraft and three Bristol freighters, a total of 39 aircraft. TransAustralia Airlines has four DC4 aircraft, five Convairs and 24 DC3 aircraft, a total of 33 aircraft. For the year ended the 30th June, 1952, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, with 39 aircraft, flew 277,000,000 passenger miles, while Trans-Australia Airlines, with 33 aircraft, flew 320,000.000 passenger miles. It is obvious that Trans- Australia
Airlines was gradually pushing Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited out of the airline business. The company realized that in order to maintain its position in the field it would have to purchase additional aircraft. We all arc aware of the difficulties experienced by the airline companies in procuring aircraft. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, having failed to procure Convair aircraft, and having realized that its existing aircraft would be obsolescent in two years, was faced with the prospect of investing millions of pounds in the purchase of new aircraft to enable it to compete with Trans- Australia Airlines, which had placed an order in Great Britain some considerable time earlier for the supply of six Vickers Viscount aircraft. Delivery of the aircraft was delayed because the Government held back the final placing of the orders pending the conclusion of consultations with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on the proposal for the amalgamation of the two airlines.
-The Vickers Viscount aircraft were ordered, but the Government cancelled the order.
-It is possible that that is what occurred.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, also said -
The directors of Austraiian National Airways Proprietary Limited, therefore, approached the Government and proposed the amalgamation of Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. They said that it was not possible for the two airlines to compete on a profitable basis and that only a single entity could possible conduct, civil air services within Australia.
In the commercial world those who cannot successfully cope with their competitors usually go out of business. The Minister has virtually admitted that the Government desires to keep Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in the field of civil aviation even at great cost to the people. Apparently it has not contemplated the granting of assistance to Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited or to Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited. Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited is successfully competing with
Trans-Australia Airlines notwithstanding that the fares charged by it are lower than are those charged by the Government airline. I understand that the company has only one mail contract. Under this proposal Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines will share the mail contracts between them. Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited provide services extending from Brisbane to Hobart and as far west as Adelaide. Apparently the Government does not regard the company as worthy of assistance, for it is solely concerned in the assistance of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited which is owned by overseas and local shipping combines which, if they were prepared to do so, would have no difficulty in obtaining the £4.000,000 required for the purchase of additional aircraft.
I propose now to deal briefly with some aspects of the agreement which is set out in the schedule to the bill The agreement contains some extraordinary provisions. It states that one of the purposes of the agreement is to ensure the maintenance of competition between the Government airline and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and it sets out the arrangements for the rationalization of the two airline organizations. This afternoon, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) referred to a Queensland airline company which pioneered an air service from Townsville to Mount Isa and complained that Trans-Australia Airlines was operating a service in competition with it. The rationalization of airline services has already begun in western Queensland and air services have been severely curtailed. Airline services to other parts of western Queensland have also been rationalized and curtailed. Provision has been made in the agreement for the Commonwealth to guarantee a loan to be raised by the company to the amount of £3,000,000 for the purchase of new aircraft. I do not know whether the new aircraft have yet been ordered. Apparently the company is waiting to learn whether the Government is of the same opinion as it was when the proposal to alter the constitution of the Commonwealth Bank was before this chamber.
Honorable members will recall that at that time petitions were presented to the Parliament urging the Government to submit the Commonwealth Bank bill to a referendum of the people before it interfered with the constitution of the bank. Why should not a proposal of this kind, which may involve the expenditure of £4,000,000 of the taxpayer’s money, be submitted to a referendum of the people? In addition to the loan of £3,000,000 which the Government is to guarantee for the purchase of new aircraft, an amount of £1,000,000 is to be guaranteed for the purchase of used aircraft. Provision has been made in the agreement for repayment, of the loan to bo. made within ten years of the date of the passage of this bill. The company must repay its borrowed money at the end of fifteen years, and if it does not do so the Commonwealth can terminate the agreement. That is a loophole in the agreement which could enable Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, if it discovered that it was not making a profit and was not able to repay the money owing and could not pay dividends, to have the agreement terminated and arrange for the Government to take over whatever assets it might have left. This agreement is all in favour of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and certainly not in favour of the Government. The Minister for Territories said that there was some serious doubt about the legality of the Government imposing a charge for the use of its aerodromes and air navigation aids. That is too silly for words. It is obvious that the Government can make a charge for the service that it provides, and, indeed, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited recognizes that right because there is a provision in the bill under which the Government agrees not to proceed with the action in the High Court, in which it is claiming about £750,000 from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in respect of air charges. In the event of a dispute between the parties to the agreement an arbitrator, who is to be a retired justice of the High Court of Australia, is to decide the matter. That arbitrator will be an elderly gentleman, because High Court
Mr. .Riordan. justices do not retire until they attain the age of about SO years.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that the House realizes that the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has been quite off the beam. He must have imagined that he was still Minister for the Navy, because he was all at sea. I do not consider that under those circumstances it, is necessary for me to reply to his statements. I have listened during this debate to the Labour party’s concerted attack on this measure, but I have been unable to understand the logic of their socalled arguments. This is merely n common-sense bill and there is no need for all the screaming from the Opposition that we have been forced to liston to. The Opposition apparently is trying to make the people believe that TransAustralia Airlines assets are being destroyed for the benefit of rich shipping companies. It is the same old socialist cry raised to foment class war. The truth is that this Government is, in effect, protecting the people’s assets by . this measure, and the bill is not an attack on Trans-Australia Airlines at all. In the second-reading speech of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), it was pointed out that Trans-Australia Airlines is a very worthy organization and that some splendid officers are attached to it. It is a shame that they should feel that there is anything to their discredit .in what has transpired during the debate. Trans-Australia Airlines is an excellent organization, and has been well managed. This bill carries no criticism whatsoever of Trans-Australia Airlines as at present constituted. The measure merely attempts to ensure that our air transport system shall be conducted efficiently, that the people shall get the best possible service and that no monopoly shall be created either by the Government or by private enterprise. The bill does not provide for anything in the nature of a gift to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, although every speaker from the Opposition has tried to create that impression. The Government’s transactions with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are merely simple business transactions and the proposition contained in the measure is designed to enable both major airline concerns to remain active and in fair competition.
U f the Government had not taken the action embodied in the agreement, the alternative would have been the establishment of a monopoly because the Government would have had to buy Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and combine it with Trans-Australia Airlines, or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited would have had to buy the Government concern. In either way a monopoly would have been set up, and this Government does not tolerate monopolies. Honorable members opposite have said time and time again that the Government will provide £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 for the use of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That is quite incorrect. It is possible that the Government may advance some money for certain purposes, but really all that Ohe Government is undertaking to do is to guarantee the company in its borrowings from the Common wealth Bank. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has done a magnificent joh for civil aviation in Australia. To a large degree it pioneered the air services between our capital cities, and during the last war it did excellent work for Australia. I shall quote the words of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who was the Minister for Civil Aviation in the previous Labour Government. On the 18th July. 1945. he said in this House -
The civil aviation industry in Australia during tl is war line performed magnificent service. Civil aircraft and civil aircrews, have been used in war zones to aid our own forces and those of om- great ally, the United States of America in many perilous undertakings Many of the air transport services required by our allies have been performed wholly by civil aircrews; and many civil aviation personnel joined the Royal Australian Air Force providing a ready-trained nucleus. I mention this to indicate the importance of civil aviation in the air strength of the nation.
Notwithstanding the honorable member’s recognition of the sterling service of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, because practically the whole of his statement related to that company, he still continued his efforts to socialize the airlines of Australia. The year 1945 was to be a great year of achievement for the Labour party. When the war ended plans had already been made for widespread socialization. The party purposed putting into operation its scheme for complete socialization. In tha’t year an effort was made to introduce banking legislation with the clear purpose of attempting to nationalize the banks. In that year also the medical profession was attacked. The Labour Government also sought the socialization of many other industries. Civil aviation came under notice at the same time. Proof of that may be seen in a statement that was made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) on the 22nd November, 1944, in this House. He said -
The Government has decided that a wholly government-owned statutory authority be formed to take over, operate and maintain all interstate airlines . This policy does provide for the permanent taking over of interstate airlines, and it will be the subject of a bill which will be introduced in thi? Parliament probably in the new year.
That was a direct statement of the inten-tion of the Labour party on this matter. Honorable members know the sequel. The High Court of Australia came to the rescue again. The Labour Government kept on with its purpose of endeavouring to socialize the industry through the back door, just as it had attacked the banks. It is a fact that the people were encouraged to invest and did, in fact, invest in the private airlines which pioneered the great air services of Australia. Private capital would still have been subscribed had the Labour Government not attempted to establish Trans-Australia Airlines ?J that time. There was no public demand and no real need for the setting up of Trans-Australia Airlines. The organization was established for the express purpose of completely nationalizing civil aviation. It is still the purpose of the Labour party, as it was then, to knock all other aircraft out of the air. That has been proved to-night. To do that the Labour Government had to establish unfair competition and that was done. That was proved by the way in which Government contracts and airmails were handed over to Trans-Australia Airlines. The point is that, “in this case, the business was taken away from Australian
National Airways Proprietary Limited. Some of that business is to be put in the way of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited again, for, after all, it was taken away from the company when Trans-Australia Airlines was established.
Trans- Australia Airlines has done a great job, but the last balance-sheet of the organization reveals nothing to crow about in the way of profits. For several years certain profits were made, but an accumulated deficit of £870,089 is still shown in the profit and loss appropriation account. Looking at the accounts as a businessman, I believe that not sufficient reserve has been provided for depreciation. Trans-Australia Airlines is a good organization, it also has been losing money, just as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been doing. I have no figures with regard to the finances of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but I know that it has had losses and that it could not provide new aircraft to maintain an efficient service unless some guarantee were given to it to enable it to purchase new aircraft.
This bill is definitely in accordance with Liberal party polities. I make no apologies for it in any shape or form. The Liberal party stands for fair play, private enterprise, the right of competition and all those things that are necessary to provide efficient services for the people. The Labour party has shown that it stands definitely and solely for nationalization and socialization regardless of where it leads the people. We stand by Liberal party policy. I can recall no measure that I have had greater pleasure in supporting. This bill is in the interests of the people. It is not intended merely to give benefit to a private organization as the Labour party has suggested. That is so much utter nonsense. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has said that the Government can find £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited but that it cannot find money for housing. Have honorable members ever heard such nonsense? If the Government does not provide this guarantee, it must find the money to buy Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and then find more money to buy the aircraft that are needed. Either Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited must get the money privately or the Government must provide it. In the interests of the country, it is better that the Government should give the guarantee that is provided for in the agreement. The honorable member for Hindmarsh also said that the Government was forcing TransAustralia Airlines to hand over half its business to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Is it not fair to say that the Government is only giving back to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited some of the business that was taken away from it by the Labour party when it was endeavouring to socialize this industry ? The honorable member also asked why the Liberal party was showing such compassion for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government is not concerned with any sectional interest. The people are the only concern of the Liberal party. It works for the interests of the people as a whole. I detest the hypocrisy that has emanated from the Opposition side of the chamber. It is utter hypocrisy for honorable members opposite to make statements that are not fundamentally true. They have been screaming like native cats–
– Order ! That remark is unparliamentary, and the honorable member must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. However, honorable members opposite have simply been screaming all day. I trust that in their saner moments they will realize that their arguments are groundless and that this measure will be of benefit to the community as a whole.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Drakeford) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Diplomatic Immunities Bill 1952.
Aliens Bill 1952.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the bill as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.I take this opportunity to direct the attention of the House again to the important matter that I mentioned last week in relation to the dismissal by the Royal Australian Air Force of certain members of its civilian staff.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in theaffirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Aluminium industry Act - Australian Aluminium Production Commission - Seventh Annual Report, for year 195.1-52.
Australian National Airlines Act - Australian National Airlines Commission - Seventh Annual Report and Financial Accounts, for year 1951-52.
Banking Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules. 1952. Nos. 92, 93.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Annual Report for 1951.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (3).
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 90.
Patents Act -Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 91.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Trade and Customs - B. T. Taylor. I. S. Taylor.
Works - J. R. Sanders.
House adjourned at 2.6 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Australian manufacturers a prior opportunity of demonstrating that Australian tyres can and will stand up to any test required by users ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Will he state what action the Government intends to take against the miners’ federation, the Workers Industrial Union of Australia, the Waterside Workers Federation, or any other union that closes its books to new members?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The question concerns matters of government policy. The honorable member’s attention is, however, invited to section 83a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which confers certain rights on persons seeking admittance to organizations registered under that act.
n asked the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice - 1.How many ships are operating in theAustralian coastal trade?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply. -
y asked the Minister repre senting the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, has furnished me with the following information: -
On the 16th October, a D.C.4 aircraft owned by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was damaged as a result of a landing accident at Mascot. The cost of repair of the resulting damage is the concern of the operator, and I am not in a position to say what it might be. The Department of Civil Aviation is conducting an investigation, and until that is completed, I am unable to give any further information. No attemptwas made by the Department of Civil Aviation to withhold information from the press and the public.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521029_reps_20_220/>.