23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government will make provision by means of a referendum for the alteration of certain sections of the Constitution which relate to the aboriginal people of Australia.
In doing so I should like to remark that if I could generate on this subject the same campaign as is being generated in other directions, there would be no need to present this petition.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question without notice. I ask the Minister: In view of the fact that for fifteen successive months the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit has exceeded 20,000 - generally it has been around the 25,000 mark - does the Minister consider that the persistence of unemployment at that level can be regarded as satisfactory? I further ask the Minister what actions are being taken by the Government to arrest this trend. What are the measures that have been applied? Or, alternatively, are we to assume, having regard to the substantial increases that have taken place in recent months in the number of unemployed, that the Government has accepted the principle that unemployment can take care of itself?
– I think the honorable gentleman will know, without my giving a precise answer, that the Commonwealth Government has always taken action to reduce the number of unemployed whereever it has thought such action practicable and reasonable. As to the honorable member’s statement of facts, I think when the next figures are announced - and they are now being collated both in terms of registration for employment and recipients of the unemployment benefit - he will be surprised and, I hope, very pleasantly sur prised. In other words, I hope and expect that when the next figures are disclosed, we shall again receive proof that the Government’s policy is being successful, and evidence that its objective of full employment is being maintained.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Has the department under his administration given consideration to setting up machinery for determining an index of productivity? A recent report showed that such an index is prepared at regular intervals in all advanced Western countries. It has also been suggested that the information provided by such an index would be of great assistance to the industrial court in its deliberations as well as to many sections of the community. At present, the only source of such information is provided by a private enterprise group - Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited.
– I did give a good deal of consideration to this matter in my former capacity as Minister for Labour and National Service, and I know it has been examined from time to time in the Treasury. 1 am somewhat inhibited from answering the honorable gentleman’s question in full detail because it constitutes one of the matters in evidence and perhaps in argument before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at the present time. The Commonwealth Statistician has studied the question of a productivity index. He has examined the practicability of compiling one that could be regarded as a satisfactory index and he might, in this particular case, be called upon to give some evidence regarding it. So I feel that about all I can say at the moment is that on earlier occasions, after this matter has been discussed, members of the commission have referred to this aspect in their judgments, and I think the honorable gentleman might find it useful to read what they have said on this point. Although the matter is regarded as being very complex, the Commonwealth Statistician has devoted a good deal of attention to its practicability.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
Recently the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission suggested in his annual report that due to the lag in dealing with cases pending for hearing, an additional commissioner should be appointed to avoid delays. As the Minister is no doubt aware, postal workers have held mass meetings throughout Australia threatening strike action unless the hearing of their wage claims by the Public Service Arbitrator is expedited. Will the Minister state what action he has taken to comply with the suggestion made by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? What is the reason for the long delays occurring in the public service arbitration jurisdiction in respect of claims by postal workers and other public service organizations?
– I did state in the House a few weeks ago that the department under my administration had decided not to recommend the appointment of an additional presidential member. Since then there have been changes in circumstances. I have had discussions with my colleagues and the matter is now again under consideration. I hope a decision will be made shortly. As to the second part of the question relating to the postal workers’ claims, the honorable gentleman will be glad to know that the matter in respect of yard officers has been disposed of and an increase was given to take effect from about the end of last month. The postal assistants’ claim has been heard and a decision has been reserved. I hope it will be given shortly. As to the line foremen - the third part of the outstanding claims - arrangements have been made for that case to be heard before the assistant to the arbitrator starting, I think, next Monday. There are five other claims which were not lodged until about the middle of February, and they will have to take their place in the lists.
I think the honorable gentleman would agree that as far as it is practicable this matter is being handled in accordance with the normal processes of conciliation and arbitration, and I doubt whether it can be expedited to any significant extent. Nonetheless, I will take the matter up again with the department to ascertain whether we can be of any help in having the cases hurried forward.
As to the problem of the suggestion of a strike, the honorable gentleman may know that yesterday the president of the Postal Workers’ Union saw representatives of the Public Service Board, and the union’s case was presented to it. Two States, one of which was New South Wales, have held out for direct action. Two others, including Victoria, have said that the matter should go to a vote of the rank and file. One State has said that they should await the end of conciliation and arbitration processes before taking action, and another State has some other ground for temporarily holding up a decision. Mr. Ashmore pointed out that, as a result, the federal executive had made no decision with regard to a strike or any other direct action. It is now considering the replies it has received from the various State executives, and it will then make a decision as to what it thinks should be done.
– I address a question to the acting Minister for External Affairs. Can the honorable gentleman give any assurance to the House that the precarious position of the Australian pearling industry will be given consideration in any further negotiations on pearling with the Japanese Government? Will the Minister consider preserving the Western Australian pearling grounds for the Australian industry, to the exclusion of Japanese operators?
– I realize, of course, the interest of the honorable member in Japanese pearling operations, particularly as they affect the Western Australian pearl-shell beds. 1 can tell honorable members what the position is at the moment. There is a provisional regime, pending a hearing before the International Court of Justice of the dispute between Japan and Australia. The issues to be tried before the court have not yet been decided upon, and the possibility of settling the whole matter without resort to the processes of the court has not been despaired of. Under the provisional regime this country makes arrangements annually with respect to the areas to be made available to the Japanese pearlers and to the take of shell to be permitted. The Government has considered the question of the areas and the take for the coming season and has communicated to the Japanese Government the arrangement that it proposes. I hope that very shortly my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, will be able to announce the arrangements for the forthcoming year. Honorable members can rest assured that the Government has been mindful not merely of the Western Australian position but also of the economic position generally, and of the interests of Australian pearlers.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Immigration, is in two parts. Is the Minister well informed about employment opportunities for European people in Peking China? I refer particularly to those Europeans whom we describe as White Russians. Would the fact that such a European had once accepted employment in China with Tass, the news agency of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, be sufficient to make it extremely difficult for that person and his relatives to gain entry to Australia?
– The whole question of White Russians in China is occasioning the Government a good deal of difficulty. As the honorable member will imagine, it is not very easy, in all circumstances, to get these people here. Also, grave problems arise on the grounds of screening, general security and whether these unfortunate people can measure up to Australian health requirements. One of the great difficulties in the past has been the prevalence of tuberculosis and other diseases in China. That, of course, inevitably militates against the admission of these people to Australia. However, I should like to tell the honorable gentleman that this is a range of problems which is exercising my mind at the moment. If it is at all possible to alleviate the distress of these White Russians and allow, perhaps, something more considerable than the numbers now coming here, the Government will do its best to help them in their plight.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to bringing up to date the statutory amount allowable as a taxation deduction for the keep of a rural employee?
– As the honorable gentleman will appreciate, I think, that is a .matter of policy. I shall certainly examine what he has put forward and see that it is given consideration by the Government at the time when comparable matters are under review.
– In view of the difficulties confronting local government bodies in raising loan funds, will the Treasurer consider granting similar income tax concessions to persons investing in local government loans as are made to persons investing in Commonwealth loans?
– The honorable gentleman, I am sure, will appreciate the interest which the Government has already demonstrated in the course of this year in the loan requirements of the various local government authorities. He will be aware of the fact that the Commonwealth Government concurred in arrangements for an increase of £4,000,000 in the approved total of loan money which we were assured could be secured by local government authorities from loans. It would seem that since the local government authorities have found no great difficulty, generally speaking, at any rate, in raising the amounts approved by the Australian Loan Council for the current financial year - indeed, a further £4,000,000 has, as I have said, been added to them - there is no very powerful case for varying the conditions which at present exist. The matter raised by the honorable member, of course, would call for consideration and, if to be adopted, approval by members of the Loan Council. I shall examine it and see whether it is a matter which could properly be put forward at the meeting of the Loan Council later this year.
– I preface my question to the Postmaster-General by directing attention to a postal regulation which states that radio dealers must furnish monthly returns to the Postmaster-General’s Department showing the names and addresses of persons to whom they have sold, lent, or hired radio or television sets. Many persons, during the course of a year, hire television sets for periods ranging from one week to six months. This means that one television set could be in twenty or more homes during the course of a year and each person hiring the set is liable for the cost of a viewer’s licence. I ask the Minister whether, in cases in which sets are hired and not purchased, the dealer may be enabled to purchase a licence which would cover this set in any home to which it may be taken. The hirer could be supplied with the current year’s licence which could be returned to the dealer when the set was returned.
– Order! I think the honorable member is making a speech.
– I conclude by saying that as many persons hiring sets for only brief periods prefer to take a chance rather than purchase a licence, I believe that the department would actually gain revenue if this policy were adopted.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Henty is one to which the department has been, and is giving, some attention. It is correct that under the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act it is necessary, as in the case of a purchase, for a person hiring a set to take out a licence for the address at which the set will be installed. But there is a qualification to that requirement in regard to hiring. The qualification is that if a licence is already held for another set at that address, then the viewer may have a second set at either that address or at another address for a short period without taking out a further licence. This is due to the fact that there are occasions when a person might require a second set for a short period. For example he might be in hospital for a short while. So it is possible that a number of sets could be hired for which no particular licence is held.
The position is complicated by the fact that quite a number of people obtain a set on what is termed a “ rental purchase basis “. That is to say, the set is rented for a short period on probation, as it were, while the viewer decides whether he wishes to purchase it. The question arises whether a full licence-fee should appropriately be charged in such circumstances. These questions are under investigation and the suggestion made by the honorable member for Henty covers one of the ideas which is being followed up by the department. When the matter is finally decided I shall advise the honorable member of the position.
– I ask the
Prime Minister whether it is a fact that Federal Cabinet decided to adopt, without amendment, the Richardson report on salaries and allowances. Did Federal Cabinet yesterday, as reported in some sections of the press, or at any other time, re-affirm that decision?
– There is nothing hidden that shall not be made known. I expect to be able to say something about this problem to the House in due course. When I do, I should hope that other honorable members would be able to say something to the House in due course. In the meantime, let us be patient.
– 1 preface my question to the Postmaster-General by expressing appreciation of the extensions to rural services which the Postal Department is carrying out in the central coast district of New South Wales. I wish to ask him a question regarding a particular job, namely, the new post office building at Morisset. New South Wales. In reply to representations made last year the honorable gentleman said that the work would be included in this year’s Estimates and that he would contact the Department of Works to see whether it could be hurried forward. As the building has not yet been commenced, I ask the Minister whether it is still possible to include the work in this year’s programme.
– I thank the honorable member for his words of appreciation for the services which have been installed in his electorate. I assure him and all honorable members that that, of course, is a state of affairs which applies fairly generally throughout all the electorates.
I remember that some time ago the honorable member raised the question of a new post office building at Morisset and I think I have to apologize to him because I cannot remember supplying him with the information which he now requests except to say that the work is on this year’s programme. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I shall immediately make inquiries to ascertain the present position, and I shall advise the honorable member as soon as possible.
– I ask the Treasurer a question without notice. I preface my question by stating that during the last few weeks the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has conducted a campaign of protest against the Richardson Committee report. One method used by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has been to compare Parliamentary salaries with the allowance of £4 7s. 6d. to age and invalid pensioners. 1 ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is aware that recently in n Sydney divorce court the wife of Mr. Warwick Fairfax was awarded a settlement of £40,000, plus alimony of £13,000 a year, which is £3,000 more than the Prime Minister gets-
– I am sorry; it is £6,000 more. Let us be right at all costs.
– In addition, she was awarded £1,500 a year for each of two children until they reach eighteen years of age. If the right honorable gentleman is aware of those facts, will he consider imposing much heavier taxes in the next Budget on persons in the high income bracket and use the money so obtained for the purpose of raising age and invalid pensions?
– I am aware that a press campaign, which I regard as quite intemperate and to a great extent one of distortion and misrepresentation, has been raging through the columns of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. That is, of course, not inconsistent with the view normally expressed by that journal and some others when the kind of issue that the Parliament now has to consider is before the public. As to pensions, it is well known that the Government reviews the circumstances of pension payments each year in connexion with the drafting of the Budget. It is, I think, generally agreed that pensions payable in this country are not as high as most people would like them to be. On the other hand, I am sure it is also accepted that the only satisfactory way - indeed, the only realistic way - in which pensions can be increased is by some increase in the burden upon other members of the community by way of taxes.
The Government has to keep in balance not only these claims, but also various others that are considered at Budget time. The circumstances of members of Parliament are, of course, not normally reviewed annually as are those of pensioners and other sections of the community. It has been the Government’s practice to review the circumstances of members of Parliament at intervals of time and to decide what was fair and proper in the circumstances.
As to the personal vicissitudes of one of the senior members of the directorate of th.- “ Sydney Morning Herald “, I cannot say anything more than that I have read certain details in the press. Frankly, I am not prepared always to accept as accurate what 1 read in the press. Therefore, I refrain from comment on that point.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question relating to the proposed investigation of the dairying industry by a committee. Can the Minister say what stage the proposals have reached? When will the Minister be able to announce the terms of reference and the membership of the committee?
– This matter has been receiving consistent attention, and Cabinet has given consideration to it. I remind the honorable member that the Prime Minister’s policy statement was to the effect that the decision to set up the committee would be made in collaboration with the State governments. After all, we must recognize that State governments as well as the Commonwealth have responsibilities in this important industry. Action is now being taken to discuss this matter with the State governments. I can make no announcement with regard to it until I have had discussions with the State governments and obtained their views.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been directed to a statement broadcast over the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s national network in to-day’s early morning news session, and said to have been based in a speech by the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, when speaking yesterday in Belfast, Ireland-
– At what time this morning?
– A quarter to eight.
– What were you doing up at that time?
– One must get up early these days to watch this Government.
– You were still snoring then.
– I was not. According to the news broadcast, the High Commissioner stated that the Australian Government’s immigration programme for this year provided for the intake of 115,000 migrants, 65 per cent, of whom would be British subjects. Is the High Commissioner’s statement correct? If so, will the Minister advise the House how the very considerable percentage increase in migrants of British nationality has been arranged?
– Like my friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I too was up early in the morning, but I did not hear the statement. I read it in a newspaper. I think, Sir, that the honorable gentleman’s question can best be answered in this way: The Government’s overall target, as Sir Eric Harrison is reported to have said, is indeed 115,000 immigrants for the present statistical year. Out of that total figure, the assisted British intake is set at 35,000. On top of that, we anticipate, on the experience of past years, that the unassisted or full-fare component coming from* the United Kingdom will be another 24,000, or perhaps 25,000. So, in round figures the estimated overall British intake will be 60,000 out of 115,000. I would never claim very great stock for my own arithmetic, especially in answering an off-the-cuff question, but after making a very quick computation I find that the percentage is a little less than the figure given by our High Commissioner. However, I am apt to think that Sir Eric Harrison was not confining his attention simply to this year but was looking into the future. It is pleasing to know that he was officiating at the opening of our new office in Belfast, which a former member of this House is now about to assist in operating.
I am sure we all hope that in due course the High Commissioner’s prognostication of a 65 per cent, total British intake will be realized, but I would only be misleading the Deputy Leader if I pretended that we will get that figure in the financial year ending on 30th June. Sir, I say these things, of course, because it has for long been the Government’s policy, quite naturally and understandably, to give first preference to recruiting migrants from the United Kingdom. But we do that with no sense of superiority or arrogant discrimination against those from the continent of Europe. We look to the people of the United Kingdom first, because basically, racially, they are our own people and are the more readily absorbed when they come to the Australian community, but we all realize the tremendous debt that we owe to our European settlers, and naturally we shall continue energetically our efforts to recruit more migrants from the Continent.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me on whose authority foreign language broadcasts from commercial stations in Western Australia have been or are to be stopped? Will the honorable gentleman reconsider the decision, as these broadcasts in a foreign language have been of great assistance to those immigrants who find difficulty with the English language, and have also been of some value to students of foreign languages?
– This is a matter which has been referred to on several occasions within the last few months, and therefore I have had the position investigated. The honorable member asks on whose authority action has been taken to terminate these broadcasts. This action actually was taken as the result of a recommendation made to me by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The position was very thoroughly investigated by the board and discussions were held with representatives of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations before any action was taken, and I understand, from the report that I have received, that the federation itself is completely in accord with what has been done.
The action taken does not consist in completely banning broadcasts in foreign languages, and there are certain subjects on which it is permissible to broadcast in a foreign language. It was found that the use of foreign languages was being to some extent abused by advertisers and other people who were using those languages not for the purpose of assimilating new Australians into our community, or anything of the sort, but simply in order to get business. It was found, also, that this could actually react against the speedy assimilation of new Australians into the community, and so it was considered desirable to place some bar at any rate on the use of foreign languages. As I said before, after a thorough discussion with representatives of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, it was agreed that some limitation should be imposed in accordance with our programme standards.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, as head of the Australian Government. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether his attention has been directed to the fact that A. E. Goodwin Limited, a substantial employer of labour, intends progressively to reduce production at its factory at St. Mary’s and to transfer its operations to Auburn, further within the Sydney metropolitan area. In view of the grave hardship which would be caused to employees in the St. Mary’s area, and to the district generally, will the Prime Minister give this matter his personal attention in order to see whether there is any way in which the Commonwealth can help to retain this essential industry in the outer Sydney metropolitan area? I ask the Prime Minister also to investigate matters related to the delay in transferring Commonwealth land to this important company, which employs many people in the Macquarie electorate. I ask this question because of my special regard for those people.
– I think that this is a matter primarily for my colleague, the Minister for Supply, but as I understand from what the honorable member has said that he expects that this business may move out of his electorate - which I would consider unfortunate - I will have a look at the matter.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the growing delay on trunk calls to Canberra from the other capital cities? Has any extra provision been made by the Postmaster-General’s Department for additional telephones since the arrival in Canberra of the large number of defence personnel recently transferred here? In this connexion, also, has the department studied the radar relay system used extensively in the United States of America by the Bell Telephone Company for trunk line calls - a system which, because of its efficiency, flexibility and ease of installation, is reported to be gradually superseding the coaxial cable?
– Yes, it has been brought to my attention that trunk line services between Canberra and Sydney are not entirely satisfactory. I have been informed of this by several honorable members from both sides of the House, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who mentioned it to me just recently. As a result, I have been investigating the matter. The present position is that the unsatisfactory nature of this service is due less to the staff position in Canberra than to a very great increase in traffic, which has meant that the channels available are not sufficient to meet needs. We are examining the need to supply more channels. We have a relatively long-range plan whereby the proposed Melbourne-Sydney coaxial cable will pass through Canberra and give a very efficient service; but that is still in the planning stage, and it will probably be two years before it provides any relief. In the meantime, I am making inquiries to see whether some temporary relief can be given.
The honorable member referred to the desirability - as he put it - of using the radar relay or microwave system instead of the coaxial cable. That has been given very close attention for some considerable time by the engineers of the Postal Department, and the decision arrived at is that the use of the latest type of coaxial cable is preferable to the use of microwave. The latest type of coaxial cable is a six-tube cable with three pairs of tubes, each tube being capable of carrying up to 960 channels for telephone, telegraph and broadcasting purposes and, in the case of one, a television channel. Further, this has the great advantage that it allows for off-shoots along the route of the cable, which is not possible with the microwave link.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General a supplementary question arising out of the question asked by the honorable member for Perth. I ask the Minister: Was there any consultation with .any of the representatives of the foreign-born communities, especially Polish, Dutch, Italian and Greek, before alterations were made in the broadcasting system referred to? I should like also to ask the honorable gentleman whether consideration was given to the fact that the men of these communities, who have to obtain a living out among the Australian people, and the children who go to school, naturally very rapidly pick up English, but that the women at home do not, so that this decision will help to imprison the women behind a wall of language. Was consideration also given to the fact that even the advertisements which commercial firms have the enterprise to put over in another language - and these are usually followed by English translations, in Western Australia anyway - convey to foreign-born women information which is relevant to their conducting of their households? Will the Minister, before any action is taken, on the advice of an Englishspeaking control board that is likely to affect the interests of people who speak another language, consult representatives of the foreign-born communities?
– I understand from reports that T have had about this matter - and, as I said in reply to the previous question, I have gone into it and I have had reports from the board - that consultations were held with the various people concerned. For instance, several local bodies made direct representations to me, and I have been in communication with them. It is, I think, a question of having a proper balance between the provision of some form of broadcast in a foreign language and preventing such broadcasts from being used to an undue extent - to such an extent that the people to whom the honorable member refers would get practically no opportunity of hearing English. As the honorable gentleman says, there are women who do not get out very much, and
I should think that a programme in English, provided it is in a form that is capable of being understood by them, following a. programme broadcast in another language, is desirable. To that end there are someprogrammes, which I did not specify in. detail in reply to the previous question,, which meet this requirement. For instance, there are birthday greetings programmes, religious programmes, and musical programmes - which do not come under any ban - and there is provision that any such programmes - and this would not apply tt> music - as are broadcast in a foreign language should be followed, whereverpracticable, by an English translation.
– Have you consulted thesecommunities yourself?
– No, the board has done the investigation for me.
Debate resumed from 7th April (vide page 912), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is the fourth amendment which this Government has introduced to the Australian National Airlines Act 1945. The act has already been amended in 1952, 1 956 and last year; now we have yet another amendment of it.
Sir, this forms a portion of the pattern of amendments which the Government has made to airlines legislation. In addition to this measure, we have had the Civil Aviat;or Agreement Acts of 1952 and 1957, the Airlines Equipment Act of 1958, the Loan (Australian National Airlines Commission) Act of 1958, and various fiscal measures increasing the charges for air navigation licences and the charge for aviation kerosene. We have come to accept aviation legislation as one of those hardy perennials which we expect from the Government - and the word “ hardy “ is used in a sense cognate with the word “ hardihood “. The Government makes the pretence in every case that the legislation is to assist a dual system of airline operation in Australia, one operator being publicly-owned and the other being privately-owned, but publiclycontrolled, publicly guaranteed and publicly subsidized. That is the contemporary meaning of private enterprise, or free competition, as this Government knows it.
One first makes comparison with the Government’s very prolific banking legislation and shipping legislation. In regard to banks, shipping companies and airlines the Government fosters competition by hindering the publicly-owned components. It encourages free enterprise by hindering public enterprise. To take the banking legislation, with which we have been familiar quite recently, we find that the publiclyowned banks in the Commonwealth banking system are excluded from some forms of banking operations. Their activities in some directions are frozen. In various other ways they have been impeded in their capacity to raise capital, to expend money, or to branch out into new activities. Parallel with that hindering of the publiclyowned component in the banking system is the fact that the private banks in every case are given legislative and administrative encouragement.
Then one comes to shipping. We know that the Australian National Line is not only the largest line, in number of ships, operating round the Australian coast, but that it is also the only modern shipping line on the Australian coast and also the only shipping line which consistently orders ships from Australian shipyards. What do we find? A couple of years ago the Government decided that the operation of that line should be placed in the hands of its privately-owned competitors. If you want to book cargo through the Australian National Line you have to do it through private agents - agents who own the private shipping companies. The Australian National Line must conduct its stevedoring operations through the stevedoring companies which in every case are subsidiaries of that line’s private competitors.
Now we come to civil aviation. Every one of these bills with which we have dealt, year in and year out, has been meant to curb the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines or foster the operation of one chosen competitor of that airline. I say the chosen competitor because the legislation has always been meant to assist Australian National Airways. No encourage ment was given to Butler Air Transport Limited until it was fully absorbed by Ansett-A.N.A. No encouragement was given to the Ansett company until Mr. Ansett took over A.N.A.
Let me illustrate these points. Mr. Butler was not allowed by this Government to operate within Commonwealth Territories. Mr. Ansett was not allowed by this Government to operate within Commonwealth Territories either. Only A.N.A. - the chosen and favoured competitor friendly to the Government, not to T.A.A. - was given all the advantages. One has only to look at some of the disadvantages which were created for T.A.A. - the Government airline which initially through its safety record, then with its record of service and subsequently with its record of pioneering modern aircraft, has made Australian domestic aviation as safe, attractive and economical as any in the world.
First, you remember, Mr. Speaker, that in 1952 the Government halved the route charges which were payable by all airline operators and it forgave A.N.A. two-thirds of the backlog of route charges which that company had refused to pay for the previous five years. Then the Government took half the airmail business from T.A.A. and gave it to A.N.A. I doubt whether that business is as attractive to the airlines financially now as it was twenty years ago. But there is no question that when A.N.A. was given half the Government business in that way, the aim was to give a benefit to it and to do some disservice to T.A.A. In the same year, provision was made for a rationalization of air routes. This was to provide for a parcelling out, route for route, between T.A.A. and A.N.A. In the same year, the Government guaranteed loans of £3,000,000 to A.N.A. In every respect, the Government gave encouragement to the company which it did not deserve on its safety record at that time, or its enterprise at that time.
In 1957, we had to go to the rescue of A.N.A. again because the subventions which had been made five years before had miscarried or been frittered away. The 1952 agreement between the Government and A.N.A. provided for the company to re-equip with Viscount-type aircraft.
A.N.A., under its one-man control at the time, thought better of that and introduced a form of aircraft - the D.C.6 and the D.C.6B - which was not as attractive as the Viscounts and which was not nearly as pleasant to travel in except between Adelaide and Perth. Accordingly, T.A.A., which had kept its side of the bargain and had re-equipped with Viscount aircraft, got further and further ahead.
A.N.A. was defaulting on its loans. It had defaulted, I think, for six months on its instalments of the £3,000,000 loan from the insurance companies and the Commonwealth Bank which the Government had guaranteed. So in 1957, the agreement was altered to extend the benefits and transfer the benefits which had been given five years before to A.N.A. to cover that company when its shares were bought by the Ansett group. The whole agreement was renegotiated and an extra amount of money was made available. Contemporaneously, charges were imposed on aviation kerosene. This was the fuel used by the Viscounts, which were taking more and more of the interstate air traffic. This imposition was made to penalize T.A.A. and the Butler airline which were the only airlines then using aviation kerosene.
– That was not the sole purpose of the charges.
– It was undoubtedly the result.
– It was a minor incident.
– It was minor to the extent that the new tax was 31 per cent, primage compared with 25 per cent, on petrol and it cost T.A.A. £400,000 a year. It cost Butler Air Transport Limited, I believe, somewhere near £100,000 a year. Because of the increase in expenses, they had to concur with the request which A.N.A. had made to the Government that charges for air fares should be increased.
Then we come to the incidents of last year and the re-equipping of the airlines. A.N.A. wanted four Lockheed Electras. T.A.A. wanted two Caravelles. There can be little doubt that the Caravelles or Comets would have beeen ideal for Australian purposes. The motors in each case were made and serviced in Australia. Air frames and fuselages were constructed in the sterling area instead of in the dollar area.
The wishes of T.A.A., accorded with the experience of the Butler airline which also wanted Caravelles, and had already introduced Viscounts. The judgment of T.A.A. and Butler had been vindicated in the past with Viscounts and could have been relied on with Caravelles. T.E.A.L. and Qantas were browbeaten into taking Electras although they wanted Comets. At any rate, as between A.N.A. and T.A.A., A.N.A. was told it could not have four Electras, but could have only two. T.A.A. was told it could not have any Caravelles, but would have to have two Electras.
Up to now, the excuse the Government has always made is that all these arrangements were necessary to give complete parity and fair competition between T.A.A. and A.N.A. Yet we find that although the orders for the Electras could1 have been confirmed only after the Government made its decision that T.A.A. and A.N.A. were each to receive two Electras, A.N.A. now has one Electra. I think it will get another one in the coming week. But it will be a month or two before T.A.A. can get the first of its Electras. That means that T.A.A. has been handicapped in its reequipment by the deliberate administrative policy of the Government.
The bills relating to equipment were passed last year. They envisaged that the aircraft should be made equally available to T.A.A. and A.N.A. for the carriage of passengers. That is what we authorized’. That is what the Government said would happen. Yet we find that A.N.A. has been given licences to import its Electras a few months ahead of its competitor. 1 have gone through, in a very brief way, the legislation, by name and by consequence, which the Government has passed during its term of office concerning the relations between T.A.A. and A.N.A. This bill purports to deal with T.A.A. only. It is called the Australian National Airlines Bill because it deals with the operations of the Australian National Airlines Commission. The purposes of the bill are twofold. Let me refer to the Minister’s second-reading speech of yesterday. He said -
The primary purpose of the Australian National Airlines Bill 1959 is to amend numerous outmoded provisions of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1958 and to make certain changes in the constitution and responsibilities of the Australian National Airlines Commission which recognize its role as a commercial undertaking in direct competition with private enterprise.
The Minister said that many of the amendments were in fact requested by the commission. If the bill carried out no more than what the Minister described as its primary purpose, we on this side would not oppose it. We might have some comments to offer on the various sections which are being altered - probably, more appropriately in committee - but we do not feel that any of these alterations is so objectionable that we would resist the amendments. Many of them, we think, as the Government now admits, are overdue, and we would support them. But then the Minister, towards the end of his second-reading speech, said -
I now turn to a number of amendments which are necessary to give effect to the Government’s air transport policy.
He referred to the maintenance of competition on trunk routes. He also said that the provisions that are being removed from the act are “ totally inconsistent with the philosophy underlying the two Civil Aviation Agreements for establishing equality between the commission and the major private operator “. I propose to test the Government’s sincerity in regard to these remaining parts of the bill in the terms of that philosophy.
There are two portions of the bill which we say are not consistent with that philosophy. It is proposed, first, to remove those sections which prevented a private operator from operating within a Commonwealth territory except in certain circumstances. I will quote the exact phraseology. One of the sections that is being removed from the act is section 47, portion of Part IV., which is being excised. That section says -
The licensing authority shall not issue to any person, other than the Commission or a contractor to whom the Commission has requested the licensing authority to issue the licence-
in respect of a Territorial airline service (not being a section of an international airline service authorized by the
Commonwealth) - an airline licence which would authorize transport by air between any scheduled stopping places, at least one of which is within a Territory of the Commonwealth, of any airline service operated by the Commission or any contractor, unless, and except to the extent to which, the licensing authority is satisfied that, having regard to the airline services operated by the Commission and contractors, the issue of the licence is necessary to meet the needs of the public with respect to Territorial airline services.
It would be very difficult further to summarize such a pithy sentence, but I think I can say that it means that nobody other than the commission or its nominee can operate a service to a Commonwealth Territory unless the commission is unable to provide a satisfactory service.
– It is part of the old monopoly provision.
– Yes, part of the old monopoly provision. I would agree that the Government is entitled, within the terms of its philosophy, to introduce competition, even the very limited and subsidized form of competition which it calls free competition in the air, within Commonwealth territories. I have already pointed out that the Government did not believe in free competition in the air with regard to services into and out of the Australian Capital Territory, either the portion of the territory that includes Canberra or the portion that takes in Jervis Bay, because the Ansett company was always kept out of the Territory, and the Butler organization was similarly kept out of the Territory. The chosen and favoured instrument, A.N.A.: was admitted to the Territory, and, of course, T.A.A. was similarly admitted. People who had to travel to the Territory were thankful that T.A.A. was permitted to operate there, because it ran, and still runs, the only modern aircraft into the Australian Capital Territory.
– I do not think that is correct.
– What about the DC6’s?
– They do not normally land here. They come here only for parliamentarians.
– And. after all, parliamentarians are not the only people who come to this Territory. The only scheduled pressurized aircraft to come here, until quite recently, have been T.A.A. Viscounts, and, before that, T.A.A. Convairs. Within the last year or so we have also had infrequent flights by Ansett Metropolitans, the aircraft that were taken over from the original Ansett organization.
So much for the competition that we have had in air services to Commonwealth Territories. The section that I have quoted is being removed to allow A.N.A. - none of the other airlines, but just A.N.A. - to fly to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. T.A.A., it is true, does not operate a service to Papua and New Guinea. Presumably the Government does not want it to, because it already has Qantas providing a monopoly service between the mainland and New Guinea. Now the Government says that in accordance with its philosophy it wants to introduce competition on territorial routes, and to do so it is going to permit A.N.A. to operate on those routes.
I now come to the point that we want to make, and this, surely, is basic to any real philosophy of competition. Will the people of the Territory get a better service because A.N.A. operates there? Will A.N.A. merely fly aircraft to Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul, or will it also provide feeder services in Papua and New Guinea? I would be the first to admit that the feeder services in Papua and New Guinea provided by Qantas do not measure up to the high standard that Qantas maintains on its other routes, but it is only because Qantas can charge what by internal standards is a high tariff on the service between Brisbane and Port Moresby that it is able to provide any feeder services at all in the Territory. There is no doubt that Qantas could charge less on its flights between Brisbane and the Territory and still make ends meet. It could balance its budget on those routes, but it could not run all the services in New Guinea and between New Guinea and Australia unless it imposed the charges that it does between Brisbane and Port Moresby.
There is also no doubt that if A.N.A. confines itself to the trunk routes between Brisbane, Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul it will be able to undercut Qantas. People will then prefer to travel by A.N.A. I would like the Minister to give us an assurance upon this question: Will A.N.A., if it is given a licence to operate to Papua and New Guinea, be required to operate its fair share of the developmental services and feeder services in Papua and New Guinea? If it is fair enough for the company which has pioneered the services and developed the Territory to carry the burden of these feeder routes, then it is also fair enough for its competitor to play some part in developing the Territory and providing some of these services.
While one cannot, within the ambit of the Government’s philosophy, object to the removal of section 47, one would like to be assured that the licence granted as a result to a private operator will at least have attached to it the responsibilities which would go hand in hand with real competition. That is to say that A.N.A. will not just pick the eyes out of the territorial services, but will really have to take the bad with the good, the lean with the fat.
The other comment that I wish to make is on the section which permits T.A.A., as the instrument of the Australian National Airlines Commission, to operate services within the boundaries of States which have referred power to the Commonwealth to conduct such services. As honorable members are aware, the Commonwealth can only operate air services pursuant to its power to legislate with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and between States, its power to legislate with respect to the Territories, and its power to legislate with respect to matters referred to it by a State. Pursuant to its powers, the Commonwealth has set up an instrument of trade and commerce in aviation, namely this commission which operates T.A.A. The commission and T.A.A. have operated in the mainland Territories and in flights between all the States. But T.A.A. has not been able to operate within any State except where that State has referred power to the Commonwealth to conduct air services within that State. Queensland did this years ago. We are now given some doubts as to whether the continuation of Queensland’s reference was valid. This bill purports to validate it. I think that, in the intervening half dozen years, nobody, not even A.N.A., has cavilled at this operation by T.A.A. in Queensland or tested whether it could be continued.
– You do not object to that provision?
– Not at all. We think it is prudent to validate the operations which T.A.A. has conducted, I think, for the last twelve years, within Queensland, originating and terminating at Queensland airports and proceeding by way of Queensland airports.
In another place, where this bill originated, it was pointed out that the Tasmanian Parliament had passed an act permitting the Commonwealth to operate air services within Tasmania - that is to say, services which commenced and terminated and completely proceeded within the confines of that State. It was also said, “ Yes, but that act will not permit T.A.A. to operate such intra-Tasmanian services because the act has never been proclaimed. Therefore it is not an act.” I am happy to say that over the Easter recess, in the midst of the political events which characterized the southernmost State, time was found to proclaim the Tasmanian act. We found the Minister, yesterday, conceding that, as a result of the proclamation, T.A.A. would be able to operate within Tasmania by itself, as well as within Queensland.
The amendment which we would like, the amendment which we sought in the other place, the amendment which I hope the Minister will himself introduce in this place, and the amendment which, if he will not, the Opposition proposes to introduce, will, we hope, permit T.A.A. to operate within any State which refers power over air transport within its borders to the Commonwealth.
It is well known that New South Wales would like T.A.A. to operate within New South Wales. This has been particularly the case since Butler Air Transport Limited was absorbed by A.N.A. You know, Mr. Deputy Speaker - and few people know it better, because your electorate covers large parts of the countryside of New South Wales - that Butler Air Transport Limited played a very great part in pioneering and popularizing air transport in the countryside of New South Wales and south Queensland. When the Butler company was absorbed by A.N.A., the air service to every country town in New South Wales concerned deteriorated. The number of services was reduced; the quality of the aircraft declined. Where there had been a daily service, it was reduced to a tri-weekly service. Where there had been a Viscount a DC3 was substituted. There can be no question that since the Butler company was absorbed by A.N.A. the air services in New South Wales, which were previously conducted by Butler and are still nominally conducted by Butler, have declined.
– The fact is that New South Wales has not passed the necessary bill.
– No. It has not. But who moves first?
– Queensland and Tasmania have moved.
– Yes. I do not condone the action of the New South Wales Government. I should think that, as its philosophy should be the same as that which obtains on this side of the House, there should have been a government airline run by that State, or the Commonwealth should have been permitted to operate a government airline within the boundaries of New South Wales.
But there was an argument in favour of keeping the position as it was until last year because, undoubtedly, the Butler organization did try to provide a service within New South Wales, lt continually increased the frequency of its services and introduced modern aircraft. It was really astonishing that one could travel to places such as Dubbo, Parkes and Cooma in New South Wales by Viscount in less than an hour - an admirable service which one would not expect to centres of that size anywhere in the world. This was due to the initiative of Butler Air Transport Limited. The air services in New South Wales were constantly improving. They were easily the best of the intra-state air services in Australia.
I realize the difficulties with which A.N.A. has to cope in Cape York and the difficulties with which the MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Company Limited has to cope on the north-west coast. But whatever excuses there may be for A.N.A., intra-state air services operated by Butler in New South Wales were constantly improving and the countryside was well served - the Department of Railways thought that it was too well served. Consequently, 1 suppose, the New South Wales Government was entitled to believe that the position was improving so much that there was no necessity to bring another large competitor into the country aerodromes. But that is certainly not the attitude of the New South Wales Government now. Apparently, T.A.A. has negotiated with the New South Wales Government on this subject. I shall quote from the New South Wales “ Hansard “ of 10th September, 1958, in which the Minister for Transport, the Honorable George Enticknap, is reported as follows: - 1 was asked by Trans-Australian Airlines whether it could be granted licences for intra-state travel. Honorable members know that Butler Air Transport Limited, which played a big part in intra-state air travel, has gone out of business, having been swallowed by Ansett-A.N.A. I said that I was favorably disposed towards the request because T.A.A. inaugurated air services into the Riverina. However, following a direction from the Commonwealth Government that T.A.A. must not compete with private enterprise, that body has not applied for intra-state licences.
As far as I know, there were no subsequent questions in the New South Wales State legislature from Liberal or Country party members which cut down in any way that answer which the Minister gave to a question asked of him without notice by a Government supporter in the Legislative Assembly. Incidentally, I made statements to the same effect in this House last year and they were never disputed. The fact is that since the incorporation or absorption of Butler Air Transport Limited, the New South Wales Government would welcome the operation of T.A.A. within the State. How can we bring that about? In the Senate the Labour party sought to introduce an amendment and we hope that a similar amendment will be introduced either by the Government or by the Opposition.
– The Government will not introduce it.
-Then the Opposition will have to move an amendment to provide that if the New South Wales Government passes an act which would permit the Commonwealth to operate an air service within the State, then the Commonwealth will be able to do so without passing a further act. The last time an act was passed on this subject by the Commonwealth was about ten years ago.
– You have been complaining that the Government has been passing too many acts.
– Too many irrelevant acts, helping the private operator and not helping the public operator or the travelling public. Here is an opportunity to help the travelling public within New South Wales to secure once again a frequency of service by modern aircraft which it has not had since the Butler organization was absorbed by A.N.A.
In the other place the suggestion was made that it was not constitutionally possible for the Commonwealth to accept a reference by a State in an act passed after the Commonwealth act. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) stated in the other place that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department had given that advice. I am sure that I would be helped if the Minister could make available the advice on this subject. It is reasonable that we should ask for that advice. I think I am right in saying that no decision has been given by the High Court of Australia or by the Privy Council on this question, and of course, it is not possible to get a relevant decision from any other body.
Virtually, the question is: Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does it mean that a State has to pass an act referring a power and then the Commonwealth must pass an act accepting that power, or is it possible for the Commonwealth to pass an act saying that it will accept any reference which a State makes, thus opening the way for a State to make a reference? It would help us if we may be convinced by the opinion of the Attorney-General or the SolicitorGeneral to know that it is idle for us to attempt to do this, or we may be helped to frame an amendment which would come within the ambit of that opinion. I ask the Minister whether he is willing to make that opinion available to us.
I think this is the acid test of the Government’s sincerity in its plea for free enterprise in the air. Competition does exist between two airlines, and two airlines alone, in interstate transport. The competition between those two airlines exists also in regard to transport within Queensland and within Tasmania. The Minister for Primary
Industry (Mr. Adermann) has now taken his place at the table and I am sure that he would be among the first to admit that the quality of air services in Queensland has been attained largely owing tq, the fact that T.A.A. has been permitted to operate services within that State, not just within the course of interstate transport but originating and proceeding and terminating wholly within that State.
If it is fair enough to have competition between privately and publicly owned operators between the States and within two of the States, why should we not have it within the most populous State - the State which has a considerable number of large country centres and good serviceable aerodromes and which, until a year ago, was enjoying a quality of air service which is not now provided? To indicate the practical difficulties in New South Wales I point out that T.A.A. services land at only two country aerodromes, Newcastle and Corowa.
– They land at Corowa only twice a week.
– I should not think that service is very satisfactory, but as the honorable member knows, it is the only service which goes to Corowa now. I think that A.N.A. used to call there. Is T.A.A. the only service which has ever called at Corowa?
– Then Corowa is lucky because T.A.A. services can call there only in the process of interstate traffic. Aircraft may land at Corowa only when the flight originates at Melbourne, Victoria, proceeds to Corowa in New South Wales and then continues to Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. Similarly they may call there on the return journey. They land at Newcastle en route from Brisbane to Sydney and also on the return journey. The T.A.A. services are reduced to an absurd position because they can land at any country town only in ‘the course of interstate trade and commerce.
Members of the Opposition contend that while the Government is promoting the interests of competition in air services it should at ‘least take the opportunity of accepting the Labour Party’s amendment which was moved in another place and which will be moved here, the effect of which would be to allow T.A.A. to operate within New South Wales or within any other State which asks for it to do so. T.A.A. cannot operate in this way unless certain conditions are fulfilled. The State government has to pass an act enabling it to do so and the Commonwealth has to pass an act for the same purpose. The Premier has to ask the Prime Minister to do so and the Prime Minister has to give permission. There must be mutuality of legislation and mutuality of administration.
T have dealt with this amendment in some detail so that the Minister and the Opposition may both be assisted in dealing with the proceedings in committee. If it is accepted, ‘I feel sure that there will be proper competition in the air between T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. in intra-state as well as interstate air transport. This amendment will be in keeping with the Government’s philosophy of competition. Whatever our philosophies may be, the primary interest would then be achieved of securing for people in the country the same quality of air service which they had hitherto, and which, in one way or another, the people in the capital cities have long enjoyed.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), in presenting the case for the Opposition, has touched on points right outside the bill and not envisaged by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) in his second-reading speech. This indicates that in any second-reading debate honorable members are given a certain amount of licence to talk in a general way about the subject of the measure.
Before I do this, however, I wish to comment on some of the statements made by the honorable member for Werriwa. Although I can see what he is aiming to achieve, I have a feeling that if his objectives were reached there would be started what would amount to a rat race among the operators of civil aviation services within the States. I think that civil aviation to-day is supported very firmly by this Government and was supported fairly strongly by its predecessor. I think that both governments, realizing -that Australia depends greatly on air transport, conceded that adequate air services could be provided for the people only with considerable government assistance.
– Might I put to the honorable member that the same rationalization machinery that obtains in interstate transport could be applied to intra-state transport.
– I see that. I do not think rationalization can be applied to a service operating with a slight amount of traffic and a service operated by another operator on parts of routes that are paying their way. If you duplicate the service all you do is make the losses of the small operator greater or involve both operators in a loss. Obviously, if a company comes into a certain sector, its rivals likewise wish to operate in that sector. I think that the Government is doing the right thing by keeping competition out of certain sections of Australia in certain circumstances.
In Western Australia some years ago Trans-Australia Airlines applied for permission to conduct a service on the west coast in competition with MacRobertson-Miller Airlines Limited. That application was refused in conformity with the right of the State to refuse such applications. As I understand the position, all that is required is for a State to pass a law, as has been done in Tasmania and Queensland, handing over to the Commonwealth the power to set up transport facilities within a State. In Queensland, T.A.A. operates an interstate service. In Tasmania that situation arises only because the State has requested it and has passed enabling legislation. Secondly, the Commonwealth has power under its civil aviation regulations to require an operator to be licensed before he can commence a service. A State may pass an enabling act - in Queensland and Tasmania I think the legislation is called the Commonwealth Powers Act, but that does not mean that any airline company could then operate in that State. The Commonwealth would first have to agree to other things.
The honorable member for Werriwa said that the Opposition felt that the repeal of sections 46 and 47 of the act was a threat to the service in New Guinea and that it appeared as though Ansett-A.N.A. would go into that service but would take the plums by operating only from the major airports of New Guinea. At present the internal services in New Guinea are operated not by Qantas but by Papuan Air Transport and Mandated Airlines, a profitable undertaking. Ansett-A.N.A. is prepared to operate internal services in New Guinea if granted permission by the Government. The fears expressed by the honorable member for Werriwa are unfounded. This legislation has nothing to do with a proposed Ansett-A.N.A. venture into the New Guinea area.
The honorable member for Werriwa spoke of the services to the Australian Capital Territory. He said that when Ansett-A.N.A. competed with T.A.A. in conducting a service to the Territory, the only good service was given by T.A.A. I think one should take into account availability of aircraft when one considers the service given to any part of the country. Ansett-A.N.A. was equipped with certain aircraft to do a certain job, and it did that job to the best of its ability. As to the allegation that legislation has been introduced from time to time with the object of crippling T.A.A., I think the results speak for themselves. Over the last ten years T.A.A. has shown that it has not been hurt in any way by legislation enacted in this place. T.A.A. to-day is a very successful undertaking. Its success has been due not to government action but solely to the efforts of the people who work for T.A.A. The nucleus of its aircrew in 1946 and 1947 was recruited from former air force personnel. The people employed on ground duties came in the main from the services and they set out to show that T.A.A. could operate successfully. They have achieved their objective. T.A.A.’s success to-day is a tribute to the people employed by it and is a tribute also to the various commissioners who have directed its affairs. I am sure that some of T.A.A.’s success has been due to healthy competition with Ansett-A.N.A. on the main trunk-line routes. Also, T.A.A.’s publicity officer should be given full marks for the type of publicity campaign that he has conducted on its behalf. That campaign has been streets ahead of Ansett-A.N.A. ‘s publicity efforts.
The honorable member for Werriwa asked why Ansett-A.N.A. received preference over T.A.A. in the purchase of Lockheed Electras. He thought that it was a
Government-designed move to give AnsettA.N.A. a jump ahead in the race for traffic on the main trunk routes. The main reason why Ansett-A.N.A. was the first to get the Lockheed Electras was because it had paid a deposit on them long before anybody else thought of buying them.
Before the House adjourned for Easter the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) spoke about the rationalization of airlines in Australia and the purchase of aircraft. He was rather critical of the Government’s insistence that the airline companies should purchase certain types of aircraft. Some criticism was made that we shied away from British aircraft. If one takes the overall picture of Australian aviation, I do not think that we have much to apologize for to the British aircraft industry over the equipping of our fleets. It should be remembered that Australia was the first country outside Europe to use British produced Vickers Viscount aircraft. Ansett-A.N.A., Butler Air Transport Limited, and T.A.A. have between them purchased 24 Viscounts from England and those aircraft have been operated with a great deal of success. In addition, eighteen Fokker Friendships have been ordered for Australian airlines. Admittedly those aircraft are Dutch aircraft, but 60 per cent, of their components are of British origin. The only competing aircraft in the English market is the Handley-Page Herald, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Farrer, but which has not been used by any airlines outside the United Kingdom and, according to my information, has not been ordered for such use.
There was a good deal of criticism throughout Australia when Qantas announced that is would purchase Boeing 707’s from the United States. Some people felt that the Government should have ordered Comets, or aircraft of some other type. Tt is interesting to note that the British Overseas Airways Corporation has ordered twice as many Boeing 707’s as Qantas. If B.O.A.C. is prepared to use the Boeing 707, that is a pretty good answer to those who say that the Comet should have been the only aircraft considered. T think also that Canada, India, and South Africa have ordered Boeing 707’s. To-day, the successful operation of an airline service, whether it be between Corowa and Sydney or between New York and London, depends on attracting customers. If you can go kuo the field with an aircraft that captures the public imagination you will attract the type of traffic that will make your line profitable. T.A.A., by using Viscounts, learnt that lesson to great advantage.
Some mention has been made of the Caravelle aircraft, and the honorable member for Werriwa said that T.A.A. should have been equipped with Caravelles and Comets. Without doubt the Caravelle is a very good aircraft, but so far it has been operated mainly by Air France. One would not expect Air France to use anything else. I think that Scandinavian Airways Service has also ordered a few Caravelles, but I know of no other airlines that have ordered them.
– That is incorrect. There are 50 ordered.
– I do not know where they are being used. Thirty-four by Air France and fourteen by S.A.S. total about 50.
– When we bought Viscount aircraft, you yourself said the same thing. That is not a valid argument.
– I did not say that at all.
– You said that we were the first people outside the United Kingdom to buy them.
– 1 was dealing with the statement that we had not patronized the British aircraft industry. The Vickers Viscount has attained fame throughout the world. It is used by United Airlines in America.
– Somebody had to be the first to buy it.
– Yes, that is true. We have done a fair share towards helping the British aircraft industry. I do not think that that is arguable. Even the Royal Australian Air Force has been equipped with many British aircraft, together with a very small component of American aircraft. I think that of the 21 aircraft types we have, fourteen are British. That brings me to the question of the airline in my own State. It seems to be often, forgotten that the beginnings of Australian civil aviation were in Western Australia, where the first airline operated.
– I am sorry to correct the honorable member. The first airline in Australia was from Perth to Geraldton on the north-west coast, which was originated by the Brierley brothers. This airline now continues in the form of the MacRobertson Miller organization. It has done a magnificent job in Western Australia, because it operates over a type of country which is vitally dependent on air travel. Some honorable members may remember that formerly two companies were operating there, Airlines (Western Australia) Limited and the MacRobertson Miller company. I think that the Government encouraged a. merger of those two companies into the organization, which is now known as MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited. The theory at the time was that this merger would save the Government some money in subsidies, because both companies were being subsidized to do the same sort of job. When the merger took place, similar criticism, in almost the same words as have been used by the honorable member for Werriwa in regard to New South Wales, was levelled. It was said that the new service was worse, the crews were worse, and everything else was worse. But time has seemed to heal that wound, and in the main the people are quite happy.
I think the subsidies paid are slightly higher than the combined subsidies before the merger. This has been brought about by the fact that the company operates to remote parts of the north-west, to which it would not be prepared to operate in normal circumstances. The Government can request it to operate to those areas because it subsidizes the service. The Government, therefore, has had to increase the subsidy to meet the loss suffered by the company in its operations. The company’s main route, I suppose, is between Perth and Darwin, and I hope that the Government will give urgent attention to the matter of reequipping the company with a modern type of aircraft like the Fokker Friendship. It is impossible for a company to operate satisfactorily to-day with antiquated aircraft, and however magnificent was the task performed by the DCS in the past, one cannot ask an overseas traveller to-day to step from a pressurized aircraft such as a Boeing 707, a Constellation or DC7, and board a DC3 for a 2,000 miles trip. The State suffers by reason of the fact that very few travellers are prepared to leave the luxury of a modern airliner to travel south through Western Australia in a DC3. I hope that it will not be very long before the company is able to operate modern aircraft providing comfort not only for overseas travellers but also for the people who live in one of the worst parts, climatically, of this continent, the north-west of Australia.
I noticed a report in the press that very shortly the aero club of Western Australia will be moved from the Maylands airport, which, it is said, has now outlived its usefulness, to the main aerodrome at Guildford. For many years, Maylands was the main centre of activity for all types of aircraft in Western Australia, but with the war and the increased performance of aircraft came the need for longer runways and the construction of Perth airport. But Maylands still serves its purpose as a place where the aero club can operate. I realize that in 1959 it is far too dangerous to have aircraft operating from a small aerodrome near a main terminal, and cluttering up the circuit area of larger aircraft, but I doubt the wisdom of putting the aero club at the main city airport.
We have been told, of course, that these training aircraft will be equipped with radio and will be under the complete control of the control tower and that therefore the situation will be quite safe. But I do not think that any one will believe that a pupil pilot, on his first, second or third solo flight, would be greatly interested in the radio in his aircraft. He would be too worried about getting back on the ground or doing what he went up to do. I think that the Government must adopt a longrange policy on this matter and, even if it costs a considerable amount of money, develop an aerodrome well removed from the main lanes of traffic, and certainly well removed from any circuit area of service or civil aircraft, where the aero club can operate in complete safety. Even if it costs £1,000,000 to establish a small aerodrome where an aero club can operate light aircraft, that is a small payment to make to avoid the risk of one mid-air collision with an overseas or interstate airliner. Although I realize that this proposal may be rather difficult, it would be well worth the cost of execution.
It is true, as the Minister said quite early in his second-reading speech, that the amendments to the legislation are long overdue, as the situation has changed greatly since the original act was passed. Most of the changes come as a result of recommendations of commissioners who, under various governments, have done their duty and operated the Australian National Airlines Commission with a great deal of skill and credit. Therefore, one can hardly quarrel with the changes proposed. Lt appears that the Opposition’s greatest quarrel will be with the repeal of sections 46 and 47. I do not think that anybody could raise an argument against the repeal of a section that provides that at any time Trans-Australia Airlines, for instance, could just grab anything that belonged to its opposition, without any explanation and with doubtful compensation. I think that on the whole honorable members will agree with the provisions of the bill, and I therefore support it in the form in which it was presented to the House.
.- The House is indebted to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) for his observations on MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited. I hope that the honorable member will now follow his logic through, because arising out of what he advocated for the MacRobertson Miller company there are two things which support entirely the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). I remind the honorable member for Perth that he asked for Commonwealth assistance for MacRobertson Miller in the purchase of Fokker Friendship aircraft on the ground that the country areas of Western Australia need modern air transport. Two points about that, I think, are worth comment. We have reached the stage where there are practically no private airlines in Australia. There is Commonwealth capital invested in two ways. It is invested directly in its own enterprise, or it is invested under peculiar forms that make it not an investment but still essential finance for such companies as Ansett-A.N.A.
The honorable member for Werriwa was asking for a modern internal country air service in New South Wales, to be conducted by Trans-Australia Airlines. He did not say that other people should be excluded. He made his argument very carefully. Now T.A.A. is equipping with Fokker Friendships, which are a short-range aircraft, and which are economical because they are the turbo-prop type and operate on other than high octane fuels. Just as national capital must be invested in some way in Western Australia in order to provide a modern air service in that State - and the honorable member for Perth suggested that the Commonwealth should invest national capital in MacRobertson Miller Airlines - so, in the same way, if New South Wales is not to have a deteriorating service, is the airline which has received national capital to purchase Fokker Friendships to be given the chance to serve within New South Wales.
– It is up to New South Wales, is it not?
– Yes, it is up to the New South Wales Government.
– Quite. That was the point made by the honorable member for Werriwa. You are assuming that the Government of New South Wales will permit it. What the honorable member for Werriwa was trying to find out from the Commonwealth Government was whether the Commonwealth would permit it if power were referred by New South Wales.
– And so frame this legislation as to permit automatic adoption.
– That is so.
I think that the honorable member for Perth was not so happy on the subject of Caravelles. It was a virtue for T.A.A. to have got in early with Viscounts, even long before other airlines in other countries had displayed the business acumen and enterprise to go in for Viscounts, but the honorable member was inclined to argue against the same business acumen being displayed by an investment in Caravelles. I understand that the Caravelle is a French aircraft insofar as it has a French body, but it has British engines, which I understand are the same as those that we ourselves manufacture in Australia under British licence for the Royal Australian Air Force. I recall that the argument that the Government advanced in connexion with the purchase of Boeing aircraft, when it was criticized for not having bought British aeroplanes, was the argument that, in a war emergency, you would be much more likely to be able io get equipment from the United States of America to maintain aircraft of the Boeing type, and that if you were entirely equipped with British types, you would be in a much more dangerous position in the event of a European war. How much more does that reinforce the argument for the Caravelle if we already manufacture in Australia the kind of engines that they use?
I think that the emergence of the shortrange turbo-prop aeroplane like the Fokker Friendship has strengthened the case for the extension of country services, and that the honorable member for Perth is too easily satisfied with the position of civil aviation in Australia. When some of us who have been in the Parliament for thirteen years, as I have, began coming here, we travelled from Western Australia by DC3 aircraft, which landed at Kalgoorlie, Forrest, Ceduna, Adelaide, Nhill, Melbourne, Corowa, and then Canberra. Later, a milk round, as it was called, across South Australia was begun, with landings at country aerodromes. The country got quite a service because the range of the aircraft forced them to land at all sorts of country towns. Then, in many cases, services to country towns ceased, as the longer-range aircraft were able to fly over without landing.
Apart from the equipping with superior kinds of aircraft, there has, I think, in some respects, been a deterioration in Australia’s civil aviation services. The first thing that the hostess used to do when you boarded an Australian plane was to rush round with copies of many of the newspapers. One of the economies that could well have been not introduced - an economy agreed on between the two companies - abolished the distribution of the newspapers. I think, personally, that there has been some deterioration in the standard of food served on aircraft, but that is purely a personal point of view, and I do not press it. The price of tickets has increased by more than the change in the value of money, and we are now beginning to see, in this rationalization between the two companies, a deteriorating service.
I am not completely familiar with the position of the internal airlines in New South Wales, but I do know that Butler Air Transport Limited conducted part of the internal services of New South Wales before it was taken over by Ansett-A.N.A., and on those internal routes it used Viscounts. So, you may say that the country people of New South Wales, insofar as they were served by Viscounts, got the best and most economical planes operating in Australia. Certainly, if it is controversial to say that about the Viscounts over a long range, it is not controversial to say it about that aircraft over a short range. Now that the Butler company has been taken over, those aircraft have been taken off the internal air services of New South Wales, and they have been replaced by other types that are inferior to the Viscount. The rationalization has led to a deterioration in the services available to country people.
I think that we should not hesitate, as a Parliament and as a Government, to express our point of view, because we have practically reached the stage at which it is impossible to conduct private airlines profitably. The United States of America is the home of free enterprise, and I was told while I was there, by people who should know, that only one United States airline was paying its way on purely internal operations. All except Capital Airlines were equipped with piston engined aircraft, which used high octane fuel. Notwithstanding the fact that such fuels are much cheaper in the United States than in Australia, those airlines could not pay. We know, because we have had to vote blood transfusions, as it were, of £3,000,000 on a number of occasions for the private airlines in this country, that they are facing the same kind of problem.
The honorable member for Perth spoke about buying British, buying American, or buying aircraft of some other nationality, such as French. I think that, unless there are the gravest strategic considerations against it, you should buy the best and most economical types from anywhere you can get them. Tn the United States, T had the privilege of travelling by Capital Airlines from Chicago to Pellston. That was not one of the country’s main trunk routes, and it operated only a DC3. The airline was under strong criticism in the United States because it had bought Viscounts. I think that it has bought altogether 67 British aircraft. The company defended itself in pamphlets which passengers could find readily available for reading in pockets attached to the back of the seat in front. The company, in those pamphlets, stated that it had always been the real basis of American technical advancement that Americans were prepared to admit that somebody else had a superior idea, which they would take themselves and incorporate in their own processes of production. The pamphlet pointed out how, in the 19th century, it had always been true of the United States that, if she did not lead the world, she took ideas, sometimes greatly improved on them, and eventually reached the point at which she became the leader. The company said that that justified its purchase of Viscounts. That was its argument. I feel that we should take the same approach in our purchase of aircraft.
T think, frankly, that it was a tragedy that T.A.A. was not permitted to pioneer with the Caravelle. I have heard the statements made by Ministers, and I do not impute any ignoble motives to them, but I think that they are mistaken. The honorable member suspected T.A.A. for coming in early with the Viscounts. T.A.A.’s judgment was vindicated when it brought out the Convair when no one else had that kind of aircraft, and its judgment was vindicated again when it brought out the Viscount at a time when nobody else had them - on the main trunk routes, anyway. And now T.A.A. is bringing out the first jet aircraft in Australia. There is no question that the jet is the aircraft of the future. The Caravelle would have been providing a 550- mile an hour or 580-mile an hour service instead of a 425-mile an hour service. That, on some routes, especially the long routes, would have made a tremendous difference to people, and I think it was rather tragic that T.A.A. was prevented from pioneering in that respect.
The honorable member says that AnsettA.N.A. got the first Electras because it had put in an order for Electras when T.A.A. was ordering Caravelles. T.A.A. was prevented from obtaining these Caravelles. T.A.A. was told that Ansett-A.N.A. had a much better plane and, by Government direction, it was forced to switch and to take Electras instead of Caravelles. It was forced to take a type it did not want and as Ansett-A.N.A. had already put its order in for that type some time previously, T.A.A. was therefore second in the field. I am in terested to see this occurrence trotted out in advertisements issued by the AnsettA.N.A. combination as an example of that company’s superior acumen. The truth is that Ansett-A.N.A. was lucky enought to order a type, approved by the Government, but inferior in speed to the type that T.A.A. had ordered. Notwithstanding that T.A.A.’s judgment in the past has always been vindicated it was not allowed to buy the type it had ordered. The allegedly independent Australian National Airlines Commission might have been given its head. But T.A.A. was prevented from getting Caravelles, and was forced to take Electras, a type AnsettA.N.A. had already ordered, and so AnsettA.N.A. was first in the field.
I think that the Government has undoubtedly been endorsed by the country in elections, as against our point of view on a number of things; and among these things 1 can only presume are competition in banking, competition between airlines and some other matters. But surely it would have been one of the essences of competition, and of the alleged advantages of competition, if, after the Commonwealth’s own national airlines commission had been told by its investigating engineers, “ Here is the type of plane for Australia, with our distances; here is the medium jet aircraft, the Caravelle *’, the two competing companies had been allowed to exercise their differing judgments. That surely would have been the very essence of the advantage of competition.
But what is the intervention of the Government in this? It virtually says, “ No competition, no differences. T.A.A. will have Electras. Ansett-A.N.A. will have Electras.” The result is that, basically, people are offered the same services. There is competition of management, but not competition of kind. The advantage of competition is supposed to be that each competitor is trying to overtrump the other and that this periodically results in an improvement of the services offered to the public. The benefit of competition, which the Government claims chiefly to be a vindication of Liberal philosophy, was deliberately pushed out on this matter of the Caravelles.
.- I did not intend to speak in this debate, but I want to answer some points brought up by my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), and also some points touched on by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), concerning the purchase of aircraft and the types and origins of the aircraft that have been purchased by Australian airlines.
The honorable member for Perth said that there has been a suggestion that we have shifted away in this country from the use of British aircraft, and he went on to defend the buying policy of the various airlines and to try to make out a case that we have bought a number of British aircraft. Well, we have, of course. We have bought Viscounts, and we have on order fourteen Fokker Friendships, which, as the honorable member pointed out, are 60 per cent. British in manufacture, the remaining percentage being Dutch. But I remind the honorable member for Perth that in the case of these aircraft there was absolutely no alternative aircraft available from the dollar area. In fact, the Fokker Friendship is being made in America under licence because it has shown itself to be outstanding, and has no American competitor.
Exactly the same thing has happened in relation to the Viscount. Let us take the aircraft which are in competition with American aircraft. In the British and French areas - the sterling area - there are four types of aircraft which have sold very well all over the world. They are: The Britannia, the Comet, the Caravelle and the Vanguard, the last of which is just coming into service. Three of these aircraft are made in England. The Caravelle is made in France, and has a Rolls-Royce Avon engine fitted to it. That these aircraft are good aircraft is demonstrated by the fact that over 200 of them have been ordered by airlines around the world. In other words, they are not, as the honorable member for Perth suggested, used only by the local national airline in France, with nobody else wishing to buy them. Here we have a case of four of the big aircraft which are competing with American aircraft, and for which there are world orders for over 200, but for which Australia has not lodged one order. Yet, at the same time, we have orders for something like 80,000,000 dollars worth of American aircraft, all of which are -competing with these British aircraft.
So, what I said in this House before still stands. The director of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors said to me, “ We feel in England that we could not sell one British aircraft to Australia if it had a diamond in every rivet hole “. He added that that did not apply to aircraft that did not represent competition with American aircraft. He said, “ But once there is American competition we know perfectly well that we have not a chance of selling one aircraft to Australia “.
Let us see how the Government of this country has prevented the purchase of aircraft which the technical experts wanted bought, and which are made in the sterling area. First, we have the case of the Caravelle, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Fremantle. T.A.A. sent its experts, including Mr. Warren McDonald, all round the world to look at every possible suitable aircraft and decided which was best. Among other places they visited Toulouse. As the honorable member for Fremantle said, they recommended the purchase of the best and most economical aircraft. So T.A.A. decided to buy two Caravelles, but was told by the Government that it could not do so. Eventually the Government said, “ You can buy Electras.” The purchase of Electras means the spending of dollars. The Government said that T.A.A. could not buy French aircraft, despite the fact that we have a very favorable trade balance with France, as we buy from that country only one-tenth as much as we sell to it.
On what ground was T.A.A. refused permission to purchase the Caravelles that it wanted? The honorable member for Perth said that the Caravelle was an aircraft that was being bought only by Air France because, being a French aircraft, the French national airline had to use it. He said that nobody else was very interested in the Caravelle. I interjected and said that 50 of these aircraft had been ordered. The orders come not only from Air France, but from Swissair and S.A.S., which is the Swedish line. A South American airline has Caravelles on order and Sabena, the Belgian airline, has an option on twelve Caravelles. I do not know whether that airline has clinched that option, but if it has, it means that there are 62 Caravelles on firm order. In other words, this is not just an aircraft which the French national airline is being forced to use, but is an aircraft ideally suited to the job for which it was manufactured, and T.A.A. should have been allowed to buy Caravelles.
The first argument put forward in support of the Government’s rejection of T.A.A.’s application to buy Caravelles was that a lot of spares would have to be carried in Australia for only two Caravelles. But the Government did not seem to mind Ansett-A.N.A. having two Electras. It said,
Ansett-A.N.A. can carry the spares.” A point about the Caravelle case of which 1 was not aware until I had a conversation with the director of Sud Aviation in Toulouse is very important in this context. The director said to me, “ We are so anxious to sell our Caravelles to Australia that we will be prepared, at our own expense, to put in all the spares that will be necessary, if Australia will buy two Caravelles.” This should have been told to members of this Parliament so that they would have realized that the Government’s objection to Caravelles was completely groundless. I still think and hope that the decision of the Government will be reversed in this case.
In addition, the engines of the Caravelles are Rolls-Royce Avons. They are made in Melbourne to be installed in Canberra jet bombers. They are used in the Comets which will shortly be operating into Sydney. There is no difficulty with spares for the Rolls-Royce Avon. So the whole argument of the Government against allowing T.A.A. to buy Caravelles, in my opinion, falls to the ground completely. The second case I want to mention to the honorable member for Perth is the rejection by the Government of the request by Tasman Empire Airways Limited for approval to purchase Comet aircraft. There is a board of six directing T.E.A.L. and its representatives spent two years visiting every firm in the world which turns out suitable aircraft. They inspected the aircraft, gave them test flights and eventually decided by a four-to-two majority in favour of the Comets. What did this Government do? It immediately sent the Director-General of Civil Aviation and the Minister for Civil Aviation to New Zealand and put the utmost pressure on the New Zealand Government and the board of T.E.A.L. to rescind that vote and not to buy Comets, but to purchase Electras instead. The only argument I ever heard of any substance in support of the action that was taken by the Government was that Qantas was going to get Electras and if T.E.A.L. got three Electras, Qantas could use a bit of spare time on them, but if T.E.A.L. got three Comets, they would not be interchangeable. In other words, Qantas need put on only four Electras if T.E.A.L. had three, and the two companies could interchange, whereas if T.E.A.L. had Comets, they could not interchange. 1 do not think it is good business to say that we would sooner have seven American aircraft than five American aircraft and three British.
I know that the British aircraft industry is passing through a particularly difficult period at present. When I was in the United Kingdom, I visited the Britannia works and a number of other aircraft factories. I also visited aircraft factories in the United States of America and France. When I went to Bristol, I was told that notice had been given to 10,000 workmen at the Bristol aircraft works because of lack of orders. That sort of thing is coming up in every one of the British aircraft works.
– Buying Comets would not have helped the Bristol company.
– It would have helped the De Havilland company, but not the situation at the Bristol works. There was a suggestion earlier that Qantas should have bought Britannias, but the board of Qantas did not do so. What the honorable member for Perth has said is correct. Buying Comets would not have altered the position at the Bristol works, but it would have assisted the De Havilland company which has the end of its orders in sight. I honestly believe that if everything is reasonably equal - and it must be if world airlines are buying these aircraft - we also should have bought them. It is a shocking thing for the Government to prevent an Australian airline from buying them and to force it to buy American aircraft when the experts of the airlines have said that they want British aircraft.
.- I was pleased to hear the view expressed by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), because it is one that I have held for some time. I remember the honorable member’s statements during the debate on the purchase of aircraft for Qantas, some time back, when the organization decided to buy jet aircraft from the United States of America. I believe, with the honorable member for Farrer, that we have a plain duty to support the British aircraft industry. The United Kingdom is one of our great trading partners. We talk in very high-flown terms of the bonds of empire and all the rest of it. We pay the highest tributes to Her Majesty the Queen and members of the Royal Family when they visit us, but such tributes do not mean anything if, in its policy, the Government forgets the British workers and British industries. I support the sentiments that have been expressed by the honorable member for Farrer.
We on this side of the House read the statements of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in another place that the provisions of the bill are consistent with the Government’s declared policy ot maintaining competition on the trunk-line routes between the commission and privateenterprise operators. But competition in the airline business, as interpreted by this Government for application to private and public industry, is like the bunyip - there is no such animal. It is something to be trotted out as a message or a motive, but it does not mean anything. Let us consider the attitude of the Government in this field. The aircraft industry and the civil aviation industry, though important to the nation generally, form only a small part of the national undertakings. Some 2,000,000 passengers travel on airlines in Australia each year and 70,000 tons of freight is carried. Aviation is not a great undertaking in the same way as the railway system, the education system and the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project are great. That is the attitude of the Government, and it has been its attitude for ten years.
Let us examine the record of this Government and its attitude to private enterprise. This measure could well be termed the Private Airlines Subsistence Bill, because several different things have shown that this Government was sent here to promote competition between efficient public corporations and private industry. It is out to subsidize private industry at public expense. Let us consider these points in the light of three or four years’ operations by the Government.
The first point that was taken up by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) was in relation to the Government’s attitude in putting a tax on aviation kerosene. 1 remember incidents in connexion with the little Budget, about three years ago, when additional taxation was imposed. Suddenly, the Government found that this would be disadvantageous to the private airlines, and, in a few days, removed the tax. Shortly afterwards this taxation was applied to the particular fuel used by T.A.A. All sorts of reasons can be given for this action, but we can only say that the Government’s attitude is an attempt to prejudice the efficiency and the economy of T.A.A. services in favour of an airline which, in the past, has made errors of judgment in the purchase of aircraft.
Secondly, there was the adjustment of Government business. Let us consider the air-mail situation generally. What right had the Government to divert air mails to a private airline when it has its own duty to carry the mails? What right has any enterprise to transfer its business to a competitor so that he can survive? Consider what would happen in the bankruptcy court if the books of a potential bankrupt were being examined and the court said, “ You shipped 50,000 tons of goods from Canberra to Goulburn. You had a transport system of your own but you sent the goods by Private Enterprise Proprietary Limited. Why did you do that? “ What would happen if the person being examined replied, “ We thought it would be a fair thing to give our competitors a go”. If a private citizen were to put that case to a bankruptcy court, he would be charged with being deficient in business acumen. The case of the air mails is parallel.
I remind honorable members of the citizenship convention which is held in Canberra every year. An instruction goes out from the Government to the officers who are conducting the conventions and who are organizing transport for the delegates to and from Canberra that half the business must go to the private airlines.
– The Government has contractual obligations.
– Because the Government has personally contracted it. That is absolutely indefensible.
– Contracted by this Parliament.
– No, by this Government. Do not tangle us up with the things you have done in the past ten years. The Government’s actions are indefensible. This Government’s policy is to subsidize private airlines at public expense and to divert public business to private enterprise without justification. Therefore, its policy is indefensible. That is evidence that this measure should be called the Private Airlines Subsistence Bill.
– The honorable member is referring to another act.
– This is part of the system. It has been explained that the provisions of the bill are consistent with the Government’s approach. The Government has given guarantees to the banks for the airline operators over the past few years. But what would be the position of a private citizen trying to buy a home or to settle on the land? Can he get government support for private enterprise or to buy a home? Of course not! This Government’s philosophy is a philosophy of big business. Private enterprise is subsidized from the public purse. The honorable member for Farrer, the honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) have referred to the odd position that has been created by the Government’s attitude to the purchase of aircraft. Recently we have had a request by the publicly-owned company to buy a certain type of aircraft, and a request by a private company to buy another type of aircraft. In the end, the will and desire of the private airline company prevailed, and the public company has to accept the decision given in favour of the private airline operator. I say that this is indefensible.
This bill gives the private airline a right to expand on what will be, in the end, its own terms, into fields which have been previously the preserve of a publiclyowned company. It gives it the right to expand into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has pointed out what is involved in this new arrangement. Let us consider the position with regard to air transport in New Guinea. Although there are certain small airlines operating, the principal burden of providing feeder services and maintaining continual communications is the responsibility of Qantas, the public airline. Is the private operator that is likely to be offered a licence in this Territory to be required to provide some of these feeder services? Is it to operate only over what might be called the international route, between Australia and the Territory, or will it also have to operate internally in New Guinea, where feeder services are necessary for the Territory’s expansion?
It is important to remember that the air fares between Australia and New Guinea are much higher per mile than those charged internally in Australia. The air fare from Sydney to Melbourne is only about £10, but from Cairns to Port Moresby it is, I think, about £29. This, I presume, is the result of some kind of international agreement. Obviously, the service between Australia and New Guinea is quite a cream-puff service. It is the one most profitable, and therefore it is being offered to the private airline operator.
Another instance of the Government’s support for private enterprise, as long as it is big enterprise, is to be found in its failure to preserve and protect the operating rights of the Butler organization and also of Southern Airlines Limited. A farcical position arose some time ago, in which the people of Flinders Island were offered more air transport than they could possibly cope with. Southern Airlines Limited had been operating, quite satisfactorily, a service between the mainland and Tasmania, via Flinders Island, when suddenly Ansett-ANA entered the field and let it be known that it would run the smaller airline out of business. These friends of private enterprise in this Parliament, these people who denounce monopoly if it is government-operated monopoly, allowed this to go on. We say it is indefensible, and it is further proof that this Government is prepared to use all the resources of the nation to subsidize its own supporters.
But what is most objectionable is the extravagant support given by this Government to the airline industry generally. The airlines are the pampered darlings of the Australian transport system. Honorable members have recently received gold-plated invitations to travel on the new Electra jet plane on a kind of demonstration flight. What does this involve? This function, and the flight itself, will be subsidized from public funds. Answer after answer given to honorable members on this side of the House to questions on notice and without notice have demonstrated the extent to -which the airlines are subsidized.
– Is the honorable member going to this function?
– I do not think I will, but I may well go as an interested citizen to get some of my own money back. During the last ten years an amount of about £111,000,000 has been spent on civil aviation services and capital works. In a reply to, I think, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), it was stated that public revenue had been reimbursed in that time to the extent of no more than £3,000,000. So that during the last eight or ten years, in order to carry 18,000,000 passengers and about 700,000 or 800,000 tons of freight, we have invested £100,000,000 of public capital. This works out at £5 for every passenger carried. This means that every flight of a Viscount, a Lockheed Electra or a D.C.3, whether operated by T.A.A. or A.N.A., is subsidized to the tune of £4 or £5 a seat. The Electra, carrying 60 passengers, will be subsidized to the extent of £300 on every flight, representing about £3 or £4 a minute in the air.
The people of Australia support an effective airlines policy. They have, I believe, no real objection to it. They are proud of our airlines. But I say that we are adopting a fantastic and extravagant attitude towards a form of public transport which is, after all, the prerogative of the very few. Our railway systems are saddled with heavy debts, the details of which may be found in “ Hansard “ of 7th April, 1958. It appears that in the last eight or ten years the Australian railway systems have paid £1 37.000,000 in interest alone, while we are continually investing huge sums of money on civil aviation servces, for which the airline operators repay nothing whatsoever. It was pointed out in an answer to a question in this House that the Government gets some reimbursement from taxes imposed on petrol used by aircraft, but this fact in no way i invalidates the argument that either the people who use the airlines should pay for them or that they should be publicly owned.
As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has pointed out, the people have, apparently, in the last three elections supported general Government policy. However, it is only by keen research and by asking a lot of questions and examining the matter very closely that one can see the true picture with regard to air transport. If the people were given all the facts and had a knowledge and an understanding of the position, I do not think they would support a situation in which a few who travel by air are subsidized in extravagant fashion from the public purse, while those who travel by rail have their worker’s weekly tickets taken away.
I oppose, therefore, the general attitude of .the Government in presenting this piece of legislation. I support the amendment that has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for Werriwa. We want some assurance that T.A.A. will be able to expand its services intra-state. We want to know whether the Government will give T.A.A. the right to operate internally in that State if the New South Wales Government refers the power. It is important that T.A.A. be allowed -to expand intra-state in accordance with the business sense and judgment of its management. I therefore support the propositions put so effectively by the honorable member for Werriwa on behalf of this side of the House.
– 1 would like to have a few words to say on this matter. I feel that this is an audacious measure for the Government to bring down, following on the give-away of the Commonwealth Bank and of other Commonwealth properties during the last ten years. This bill has been brought before the House so that it can be put through quickly in order to give an unfair advantage to these people who talk so much about fair competition. Let me first give honorable members this information: In 1949 a gentleman called Colonel Ryan arrived in Australia. Colonel Ryan was the governing director of certain American organizations, including East-West Airlines, North-West Airlines, the Greyhound bus lines and the Lockheed Electra Corporation. He was also a man who figured very prominently in dollar loans to the Australian Government. This is the gentleman who is also connected with Ansett-A.N.A.
We know that his first action when he arrived in Australia was to connect with the old, decrepit, airline called Australias National Airways Proprietary Limited. Of course, A.N.A., owing to many accidents which had been due to faulty administration, was slowly going broke. But Colonel Ryan had to get a lead-in somehow. So, by means of skullduggery with this Government, he finally got a toehold by means of a bill which was introduced into this House some years back by which A.N.A. was more or less salvaged from the hopeless position in which it had been.
Now we are going to get the truth on these matters. In the interim, Colonel Ryan became, through Ansett, a big boss in Pioneer buses. So, not only has he a stranglehold on all transport, both air and road, in the United States of America, but slowly but surely, he is buying into the transport monopoly in Australia, aided and abetted by this Government. Of course, Ansett himself is only a front in AnsettA.N.A. Ansett, one can say, is only a very minor person in this set-up. Colonel Ryan is the man behind the gun.
Colonel Ryan, at the head of this huge corporation, was influential enough to force this Government to buy second-rate aeroplanes, of which we have heard a lot lately. We have also heard of dinners and cocktail parties to celebrate the different flights from one place to another. I believe that a cocktail party is to be held to-night, very likely in order to celebrate the introduction of this legislation. I think that I received an invitation to it, which I refused. I do not believe in celebrating victories by monopolies over the people. I am not subservient to the will of any monopoly, and I do not take bribes in the form of cocktails.
We have heard the story concerning our airmails, 50 per cent, of which the Government took away from the government airline and handed to private enterprise - to Ansett-A.N.A. I know that the people of Australia are not satisfied with the speed with which their airmails are carried, or with the charge that is made for the carriage of airmails. There was the story of a closed van which overturned at Wangaratta some months back. Bundles of airmail were spilled on to the road. That happened because that airmail had been handed to Ansett-A.N.A., which decided to carry it to Melbourne in Collier’s closed vans. Unfortunately, an accident happened. The van overturned and bundles of Her Majesty’s mail were found being carried by surface transport despite the fact that people had paid double the normal price for the carriage of that mail. An investigation into that matter will convince even Government supporters.
The decrepit old airline, A.N.A., owed so much money that it could not carry on and it appealed to the Government. We know, of course, of the Government’s action in relation to the big steal of the people’s assets. In ten short years the Commonwealth’s interests in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the government whaling station have been sold. This has all been part of a longrange plan. Finally, the Government has stolen the Commonwealth Bank from the people. Its audacity, of course, brought cheers from the huge monopolies of Australia. This bill represents a further attempt to hand government airlines over to this American monopoly. I challenge contradiction by Ministers on any statement I make on this subject. I am prepared to debate with any Minister on a public platform the facts that I put before the Parliament.
If my recollection is correct, a debt of £600,000, owed by A.N.A., was wiped off by this Government. Route charges at Mascot were treated likewise. Butler Air Transport Limited was brought into AnsettA.N.A., and the Butler employees were taken for a ride. It was said that when the airline system had been rationalized everything would be all right. Any one who has been in industry knows what the word “ rationalization “ means, lt means a general cutting down of employment; a trimming of lower-paid employees. The Butler employees were robbed of an amount of money which rightfully belonged to them. I believe that various court actions in this connexion have not yet been properly settled, so 1 shall not comment on that further. But the Butler employees are still dissatisfied. Where do we find Butler? I suppose that he is one of the greatest airline operators in Australia. He is a man who pioneered airline operations in Australia, yet he was dumped unceremoniously.
Now the Government is asking this House to allow Ansett-A.N.A. to go a little further. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) mentioned the increase in fares which has occurred in the last fortnight. Would that be coincidental with the passage of this bill? And would it be coincidental with the imminent change in the route to Singapore? Aircraft on this run are to proceed from Sydney to Brisbane, Port Moresby and thence to Singapore, cutting out Darwin. Will the Minister deny that? He need not frown. Let him check up and see whether I am right or wrong. The reason given for the alteration of the Singapore route is that the new route will cut the journey to Singapore by eighteen miles! But this reason has not been put forward: The new route will link up, at Lae, with the All-India route to the islands and the Air France route to Noumea, New Caledonia and other places. That will give Ansett-A.N.A. a greater opening at the expense of Qantas which is now carrying on a very reliable and - what is most important - an accident-free service.
I advise the people of Australia to compare and to take into deep consideration the accident rates of Ansett-A.N.A. and other airlines. T.A.A. is now in the throes of vicious attacks by the Government in an endeavour to destroy an airline which was set up by the great Labour government in order to re-establish the boys of the Royal Australian Air Force who came back from the war in 1945. The marvellous job done by our Air Force in the war inspired the people of Australia to airmindedness with the result that 2,000,000 passengers are now carried yearly in Australia by air. I am most concerned at the giving away of the taxpayers’ rights and assets. It is going on in this Parliament from day to day and I am sorry that we are off the air to-day in view of the importance of this measure.
Let us see the reason why the return fare to Singapore for Australian air travellers will be increased by £60. From a date fixed last week, air fares from Sydney to Singapore will be in the region of £308 return. The excuse given for that increase has been the changeover from the Australian £1 to sterling. What a lame excuse! The traveller has to pay sterling for his fare from Sydney to Darwin; the fare from Darwin to Singapore also has to be paid in sterling. It is the lamest excuse 1 have heard up to date, and I have heard some very lam. excuses from the Government in regard to r.he great steal of the assets of the Australian taxpayer.
I am concerned about the future prosperity of our airways owing to the lack of administration of T.A.A. This being j government airline, it is run not for profit, but for the convenience and comfort of the people of Australia. Hitherto, it has operated very efficiently, but it is now to be controlled by a huge trust - and 1 emphasize the word trust - the only concern of which is to gain as much profit as possible from the carriage of travellers in Australia. What will it care about the safety of the passengers? t am thinking now of the air accident rate in America where airlines are controlled by monopoly interests. Those same interests are controlling Ansett-A.N.A. and their continual cry is “ Profit, profit, profit “!
Yesterday the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) moved an amendment protesting against the limit of insurance provided in the bill in the case of the death of a passenger by accident. The sum is fixed at £7.500. I ask honorable members to consider the plight of a widow left with four or five children as a result of her husband being killed in an air crash. In addition to the grief and nerve shock she has sustained at the loss of her husband, the breadwinner, she is faced with the problem of having to rear her children for ten or fifteen years on a miserable £7.500.
The Government brought in. the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) to fight for the right of airlines to keep the maximum insurance cover down to £7,500. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) defended that action and, in this National Parliament, informed the people of Australia that they could easily take out further insurance by paying an extra premium. Although air fares will be increased the Government expects the breadwinner, as an air traveller, to pay an extra premium in order to be assured that his family will bc adequately provided for in the event of his being killed in. an air crash. This is simply canvassing for more business for the insurance companies.
I feel very keenly about the ramifications of this matter. Throughout the Minister’s second-reading speech detrimental statements are made concerning the purchase of aeroplanes by T.A.A. But I remind honorable members of the tomfoolery that went on about the flight by an Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft to Melbourne which took only an hour and a half. Passengers were invited to meet the hostess and to have champagne on the run. Just imagine a passenger being forced to drink champagne, whether he wanted to or not, just to glorify this second-rate airline! The money which is being taken out of the passengers’ pockets in increased air fares is being used for advertising on television. Every one knows how high are the costs of advertising on a television programme.
Then we heard the boloney of Ministers, who, one after the other, told the people that there must be fair competition between the airlines. Yet, on the other hand, they are taking passengers, luggage and freight away from T.A.A. and preventing that airline from operating an air service through the night. The Government is seeking to give all the business it can to Ansett-A.N.A.
Why is it doing this? It is because Colonel Ryan who heads this big trust and who has been in Australia, off and on, since 1948 is the man who can be described more or less as the pawnbroker with whom this Government has been dealing in its endeavour to borrow dollars. Without the word of the director of this huge trust, we find that the Government is more or less held to ransom unless it gives Ansett-A.N.A. priority in all airline business. If it does not, the Government will not get any dollars when it applies for them. Australia will be on the market in two months’ time for another 50.000.000 dollars. I see that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is in the House and I challenge him to deny that statement. Of course, Australia will get the dollars, but the dividends will have to be paid by the likes of Ansett-A.N.A., General Motors Limited and the big American construction companies now operating in Australia. Australia will get the dollars but the people will be charged 6 per cent, interest. These dollars will be used to pay huge American companies which are operating to-day under the Government’s reciprocal tax arrangement.
– Those companies employ thousands of Australian workers.
– This procedure is part and parcel of the reciprocal tax arrangement between Australia and America. Australia has guaranteed every American company represented in Australia the right to operate in this country without paying tax on the dividends at the source of earning. Will the Minister for Air deny that? Australia is being tied hand and foot to huge American trusts which are now riding roughshod over the Australian people. Year by year we are getting into a more hopeless position and we will not be able to turn one way or the other when the American trusts crack the whip.
I challenge the Minister to deny the veracity of my statement when I say the trust which controls the Lockheed corporation is operating in Australia and controlling Ansett-A.N.A. Is it not true also that it is exempt from taxation on dividends earned in this country and paid to American shareholders in Lockheed? I challenge the Minister to deny that General Motors Limited operates in Australia on the same basis and that the same condition applies to the earnings of the big American construction companies operating here.
– On a point of order: I ask your ruling. Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the operations of General Motors Limited and other trusts have any relevance to the bill now under discussion.
– 1 think the honorable member is making only a passing reference to them.
– T thank you for your ruling. Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister for Territories has just awakened from a slumber and come into the House. He has been a Minister for a number of years but I should like to inform him that General Motors Limited is connected with the Lockheed corporation in America, and that that corporation also controls Ansett-A.N.A. Although the Minister is young I suppose that he is willing to learn. I ask him to chew over that information I have just given him and then reflect on what a fool he has made of himself.
Now I want to voice the protests of the people of Australia - the real people, the small people - at the invitation of the Government to the huge air and oil monopolies tied up with General Motors Limited, Ansett-A.N.A., Greyhound tours and Pioneer tours, to take a controlling part in the ramifications of Australian airline services. Pioneer Tourist Coaches Limited, which is tied up with Ansett-A.N.A., is now buying up all the hotels.
– Order! I do not think the honorable member’s remarks have anything to do with the legislation before the House.
– My remarks are connected with the legislation.
– Order! I have ruled otherwise.
– I want to voice my protest at the ramifications of the huge American monopolies that have interests in this country. The Government should realize what a stranglehold the Lockheed corporation of America has on this country to the detriment of the Australian taxpayer.
– Every Premier is urging American companies to invest in his State.
– That does not make their presence here just. They should not be here. The Commonwealth Bank was strong enough to finance two world wars and I think that it could finance Australia’s development without the help of dollars. The Commonwealth Bank should be used to assist our airways without inviting at a price - all legislation from that side of the House is at a price-
– You would see burglars under your bed at night.
– Honorable members know that all legislation from that side of the House is at a price.
– I rise to order. I take exception to the honorable member’s statement that all legislation from this side of the House is at a price, meaning that the Government is corrupt. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I do not think there was any direct reference to any individual.
– Thank, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that your decisions are fulL of wisdom. I said that American companies are operating, in Australia, and there can be no denial of that. They are here because of the reciprocal tax arrangement, which has been on the statute-book since 1952. At that time Australia became indebted to America. When the late Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister Australia was not indebted to America. To-day we are 495,000,000 dollars in debt. What for? We manufacture most of the things that we need. We have our own raw materials. What has become of our aircraft industry? It has gone with the wind at the demand of the American pawnbroker.
– Do you drive a Holden?
– Holden cars are built in my electorate, but they do not drive me with one. That is the answer to the honorable member for Perth. He may get one. I do not, and I am not insinuating that he is being bribed.
Once again I voice my protest at the haphazard manner in which this Government is administering the finances of the country.
.- This legislation follows a pattern that has been most pronounced in all the major legislation that we have been called upon to consider during the regime of this Government. Earlier this year the Government brought down legislation to give concessions to the private banking interests. The interests of the public were sacrificed in legislation that was designed to operate against the government-owned institution. The bill before the House appears to have been designed on similar lines with a view to buttressing private enterprise at the expense of a public-owned institution. It is obvious to honorable members on this side of the House that legislation of this type is detrimental to the public interest. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) explained in detail how the private airlines have received an advantage at the expense of the government-owned airline and have been enabled to operate in the most profitable manner. I feel that it is the duty of honorable members to direct attention to the way in which the Government has sacrificed the interests of the public.
Yesterday, I spoke on another bill which was designed to protect the private airlines of Australia from liability for injuries sustained by passengers. That legislation was designed to ensure that privatelyowned airlines should not be liable for large damages arising out of some major disaster that may overtake the enterprise. The legislation was designed to ensure that privately-owned organizations were not compelled to discharge their obligations to the Australian people. Otherwise claims made against a private company could put it out of business. To safeguard against that eventuality the Government has sacrificed the right of passengers on those airlines and has ensured that the airlines will not become insolvent through having to meet large claims for damages.
Much of the legislation that has been passed in this place in recent years has contained concession after concession to private trading interests. On no occasion has any obligation been placed upon private interests. Concessions have always been made to private interests often in order to keep them in business. I question very seriously not only the wisdom, but also the moral justification of permitting a situation of this description. Furthermore, along with the honorable member for Werriwa and other members of the Opposition, 1 strongly resent the way in which T.A.A. has been required to forgo business that it should rightly have as a Governmentowned institution. If, by some means or other, T.A.A. found itself unable to operate successfully because it had not enough freight and other business, I wonder whether there would be a rationalization of services, with business being taken from the other major airline to make it possible for the Government-owned airline to operate satisfactorily! Of course, there would not be. It is all going one way - away from the Government airline to the private airline. All the time there has to be a sacrifice of public interest to meet the demands of the people associated with private organizations.
I understand that this legislation is designed as a safeguard against the Government line achieving a monopoly and as a protection for the private line so that it will be kept in business. There is no provision for protecting the Government line from being driven out of business by the private organization which has received such liberal concessions from this Government. That being so, the legislation seems to me to be entirely one-sided, because it seeks to serve certain private interests at the sacrifice of public interest. We must realize that in the Government-owned organization there is maximum efficiency, because it does not operate primarily for profit. It seeks to afford a public service, with the maximum safety for its passengers. The great motive of private enterprise is the making of profit and therefore, while hoping to remain within the limits of safety, it cuts as fine as possible its maintenance and general servicing. While it certainly keeps within the limits laid down by civil aviation regulations, it still, I feel, gives less attention to these matters than is given by the Governmentowned organization, because it is required to make for its shareholders some return for the money they have invested. This has to be made at the expense of the travelling public or by sacrificing to the possible limit the maintenancing and general servicing of its aircraft fleet. I remember a leading member of a private airline organization coming to America when I. was there. He would not fly on an American airline because of the deficiencies in general servicing and the great and inordinate desire to get the maximum profit for shareholders. Although he was in the aircraft industry himself, he was not prepared to travel by air in that country.
In this situation, are we really doing the best for the people of Australia? After all is said and done, that is our obligation as members of Parliament. Our first consideration is for the people. I am afraid that public interest is being deliberately sacrificed for the advantage of private interests. The honorable member for Werriwa dealt with the question of fuel, and referred to the added tax upon aviation kerosene used by the Governmentowned airline, while there was a reduction of 10 per cent, in the primage on petrol used by the privately owned airlines. The Government line thus suffered an extra charge. Will any one tell me that that was a fair way of meeting our obligations and liabilities and of dealing equitably with the airlines of this country?
Legislation of this kind should be seriously challenged. I feel most unhappy at having even to consider such legislation. The Government is to be roundly condemned for making the last consideration the protection of public interest. It is living up to its declarations that its first duty is to what is called free and independent enterprise. It is affording every assistance to its friends and sacrificing the public interest. The Government’s friends are the people who are responsible for its existence; who have the means of supplying the finance essential for the conduct of its campaigns, and who expect some consideration in return for what they have given. The Government has now to face up to its responsibility to its masters, who to-day are demanding some protection and assurance for their future. Although legislation of this class may give them immunity and advantage in the immediate future, it will be for a Labour government to alter the legislation and afford full protection to the Australian community, both financially and in the provision of efficient service in air travel and in any other field where there is a conflict between public enterprise and what is called free private enterprise. This Government is prepared to sacrifice the public interest to accord patronage to its special friends in this way.
– Mr. Speaker, this bill contains a number of provisions relating to the Australian National Airlines Commission, and for the most part those provisions strengthen and facilitate the operation of the commission and leave the way open for it to perform its functions more efficiently than it has performed them in the past. The Opposition has concentrated on one particular clause, which proposes the repeal of Parts III., IV. and V. of the principal act. I suggest to the House, with all the respect due to honorable members opposite, that in concentrating on this clause they are fighting a battle which has already been concluded, and in which not only this Parliament but also the people of Australia and, indeed, in some respects, the courts of Australia, have made their decisions.
In seeking the votes of the people of Australia, this Government announced quite clearly, before it came to office, its policy on the matter of airlines - a policy of competition in airlines in contrast with the policy of socialist monopoly which was put forward by the Australian Labour party. The people of Australia, by their votes, returned this Government to office, and having been returned to office, it proceeded to apply that policy - and applied it successfully in the face of a number of very unusual difficulties which were not of its creation. By the application of this policy, it has brought into existence in Australia a competitive system for the operation of the civil airlines. Having done that, its action has been endorsed in successive elections by the people of Australia. So I say that that battle has been fought. It has been contested clearly, definitely and with all the energy that is available on both sides of politics, both in this House and in the electorate, and the battle has been concluded. All that clause 18 of this bill will do by repealing Parts III., IV. and V. of the principal act will be to tidy up the act in complete conformity with the decisions already made and the verdict already given by the people of Australia.
Now, in order to persist in its ideas that a socialist monopoly in airline operation is preferable to competition in airline operation, the Opposition has renewed the battle here and has turned its attack particularly, as was indicated by the way in which the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) spoke, along lines of argument which seem to suggest that there is villainy on the part of the privately owned element in the competitive airline system. It is not necessary for me, or for any other honorable member, at this stage, to attack or to defend Ansett-A.N.A. It is an Australian company. I think it has many elements in its management, its staffing, and the quality of the people who provide service to the public in its operations, which could give pride to Australians. There is no reason for us to be ashamed or to attack that airline because we have produced out of our own Australian population in Mr. Ansett - whom I do not claim to know particularly well - an Australian who has shown himself to be a man of business enterprise, of energy, of great capacity, and, indeed, of something almost approaching business genius, in the organizing of a succession of great enterprises. Why should we be ashamed that Australia has produced such a man? Why should we go out of our way to attack an Australian of that quality because he has built up and is maintaining an organization staffed by Australian pilots. Australian clerks, Australian traffic superintendents and Australian workers of various kinds, who are engaged in an honorable way in a great enterprise and who maintain a service which, no less than that provided by Trans-Australia Airlines - the government-owned airline - is something of which Australians can be proud? Why should we go out of our way to attack this Australian enterprise simply because it happens to be privately owned and is operating in competition with the socialist airline which the Opposition would like to see prevail?
A further thing that has emerged from this debate is a tendency to suggest that because there is not a socialist monopoly, in some way or other our civil air services in Australia are poor, that they are not properly conducted, and even that the aircraft used have been badly chosen. I seem to recall that it has even been suggested that there is some element of risk in the way in which our airlines are conducted. I say without fear of contradiction that on the main trunk routes in Australia operated bv both T.A.A. - the government airline - and Ansett-A.N.A. - a privately owned airline - we have civil air services of which we as Australians ought to be very proud. They are efficient services which are very thoughtful of the public interest. Most of us. as parliamentarians, have to travel more than do most citizens of Australia from one side of the continent to the other, and T am sure that every one of us has had occasion, time after time, to be especially grateful for the expedition, the efficiency and the general courtesy with which the airlines of Australia, either one or the other, are conducted.
– That is largely due to the influence of Trans-Australia Airlines.
– I would suggest that the services have been very much improved since this element of competition between the two major airlines has been reintroduced in Australia. At the time when I first began to travel extensively on the civil airlines in Australia after the war, there was. under the previous government, a growing certainty that there was likely to be a monopoly airline, and in my personal experience the attention, courtesy and efficient service which one receives to-day, after the re-introduction of effective competition, are far greater than were those of ten years ago. Far greater! I think that most people who do a great deal of travelling will admit that that is so, and if one studies the passenger and freight figures of the respective airlines one will see that they reflect the appreciation of the using public, the appreciation of the customers, of the services provided by these great agencies.
The main point I want to make - and I think it is a point that has to be made clearly - is that the Opposition is doing two things. First, it is putting up a sham fight on a subject on which controversy has really ended, because the issue has been decided by the electors through their endorsement of this Government’s action; secondly, in persisting in that sham fight, that ineffective fight, over something that has already been decided, they are revealing basically their hatred - and I do not think “ hatred “ is too strong a term - for anything that is big and privately-owned, and their devotion to the idea of socialist monopolies. I am sure that the people of Australia do not want socialist monopolies, and will never vote for socialist monopolies. If the Opposition has wisdom - and I hope that there are some members of the Opposition that have wisdom - it will realize that the trend of thought in Australia is against the dead hand of socialist monopoly and in favour of confidence in the initiative, energy and enterprise of Australia and Australians. If honorable members opposite persist in this folly of fighting they will continue to sit. as they have already sat for so long, on the Opposition benches.
I particularly deplore the remarks that were made so loudly - as is customary - by the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) about American investment. The honorable member speaks as though investment of overseas capital in this country is an iniquitous thing, as though it were something inimical to the interests of Australia, as though what we, as good patriotic Australians, should do is to slap in the face every American who dares to take an interest in this country’s development. He spoke in terms, almost of venom, of any American who dared to touch profits made from an American investment in Australia. Everybody knows the remarkable development that has taken place in this country as a result of overseas investment. This Government stands with pride and declares to the country that, largely as a result of its policies, overseas investments in Australia have increased and have contributed to a very great degree to the remarkable industrial developments and the remarkable mining developments that have taken place in Australia, and we hope that that will continue to be so. It will be a bad day for Australia when the voice of the honorable member for KingsfordSmith, loud as it may be in the land, is persuasive either in his own party or among the people outside.
– I always speak the truth.
Order! The honorable member for KingsfordSmith has already spoken in this debate.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is fearful of any American putting a dollar into this country. Have we so lost confidence in our brains, integrity and capacity that we fear that we will become slaves because people overseas with faith in us invest money to help us in the great task of our development?
.- I think that if it can be truly said that there is in this country a dislike of socialist monopolies, it can be said even more truly that there is a dislike of private monopolies. In fact, it was the public feeling .against private monopolies which brought TransAustralia Airlines into being. The people of Australia saw a monopoly airline combine gobbling up small airlines, and it was that fact which compelled the Labour government to create a national airline. It is that feeling against private monopoly which encourages us to-day to voice our opposition to any moves that we suspect are designed to whittle down the services provided by such organizations as T.A.A. I have no intention of saying that AnsettA.N.A. is a bad airline, or an airline that it is risky to travel by. One has to .pay some respect to truth. As far as I can observe, Ansett-A.N.A. provides a good service. But we do take objection to efforts perpetrated, I would say, by people connected with Ansett-A.N.A., to injure T.A.A., the national airline which the people want to see continue in existence.
I would say quite certainly that if this Government were game to do so it would have sold out T.A.A. long ago. I think that that intention was even stated at one stage. But the Government dare not do so because, whatever gallup polls may say about socialist undertakings, they show that the people of Australia want T.A.A. and the service that it gives. Not only do they want that service given by T.A.A. itself retained, but they want to see the continuance of competition that it gives to private airlines making those airlines also increase their services to the people.
Sometimes I am astonished by what some people - and the newspapers - suppose to be the philosophy of the Labour party. I wonder whether the time will come when these people will begin to ask what is the underlying philosophy of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. In fact, I wonder if any consistent policy could be stated by those two parties. Their policy is often put to us as one of encouragement to free enterprise and private ownership, and of insistence on open competition. I say - and I think that my statement will stand up to a good deal of challenge - that there has never been in Australia’s history such a trend towards private monopoly as has occurred in the last ten years. It does not matter in what field of activity we look. Let us look at the field of activity with which this measure deals - aviation. What is happening to the Butler air interests and all those other small airlines? The Government is interested in preserving Ansett-A.N.A. as a competitor, but it does not seem to be interested in the small competitors. Not long ago we had the not very pretty spectacle of Ansett taking over A.N.A. against the wishes of people who had interests in that airline. The same thing applies in the field of retail trade. I remember clearly that in the 1949 general election campaign the parties opposite warned ‘the little shopkeeper, the shop-keeper who sold lollies on the corner in many a suburb, that he was in danger from the socialist tiger. All the small businessmen who paid heed to that story and voted for the return of a LiberalAustralian Country party government have either gone out of business or are going out of business.
Now let us look at what is happening in regard to monopoly in the newspaper and television fields. The same trend shows up all along the way. I genuinely ask members on the Government side whether they sometimes look at their own philosophy. What do they want? Are they in favour of genuine competition? If they are, then they must re-examine their policies and have a look at many of the things that are happening in Australia to-day. I say quite genuinely and sincerely that there is in existence a distinct threat to the Australian way of life, which is a way of life that we want to preserve. This so-called free enterprise-
– But you want a State monopoly.
– If I am forced to choose between having a private monopoly and having a public monopoly, I have absolutely no qualms about saying which I would choose. If the Government were to conduct a referendum it would find out that the public also would be in favour of having a public monopoly.
A historical truth which cannot be denied is that, prior to the inauguration of T.A.A., there was a distinct trend towards the gobbling up of small airlines by a monopoly combine. I ask honorable members in a temperate way to think about that. I am trying to be fair-minded. I am asking honorable members opposite to examine their philosophy regarding the preservation of so-called private enterprise. Honorable members opposite claim that the essence of a private enterprise economy is competition. Can you call it competition when you use government funds - money provided by the taxpayers - to subsidize the making of private profit? Can you call it competition when you give the kind of concessions you have given to this particular private airline, Ansett-A.N.A.?
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I had stated that this bill raised quite dramatically a challenge to the
Government to define its political philosophy. I have said that if there is any mandate against socialism as the Government has claimed, it certainly does not extend to what might be called desocialization of instrumentalities that have earned popular regard. I include in that category T.A.A., the government airline which was inaugurated by a Labour government in 1945 to provide competition at a time when competition was diminishing through the amalgamation of airlines into one trust or combine. The Government has paraded as the apostle of private enterprise. It has insisted that the essence of private enterprise is competition. Yet, as I have said, the trend towards monopoly in Australia has never been more marked than it has been in the past ten years under this Government.
This trend is not confined to airlines. We recall the unsavoury business associated with the take-over of A.N.A. by the Ansett group with a complete disregard for the rights ,of shareholders. That was quite unethical. The trend towards monopoly can be seen in many other fields including the newspapers, television and the retail trade. Everywhere we look we see this insidious trend. On the other hand, the Government seeks to drag down and tear apart institutions which were erected by Labour governments to .give proper service to the people. We see how this Government has been selling out various instrumentalities. If the Government had been game enough, it would have sold T.A.A. long ago but not being able to do so, or lacking the courage of its own convictions, the Government :is trying to destroy this fine airline by slow strangulation.
Now we see this new thing called rationalization. If it means anything, it means the elimination of competition. It means, “ You look after that area and I will look after this one. You travel at this time and I will travel at that time, but let us not compete. That is wasteful.” It took the Government a long time .to learn that, in some circumstances, competition can be grossly wasteful. So the story goes on. The Government is trying to subsidize private profit with the taxpayers’ money. That is what is going on in the guise of competition. In the case ‘Of -airlines, we see privileged treatment of one private airline company against any other potential competitor. 1 challenge the Government to examine its philosophy, lt should try to formulate a consistent idea of its objectives and determine what it really wants. If the Government wants competition and believes in private enterprise - and a case could be made out for it - it must think up means of making private enterprise work and provide the competition which the Government insists is part and parcel of a democratic society operating under a capitalistic system. The principles underlying the bill need to be examined closely. I challenge the Government to examine the real principles behind this bill and other measures it has sponsored including the banking bills and those drafted in similar vein. What is the Government’s objective? What is the principle underlying this bill?
I wish to direct attention particularly to the part-time commissioners to be appointed under this bill. An enterprise of the size of T.A.A. deserves something better than parttime commissioners. There is not even insistence on regular meetings of the commissioners. They can be called together at the behest of the Minister, by the chairman of the commission or on petition of a couple of commissioners. There is no regularity about the provision for calling meetings. Remuneration and leave also are left to the discretion of the Minister. I would like to have more information about these provisions.
The bill provides for the appointment ot six commissioners compared with five as at present. The argument given for the change is that sometimes it is difficult to ensure a quorum of three. My experience suggests that an even number is not the best basis for a committee. It is better to have an odd number because then the chances of a deadlock are reduced. Under this measure, power is given to the chairman of the commission because he is to have a deliberative vote but in the case of a deadlock he will also have a casting vote. It is not surprising to discover that this bill is in line with previous insistence by the Government on the matter of banking. The bill provides that the commission shall deal with the Commonwealth Bank but it is also to have the right to deal with other banks. I wonder sometimes whether the Government gives similar encouragement to Ansett-A.N.A. to do some of its banking with he Govern ment’s own bank.
Reference is made in the bill to recruitment. Here we have a quite serious departure - not the first, I admit - from the Australian tradition that entry to any branch of the Public Service or any statutory body shall be by competitive examination. I could make out quite a good case for this principle, but there is also misgiving in many places that the elimination of competitive examinations might lead to what existed in the Public Service many years ago in the form of patronage and nepotism, and preferment for one’s friends or family. On the other hand, I admit that a written examination does not tell everything when a person is being selected for a job. Often an examination is not a guide to personality or to such qualities as ambition, willingness to stick at a task or ability to deal courteously and pleasantly with members of the public. Apart from a merit examination or a written competitive examination, some attempt must be made to evaluate other qualities.
– Then the honorable member agrees with that part of the amending bill, does he?
– I am not sure that it is a good thing to abolish the competitive entrance examination.
– Do you approve or disapprove of it? I cannot understand which line you are taking.
– I am saying that there is a good deal of misgiving about the fact that the competitive examinations are being eliminated. The Boyer report was, apparently, insistent that these competitive entrance examinations should continue, presumably for the reason that their elimination might lead to the other undesirable results, such as patronage and nepotism, to which I have already referred.
– Qualifications are still necessary.
– I will admit that, but I am saying that it might still be a good thing to retain these compulsory examinations. They would represent some common yardstick that would serve to obviate much of the subjectivity attendant upon the appointment of personnel. I suggest that the entrance examinations should be retained, and that we might have to agree to some assessment of other qualities as well.
The limitation of an airline’s liability to a maximum of £7,500 for injuries sustained in accidents has been discussed in connexion with the bill that we considered yesterday. I want to say again that after more mature thought, having had another 24 hours to consider the matter, I am even more firmly convinced that the arguments of Opposition members are sound. I believe that the amount of £7,500, as the maximum that may be obtained following the death of a passenger in an aircraft, is grossly inadequate. This provision does an injustice to those who can prove that death of a person could have resulted from negligence on the part of the airline.
– This was discussed yesterday.
– The provision is included in this bill. It crops up again in the present bill. I want to reiterate that after having thought about the matter for a further 24 hours I have no doubt that the limitation represents a gross denial of justice.
– I take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the House to debate again to-night the bill that was before it last night? The matter that the honorable member for Barton is at present referring to has nothing whatever to do with this bill, but was disposed of by the House last night.
– The honorable member would not be in order in making reference to a decision of the House.
– I am referring to the provision in this bill, which incorporates the limitation contained1 in the previous measure. It seems appropriate to make reference to it, as it is referred to in the last part of the bill. However, I have made my point in this respect.
All I wish to say finally is simply a reiteration of what I said in the beginning. This bill, even more dramatically than other measures, demonstrates the way in which the Government gives pampered treatment to one particular private airline. It gives this airline an advantage over not only T.A.A., but also other private airlines that are in existence or may come into existence in the future. I ask the Government to think seriously about the basic principles behind this legislation and how they line up with the Government’s constant advocacy of free enterprise and competition as promoting the most beneficial kind of economy for this country. The Government should look at these principles and decide whether it should really get down to the business of ensuring genuine competition. If it really wishes to do this it should think very seriously about introducing legislation to deal with the devastating growth of monopoly in Australia.
.- At the outset I desire to pay a well-deserved compliment and a tribute to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who has led the debate on behalf of the Australian Labour party. I expected a chorus of approval from the House, and I was not disappointed. The honorable member has dealt with this legislation in a very thorough manner. He has dealt with the legal aspect of it. H has also dealt in a detailed way with the practical features of the bill. He has kept ever before us the fact that it is a bill dealing with TransAustralia Airlines. He has reminded us that in legislation dealing with Australia’s national airlines we should endeavour to advance the cause of this important organization.
When I think of what has been achieved by Trans-Australia Airlines, I deem it necessary to pay a tribute also to a former Minister for Air, the late Arthur Drakeford, whose conception of the organization, whose vision, understanding and unremitting work made Trans-Australia Airlines possible. We all know, or at least those of us who have taken the trouble to read “ Hansard “, of the great contributions made by Arthur Drakeford, a patriot and a good Australian. We know how he set out to establish this organization, of the practical proposals that he made to the Parliament at that time, and of how he met with bitter carping criticism and hostile objections from those who sit on the Government side at the present time. However, the success of Trans-Australia Airlines has been a tribute to the late Arthur Drakeford.
I should also like to pay a tribute to those men selected by Mr. Drakeford to constitute the Australian National Airlines Commission, such as Mr. Coles and Mr. Lester Brain. I also pay tributes to the employees of the organization, right down to the men who issue the tickets and the girls in the offices. Each and every one of them, under inspiring leadership, has played an important part in making the organization the pre-eminent airline in Australia to-day. Despite the political points of view that result in the expressions of criticism levelled in this House against Trans-Australia Airlines, it is a noteworthy fact that when members of this Parliament want to travel to some distant part of Australia they invariably choose T.A.A. as the airline on which to travel. This is a signicant fact, and should be sufficient in itself to answer any criticism that may be heard in this House.
The legislation that we have before us this evening seems to me, with the exception of one or two portions of it, to be a machinery measure, and not one that really comes to grips with the problem of dealing effectively with the growth and development of T.A.A. I am inclined to wonder whether this Government has, over the years, done anything on any occasion to give T.A.A. a boost. If one could find a single advantage for T.A.A. in any legislation brought down by the present Government to deal with our national airline, one could find at least eight or nine other provisions dealing adversely with the organization. It is not surprising to find that the legislation now before us does nothing to improve in any way the fine charter which was granted originally to Trans-Australian Airlines.
What does the legislation propose to do? One essential thing that it proposes is the extension of the services of Trans-Australia Airlines to Tasmania. With this we all agree. It is a most desirable extension. It is being made possible because the Parliament of Tasmania has approved of TransAustralia Airlines entering into that field to give service to the people of that important State of the Commonwealth.
It is good to hear the approval of the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), who is so deeply interested in the advocacy of this extension. I welcome the approval by the Tasmanian Government of the establishment by T.A.A. of intra-state services in Tasmania, but I think it would be a splendid thing if T.A.A. could be given a wide charter to provide for the possibility that the other States will agree at some time in the future to permit this organization to undertake within their boundaries services such as those that the people of Queensland have now enjoyed for some years. Is it too much to ask that the Government, in dealing with legislation of this kind, should prepare the way for such an eventuality?
I do not think that the legal possibilities have been fully explored, nor do I believe that there is any doubt that this could be done. Legislation could be introduced now so that, in future, if the other States determined to permit T.A.A. to enter the field of air services within their boundaries, it would be able to do just that. In this the National Parliament of Australia, we ought ever to keep in our minds the picture of Australia as a nation as distinct from the requirements of Queensland or Tasmania or, at some time in the future, some other State. We should consider the type of legislation which would give the opportunity to T.A.A. to venture further into the field of intra-state air services.
In this legislation, facilities are being denied to T.A.A. Whatever difficulty might have existed in the past in regard to T.A.A. entering this field in New South Wales, perhaps an opportunity may be provided in the foreseeable future. I know that the State of New South Wales was loyal to the Butler organization and for that, to some extent, I commend it, because I knew Arthur Butler. I knew something of this gallant Australian, this intrepid airman, this ex-serviceman, this courageous gentleman who returned to Australia after the first world war; a citizen of my town, who landed his midget plane, after a flight from England to Australia, on a pocket-sized piece of land on the outer recreation ground at Lithgow. I know how this visionary young man built up a great airways organization in Australia, expanding its services, bringing convenience and comfort to the people of the outback of Australia. These services blossomed and expanded to the great advantage of the people in New South Wales and elsewhere.
I can recall, in this place, how the then honorable member for Maribyrnong, the late Arthur Drakeford, would ask questions on Butler’s financial structure and suggest that Bungana Investments held the cards against the Butler organization; that Bun.gana Investments was linked with Australian National Airways. I recall that denial after denial would be heard that such a state of affairs existed. But we all know the sorry story of Arthur Butler - this visionary, this capable man who, I understand, the graziers of this country had promised to support in order that his services would be maintained. One would think that the Australian Country party would have been loyal to this man who has given great service to the outback of this country.
I can well recall that after the Ansett group had used a ‘plane load of shareholders from Victoria to crush this airline and had driven it out of business, Arthur Butler, a courageous fighter, wanted to come back. He put his proposition to the Government for giving the people another service. He wanted to set up a new organization and to buy Caravelles from a country that is buying Australia’s wool. But when he proposed to buy those French aeroplanes this Government denied him the right to do so. It refused to give him the facilities once again to commence airline operations. This was the action of a Government which professed to believe in free enterprise, in opportunities for all! Supporters of the Government say, “ Let them all come! Let us have free enterprise “. There is free enterprise for everybody in the airways but Arthur Butler. Yet honorable members in this chamber remained dumb, without a word to say in praise of Butler’s services in the past, and without a word to extoll his virtues or to insist that in future he be given a chance. I think it is disgraceful that nothing has been done to permit this man to commence operations again.
But if Arthur Butler is not to be given his chance, if he is to be driven from this field, what is wrong with giving to T.A.A. the opportunity of entering the widest possible field in the air services of Australia and of Papua and New Guinea? T.A.A. could render a great service in that Territory. I regret very much that this bill will not provide an opportunity for T.A.A. to render service to the people of Papua and New Guinea and so assist in the development of that important Australian Territory. I know what it is proposed that Ansett-A.N.A. will be given an opportunity. The particular role that that company will play there is difficult to see. I do not know just what it will do.
It seems to me that whilst Qantas is providing an international airways service to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the other airlines should be given an opportunity to run the feeder services that are so necessary for the development of the area. T.A.A. could play a most significant part in the development of that important Territory, the people of which seek improved air services.
I suggest, therefore, that as Ansett-A.N.A. is to be given an opportunity to enter into this field, T.A.A., too, should be given an opportunity to compete there and to play an equal part. I know that Mr. Ansett himself has declared that, with his new aeroplanes, he will be able to kill competition. We are not very much worried in this place about his being able to do that. The service of T.A.A. in the past has been able to meet all competition and to win its way, but not by pressure of Parliament or the executive. All that T.A.A. needs is the unfettered opportunity to go forward, giving to the people of Australia the type of service that they desire.
Again, in reference to Papua and New Guinea, Qantas should be given the task of providing the first-class service of an international airline. To-day, it is called upon, very often, to do jobs such as the “ Boong run “, carrying our black brothers to the various plantations and mines. Merchandise is carried along with first-class passengers. That is not very desirable. I think that a first-class international airline ought to be engaged in doing something a little better than that. There is no reason why T.A.A., perhaps together with AnsettA.N.A., could not share with Qantas the task of meeting the requirements of the people in the Territory and rendering a firstclass service. I leave the matter on that note. I believe that whatever this Government does - and I cannot expect too much from it in regard to Trans-Australia Airlines - the people outside, the fare-paying people of this country and the fair-minded people of this country will support T.A.A. because they have confidence in it and know it can do a very good job of work.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) referred to the need for competitive examination in the selection of persons desirous of entering the service. I support the honorable member because I believe that this is a most desirable condition. Patronage, and the possibility of taking advantage because an applicant knows some one influential already in the service should be removed. There is only one fair, reasonable and just approach to this matter, and that is competitive examination so that the person with the knowledge, education and skill may be appointed. Some one who knows the local member of Parliament or the managing director of the company or has some special friend connected with the airline should not be pushed forward over and above the person who is skilled and educated and has the necessary qualifications to perform certain duties.
– The Government professes to stand for that.
– That is so, and I would like that profession of principle to be translated into reality. I regard the original legislation which set up Trans-Australia Airlines as the most desirable type of measure that could be introduced. Any amendment which would water down and render that legislation less effective in any way is most undesirable.
Finally, I make a plea on behalf of the country people of Australia that the widest opportunity should be extended to this fine national airline to render the greatest possible service to the whole of the people of Australia.
– I do not rise to join issue with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), although I should very much like to do so. The fact is that much which I have learned about airways and the way in which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was treated by a former government has been learned professionally and I do not propose to use in this place the information which I have gathered, professionally, over the years. Similarly, I learned a great deal about Mr. Butler and about the contest between him and Mr. Ansett which I should very much like to be able to disclose in this debate. But again, because I received that information in the course of my professional life, I do not propose to use it.
– A double-headed penny.
– The honorable member would know all about that!
– I played it with you.
– That is a silly remark. The honorable member might as well tell me that he went fishing with me - or catching prawns. The matter raised by the honorable member for Macquarie discloses that he remains of the mind that the former government was in when the legislation now the subject of amendment was first passed. He would like to see a nationalized airline. Honorable members on the other side of the House are unwilling to give the great credit that is due to the pioneering work of Ivan Holyman in air transport in this country and to a great deal of effort of which other people have taken advantage in more recent years.
This bill is very largely a machinery measure to remove, among other things, a number of void and outmoded provisions. My purpose in rising is to deal with the matter raised by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) who made the legal suggestion that this bill could, consistently with the power of this Parliament, provide in advance for the reference of power by States should any State other than Queensland and Tasmania choose, in the future, to refer power to the Commonwealth. The honorable member inquired of my colleague, the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), whether he would produce or make known the Attorney-General’s opinion which was given, assumedly, to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in another place.
If one reads the statement made in the other place, one will find that it was a reference to the department’s view. However. I have come to give my view so that the honorable member will not feel that he has got anything that is either secondhand or second best. I am glad that honorable members opposite feel amused at that statement. There are many people in other places who have felt rather seriously concerned about it.
The position is that this is a Parliament of distinct and limited powers. It can make a law on a subject which is enumerated in a certain section of the Constitution and it can make laws on matters that are incidental to carrying out a law made under one of the heads of power. There is no question that there is no head of power which would allow us to make laws with respect to civil aviation, intra-state. There is power for the States to refer to the Commonwealth Parliament, topics which can include intra-state civil aviation, but the power of this Parliament to legislate on that topic does not arise until the reference is effective. In my opinion, there is no power in this Parliament to make a law on a subject over which it has not yet any power. In other words, it cannot anticipate a power.
The honorable member for Werriwa made a remark as to whether the High Court of Australia or the Privy Council had yet ruled precisely on this point. It is quite true that neither of those august bodies has done so precisely on this point, but long since the Privy Council indicated, unequivocally, that this Praliament could not anticipate its powers. It attempted to do so on one occasion in a manner which T shall mention and honorable members will quickly see what conclusion should be drawn. This Parliament attempted to give compulsive powers to a royal commissioner in respect of some matters with respect to which it has not legislated and over other matters over which it had no legislative power. The idea was that the royal commission should engage in an inquiry as to whether laws should be made on certain matters some of which might have been within the power and others in respect of which power might have to be obtained. The Privy Council said quite clearly that the royal commission’s act in that respect was without authority and that the legislation was invalid. To my mind, that is quite substantive authority for the view which would be held on principle quite apart from the decision that this Parliament has no power to pass a law in anticipation of receiving authority from a State by reference to make a law on some particular subject.
I rose, therefore, to afford the honorable member for Werriwa the benefit of what 1 would have told the honorable senator in another place and what the department apparently told him; and now, as I said before, I have offered him the best I can give.
.- I rise to say a few words in connexion with one portion of this bill and with regard to one or two matters which I believe are of importance. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) a few moments ago spoke about that portion of the bill which dealt with entrance examinations for appointees to the staff of the Australian National Airlines Commission. It is interesting to study the remarks of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) in this regard. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
It is also proposed to give the commission greater discretion in recruiting staff. The Airlines Act at present provides that a person shall not be appointed to a clerical position in the service of the commission unless he has “ in open competition successfully passed the prescribed entrance examination “, and that persons shall be appointed in order of their merit in passing that examination. Experience shows that applicants for junior positions, who have obtained intermediate or leaving certificates, are disinclined to submit to further examination. In addition, the provision requiring appointment in order of merit is inappropriate in a Commonwealth-wide business. The commission feels that as a business undertaking it should be able to appoint without entrance examination persons who have attained a prescribed standard, such as the intermediate or school leaving certificate. It is proposed that the standards will be prescribed in regulations.
Honorable members on this side of the House feel that those changes that were outlined by the Minister are some of the most dangerous changes that could be made to the act. Opposition members have vivid recollections of the time when the Commonwealth Bank Service was a closed domain to the average boy or girl in the community because appointments to it were made by patronage. That this practice is still favoured by the Government is exemplified by the proposed change in the Australian National Airlines Act. Prior to the introduction of the Chifley banking legislation, a worker’s son could not get a job in the Commonwealth Bank because it was the domain of those with wealth and power. The children of professional men went into the Commonwealth Bank Service, but the sons of the workers could not gain employment there because there was no entrance examination. Patronage was the order of the day. But the Labour government introduced a system of entrance examinations and boys and girls were recruited on merit. Only in that way were many young people able to obtain employment with the bank.
This legislation provides that persons may be appointed to the staff of the commission upon attaining a prescribed educational standard. The standard will be laid down in regulations. But who will decide what is to be the standard? Before gaining admittance to the service of the commission a person probably will need’ to be a member of the Liberal party. I can see no logical reason why any fair-minded citizen seeking employment with the commission should object to submitting himself to examination and being appointed on his merits. It is humbug to say that the activities of the commission have been retarded by the existing provisions of the act.
Trans-Australia Airlines was established by a Labour government. The first chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, which operates T.A.A., was Mr. Arthur Coles, to whom this country should be indebted for all time. Under the competitive system of staff recruitment T.A.A. has risen to the position of one of the major airlines in the world. The Government now seeks to change the manner of recruitment of staff for the commission. There must be some sinister purpose behind the Government’s move, because it would not move unless it were told to do so by interests opposed to T.A.A. The changes contemplated in the act have not been explained to the satisfaction of honorable members on this side of the House. What logical reason can be advanced for denying employment to young boys and girls who have the necessary qualifications to pass the prescribed examination? Their background should not enter into the matter.
I view this change in the act with great disfavour. I can remember the late Mr. Chifley saying in Bathurst, when speaking about the bank nationalization legislation, that the sons of railway men could not be employed in the banks because they were not socially acceptable to the banks. The same thing will apply to the service of the airlines commission. If a person wishes, to obtain employment with the commission hewill need to live in Wahroonga, Toorak, St. Kilda, Turramurra or a similar suburb. Boys and girls from Newtown or Surry Hills, who may be miles ahead of other children in ordinary ability, will be denied employment with the commission because of the system of patronage that will operate as a result of this legislation. This legislation should be opposed by all fair-minded citizens. Let the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), the eminent lawyer, rise in his place and tell us why he supports legislation that will deny boys of great potential capacity, who come from poor families or are not acceptable to the Ministry, the opportunity to obtain appointment to the service of the Australian National Airlines Commission. The change proposed is a monstrous one. It is directed against workers’ sons in the community and it is a retrograde step in this great airline service.
It is of no use for the Minister for Defence or the Government to give lip service to T.A.A. and say that it is a good organization. The policy of this Government all along has been designed to destroy completely what its spokesmen sneeringly refer to as the socialist airline - T.A.A. To-day that great organization, despite the handicap of having among its passengers the dead weight of members of this Government, is the outstanding airline of our time. I wonder why the Government seeks to destroy it. It provides a very satisfactory service; it is efficient; and its safety record would bear comparison with that of any airline in the world. Possibly its safety record is the best in the world. It has never had a major accident, yet this Government has continually rationalized, to use the Government’s term, the airlines of Australia in an endeavour to destroy T.A.A.
The Government is supposed to be a free enterprise government, but its whole policy is one of restriction. It has restricted the operations of T.A.A. so that it cannot operate competitively with other airlines. It allows T.A.A. to fly on certain routes and Ansett-A.N.A. to fly on other routes. If the Government is so keen on fair competition, why does it not allow the two airlines to fly the same routes? If that were done the best airline would survive. The
Government knows that T.A.A., established on an efficient basis under a Labour government by Mr. Coles and Mr. Chifley, would run every other Australian airline out of the sky. People are pleased with the performance of this socialist airline, as it might be called. The Government realizes that only by restrictive practices can the most efficient of the private enterprise airlines have any chance of competing with T.A.A. to-day. It is a well-known fact that the Government remitted to Ansett-A.N.A. hundreds of thousands of pounds in air route and landing charges. We all know the patronage that has been given to Ansett-A.N.A. We know how the little services were staggered in order to benefit Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A. We know how certain other travel restrictions were placed upon the government airline. Despite all that, T.A.A. is still going forward. Now the Government seeks to destroy the efficiency of its staff and to give Ansett-A.N.A. an opportunity to take over some of the prosperity that the government airline enjoys to-day. 1 wonder what is behind all this. I believe that ultimately this Government will endeavour to sell or give away T.A.A. to the Ansett-A.N.A. monopoly as we know it to-day. I believe that the Government would like to do- with the people’s airline what it did with the Commonwealth shipping line - sell it for a song - but it is afraid to do so because the general public would be opposed to such action. We must be on guard against moves that might be made by Ansett-A.N.A., supported by this Government, that would leave this country with something that the Government is constantly decrying - complete monopoly of the skies by Ansett-A.N.A. This Government stood by while AnsettA.N.A. forced out of business the Butler organization, which was referred to by the honorable member for Macquarie. We have had no more scandalous illustration of the power of money in the hands of a monopoly than the action of Ansett-A.N.A. in forcing the Butler airline to close up or be taken over. There was a small operator giving great service to country districts, an air pioneer, a great serviceman, and a great Australian. He was forced out of the skies by Ansett-A.N.A., with the support of this Government. Therefore, it is as well to keep these matters in mind when we are deliberating on the changes to be made under this bill.
A big section of the Minister’s secondreading speech was devoted to criticism of the legislation which established T.A.A. It was said that T.A.A. was a socialist monopoly established by Labour. I am sorry that Labour’s legislation for nationalizing the airlines of this country was not unheld, because one could not wish for a better airline than T.A.A. If it were the only one in the sky, it would still be the most satisfactory for the Australian people and giving them the service that they desire. I travelled from Melbourne the other day in the new Lockheed Electra of AnsettA.N.A. It was a delightful trip. I could not get on a T.A.A. flight, so I took a risk. The service was quite good, but in those courtesies and efficiencies that one expects of an airline it was not to be compared with anything that T.A.A. can give. To those honorable members who in the near future will, I understand, be taking a courtesy flight in one of these aircraft over Canberra, let me say that no matter how good they may think it is - the ‘plane is first-class - the service is just not up to the standard of the socialist monopoly that Government supporters sneeringly referred to a while ago.
I rose mainly to comment on the recruitment of staff. There is something sinister about it; something that the Government has not explained, and something which will deny to many young Australians the opportunity of taking their places in this airline. I rose also to make the broad comment that the socialist monopoly of T.A.A.. established by a Labour government and endorsed by the great patronage of the Australian people, is something for which the nation should be ever thankful to Labour. The Government talks about air pioneers and what has been done for them, but it cannot stand up to the record of Labour. We endeavoured not only to see that they were protected and looked after in their welfare generally, but also to give them opportunities to participate in the airline services of this country by the establishment of T.A.A. as a government airline. We must look with great suspicion on this Government’s attitude to all things associated with government enterprises. The Government has completely restricted and retarded the advancement of T.A.A. The
Government has cut down T.A.A.’s activities and has given benefits to private airlines at the expense of T.A.A. in an endeavour to force losses upon T.A.A. so that it could then be said that the government airline had failed.
This Government has a funny policy on government instrumentalities. When they make profits, it wants to sell them to private enterprise, and when they do not make profits it says that they are failures and should be given away. That is the policy the Government follows with the air services. Government supporters hope that T.A.A. will suffer a loss so that they can point the finger of scorn. Only the other day I turned up the “ Hansard “ records of this Parliament and read the great outcry that was made when a loss was suffered by T.A.A. in its first year of operation.’ Members of the Liberal party at that time made great play of the fact that the Government airline was losing money. History has shown that that first loss has been well covered. The efficiency of the service has not been impaired and it has become recognized as a major airline. It has made a profit of £200,000.
Qantas Empire Airways Limited is another great instrumentality and a tribute to Labour’s administration, but Qantas, however, like some others, while operating very efficiently, has forgotten its friends. Although it is a long time since it was established as an international airline, it is significant that when this organization opened a major new building in Sydney it did not bother, I think, to invite even one of the members of the Cabinet which made its achievement possible. On the other hand, it saw fit to invite, amongst others, many of the enemies who would never have allowed Qantas to be established as a major international airline. It is well to remind airline companies of these things and of the contribution that Labour made to their development and expansion. I fear that the changes contemplated in this measure, which have been dealt with by the honorable member for Macquarie, the honorable member for Werriwa, and others, point to the way in which this Government is endeavouring to destroy what Labour built up. With these few constructive remarks, I conclude my address.
.- It was not my intention to participate in this debate but I feel that certain mis-statements made by the Opposition must be corrected. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that we were trying to prevent an increase in the sale of margarine at the expense of butter; yet in the chamber was an influential former Minister of a Labour government who represents an electorate which has in it substantial dairying interests. I am quite certain that he was very pleased at that remark!
Two or three Opposition speakers have criticized the failure to have examinations for staff recruitment. That has been mentioned several times. They see something sinister in the Government’s actions. They said that the right way to do things is to have entrance examinations. I think I am right in saying that that is the purport of what they said. But it is extraordinary that when they are pre-selecting their own candidates for Parliament they do not have entrance examinations at all. The candidates appear before a committee, and are selected. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) has given very good reasons for not having examinations. Opposition members say that it is sinister, but what is their method of selecting candidates to represent their party in the National Parliament?
The honorable member for Grayndler was grossly unfair. Listening to him was like listening to a commercial radio station. After every few words of nonsense, there was a plug for Trans-Australia Airlines. This was grossly unfair to another very fine airline with a splendid history. Does the fact that there are many men working for Ansett-A.N.A. mean anything to these representatives of the workers? Does it matter to these honorable members that they do damage to the employer of these people by plugging for one airline? They are using the National Parliament to do damage to workers employed in competitive organizations. I think that that is quite a just criticism.
The reason why honorable members opposite are objecting so strongly to this bill, I think, is that it proposes to repeal Parts ITI., IV. and V. of the original legislation which Labour introduced when it was trying to monopolize the air services of Australia. That is why they are beating their breasts, showering themselves with ashes, and clothing themselves with sackcloth. They are sad that those monopolistic provisions are being repealed. Part III. of the original act provided -
The Commission may for the purposes of this Act, by notice served on the owner or published in the Gazettte, acquire any aircraft or other property (not being land) required for the purposes of the Commission.
That was a direct attempt to monopolize the air services. Part IV. was also an important step in achieving a socialized monopoly of the air services. The repeal of these provisions is behind the opposition to this bill. There is nothing offensive in the bill. It is designed to assist T.A.A., because it removes any legal doubt as to whether T.A.A. can operate in Tasmania. So, rather than making it more difficult for T.A.A., this Government, which is supposed to be a free-enterprise Government, is assisting a government concern and widening its business opportunities. When one examines the true facts of the case, one realizes what little credence can be given to the opposition.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), assuming the mantle of his illustrious predecessor, is also obviously a very strong socialist. Before and after the suspension of the sitting, he was twitting our side of Parliament and saying that we did not understand our own philosophy, the philosophy of a free-enterprise Government. He is a socialist. He is content with socialism, and he has pledged himself to socialism, yet when his party is on the platform in an election campaign he does not utter one word of his philosophy. Not one word! He is even now blushing. He twitted us right and left, saying, “Those fellows do not understand their philosophy, but we do.” But on the election platform there is not a word about the nationalization of banks, industry, and the means of production, distribution and exchange. He said that never in the history of Australia has there been more private monopoly than has been established in the last ten years. Just let us think for a moment. In New South Wales, since the war, nearly 10,000 new private factories have been registered. During this period in which the private monopolies are alleged to have been gaining ground under this foolish Government - this profit motive Government - 10,000 new factories have been established in New South Wales alone. And as you know. New South Wales is lagging behind Victoria. I do not know how many new factories have been established in that State.
On this same question of monopolies, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) said that General Motors-Holden’s Limited had a complete monopoly of the manufacture of cars. The Australian Labour party - the socialist party - does not understand how private enterprise works. Admittedly, the profits of that company have been high, but where there are high profits competition is invited. To-day, as a result of the profits made, some 375,000 cars a year are being manufactured in Australia, and competition will gradually bring down the price. The reason why the workers can buy cars to-day is that big firms are making motor vehicles, but Opposition members cannot under stand that. What would be the price of a car if we had 1,000 little companies, each with a few employees, manufacturing cars? The philosophy of Opposition members is useless. I have tried, Mr. Speaker, to correct some of the false impressions that they may have given to people who are unaware of the ideas of these socialists.
There is nothing wrong with this bill, and I support it firmly.
– Mr. Speaker, this secondreading debate apparently has now run its course. But there are a few observations that I feel I should answer. I remind the Opposition that there is in literature a well-known character who, with his faithful henchman, went tilting at windmills and engaged in activities which did more credit to his heart than to his judgment. Throughout the proceedings of this House to-day, we have witnessed the spectacle of the whole Opposition tilting at windmills - windmills which do not exist except in the disordered figments of the collective Opposition mind.
My colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), and who introduced this measure here, said in his secondreading speech that the primary purpose of this bill is to amend numerous outmoded provisions of the Australian National Airlines Act and to make some changes in the constitution and responsibilities of the Australian National Airlines Commission which recognized its role as a commercial undertaking in direct competition with private companies. He added that this is the first time that the act has been reviewed for this purpose since the establishment of the commission in 1945. Yet, one after another, Opposition members have tried to raise the bogy of the suppression of Trans-Australia Airlines, and have expressed their age-old spleen against this Government which, at the will, and with the authority, of the people, prevented the Labour government which preceded it from creating a vast governmentowned airline monopoly in this country.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who has charge of the bill on behalf of the Opposition, has given the lead in this, and he has sought to find all sorts of sinister reasons for the presentation of this meaure. But the purpose is simply, as I have said, to clean up anomalies in the act and to introduce certain machinery changes. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who spoke last on the Opposition side, dealt in particular with the removal of the requirement for a competitive entrance examination as a means for recruiting staff for the Australian National Airlines Commission. I am dealing now with certain specific provisions of the bill. The honorable member objected to that provision and said that he could not see any logical reason why any one should object to submitting himself to a competitive examination. He may be interested to know that the provision dispensing with this requirement has been inserted at the request of the commission itself. There are three good reasons - not merely one good reason - for the inclusion of this provision. The first is that the experience of the commission has shown that young people who have passed the Intermediate or Leaving Certificate examinations are, not unnaturally, unwilling to submit themselves to another competitive examination in order to get a job, and they look elsewhere for employment. This requirement to submit oneself to a competitive examination for entry to the service of
Trans-Australia Airlines was having the very effect of dissuading people from offering themselves for service with the Australian National Airlines Commission, and this was making it difficult for the commissioners to recruit the necessary staff. Accordingly, they have asked the Government to remove the requirement. That is one of the deep and sinister reasons for its removal.
Another reason is that the commission is now an Australia-wide organization, and if applicants from distant parts of the Commonwealth apply for service with the commission, there are practical difficulties in the way of their presenting themselves for examination. This militates against their opportunities to join the organization, and I repeat that the requirement for competitive examination is to be removed at the request of the commission itself
The honorable member for Werriwa devoted a considerable amount of his time to an amendment which he said he proposed to move, and which will purport to enable this Government to accept in advance a reference of power by some State which has not yet referred power, and a great deal of talk about New South Wales was heard. My learned colleague, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), explained the legal reasons why the Government rejected such an amendment in the Senate and will again reject it here. He explained that it would be an invalid amendment in the opinion of his law officers. So we do not propose to accept it. But I remind the Opposition of the first requirement for a reference of power by New South Wales. That was the State that was mentioned most frequently. Queensland referred power to the Commonwealth, and T.A.A. operates in that State. Far be it from me to suggest that the recent validation of the reference of power by the Tasmanian Government has any relation to this debate, but Tasmania has quite recently referred power to the Commonwealth. It is now suggested that New South Wales should do so. That is up to the State of New South Wales, and I should think that the first move would come from that State. The Australian National Airlines Commission has now been in operation for fourteen years - long enough for New South Wales to make up its mind. If that State wants to refer power, let it do so. I have no doubt that this Government would give very serious consideration to the action that it should take in consequence. But surely it is putting the cart before the horse to suggest that the Commonwealth Government should take the power before it has been referred by the New South Wales Government, on which Opposition members seek to thrust this obligation whether it wants it or not. The amendment that the honorable member for Werriwa has foreshadowed will be rejected for those legal and practical reasons.
The honorable member addressed himself to another matter which he seemed to regard as a conspiracy. The whole of the Opposition’s case has amounted to the raising of one windmill after another by alleging one conspiracy after another, all aimed at T.A.A. - the organization which this Government is supposed to be trying to destroy. Incidentally, under which Government has T.A.A. flourished? How has it developed under this Government?
– It would have flourished more under a Labour government.
– It is all very well to
Say that it would have flourished more under a Labour government. That is a matter of opinion. But Opposition members can hardly suggest that this Government has destroyed T.A.A.
There have been some comical aspects of this debate to-day. I heard one Opposition member object to advertising on television by Ansett-A.N.A. One might say with reason that Ansett-A.N.A. could complain that T.A.A. per medium of the honorable member for Grayndler, had been advertising in Parliament House. You cannot have it both ways. The Opposition has suggested that T.A.A. has many virtues. I admire the operations of that organization. I very frequently travel on its services, and I have great confidence in it. I think it is a fine Australian enterprise. If it is as good as it is to-day after nine years of Liberal government it is rather hard to sustain the claim that this Government is out to destroy it.
Another very interesting fact is that it is only since this Government has been in power that T.A.A. has made a profit. It made an appalling series of losses, if my memory is correct, under Labour administration. It now runs at a profit, and it runs in fair and effective competition with independent private airlines and, I believe, greatly to the advantage of civil aviation in this country.
Among the windmills erected and tilted at by the honorable member for Werriwa was a conspiracy to drive T.A.A. out of business by imposing an excise or import duty on aviation kerosene. We all remember when this House imposed that duty on kerosene. What that tax did was to bring T.A.A.’s tax up to a comparable level with the tax paid by A.N.A. on aviation petrol and it happened because T.A.A. had, in fact, enjoyed very considerable advantages over its competitor during the period in which it was operating Viscounts, because it was paying no duty at all on aviation kerosene. Furthermore, the charge was increased only immediately before A.N.A. - the major competitor of T.A.A. - re-equipped itself with turbinepowered aircraft, which used kerosene on which the same duty had to be paid. Well, that is not a very substantial windmill.
The honorable member for Werriwa went on to make the astonishing charge that all the legislation dealing with airways passed since 1952 had been aimed at whittling away T.A.A. ‘s rights. That is a charge that has been repeated not only by the honorable member for Werriwa but, one after another, by other members of the Opposition, and it has been made so frequently that I think I have an obligation to review what has been the legislation regarding airways that has been passed since 1952.
There have been eight acts. First was the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952, which halved the scale of air navigation charges imposed by the preceding Labour government, and under which T.A.A. enjoyed an equal benefit with A.N.A. So it can hardly be said that that was aimed at destroying T.A.A. The next measure was the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1957, which increased the charges by 10 per cent, for all operators - no more aimed at T.A.A. than at its competitors.
Then we had the Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1957. This act validated an agreement which was voluntarily entered into by the Australian National Airlines Commission and approved the rationalization provisions governing air operations in Australia.
The Airlines Equipment Act 1958 was the next measure. Its purpose was to increase the borrowing power of the Australian National Airlines Commission - the government body which runs the governmentowned airline, T.A.A. - from £1,000,000 to £3,000,000. An increase of 300 per cent, in the borrowing power of the commission can hardly be said to be aimed at destroying that body. It regulated the position regarding the proceeds of dollar loans negotiated by the Government for the purpose of purchasing equipment for T.A.A. These loans were negotiated at very favorable rates of interest - 4i per cent., compared with the 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, being paid by the private competitor under a Commonwealth-guaranteed loan. Again, hardly aimed at destroying T.A.A.!
The next act was the Loan (Australian National Airlines Commission) Act 1958, which was passed solely for the benefit of T.A.A. It approved a 3,000,000 dollar loan negotiated by the Government on behalf of the commission with the same American financial institution from which loans were being obtained by T.A.A.’s competitor. Again that loan was at favorable rates.
The next act was the Civil Aviation (Damage by Aircraft) Act 1958, which applies only to international operators and does not affect T.A.A.
– And to which I did not refer.
– Well, let us except that one.
– I listed every act which had relevance to this measure.
– Well, I am prepared to delete the one I mentioned. Then we have the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill 1959, which applies to the Australian National Airlines Commission as well as to other operators. According to the comments made by the Opposition yesterday and last night in this chamber, that bill is mainly for the benefit of airlines, including T.A.A. Again, not aimed at the governmentowned airline!
Finally, the present measure, apart from the machinery provisions I have mentioned, aims solely at repealing obsolete monopoly provisions of the old legislation from the
Labour government’s time which are out of date and will have no application under our policy or under our administration. Many of the machinery provisions of the bill, as I have said, were introduced at the request of the Australian National Airlines Commission itself.
– Who are they?
– Who are they! For the benefit of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, the Australian National Airlines Commission is the government body which operates the government-owned airline, T.A.A. Let us now turn to the remarks - I may say, the deplorable remarks - made in this debate by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– A great name!
– Indeed, a great name in civil aviation, but it is a name whose reputation has not been greatly enhanced in the debate this afternoon. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, in an atmosphere of light-hearted persiflage - light-hearted, heavy-footed and loud-voiced - made some statements which are so dangerous that they require an answer. I know very well that this House is not in the habit of paying serious attention to the extravagant remarks which generally characterize the debating contributions of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith; but he said some things this afternoon which should not pass unnoticed, because, although what he had to say may not be given very much credence or attention in this House, his remarks are recorded in “Hansard”, and somebody outside the House, unaware of the reputation on both sides of the chamber of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, might take them seriously. So they should be answered. A great part of the honorable member’s remarks was directed to the suggestion that flying with the Government airline was safe and flying with the other airline was not safe. That should be denied absolutely, and characterized as dangerous and malicious nonsense.
– Malicious, I would say, which is even worse than mischievous.
– Give your reasons!
– I will give you more than reasons. I will give you facts. You referred to the risks of flying with Ansett. Mr. Ansett has been an airline operator in this country for 22 years without the loss of a single passenger. It is not my case, and it is not my intention to come in here and plead the case or state the virtues of one airline or another; but I feel that, as a person holding public responsibility in this House, I should not allow the sort of remarks made by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith this afternoon to pass without denial. There has been no major civil air accident in Australia for the last eight years, and the Government, and the whole federal administration, not only has some responsibility for this, but also has some right to pride in it. After all, the responsibility for the observance of the basic standards of civil aviation in Australia lies with the Government through the Department of Civil Aviation. Responsibility for the control of aircraft in flight in Australia lies with the Department of Cvil Aviation. We are proud of the fact that there has not been a major civil air accident in Australia for eight years, yet after listening to the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith one would think that there was only one airline in Australia which had any safety standards at all. Again I say that that is malicious nonsense. We all know the habits of the honorable member. He makes the most extravagant statements and then says “ I challenge the Government to deny what I have said.” Very often they are statements which do not admit of denial because the facts are not available.
– Like your statements about the Australian Labour party.
– At least, members of the Australian Labour party are here to defend it but Mr. Ryan, who was characterized to-day by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith as “ the pawnbroker of A.N.A.”, is not here to defend himself. It is shameful that statements of this sort should be made so carelessly by the honorable member. It is not a matter in which the Opposition takes particular pride either. For a fee of 5s. the honorable member could have tested his own statement about foreign control of Ansett-A.N.A. and monopoly control of that organization. It is a public company registered in Victoria, and 1 am informed that the charge for inspecting the share register in Victoria is 5s. If the honorable member cared to do so, he would find that this company is as widely spread in its ownership in Australia as you could expect any company of the sort to be; in fact, it is far wider than most. There are approximately 8,000 shareholders and 90 per cent, of them have holdings averaging less than £500 in value. The biggest single shareholder is an Australian investment company, something like a unit trust, which itself would be very widely spread as those investment companies are. The second highest shareholder is in the order of £25,000. There is no substance whatever in the charges made by the honorable member that American corporations control Ansett airways. It is the clearest case I have yet known of an extravagant and malicious statement made with utter carelessness and complete disregard for the truth.
– The honorable member said the largest single shareholder was Mr. Ryan.
– He is wrong. The largest single shareholder is an Australian investment company.
– What company?
– If the honorable member doubts me, let him pay his five bob and have a look for himself. Much has been said by the Opposition this afternoon about the Government subsidizing Ansett airways. The fact is that the Government has not advanced any capital to Ansetts. It has simply guaranteed the company’s borrowings. On the other hand, the Government has advanced the whole of the capital of T.A.A. I am not saying it should not do so. I am only trying to inject a little truth into this argument and show it in the proper perspective. It has subscribed the whole of the capital of T.A.A. and simply guaranteed Ansett’s loans. In this way, it has given effect to its policy which is to ensure that there is rational competition in the airlines of Australia. That is the Government’s policy; not competition between private enterprise and not to exalt a privately-owned company but to take pride in the fact that there is a large, effective and highly-efficient government-owned airline operated by the Australian National
Airlines Commission. It is a highly efficient government company operating in effective and rational competition with a privatelyowned company. We believe that that system has given us major airlines which are a source of pride to the Australian people and could be a source of pride to the Opposition.
I have traversed the major arguments of the Opposition. I conclude by pointing out again that this is a measure which removes from the act ineffective and unnecessary monopoly provisions which are hangovers from old government legislation of the past. Thebill introduces some necessary machinery measures most of which were introduced at the request of the Australian National Airlines Commission itself.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Air. This is a case of vile misrepresentation, Mr. Speaker, and I submit that the Minister is not a fit and proper person-
– Order! The honorable member will not pursue that line.
– Very well, Sir. The Minister made the allegation-
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the statements in which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– The Minister referred to my “ malicious nonsense “ when I spoke of Colonel Ryan. He asserted that Colonel Ryan was not a major shareholder in Ansett-A.N.A. Records are available to us in the Parliamentary Library, and the Minister, with his retinue of secretaries and assistants, should be able to get information becoming a Minister of the Crown. I am only a backbench member, but I have this information. Where did I get it? I got it from the Parliamentary Library. This information states that the directors of Ansett Transport Industries Limited are R. M. Ansett, W. G. Beggs, T. L. Simpson, R. Moore and Air Marshal Sir George Jones. Strange! Issued and paid-up share capital of the company is £1,762,525, of which £1,440,525 is in ordinary fully-paid £1 shares.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the phrases in which he claims that he has been misrepresented. So far, he has not done so.
– The Minister said that I had stated maliciously that Colonel Ryan was a major shareholder.
– Then the honorable member must confine his remarks to Colonel Ryan.
– The book that I have in my hand shows that of the shareholders in the company with 10,000 and more £1 shares, T. F. Ryan had 52,776 shares in one parcel and 11,463 shares in another parcel. The total shareholdings in AnsettA.N.A. of T. F. Ryan are shown as 64,239 ordinary shares at £1 each. The number of shareholdings over 10,000 is shown as two, and Colonel Ryan holds 64,239. He is one of those two big shareholders. Therefore, I claim that the Minister should apologize to me for having made that statement. As the member for KingsfordSmith and the representative of 45,000 electors I-
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in following that line.
– What is the name of the book?
– The name of the book is the “ Ownership and Control of Australian Companies”, compiled by E. L. Wheelwright. The date of the return of Ansett Transport Industries Limited is 20th December, 1951. Under the headings “ Also of Interest “ are the names of C. and Mrs. M. Ansett.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. He has made his personal explanation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.- I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) whether he will agree to the consideration of clause 2 being deferred. It is merely a machinery clause relating to the day on which the act shall come into operation, and I ask that consideration of it be deferred until clause 10 has been disposed of. The amendment which I foreshadowed in the House has relation to clause 10, and if the amendment were accepted one would have to move a consequential alteration of clause 2.
– I do not object.
Clause postponed until after clause 10.
Clauses 3 to 9 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 10 - (1.) Section nineteen a of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “prior to the commencement of this section “ and inserting in their stead the words “ prior to the commencement of section ten of the Australian National Airlines Act 1959 “.
Section proposed to be amended - 19a.- (1.) Where the Parliament of any State has, prior to the commencement of this section, by any State Act, referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth the matter of air transport, or the matter of the regulation of air transport, the Commission may, subject to this section, during the period of operation of that State Act, or during any extension of that period -
.- I move -
Omit sub-clause (1.), insert the following subclause: - “ (1.) Section nineteen a of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words prior to the commencement of this section ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘prior to the commencement of section 10 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1959’; and
by inserting after that sub-section the following sub-sections: - (1a.) Where the Parliament of any State, after the commencement of section ten of the Australian National Airlines Act 1959, refers to the Parlia ment of the Commonwealth the matter of air transport, or the matter of the regulation of air transport, the Commission may, subject to this section, during the period of operation of that State Act, or during any extension of that period -
establish airline services for the transport for reward of passengers and goods within that State; and
maintain and operate airline services for any such transport, and shall have, in relation to any such service, the like powers as it has in relation to airline services specified in sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section. (1b.) The last preceding sub-section shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation.’.”.
The existing section of the act provides that where the Parliament of a State has referred to this Parliament the matter of air transport, the commission may operate air services within that State. The commission, however, shall not establish such a service unless the Premier of the State in which the service is to be established has notified to the Prime Minister in writing that he consents to the service. The amendment in the present bill, as it came from another place, provides that the Commonwealth shall accept a reference which had been made by any State parliament of power to legislate with regard to air transport before this act came into operation. At the time the bill was considered in the other place only Queensland had passed the kind of act that the legislation envisages. Tasmania had passed an act in 1952, but had not proclaimed the act. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in the other place said that the bill, as it now appears, would simply enable TransAustralia Airlines to continue the services which it has operated in Queensland, but would not permit it to operate services in Tasmania, because although the act had been passed in Tasmania, it was not yet in operation.
Since the bill left the other place, and before it came here - in other words, during the Easter recess - the Tasmanian act has been proclaimed and is now in operation. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), in making his second-reading speech yesterday, said that this bill, if ii goes through in the form in which it came to us, will now permit T.A.A. to operate services within Tasmania as well as within Queensland.
In the other place the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) moved an amendment that the commission, through T.A.A., should operate services in any State which, after the passage of this bill, refers the subject of air transport to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Minister for Civil Aviation in that place opposed the amendment, and the Government defeated it. The reason given by the Minister for Civil Aviation was that in the view of the Attorney-General’s Department the Commonwealth could not anticipate a reference, but could only pass an act which dealt with an existing reference.
During the second-reading debate to-day I forecast to the Minister for Air that we would seek an amendment along these lines. He said he would not agree to it. I then warned him that I would be moving such an amendment in committee and asked him whether he would make available the reasons that the Minister for Civil Aviation quoted in the other place as coming from the Attorney-General’s Department. During the second-reading debate the Attorney-General himself came into the House, and he modestly said that he would give the best opinion that I could obtain, namely, his own. He said that in his view the Commonwealth’s power to legislate, with respect to a subject which is referred by a State parliament commences only when the reference is effective.
Now, Sir, anticipating that this rationalization, rather than this reasoning, would be applied at this stage, I have submitted an amendment which is in slightly different form from the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place. It will be seen that my proposed new subsection (1a.) is to come into operation only on a date to be fixed by proclamation. You will remember, Sir, that the argument in the other place was that the Tasmanian act was not a complete reference, because although the act had been passed it did not come into operation until a date which was proclaimed. Now the date has been proclaimed, and in this place we find that the Government accepts the position that Tasmania has now made a complete reference. In other words, the Government’s view of the law is that a reference is complete when an act is proclaimed.
I have accepted the Government’s arguments on this aspect, and the argument that I put, therefore, is that an acceptance of a reference is complete only when the Commonwealth’s act is proclaimed. With this amendment I am proposing that we pass an act, but that that act shall come into operation only when proclaimed. In other words, it will remain in abeyance in the same sense as the Tasmanian act remained in abeyance until a week ago. Therefore, if any State hereafter passes an act referring the subject of air transport within its borders to the Commonwealth, as the Queensland and Tasmanian Parliaments have done, then all we have to do to accept the reference is to proclaim the act in the form I am now proposing.
I suggest that if the arguments of the Government were correct in the other place, and if they were correct in the secondreading debate in this place, then the argument that I have put must also be correct. It cannot be said that a Tasmanian act is not an act until it is proclaimed, but that a Commonwealth act is an act even if it is not yet proclaimed. If an act comes into operation when it is proclaimed, then the Tasmanian reference takes place, as the Government says, when the Tasmanian act is proclaimed; and, by the same token, our acceptance of that reference does not take place when we pass the act, but only when we proclaim that act. Therefore, we are passing an act in escrow and it will come into effect after proclamation. Our act would not have any effect unless a State parliament had passed an act and had proclaimed that act, and then we were in turn to proclaim our act.
I put the legal position as I understand it on the arguments which have been put. I appreciate that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) was unable to find any case which gave the interpretation to placitum (xxxvii) of section 51 of the Constitution which his department, and now he. going one better, in his opinion, have given. The placitum states that the Commonwealth can pass laws with respect to matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the parliament or parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to the States by whose parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law.
There has been no decision by the High Court or by the Privy Council which would help us in the determination of this matter. The Attorney-General called in aid the Colonial Sugar Refining Company case, which was decided by the Privy Council, on appeal, with the High Court’s permission in some respects, before the first World War. The High Court was evenly divided - two each way. It gave a limited certificate to the Privy Council, and the Privy Council expressed opinions on matters on which it was permitted to express an opinion and on some others as well.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is my desire to second the amendment moved by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). I feel that the time is appropriate for an amendment of this character when legislation making certain other amendments is before the Parliament. It is time that a general provision was made so that when any State decides to refer the necessary powers to the Commonwealth, Trans-Australia Airlines will be able to establish services within that State.
There is, at present, an inquiry being held into proposals for an amendment of the Constitution. It is quite possible that the body which is conducting the inquiry may make recommendations in relation to air services. It is only appropriate that it should do this because of the character of air services which cover long distances between the various States. It is natural that these should be covered by Commonwealth law and if they were covered by an amendment of the Constitution it would not be necessary to refer the matter to the Commonwealth for legislation. I believe that, in anticipation of an amendment to the Constitution, or a reference of powers by the States concerned, T.A.A. should be able to carry on services within those States.
The Government has claimed that it believes in fair competition. In not granting to T.A.A. the right to operate within the various States, it is restricting the activities of T.A.A. Ansett-A.N.A., by means of practices comparable to those of
Ned Kelly, took over the Butler service in New South Wales. That was a pioneering service and it was remarkably good. Throughout the length and breadth of the country districts of New South Wales, including the far western part which I have the honour to represent, Butler’s established a very efficient air service. Since that service has been taken over by A.N.A. it has deteriorated considerably and to-day it is not nearly as efficient as the service which Butler’s provided. For instance, Broken Hill had a daily air service by Butler Viscount. When the Ansett group gobbled up the Btuler service it took the Viscounts which were giving an ideal service off the country runs and put them on the interstate run.
I think that, as T.A.A. is acquiring appropriate aircraft which are efficient and most suitable for aerodromes in the country centres, they should be given the opportunity to negotiate and establish their air services in competition throughout the various States. The Fokker aircraft is particularly suited to the country services. It is a small fast aircraft which can land on a small airfield. I do not think that we should have to continue to suffer the oldfashioned old-time aircraft which are operating at present in the country districts. The air mail services have been reduced in frequency and the Viscount has been taken off the Broken Hill run with the result that there is now a less efficient service. There has also been interference with the connexion of the Mildura service to Broken Hill. Previously, one could fly to Broken Hill and catch the service that went through Mildura to Melbourne from Broken Hill. Now, the timetable has been altered and the aeroplane for Mildura leaves a half an hour before the ‘plane from Sydney arrives in Broken Hill. This shows complete and utter disregard of public interest. If the company concerned thought of the public interest it would operate its services so that people could travel through Broken Hill to Melbourne on the one day. Now one has to stop overnight in Broken Hill and travel on the other service the next day.
I think that Butler is to be congratulated on the wonderful job that he did. It was a very sorry day for the back country of New South Wales when it lost this efficient, enterprising man. It is very unfortunate that the Government has seen fit to prevent Butler from acquiring immediately efficient aircraft in order to establish again air services in various parts of the continent. If the Government believed in free and fair competition it would place no restriction on the Butler service. That service should be entitled to acquire aircraft and in every way provide an interstate service such as it provided previously and establish lines in country districts. In the absence of permission for Butler’s to move in this regard, the Government’s policy seems to be to confine air services only to two operating companies. The alternative is to accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition and allow T.A.A. to conduct fair competition in the districts concerned.
I do not want to labour this point. I think the amendment has been amply and sufficiently covered by the honorable member for Werriwa. He has explained how the amendment would operate - the legality of it. He has explained that, as the Government claims to believe in fair competition, no harm will be done to any person. Refusal by the Government to accept the motion can only be taken as further evidence that it is out to give the whole monopoly of air services to A.N.A. to the exclusion of T.A.A., Butler’s, or any one else who wishes to go into the field. The Government’s policy is one of monopoly. The Labour party believes in socialist monopoly in relation to air travel which means air services operated by the Government in the interests of the people. In this case, the Government has given a monopoly to private enterprise - to a certain man who is a great friend of the Government.
I wish that this amendment could be accepted by the Government in order to show that it is sincere and really believes in the principle of fair competition and is prepared to allow T.A.A. to operate in any State in which it is able to make an agreement to operate a service when there is an amendment to the Constitution which there may be in the very near future.
– The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) is clearly beyond the powers of this Parliament. Those powers are set out in section 51 of the Constitution and I will read the relevant part. The section begins with these words -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to- and then are set out thirty-nine placetums, of which placetum (xxxvii) reads as follows: -
Matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law:
Therefore, until a matter has been referred to this Parliament by a State, this Parliament has no power at all to make any law with respect to that matter. The Australian Labour party is trying to get this Parliament to make a law dealing with a matter over which it has no jurisdiction and which is beyond the powers of the Commonwealth, hoping that some State at a later date will refer the necessary power to the Commonwealth. But the Commonwealth cannot obtain power in that way. Therefore, if the committee agreed to this amendment it would be doing immediately something that was beyond the powers of the Commonwealth and the provision would be completely ultra vires. It is quite foolish for honorable members opposite to talk about monopolies or something of that nature being in the mind of this Government. There is nothing more opposed to the views of this Government than monopolies, whether they are private or government. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party believe in free competition, and that is why this Government has done everything possible to preserve free competition between the two very excellent airlines which are operating between the capitals and other main cities.
This Parliament can do nothing to give itself power to deal with intra-state air services. Only the Parliament of a particular State which desires to have an intrastate air service can give the Commonwealth that power. Consequently, I ask the committee not to be so silly as to agree to an amendment which would be immediately declared by the courts as completely ultra vires - completely beyond the powers of this Parliament.
.- This debate has really been a battle of the giants, or of the pygmies, according to one’s opinion, during the last two days while the two airline bills have been under consideration. It has been amazing to find that when we were going along nicely, thinking that we were doing something really constructive for the country, a lawyer should step in and say, “ Sorry fellers, it can’t be done “ and he quotes the Constitution of 1901 in support of his opinion.
But an intervention of that sort will not prevent me from speaking on this matter. I am only a bush lawyer, and a very poor one at that, but a principle is involved which the Government must take into consideration in view of legislation which was passed in Tasmania within the last fortnight. The amendment which my colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) moved and my colleague the the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) seconded represents an endeavour to enable Trans-Australia Airlines to operate intra-state if a State wishes to have services on conditions similar to those which prevail in Queensland.
At the moment only two States have such services. Queensland has already been provided with an intra-state service as a result of direct negotiation with T.A.A. several years ago. T.A.A. has provided for the people of Queensland a magnificent intra-state service which I do not think will be improved by the intrusion of AnsettA.N.A. into that field. The Ansett-A.N.A. company has only one purpose in operating its airline, that is to make as large a profit as possible for its shareholders. That is the only reason for its existence, and it is not unusual that it should have that aim. The company would not be prepared to operate feeder services throughout Australia at a loss and carry the loss as T.A.A. has done. The feeder services of T.A.A. throughout western Queensland have given the people in those remote areas the sound of an aircraft above them and the knowledge that an aircraft would land at aerodromes within their districts. That is a service which they never had before T.A.A. began its operations, because no other airline was prepared to provide it. This illustrates the great benefit of an intra-state air service.
Tasmania has been in a unique position. About seven years ago the Tasmanian Parliament passed an act allowing T.A.A. to operate a service within the island. Although the Tasmanian Government did not proclaim that act until within recent weeks, T.A.A. has been operating intra-state in Tasmania on a limited scale in a manner which lawyers would describe as illegal, but no one has protested and the service has been both excellent and efficient.
If T.A.A. had not operated intra-state, its planes would have to travel from Melbourne to Launceston and back because they would not have been able to land at Hobart on the same trip. A separate service would have had to operate directly from Melbourne to Hobart and would not have been allowed to land at Launceston on either the forward or the return journey. Similarly, the aircraft could not have landed at Devonport or Launceston if they were flying from Melbourne to Hobart. However, a limited intra-state service has operated on schedules such as Melbourne, Launceston and Hobart and on the return trip Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne. Although the act was not proclaimed, and this Government had not passed the complementary legislation, that was definitely intrastate travel. Further intra-state services have been Melbourne, Devonport, Hobart and on the return trip Hobart, Devonport, Melbourne. Another service has been Melbourne, Devonport, Wynyard and then the return Wynyard, Devonport, Melbourne.
These are the extent of the intra-state services possible in Tasmania at the moment because there are no other aerodromes, but T.A.A. has been operating complete intrastate services using all available aerodrome facilities, even though it has done so without legal sanction. But the people are grateful. There would have been a tremendous uproar if this Government had tried to stop the service that T.A.A. has been giving.
The other airline has been operating straight services to the same airports. We are only trying to get this intra-state service validated, as Queensland has been able to do. If it is good enough for Queensland to have intra-state travel it is good enough for Tasmania to have it also, as well as any other State which, in the future might like to have intra-state services. I am thinking particularly of New South Wales which has a vast area. Butler Air Transport Limited has gone and T.A.A. and AnsettA.N.A. are the only services available to reach the vast hinterland of that State. But New South Wales has not yet passed an act to permit T.A.A. to operate intra-state services. However, the Government that was returned in New South Wales a few weeks ago with such a wonderful majority, contrary to all the predictions of political writers in the newspapers, is considering introducing legislation to permit such services to be operated by T.A.A. How I love to see political tipsters flop as they did with regard to the New South Wales elections! According to predictions, I have several times been in danger of defeat in my electorate, but I have always been returned to this place. I have only been defeated in the press.
Once the New South Wales Parliament passes that legislation it will be incumbent on this Government automatically to validate that act and enable T.A.A. to give the service that so far has been denied to it. With the development of the vast areas of Western Australia who knows but that there may be a substantial demand for T.A.A. to go into the hinterland of that State as does MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd. at the present time. South Australia has definite possibilities also for the establishment of intra-state services associated with the development of uranium production and the Woomera rocket range. South Australia may pass an act to allow T.A.A. to compete with the other airlines operating in that State.
We on this side of the chamber are trying to clear the decks legally to allow this to happen. It is fair, just and right. I give my full support to the amendment. If the Government will not accept it, we will insist on a vote being recorded. If the Government will not accept the amendment, it will administer a slap in the eye to Tasmania, which has done the right thing in the last fortnight by proclaiming its act. We on this side are accustomed to getting slaps in the eye from this Government. Government undertakings are also accustomed to this treatment. Several of them have been wiped out by this Government.
T.A.A. is one of the last remaining strongholds of government enterprise, and what it has suffered at the hands of this Government over the last nine years is nobody’s business. How it has survived I do not know. It has survived multitudinous attacks from left, right and centre that this Government has made upon it by sheer grit, sheer courage, and sheer good service.
I appeal to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) to consider the amendment moved by my colleague. If the suggested amendment becomes law it will encourage the extension of air services to isolated people in Australia. Is that not only right? The Government intends to extend television into country districts in the third phase of its programme, which is to begin in the middle of next year. Why cannot we also facilitate the expansion of intra-state air services to meet the needs of the people living in remote parts of the Commonwealth who deserve the same facilities that we in the cities enjoy? They pay taxes just as we do, and they deserve to be given the same rights and privileges as we enjoy. It will be a pity if they are denied those rights and privileges because of some legal obstacle that the Government will not remove.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) will pardon my puzzlement at the assertion by honorable members opposite that the provisions of the Constitution could not be applied in the manner suggested by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). The honorable member for Werriwa has suggested that this bill should incorporate a provision that the Australian National Airlines Commission shall have power to operate intra-state air services if and when, at some future time, the State concerned passes an act referring the necessary power to the Commonwealth Parliament to enable that to be done. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) said that from his reading of the Constitution, that was impossible. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) said that there was a relevant case - the appointment of a royal commission was involved - which proved it to be an impossibility. The Constitution provides -
The Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to - (xxxvii.) Matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law:
What can the words “ or afterwards adopt the law “ mean except that this Parliament can pass a law in the hope or in the prospect that at some future date a State parliament shall adopt the law? Surely that is a reasonable interpretation of that placitum of the Constitution, Perhaps the Minister can explain the difficulty to me. I know that great fortunes have been built round the interpretation of four or five words in the Constitution, and, therefore, we will not get a simple answer to a simple question such as this. But if the Government were really and truly concerned with the prospect of increasing competition in the way in which the honorable member for Sturt and the Minister have said it is, it would take every possible step to expand the opportunities for Trans-Australia Airlines to enter into competition with the private airlines. Consider the situation in Victoria, a very populous State. Some people say that it is the wealthiest State in the Commonwealth, yet T.A.A. has no landing places other than at the capital. Of course, its principal competitor has other landing places. If the Government was really concerned about increasing competition it would take some steps with the Victorian Government towards giving T.A.A. landing rights at places like Hamilton and Mildura, where its competitors now land. Therefore, in line with the philosophy so often pronounced from the other side of the chamber, there is no reason why the Government should take “ No “ for an answer to the constitutional problem. Unfortunately, it has been the happy knack of governments of all persuasion in this place to accept the difficulties of the Constitution as an excuse for doing nothing. We on this side do not accept that excuse. I think the Minister intends to answer my question and interpret for me the meaning of the words in the Constitution “ or afterwards adopt the
Jaw “. He might also tell me why the suggestion of the honorable member for Werriwa cannot be accepted.
There are many complications inherent in the expansion of interstate air services. If in Victoria you give more airlines the opportunity to compete over the main trunk routes and to land at major provincial cities, you allow greater competition with the State railways system. This is a matter that was raised three or four years ago with one of the smaller airlines in Victoria. There was quite a controversy about it. Here was a private concern being subsidized by the Commonwealth Government - and there has been no evidence so far that this is not the case - going into competition with the State railways system, which carries a tremendous burden of interest, some of it owing directly to the Commonwealth, and which needs Commonwealth support just as much as the airlines. So I can quite understand the difficulties of arranging with the State governments agreements that will allow the Commonwealth-owned airline to compete with the State-owned railways. This is a problem that must be faced. We cannot isolate the particular problem of air transport or all the other problems of transport in the community. One only has to look at the map supplied with the last report of the airlines commission to see the magnitude of the problem that faces us. In Victoria T.A.A. has no landing points apart from Melbourne. In Tasmania, as the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) pointed out, by an acceptance of the fact rather than by any previous agreement, it has four or five landing points. In Western Australia, a State that covers almost one-third of the Commonwealth, it has only one landing point. In Queensland, as the result of an agreement, there are a multitude of landing places for the Commonwealth-owned airline. In New South Wales there are landing points at Corowa, Newcastle and Sydney. The honorable member for Werriwa pointed out the ridiculous position that is created as the result of the provisions of the Constitution concerning interstate trade, Therefore, any government really interested in expanding the opportunities of the publicly owned airline to go into competition with the private airline must accept the responsibility of negotiating with the States and planning for its future development, refusing to accept the precepts of the Constitution which, as they apply in this field, in my view, and judging from the comments of both the Attorney-General and the honorable member for Werriwa, have never been effectively tested in the High Court or in the Privy Council. Any government which really means business - it has been said so often from the other side that this is such a Government - will accept these challenges and do something about it.
Earlier in the debate reference was made to the facilities used by privately controlled airlines in Australia without any charge whatsoever. The total value of these capital assets supplied by the Commonwealth is £45,000,000. That is the figure that was supplied to me by the responsible Minister in answer to a question in relation to the capital assets involved in the civil airways system. Is it any wonder that the State Governments look askance at the suggestion that these heavily subsidized and pampered airlines should go into competition with their railways? We cannot treat the matter in isolation. We must face the problem as a whole. The matter for immediate concern is that the Government has produced no evidence that it is not possible to anticipate future agreements by State governments.
.- The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has added his weight to the opinion of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) on the meaning of placitum (xxxvii) of section 51 of the Constitution. I think that even he will admit that he is not the consummate casuist that the Attorney-General is in these matters. The plain fact is that there has never been a court decision on placitum (xxxvii) which has any relation whatever to the matter at present before the committee. The only decision which the Attorney-General called” in aid was one given before the First World War in circumstances which have been widely criticized academically and judicially ever since. It would appear to me that the second half of placitum (xxxvii) has no meaning unless it refers to the very situation which we propounded here. In conclusion on this point, Senator Wright in another place - no mean lawyer, and no mean causist either for that matter, politically or juridically - suggested the very method of dealing with these matters which I have adopted in this debate.
The Attorney-General and his junior, the honorable member for Sturt, would have us accept this farcical situation, that T.A.A can operate within any State if the State passes a law conferring jurisdiction on the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth then passes a law accepting that reference. They would have us believe that T.A.A. cannot operate in a State if we pass a law saying we will accept a reference and the State then makes a reference. It is the old question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg. Who moves first? The Attorney-General would have us believe that the High Court comprises a bunch of medieval schoolmen who would be attracted by such a preposterous proposition. Are we to reduce the Australian Constitution to that absurd position, where something could be done in one order but not in the other? The fact is that both Parliaments, State and Commonwealth, would be in agreement. Both administrations, Premier and Prime Minister, would be in agreement. They would have us believe that in those circumstances the High Court would say “ No, you did not do it in the right order. You go and do exactly the same things but in the reverse order. You may gain your heart’s desires if you transpose your incantations.” That is reducing the Constitution to a greater farce than we realize it to be.
I have hitherto dealt only with the law, because that has been the excuse, the alibi, and the smokescreen propounded in another place and reiterated here, in the second-reading debate and in committee. This is the real test of the amendment: Does the Government believe in free competition? Does it adhere to its philosophy of equality between the public operator and the privately-owned but publicly-subsidized operator, within individual States or only between different States and in the Territories? Is the Government going to use the constitutional subterfuge to deny to any State which has not yet passed a reference to the Commonwealth and proclaimed it, so as to deprive its people of the advantages of competition?
In the second-reading debate I cited the very real advantages which the citizens of New South Wales had when there was competition in that State between airlines which constitutionally were able to originate, terminate, and completely conduct their flights within the borders of the State, and I cited the deterioration in those services which occurred when the Butler organization was absorbed by Ansett-A.N.A. and that competition ended. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) cited at first hand the way that services from Dubbo to Sydney, for instance, deteriorated from daily to tri-weekly, and from Viscounts to D.C.3 aircraft. People who lived further from Sydney than Hobart is from Melbourne, or as far from Sydney as Adelaide is from Melbourne, were deprived of a modern, frequent service because competition disappeared. I quoted from the New South Wales “Hansard” to show that the New South Wales Government last year conducted negotiations with T.A.A. concerning the introduction of competitive services within the State to make up for the monopoly created by the absorption of Butler by Ansett-A.N.A., and that this Government put an end to those negotiations. Whatever the legal consequences are, however we finesse about constitutional fictions which have never been tested, however we predict that the High Court would quibble on this subject, we cannot get away from the question whether the Government does actually believe in free competition and equality of competition between Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A. within the States. If it does believe in that competition, as it has so often proclaimed, it will do something to facilitate that competition. If it does not it will continue in its present conduct and, typically of the Government, it will not be frank with us but will hide behind these flimsy subterfuges which we heard in the secondreading debate and have had reiterated in committee.
– I should like to take a few minutes of the committe’s time, Mr. Chairman, to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) about th. choice between competition and no competition. I think it would be a tragedy if we used any defects in the Australian Constitution to prevent any one group of people from having their fair share of business in any field in this country, but it looks as if that is just what is going to happen. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is now at the table, sits comfortably in his chair, and does not indicate whether he will try to answer the arguments that have just been put forward so ably by my colleague. I did not think that the Minister would succumb to legal argument so easily as he has done.
The Government may be doubtful about its attitude towards giving Trans-Australia Airlines its rightful share of business in competition with private airlines within the States, but the head of the major private airline himself knows where he is going, at any rate. I refer to Mr. R. M. Ansett, whom I have greatly admired throughout the years for the battle that he has waged in order to get where he is to-day. I recall when he started in business carrying people between Hamilton and Ballarat, in Victoria, in an old five-passenger tourer. He has definitely done a great job, but he is unfortunately allowing his present position of great influence in the land to go to his head. Mr. Ansett returned from the United States of America the other day with a new Lockheed Electra aircraft, and on his arrival in Sydney, he stated, “We will kill the opposition with this “. He indicated that it was his object, not to compete with his opposition, but to kill it. That is the true expression of the monopoly aims of powerful people, and I suppose that it is regarded as fair business practice to kill the opposition.
Mr. Ansett is going to try to kill TransAustralia Airlines by competition, and the Government is going to try to restrict that organization by relying on this section of the Constitution which my colleague has just outlined so ably. So poor old T.A.A. is caught between the two extremes - the two millstones, as it were - and one wonders how much longer it will be able to operate successfully and profitably throughout Australia. It has made profits. But it has made them by raising its fares, Mr. Chairman. After Mr. Ansett became the top dog of this competitive airline, Ansett-A.N.A., he wanted fares raised, and T.A.A. had to follow his lead. As a result, T.A.A.’s profits have been between £250,000 and £300,000 a year. That is a wonderful performance, all things considered.
I think it is just scandalous that this Government should use the Constitution to prevent T.A.A. from getting its rightful share of business in States where there is not yet intra-state traffic, in order to open the field to Mr. Ansett, who has proved such a good lobbyist. He already has been able to get the ear of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on one occasion over the head of the Minister for Civil Aviation. In addition, he won out when it came to the purchase of Lockheed Electra aircraft for use in Australia. He is an expert lobbyist. He knows all the lurks. He is a top business executive, and he is now Americanized. Only the Americans talk about killing the opposition. It is one of Mr. Ansett’s faults that he has allowed his great success to go to his head.
I only hope that at this stage, almost later than the eleventh hour, as it were, the Government will recant and indicate its willingness, for instance, to validate the Tasmanian reference of power which I” mentioned earlier and to enable other States to take similar action in relation to air services.
– Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ansett’s views of his opposition, in this instance, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, have nothing to do with the case, with all due deference to my friends, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who spoke earlier. This is really not a question of whether the Government wishes the Australian National Airlines Commission to extend its activities into States in which it does not already operate. The question is whether the Parliament has power to legislate to accept a reference of power which is expected to be referred by a State, before that reference has occurred. An amendment in relation to this matter was proposed in the Senate, and it was rejected by the Government on legal grounds.
At the second-reading stage, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) stated his view that it is not within the competence of this Parliament to pass a measure authorizing the acceptance at a later date of a power before that power has been referred by a State Parliament. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has sought, by an expedient, to overcome that difficulty. I do not think that he has done so. He has sought, by postponing the operation of this clause and making it dependent upon proclamation at a later date - which later date, presumably, is to be after a reference of power by some State - to make valid what he apparently accepts is, or may be, invalid if it is sought to be done now. If the Commonwealth cannot legislate in anticipation of a reference of power - and that is the Government’s advice and its view - it cannot validate legislation enacted in anticipation by making it subject to a future proclamation.
– How can the Tasmanian reference be validated, then?
– The Tasmanian situation is quite different. The honorable member referred earlier to the fact that Trans-Australia Airlines carries passengers within Tasmania, and did so before the reference of power by the Tasmanian Parliament. It carried them as an incident of interstate journeys, and it carried them quite validly. The activity of picking up passengers at Hobart, stopping at Launceston to put down passengers and pick up others, and then going on to Melbourne was an incident of an interstate journey from Tasmania to Victoria, and nobody ever questioned the validity of that activity. The Tasmanian Government, more recently, has referred to the Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate with respect to air services within Tasmania. It has recently completed some formalities which it attached by its legislation to that reference, and I am informed that that reference is now complete. This measure now before us will come into operation after the reference of power by Tasmania, and the Tasmanian reference will be complete in itself. If my understanding of the position is correct, Tasmania and Queensland both are in the clear, if I may say so. If any other State wants to refer power, it is perfectly at liberty to do so, and the Commonwealth, if it so decides, can accept any such reference by a simple amendment to this measure at any time.
Let me state the Government’s position. For the reasons given by the AttorneyGeneral, and for the further reasons which
I have given, we do not accept the amendment. But, in any event, it is a matter of no importance, because, as I have said, any State which wishes to refer this power to the Commonwealth can do so, and the Commonwealth can accept it at a later date by a simple amendment to this measure. So this debate on the amendment is really a paper argument.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be omitted (Mr. Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of the bill, including postponed clause 2 - by leave - taken as a whole.
.-I want to detain the committee for only a very short time to refer to clause 17, which introduced a new section 40. You will notice, Sir, that the amendment provides that the commission shall, as soon as practicable, prepare and furnish to the Minister a report of its activities for the financial year. Proposed new sub-section (3.) provides as follows: -
The Minister shall lay the report and financial statements of the Commission, together with the report of the Auditor-General, before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after their receipt by the Minister.
Sir, I realize that that form of words is one that we frequently insert into the 50 or 60 acts which require an annual report to be presented to the Parliament. I can understand the insertion of that form of words in some cases. For instance, in regard to the Tariff Board’s annual report, my recollection is that the Government has to report what action it proposes to take on a matter mentioned in the report; but that does not apply in general to annual reports, and it does not apply to the annual report of the Australian National Airlines Commission.
The net result, Sir, will be that in practically every case the annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines will reach this House after the Budget debate has concluded and after the debate on the Estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation and, in fact, in some cases after the whole of the spring session - the Budget session - has concluded. That is a position which we should not tolerate. There is no real reason why the report should not be promptly presented to the Parliament. Fifteen sitting days normally cover five weeks of session. If, as we have become accustomed to doing under the beneficent regime of the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), we adjourn for every fifth week, that means inevitably that six weeks will elapse between the receipt of the report by the Minister and its receipt by this House. I merely need to refer to the dates on which we have received T.A.A.’s report in the last few years in order to make the point I am putting.
In 1952 the debate on the Estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation occurred on 29th August. T.A.A.’s report was tabled on 29th October. In 1953 the department’s Estimates were debated on 25th and 29th September and T.A.A.’s report was tabled on 24th November. In 1954 the Estimates were debated on 9th September and the report was tabled on 3rd November. In 1955 the Estimates were debated from 20th to 22nd September and the report was tabled on 19th October. In 1956 the Estimates were debated on 2nd October and the report tabled on 25th October. In 1957 the Estimates were debated between 10th and 16th October and the report was tabled on 19th November. Last year the Estimates were debated on 28th August and the report tabled on 24th September.
To summarize, never less than three and a half weeks elapsed between the debate on the relevant Estimates and the tabling of the report. I do not believe we should tolerate an inevitable continuance of that practice. Most of the reports which have to be presented to the Parliament are presented after the Budget debate and after the debate on the Estimates for the relevant department. If we allow this provision to go through in its present form, we will inevitably be encouraging a continuation of that practice which, as I have shown has obtained in respect of this particular report for the past seven years.
Remainder of bill, including postponed clause 2, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– This question relates to the administration of my colleague the Treasurer and I have obtained from him the following information: -
On the assumption that the honorable member is referring to payments under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-56, and to weekly payments under that act, the answers to his questions are as follows: -
(a) During total incapacity for work, £8 15s. a week plus £2 5s. a week in respect of his wife and £1 a week in respect of each child under sixteen years, (b) During partial incapacity for work up to £8 15s. a week (or up to the aggregate of the amounts mentioned in (a) above, whichever is the greater), according to the extent to which he is unable to earn his pre-injury pay.
Where incapacity for work is total and permanent there is a continuing weekly payment of the amount of compensation specified in (i) (a) above.
The payments referred to in (i) above are limited to a total of £2,350. There is no limit on those mentioned in (ii).
There is no discrimination in the treatment of ex-service personnel. All members of the peace-time forces, including national service trainees, are covered by the act and equally entitled to its benefits.
i asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) 37, which includes 32 leases granted following the conversion or sub-division of existing leases; Cb) 238.
Rice Limited under agricultural development lease and approximately 28,000 acres have been applied for.
This information is not recorded in respect of grazing licences.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many persons were employed in the (a) Taxation Department, (b) Commonwealth Public Service Inspector’s Office, (c) Department of the Interior, (d) Department of Immigration and (e) Department of Social Services in the City of Adelaide during the years 1957 and 1958?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Employment figures held by the Public Service Board do not differentiate between employment in the City of Adelaide and elsewhere within South Australia. Figures for the State as a whole are given below, with the exception that those for the Department of Immigration do not include the staffs of the migrant hostels.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The question appears to bebased on a misunderstanding of part of the discussions at the recent Premiers’ Conference, when I commented upon suggestions that, in lieu of the present method of supporting the State works and housing programmes, the Commonwealth might make funds available to the States for capital purposes either interest free or at a nominal rate of interest. I did not support these suggestions.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 April 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590408_reps_23_hor22/>.