23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, and it relates to telephone charges under the Extended Local Service Areas system. I have been informed that anomalies exist under this system. For example, anomalies exist as between subscribers in Mornington and those in Mount Eliza, Victoria. The charges for calls made to Melbourne from Mornington are five times higher than those made from Mount Eliza to Melbourne, although Mornington is only about four miles farther from Melbourne than is Mount Eliza. As a result of this anomaly, overhead charges place Mornington traders at a distinct disadvantage compared with traders in Mount Eliza. Will the Minister consider the introduction of a more gradual levelling out of charges? I realize that a line of demarcation must be drawn somewhere, but I urge that charges be levelled out so that people just outside the zone may be placed on a more equitable basis compared to those just inside the zone.
– When the Extended Local Service Areas scheme was introduced, the Postmaster-General made it quite plain that there must of necessity be irregularities or anomalies in a vast scheme that made such great changes in telephone operations. The Postmaster-General made it quite plain on more than one occasion that any anomalies brought to the notice of his department would be examined on their merits. The position with regard to Mount Eliza and Mornington has recently been brought to my attention, and also to the attention of the Postmaster-General, who is currently considering it. When I have his decision on the matter I will convey it to the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate whether the Boyer report on the Public Service has been fully considered and accepted by Cabinet? Will the Minister make an announcement regarding this report, particularly that section dealing with the removal of the marriage bar that at present operates against the employment of married women, and in respect of which I believe the Treasury has stated that it has no objection?
– 1 will refer the question to the Treasurer and obtain an answer for the honorable senator as soon as I can.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether any justification exists for the claim made yesterday by the New South Wales health authorities that supplies of antipoliomyelitis vaccine are inadequate. In view of statements to the effect that success cannot always be guaranteed in the production of the vaccine in Australia, has the Government any plans to import vaccine from abroad?
– The Minister for Health recently made a statement on this matter. He pointed out that additional supplies of Salk vaccine were now available in Australia, and that in his opinion any difficulty about scarcity of supplies had passed. I am not aware of the position in relation to the further importation of vaccine in cases of necessity. If the honorable senator places that part of his question on the notice-paper, I shall get the Minister for Health to furnish him with an answer.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been directed to the current issue of the Sydney “ Bulletin “ in which it is claimed that complaints have appeared in the French press to the effect that red tape continues to irritate passengers travelling through Australia by air? This is a matter of importance to France because the French international airline, Compagnie des Transports. Aeriens Intercontinentaux, has regular services to Australia. Has the Minister observed that the complaints are that lengthy entry and exit forms have to be filled in by passengers in transit, and that transit passengers staying longer than a day must secure taxation clearances? Will he discuss the matter with his own department and with his colleagues, the Treasurer, the Minister for Immigration, and the Minister for Customs and Excise, with a view to removing any red tape that is hampering the free now of transit passengers and to removing from the minds of tour-minded Frenchmen doubts about our capacity as a nation to handle transit passengers?
– As was indicated by the honorable senator, a large part of the query is the business of the Minister for Immigration, the Treasurer and the Minister for Customs and Excise. 1 shall refer to those Ministers the relevant parts of the question. In regard to that part which comes within the administration of my portfolio, it is true that on one or two occasions, not recently but soon after the commencement of operations by the French line, aircraft were held up due to the failure of that airline to conform, not to red tape, but to the very necessary regulations that are laid down for the conduct of international traffic, and which are conformed to by all other international airlines operating through Australia or elsewhere. I am not aware of any recent instances of this kind. I shall inquire whether there has been an instance recently and, if so, let the honorable senator know what the circumstances were.
– I address to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question in relation to the cancellation on Monday night of the 11.55 p.m. Ansett-A.N.A. service from Western Australia to the east. I think the flight in question was flight No. 216. The passengers were transferred to a flight that was to depart at 8.20 a.m. the following day. Is the Minister in a position to tell the Senate what occasioned the cancellation of this flight, which was fully booked? Has any provision been made to avoid the total cancellation of nights from Western Australia to the eastern States by either Ansett-A.N.A. or Trans-Australia Airlines as a result of organizational difficulties, bad rostering or mechanical failure? Will he give the Senate an assurance that flights scheduled by either Ansett-A.N.A. or T.A.A. will not be cancelled, but that intending passengers will be enabled to arrive at their destinations at the scheduled time? Have any conditions been laid down under the system of co-ordinating air services whereby people who book their passages and pay their fares can be assured of proceeding to their destination as scheduled?
– Unfortunately it is a fact that one of these very rare occurrences inconvenienced a number of passengers at Perth on Monday night. Fortunately an occurrence such as this is very rare, neither airline being subject very frequently to this sort of thing. I have set an inquiry in train. I understand that the trouble started when the engine of an eastbound aircraft became unserviceable on the ground in Adelaide. The flight was continued in a Viscount and was successfully completed, but by that time two members of the crew of three had exhausted thenflying hours, and it was not possible for them to fly again until the next morning. I repeat that this was a very rare occurrence. I have already been in touch with the Ansett-A.N.A. organization about it. I expect to be in a position to make a more complete report in a day or two. I have intimated to the airline concerned that there is an obligation upon it to supply the services as advertised in all but exceptional circumstances. I think the honorable senator will agree that this, in fact, was an exceptional circumstance.
As for giving any assurance, all I can say to the honorable senator is that while a schedule is regarded by the airlines - and indeed, by the Government - as being of great importance, safety is the main factor in matters of this kind. I recall, as no doubt does the honorable senator, the slogan of one of the early operators in this country that the schedule is important but safety is most important. Safety factors will always be predominant in determining what happens in circumstances such as those which arose at Perth the other night.
– I should like to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. What is the composition, and what are the functions, of the conference of military advisers to the South-East Asia Treaty Organization which is now sitting at Bangkok?
– Senator McCallum was good enough to inform me of his intention to ask this question, and I have obtained the following answer from the Minister for Defence: -
Australia - Air Marshal Sir Frederick Scherger.
France - General Francois Yves Ernoul de la Cheneliere.
New Zealand - Major-General Sir Stephen Weir.
Pakistan - Air Marshal M. Asghar Khan.
Philippines - Lieutenant-General Manuel F. Cabal.
Thailand - General Surajit Charusreni.
United Kingdom - Admiral Sir David Luce.
United States - Admiral Harry D. Felt.
The present conference is under the chairman ship of the New Zealand military adviser.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health concerns the availability of Salk vaccine for poliomyelitis. The Minister will recollect that on three previous occasions I have raised this matter in the Senate. On the first occasion I was given an assurance by the Minister that there would be no shortage of Salk vaccine in Australia. On the second occasion I was given an assurance that the Minister was very concerned about the Salk vaccine position, that it was being examined and that we could rest assured that the matter was in capable hands. On the next occasion I asked the Minister whether, if the Opposition was unable to obtain information from responsible people in the community or from the Minister for Health, he would be prepared to give information about the number of deaths from poliomyelitis in Australia, whether there had been a shortage of vaccine and whether, in the case of persons who had been affected by poliomyelitis, supplies of vaccine were available to them so that they could be vaccinated. The Minister answered with a request that I put the question on the notice-paper. I am sure that he recollects the questions. I now ask the Minister whether he is aware that Dr. E. S. A. Meyers has stated that despite what has been said poliomyelitis vaccine is still not available in New South Wales, and that he has not received information on the number of reported cases and deaths from poliomyelitis, and on whether or not the people affected had been immunized. Does the Minister not consider that when three questions are asked in the Senate it is right and proper for a responsible government to take honest and efficient action to see that the health of the community is protected? Does he not believe that his first two answers were like the answer given by the Postmaster-General when he refuted a suggestion about the actions of an officer of the Postal Department in Queensland?
– Order! The honorable senator’s reference to that matter is out of order.
– Will the Minister now give an assurance that the statistics on poliomyelitis will be given to the Senate as a matter of urgency, and without my question being put on the notice-paper? Will he also make sure that supplies of vaccine are available to the Australian community for immunization against this dread disease?
– As Senator Cooke well knows, I only represent the Minister for Health in this chamber. If he expects me or the Minister for Health to give in an off-the-cuff answer the number of cases-
– This has been going on for twelve months.
– Yes, and the statistics probably alter from day to day. How can a Minister give a reliable off-the-cuff answer in those circumstances? As the honorable gentleman wants this information, the only proper way for him to obtain it is to put his question on the notice-paper, and then he will receive an answer from the Minister himself. If the honorable senator does that, I will convey the question to the Minister for Health, as I have conveyed the questions that the honorable senator has asked up to date. The honorable senator is talking a lot of nonsense when he suggests that the Minister for Health does not fully realize the responsibility which he carries in this respect.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Are large quantities of dried peas entering Australia from overseas? Are these dried peas being imported from the Netherlands at very low prices? Are these peas being subsidized from the Netherlands? What is the present tariff on dried peas? What action should the Tasmanian pea industry take to protect itself against these imports?
– There has been a considerable increase in the imports of dried peas from overseas countries, particularly the Netherlands. The price of peas from that country has been very low. I cannot say whether those peas are being subsidized. I will certainly take action through my department to find out whether they are, because if they are being subsidized in any way we can take immediate action now that our attention has been directed to this matter. The tariff on dried peas is 18d. a cental - that is, 18d. per 100 lb. That is a pretty low tariff. If the Tasmanian industry feels that it is immediately threatened by large increases of imports, it could seek, through the Minister for Trade, emergency tariff action. If such a request were made and agreed to, a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board would be asked to furnish a report on the position of the industry within 30 days. If that action were not taken, the industry could prepare a case for submission to the Tariff Board itself, seeking protection greater than that afforded by the present duty of 18d. a cental.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation know that, following the unfortunate delay on the scheduled flight from Perth on Monday, every possible step was taken to minimize the delay to passengers from Perth to Sydney and Canberra, and that a stop-over of three hours in Melbourne was obviated by the provision of a special aircraft from Adelaide? This service was much appreciated, not only by the members of Parliament concerned, but also by other travellers, who, whilst regret ting the delay and realizing the need for a regular service from Perth, recognized that the company had done all that it could do to remedy the position.
– I am aware of the steps which the company took to minimize the inconvenience caused to its passengers. I regret that when I was answering the question asked by Senator Cooke I did not refer to that matter. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of Senator Tangney in bringing publicly to the attention of the Senate the steps that were taken by the operator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade aware that a trade fair will be held in New Delhi from 11th to 15th December, 1961, al which leading businessmen of 38 African and Asian countries will assemble for trade discussions? Will Australia be represented at this gathering, which could be a means of opening up new markets for certain of our commodities?
– 1 am sorry to say that I did not know of the trade fair to which the honorable senator has referred, nor of the arrangements for it that are being made. I ask her to put the question on the notice-paper so that the Minister for Trade himself can answer it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
What is being done by the Administration of the Northern Territory to preserve the flora and fauna and the relics of aboriginal culture in areas now visited by tourists?
– The Minister for Territories has supplied the following answer: -
Practically every species of bird is covered oy the protective legislation of the Territory, the exception being such recognized pests as crows and certain types of eagles. In addition, a Northern Territory Reserves Board has been constituted by ordinance for the purpose of controlling and managing reserves containing places of general interest, national parks- and monuments, and flora and fauna sanctuaries. The board has power to make by-laws for the protection of flora, fauna and features of the reserve, and for preventing their destruction or defacement.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 28a, I hereby nominate Senator McKellar to act as a Temporary Chairman of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– For the information of honorable senators, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Chronology of nuclear tests carried out by the Soviet Union and the United States of America since 1st September, 1961.
This brings up to date the chronology that I tabled on 14th September.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I present the following report: -
Fifty-fifth Report - Form of the Estimates: Part I. - Schedule of Salaries and Allowances; Part II. - Deduction and Transfer Items. 1 move -
That the paper be printed.
In the course of the committee’s reviews of the financial documents, reference was made to a number of matters which, whilst of importance, were not directly relevant to the main topics then under investigation. These matters were noted and two in particular were selected for attention, as they appeared to warrant individual investigation as part of our general inquiry into the form of the Estimates. The first matter, the schedule of salaries and allowances, is covered in Part I. of this report. The evidence received by the committee indicated that there was no legal requirement for this schedule and that, as a sub-schedule in the Appropriation Act, it is defective legally.
The committee recommends that the ‘ schedule be omitted as a section of the Estimates, as it is not practicable to overcome the legal defects attaching to its use in the Appropriation Acts. Further, as the
Parliament, under the provisions of the Public Service Act 1922-1960, has transferred the control of salary levels to outside authorities the schedule does not serve to control the remuneration of officers of the Commonwealth other than the few in the First Division. However, as the information is of considerable interest and value to the Parliament, a similar schedule should continue to be presented annually for information with the other financial papers.
The committee further recommends that a schedule for temporary and casual employees should be presented also. At present, little useful information on these employees is available during Estimates debates although, as a category, they represent some 40 per cent, of the total number in the Commonwealth Public Service. In fact, many temporary officers are virtually permanently employed.
The second matter, which refers to deduction and transfer items, is included in Part II. of the report. Again, the committee was advised that the use of these items resulted in legally doubtful appropriations. However, this is somewhat of a legal technicality and departments had no difficulty in working under the procedure. The committee understands that the legal position may be clarified in the near future by a re-wording of the Appropriation Bills. The specific examples investigated indicated that the use of these items may be the only available method to improve the information contained in the Estimates. Although the Estimates do not furnish information as to the total costs of particular departments, and have never purported to do so, they do not provide in many instances useful information relating to the costs of particular functions of departments. The committee concluded also that the use of transfer items to enable one department to charge another department for its services may not always be necessary or desirable and recommends that the practice be reviewed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28th September (vide page 725), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I understand, Mr. President, that I have the concurrence of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in proposing that this bill and the Australian National Airlines Bill 1961 be debated together to the second-reading stage.
– Yes, that is so.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– This is a remarkable government so far as civil aviation is concerned. Let us trace the history of its actions. Let us have a look at the record.
– We would love you to do that.
– Very well. It introduced the Civil Aviation Agreement Act and the Air Navigation (Charges) Act in 1952, the Civil Aviation Agreement Act of 1957 and the Airlines Equipment Act of 1958. Now this bill is before us. Substantial assistance has been granted to AnsettA.N.A. The 1952 legislation was enacted for the purpose of helping Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but its benefits were inherited by Ansett-A.N.A. when that organization took over Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. In the main, all the legislation to which I have referred was for the purpose of helping Ansett-A.N.A. Let us see how this Government, with its remarkable work in attempting to keep the private airline in the air, has acted to the detriment of the airline that the people own.
– That the socialists established.
– If my friend wants to be apparent, I do not mind. His answers to some questions on peas were just what I expected. He has to face the electors. Of course, the duty on imported peas is much too small now, having regard to the effect upon Tasmanian producers. He is the Minister who should have known something about the tariff on peas. If he concentrates on peas for a moment, allowing his very able friend to deal with aviation, the Government will get on a little better.
I have referred to the legislation enacted in a successful effort by the Government to keep Ansett-A.N.A. in the air. What else has it done to help Ansett-A.N.A.? I would not mind assistance to AnsettA.N.A. in the ordinary course of events. I have nothing against that organization from a personal point of view. But the first duty of any Australian government is to foster its own airline, not to do everything possible over a period of years to harm it. The Government’s actions, which I shall enumerate later, resulted in increased air fares, for which there was no need. If the position were reversed and the Government owned Ansett-A.N.A., I should say that the Government was acting in the interests of the people; but it has gone out of its way to keep in the air a fleet of aircraft in competition with its own. I just cannot understand it. This attitude is foreign to me. If an airline were mine I would help it, not hinder it as the Government has done by successive legislative and administrative actions. The people who run T.A.A. were wise enough to buy the first Viscounts ever seen in Australia. But what did this Government do to bring its own airline back on a level with AnsettA.N.A.? It imposed a tax on aviation kerosene, which was used by T.A.A. in its Viscounts, and that tax cost it at least £300,000 a year. Was the tax necessary? Surely the Government, with its huge budgets and the amount of money it has at its disposal, was not worried about a mere £300,000! But the Government wanted to keep T.A.A. back on the same level as Ansett-A.N.A. Moreover, when Ansett-A.N.A. asked for an increase of fares, the £300,000 became a factor.
Let me go further. We remember the infamous cross-charter arrangement whereby T.A.A. gave Ansett-A.N.A. three Viscounts in exchange for two DC6B’s. Was that arrangement designed to help the Government’s airline? The Government is in control of this nation by virtue of the will of the people. The Government deliberately set about to hinder its own airline in order to level out the operations of the two airlines and to enable Ansett-A.N.A. to stay in the air. One recalls the Government’s actions whenever choice of aircraft for the two airlines was under discussion. One recalls also decisions given from time to time by the co-ordinator appointed under the Airlines Agreements Act of 1957. All of the measures brought down by this
Government in connexion with the operations of the airlines have been designed with one purpose in view - not to help- the Government airline but to help its competitor. Over the years the Government has continually attempted to place obstacles in the way of the successful operation of the Government airline. Why did not the Government have the courage to sell T.A.A. just as it has sold other Government undertakings? The Government has not dared to sell T.A.A. because it would not like public reaction to such a move, lt was frightened of public opinion, but it hak done everything else in its power to hinder the operations of T.A.A.
– ls that why-
– Just a moment. The honorable senator may have a go later. We have all day to debate this measure but my time is limited. Ansett-A.N.A. inherited many advantages under the agreement of 1952 from the old Australian National Airways company. The Minister for Civil Aviation often refers to fair competition in the air. That is his pel theme. The Government is, for the time being, custodian of the nation’s finances. But how has it guarded the nation’s finances? The Government continually speaks of fair competition. Its policy is to keep two airlines in operation. Let us look at the record and judge whether there has been fair competition. Let us see what the Government did under the agreement of 1957. Under that agreement it bestowed on Ansett-A.N.A benefits relating to Government guarantees and loans. It also gave Ansett-A.N.A. access to Government traffic and an equal share of mail carried by air.
– You must go back farther than that.
– I am going through the history of this matter. The honorable senator may have his say later but I ask him to let me have mine now. I have been exhorted to be very temperate for certain reasons, and I am trying to do that. Under the 1957 agreement, the Government extended the rationalization provisions applying to routes on which the two operators competed to routes on which they proposed to compete. There was a great difference between the agreements of 1952 and 1957. I have referred to the imposition of a tax on aviation kerosene. I am pleased to see that under this bill, now that both airlines are using aviation kerosene, the Government guarantees not to increase the tax on aviation kerosene by a greater amount than the corresponding amount of increase in tax on motor fuel. So in this regard Ansett-A.N.A. will cease to have any advantage over its competitors. If Ansett-A.N.A. is not to have an advantage in this regard now, why was it allowed to have an advantage formerly? The Minister will probably say that if the Government had thought about the situation more when it imposed the tax it might have acted differently.
It is worth while recounting the history of the two airlines. You would think that a government charged with the responsibility of doing the best that it possibly could for the country would strive to discharge that responsibility. Let me get back to the cross-charter arrangement. We know that Ansett-A.N.A. wanted to buy Electras and that T.A.A. wanted to buy Caravelle jets. The Minister said that neither AnsettA.N.A. nor T.A.A. could buy the aircraft they wanted but that they had to buy Viscounts. But Mr. Ansett was not satisfied with the Minister’s decision. He went a little higher; he went to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The Prime Minister, no doubt very nicely, said to the Minister for Civil Aviation, “ I am sorry, but you had better change your mind because Ansett-A.N.A. is to get what it asks for “. And Ansett-A.N.A. did get what it asked for. However, the Government airline did not get what it asked for but had to take the same as Ansett-A.N.A. wanted. Ansett-A.N.A. ordered Electra aircraft, and the first two Electras acquired by that company were flying commercially in Australia before those purchased by T.A.A. arrived here.
But the situation in regard to the jets is different. Both organizations are to get their jet aircraft on the same day. They cannot order until they tell the Minister about it. They both will have to get the same aircraft and will have to fly those aircraft on the same day.
– What would you prefer?
– I want to know why there has been a volte face. I want to know why unfair treatment was meted out to the government airline when it wanted to buy Caravelle aircraft. If the Government does not want to retain ownership of its airline, it has the numbers in the Parliament to take the necessary action. And the Leader of the Government in this place (Senator Spooner) knows how to use the numbers. I give him full credit for that. If honorable senators opposite do not believe in government ownership of T.A.A., why do they not rise in their places and say, “ As we have sold everything else, let us sell this organization “ ? Was an attempt made to sell the airline at one stage? Was the Government advised not to do so? If the Government was tendered such advice, it was very good advice. The Government is only putting on an act when it says that it does not want to dispose of T.A.A. It is not disposing of this airline because it is frightened of the political repercussions. More of the people are interested in T.A.A. ‘than were interested in the whaling station in Western Australia and the other enterprises that the Government has sold. I admit that the people in the west may have been much more interested in the whaling than were the people in the east.
– There was no wailing about it.
– I should not think so. The Government having virtually given that undertaking away, why should there be any wailing on the part of the people who acquired it? It was not a time of wailing and gnashing of teeth for them. They virtually walked into the show.
– Under this legislation are both airlines obliged to take the same type of jet aircraft?
– You will have your turn to speak, just as I am having mine now. And when you do speak, undoubtedly you will support any measure that is designed to hamper the operations of T.A.A. but which will bolster up the activities of Ansett-A.N.A.
– Are they both to have the same type of jet aircraft?
– Under this legislation, that will be so.
– The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that would not be so.
– The Minister has said that they will be able to put in their order on the same day and will commence to fly their new aircraft on the same day.
– But the Minister said that they would not necessarily have to take the same type of aircraft.
– I do not intend to accept what he says at this moment, because if what he proposes will interfere with the activities of Ansett-A.N.A. some one higher up will enter the picture. He may say to-day, with good intent, that they will be able to choose the type of aircraft they want; but I doubt whether he will. 1 believe I have heard him say in this chamber on more than one occasion that he believes in the standardization of equipment purchased by the two major airlines. Let me tell my friend, Senator Branson, that any advantages that accrue from the implementation of this legislation will fall on the one side.
– There will be fair competition.
– Even I cannot understand how all this adds up to fair competition. I referred earlier to what happened in relation to the cross-charter of aircraft. The Minister for Civil Aviation would have known that the Viscounts on the Melbourne-Perth run were carrying 56 per cent, of the traffic and that the DC6B’s were carrying 44 per cent. A swap was made. If I remember correctly, an attempt was made to say in this chamber that Mr. McDonald, when he was chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, agreed to the swap. But I do not think that that was true. It is true to say that I was promised a look at Mr. McDonald’s report. But it is true that I got only a little bit of it.
– It is true also that Trans-Australia Airlines signed the agreement.
– Why did T.A.A. sign the agreement? One of the faults of that organization is that it is managed by a part-time board. Let every one understand that I am not reflecting on the individual members of the board when I say that it is not right for such a big organization to be governed by a part-time board. That form of management is not adopted in the major industries. Trans-Australia Airlines employs a general manager and an assistant general manager.
– Ansett-A.N.A. has a part-time board.
– I am not worried about what Ansett-A.N.A. has. The difference between your attitude and mine is this: You are more concerned about AnsettA.N.A. than about T.A.A., whereas I, as a taxpayer, am more concerned about the organization in which I have a little interest. I do not know how great that interest is, but nevertheless I have it. Enough executive officers are employed by T.A.A. for them to be given the task of managing the airline. I do not wish to impute improper motives to people who cannot answer for themselves, but I say that the management of T.A.A. should be entrusted to Mr. Ryland, who is the general manager, and to the assistant general manager, the chief engineer, the finance director, and the other executive officers.
– Do you want to do away with the board?
– I would prefer that to happen, yes. I would leave the management to the officials whom I have mentioned. I believe that if that were done the airline would be run more efficiently. With the greatest of respect, I do not believe that men who have spent their lives in government service and others who are chartered accountants and so forth can give sufficient attention to this big undertaking when employed on a part-time basis.
– Do you know that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited board is a part-time board?
– Is it? I believe it would be much better for T.A.A. to be controlled by a full-time board. I hope that as time goes on the Government will see the wisdom of that suggestion. I know the reply will be that a Labour government appointed a part-time board when it constituted the airline. I opposed the idea in certain places, and I still oppose it. If the
Government is running an industry, surely it should be able to obtain the full-time services of capable men to run it. I do not like the part-time idea at all. I hope that the Government will listen to what I have said. I will leave the matter at that.
– Tell us why you do not like a part-time board?
– Because I do not think that people who meet possibly once a week, or once a fortnight, for half a day can give sufficient time and attention to a big industry such as this. In the main, the commission ‘has the power to make the final decision. I would rather have a man on the spot all the time with the power to make decisions. The Government believes that the present general manager of T.A.A. is a good man. I have never heard one word spoken against him either inside or outside this chamber. Why not make him the real boss? I am a firm believer in placing the responsibility in a full-time board.
Let us consider some of the decisions that the co-ordinator of the rationalization committee has made. He has given routes to Ansett-A.N.A. that were formerly flown solely by T.A.A. These include Brisbane to Mount Isa, Rockhampton to Longreach, Alice Springs to Adelaide, the route to Lae in New Guinea and now, of course, the classical route into Darwin. The Government says that it is looking after the people’s airline, and that it is in favour of fair competition. If the Government wants fair competition why does it not allow T.A.A. to make intra-state flights in New South Wales? Why does it not allow T.A.A. to make more flights in South Australia and Victoria? The Government says that it believes in fairness. Why does it not act in accordance with its belief?
The Government, in effect, says that the two airlines can fly on any route as long as they observe, as they are compelled to observe, all safety requirements. Why bas Ansett-A.N.A. been granted permission to fly on routes previously flown by T.A.A. whilst in not one single instance has T.A.A. been granted permission to fly on routes previously flown by Ansett-A.N.A.? Tell me of one single route that T.A.A. has acquired. I know it will be said that long before T.A.A. was in existence Australian
National Airlines were flying here, there and everywhere, but a government with experience, and the well-being of the people of Australia at heart, decided in 1946 or 1947 that the Government ought to have its own airline. It brought T.A.A. into existence. I say to the members of the Government, “ Do not hamstring T.A.A. as you have done all along the line and at the same time say that you believe in those famous words ‘ free and fair competition * “. The Government does not believe in free and fair competition. I ask the Government to introduce legislation to give T.A.A. the right to fly intra-state in New South Wales. I have been assured that if this Government introduced such legislation the New South Wales Government would immediately pass ‘the necessary complementary legislation. But this Government is holding up such action. I suppose it does so on the ground that it believes in fair and free competition. The position is that as a result of the prohibition against T.A.A. to operate intra-state, 85 per cent, of all traffic on non-competitive routes is carried by Ansett-A.N.A. and the 15 per cent, which is left goes to T.A.A.
Let us forget for a moment that one airline is owned by the people and one by private individuals. I am only forgetting that for one moment, but the Government forgets it often. The Government is trying by the system of rationalization to have the same number of people carried by each airline, but it has not succeeded.
– Are you arguing that rationalization is unfair?
– If these were two private airlines the Government could do what it liked with them, but the position is that the Government owns one of them. It does not, of course, own the airline itself, but operates it on behalf of the people of this nation.
– You are really arguing for the socialization of airlines.
– That word again. I suppose between now and 9th December we will hear that word all the time. You may as well start using it now.
– And unity tickets.
– I do not mind any one else but you saying that. I have a strong objection to your saying it on the score that you do so only to keep where you are. I do not mind a person approaching the subject in an honest way. I am just as much opposed to unity tickets as you are.
– That is a bit of news.
– I do not think it is news. I get into enough trouble in certain quarters at times, but anyway, that is the position. This agreement takes away from the co-ordinator the right to determine the routes of each airline, but although the new position will be much better than the old, the damage has been done. Are there any more Trans-Australia Airlines routes that can be given to Ansett-A.N.A.? The Channel country run is about the only one left. Now the Government makes a virtue out of necessity and takes away the co-ordinator’s power. I have spent enough time on going over the Government’s past deeds. If it would stop mouthing those phrases, such as “ We want fair and free competition “, I would not mind.
– Do you believe in free competition?
– I believe that if something belongs to the nation, the nation, first and foremost, is entitled to look after its own property.
– And kick out everybody else.
– Those are your words, my friend, not mine. You asked a question, and all I have said is that the nation is entitled to look after its own property.
Now 1 shall consider the bill that is under discussion. Let us ask ourselves: What does it mean? It extends the Civil Aviation Agreement, which was first arrived at in 1952, and which could have run until 1967. It was amended in 1957. May I ask the . Minister for Civil Aviation this question: The old agreement was to run until 1967, so why is there a rush to give it another ten years of grace? Are you frightened of a change of government?
– Do you want me to answer your question now?
– No . You will have time to speak later on, and you will take it. I will listen to you with great interest. Has this action been taken because you are frightened of a change of government?
– All right, I just asked a question. But you are afraid that the position in the Senate will not be as it is now. That is what you are afraid of.
– They have something to be afraid of, too.
– Of course they have. That is common political sense. In order to overcome that position, the Government has said, “This agreement would have run until 1967, but we will now make it run until 1977 “. The new agreement continues the operation of Part IV. of the Airlines Equipment Act, which means the rationalization of all air fleets. It regulates the importation of new jet aircraft. In view of the interjection by my friend from Western Australia, Senator Vincent, it would be interesting to know whether the Minister’s intention is to see that both airlines get the same aircraft. Will they be able to choose when they are applying for the jets?
– That is in the secondreading speech.
– I do not want to read that at the moment. The agreement provides guarantees up to £6,000,000 for Ansett-A.N.A. for the purchase of its jets. What a benevolent institution the Government is! This Government, which owns its own airline, guarantees £6,000,000 to enable another airline to compete with its airline. My word, it is a benevolent institution.
This agreement eliminates the powers that were vested in the co-ordinator in respect of routes. As I said, I do not know how many more routes the Government can give away to Ansett-A.N.A. I understand that in future power to allocate routes will be vested in the minister of the day. He will be able to say straight out why people who made a decision to appeal suddenly changed their minds. At least we might get some definite information. The new agreement certainly gives the Government greater access to Ansett-A.N.A.’s accounts as long as it owes money to the Government. This agreement is better than the last agreement in that respect. Under the previous agreement, all the Government received was the company’s audited balance-sheet once a year. The Minister is shaking his head, and 1 hate to disappoint him. If he looks up the agreement-
– You are looking at the 1952 agreement, but we are dealing with the 1957 agreement.
– Just a moment. I will have a look at the 1957 agreement. Possibly I am mistaken. I have both agreements here. The 1952 agreement said -
During the continuance of this agreement, the company will furnish to the Minister, at the end of each of its financial years, a copy of the duly audited profit and loss account and balance sheet of the company for that year.
What is the relevant clause in the 1957 agreement? If the Minister tells me what its is, I will read it out. I want to be quite fair.
– It is in section 9 (d) of the Airlines Equipment Act.
– 1 have the 1957 Civil Aviation Agreement. After a rough glance through it, I do not think it contains such a provision, but I might be wrong.
– There is provision for the oversight of accounts.
– Surely under this agreement the oversight of accounts is greater than it was under the 1957 agreement. The Minister agrees with me. Why did he say in the first place that I was wrong in my reference to the 1952 agreement?
This is where the agreement attempts to be fair: Another clause of it limits the power to increase the fuel tax to the amount by which the motor fuel tax is increased. The agreement says that air navigation charges cannot be increased by more than 10 per cent, each year. Am I right in saying that these jets will have to be flown out of Tullamarine?
– Not necessarily.
– But you hope to have Tullamarine airport in service by the time the jets come into operation in 1964?
– I have made the point on a number of occasions, I think, that the types of aircraft used on the domestic airlines, and their performance, will largely determine the types of airports.
– That remark is about as clear as many of the answers that one gets to the questions that one asks. It does not take us far. I was trying to get from the Minister an estimate of the cost of Tullamarine airport. Apparently, landing charges are to be increased by 10 per cent. I have a recollection that in the past the private company owed a great deal of money in respect of landing charges and that the Government let the company off about one-third of the debt. I am concerned again about the people’s money.
Now let us look at the second bill, the Australian National Airlines Bill 1961. H contains a most remarkable clause relating to the policy of the Australian National Airlines Commission. The purpose of the Government is that the private airline shall make a profit of, I think the Minister said, 10 per cent., after payment of tax and after setting aside a reasonable sum for depreciation. I think it would be fair to say that thai would represent a gross profit of about 15 per cent. TransAustralia Airlines to-day is earning a profit of 5 per cent, on a capital of about £5,000,000.
– Of what?
– Of £7,500,000. I am delighted that the honorable senator spoke loudly enough for me to hear. The Minister now says that - no doubt after consultation with the Treasurer and the commission itself - he will lay down the percentage profit that T.A.A. should make. In that connexion, there will be taken into account any loans made by the Government to the commission at interest rates lower than current commercial rates. It will not matter whether the commission borrowed money when loans were floated at 4 per cent, or whether the other operator came into business in 1956 or 1957, after the Government had allowed inflation to run riot and interest rates had risen. No heed will be taken of those factors. Because the commission received loans from the
Crown at a rate of interest lower than the present rate, that will be taken into account when fixing the rate of profit that T.A.A. should make. The Minister goes further and refers to the fact that the commission has its own staff superannuation fund - in which, I am informed, there is now a sum of about £3,000,000 - which it uses in its business. He says that that also will be taken into consideration when assessing the profit that should be made.
What does the Minister believe a government-owned industry ought to do? Does he believe that the main purpose of such an industry should be to make a profit, or does he believe that the main purpose should be to serve the people? Ansett Transport Industries Limited advertises in the press that it is willing to borrow money at 9 per cent, interest. I admit that the company gets a good tax deduction in respect of such borrowings. I remember that at one time the Government announced that it proposed to deal with that position in industry generally. However, it must have discovered that it was treading on too many corns belonging to its friends, because it forgot all about that proposal. I remember the hullabaloo by the Government about what it was going to do to the people who were taking money from the public sector of the economy by offering high rates of interest on money lent to them. I thought the Government would be courageous in that matter, but its courage lasted only for a week or so and that proposal went overboard. The average profit made by T.A.A. during the last couple of years is 5 per cent.
– It is 3 per cent.
– I do not think it is, but for the moment I will accept a rate of 3 per cent. The Government now says that T.A.A. will have to increase its profit rate. Does the Minister say that the airline could raise its percentage profit to the level envisaged by the Government by any means other than raising fares? If the Minister does say that, he is condemning himself. If he says that T.A.A. has not been run efficiently and that there has been excessive waste, the responsibility for that rests upon him, because the airline comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Civil Aviation, of which he is the ministerial head. The Minister said in his second-reading speech -
In each of the last two years, despite vigorous competition from the private enterprise airlines, the commission has made record profits and it is probable that for the financial year just completed it will be able to pay its highest dividend to date. In contrast, in order to meet reasonable private enterprise standards- lt is bad enough when members of the Government speak those words, but it is even worse to see them on paper -
Ansett Transport Industries Limited must have a target of the order of 10 per cent, after tax and a reasonable allocation to reserves.
One would be wrong, I suppose, to prejudge the Minister and to say what in fact he will do, but I have a pretty good idea, knowing his form in the past. What I read into that statement is that the Government will say to T.A.A. that in future it must make a larger profit and give the Commonwealth a greater return. The Government should say that, if T.A.A. is being efficiently run, the only way in which it can make greater profits is to increase fares. I do not know of any other way. I hope that when the Minister is replying to the debate he will say in what other way profits can be increased.
– Why not reduce expenses?
– If the airline can reduce expenses, and it has not done so, then it is not being run as efficiently as it ought to be. If that is so, where does the responsibility lie? I suggest that it rests in only one place. I say that this is a most remarkable piece of legislation.
I should like to know why the Government contemplates forcing insurance companies to invest 30 per cent, of their profits in government loans and requires T.A.A. to put in the whole of the equivalent of the insurance premiums. I admit that the bill contains a provision which will help the airline in the event of a very large claim being made on it. I say, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that this bill follows the pattern of administration by this Government since it came to office. It is a part of the policy to do all that can be done to pull back T.A.A. to Ansett-A.N.A.’s level. I would have much more respect for the Government if it said that it did not believe in having a government airline, and sold it.
To my way of thinking, that would be much more courageous and decent than the attempts that have been made all along to hamstring the airline and to drag it back. I know that the honorable senators opposite will point to the profits that the airline has made since this Government has been in office, but of course any reasonable person will take account of the fact that when Labour was in office the airline was in its infancy. When it commenced operations, it had to find its feet, in common with all other industries in the early days of their operations. The inflation which the Government has allowed to continue over the years has put a lot of money, though it is not worth much, into the hands of people who have not many responsibilities. I am alluding to the young people in the community. Air travel is becoming much more common. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that the rate of increase is 6 per cent, per annum.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Kennelly traversed no new ground in his speech, the reason being, perhaps, that on this subject there is a clash of policies. I was interested to hear his comments. Of course, honorable senators opposite will never forgive us for upsetting their plans to nationalize the airlines and to have a government monopoly. The people saw that they were trying to do so, of course, and put them out of office. For twelve years they have refused to return the Australian Labour Party to office, because that party still has the same ideas that it had then. Let me refer to the Senate “ Hansard “ of Thursday, 21st November, 1957, at page 1420.
– What did I say then?
– I shall tell the honorable senator. During the debate on the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill, I interjected while the honorable senator was speaking -
Was that the line of reasoning applied by Labour when it sought to nationalize banking? Were the people told beforehand of Labour’s intention in that respect?
The honorable senator replied -
Labour’s platform is clearly defined. The people and the political students in this country know - or they should know before they record their votes - that if Labour is returned to power it will carry out as much of that platform as the Constitution permits.
– What is wrong with that?
– I am very happy to have the honorable senator’s interjection. I suggest that on 9th December the people should remember that their choice is whether to re-elect the present Government or to return a government that clearly stated that it proposes to nationalize banking and to have a government monopoly of airways, and all that goes with those things.
Let me refer to some of the nonsense uttered by the honorable senator in his speech. He spoke of what the Government had done to Trans-Australia Airlines. Let us look at the record. First, I turn to the annual report of the Australian National Airlines Commission for 1959-60 and note that the heading is “ A Decade of Financial Progress “. The report for 1960-61 is not out yet, but believe me, when it is published honorable senators opposite will be even more disappointed than ever, because the results are even better.. Let us consider the position in 1948-49, the last year of the Labour Government. In that year, the number of passengers carried by the airline was 454,000. In 1959-60, the number was 1,071,000. That was the increase in the number of passengers carried by this airline which, according to the Opposition, we are trying to knock down. When we turn to the figures relating to freight, we see that in the last year of the late lamented Labour Government the figure was 21,000,000 ton miles. In 1959-60, it was 53,000,000 ton miles.
When we look at the revenue figures we see that in 1948-49 the revenue was £3,865,000, and in 1959-60 it was £14,600,000. The increase in revenue has occurred while this Government has been trying to cripple the airline, according to honorable senators opposite. Then let us have a look at the profit and loss figures.
– They are interesting.
– Yes, they are very interesting. In 1948-49, the Labour Government gave a lump sum to hide the losses on the carriage of mails, a sum that had nothing to do with the quantity of mail carried. No tenders were called. Although that lump sum was provided, the airline lost £94,886 in that year.
– Did not your Government increase the cost of stamps to 5d.?
– I know that you do not like what I am saying, but I am giving the facts. You dot not like them. Well, brother, you are going to get them, whether you like them or not. In the last recorded year, 1960, the profit was £352,938. When honorable gentlemen opposite were in office, T.A.A. did not make a profit in any year, even though it received lump sum payments for mail carriage. The Labour Government could not run the airline.
– Put your feet on the ground.
– We are now dealing with the flying game; we are not on the ground at the moment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask honorable senators to keep order.
– Keep the Minister in order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! While I am standing, honorable senators will not speak. I want it to be understood that when an honorable senator rises to speak he will be heard in silence. If any honorable senator obstructs him, action will be taken.
– The capital of T.A.A. in 1948-49 was £4,370,000. To-day it is £6,370,000. This is the airline which, according to Senator Kennelly, has been crippled by this Government. The facts, of course, completely refute every word that he said. Let us turn now to the equipment and assets of the airline. This is a very interesting picture. On page 13 of the annual report for 1959-60, we see the increase in assets over five years, from £12,000,000 to £12,900,000, £14,600,000, £20,800,000, and £23,200,000. These are the assets of the airline which, we are told, has been crippled during this Government’s twelve years in office. Did you ever hear such complete nonsense?
– By which airline do you travel? Now, be honest.
– Being a very impartial man, I travel out of Tasmania by one airline and back by the other.
– Which airline do most members use, T.A.A. or AnsettA.N.A.? Be honest.
– When the Labour Government was in office, members had no option. They had to travel by T.A.A. That was one of the means by which Labour tried to drive private enterprise out of the air. At least in this age, under this Government, we have the option of travelling by either airline. Being perfectly impartial, I travel out by one and back by the other. Honorable senators opposite do not like this, but believe me I just love giving it to them. I repeat that one of the weapons used by honorable gentlemen opposite to drive the private airline out of the air and create a government monopoly, which Senator Kennelly wants, as he has so often admitted, was the rule that all government passengers and all mails must travel by T.A.A. There was only one end in view, namely, to drive the private airline out of the air. Well, Labour did not succeed. Senator Kennelly referred to the amount of money invested in T.A.A. from the staff superannuation fund. This is something which I should like the Senate to examine very closely. The superannuation of employees of T.A.A. is bound up with the superannuation fund. From that fund they get their money when they retire. In my opinion it is completely unsound finance for money, upon which one’s employees depend for superannuation, to be invested in one’s own business. That is a practice to which I would never agree.
– What do you know about finance?
– My boy, I have been in business almost as long as you have been on earth. Do not talk to me about that. When you have business experience, you will know about it. I am not addressing these remarks to you; you do not understand. Let me talk to the sensible fellows, who realize the danger of this course to the employees of T.A.A.
– You have taken a tremendously long time to find out about this danger.
– I think that it is a danger. There are people who may not agree with me.
– You would not want to take the money and give it to David Jones Limited?
– I sat and listened to you for an hour.
– 1 am sorry.
– Where would you invest that money?
– In trustee investments. I look upon superannuation funds as trust funds which should be invested in trustee investments.
– Would you invest it in the Post Office or the Commonwealth Bank?
– In trustee investments. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman knows what trustee investments are. Let him look it up. Senator Kennelly referred to the landing charges of the private airline, which he said were cancelled. He said that some years ago the company owed the Government for landing charges a sum of money that was written off.
– I did not. I said that one-third was written off.
– He said that part of it was written off. The Labour Government was never game to try to enforce the collection of that money, the reason being that it was not collectable because the company had a landing lease in relation to the areas concerned. The Labour Government found that the company could not be prevented from landing its aircraft because it had a lease for two yeaTS. That was the reason why the Labour Government never tried to collect the money, and that is why that proportion of the charges was returned to the company and also to T.A.A.
This Government’s two-airline policy has been a great success. I give great credit to the Department of Civil Aviation for building up this policy. I note with great interest that after many years the United Kingdom is abandoning its previous policy of government airline monopoly, and that Canada is abandoning its government monopoly, encouraging private enterprise to come in alongside and create competition. New Zealand is also doing this in a small way and intends to go further. All of these governments are adopting a policy that we adopted in 1952 to engender efficient competition between private enterprise and government enterprise and keep both on their toes. This is in the best interests of the people. This policy in relation to airlines has proved to be a great success. I was interested to hear Senator Kennelly say that he is opposed to undertakings being run by part-time boards. But look around Australia at the most successful enterprises.
– Look around the world.
– I do not need to go beyond the shores of Australia. Australia is big enough for me. Look around Australia and what do you find? You find that every big undertaking is run by part-time boards consisting of men chosen for their experience. Those men draw on their experience in formulating policy. Does Senator Kennelly suggest that a secretarymanager should be placed in charge of Albert Park, and the part-time board abolished?
– I admit that Albert Park is most important, and I am delighted to hear the Minister refer to it in the same context as the airlines.
– I always thought that Albert Park was important to Senator Kennelly. It was sufficiently important to keep him away from this place for a fortnight. In view of that I would think that Albert Park was most important.
There is one thing that may save honorable gentlemen opposite. I notice that one of Labour’s endorsed candidates for the coming elections-
– Talk about the airlines.
– I am dealing with the airlines. Sir George Jones probably knows more about airlines than do all honorable senators opposite put together. He has been endorsed by the Labour Party.
– He would not need to know much about the airlines to know more than I do.
– I know that. He is a director of Ansett-A.N.A., and if the people ever make the mistake of electing him to the Parliament he may be able to tell the Opposition something about the airlines. That is the one thing that may save honorable senators opposite. It would be most interesting to know what he said in caucus, but we would never get in to hear him. If Mr. Sam Cohen, Q.C., another Labour candidate, is elected he will be able to give advice to the left wing of the Labour Party as well as to the right wing. It will be interesting to see how the Labour Party accepts his advice.
– I rise to order! Is the Minister discussing the bill before the Senate?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Yes, I think the Minister is referring to aviation, and to an election candidate who has some interest in aviation. I ask all speakers to keep their remarks within the ambit of the bill.
– I wish to refer to the aviation fuel tax. Senator Kennelly referred to the tax as a kerosene tax, but it is really an aviation fuel tax. The tax applied to all airlines. No one airline was singled out for attack. All the airlines use the fuel and they all pay the tax.
What is the equipment position of this airline that has been so devastated by the Government? Let us compare the equipment of T.A.A. with the equipment of Ansett-A.N.A. The figures are interesting. T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. each has three Electra 188s. T.A.A. has twelve Viscounts and Ansett-A.N.A. has ten. Under the cross-charter arrangement each airline has two DC6B’s.
– What type of Viscounts are they?
– T.A.A. has twelve of them and Ansett-A.N.A. has ten. Each airline has nine Fokker Friendships. So T.A.A. has 26 front-line aircraft and Ansett-A.N.A. has 24.
Let me refer to the cross-charter arrangement. The agreement in connexion with this arrangement was signed by both parties because both parties knew that the arrangement was to their advantage. Senator Kennelly said something about the choice of Caravelle aircraft. The Caravelle is a relatively new aircraft, but already Mark VI. Caravelles are on the market. So there have been six modifications to the Caravelle since T.A.A. proposed to purchase it.
– They are now up to Mark VIII.
– I thought they were up to Mark V111., but as I was not sure I said that they were up to Mark VI., because I knew that they had gone at least that far.
Those of us who were in this Senate, or who were closely interested in politics when T.A.A. was born, will remember that the Labour Party sought to create a government monopoly of the airways. Senator Kennelly referred to the Labour Government’s actions as looking after its own. If looking after your own means that you deny private enterprise the right to carry government passengers, then the Labour Government did look after its own. If looking after your own means that you deny private enterprise the right to carry government freight, then the Labour Government did look after its own.
– You are not denied the right to use the private enterprise airline.
– We give both airlines a fair go. The Labour Government denied private enterprise certain rights because it was determined to force the private airline out of the air. Labour has never recovered from the shock of finding that it could not force private enterprise out of the field. Labour failed because it was fighting a tough, experienced Tasmanian family which would not give way. That family fought Labour all the way and beat it.
– If this Government had left private enterprise alone it would have been out of the air.
– If Labour had had its way private enterprise would have been out of the air. When Labour granted a lump sum mail contract to the government airline in order, to cover its losses, it certainly was looking after its own. This Government has developed a policy which has been very successful. By keeping two airlines in competition with each other it has given to the people one of the best air services in the world. The people of Australia are free to give their business to whichever airline they choose. That is the way in which to make two airlines efficient. That is why Australia’s airline service is the best in the world, bar none.
Honorable senators opposite cannot argue against that statement. They just do nol know much about the service rendered by private enterprise, because they have a prejudice against travelling with the private airline. I have travelled many thousands of miles with both airlines, and I know the service they render. If any honorable senator believes he can tell me of a better air service than that which is rendered to the people of Australia by Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A., operating in keen competition with each other, I invite him to rise in his place and tell me what that service is. The fact that we have rationalized the types of aircraft purchased so that we have to keep in stock only two lots of spare parts adds to the efficiency of the industry. One type of civil aircraft and some of the Air Force aircraft use the same kind of prop-jet engine, and the Fokker Friendship and Viscount aircraft use another type. We have standardized on two types of engines. To do that is, in anybody’s reckoning, a proper and efficient manner in which to develop our airline industry.
– What hope would another company have of setting up another airline?
– Do not be so silly as to believe that private enterprise in Australia would think of establishing another airline while there is in opposition a socialist party which is pledged to the nationalization of the airlines. Private industry is a bit more realistic than to do that. Private industry would not put its money into any such undertaking while that is your platform.
– This Government is pledged to help the insurance companies; it is not pledged to help Ansett at all. This Government would not care what happened to him.
– That is rather interesting.
– But it is true.
– Who is getting behind Lord Mayor Jensen of Sydney? I do not think it is the working man. 1 understand that it is a band of automotive distributors. That is interesting, is it not? You know, things change. In regard to the Darwin service, I invite honorable senators opposite to ask the people of the
Northern Territory whether they want to remain-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Unfortunately, this debate has been conducted on a plane rather different from that which one would have expected. One would have expected that a debate on such an important matter would have been conducted on the very highest plane, but we have just been subjected to a slambanging, political harangue that does no credit to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), the Cabinet, the Government, or the Senate. I hope that those people who have listened to the Minister for Customs and Excise will realize that the administration of our airlines is in other hands and that the aircraft in which they are obliged to travel throughout Australia are handled with a greater sense of responsibility than that which has been exhibited to-day by the Minister.
Over a period of years we have seen some very interesting developments in our airline industry. The Government, having adopted a defined and predetermined policy, has decided that Ansett Transport Industries Limited shall be kept in business as the only competitor with the government airline on our main trunk routes. When we examine the position closely we find that Ansett Transport Industries Limited, which operates the Ansett-A.N.A. airline, has become committed for considerable annual payments of interest on its share capital and its unsecured notes. The legislation now before us is designed to ensure to the shareholders of that organization a set return of 10 per cent on their capital after the payment of tax. That is a departure from traditional practice in this country. Very close consideration should be given to the principle involved. What it really amounts to is that this particular organization is being given the right to dip into the funds of the Treasury in order to guarantee a return to its shareholders, whether it makes a profit or not. I repeat that this legislation is designed to guarantee that the shareholders of Ansett Transport Industries Limited shall receive a return of 10 per cent, on their capital after the payment of tax.
– Even if the company does not make a profit?
– Surely not.
– The position is that, if Ansett-A.N.A. is not making a profit, all that it has to do is to appeal to the Government and fares will be increased. I should like to direct attention also to another very interesting aspect of this legislation - to a development that has never been attempted before in the history of the Commonwealth. The new agreement includes an undertaking by the Commonwealth not to increase air navigation charges by more than 10 per cent, in any period of twelve months and not to increase the tax on aviation fuel by a greater amount than the corresponding amount of any increase in tax on motor fuel. How long have the Department of Civil Aviation and the Minister for Civil Aviation, through an agreement such as the one now before us, been able to dictate to the Cabinet, the Government, or the Treasury in what direction taxes shall be raised?
– It is a decision made by the Government, not by the Minister.
– But the agreement has been signed by the Minister. He is the person responsible. No Minister has the right to commit the Government by providing in an agreement that any private company shall have the right to say in what way taxes shall be increased.
– The agreement is subject to parliamentary approval.
– I remind the Minister that the agreement includes an undertaking by the Commonwealth not to increase air navigation charges or the tax on aviation fuel.
– That is subject to parliamentary approval.
– But this agreement will operate for a considerable period.
– lt is subject to parliamentary approval.
– But this case is different. In the event of an agreement of this nature being made and a further increase of tax being imposed that would affect the economic position of Ansett Transport
Industries, the organization would be able to take proceedings against the Government for breaking this agreement. 1 want to refer now to a part of the Minister’s second-reading speech in which he outlined the present state of the frontline competitive fleet of the two airlines. He said that T.A.A. has three Electra 188 aircraft and Ansett Transport Industries, three, that T.A.A. has twelve Viscounts and Ansett Transport Industries, ten, and that the two airlines each have two DC6B’s and nine Fokker Friendships. That gives a total of front-line aircraft, as the Minister called them, of 26 to T.A.A. and 24 to Ansett Transport Industries. Later he said that the numerical advantage in favour of T.A.A. is partly offset by the fact that Ansett-A.N.A. has five Viscount 800 aircraft compared with T.A.A. ‘s two, and also five Convair aircraft which normally operate on non-competitive routes. That is not so because the simple fact is that T.A.A. is restricted from operating on some routes. I wish to refer to the 14th annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines for the year 1958-59, in which the chairman stated -
T.A.A. is precluded from operating intra-state services except within the State of Queensland.
He went on to say -
An operator barred from access to intra-state routes is at a very serious economic disadvantage compared with its competitors. Apart from the intra-state revenues, such routes generate oncarriage traffic beyond the originating State.
Ansett-A.N.A. is in an advantageous position because it has five extra aircraft which the Minister says are normally operated on non-competitive routes. He said that two of these aircraft have recently been offered for sale following the introduction of two F.27 aircraft. That shows that Ansett-A.N.A. has a definite advantage in possessing these five Convairs on non-competitive routes. They are able to take advantage of the on-carriage traffic mentioned in the T.A.A. report.
Many people travelling from point A to point B will naturally go right through on the one airline rather than make a change. It is a considerable advantage, if you are travelling from, say, Canberra to Adelaide or Hobart not to have to change airlines at Melbourne and move over from the T.A.A. office to the Ansett-A.N.A. office or vice versa. The natural choice is when you are travelling from point A to point B, to go the whole way with the one airline. Ansett-A.N.A. therefore has a big advantage. I direct attention to the fact that the possession of these five Convair aircraft gives Ansett-A.N.A. a definite advantage over T.A.A., and 1 say that that fact should have been stated by the Minister.
– I did not catch what you were saying.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation said that T.A.A. has 26 frontline aircraft and Ansett Transport Industries 24. He said that both airlines have three Electra 188’s, that T.A.A. has twelve Viscounts and Ansett Transport Industries, ten, and that they each have two DC6B’s and nine F27’s. He went on to say that the fact that T.A.A. has 26 ‘front-line aircraft against Ansett Transport Industries’ 24 is partly offset by the fact that Ansett-A.N.A. has five Viscount 800 aircraft compared with the commission’s two, and also has five Convair aircraft. The latter fact is not stated in the summary given by the Minister. The position is that Ansett-A.N.A. has 29 aircraft compared with T.A.A.’s 26.
– Two of which are being offered for sale.
– That is quite true, The point I am making is that these aircraft operating on non-competitive routes give Ansett-A.N.A. an advantage. I am pointing that out to the Senate because I believe that the Government is bending over backwards to give assistance to AnsettA.N.A., and at the same time it is imposing a heavy burden on T.A.A.
Despite the fact that T.A.A.’s figures are excellent, how long does the Minister expect the organization to maintain its morale? After all, money is not everything in life. It is the only yardstick many people use, but the amassing of money is not the only objective of human activity. If T.A.A. is to be continually met with agreements such as this, that restrict its activities regardless of how much progress it is making, there must come a stage when there will be some diminution of the morale and enthusiasm of the staff of the organization. That is a very important point. However, the Government has seen fit to legist late along these lines and it will have to answer to the public at the appropriate time. I believe that these matters should be brought before the public in view of the claim made by Ansett Transport Industries that it is a poor little private enterprise organization. That is a false claim. Ansett Transport Industries is one of tha largest organizations in the Commonwealth.
It is marvellous how quickly it has risen to the position it now occupies. The managing director of Ansett Transport Industries has said -
The past four years of rapid growth has been a period of considerable stress for Ansett Transport Industries.
He has said also that over the last four years the organization has grown from a moderately sized company into one of Australia’s large publicly owned enterprises, and he added -
In some people’s view, this very expansion is seen as a reason for criticism.
I believe that great credit is due to the energy, ability and capacity of Mr. Ansett. He has great organizing abilities, enthusiasm and unbounding energy, and his success is something to ‘be praised. His vigour and drive has resulted in great success. During the last four years Ansett Transport Industries has been involved in capital accumulation. It is stated that it now has total shareholders’ funds and irredeemable convertible notes to the value of £9,600,000. In addition 10,000 depositors have invested £8,500,000 in unsecured notes on a fixed term interest-bearing basis.
I should like to point out that under this legislation the people of Australia are committed to guarantee the interest at a rate of 10 per cent, on this investment. It was mentioned earlier in the debate that T.A.A. had £7,500,000 invested in its organization. The Minister, in his second-reading speech on the Australian National Airlines Bill, said - . . in order to meet reasonable private enterprise standards, Ansett Transport Industries Limited must have a target of the order of 10 per cent, after tax and a reasonable allocation to reserves. It will be readily apparent that disparity in cost structure could destroy the ability of the airline with the higher cost structure to compete with the other.
The Minister advanced the argument that Ansett Transport Industries Limited, having the higher cost structure, could be damaged; but that company has purposely taken on responsibilities that have increased its cost structure. For instance, as a result of its take-over of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited it acquired certain shares in Butler Air Transport Limited.
– Did it not crush that company?
– Whether or not “ crushing “ is the correct word, it effectively put that company out of existence.
– It eliminated competition.
– It eliminated the competition that Butler Air Transport Limited could have provided. That company was operating interstate services between Melbourne and Sydney, Sydney and Adelaide, and Sydney, Coolangatta and Brisbane.
– That was a perfectly legitimate transaction.
– If it was a perfectly legitimate transaction, I suppose that is quite all right. All is fair in business, according to some people’s standards. A case is put forward for the poor little private enterprise organization that needs government assistance because the great big clumsy arms of the shocking government bear are tearing apart the poor, trembling, weak, little, private enterprise organization which is beseeching the Minister to help it; yet that organization is taking over every other competitor. Mr. Ansett has said -
The facts associated with our negotiations with Butler Air Transport Ltd. have, nevertheless, been widely misunderstood and misrepresented. In 1946, Australian National Airways Pty. Ltd. owned 73 per cent, of the paid-up capital of Butler Air Transport Ltd.
So, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was on the verge of taking over its competitor. As a matter of fact, I believe the fact that it over-reached itself brought about the difficulty that eventually ended in its being taken over by Ansett Transport Industries Limited, with a great amount of government guarantee. Mr. Ansett continued -
In subsequent years, when there were issues ot new share capital, A.N.A. did not take up its entitlements, but still remained by far the major shareholder, and in early 1957 A.N.A. Pty. Ltd. and its associated company, Bungana Investments Pty. Ltd., owned only 49.75 per cent, of the paid-up capital in Butler. However, this represented a much lower percentage of the voting power because of two reasons.
Mr. Ansett went on to explain how Ansett Transport Industries Limited purchased Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and acquired that company’s large investment in Butler Air Transport Limited, as well as the shares owned by Bungana Investments Proprietary Limited.
The next acquisition was of Guinea Airways Proprietary Limited, in respect of which Mr. Ansett said -
From 1946 until 1957, Guinea Airways Pty. Ltd. of Adelaide had an agreement with Australian National Airways Pty. Ltd under which A.N.A. provided Guinea with all services as to catering, engineering, ground transport and servicing, &c.
We see the same trend there; namely. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in the process of taking over its competitors one by one, under the guise of private enterprise, of course. When these steps were first taken by private enterprise there was no competition at all. The people will recall that just after the Second World War there was a practice called “ off-loading “. If a person had a booking with a private airline and it did not feel like putting on an extra service or increasing the seating, that person could be offloaded. He might wait until several flights later or even for several days, before he could get a seat. I believe that the Australian public felt that the commencement of Trans-Australia Airlines was responsible for putting a measure of service back into the airlines. At that time the process of taking over the opposition, to which I have already referred, was well under way. Mr. Ansett also said -
When the Federal Government decided to sell to T.A.A. the New Guinea internal air services that were operated by Qantas, my company was placed at a great disadvantage as compared with T.A.A. We had equal access to the New Guinea trunk service, but were denied the means of pick up and distribution of passengers throughout internal New Guinea. The result would have ultimately made the continuance of our trunk line impossible, and we were therefore forced to negotiate the purchase of Mandated Airlines Limited.
That was another take-over by the poor little private enterprise organization. At the same time, Ansett Transport Industries Limited was enjoying privileges and con cessions within Australia while TransAustralia Airlines was prevented, as it still is, from operating intra-state services, except within Queensland.
– And Tasmania.
– That is right; Trans-Australia Airlines has the right to operate in Tasmania. I have given the background of the take-over of Mandated Airlines Limited by Ansett Transport Industries Limited. Mr. Ansett said -
All these acquisitions by Ansett Transport Industries have been necessary to establish and maintain an ability to compete with the Commission on equal terms . . .
In respect of East-West Airlines Limited, Mr. Ansett said -
Last year, as we believed that an amalgamation between East-West Airlines Ltd. and Airlines of N.S.W. Pty. Ltd. would achieve economies and better services to the public, we made a cash or alternatively a share offer to the shareholders of that company.
The important point that I should like to make is that at the same time as this gradual taking over of the various companies has been happening, every passenger, except those who use their own cars, has had a 5s. fare imposed on him for being taken from the airline’s city office to the airport. Previously, that courtesy and service was given free. It was an accepted practice in Australian air travel. The effect of that impost was that every fare was increased by 5s. Periodically, all fares have been increased. Those things have made it possible for Ansett Transport Industries Limited to receive big returns on the capital invested. Little things that were done for the comfort of passengers, such as the provision of sweets, have been cut out by agreement. On some aircraft that are still in operation, such as the DC3’s that one comes across occasionally, passengers, particularly inexperienced travellers, need some sort of exercise of the jaws and throat muscles. Previously, that was provided by eating sweets; but for economic reasons sweets have been cut out.
At one time the airlines provided newspapers for passengers; but, upon the advent of Ansett Transport Industries Limited as Trans-Australia Airlines’ main competitor, little courtesies like that were cut out. Instead of the Government believing that an airline should get the citizens of Australia from point A to point B as comfortably, effectively and efficiently as ils departments and instrumentalities can, it now seems that the whole purpose of civil aviation is to ensure that Ansett Transport Industries Limited makes a profit of 10 per cent. Unfortunately, one can read only that into this legislation. If I had enough time available to me, I would read the concluding part of the letter that the managing director of Ansett Transport Industries Limited sent to all members of the Parliament. It was described by Sir Giles Chippindall as a , bleat and was looked upon by many people as a decent sort of a whinge. Every point made in that letter has been covered by this legislation. The letter stated -
We find that most government departments enjoy a built-in preference for the government airline, due to policies established by the previous government. Our inquiries have shown that a significant percentage of government passengers do not make a personal choice.
Every one knows that a public servant can choose either airline when he travels under a government warrant, but public servants are discerning people and over a period of years the overwhelming majority of them have been travelling by Trans-Australia Airlines. The letter also refers to freight and states -
We believe that the Commission also gets a major share of government freight, and that this should be more equitably shared.
If you examine what has happened in the past, you will find that the accent has been on Ansett-A.N.A. in the provision of freighter aircraft. The figures show that Ansett-A.N.A. has had the lion’s share of freight traffic in Australia, and the agreement between the companies has given an advantage to Ansett-A.N.A. in the provision of freighter aircraft.
The entry of the private company into the Darwin service has been raised in this chamber recently. There is an advantage in having a government airline that will pioneer services to the back country areas, using its great organizing ability to attract a new clientele in those areas. That is what T.A.A. did in the back country of Queensland. It brought air services to the back country areas and now has an organization flowing smoothly right through to Darwin. What is its reward for its initiative in that field and for fulfilling the purpose for which it was established? As soon as
T.A.A. has established the organization necessary for it to operate services to Darwin efficiently, the Government makes provision for its competitor to operate on that route also. Senator Kennelly asked recently why the Government wanted to make a gift of £200,000 to Ansett-A.N.A. by permitting it to operate on the Darwin route. He had computed that that permission amounted to a gift of £200,000.
I believe it is obvious now that the policy of the Government is to favour Ansett Transport Industries Limited. Consequently, the members of the Australian National Airlines Commission, which runs T.A.A., are in an invidious position, because if they take a stand in opposition to the Minister or the Government they may jeopardize their posts. I think that that is intolerable.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Hendrickson). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired. I call Senator Scott.
– I make the point, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that honorable senators voluntarily limit themselves to a half hour. The time allotted to a senator is an hour, and my time had not expired. I shall resume my seat now, pointing out again that a senator is allowed an hour in which to make a speech.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I accept the point raised by Senator O’Byrne. I thought there was an agreement between all parties that, while we are on the air, honorable senators other than Ministers would be allowed a half-hour in which to speak. That is the basis on which I ruled.
– I rise to support these measures. I congratulate the Government for having decided, in 1952, upon a policy of having dual airline services on the major air routes of Australia and for having put that policy into effect. This measure will carry it on for at least another ten years.
– It was not this Government that initiated that policy at all.
– I do not want to provoke the hostility of honorable senators opposite. I intend this to be an objective speech. I think it can be proved that the dual airline system was initiated by a bill which originated in another place in 1952. The policy of the Labour Party, as I understood it, was to have only one airline in Australia. Through the years, the Labour Party has endeavoured to make it as difficult as possible for any other airline to compete with Trans-Australia Airlines. If honorable senators opposite look at “ Hansard “, I think they will find there many statements made by Labour speakers which will prove that I am right in saying that that is Labour’s policy. Members of the Labour Party have squealed for a long time about this Government’s dual airline policy, and even to-day they are criticizing the Government for continuing that policy. The tenor of the speeches made by honorable senators opposite in this debate has been against Ansett-A.N.A. and against the Government’s policy of dual airline services in Australia.
– Against the favoured treatment of Ansett-A.N.A.
– I have stated the position as I understand it. I am not trying to be nasty and I believe that what I have said is correct. If you can point to one statement made by a Labour senator in this debate, praising Ansett-A.N.A. or Ansett Transport Industries Limited, I will be very pleased to read it in “ Hansard “.
I believe that the system that we have adopted in Australia is now receiving world-wide acclaim. The United Kingdom is adopting a dual airline system. The United States of America has sent people to obtain information from the Australian Government on what is happening in Australia under the dual airline system. Canada is adopting the system, and so is New Zealand, in a small way.
– What is happening in America?
– There are many airlines operating there, but the policy of the American Government now is to endeavour to reduce the number so that eventually the American airlines can reach the high standard that we have reached under our two-airline system.
– You do not say that it is a high standard now? The standard of the meals is a disgrace.
– Senator Dittmer says that the standard of service is lower than that in any other country in the world.
– He did not say that.
– I thought he did. 1 am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable senator. 1 thought he said that the service provided by both the major airlines in Australia was bad.
– No. I referred to the meals.
– Well, the service would include the meals. I maintain that the service provided by both T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. is as good, or better than, that provided by airlines in any other part of the world, particularly when the safety factor is taken into account.
– And also taking into account environmental circumstances.
– The airlines have to abide by the regulations administered by the Department of Civil Aviation. There is no doubt that flying conditions in Australia are relatively good. Nevertheless, both the major airlines provide a standard of service for which the Australian public might well congratulate them.
Honorable senators opposite know that if they travel on Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft they find that the standard of service and the competitive spirit displayed by the crew, including the air hostesses, are phenomenal. The same is true of T.A.A. aircraft. From the time one boards the aircraft until disembarkation, one receives most courteous treatment. The two.-airline system has engendered keen competition.
– Would *you honestly sa’ there is keen competition?
– Yes. When I travel by air from one place to another I usually speak to the hostesses and the other members of the crew, and they invariably Bay that the service provided by their airline is the best. That is the kind of spirit we want to see in civil aviation.
– What about the courtesy?
– The honorable senator chatters all the time. If he wants to state his views he should make a speech. No doubt he travels about the country quite a lot.
– I do not think that courtesy is peculiar to the employees of a particular airline. Australian employees, by and large, are courteous.
– I do not propose to run down either T.A.A. or Ansett-A.N.A. I want to see both of them prosper. Since this Government came to office in 1949, it has been able to put T.A.A. on a paying basis, something that was not achieved by the Labour Government I have in front of me figures which show clearly the position in that respect. I must be fair, and admit that the losses to which I am about to refer occurred during the early days of the airline.
In 1947, there was a loss of £506,000; in 1948, there was a loss of £297,000; and in 1949, there was a loss of £95,000, notwithstanding the fact that the government of the day gave the airline a lump sum for the carriage of mails and also, I understand, issued an instruction that all government employees should travel by T.A.A.
– That makes sense to me.
– Of course, it makes sense to all Labour supporters. That is one of the ways that the Opposition could adopt to kill competition.
– What is your justification for killing the government enterprise?
– The honorable senator says that this Government is trying to kill the government airline, although I am endeavouring to show the advantages of the two-airline system initiated by the Government as a part of its policy in 1952. That policy has been followed ever since, and will be continued for at least a further ten years by the terms of the agreement that we are now discussing.
I have mentioned the losses that T.A.A. incurred under the administration of a Labour government. I have shown that in the three years between 1947 and 1949 those losses ranged from £506,000 to £95,000. When there was a change of government, and people who knew a little about business were elected, the government airline began to make a profit. In 1950, the first year of office of this Government T.A.A. made a profit of £215,000. In 1951, it made a profit of £205,000; in 1953, £137,000; in 1955, £221,000; in 1957, £309.000; in 1959. £254,000; and in 1960, £353,000. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that the profit for 1961 will probably be the highest yet. That is the record of achievement of the airline under a government which, according to honorable senators opposite, is trying to knock it out.
When we consider the assets of T.A.A., we see that in 1947 they were only £2,476,000, and that in 1949, when Labour went out of office, they were £4,495,000. They have gradually risen to the 1960 figure of £17,102,000. That increase of assets has occurred during the regime of a government that has been accused of trying to kill the airline. I do not wish to be at all critical of T.A.A. I hope that it continues to expand, but I know what will happen if the socialist party becomes the government party. I have in front of me a booklet issued by Ansett Transport Industries Limited, which shows that the total number of employees working for the company is 6,924, consisting of 2,468 administrative and clerical workers, 618 flying staff, 1,218 manufacturing and hotel staff, and 2,620 persons employed on engineering maintenance and as drivers. Not all of the employees are engaged in the aircraft industry, but probably about 4,000 of them are. T.A.A. employs approximately 4,000 people, so that about 8,000 persons are engaged in the air transport of passengers and freight.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– The bill proposes the continuance of the present airlines agreement for another ten years. The government, Ansett Transport Industries Limited, and the Australian National Airlines Commission have agreed on proposals for re-equipping the two operators to cater for jet travel after the middle of 1964. Reequipment will cost each airline about £3,000,000 or £4,000.000. The Government airline, which has an operating account of about £3,000,000, will be guaranteed further amounts if required. Ansett Transport Industries Limited under the Airlines Equipment Act of 1957 was enabled to obtain loans guaranteed by the Commonwealth to a maximum of £9,000,000. Under this bill, it will be entitled to a maximum loan of £6,000,000 guaranteed by the Commonwealth to reequip and buy necessary parts for two jet aircraft to go into operation some time after June, 1964.
The Government should be congratulated upon introducing a dual airline system, and upon the fact that it is necessary to guarantee to Ansett-A.N.A. only £6,000,000 instead of £9,000,000. That is because this airline has been very successful in its operations. At present the amount outstanding on loans borrowed under Commonwealth guarantee is £3,400,000. Approximately £4,450,000 has been repaid. In order to meet commitments on jet aircraft, the company will need not more than £6,000,000, which is £3,000,000 less than the amount guaranteed under the original agreement. Each of the two major domestic airlines will then be operating two jet aircraft on Australian routes.
It is pleasing to note from the Minister’s second-reading speech that each operator will be able to decide upon the type of jet aircraft that, it will purchase. No decision on this matter has yet been made by either operator. 1 am interested in the rapid development of the industry in Australia. In 1949, when we became the government, the biggest aircraft operating in Australia were DCA aircraft. I distinctly remember that on the flight from Adelaide to Perth, battling into headwinds, on occasions these aircraft used to take as long as ten hours. That was not a normal flight. They travelled at about 220 miles an hour, and normally the flight would take between seven and eight hours. Then DC6B and Viscount aircraft, each having about the same speed, were introduced, and this journey was reduced by one-and-a-half hours. With the introduction of the Lockheed Electra, the trip now occupies less than five hours. So we are developing nicely with the .reequipment of our airlines, which are doing a magnificent job. It is expected that the proposed new jet aircraft will travel at between 500 and 600 miles an hour and that the journey from Adelaide to Perth will take about three hours. As passengers have to put watches back one-and-a-half hours, which is the difference between central standard time and western standard time, arrival in Perth will be only oneandahalf hours on the clock later than departure from Adelaide. We appear to be developing so fast that on arrival we may have to put our watches back to a time earlier than the time of departure.
I commend the Government upon its action. Both operators will be guaranteed financial assistance for the purchase of jet aircraft, which will no doubt operate for many years. We shall have to keep turboprop aircraft, probably on the shorter runs, until their economic life is over. We hear of jet passenger aircraft, capable of exceeding 1,500 miles an hour, being on the drawing board.
– That is a bit hot for us.
– lt is a bit too fast. No doubt, within ten years these aircraft will be off the drawing board and in the air. We intend to have two jet aircraft operated by each company from 1964 onwards. After three or four years, with passenger traffic continuing to increase at the rate of 6 per cent, a year, the operators will probably require additional jet aircraft, by which time, no doubt, available aircraft will be capable of travelling at 1,000 miles an hour. The airline operators will then approach the Government for permission to purchase additional aircraft because of the increased number of passengers taking advantage of modern standards of flying. At that time they will no doubt seek to purchase one or two new aircraft each. Then the people who live in the distant State of Western Australia will be able to come to the eastern States in a matter of an hour or two. People will be able to travel from Sydney or Melbourne to Perth at 1,000 miles an hour. Taking into account the time factor, you will be able to leave Melbourne at 6 o’clock in the evening and arrive in Perth at 6 o’clock in the same evening western standard time. Aircraft manufacturers are to be congratulated on their achievements in aircraft design. I have no doubt that the aircraft industry is only beginning to develop. Aircraft will fly at ever-increasing speeds, and it is pleasing to know that Australia will be well in the running in the use of modern aircraft.
It is essentia] for our internal airlines to keep their fleets up to date. Passengers coming to Australia from overseas enjoy the luxury of pure-jet travel, but they are disappointed with the equipment that is used on our internal airlines. I congratulate the Minister on bringing down legislation to permit the use of jet aircraft on Australian airlines. It is not easy to provide for jet aircraft to be used within Australia. The Department of Civil Aviation must take into consideration the development of airports to handle the bigger and faster aircraft. In many places runways will have to be lengthened. At present we have in Australia only three or four airports that can handle jet aircraft. By 1964, however, all capital cities in Australia will be able to handle jet aircraft. When that time comes, we shall see jet aircraft on our internal flights and everybody will be happy.
I am surprised to hear the Opposition continually speaking against Ansett-A.N.A. Honorable senators opposite have adopted a partisan attitude. They are all for T.A.A. In his speech the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Kennelly, frequently asked why the Government was trying to hurt its own airline. Earlier in my remarks I referred to the rapid development that has taken place in T.A.A. under this Government. Since this Government assumed office, T.A.A.’s development has been faster than it ever was under a Labour government. I have referred to the losses that T.A.A. sustained between 1947 and 1949, when the Labour Party was in office. [ have referred to the profits made by T.A.A. from 1950 onwards, during the reign of this Government. I am sure that the people of Australia will be well satisfied with the way the Airlines Agreement Act has operated, and that they look forward to the day when jet aircraft fly from east to west in Australia.
.- After the clowning speech by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who did not refer to the bill at all, we are indebted to Senator O’Byrne and Senator Scott for getting back to the subject-matter of the bill introduced by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). I congratulate Senator Paltridge on the honesty and frankness that he displayed in his second-reading speech. He left no room for misunderstanding about the Government’s attitude towards airlines in Aus- tralia. We are left in no doubt of the position in which the Government finds itself at present because of the cleverness of a very able industrialist in the person of Mr. Reg Ansett. We should pat Mr. Reg Ansett on the back for his outstanding ability. He - one man - has got the Government in a position from which it cannot extricate itself.
Let me advert to Senator Scott’s remarks while they are still fresh in our minds, and in the minds of the listening public. He said that in the early days of its operation, during Labour’s term of office, Trans-Australia Airlines suffered financial losses. That is perfectly true, but if Senator Scott had been fair he would have admitted that the man who created T.A.A. erected for himself a monument such as no honorable senator here to-night is ever likely to have. I refer of course, to Sir Arthur Coles. It is true that in the first year or two of operations T.A.A. suffered losses, but in those years it was pioneering air routes. It did not take over routes on which the ~’d Australian National Airways operated. T.A.A. had to pioneer new routes throughout Australia. In the pioneering days those routes were not as profitable as they became later when, under the rationalization scheme, they were taken away from T.A.A. and given to Ansett Transport Industries. I refer specifically to Ansett Transport Industries because of the vast difference between that organization - it is so named in the Minister’s second-reading speech - and Ansett-A.N.A. Ansett Transport Industries is a vast industrial organization. It handles not only airlines, but also coach services running from one end of Australia to the other, in and out of every nook and cranny, and it operates hotels and other projects. All of those undertakings are operated under Ansett Transport Industries. Perhaps that empire has been financed by the £9,000,000 of loans that Ansett Transport Industries has received from the Commonwealth. I am now quoting the figure mentioned by Senator Scott.
– It will be accurate.
– Senator Scott should read the Minister’s speech. He then may change his mind. Let me get back to the losses sustained by T.A.A. during the early years of its operations. It is true that T.A.A. sustained losses, but it is also true that in the year this Government took office, and in the preceding year, T.A.A. would have shown a profit if it had not been required to pay landing charges that Ansett-A.N.A. refused to pay.
Senator AYLETT__ Never mind why.
The Minister for Customs and Excise acted the clown for half an hour during his speech. Were it not for the fact that some honorable senators and some members of the listening public may have taken him seriously, I would not bother to refer to his speech. Had it not been for the fact that T.A.A. paid landing charges during its early years of operation, it would have shown a profit. Let me remind Senator Scott that at that time Australian National Airways, as it was then called, was not paying landing charges. Australian National Airways refused to pay landing charges because it said that they would cripple the company. The payment of landing charges was one of the arguments used to obtain government assistance to prop up the company and the Government has been propping it up ever since, whatever name it has been operating under.
Senator Scott referred to the profits that T.A.A. has made since this Government took office. Of course it has made profits. With a growing population why would it not make profits? When this Government took office T.A.A.’s routes had been charted. This Government came in and reaped the benefit of the early struggles that had been made by a Labour government. I will deal with that matter further when I advert to some of the remarks passed by Senator Henty. When I do, however, unlike Senator Henty, I will not refer to honorable senator’s opposite as blokes. Senator Henty said that all that we on this side of the Senate were concerned about was a nationalized monopoly. He said that we had never forgiven the Government for permitting Ansett-A.N.A to compete with T.A.A., because we were in favour of nationalizing the airlines and other undertakings in order to create monopolies. But we would not have created the monopoly that exists to-day; such a thing would not have been possible.
Air services on Australia’s main air routes constitute one big monopoly. The Government admits that it has had to back Ansett Transport Industries Limited, to use Senator Scott’s figures, to the extent of £9,800,000. When we get down to tin tacks, who is the owner of Ansett Transport Industries Limited and of T.A.A.?
– The shareholders.
– That is quite true. The shareholders are the members of the public - the taxpayers of Australia. That applies to both Ansett Transport Industries Limited and the Australian National Airlines Commission.
– It does not.
– Of course, it does. If the honorable senator would only use his common sense, he would soon learn that that is so. I can see no difference between the way in which Ansett Transport Industries Limited has been backed by the Government and the Government putting the money in itself. In fact, I think it would have been a much better proposition if the Government had lent the money to the company straight out and had got interest on it rather than for it to have guaranteed the money in the way in which it has and also to have guaranteed a profit of 10 per cent. If the Government had lent the money to the company straight out and had ensured that it made a profit of 10 per cent., the taxpayers and not the individual speculators would have received the benefit. When it is all boiled down, the airline industry is a monopoly which has been created and backed by this Government. As I proceed I shall endeavour to prove that the Government has established a monopoly without there being any competition, except as between the hostesses of the two airlines who are most obliging and who try to outdo one another.
The Minister for Customs and Excise compared the passenger revenue of 1948-49 with that of 1960-61. In 1948-49, the number of passengers carried was 454,000 as against 1,000,000 in 1960-61. It is only natural that in a country which has become air-minded over a period of ten or twelve years the number of passenbers carried should have increased by leaps and bounds. Because of inflation, for which this Government is responsible, fares have doubled. Therefore, it is only natural that passenger revenue should have risen. Only a clown would think that, in those circumstances, revenue would not increase. The Minister pointed out that revenue in 1948-49 was £3,000,000 as against £14,000,000 in 1960-61. I repeat that, fares having doubled because of inflation and the population having increased, only a clown would believe that revenue would remain static. The amount of revenue received must increase, regardless of the political colour of the government in office.
If this Government had not propped up Ansett Transport Industries Limited by financing that organization in almost the same way as it has financed T.A.A., its airline would not now be in existence. When we listen to statements by a Minister of the Crown such as those which we have heard from the Minister for Customs and Excise we can only ask: What is he trying to smother up? In a minute or two I shall say what he is trying to smother up. The Minister could have told us about the tax on diesel fuel, but he did not say a word about that. He did not say that the Government’s action in that regard imposed an additional burden of £300,000 a year on T.A.A. but did not impose a similar burden on Ansett-A.N.A. That burden was imposed on T.A.A. in order to reduce its profit and to give Ansett-A.N.A. a chance to go along with the government airline. It was done for no other reason whatever.
– They are both paying the tax.
– Of course they are; but both did not pay earlier. Early in the piece it was a sectional tax. The Minister said that all that Labour wants to do is to create a monopoly. What greater monopoly could there be than to have two separate organizations running two airlines financed and controlled from one central pivotal point? When I refer to one central pivotal point I mean the financing activity of the Government and the activity of the rationalization committee in co-ordinating the operations of the airlines according to the Government’s wishes. The rationalization committee, which is responsible for the co-ordination of air services, found that something had to be done to hold back T.A.A. and to prop up Ansett Transport Industries Limited still further to save the
Government from the embarrassment, if the private airline failed, of finding the money it had guaranteed. I do not intend to say that the Government issued a direction on this matter, but I do say that the measures adopted by the rationalization committee played right into the hands of the Minister and the Government.
– Are you implying that the committee is biased in favour of Ansett-A.N.A.?
– You can use your own judgment on that after you have listened to me, just as I can use my own judgment and just as any other honorable senator or anybody outside the chamber who may be listening can use theirs. To bolster up Ansett Transport Industries Limited and to hold back Trans-Australia Airlines, the rationalization committee took from T.A.A., to the definite advantage of Ansett-A.N.A., routes that had formerly been operated solely by T.A.A. I refer to the routes from Brisbane to Mount Isa, from Rockhampton to Longreach, and the services to Alice Springs, Lae, Rabaul and Darwin from Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. The decisions of the rationalization committee mean that 85 per cent, of all traffic carried on non-competitive routes will be carried by Ansett-A.N.A. and that 15 per cent, will be carried by T.A.A. If that is not propping up one’s competitor, I should like to know what a good prop is. The legislation now before us will mean that this rationalization will be extended until 1977. It is to be extended for another ten years. This sort of thing could be extended indefinitely unless there was a change of government, in which case some of the legislation could be repealed.
– That will not happen.
– It may not happen: but, on the other hand, it may. The Minister for Civil Aviation did not leave anything in doubt in the provisions that were inserted in the agreement. It may be just as well if I quote what the Minister said, because it may help the honorable senator who has just interjected. The Minister was very definite and precise in what he said; he left nothing to the imagination. This is what he said -
In each of the last two years, despite rigor ons competition from the private enterprise airline, the commission has made record profits and it is probable that for the financial year just completed it will be able to pay its highest dividend to date. In contrast, in order to meet reasonable private enterprise standards, Ansett Transport Industries Limited must have a target of the order of 10 per cent, after tax and a reasonable allocation to reserves. It will be readily apparent that disparity in cost structure could destroy the ability of the airline with the higher cost structure to compete with the other.
In other words the Minister admits that T.A.A. has shown a good profit and has had a record year, but he is getting nervous about, the situation. According to Senator Scott the Government has guaranteed the finances of Ansett Transport Industries to the extent of £9,800,000 and the Government is determined that the organization must show a profit of 10 per cent., after paying iis taxes and after placing a reasonable amount away to reserves. You cannot really blame the Government; it is in so deep that it cannot get out.
– Be careful, you may say something indiscreet.
– That is the position. I am using only the information that has been given by speakers on the Government side.
If Ansett Transport Industries were to fall down on the job and not show a profit, where would it get the money the Government has guaranteed? If the Government is acting as guarantor and the organization cannot get the money it needs, on whom do you think it will call? It is for this reason that the Government has got to prop this organization up. In order to do that it has given the organization a monopoly of the traffic of non-competitive routes. Ansett Transport Industries has 85 per cent, of this traffic agains; 15 per cent, held by T.A.A. The bill contains a provision that each financial year the progress of each company has to be taken into consideration. That is provided for in the bill regardless of what the Minister might say. That provision could be used by a future government, not only to retard T.A.A., but also to bolster it up. That is something that Senator Marriott, who has been interjecting, should not lose sight of. What is good for one government to use in one way is also good enough for another government of a different political colour to use in the reverse way. The provision cuts both ways, and therefore I have no objection to that part of the bill. As 1 have said, it can be used either to bolster or retard an airline.
The point I emphasize is that this 10 per cent, profit has to be found. If it is found that the profit of Ansett Transport Industries is not sufficiently high a further increase in fares will have to take place. The Government will offer no objection to that although it is running an airline in competition with this organization. The Government has other ways and means of plucking money from T.A.A. and putting it back into consolidated revenue. Its policy is to bolster up one of the greatest transport monopolies in any country in the world. No competition exists between the two airlines. Where is the competition when aircraft from both airlines fly into an airport at practically the same time? Where is the competition when they fly ou’ of an airport at practically the same time? If there were an interval between the arrival and departure times of the aircraft of both companies it would be of great benefit to the public. If the aircraft of one company were to leave in the morning and those of the other in the afternoon that would be of great benefit, but at present they operate as one unit regardless of the convenience of the public.
– Could not T.A.A. alter its programme, if you think you are right?
– Not under the system under which it is working at present. Both airlines are working in together. If the honorable senator had listened to me carefully he would know that every alteration is made for the purpose of boosting and helping to prop up Ansett Transport Industries.
– That is not true, of course.
– It is true. Whoever has control of the rationalization committee is able to handle that matter. I am not suggesting that there is anything unfair, but I am saying that the rationalization committee always seems to give that little bit of boost to the opposition airline, or supposed opposition airline.
– Where do you come down? Is it fair or is it unfair?
– I was not talking about fares in particular, but if you want to know the position about fares, I can tell you that also. I can tell you right now that when T.A.A. was inaugurated it was not the idea that it should show a 10 per cent, profit after paying taxes and after providing substantial reserves. Trans-Australia Airlines was established largely as a service for the public. Therefore if Ansett Transport Industries is to show a profit of 10 per cent, after paying taxes and providing reserves it may be necessary for fares to be increased. If it is necessary for Ansett Transport Industries to increase its fares, T.A.A. will have to do the same. The Government therefore will be taking money out of the pockets of the taxpayers in order to enable the Ansett organization to make a 10 per cent, profit with which to repay the £9,800,000 for which the Government is standing guarantor. If it were an organization owned solely by the taxpayers there would be no need for this 10 per cent, profit with the result that there could be a reduction in fares. But under this legislation, and under the Government’s scheme to bolster Ansett Transport Industries, that is impossible. Trans-Australia Airlines did not have to increase its charges for transport between the city terminals and the airports but Ansett Transport Industries found it necessary to do so. The result was that the rationalization committee recommended that a charge should be made by both airlines, and consequently airline fares in Australia were increased on the average by 10s. - an average amount of Ss. on each trip. What is the difference between charging for transport between city terminals and airports and adding the extra amount to the price of the ticket? It is still an increase in fares.
There are other ways and means under this bill besides an increase in fares to prop up Ansett Transport Industries. As Ansett Transport Industries are operating more routes than T.A.A. the organization will need more planes to cover these routes, and I have no doubt that the rationalization committee will see that the proportion of 85 per cent, to 15 per cent, is maintained on non-competitive routes regardless of the increase of traffic on other routes. Probably the Government would do as it has done in the recent past. Through the rationaliza tion committee, air routes that have been pioneered by Trans-Australia Airlines and brought to the stage where they are profitable can be taken away from TransAustralia Airlines and handed over to Ansett Transport Industries Limited. That has been done in a number of cases.
– What routes are they?
– A few moments ago I referred to a number of such routes. I do not wish to be like a parrot and repeat them every two or three minutes for the benefit of an honorable senator who is not paying attention to what I am saying. Honorable senators opposite have slated the Labour Party’s record when it was in office. Let me remind Senator Henty that he did not do much travelling in those days, whereas many of us were doing a lot of travelling.
– We do not all go to
– No, and at the time of which 1 am speaking you were very seldom, if ever, off-loaded, whereas often we were off-loaded by a monopoly private enterprise airline. The general public was put to all kinds of inconvenience. That was not the fault of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited because it was doing its best. It just could not cope with the situation. A person might go out to the aerodrome and, without being given any notice at all, find that he had been offloaded and there was no seat for him. He might wait for the next flight, the following flight, or perhaps until the next day. That was happening all over Australia. Therefore, the government of that day was justified in setting up another airline. It could not take over Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which could not cope with the position at that time, and was not pioneering new air routes that were essential for the development of Australia as a young country. The government of the day took the only course that was open to it. It said, “We will establish an airline that will develop new air routes throughout Australia “.
-In order to ruin a private airline. That was all that governmnent wanted to do.
– I have just told the honorable senator what the position was before he was flying regularly enough to know it. He tries to dictate to those of us who really know the position. He will not listen to a statement of the facts. When the private enterprise airline could not compete with the government airline there were only two things for the present Government to do - namely, to prop up the private enterprise airline or prop up somebody to take it over. Otherwise, the only course open to that airline would have been to go into bankruptcy.
– I know that the honorable senator is anxious for me to finish my speech and I will do so now. The government of that day had no option other than to establish a government airline if it wanted Australia to keep pace with other countries in air transport. The present Government has fostered the private enterprise airline until to-day there is no competition. In Australia we have one of the greatest monopolies that has ever been known, lt is a combination of TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett Transport Industries Limited, and it is one giant monopoly in air transport.
– We have been listening to a speech by one of my Tasmanian colleagues in opposition to the two measures that we are discussing in this second-reading debate on the civil airlines of Australia. This is a States House, and as a Tasmanian I am surprised that over the years my Tasmanian colleague has continued to be so bitter against the private enterprise airline company which most Tasmanians are proud to remember was founded in Tasmania. It employed many good Tasmanians and put Tasmania on the map. Senator Aylett, after his speech to-night, is very lucky that he will not go before the electors of Tasmania in the election on 9th December. Tasmanians are proud of the Holyman brothers, who started Ansett-A.N.A. and pioneered civil airlines in Australia in the pre-Second World War days.
I wish to refer to only one or two points in Senator Aylett’s speech, because most of what he said was arrant nonsense. I challenge him, and I think every fair-minded senator would challenge him, on one point. He alleged bias by the rationalization committee. To my mind, it is quite all right for Senator Aylett to oppose rationalization and the setting up of the raionalization committee; but I believe that it is completely wrong for him to allege that that committee showed bias in favour of AnsettA.N.A. He did not offer one shred of evidence in support of his allegation, but he tried to smear-
– I rise to order. I take objection to Senator Marriott saying that I said the rationalization committee was biased. He is saying that it is biased. I did not say that. I said that he could use his own judgment on it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. (Senator Wood). - The honorable senator claims that he has been misrepresented. When Senator Marriott has finished his speech, Senator Aylett may raise the matter.
– Senator Aylett spoke about the dividends paid by AnsettA.N.A. to its shareholders, and the profits paid by Trans-Australia Airlines to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. In the past few years Ansett-A.N.A. has paid a 10 per cent, dividend. Trans-Australia Airlines - wtih a much smaller capital and using money borrowed at a much cheaper rate of interest than that at which AnsettA.N.A., the private enterprise company, can borrow its money - has returned only 5 per cent. All I say to the honorable senator about that is that if one civil airline can pay a bigger dividend than another, and the company paying the bigger dividend borrows money at a higher rate of interest than that at which the other company borrows money, it proves that the Australian people prefer Ansett-A.N.A. to Trans-Australia Airlines. I believe that we should keep the record straight. It can be proved by an analysis of the business returns of the two operators that the Australian people are gradually coming to prefer the private airline. This has nothing to do with government policy, but is indicative of a fundamental preference on the part of the travelling public.
– Why don’t you people on that side of the House travel that way, too?
– Apparently Senator Dittmer wants to make a speech while I am speaking. Through you, Sir, I will answer his question as to with whom
I travel by air, and why. When I first came into this Parliament-
– Just quietly, go back to where you came from and stop there.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -Order!
– I was not looking at you, Sir.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESDENT -Order! Senator Dittmer, I ask you to keep order, and 1 warn you that I shall take action if you do not. It is the first lime I have warned you.
– It should be the last. Two people cannot make speeches at (he same time. 1 do not know why the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) cannot control this somewhat troublesome and annoying egotist. If I can continue in a duet with Senator Dittmer until you send him out, as you should–
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Senator Marriott, I point out (hat it is the duty of the Chair to decide what shall be done, not the duty of an individual senator.
– I withdraw my remark, Sir. It is known by all of us that a senator has only half-an-hour in which to weak on Wednesday nights, when our proceedings are being broadcast. It is very difficult to make a speech when another senator is speaking at the same time. 1 have given a lot of thought and study to the measures before us and I believe I have a right to speak on them. I do not mind normal interjections, seeking information, but I hate the continual chattering of Senator Dittmer. 1 believe that some one should take action to permit senators to deliver the speeches that they have prepared.
– I take a point of order. Mr. Acting Deputy President. I saw you rise in your place and I heard you inform Senator Marriott that you were in charge of the Senate at present and that you were capable of controlling it. Senator Marriott is saying that, by allowing interjections, you are not giving him an opportunity to make his speech, or, in other words, that you are not capable of carrying out your duties. I submit that a statement of that kind contravenes our Standing Orders and that if Senator Marriott made it he should be asked to sit down.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I listened attentively to what Senator Marriott was saying, and it may have verged on a reflection on the Chair. I will not stand for an honorable senator on either side reflecting on the Chair in the way that Senator Arnold has suggested that Senator Marriott has done. I point out that very often interjections arise from provocative statements. Interjections are disorderly but sometimes speakers deliberately encourage them. I want it to be known that if any honorable senator goes beyond what I regard as reasonable limits in that way, he will be named. I do not desire any senator to tell me what I should do in the Chair.
– I desire now to return to the bills that we are considering. We are discussing a most important industry. The two major civil airlines in this country have an annual revenue of about £17,000,000 from the operation of their aircraft, and they employ about 10,000 men and women. Therefore, those airlines are important to the industrial life and the development of the country. Every government introduces legislation that accords with its policies. I believe that the policy of this Government in regard to airlines began manifestly to be put into effect in 1952. It has been accepted, endorsed and appreciated by the people of Australia. It is that there shall be in this country two major civil airlines, one privately owned and one controlled by the Government through a commission. That policy involves, to my mind, that for obvious and correct reasons both airlines shall have comparable fleets of aircraft. It involves also that there shall be healthy and fair competition between the two airlines but, because this is a most expensive industry to run and because profits are balanced on a razor’s edge, there shall be rationalization of services where that is desired. In order to bring that about, the policy of the Government is - and, I hope, ever will be - that a rationalization committee shall be established so that if the two airlines cannot see eye to eye on an issue they can go to fair arbitration. No one in this chamber will say ‘hat the rationalization committee which has been established has not dealt fairly with every question that has been put to it in respect of rationalization.
Another major plank of our civil aviation policy, for which the people of Australia are extremely grateful, is that both civil airlines shall adhere rigidly to the very strict rules and regulations of the Department of Civil Aviation. That plank of our policy has resulted in Australia’s civil airlines winning throughout the world a reputation for efficiency and for safety and for providing modern air transport at one of the highest standards in the world. This Government looks to the future, and these measures are beamed on the future of civil aviation in Australia. The view of the Government obviously is that, as jet aircraft will come in due course, it must provide jet airports and good airport terminals to satisfy the passengers. If I may leave the national outlook for a moment and take a more restricted view, I hope that the Minister will remember that Launceston airport - one of the major airports in Australia - requires a modern passenger terminal such as the Minister during his term of office has provided for those who live in and those who visit Hobart. Again looking to the future, the Government, the Minister and the department must go ahead with the provision of modern navigational aids to ensure the safety of those who travel by air. No one will deny that under this Government Australia is ahead of many other countries in the world in the provision of modern navigational aids for aircraft.
The bills that we are debating show that the Government is planning to maintain modern aircraft in the fleets of the major civil airlines in Australia. It is providing by law that through loans or guaranteed loans the two major airlines will be able to keep pace with modern trends. When these provisions become law they will be of great benefit to Australia. Both major airlines will know that they have security and that they may extend their activities and keep their fleets modern. They will be able to plan ahead for future development. The Australian people, when they wish to travel by air, will be assured of a choice between tthe two great, efficient civil airlines. The most important aspect, which I think the Labour party has missed, is that the legis- lation will provide for the employees of the two major airlines security in their chosen professions and callings.
We are debating whether the policy of this Government in relation to civil aviation is the right one, or whether that propounded by the Australian Labour Party is better. What is the alternative if our policy is negated, and the Australian Labour Party’s policy becomes law? The Labour Party has a straight-out policy of one governmentowned airline. That policy surely poses the question: Who are the real monopolists in this country? Who are most eager to have monopolies? We on this side of the chamber sometimes are accused of favouring those who want to achieve monopolies in business and in trade. Yet, to-night we are being told, as we possibly will be to-morrow also by the supporters of the Labour Party, that there should be only one civil airline on the major trunk routes. Probably at question time or at some other time honorable senators opposite will criticize the Government and blame it, although it is quite innocent, for what they refer to as takeovers and mergers in private industry. It is hard to follow their reasoning.
That they want a monopoly in the airline industry is proved by an act of Parliament called, if my memory serves me correctly, the Australian Airlines Act, which was introduced by the previous Labour Government in 1945. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had the moral courage to appeal against the legislation. The case went to the High Court, and in layman’s language, A.N.A. won. So far as I can understand the judgment, the High Court held that the Commonwealth, by the establishment of an airline, could not destroy a private airline. On the second point of appeal, which A.N.A. also won hands down, it was held that it was not legal for this Parliament to pass a law which provided that when the governmentoperated airline was able to provide adequate services the licences for private airlines would lapse. So, A.N.A., the Tasmanianborn company, lived on, thanks to the ruling of the High Court, against the wishes of the Australian Labour Party.
I remind the Senate that because A.N.A. won that case against the Labour government of the day, the Australian
Labour Party has never forgiven it. It will fight the company as long as there is an Australian Labour Party, or until our friends of the Australian Democratic Labour Party take over from it. In that respect, the Labour Party cannot learn and cannot forget. In the nine years that I have been in the Senate I have never known a dirtier campaign to be indulged in by a political party than that of the Labour Party against A.N.A. Continuously, at question time and when relevant legislation has been before the Senate or another place, there have been allegations and accusations against the company. Their aim has been to question the company’s financial stability, its ability to run a good airline safely and properly, and its capacity to provide normal services for the travelling public.
That campaign has been so bitter and so sustained on the part of several members of the Parliament that it has had a different effect from that intended. I believe that the people of Australia are sick and tired of the allegations, unfortunately even of dishonesty, and are now saying, “ Well, we are for private enterprise from now on “. I remember, years ago, an honorable senator in this chamber challenging a Liberal member in another place to a debate because he had implied that an accident to an aircraft had been the fault of those operating it. The Labour supporter lost the debate, first, because he did not have the ability of the person against whom he was debating, and, secondly, because he did not have a case to place before those who listened to him. But he has gone on consistently, in questions and in speeches, to allege inefficiency and all kinds of things against the private airline company.
The supporters of the Australian Labour Party, in its efforts to bring down the private airline company and to cause it to fail, have even refused to travel by its aircraft unless it suits them to do so for their purely selfish reasons. The same attitude is displayed by State Labour governments. This is happening in a democracy, in a private enterprise atmosphere. Those governments are denying to persons who travel on State government vouchers the right to choose the airline with which they will travel. If Labour gained power to-morrow, all public servants, members of the defence forces, and employees of Commonwealth business undertakings would be told to travel by T.A.A. or not travel at all by air.
– Why should they not? It is a government airline.
– I shall answer that later. That is the method by which the Australian Labour Party tries to force its policy on the people of Australia. It knows that it has no possible chance in the next three years to legislate for its policy, so it is trying to give effect to it in the ways that I have mentioned.
– What are you worrying about?
– I am worrying about the rotten, unfair attitude of the Australian Labour Party. Honorable senators opposite are trying to harm Ansett-A.N.A. and they are doing harm to the cause that they espouse. I now have one or two questions. I understand that Senator McKenna will follow me. Let us assume that Labour’s policy became effective and that AnsettA.N.A. and its subsidiaries were closed down, which is what Labour aims to do. In that event a total of 4,156 employees, many of them good unionists, would be in jeopardy, because it is absolutely obvious that if two airlines were combined into one, the number of employees would be cut by many hundreds. Honorable senators opposite try to tell us and the people of Australis that they are for the worker. They are trying to put in jeopardy by their policies and attacks the livelihood and careers of many hundreds of good Australian workers and unionists. The pay-roll of Ansett Transport Industries last year was £8,060,319. If honorable senators opposite would wake up, they would realize that this was paid to workers. This is being put in jeopardy because of the unfair attacks, biased attitude, and lack of freedom of choice of honorable senators opposite. As my colleague, Senator Henty, announced to-day, Labour has endorsed as one of its candidates a director of Ansett-A.N.A.
– Middle of the road.
– Honorable senators opposite are in the middle of the paddock; they do not know which way to go. Imagine the situation if the great exserviceman is successful; the parliamentary Labour Party will get a ruling from the federal executive of the party.
– What about the Liberal Party?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -Order!
– He is not going to be offensive to me.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I have already warned Senator Dittmer. I now name him. Immediately upon coming into the chamber, he started interjecting.
– I call upon the honorable senator to make whatever explanation or apology he desires to make.
– The remark was offensive because it implied that I, as a senator, was under direction by my federal executive. The only thing that I observe is the platform and policy of the Australian Labour Party. That is what every member of the Australian Labour Party does. We are getting sick and tired of the offensive remarks made by Government senators when they suggest that we are under direction. We know that they are under direction. We have seen so much of it in New South Wales, where they are throwing out their own State members in favour of new candidates at the next election.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator is going beyond a personal explanation.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) put -
That Senator Dittmer be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. (Senator Dittmer thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)
– Before proceeding with the relatively brief contribution that I desire to make to the debate, I want to refer to the contribution that emanated from three Government senators. First, I refer to that which came from the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). He made a noisy contribution, devoted most of his time to abuse of the Australian Labour Party, and did not concentrate upon the measures before the chamber. Apparently he regarded attack as the best form of defence. He directed attention to figures, which I have no doubt were quite accurate, showing how well Trans-Australia Airlines had done in recent years. I have no reason to controvert his figures. True it is that T.A.A. has done well, but it may be an interesting exercise for the Minister on some future occasion to tell the Senate how very much better T.A.A. would have fared had it been permitted to go its own way, had it been permitted to have government business in airmail, passengers and freight uninterrupted, and had it been able to make its own choice of aircraft. The Minister referred to what he termed the socialization policy of the Australian Labour Party in relation to the airways. Surely the Minister knows that in 1946 the High Court declared quite plainly that the Government could engage in interstate air activity of the type now followed by T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A., but that other people could not be prohibited from so engaging. In other words, there can be no socialization of the airline industry of this country unless the proposal is put to the people by referendum and the people approve it.
– Except by direct undermining.
– Do not evade the plain issue raised by Senator Henty.
– 1 said that socialization would come by undermining. I gave instances.
– Senator Scott declared that the Labour Party in this chamber was continually speaking against Ansett-A.N.A. Senator Marriott went a good deal further, and referred to bitter attacks that had been made by the Opposition on the Ansett-A.N.A. group. Both those statements are completely wrong. The attack that has been launched in this Senate - I have heard all the speeches made to-day, even those made during my absence from the chamber - has been directed against the Government for its discrimination against T.A.A. That is the burden of the attack by the Opposition. We have no complaint about Ansett-A.N.A. We on this side of the Senate admire the energy, initiative, dash and courage that the AnsettA.N.A. group has displayed in prancing along the red carpet that the Government has laid out for it. Ansett-A.N.A. is a big, powerful and efficient airline. We pay tribute to it as such. We resent having our attitude misrepresented in the way it has been misrepresented by the two honorable senators to whom I have referred.
Let me return to the bills that are immediately before the Senate. They are based on the 1952 legislation, which was opposed by the Labour Party in the Parliament and bitterly opposed by T.A.A., which was not even a party to the agreement. The Commonwealth Government was a party o the agreement, and the Commonwealth Government gave an undertaking to Austalian National Airways, as it then was, that it would compel T.A.A. to comply with the terms and conditions of the agreement. Most unwillingly, as the Minister has admitted, T.A.A. acquiesced in the Government’s general policy in relation to airlines. The bills before the Senate are further extensions of the legislation of 1952 and 1957, when T.A.A. was made a party to the agreement. T.A.A. was made a party to the agreement in 1957 for one purpose only. As Ansett Transport Industries had acquired all of the shares in Australian National Airways, T.A.A. was most concerned to have not merely Australian National Airways bound. If Australian National Airways were to be bound, then also Ansett Transport Industries and its associates ought to be bound. But T.A.A. never stated, either then or subsequently, that it concurred in the base of the 1952 legislation on which these two bills proceed. We have also the Airlines Equipment Act of 1958. The Opposition has consistently opposed all of these measures, and for the same reasons.
What is the Government’s policy? Its policy is to have two airlines, and two only, on the major trunk line routes engaged in free and fair competition. That is the case put by the Government. My first comment on that is that it is a most unnatural policy. Here is a Government with an airline that it proceeds to shackle at every opportunity. The Government divided its airmail business in 1952 and handed half of it to Australian National Airways. If it wanted free competition why did the Government not call for tenders from the two airlines? The Government utterly eliminated competition. It negated its own policy. The same thing happened in relation to passengers and freight. For a government that sponsors an airline to immediately proceed to deprive that airline of government business was a most unnatural policy.
– The profits of T.A.A. have risen, have they not?
– They have risen, but they are not exciting. In the view that I take, the Government’s policy is completely unconstitutional. Under section 92 of the Constitution, trade and commerce - intercourse in airline activity is part of that - must be absolutely free. High Court and Privy Council decisions have shown that nobody who can provide competent aircraft, competently manned, may be denied access to routes. Despite the Government’s policy we have had three competitors. Ansett came into the field against Australian National Airways and the government. The Government’s policy is unconstitutional and unnatural, and it could be broken down by any person with an efficient machine who applied for a licence to break into the main routes interstate to-morrow. Therefore, when one looks at the policy in that light one sees how unreal it is from a constitutional point of view.
The rationalization scheme about which we hear so much completely eliminates competition, and I would say that it contravenes section 92 of the Constitution. Surely the Government contravenes section 92 when it tells people who are engaged in interstate trade that they shall not buy any new aircraft, that they shall run to a certain time-table and that they shall operate on stipulated dates. That is getting very close to prohibition and restriction, rather than mere regulation of interstate trade. I would be very interested to examine the Minister’s rationalization agreement and the bills that have been presented to this Parliament, when the longawaited bill on restrictive trade practices comes before the Parliament, if ever it does. That bill has been promised for a long while, and it is still on the way. After all, is it not a restrictive trade practice to compel the only two competitors in a field to arrange fares, time-tables and their other activities? Is that competition? I would say that it is one of the very practices at which the legislation talked about by the Government, through its Attorney-General, would be directed. I should certainly like to examine the rationalization agreement when I see the bill that the AttorneyGeneral proposes about restrictive trade practices.
The Government’s policy is hypocritical because it. refers to competition and then proceeds to rule out of existence all competition, and to carve the cake into equal parts between the two competing airlines. I am not alone in this view. Mr. Warren McDonald was chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission for many years, and he certainly proved a most efficient chairman. He had the confidence of the Government to such an extent that it translated him to the position of chairman of the new Commonwealth Banking Corporation. The “West Australian”, of 22nd June published this report, which emanated from Adelaide -
The rationalization provisions governing domestic airline operations in Australia were criticized to-day by Mr. Warren McDonald, former chairman of Australian National Airlines Commission, operators of T.A.A.
They were a negation of competition, said Mr. McDonald, now chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
The provisions required domestic airlines to rationalize routes .and schedules. He hoped the time would soon come when T.A.A. and AnsettA.N.A. would be able to compete without curbs imposed by rationalization.
Australia had the finest airlines in the world because they were founded on competition.
Those of us who saw the two airlines come into being know the vast improvement that occurred in Australia’s air services when T.A.A. entered the aviation field. The services provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited up to that point, good as they were, improved out of sight. But that element of competition upon which the airlines were founded is now negated.
– Are you defending competition as being a good thing?
– I am sorry, but 1 did not hear what the honorable senator said. I am imposing a time limit on myself to-night, and on this occasion I am not looking for interjections. The policy of the Government is hypocritical for this reason, too: The Government seeks to justify its policy on the ground that it is a freeenterprise government. It wants to give the rein to free enterprise. But what does it do in relation to its overseas airline? The Government is the complete owner of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. It will not permit any private operator into the overseas field. Why is it socialist in its overseas activities and anti-socialist in its interstate activities? The Government really has two separate policies. I repeat that the Government’s policy is quite hypocritical.
Now let me refer to the audacity of this Government, which will be contesting an election within two months, in relation to an agreement which was made in 1952, which was extended by fifteen years until 1967, and which still has six years to run. The Government now comes before the Parliament and asks us to add another ten years to the six years which the agreement still has to run. To seek to bind future governments for a period of sixteen years in respect of an agreement which, despite its merits, is highly controversial as between this Government and a possible new government is the height of audacity. To seek to bind the various parties and the Parliament in a matter of this kind for the next sixteen years shows the most complete contempt of democratic procedure, lt is a situation which I thought I would never find in the Parliament. The Government’s action shows just to what extent it has got out of touch with democratic concepts. It is true that a major re-equipment of the airlines has to be begun within about two years and has to be effective within four years. But that would take us only up to 1964. The existing agreement would then still have three years to run. What possible reason can there be for the Government to extend the period of operation of the agreement for sixteen years as from this date unless it is that the Government is afraid it will not be in control of the Senate next year? We say that the Government wants to assure the position of the competitor to T.A.A. before the Government loses control, perhaps, of the legislative machinery of the Parliament.
That is not the end of the Government’s audacity. In the agreement that we are asked to approve, the Government has contracted with Ansett Transport Industries Limited and T.A.A. not to increase air route charges during the period of operation of the agreement beyond 10 per cent, per annum. What a cheek the Government has in seeking to bind future governments during the next sixteen years in relation to charges that may be made. To attempt to do that is sheer audacity. But that is not all. The agreement also provides that excise duty on aviation fuel shall not be increased beyond the increase imposed from time to time in respect of motor spirit. Why should this Government, which is about to contest an election, seek to bind future governments over the next sixteen years in relation to two major taxation measures?
When one reads the Minister’s secondreading speeches on the measures we are now considering, one wonders whether he and his officers or Mr. Reg Ansett wrote them. I put that to the Senate quite seriously. Every member of the Parliament has received from Mr. Ansett a letter dated 6th July in regard to the progress of the companies he leads, very daringly and successfully. At page 6 of that letter Mr. Ansett comments on the future of the two-airline system. In his comments on that subject we see the pattern of the matter that is incorporated in the two measures with which we are now dealing. Just listen to this statement in Mr. Ansett’s letter -
It is obvious that within a few years the two operators must face the problem of re-equipping with full jet aircraft which will cost far larger sums than aircraft that have been purchased in the last few years. It is essential that private enterprise have equal access to finance for this jet re-equipment programme. . . .
That was his first comment. What was the Government’s answer? It was: Yes, Mr. Ansett. In the legislation now before us the Government proposes to guarantee Mr. Ansett to the extent of £6,000,000 to enable him to purchase the new jets.
This was his second point -
In the last four years, a Rationalisation Committee has been established . . . and I believe that it has proved itself as a necessary part of the two-airline policy and, therefore, should be continued.
Again, the answer is: Yes, Mr. Ansett. Under this legislation, its operation will be extended for sixteen years. I have already dealt with Mr. Ansett’s third and fourth points. He directed attention to the need for a formula to prevent air route charges and excise duties being too severe. Again, the answer of the Minister for Civil Aviation and of the Government was: Yes, Mr. Ansett.
Mr. Ansett referred to government business and very kindly conceded -
This principle of freedom of choice has been rightly established, and we certainly do not object to it.
But in the next paragraph he added -
He wanted firm steps to be taken to ensure that passenger and freight traffic was equally divided.
Now I come to the sixth point. He comments on the fact that he was vying for access to the Darwin trunk route, but when he wrote his letter that matter was sub judice. Of course, the answer to that request also was: Yes, Mr. Ansett. He is doing very well. In relation to his seventh point, he points out that a private operator who has to provide for reserves as well as raise substantial funds on the loan market at interest rates far in excess of that payable by the Government is in difficulties. The Government again says: Yes, Mr. Ansett. In the legislation now before us, the Government says to T.A.A., “ We will compel you to put your rate of profit on a basis comparable with that which private enterprise might be expected to earn.
– I am sorry to have to interrupt you, but there is no compulsion there.
– The Minister takes the authority to say that. If the honorable senator reads the Minister’s second-reading speech, he will see clearly what is the Government’s intention. The Government argues in favour of placing T.A.A. on a profit-earning basis which is comparable with that of the private operator. It says that the private operator is entitled to reasonable reserves and, after the payment of tax and the putting away of reserves, to a total profit of 10 per cent. Taxes, reserves and 10 per cent.! Trans-Australia Airlines is to be kept up to the collar. The Government is laying down the percentages of profit it must make on its capital. TransAustralia Airlines has to put in at least a six-monthly statement showing how it is going to achieve the target set by the Government. On the face of things it is completely clear what T.A.A. has to do. For years past it has been operating on a profit of only 5 per cent., but it now has to step that up to 10 per cent. The people who use the airways of the country are to be asked to find the other 5 per cent. This will lead inevitably to increased charges to the people of Australia; there is no question about that.
Then we have the seventh request from Mr. Ansett as he looks into the crystal ball to see the future of the two-way system. He can ask what he likes and the answer is, “ Yes “, all the time. In this request he refers to insurance and the fact that T.A.A. carries it own insurance. Trans-Australia Airlines puts the premiums that it normally would pay to an insurance company into a reserve account and has access to those funds for use in its own business. Mr. Ansett suggested that something ought to be done about that and the Government again says, “ Yes “. It says to T.A.A., “ Put your reserves away - do not use them in your business, but invest them in Commonwealth Government securities “ - another “ Yes, Mr. Ansett “. When I read this letter from Mr. Ansett I say that he might well have written word for word both of the second-reading speeches that are before the Senate. Certainly every idea that he postulated in this letter has been eagerly gathered up by the Government and translated into this legislation to be put on the statute-book. The only thing that Mr. Ansett forgot to suggest was to extend the terms of the agreement for another ten years; but in a burst of generosity that invariably characterizes the Government in handling the private operator, it has added that bit of icing to the cake. It has really made a thoroughly good job of the legislation.
I repeat: Look at the position of T.A.A. vis-a-vis Ansett Transport Industries, and we find T.A.A.’s position has been worsening in direction after direction. The right of access into Darwin will cut down T.A.A.’s revenue, it is estimated, by approximately £200,000 and consequently add to the rival private operator’s revenue. I go back to 1958 when the Airlines Equipment Act was introduced. Trans-Australia Airlines approached the Government and said that it wanted to gear its fleet to enter the jet age. It wanted to buy a Caravelle pure jet aircraft. In order to prevent that from happening the Government dashed immediately into the Airlines Equipment Act of 1958. It refused to accede to the progressive policy of T.A.A. and made the airline enter into cross-charter arrangements with Ansett-A.N.A. whereby Viscounts were handed over to Ansett-A.N.A. in exchange for outmoded DC6B’s. I would say that the cross-charter arrangements and the refusal, back in 1958, to give T.A.A. the opportunity to buy the latest jet aircraft set back the development of this country in the jet age by six years. Had we gone ahead at that time when T.A.A. was shackled by the Government we would have reached the jet age by now.
– T.A.A. did not have the money to buy them.
– It is admitted now that out of its own reserves T.A.A. can buy two jet aircraft. The position could not have been much worse then, because the Government has taken only 5 per cent, profit during the last few years and only £50,000 has been placed in reserve. The commission could have found the money; there is no question about that.
– From what source?
– From its own resources. The Minister has indicated in his second-reading speech that the two jets proposed to be ordered in 1962 can be financed from the commission’s own reserves.
– I accept the word “ probably “ if the Minister wishes it.
– The Government would come to T.A.A.’s aid.
– Of course, the Government would come to its aid. The commission is not scratching to find a way of obtaining the finance; it would soon find a way if the Government would give the necessary permission.
– And the dough?
– The dough would not be needed.
– Just consider the way Ansett-A.N.A. finances its purchases. There are hire-purchase arrangements for the sale of aircraft just as we have them for the sale of motor cars. There would not be the slightest trouble to obtain finance, even without a guarantee by the Government. There would be no trouble about that at all. The policy of the Government in equating the equipment of the two airlines, and in denying several years ago the opportunity to T.A.A. to purchase jet aircraft, has delayed the development and progress of aviation in this country, and will delay it until 1964, the date that the Government tells us the first two jets will arrive for each of the two airlines. It is a most retrograde policy.
Something that worries the Opposition constantly is the statement that Senator Spooner made in relation to the policy of this Government. He put it completely and deliberately when he said in this place that it was all right for the Government to go into business activities when a field needed to be pioneered, but the moment that the activity was under way and private enterprise was ready to take it over, the Government should sell. I have referred to that statement again and again. Senator Spooner cannot deny that he said that. He enunciated that policy of the Government. That, among other things, makes the Opposition very suspicious. I invite the Minister for Civil Aviation, who will be replying to this debate later, to explain how Senator Spooner’s announced policy on behalf of the Government fits in with his policy. Do they agree? Do they conflict? Are we to see the demise of T.A.A. just as soon as the Government feels that it is a ripe plum for private enterprise? The Opposition does not mind the two airlines being in the field. Let me state Labour’s position in this matter. It has never been part of Labour’s policy, if it becomes a government, to put T.A.A.’s opposition out of existence. The Opposition has never said that, but on behalf of the Opposition I do make the promise that there will be competition, the thing which this Government hypocritically says it is promoting but which it does everything possible to negate.
The Opposition opposes the measure because of the bad history of the legislation, because of the discrimination against T.A.A. which has operated throughout the period and because of our fears for the future of this airline.
– The opening and concluding remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) left us in no doubt, and in fact left even the most casual observer in no doubt, that an election is about to take place. The honorable senator hastened to assure the Senate and the two or three people who might be listening to the broadcast of these proceedings that it was not Labour’s policy, and had not been the Labour Party’s policy when in government, to nationalize Australia’s airline industry. He was very anxious to explain away what happened many years ago, during the
Chifley régime after the Privy Council case, by saying, “ Seeing that the Privy Council said that we could not nationalize an industry, we would not dare to try “. But, of course, the Chifley Government did dare to try. It would be quite simple to nationalize an industry, in spite of the Privy Council’s decision, by very simple administrative action in the way of restrictive processes designed to force the private airline out of existence. Senator McKenna is perfectly well aware that that is exactly what the Chifley Government tried to do.
Let me recall to the minds of honorable senators what happened after the Privy Council case. In fact, the Privy Council stated in unequivocal terms that the Chifley Government unlawfully tried to nationalize Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Mr. Chifley was not satisfied with that decision. He proceeded to try to nationalize that company through the back door and in a surreptitious way. What happened then is common knowledge. Trans-Australia Airlines was started, and dollars were supplied to it for the purchase of the best aeroplanes that money could buy. But was Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited given dollars? No, it was refused dollars with which to buy aircraft, and it was even refused sterling. There was no shortage of exchange with which to buy aircraft at that time. That administrative act was framed deliberately to try to cause the collapse of the private company. Then every route that was operated at that time by the private company was duplicated immediately and systematically by Trans-Australia Airlines, at the direction of the government of the day.
Some crocodile tears have been shed in this chamber to-day about the implementation of rationalization. Trans-Australia Airlines has been held up as the virtuous organization and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been held up as the big bad wolf trying to grab what it is not entitled to.
– That is not correct at all.
– We had better start this story at the beginning. Let me remind Senator Hendrickson, who has inter jected, that originally Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited pioneered all the air routes and the Chifley Government superimposed Trans-Australia Airlines services on all the major air routes. The government airline lost a lot of money in doing that. In its first year of business it lost more than £300,000. Every year that the policy of destroying Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited by unnecessarily duplicating services on major air routes was in operation, Trans-Australia Airlines lost very large sums of money. That is common knowledge now. Then the government airline got a monopoly on the carriage of air mail. For years the air mail had been carried around Australia by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Then, as if to prove my proposition that the Chifley Government was trying surreptitiously to destroy the private company, suddenly Trans-Australia Airlines started to carry all the air mail. Then that government airline received all the government business. That was a monopoly again.
That is where the story starts in deciding who is being upset, and who is or is not getting a fair go in this airlines business. In the beginning a private company was operating in this country. It pioneered the services. Then, because the socialist administration of the day was told that it could not nationalize that company it deliberately set out to try to destroy the company. It failed dismally. Had it stayed in power after 1949 it might have succeeded, but it failed. Since that year, every time Ansett-A.N.A. is mentioned in this chamber it seems to arouse the peculiar hostility of the Labour Opposition. It is like waving a red rag to a bull. It is quite futile for Senator McKenna to say, as he did, that the Labour Party never intended to nationalize this industry and never would. What utter rubbish it is for him to say that in this chamber before an election, when every fact shows that that is exactly what the Labour Party tried to do.
– We have not the power to do that.
– Had Labour been in power for another five years, it would have nationalized this industry. I suggest that the honorable senator who has interjected knows that, too. I want to continue my speech. Senator McKenna went on to comment about the lack of competition between the two airlines and the rationalization of competition. This was the most extraordinary part of his speech. In fact, he was advocating that there was not enough competition between the two airlines. Are we now getting to the stage, prior to an election of course, when the Labour Party wants more competition? That was the tenor of Senator McKenna’s speech. He said that rationalization was objectionable and a negation of competition, and he proceeded to show why. I am most interested in this new theory that the Labour Party is now advocating in this field of political philosophy; namely, that there should be more competition between the two airlines.
I was delighted to hear that because Senator Kennelly said exactly the opposite. In his speech, which was very interesting, he said that the rationalization programme was defeating Trans-Australia Airlines and was acting as a great discrimination against it. He shed quite a lot of crocodile tears because this lack of competition, about which Senator McKenna spoke, was operating adversely against Trans-Australia Airlines. Let me give some facts and figures to show how that airline is prospering under the alleged lack of competition. In the two years ended 30th June, 1949, Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft flew a total of 130,000 hours. Last year, they flew 86,000 hours in the one year. In the two years ended 30th June, 1949, its aircraft carried a total of approximately 800,000 passengers. Last year, they carried 1,070,000 people in the one year. The figures for passenger miles flown, mail carried and freight carried show similar remarkable increases. In the two years ended 30th June, 1949, under the late Mr. Chifley’s administration, Trans-Australia Airlines earned a total revenue of £6,800,000. Last year, the airline earned a total revenue of more than £14,000,000 in the one year. They are the facts. In the light of those facts, no one can say with justice that T.A.A. is being discriminated against. I suggest that the only reason why that proposition is brought forward by the
Opposition now is that an election is coming on. It is not a new proposition, of course.
– Will you permit T.A.A. to fly intra-state for a start?
– I am coming to what you said. If you will allow me to say something about that, I shall be most grateful. The honorable senator made two contradictory statements in his speech. He said, first, that T.A.A. was being discriminated against. I have given facts and figures to show that in saying that he was indulging in wishful thinking rather than making a factual statement. Then the honorable senator referred to the effects of all this legislation. He claimed that during the last eight years the legislation had acted detrimentally to weaken T.A.A. But then he changed his tune and said, “ You should not do anything to impair the development of the people’s airline “. He cannot have it both ways. If he argues that there should be rationalization of services or fair competition, that is all right. I accept it. But be cannot then argue that nothing should be done by the Government to impair the development of the people’s airline. 1 want to say a few words about the term “ people’s airline “. A few crocodile tears are being shed here about the people’s airline. Is not Ansett-A.N.A. also the people’s airline? Does Senator Kennelly know that the company has about 53,000 shareholders, holding an average of about £200 worth of stock in the company? Is not that a people’s airline? Is Senator Kennelly aware that many of the 7,000 employees of Ansett-A.N.A. own shares in the company? Would he deny those people the right to work in their company and to own shares in it?
– 1 did not say that.
– We will see whether you did or did not. An election is coming along, and the Labour Party should take heed. The 7,000 employees of AnsettA.N.A. might become very angry if they started to read “ Hansard “. If they did, they would become aware that the Labour Party objects to the existence of Ansett-A.N.A.
– We want fair competition. That is what we say.
Senator -VINCENT.- How can the members of the Labour Party argue, on one hand, that they .want fair competition and, on the other hand, .that nothing should be done by this Government to impair the development of T.A.A.? Those are contradictory, propositions. They mean only that the Labour Party is now advocating - as it has always advocated, either directly or indirectly - that there should be one airline in Australia, a nationalized airline. It is as plain as a pikestaff1 that “that is what is really at the back of the Labour Party’s policy. Every statement made ‘by ‘Opposition speakers in the debate to-day lends support to that . proposition.
Listening to the debate, one might assume that there is something wrong with our airlines and that they are in a pretty bad way, with T.A.A. being driven into the ground and with Ansett-A.N.A. in financial difficulties. I believe that our great airlines are a credit to Australia. They provide the cheapest and the safest air ‘transport in the world. The best way ‘to judge the merits of an airline is by the safety, the cheapness and the comfort of the services it provides. -There is no doubt that our airlines operate comfortable aircraft, although probably they are no more comfortable ‘than those used in some other countries. No one who has travelled overseas will contradict me when I say that the services provided by our two major airlines and “their ancillary airlines are as good as the services provided anywhere else in the world. They are probably better than most .others. The standard of the services they providers well above the world standard, and the two companies are to be congratulated for that.
Let us look at some facts and figures. First-class air travel in Australia costs 6.33d. a passenger mile. In the United States of America the cost is 7.62d. a passenger mile.
– I am ‘surprised at you advancing that argument.
– Let me finish. You are not a bit surprised really. In Europe, first-class air travel costs 13.3’ld. a passenger mile. Tourist class -fares in Australia are lower than those in other countries. The cost of tourist-class air travel in Aus- tralia is 5.02d. a passenger mile. In America, it is 5.9,d. a .passenger mile and in Europe, 10;55d. Those figures speak for themselves. Ours are the cheapest air services in the .world.
– I am .amazed at you making that comparison, having regard to the difference between wages .and costs in Australia and in . America.
– I have allowed for that.
– -1 expected much more from you than that.
– Will you let me finish? ‘Let us look at the accident ‘rates in the -various countries. Between ‘1953 and J960 the Australian airlines had !a lower accident rate than that of any other major airline in the world. I have a table showing the passenger fatalities for each 100;000,000 miles flown in Australia, the United .Kingdom and the United States of America. With -the concurrence of honorable senators, l shall incorporate it in “Hansard “. -It is as follows: -
It is no accident that the record of the major airlines in this country is second ‘to none. Obviously there ‘has been some very fine work by the airline companies and the Department of Civil Aviation. Senator Kennelly is interjecting again. I know that he does not like this. There is only one inference to be drawn from the figures. It is that more ‘than Australian ingenuity is responsible for the record of the Australian airlines. There has been .careful planning.
I believe that one of the reasons why our air services are of such a high standard is that we have two major airlines in competition with each other, up to a point. It is of no use for any honorable senator to complain of the lack of competition. We know that competition between the two airlines does not exist at all levels. Anybody with common sense will agree that to have competition at every level would be the height of stupidity.
Surely no one in his wildest dreams would suggest that there should be complete and unfettered competition between the two airline operators. Because of the public investment involved, the public risk and the other factors that I have mentioned, the Government has said very properly that there shall be a degree of competition so as to ensure efficiency. I suggest that that is one of the major reasons why our aeroplanes fly so safely and so cheaply. That is not only my idea, nor is it an original thought. At the present moment, our two-airline system, which provides for reasonable competition, or for rationalized competition, as it is called, between the two systems, is being examined by the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain. Our system is working well, and the systems that are operating in those countries are not working so well.
The most important aspect of the agreements is that the Government is planning for the introduction of pure jet aeroplanes. I think I am on common ground, even with the Opposition, in saying that we all endorse the policy that Australia should have pure jet aircraft. I have not heard that that policy has been criticized, with the one exception that I shall mention. It has not been criticized by the Opposition. The exception is the criticism that was voiced in our local newspaper in Western Australia. We have a monopoly daily newspaper there, a champion of isolationism. On the announcement being made of the policy regarding the introduction of jet aircraft, that newspaper was critical because the aircraft were not being introduced immediately. The Minister was roundly taken to task.
I regret that the newspaper saw fit to criticize the policy in a most irresponsible way. It overlooked two or three elementary and important factors which any twelve-year-old schoolboy would have appreciated. For instance, it overlooked the fact that the immediate introduction of jet aircraft would mean that both operators would have to scrap millions of pounds worth of aeroplanes, and would be placed in financial jeopardy. Both Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. would be in that position if they had to convert immediately to pure jets. The newspaper overlooked that important factor. I regret that it criticized this element of the plan; perhaps it did so because it could see nothing else in it to criticize. It was the only newspaper in Australia to do so and, so far as I know, the only reputable authority which took the Minister to task. He has the unique record that not one other Australian newspaper criticized him on that score. The introduction of jet aircraft in accordance with the approved plan, which has been endorsed by both airline operators, has been accepted on all sides. I think the Minister may take solace from the fact that his plan was not only accepted, but was also eulogized by many authorities in this country and in other parts of the world.
It is unfortunate that in the debates on aviation matters in this chamber the same argument is advanced by the Opposition on every occasion. That argument, which is not a new one, is that the Government is trying to do something to the detriment of T.A.A. If the Government had wished to cripple T.A.A. it could have done so quite simply. As Senator Kennelly has said, it is a wonderful thing to have logic, but it is a far better thing to have the numbers. The Government has both the logic and the numbers, and it could have crippled the airline at any time. But it has not chosen to do so, and it does not want to do so. The Government believes that there must be at least two major airlines operating in this country, for the obvious reason that the present system has been the major factor in the establishment of air services which should be the pride and joy of all Australians.
– I rise to oppose the proposed amendment of the legislation. I do not think that anybody who listened to the sound case presented by Senator McKenna on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, in which he gave the reasons why we oppose the amendment of the legislation, could be influenced in the slightest way by Senator Vincent’s contribution to the debate. The most intriguing aspect of the discussion is that Government supporters, in their speeches in interjections, have bent over backwards to camouflage the real reason for the introduction of the bills we are debating and, indeed, for the agreements entered into in 1952 and their amendment in, I think, 1957.
The second-reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) was “based on the assumption that it was necessary for the Government to intervene if we were to have fair competition between the airline operated on behalf of the taxpayers of Australia and that operated on behalf of private shareholders. To my mind, that is a false assumption. The reasoning which underlies it is a complete negation of the -arguments of apostles of free enterprise throughout the ages. It has always been claimed by the apologists for private industry that it is impossible for a governmentowned, or public-owned, enterprise to compete with a privately owned enterprise because of the lack of the profit motive. They instance the failure of State-owned railways and other instrumentalities to pay dividends. However, Trans-Australia Airlines succeeded so well in competition with the privately owned airline that the private airline would have gone out of existence but for the intervention of the Government. T.A.A. was so successful from the time of its inception until 1952 that the Government was forced to throw a lifeline to the privately owned airline. In doing so, it propounded a new Liberal Party philosophy, based on the assumption that there must be fair competition between government owned and privately owned enterprises. I challenge anybody present to give me one previous instance in which the Government has suggested the need to rationalize competition as between a publicly owned industry and a privately owned industry. The success of T.A.A. was responsible for forcing the Government to go back on its oft-repeated claims that private enterprise would defeat public enterprise in straight-out competition. It also forced the Government to give a false interpretation of what was meant by free competition.
The true basis of argument between our parties is the differing political philosophies, as Senator Henty said in his opening remarks. If this debate had taken place on that basis, we would not have heard the irrelevancies that have come from honorable senators opposite. All Opposition senators and all other members of the Labour Party believe that the taxpayers of Australia should own their own instrumentalities, just as our forefathers believed in respect of the Australian railway systems. All this talk of socialism and nationalization is poppycock. It would have been equally true if it had been applied to the people who introduced our railways. The Labour Party’s actions in establishing T.A.A. have been completely outlined by previous speakers and to say that because we are advocates for T.A.A. we are advocates for straight-out nationalization of airlines is so much poppycock. We believe that if there is free competition between the Governmentowned airline and the privately-owned airline the Government airline will probably come out on top. If the Government were honest it would admit that our contention in respect of T.A.A. was correst.
But for the intervention of the Government, there would be no Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and no AnsettA.N.A. We would have had one airline. If the Government were honest, it would have told the people that T.A.A. had proved that the private airline could not compete with it and that therefore the Government proposed to save the private airline. The Government did not say that and it does not say it now. It says that it is acting in the interests of fair competition, and that previously the competition was not fair because the Labour Government gave the carriage of mail to the government-owned airline. Of course, it did. That was what it should have done. Also, it decided that members of the Parliament and Commonwealth employees should travel only by T.A.A. It is suggested that that was unfair.
But is it suggested that State Governments are1 wrong in giving gold passes by reciprocal arrangement among the States to enable members of the Parliament to travel freely on State railways? State Governments do not provide gold passes for use on airlines that they do not own. There is nothing, to my mind, illogical about that.
As we own an airline, the people who work for us should travel by that airline: Would anybody suggest that Mr. Reg Ansett or anyone else in authority in Ansett-A.N.A. would allow employees of that organization to spend its money in travelling by T.A.A., unless it was impossible to travel by AnsettA.N.A.? That is not unfair competition. If it is unfair competition, there is unfair competition by State governments in respect of State railways, tramways and other instrumentalities. Senator Vincent suggested that when T.A.A. was established the Labour Government made dollars available to it to purchase aircraft but denied dollars to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This is the first time that I have heard this suggested.
– Well, you are learning something. It is a fact.
– Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was not suffering; from lack of aircraft when it could not get passengers in 1952, and 90 per cent, of air travellers wanted to travel by T.A.A. The only passenger traffic that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited got was the overflow of people who could not travel’ by T.A.A. If it is- true that originally that airline suffered in respect of dollars, it was not suffering that disability when it could not get passengers in competition with T.A.A.
– It did not have the aircraft.
– I seem to recall that the Minister said that it was a question of better aircraft. T.A.A. experts were the only ones who claimed that the Convair was a good aircraft. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not want Convair aircraft because it did. not believe they were a good proposition. That may be incorrect, but I believe it to be true. I remember that it was stated that the number of hours that the Convair flew before requiring a complete overhaul, and the repairs associated with it, made it1 uneconomical as a passenger air craft. For that reason, people who did not wish to see T.A.A. succeed were hopeful that events would confirm that an error of judgment had been made by the people in control of it. The reverse proved to be the truth. and the Convair proved to be an outstanding, success. £ have yet to learn that the acquisition of Convair aircraft by T.A-.A. was the result of any special favour extended by the- Labour Government. In fact, I think that the Convairs were acquired during this Government’s term of office.
– It bought the Convairs with dollars that the Government made available to it.
– I persist, in my statement that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not want to buy Convairs and that the decision by T.A.A. proved to be. a winner. If anything was gained by a superiority in the type of aircraft that the two operators were flying, it was the result of a decision by T.A.A. that other so-called experts believed to be wrong. I recall arguments that .the DCS aircraft were better and much more economical. It is only begging the question to go into details. The proof of the cake was in the eating. The publicly owned airline, conducted for the sole purpose of giving service to the public at the cheapest fares possible, succeeded in competition with the private airline. The Government, threw out the. life-line to save Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, in the form of the original agreement, which is the forerunner of the agreement that we are now debating. If the Government were honest, it would not deny the contentions that we have made in this debate. It claims that it is acting on the basis of fair competition, but it is not. The Government is helping a private airline because it cannot compete in free competition with a publicly owned airline. That explains why so many Government supporters have been bending over backwards to avoid this issue. I do not know of any other government-owned undertaking in competition with private enterprise that is hamstrung as is T.A.A. It may be that this legislation is an admission on the part of the Government of the fallacy of its argument through the years that public enterprise cannot compete in free competition with private enterprise because of the lack of profit motive.
Senator Henty; devoted:about: ten. minutes of: his speech to the bill: and about twenty minutes to rabble: rousing: I’ support the criticism1 levelled, at. Senator Henty by Senator McKenna and’ other’ honorable senators from this. side, of: the chamber. Senator Henty compared, the number’ of passengers carried: in, 1949 by. T.A.A-. with the: number.- carried to-day-i He also com-, pared the- financial, results of: T.A.A.!s operations’ in: 1949 with those of its opera= tions- in; 1961.. He did: that to support -his -submission, that-the: Government had’ not dona anything, to impair the progress, ofl Ti.A’.A’. Senator Vincent admitted in< his speech- that the Government was entitled, to* impair T.A-.A.’s progress: He said: that the purpose of the -legislation was to. hold. back. T.A.Ai Senator; Henty, Senator- Scott- and: Senator- Vincent’ compared 1949 figures with those of the. present day. Theirs, was a fallacious -argument that did not’ convince even those putting it forward. But in case some people were taken in by the . comparison of 1949 figures with those of the present day, let us see what the position is. with, regard to General MotorsHolden’s Limited: Nobody doubts the efficiency of that organization. It cost the General Motors, organization, millions of pounds to put the first’ Holden car on the road in 1949. The company lost money during the tooling-up period. The same situation obtains in any pioneering industry.
Adopting: the arguments put. forward by Senator Henty and Senator Scott, it would be feasible for the Government to argue now that the fact that the General Motors: organization is producing so many more cars, now than it was producing when Labour was in office indicates that the Government has not done anything’ to hamstring the motor industry. But’ the Government cannot’ deny that it has attempted to hamstring the motor industry, because it introduced legislation with the express purpose of hamstringing- the motor industry. If the argument -advanced by the Government in respect of- T.A.A. is- valid, we would expect the same argument to be advanced in respect of General Motors-Holden’s Limited. To- compare the 1949 position- with the present position is odious, but the situation is made much worse because honorable senators opposite cite money returns of 1949- and’ compare them’ with to-day’s: money returns.’ without* explaining what has happened to the value: of money in the meantime. Just one. factor to counter the Government’s argument is that in 1949 in? dustry had not yet got back to peace-time production.
The- Government’s argument reminds me of ‘the- fact that’ mainland China uses 1949 as the starting point for all measurements in time. It refers to 1949 as the year of liberation; and measures- all dates from- that year. Anybody with any sense will recognize that no matter what were the sins of the Chinese government of the day in 1949, it had not had an opportunity then to get China, out. of the troubles- that had beset it during the civil war and the. war with Japan. It is fallacious for China to use 1949 as a~ commencing date from which to measure its progress, just as it. is fallacious for this Government to measure all progress from the time that it. took office. Nevertheless, many honorable senators opposite do that consistently. If they do not do it with their tongues in their cheeks, they do it in the hope- that somebody listening to them- may be taken in. However, I do not th’inK many- people will be taken in by that argument:
In an effort to- justify this legislation, Senator Henty and Senator Vincent said that Great Britain, Canada, and. New Zealand! were looking at the way the twoairline system, operated in Australia with the idea of copying, it, but no indication was given- of the extent to which those countries would copy our system or of the circumstances that existed in those countries. Senator Vincent suggested also that the United States of America was looking at our system. I would like to see a’ United States government with the courage to. try to put. some of the private airlines of that country out of’ business and run a federal airline in competition with- oneprivatelyowned airline:
– Some private airlines in the: United :states are amalgamating now.
– If. private, airlines do. that. kind, of: thing of . their own . accord,, that, is- another matter. I think that the free enterprise Americans would look askance at any suggestion by a federal government that a government airline be set’up’-in competition with private.- airlines:’
I do not think there is any substance in the suggestion that the United States is looking at our system. The United States may have been looking at our system, but not necessarily with any idea of copying it.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) based the whole of his secondreading speech on the assumption that everybody accepted the fact that an agreement was necessary if we were to have free competition between the two airlines in this country. He said -
The Government’s two-airline policy requires a situation in which the airlines operate fleets which are comparable in quality and capacity. Secondly, the fleets must be operated under regulated competition which avoids overlapping of services and wasteful competition with due regard to the interests of the public and a proper relation between earnings and overall costs. Thirdly, the two airlines should, as far as practicable, enjoy comparable cost structures.
That summarizes the basis of the Government’s so-called two-airline policy. Senator McKenna’s speech outlined the Labour Party’s opposition to that policy.
Honorable senators opposite would have served the interests of debate much better if they nad argued the Government’s point of view just as honorable senators on this side of the chamber have argued that competition means straight-out competition between a government airline operated to the best of the ability of its management and an airline operated by private enterprise. The evil that honorable senators opposite seem to see in having a transport monopoly has not eventuated, except perhaps in regard to our railways. I can quite easily understand that, if T.A.A. had been allowed to develop, we may have had only a government-owned airline running inter-state to-day. AnsettA.N.A. may have been put out of the air. For the life of me, I cannot see that that necessarily would have brought any evil in its train. On the contrary, it could have meant cheaper fares and a better service than we have to-day. Although it is easy for some one to argue otherwise, I submit that for a Government to run an airline is not necessarily an evil. If that were an evil, it would be equally wrong for the Government to be operating a railway service between South Australia and Western Australia.
– Senator Ridley said that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), in delivering his speech, referred to the bill for only ten minutes but referred to the remarks of Opposition senators for twenty minutes. I have listened carefully to Senator Ridley, but during the twenty minutes for which he spoke I heard very little reference to the legislation now before us. Rather has he followed the line that has been followed by other honorable senators opposite during this debate. Ever since I became a member of the Senate it has been the practice of our friends opposite, when legislation affecting the airline industry has come before us, to suggest that the Government has been trying to sell out Trans-Australia Airlines. I point out that the Government has adopted a policy which has, gradually but surely, strengthened the Australian airline industry. Senator Ridley said that the Australian Labour Party adopted the policy that the people of this country should own the airlines just as our forefathers owned the railways.
– I did not say that. I said that, if it was evil of the Australian Labour Party to suggest that we should operate only a governmentowned airline, it must have been evil of our forefathers to suggest that they should operate a railway.
– Very few of our railway systems are making a profit. Perhaps if we had only one airline in Australia, as the honorable senator suggests, we would now be heavily in debt instead of having two airlines operating at a profit.
– Did not the Commonwealth Railways make a profit last year?
– That is the only system which did. There are a lot of other railways systems in Australia. Senator Ridley said that T.A.A. would have put Ansett-A.N.A. out of existence if the Government had not interfered. This Government has adopted a two-airline policy. If we had only one airline operating in this country to-day perhaps we would not be getting the service we are now enjoying, and over the years we would probably finish up by showing a loss.
During the period this Government has been in office it has made its policy on civil aviation quite clear. It has followed that policy with determination. Ever since Labour went out of office it has been determined to keep its policy before the people. That policy is the socialization of the airline industry and the establishment of a single government airline. Senator McKenna tried to tell us and the people of Australia that it was not the policy of the Labour Party to socialize the airline industry. In fact, he said that it could not socialize the airline industry. But I agree with Senator Vincent’s statement that the Labour Party, if returned to office, would do its best to see that eventually we had only one airline in Australia. 1 suggest that the fact that T.A.A., since its establishment fifteen years ago, has made outstanding progress shows that our policy has been in the best interests of the country. 1 feel sure members of the Labour Party will agree with that statement. I remind honorable senators opposite that for twelve of the fifteen years during which T.A.A. has made that degree of progress it has been operating under the policies of this Government. Despite that fact, Labour senators come into this chamber and say that the Government is pursuing a policy of discrimination against T.A.A. I ask honorable senators opposite: Looking at T.A.A. today, do you really think that this Government is pursuing a policy of discrimination?
– No, it is not. I believe that what is worrying the Opposition is not that this Government is pursuing a policy of discrimination but that the Government’s two-airline policy has been successful and that, while T.A.A. has been allowed to develop, the Government has allowed and has in fact encouraged another airline, Ansett-A.N.A., to grow to its present stature. If honorable senators opposite should ever regain the treasury bench, they will find it very difficult to convince the people of Australia that the Government should have adopted a different policy.
I want to deal now with a remark made by Senator Kennelly this afternoon. He said that this is a funny government because over a period of a few years it has introduced a number of bills affecting the two airlines of this country. Evidently his point was that in a short space of some ten years the Government had introduced legislation on a number of occasions. However, when Senator McKenna spoke he -wanted to know who gave the Government the idea of introducing legislation to cover a period of fifteen years. Where is the tie-up between these two policies? I point out to Senator Kennelly that the introduction of legislation dealing with airlines embraces the history of the airline industry of this country. The Civil Aviation Agreement Act of 1952 introduced an agreement which formed the basis of the establishment of a two-airline system on the main trunk routes of Australia. It provided also for the purchase of aircraft by Australian National Airways so that the private airline would have aircraft equal in number and of comparative size and capacity to those of Trans-Australia Airlines.
Then in 1957 the Civil Aviation Agreement Act was amended. That measure was introduced because in the interval Ansett Transport Industries had purchased the A.N.A. company and it became necessary for the Government to include the new company in the agreement. The Government also took the opportunity to incorporate in the agreement something which it had in mind, but which it had not incorporated in the agreement. I refer to the principle of rationalization. A rationalization committee was established. It consisted of a chairman, known as a coordinator, who was appointed by the Minister, and, two other members, one of whom was nominated by Ansett Transport Industries and the other by the commission. The job of the committee was to make decisions on matters affecting both airlines. In 1958, the Airlines Equipment Act was passed. Under that act loans were granted to T.A.A. to buy Electra aircraft and authority was given to the Government to guarantee the repayment of loans to AnsettA.N.A. for the purchase of aircraft.
Now we have before the Senate the Airlines Agreement Bill 1961 which extends for a further period of ten years the agreement between Ansett-A.N.A., T.A.A. and the Government. At the same time it makes it possible for the two airlines to prepare for the introduction, on a limited scale at least, of pure jet aircraft on the main trunk routes of this country. I agree with the action taken by the Government because if we are to continue the rate of progress that has been achieved in the past there must be no delay in planning for the introduction of jet aircraft. Not to do so would retard the air services of Australia. I am not alone in that feeling. I have here the leading article of to-day’s “West Australian “ in which the editor says -
It is disappointing to .hear. from Civil Aviation Minister Paltridge that the introduction -of pure jets on domestic lines is not considered practicable before 1964. Even then there are likely to be only a few of them initially available because of the immense cost of re-equipping the .airlines.
The editorial goes on -
In its two-airline policy the Government stands behind both concerns financially and is naturally concerned to eliminate waste.
But for West Australians the rationalization has left only a facade of competition and has made it possible for the West-East service to be conducted mainly with unsuitable aircraft.
As a frequent traveller to the West, I, too, would like, to see the introduction of faster and more modern aircraft, but unlike some people in Western Australia.! realize that a change of this. kind cannot take place overnight, or even within a few months. Any one familiar with the aircraft industry knows that it is a very .costly business to buy a modern aircraft. Furthermore, the operation of pure jets, even on the limited scale .envisaged by the .Government, would involve a large amount of money being spent. Many problems would have to be faced in the re-equipping of. airports from which these jet aircraft would operate, and in providing. facilities to handle the aircraft.
It will also take considerable time to make a decision on which type of aircraft available on the market should be purchased. It will be necessary to purchase the type ; best suited to the conditions under which it will be operating. The aircraft must fulfil the requirements of the Australian air routes, and at the same time they must comply-with the standards laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation. As I said earlier all this cannot be done :in.a day, a week or. even a month. It will take many months of careful planning. Then when .a decision is reached on the type of aircraft to be purchased a considerable time will elapse between the placing of orders and the delivery date , of the aircraft. The. aircraft industry is not like the motor .car industry where you can .walk. into, a shop, pay your, money and take immediate delivery of a new car. After arriving at a decision as to the type of aircraft, an order has to be placed and then you have to take your turn and await the delivery date. So, Sir, as I . said previously, while I am in favour of faster and better aircraft on the route. to the West I realize that many problems are involved.
– Order! In :conformity with the sessional .order .-relating ..to -the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I want to raise a -matter of great public importance. I wish to refer to the resignation of an officer of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Brisbane, by the name of Mr. Roberts. Some publicity has been given to this matter over the past few days. I raise it now because at the moment I happen to have under my notice the cases of dismissed officers of the department. I hasten to say that those cases have no connexion with, and do not bear any resemblance to, the case I want to discuss to-night, but there is sufficient reason for my raising the matter, and it so happens that I had many years in the Postmaster-General’s Department, , some of them in the personnel branch. .So, I know the ‘peculiar restrictions that are placed upon public servants in respect.of the normal processes of expression and the making of representations. Those restrictions are set out ‘ in various statutes, and they. do circumscribe people in certain respects.
As ‘I: see the position, there is a danger of this man being overlooked if the investigation, which I hope will take place into his resignation, produces facts that would not normally apply to a resignation. -Because he has resigned, he is no longer an employee of the department or the Public Service Board. If he was .a permanent officer, he would have come under the jurisdiction .of the board. I do not (know whether he was or not. I believe that the circumstances surrounding this case, call for an inquiry to :ensure .that a_,great injustice has .not been done. -As.I- understand it, his crime was that his- conscience1 was- offended by- duties- that he was forced by senior officers to perform, and he then- committed,the technical error’0 making complaints- to people outside his department. Honorable senators know that a- public servant is one of the few people in the community who are forbidden to approach- a member of Parliament with a complaint;
-Neil’ O’sullivan. - In this case it was not a member of Parliament; it was the press.
– The. honorable senator is getting a. little ahead of me. I am merely drawing an analogy in regard, to the restrictions.
– That will be the last interjection from you; otherwise, I will deal with you if the President does not. You have had your chance. Now keep out. I have been too kind to you in this place over the years.
– I was- saying, that permanent officers of the Public Service have restrictions placed upon them1 that ordinary citizens do not’ have: placed on them. For instance, public servants-are not allowed to approach members of Parliament. I’ have- known public servants, who haveapproached members of Parliament even on minor matters - not by- way of complaint, even in trying to assist the Public Service - and have been rapped over the knuckles fordoing so. I do not agree with that. I do not believe that people who are giving loyal, service should have strictures- such as that placed on them.
As I understand the position.; this man was interviewed by. a detective from, the Postmaster-General’s Department, or a member of the investigation service, as it is called. We must realize that when a person is interviewed by a detective or investigation officer of the department the investigation officer is in a. much stronger position to be. unfair.- or harsh- towards the person he is questioning than is an ordinary detective in a. State police force.
– Or a newspaper reporter.
– This is your second warning.
– Order! Senator Willesee has’ the.’ call.
– The ordinary detective has to appear before a court eventually, and a newspaper reporter is sitting there ready to comment on his evidence. So, a detective has to be. very careful when he is questioning a suspect. The same strictures do not apply to an investigation officer in one of ‘the departments Because usually he does not appear in a case in a civil court, and disciplinary action is taken within the department. Much of that. dis?ciplinary. action is not subject to a right of appeal. Even, if the case finally goes to appeal, it is only within the department, and the ordinary avenues for informing public opinion are not open. Only if civil action were taken by the officer would the investigating officer or Post Office detective be subjected to public, cross-examination by counsel and to press publicity.
In this case, matters- did not come to that because the man has resigned. I understand, that when he was being interviewed, the Crimes. Act was mentioned to him. The reference was- not just to revealing information, to people, outside the department, but to. provisions of the Crimes Act itself, which carry a penalty of two years in jail. We must remember that in this, case we are dealing with a. motor car driver, one. of the lower paid officers who are not required to pass examinations for appointment to, and promotion in, the service. He. was in the fourth division,, which is. one of. the. lower grades in this type of employment. We are not dealing with a- Highly skilled person- who has had to’- pass- examinations, and therefore isskilled in the art of debate and in- conducting himself:when being; cross-examined. In the case of the.- man we; are . discussing, if ha- were threatened with- the; Crimes- Act;, or-‘ even if the: fact that, he might be liable to a.< penalty under: the Crimes Act were mentioned; the: name of that act alone- would, be likely to striketerror into his. heart. A’lso,. I understand: that the specific provision of> the- CrimesAct waa- pointed, out. to him!, and he was told that, he.- might face-: a two-year jail sentence because, allegedly, he had. violated the oath- of secrecy of his- office:
This gentleman has resigned’ and; technically speaking; the department no longer is interested in him. However, I outline these facts tonight because in the welter of charges, and of action and re-action, with the press taking one line and the Postmaster-General already having condemned the press’s approach to this subject, two points of view may be taken, and this person could be overlooked in the general melee.
I am glad that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) is listening to me because he represents the Prime Minister, who administers the Public Service Board. I am not quite sure of the technicalities of this matter. Probably, it is primarily a matter for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which has to make a recommendation to the board. If this man was a temporary officer, the department might have the complete right to hire and fire. If he was not, the Public Service Board would be interested in this matter.
I ask the appropriate Minister to take what I have said to heart, and not to be caught up in the welter of argument and disputation that will arise. I ask him to have a special investigation made not necessarily by officers in Brisbane. The position may warrant sending from Canberra somebody who is used to handling this kind of thing and interviewing public servants. I ask him to do whatever he thinks fit. An investigation might reveal that although this man has resigned a great miscarriage of justice has been allowed to occur. I believe that every honorable senator here to-night would want to see justice done to this man.
– Have you indisputable evidence that the Crimes Act was mentioned?
– I have been informed to that effect. I am asking that an investigation be made. I thank Senator Hannaford for his interjection. Even if the Crimes Act was not mentioned, I am sure the honorable senator will agree that there could have been a miscarriage of justice. The position would be very much worse if a matter such as that was put before the man. I have no indisputable evidence on it. I was not there when the man was crossexamined. I have never spoken to the two people concerned. I could not tell them from any other gentlemen who are unknown to me. The only way I could be certain about this matter is if I had been present. However, I have received certain information, and I believe that it should be investigated. Surely the investigating officer would be able to give evidence on that point. For that reason I ask that an investigation be made into that aspect of the case so that we may rest assured that this man’s resignation was not made under any kind of duress - partial or complete - and that a gross miscarriage of justice has not taken place.
– I am somewhat reluctant to attempt to give a reply to Senator Willesee on this issue, for the simple reason that 1 am not sufficiently well informed on all the points that he has raised to enable me to give an adequate reply. However, there are some points on which I am well informed and in respect of which I shall be quite happy to pass on to him all the information that I have.
The first point I make is that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) had no knowledge of the resignation of Mr. Roberts until he saw a report of the resignation in the press. I assure Senator Willesee, Mr. President - I know he will support me in this - that the Postmaster-General is just as anxious as are you and I that every member of his staff shall receive justice. With that idea in mind, the Postmaster-General, having read of Mr. Roberts’s resignation, forthwith set about making inquiries to ascertain the facts. He was informed officially that Mr. Roberts was employed in the transport section of the department. He was employed as a driver, on a probationary basis. It is true that he passed a technical examination for permanent employment, but the senior medical officer was of the opinion that his physical condition was not entirely satisfactory and he was given a further period of probation. Lest any one should regard cynically my statement that Mr. Roberts’s state of health was not all thai it should be, let me say, in fairness to Mr. Roberts and to the Postmaster-General, that there is ample evidence of Mr. Roberts’s state of health, because he served this country in World War II. and suffered ill effects.
The resignation was entirely voluntary. I have been informed by the PostmasterGeneral that there is no evidence that any pressure was put on Mr. Roberts to tender his resignation. With regard to the accusation concerning a reference to the Crimes Act, at this point of time the PostmasterGeneral has no information about that matter; but honorable senators have my assurance and his assurance that an investigation will be made. I believe that the concern of ail honorable senators - I know it is the concern of the PostmasterGeneral - is that injustice shall not be done to this man, or to any other man. The fact that Mr. Roberts has resigned does not, I understand, preclude him from lodging an application for re-appointment. If he desired his resignation to be reconsidered, I should think that he would have to write to the Public Service Inspector in Brisbane to that effect. His re-employment would then be a matter for determination by the Public Service Board. If Mr. Roberts tendered his resignation hastily, and if he has committed no serious breach of the regulations which govern his employment, he has, I believe, an opportunity and a right to apply for reinstatement.
I emphasize that at this point of time references to pressure tactics and to threats of use of the Crimes Act could be doing this man a great disservice. They could be doing the department a great disservice, because that is not the way in which it operates. I think I should leave the matter there for now. I have no doubt that when the investigations that are to be made have been concluded, the Postmaster-General will be very happy to make the results of those investigations known publicly, in the interests of the department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 October 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19611004_senate_23_s20/>.