Trans-Australia Airlines Museum

ANAC Early Days

Australian National Airways Commission (ANAC)

Prior to World War 2, Australia was one of the world's leading centers of aviation and with a population of about 7 million people, it ranked sixth in the world for scheduled air mileage.

The Regional and Major operators numbered around 16 airlines (with many rural small private operators), and it was expanding faster than the rest of the world.

Australian aviators were recognized as pioneers, whose exploits had been recognized for their inventiveness or extraordinary ventures - (Lawrence Hargrave, Charles Kingsford-Smith, Harry Hawker, Ross and Keith Smith, Lawrence Wackett, Sidney Cotton, and in the medical services field, the founder of the Flying Doctor Service, the Reverend John Flynn).

Governments, irrespective of political leanings, were well aware of the immensity of the uninhabitable deserts that separated the small productive regions, and regarded air transport as a matter of national importance.

The Director General of Civil Aviation, A B Corbett stated, "A nation which refuses to use flying in its national life must necessarily today be a backward and defenceless nation". A lesson learnt with the un-preparedness before WW2.

Australia had recognized the importance of aviation before WW 2. So much so that over half of the airline passenger and freight miles accumulated were subsidized by the government through both direct subsidies and mail contracts.

After Japan's invasion of the islands north of Australia in 1942, civil aviation was sacrificed for military priorities.

By the end of the war, only nine domestic airlines remained consisting of eight smaller regional concerns and ANA.

ANA itself was a conglomerate of smaller airlines that had been consumed by British and Australian shipping companies and had a virtual monopoly on the major trunk routes. They received 85% of all government air transport subsidies.

The Minister for Air in the Chifley Labor government, Arthur Drakeford was concerned for the great pioneers of Australian aviation, realizing that the small pioneering enterprises were disappearing from the register.

Air transport needed to be a public service, like hospitals, the railways or the post office, and if air transport was to be a monopoly it should be one owned by the public and working for the public interest.


Government legislation - the first step in a unique history.

Australian National Airways Bill - In August, 1945, the Federal parliament passed the Australian National Airways Bill, establishing the Australian National Airways Commission (ANAC), charged with constructing a National Air Transport Industry.

The bill declared that the licenses of private operators would lapse for those routes that were adequately serviced by the national carrier, and from this point, air transport in Australia would appear to be a government monopoly.

The Liberal Party backed a legal challenge, supported by the business community, and in December 1945 The High Court ruled that the Commonwealth did not have the power to prevent the issue of airline licenses to private companies, but the government was informed it could set up an airline if it wished, BUT it could not legislate a monopoly.

The press was an extremely vocal opponent of left-leaning governments in Australia, opposing the establishment of a public airline network, and parliamentary debate on the bill was fiery and challenging.

With the Australian National Airways Bill suitably amended to remove the monopoly provisions, the Australian National Airways Commission (ANAC) came into existence on the 8th of February 1946, with Arthur Coles appointed as Chairman.

He was essentially TAA's, and the ANAC's, first employee.

The appointed board of commissioners is outlined on the the ANAC Commissioners page.