PROSPECTS SEEM BRIGHTER FOR US-AUSTRALIA AIR TREATY

PROSPECTS SEEM BRIGHTER FOR US-AUSTRALIA AIR TREATY

The long-running battle between U.S. and Australian aviation officials could be resolved this year.

Because of an apparent determination on both sides, it now appears possible for a new commercial air agreement between the two countries to be negotiated.Following recent discussions in Washington between U.S. Secretary of Transportation James Burnley and the Australian transport and communications minister, Sen. Gareth Evens, a new round of negotiations will start next month.

Sen. Evans said past differences would be put aside and the bilateral negotiations would recommence on a fresh basis.

Australian officials have long accused U.S. aviation officials of frustrating the negotiations and refusing to make concessions.

Late last year, John Ward, deputy chief executive of Australia's government-owned international airline Qantas, accused macho elements in the U.S. administration of using economic muscle and of being unduly aggressive in efforts to frustrate the negotiations which have been under way for over two years.

At stake is a new air services agreement to replace the existing 41-year- old bilateral treaty.

Australian officials have long complained that the present treaty discriminates against Qantas.

They have stated that the agreement was fair and equitable when it was negotiated at a time when Qantas competed only with Pan American on the trans- Pacific route, because both airlines operated as international carriers without domestic networks.

They have stressed that the purpose of the agreement was to promote flights for travel between the two countries and that these flights were to be closely matched by demand to ensure regularity and commercial viability.

But now Qantas is competing against two U.S. giants, United and Continental, with large U.S. traffic bases which give them advantages in fares and destinations.

In addition, Australian officials have contended that while the South Pacific route between Australia and North America is vital for Qantas, it is not essential to the viability of United nor Continental.

They have accused the American airlines of dumping surplus capacity on the route: a move which has little effect on their viability, but which creates serious problems for Qantas.

Prospects for this year's negotiations were boosted by the U.S. government's recent approval of leasing arrangements under which Qantas will be able to offer passengers from Australia flights beyond the U.S. West Coast to New York aboard American Airlines aircraft.

Under the leasing arrangements, Qantas passengers will fly on American Airlines scheduled flights after entering the United States, but will remain under the control of Qantas.

The seat leasing arrangements between Qantas and American Airlines had been blocked by U.S. authorities since last June following the collapse last May of the bilateral treaty talks.