Aug 11, 2011

Address to the Australian Mayoral Aviation Council’s 29th Annual Conference

Address to the Australian Mayoral Aviation Council’s 29th Annual Conference

Convention Centre, Hobart

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure & Transport

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

11 August 2011

Good morning everyone.

It’s good to see so many familiar faces from my attendance at the 2009 AMAC Annual Conference in Coolum.

And it’s great to be here in Hobart our southern-most capital.

I was interested to learn that the great nation builder, Ben Chifley, was behind Hobart’s first serious airport.

He allocated three quarters of a million pounds in 1948 for an airport big enough to support the heavy aircraft serving our Antarctic base.

I rather like the words of my counterpart at the time, the Honourable Arthur Samuel Drakeford, who said about the new airport for Hobart:

“Aircraft of the largest type now in use by British-speaking peoples – The Lincoln – as well as the DC-4 type, and if necessary, Constellations, will be able to land and take off with ease”.

When that airport became the regular public transport airport in 1956, it processed 120,086 passengers in its first year.

Now, of course, Hobart Airport services both domestic and international travellers and is the second fastest growing airport in Australia, with close to two million passengers each year.

 

AVIATION WHITE PAPER

When I spoke to you a couple of years ago, the focus of my address was the development of the Aviation White Paper Flight Path to the Future.

It is Australia’s first ever national aviation policy.

From the early days of flight, Australians have been at the forefront of aviation.

But we have also had an ad hoc ‘wing and a prayer’ attitude to tackling national aviation issues.

I was determined to change that and develop a comprehensive approach to Aviation policy that would serve Australia for the long term.

The White Paper has now been in place for 18 months and is widely acknowledged by peak international organisations as world’s best practice.

It is being looked at as a model around the world.

What it contains is a comprehensive approach to aviation policy based on the premise that aviation is central to Australia’s economic development.

What we now have is one, coherent, forward-looking statement that draws together all the strands of aviation policy.

Today I’d like to bring you up to date with progress on its recommendations and how the paper’s objectives will drive Australian aviation in the future.

I am happy to report that in the 18 months since its release, almost every major policy initiative in the White Paper has either been fully implemented or is well down the path to completion.

Major work has been undertaken in the priority areas of safety, security and airport planning.

But, rather than go through absolutely everything and run the risk of annoying the luncheon chef with a late sit down, I’ll go to those areas I believe are particularly important.

We have invested heavily to the tune of $90 million over four years to strengthen CASA’s ability to ensure a safer industry.

We have provided a further $200 million for better screening and security and other aspects of our security package.

We have liberalised international air services agreements and expanded capacity to the Middle-East, Indonesia and China.

We have allocated $26 million in this year’s Budget for remote airports to help councils and others undertake life-saving upgrades at airstrips.

This brings our total investment in remote aviation to over $93 million.

We have introduced a range of initiatives to better manage the impact of aircraft noise on local communities.

For instance, we now have the country’s first ever Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, Ron Brent who will be addressing you this afternoon.

Ron is working hard to improve the way Airservices Australia investigates, responds and manages complaints about aircraft noise.

We have introduced planning committees and community forums to better manage and address community concerns around aircraft noise.

We have implemented new regulations to restrict the operation of noisy jets from Australia’s major airports.

I know many people in this room would remember the regular 727-200 service that operated between Sydney and Auckland until we stopped it last September.

We have also put in place a joint Commonwealth / NSW Government study to looking specifically at the issue of aviation capacity in Sydney.

It will help us to determine what infrastructure will be needed to service travellers in the long-term.

That study will be finalised later this year.

 

PRODUCTIVITY GAINS

Turning to productivity, we should not underestimate the role the White Paper and the aviation industry is playing to drive productivity gains across the economy.

These gains are key to maintaining our place in the fastest growing and most dynamic region in the world.

We know that airports drive long-term economic growth and employment.

The aviation industry is worth billions of dollars a year.

It directly employs some 50,000 people and indirectly, ten times that number.

Many of those jobs go to residents of the suburbs directly surrounding airports.

And despite an unsettled global economy, the Australian aviation sector is forecasting significant passenger increases of about four per cent a year into the future.

 

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Airports, governments and local communities all share an interest in ensuring the aviation industry continues to perform well.

For this most fundamental of reasons, the Government is committed to balancing the needs of airport development with the needs of communities near airports.

I know that this is an issue close to your hearts so let me update you on what we are doing to improve engagement with communities and local councils.

We have passed amendments to the Airports Act to give a greater voice to local communities at our 19 Federally-leased airports.

There are new consultative arrangements in place at these airports – we have Planning Coordination Forums and Community Aviation Consultation Groups.

These groups allow airport operators, nearby residents, local authorities, airport users and other stakeholders to exchange information about airport operations and their impact on neighboring communities.

In the past, communities and local councils were rarely informed about proposed developments or their short or long-term impacts.

In particular, the Planning Coordination Forums will help improve planning consistency between airport land and that beyond their perimeters.

From last December, new airport master plans must also include surface vehicle access plans to show how they are addressing congestion and future traffic flows.

Another important change to the Act is that any new work at airports with a significant community impact will now require a Major Development Plan.

This requirement is in addition to the previous $20 million threshold and the environmental impact triggers that are already in place.

We have also established the National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group to bring together all levels of government to create a framework of land use planning and off-airport development.

This group is chaired by my department and has been meeting for just over a year now.

I understand draft guidelines have been agreed upon for safety issues such as wildlife hazard management, intrusions into protected airspace, wind turbine farms and lighting distractions.

These guidelines are being tested with a number of local councils right now, to test their workability.

Thank you to AMAC for your help in getting the testing off the ground.

Progress hasn’t been as simple in the area of noise-sensitive development around airports.

State and local government planners need to take aircraft noise into account in sensitive areas around airports, particularly if this affects plans to extend or build new housing developments.

However, we need to be sure that airports have the capacity to operate as fully as possible, not just today but well into the future.

Over the next few months I will be looking for support and leadership from both state and local government colleagues to ensure we get the balance right for everyone.

On the matter of airport noise, I am delighted to see that our new Ombudsman is making real improvements in this area.

He has already delivered a valuable review into how Airservices handles noise complaints.

I have been very clear with Airservices that I expect it to pay very close attention to the way it engages with communities around airports.

I have emphasised the need for it to inform everyone well in advance of major changes to air traffic management.

The introduction of performance based navigation capabilities, for example, known as Required Navigation Performance or RNP, is something that needs to be done right.

Yes – we know the new technologies will deliver efficiency gains for industry and improve safety.

But it is a priority for me that these systems are used to improve noise outcomes for people living near airports.

 

CONCLUSION

Finally, when I am faced each day with the complexity of the challenges facing the air sector, I often think of the US Secretary of Defense, Neil McElroy who took up his position in 1957 just days after the Soviets successfully launched the first sputnik.

“In the space age, he said, man will be able to go around the world in two hours – one hour for flying and one hour to get to the airport.”

Too often we have viewed airports as islands without proper consideration for related land transport and the communities around the airport.

The facts are that aviation lies at the core of our success as a productive and connected nation.

And all of you here today are contributing to our efforts to help our airports work better, both for travellers and for the millions of Australians who live near them.

I thank you for that.

[ENDS]