Feb 7, 2001

Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill (no. 2) 2000: Second Reading


7 February 2001

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (7.23 p.m.)—I am pleased to support the amendments moved by the shadow minister to the Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2000, which is concerned with CASA and safety in the operation of airports in Australia. Of course, we all know that the situation of CASA and air safety is a mess under this government. Its own appointments have said that it is a mess. Those people who have been put on the board—well-known government supporters such as Dick Smith—have indeed been very critical of the operation of these organisations.

Tonight I particularly want to take the opportunity to express my concern, on behalf of my constituents in Grayndler, about air safety and the operation of Kingsford Smith airport. The Kingsford Smith airport is an airport which has reached its time limit. It is full. Anyone who flies in and out of Sydney airport knows about the time delays, which occur because, frankly, the number of movements is at breaking point. Indeed, I moved a private member’s bill, seconded by the member for Watson, in this House to ensure that there was a cap of 80 movements per hour at Sydney airport. That also resulted in guarantees of slots for regional airlines from New South Wales into Kingsford Smith airport. That was not a technical issue; that was an issue in part about safety. We believe that, when aircraft are flying over the most densely populated area of Australia, that is, the inner suburbs of Sydney, 80 movements are about all that Sydney airport can take. Yet, what we have seen in the past year are numerous breaches of the cap—interestingly enough, not while the Olympics were on—at Sydney airport. I say that to dismiss any potential criticism made by, for example, the Daily Telegraph journalist Piers Akerman who suggested that it was all Olympics related. Indeed, there were more aircraft movements in and out of Sydney airport over the December-January holiday period than there were during the Sydney Olympics. And that says a lot about the pressure which is being placed on Sydney airport.

My concern, as a member of the Sydney Airport Community Forum, is that when we have questioned those people concerned with aviation safety it is apparent that what those bodies do when they look at safety concerns is to take into account the safety of the people in the aircraft; they take no account whatsoever of the safety of people on the ground. God forbid any accident with an aircraft coming down, but if one does come down—and they do, from time to time— better it come down where there are no people than in an area which is the most densely populated in Australia. That is why we have seen the real plan come out with regard to Kingsford Smith airport. No matter how much people might prevaricate over the issue of a second Sydney airport and the need for it—and governments of both persuasions have prevaricated for decades about doing what needs to be done—the reality is that Sydney airport is now at its limit. It is now breaching the cap of 80 movements. Pressure has now been placed on the curfew also, which has been breached at Sydney airport. That is why the government’s absurd decision, which says, `No, we won’t build a second airport for Sydney, but we will reserve the land around Badgerys Creek because we know we will have to do something down the track and, in the meantime, we will stop regional airlines flying in and out of Sydney airport and move them to Bankstown,’ is the worst possible option.

When confronted by this, the National Party representatives in regional New South Wales, including the leader, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, said, `No. We won’t force them to move out of Sydney airport to Bankstown.’ No, of course they won’t—they will just price them out. That is what will occur. That is what was in the briefing given by Bankstown Airport Limited to country federal MPs, state MPs and mayors in January of this year. In spite of the fact there were a number of National Party representatives at that meeting, not one of them brought to the attention of their constituents the fact that they were about to be treated as second-class citizens and discriminated against and moved to Bankstown. The Bankstown airport option is bad for regional New South Wales because it treats them as second-class citizens. It is bad for the people around Sydney airport because it means that jet movements will increase as the propeller and regional flights are moved out. It is bad for the people around Bankstown, including those people in south-western Sydney, who will suffer from aircraft noise.