Issues: Perth City Link project, Federal Labor’s infrastructure investment in WA; Perth Airport; aircraft noise
PAUL MURRAY: Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, has been in town for a couple of days. Yesterday he made an announcement that Airservices Australia which is the air traffic regulator is going to put in four new noise monitoring stations to monitor the noise, obviously, coming from Perth Airport.
There are four already at Guildford, Greenmount, Cannington and Queens Park. The new ones will be at Willetton, Leeming, Canning Vale and Bibra Lake.
The Minister joins us now. Morning, Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Paul.
PAUL MURRAY: If these new monitors find a significant problem, what can you do about it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We can do a number of things. The most obvious is insulation under legislation can be provided for houses or public buildings if they meet a certain criteria in terms of noise levels. There’s a scientific way of measuring it. It’s 25 under the Australian Noise Exposure Forecast for public buildings and 30 for private homes.
But also we can actually check on what is the reality in terms of where aircraft noise is occurring, how severe it is, and allow for that information to be made public so the community can then have a debate and get access to that information.
PAUL MURRAY: There’s a new debate just started up in WA about other runway for Perth Airport. Do you have a view on that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, that’s strongly supported by the WA Government. I talked to the airport CEO, Brad Geatches, yesterday about that and it’s envisaged that that would be proposed to be submitted to the federal government around about 2014 which is when their new airport master plan is due. Whether it’s needed before then or not is obviously a subject of debate.
They are doing some things that can expand the capacity of the airport such as putting simple measures in, like putting run-off lanes to get off the main tarmac at an angle rather than at 90 degrees, which means the planes can get off quicker and you can increase the capacity at the airport.
We know that the peak period in the morning in particular, but also in the afternoon between four and seven, there is congestion at the airport and there are delays.
PAUL MURRAY: There’s a general view, I think, around town that the airport’s corporation has run substantially behind demand for quite a long time now and there’s a fair bit of frustration about it. Do you hear those complaints?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I certainly do and I think many of those complaints are fair. I think the airport in the last couple of years has lifted its game. I think the new management is certainly performing better.
There’s enormous pressure. I mean, the growth over the last five years in flights is 40 per cent. Now, that is unprecedented anywhere in Australia in our history and so that puts pressure on.
I think in the past, a lot of the works that were done on the land were such that aviation wasn’t given the appropriate priority and I’ve changed that, through changing the legislation after I commissioned the Aviation White Paper in 2009.
What happened when many of the airports were leased was that the owners saw a chance of a windfall gain, for the fact that it was Commonwealth land that could sidestep state and local approvals. At Perth, of course, we have brickworks on site and there’s other activity there as well.
I think airports are primarily for aviation and part of the mistake in Perth has been not prioritising that in the past. I’m pretty confident that the current operators of the airport are prioritising that but the demand is growing very fast. It’s one of the things that’s putting pressure on this great state of WA.
PAUL MURRAY: It does appear in their early days running the airport that they put a heavy emphasis on getting outside revenue streams from developing their land there rather than their airport and they lost focus at that stage.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, there’s no doubt that that occurred and it didn’t just occur here in Perth, it occurred in a number of other places as well. The location of direct factory outlets which were terrific if people wanted to shop, but people couldn’t get access to the airport.
At Brisbane for a while there, there was a roundabout at Brisbane that was in constant slow motion because of the other activity at the airport. I’ve changed that through the legislation and I’m insisting in any master plan process that we get the planning right in terms of prioritising aviation, that we get much better community consultation through the establishment of formal community consultation groups that involve local government and involve local residents.
Airports do create noise like other bits of infrastructure, but they are an important part of our economy, and we need to make sure they operate to the extent that they can in harmony with the local community rather than against it.
PAUL MURRAY: Anthony, there was an amazing story in The West a couple of weeks ago that the Perth Airport actually apparently gets more noise complaints than any other airport in Australia. You know, some bloke apparently put in 800 in one day which is quite extraordinary. But they do seem to come apparently from a very small number of complainants.
Has it got to the stage where you can’t take complaints like that seriously?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think if someone makes 800 complaints in a day then that probably says more about them than about the airport. But you know, we have to take this seriously. One of the reasons why we are putting in the noise monitoring is that that produces factual information.
Everyone thinks they’re sort of affected, and if you’re affected by aircraft noise obviously that’s real to you. But we can have a scientific comparison of exactly what the noise levels are, what the frequency is by having this noise monitoring. That’s one of the reasons why we do it.
I mean, I live very close to Sydney Airport. I have a guy who every day faxes me a full read-out of the noise monitor that he has on his house. He does nothing else; that’s his life.
And you know, I just have to deal with that. I’m not quite sure what he expects me to do with this fax read-out every day, but you know, it can really impinge on people’s lives.
Here in Perth of course there’s no curfew, but that’s important as well for the economy of due to the time differences. And we need to make sure that we also deal with the land transport issues around Perth Airport. That’s why the Commonwealth is putting such a large amount of money into the WA Gateway project. We see that as an absolute priority that’s part of our record infrastructure investment we’re making here in Perth and in the west.
PAUL MURRAY: You’re going to have a look at the Perth City Link project today, and I think the feds are putting in around about $240 million from memory, into that project.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We are.
PAUL MURRAY: I know it’s one of the ones that you’re with Troy Buswell about at the moment; you’re saying that you’re not getting enough credit for you input into that project – your cash input into it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think these things will get sorted out. We’ve had some issues. I get on quite well with Troy personally, but we do want to ensure that we have you know, joint media releases and that we have joint credit. I’m not saying it’s just the Commonwealth. In this case it’s two thirds Commonwealth, one third Western Australia.
But there have been a couple of issues with major launches made on some of the works on the Great Eastern Highway et cetera, where the Commonwealth haven’t been informed, and whereby if you had a look at what the media looks like and some of the websites, you’d think it was all State Government money and it had nothing to do with us.
PAUL MURRAY: It’s a contractual obligation, isn’t it, when the feds fund something?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is. It’s part of the memorandum of understanding. It’s not onerous. It’s exactly the same agreement that was done by the Howard Government under their former AusLink program. And really, what we’re after is just due recognition; nothing more, nothing less.
We’ve put $3.7 billion into WA infrastructure through the Nation Building Program. Just about double the infrastructure spend per person. It was $150, it’s now – per head, it’s now over $260.
This year, we’re injecting a billion dollars into WA in projects from the Great Northern Highway up at Port Hedland right down to Esperance, the port access road down there. And of course, we’re investing here in Perth through projects like the Gateway project and this City Link project which I am looking forward to going down into the tunnel in about an hour’s time.
PAUL MURRAY: It’s a good return of course from all that revenue we send to Canberra every year, Anthony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Absolutely. WA are making a major contribution as a driver of the national economy, and WA’s entitled to see that returned. And that’s why I want to work with the WA Government – whoever’s in government – to ensure that we work together on these infrastructure issues. I don’t think people want to see politics played with these issues – they just want governments to get on with the job.
And you know, yesterday when I arrived into Perth, it was fantastic, actually seeing disruption I know at the Great Eastern Highway, the work that’s being done. But won’t it be a much better entry into this great city once that’s completed?
PAUL MURRAY: Good to talk to you Anthony, thanks a lot.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks, Paul.
PAUL MURRAY: Anthony Albanese, the Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister.