Dec 16, 2009

Transcript of speech to the National Press Club, Canberra

Transcript of speech to the National Press Club, Canberra

Launch of the Aviation White Paper

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Welcome to the Launch of “Flight Path to the Future” – Australia’s first ever National Aviation Policy White Paper.

It’s been a long time coming.

From the beginning, Australia has been at the forefront of aviation.

Indeed, in just 3 months we will mark the 100th anniversary of the first controlled flight in Australia.

It will be a time for reflection on the critical role Aviation has played in our history.

Reflection on technology – the progression from Lawrence Hargrave’s box kite to the Airbus A380.

Reflection on economic activity – as QANTAS approaches its 90th birthday.

Reflection on human achievement – the feat of Keith and Ross Smith who in 1919 linked Australia with the UK by air for the first time – after 28 days at an average speed of just 85 miles per hour.

The feat of Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm, who in 1928 opened the air route between Australia and the United States, in their aircraft the Southern Cross.

And giants of aviation Bert Hinkler, Norman Brearley, Hudson Fysh, P.G. Taylor and Nancy-Bird Walton.

Reflection on policy development – nation building under Chifley with the nationalisation of Qantas and the establishment of TAA.

Duopoly through the two-airline policy under Menzies.

And the start of the contemporary era, competition, deregulation and consolidation under Hawke and Keating.

This sense of history is important. You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.

Now is the time to also be looking forward to the future.

It is time to do more than have an ad hoc approach to aviation issues as they arise.

Australia needs a comprehensive aviation framework that brings together all aspects of aviation policy into a single, coherent and forward looking statement.

It is surprising that no Government has previously outlined a medium to long term Aviation Strategy before now.

Indeed, to do so is a risk which some have advised against given that politicians can be attracted to restricting themselves to the electoral timeframe.

This risk averse strategy was perhaps best paraphrased by Spike Milligan:

“We have no plan, nothing can go wrong”.

Frankly, the times deserve and the times demand better.

The Government’s aim is to give industry the certainty and incentive to plan and invest for the long term, to maintain and improve aviation safety and security and to give clear commitments to travellers and airport users, and the communities affected by aviation activity.

The White Paper contains over 130 policy initiatives.

“Flight Path to the Future” is a comprehensive approach to aviation policy which starts with the premise that aviation has a central role in Australia’s economic development, in addition to its’ role in connecting Australians with each other and the world.

As a huge island, with major distances separating us from our own population centres, our tourism markets and our trading partners, we perhaps rely on aviation more than just about any other nation on earth.

For instance, in the last financial year our domestic airlines carried 50 million people, almost triple the 17 million carried just two decades ago.

No fewer than 23 million aircraft journeys were made to and from Australia, including 99 per cent of all tourism visits, up from just 7.9 million just two decades before.

The Melbourne – Sydney route has for many years been in the top bracket of world air routes for passenger volume.

For the month of July this year, it was the 7th busiest in the world with around 715,000 passengers.

The Sydney-Brisbane route was the 15th busiest in the world with 430,000 passengers.

Today, the industry employs 50,000 people directly and supports another 500,000 indirectly.

It contributes nearly $6.3 billion to the national economy.

While it’s impossible to quantify it with certainty, we all understand that without our aviation industry we’d be a far more closed, insular and poorer place.

Aviation has helped make us what we are.

As the Minister responsible, I think it’s a reasonable aspiration for our aviation industry to be better than or the equal of any in the world when it comes to safety, competitiveness, planning, training, regulation and environmental sustainability.

As our population grows, and the pressures on aviation become greater and the challenges more complex, policy needs to move up a gear.

Aviation policy needs to integrate more fully with other parts of public policy – because what goes on in our skies is increasingly affected by what happens on the ground around our airports.

Consider the complexity of the new aviation environment.

  • In the wake of September 11, safety and security must be at the forefront of our minds
  • Our airports, once the grass fields Kingsford Smith landed his battered planes on, are now critical employment generators and part of an inter-connected transport infrastructure system, and must be considered as part of the urban policy framework.
  • The aircraft that land on them are much more complex and expensive to purchase, maintain and run.

The latest Boeing 747 has six million separate parts, 274 kilometres of wiring and costs about $250 million.

  • And, of course, aviation must play its part in tackling climate change.

Today it contributes two per cent of all Australian greenhouse gas emissions – a small proportion but a significant one that is set to rise, unless we become smarter, cleaner and greener about the way we fly.

The whole aviation system has become too complex and inter-connected to leave its’ efficient functioning to chance.

We need to get every part of this complex system right and get them right together.

We must take a strategic approach to anticipate the expected trends in passenger growth, technological evolution, airline financing, security, urban growth and environmental sustainability.

We must get the regulatory and planning environment right so our airlines and associated industries can prosper over the next decade and even beyond to 2030.

Today I want to briefly outline some of the initiatives contained in the four sections of “Flight Path to the Future”:

  • Ensuring aviation contributes to future economic development
  • Enhancing safety and security
  • Improving planning and infrastructure
  • Promoting sustainability – reducing the impact of aviation on the environment

Aviation and economic development

The White Paper endorses the competition-based approach commenced by the Hawke Government almost twenty years ago.

We want the Australian public to be able to take advantage of increased choice, whether traveling domestically or abroad.

We will of course be maintaining fully deregulated internal markets and the open investment regime that goes with them.

The Government will also be pursuing a new generation of liberalised air service agreements with like-minded partners that will go beyond the traditional exchange of traffic rights to include provisions on open capacity, safety, security, the environment, competition and investment.

The Australia US Open Skies Air Services agreement was finalised last year and has led to a doubling of carriers and significant benefit to consumers.

We are progressing negotiations on a comprehensive agreement with the European Union.

To benefit regional tourism, the Government will encourage international airlines to increase services to our secondary international gateways such as Cairns, Darwin and Broome.

Australia will offer foreign airlines unlimited access to secondary gateway markets – airports other than Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – and offer improved access to major destinations for those international flights which go through tourist venues such as Cairns.

We will retain the basic restriction of 49 percent on foreign investment in Australian international airlines to ensure they remain majority Australian controlled.

But we will remove the secondary restrictions applying only to Qantas preventing overseas individuals and foreign airlines holding more than 25 per cent and 35 per cent ownership

This will increase Qantas’ ability to compete for capital and to take opportunities to form strategic partnerships in an increasingly globalised industry.

The Government will support better air access to regional and remote locations by reorganising and better targeting Commonwealth assistance for remote air services and airports.

We will consolidate the Remote Area Services Subsidy Scheme, the Remote Aerodrome Inspection Program, the Remote Aerodrome Safety Program and the Remote Aviation Infrastructure Fund into a single program.

These are important programs providing support for air services and aviation infrastructure in the most remote parts of Australia, where aviation provides access to important social and health services as well as delivering essential mail and supplies.

These programs will be better integrated through common administrative arrangements and the Government has already moved to put these arrangements in place.

We will refine the Airservices Enroute Charge to provide assistance where it is most needed.

The Government will maintain the regional slots and pricing arrangements for regional airlines at Sydney Airport.

Aviation isn’t just about the major commercial airlines.

The Government is committed to growth in general and sports aviation.

CASA will establish a sport and recreational policy and strategic framework and a Sport Aviation Office.

Many issues have arisen from non aeronautical developments at airports, an issue of particular concern to the GA sector.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe airports are for aviation.

The Government will work with the States to ensure that aviation activity is protected from inappropriate development around our airports.

The Government has committed to long term funding principles for CASA.

This includes committing to continued public funding for regulatory functions and enforcement and ensuring that all revenue raised from the aviation fuel excise will be returned to CASA for safety regulation.

I can announce today that we will provide an additional $3.8 million for CASA to improve oversight of foreign operators in Australia, overseas aircraft maintenance by Australian operators and also the growing helicopter sector.

The Government has also determined it will cap CASA’s direct regulatory charges to the industry in real terms for at least 5 years.

A skilled workforce is an essential precondition for the industry’s success, and aviation will benefit from the major increases in training places including through the Productivity Places Program, student assistance through expanded access to VET Fee Help and the expanded role given to Industry Skills Councils by the Government.

Consumer satisfaction is central to the success and sustainability of the industry.

New Government initiatives for airline consumer charters, an airline industry ombudsman, higher compensation payments for the families of victims of accidents, and the release of Disability Access Facilitation Plans will be directed towards addressing major consumer concerns.

Safety and security…

Safety and security will remain the number one priority for the Government and our aviation industry. Full stop.

The Government will ensure Australia’s safety and regulatory agencies remain world leaders, take into account international best practice and adopt technologies that improve safety and work with industry to implement them.

Australia needs a forward-looking air traffic policy, and “Flight Path to the Future” sets out the strategic directions that will provide a sound basis for planning, air space reform and investment decisions about air traffic control.

With $900 million planned to be invested in air traffic management technology over the next five years, it is a complex and expensive part of the industry.

By 2020, Australia will have moved to a national ground and satellite based network of air traffic management, providing an unprecedented level of communications, navigation and surveillance coverage.

We will have aligned our airspace administration with proven international systems, such as those in operation in the US.

Satellite systems will improve air navigation to meet future demands.

This is not just pie in the sky.

It is already happening.

Airservices Australia’s $68million Telecommunications Infrastructure Network Replacement project is an Australia-wide program, which will provide greater capability for surveillance and communication services.

This is being finalised right now.

Next week, 28 Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) ground stations will be fully commissioned, resulting in Australia becoming the first nation in the world to achieve radar-like coverage of aircraft operations across all continental airspace.

This initiative will mean that for the first time, Airservices will have a complete surveillance picture of Australian airspace, delivering greater safety and operational efficiencies.

The Government will also take initiatives to provide much greater harmonisation of civil and military air traffic management and technology.

This is common sense and will allow for significant economies of scale for the upgrades of infrastructure, as well as skills development.

The number of 24 hour restricted Defence areas has already been reduced from 81 to 15 and further initiatives will build on this.

The new governance and funding arrangements in place for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau will now allow CASA to focus on its core job of regulating airline safety.

We have already established an expert Board for CASA chaired by Allan Hawke and confirmed the ATSB’s independence by establishing it as a distinct statutory authority.

While maintaining current security arrangements at airports, we will reform some of the existing arrangements in light of recent experience and expert advice.

The Government will reform the list of prohibited items for passengers to carry onto aircraft so we can ensure a better focus on real threats.

For example the idea that nail clippers or knitting needles are a bigger threat to airline security than the metal forks which are handed out with meals fails the common sense test, and distracts security staff from looking for items of much greater risk.

Proper cutlery will be available on planes as it is in most other parts of the world including the USA, Europe and Israel.

The Government will introduce more consistent targeting of security measures, through the extension of passenger and checked baggage screening to more turbo-prop and charter aircraft based upon the weight of the aircraft.

We will also strengthen the Aviation Security Identification Card regime and expand Australia’s cooperative program of visits to high risk, last port of call airports.

Future airport planning…

The third area of the White Paper is improving future airport planning.

We have to plan for our airports to grow in line with population and air travel increases.

The public rightly demands far more detail and transparency when it comes to airport development, and especially when it comes to the effects of aviation on communities close to our airports.

Better planning is essential – it is something we simply can’t ignore.

Aviation accessibility and planning are major issues for the Commonwealth’s urban planning policies.

The White Paper has initiatives for a more open and transparent planning process for our existing airports, involving all levels of government and giving new consultation processes to affected local communities.

We have to make sure communities are protected, and that Greenfield sites or industrial areas under existing flight paths are not developed into housing.

The Government will work with States to develop a national land use planning regime near airports and under flight paths, to minimise sensitive developments being located in areas affected by aircraft operations.

Planning Coordination Forums will be established for each capital city airport to improve the links between airport planning and State Government planning.

Airports need to work better with State Governments, and vice versa.

Improved Master Plan and Major Development Plan processes will ensure better planning for airports and those who live around them.

In future, airport Master Plans will have to include ground transport plans, and there will be much closer consultation with local communities about developments, especially non-aeronautical developments like shops and business parks.

Communities near airports are too often ignored, or not properly taken into account when planning decisions are made.

The development of airports has a substantial benefit for local communities, with jobs and investment in transport infrastructure.

But, this development should not leave communities with unreasonable disruptions.

The tension between community and airport needs will never be completely resolved, but it needs to be better balanced.

To help lock-in ongoing consultation about airport development, formalised Community Aviation Consultation Groups will be established at airports.

I turn now to the vexed issue of Sydney’s aviation needs.

The simple fact is that the Sydney region will need a second airport.

I can announce that the Australian and NSW Governments have today established a joint planning taskforce which will identify strategies and locations to meet the additional aviation capacity which the Sydney region needs.

It will also examine the future use of the Badgerys Creek site which now that the Government has ruled it out as a site for the second airport, can be a driver of future economic and employment opportunities in Western Sydney.

The second airport in Sydney cannot be discussed in isolation to the planning of Sydney’s future urban growth.

The taskforce will link aviation infrastructure planning for the Sydney region to land use and transport infrastructure planning and investment strategy.

This involves hard decisions and action.

We have to get it right.

For our capital city airports in particular the impact of aircraft noise on surrounding communities is an issue which has created increasing concern.

This is a legitimate issue from both perspectives.

Airports are critical economic infrastructure which must operate in a modern economy, but residents have a legitimate expectation that every effort will be made to minimise disruption from aircraft noise.

The Government will regulate to stop older, noisy aircraft such as hush kitted Boeing 727’s flying over residential areas.

An Aircraft Noise Ombudsman will be established within Airservices’ Australia to oversee the handling of aircraft noise enquiries, review noise complaints handling and make recommendations for improvements where necessary.

The Aircraft Noise Ombudsman will also monitor Airservices’ consultation arrangements and presentation of information with a view to improving transparency and the flow of information to the community.

Aviation and Sustainability…

The fourth and last emphasis of the White paper is the very topical one of reducing the impact of aviation on the environment.

There are a range of practical measures we can take to achieve these necessary reductions, such as using more fuel-efficient aircraft and better air traffic management to shorten flights.

These will have a positive effect on Australia’s environmental efforts in the coming years.

To provide a further economic incentive to invest in lower polluting technologies and processes, the Government included domestic aviation in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation that we will reintroduce to Parliament in 2010.

The Government will also continue to work through the International Civil Aviation Organization to establish a framework for the treatment of international aviation emissions that can reduce carbon pollution without unfairly disadvantaging Australia’s international airlines.

Unlike the climate change deniers on Tony Abbott’s frontbench, the Government understands that we must be engaged in the international debate and action to combat dangerous climate change, including action in the transport sector.

Conclusion

Given its role in Australia’s national development – one almost unparalleled in importance in any other country – it’s hard to believe Australia has never had a comprehensive national aviation policy until today.

“Flight Path to the Future” provides industry with the certainty to plan and invest for the long term, to maintain and improve our excellent safety record, and gives commitments to airport operators and users, as well as communities living near airports.

Since I released the Green Paper last year the world aviation industry has been drastically affected as the movement of people and goods has fallen so dramatically.

Some 40 airlines have collapsed or gone into bankruptcy.

Australia’s aviation sector has been more resilient than most, reflecting the relatively strong performance of the Australian economy and an underlying strength in our domestic industry.

There are signs of growth including year on year growth for September 2009 growing by 11.3% for international and 2.3% for domestic.

Whilst there will be setbacks, there is no doubt the trend growth in aviation activity is a challenge for Government to work with the industry and community to get the planning right.

“Flight Path to the Future” is the end result of a major and lengthy consultation process.

For the first time the Australian Government has set out a vision and detailed objectives for this industry which will form the basis of our policies and administration of aviation

— A safer, more secure, growing industry that supports our trade, business and social connections and employs more Australians.

I’m confident that the broad approach it outlines will have the general support not only of the airline industry, but also the people who really matter – the broader community.

ENDS