Wednesday, 13 September 2006
Questions without Notice
Sydney Airport: Regional Airlines
My question is to Senator Ian Campbell, the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Is the minister aware that the Productivity Commission has recommended that landing slots at Sydney airport currently reserved for regional airlines on weekday mornings should be replaced with flights from international or domestic airlines to allow an additional 4,000 passengers to move through Sydney airport? Does the government support this recommendation? Does the government further accept the commission’s advice that the current arrangements represent, and I quote, ‘a significant efficiency loss’ and should be changed? Isn’t it a fact that the only other Sydney airport that regional airlines could fly into is Bankstown airport? Can the minister rule out diverting these regional passenger flights to Bankstown airport?
I thank Senator O’Brien for a question that is clearly very important not just to the users of Sydney airport but also, because of the pivotal nature of Sydney in Australia’s aviation system, to all Australians. The Productivity Commission report has just been released publicly. It is a draft report. The public have been invited to examine the report and to make comment either in writing or through public hearings, which will be held late in October of this year. The commission is seeking responses by no later than 13 October, so I encourage anyone who has an interest in the important issues that Senator O’Brien has raised to take that opportunity to make their feelings known on these issues. The commission has determined that, at this stage, the public hearings to discuss the draft report will be held in Melbourne on Monday, 24 October and then in Sydney on Monday, 30 October. So those are two dates which people with concerns should note. Following the public hearings, the commission’s final report will be prepared and will be forwarded to the Australian government by 6 January 2007.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the expeditious response to the Productivity Commission’s report on the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, why does the government not immediately rule out the option canvassed by the Productivity Commission to move regional flights from Kingsford Smith airport in the morning peak period? Can the minister explain what the effect will be on regional passengers of forcing regional airlines into using so-called shoulder landing periods? Will the government commit to putting the wellbeing of regional Australians ahead of corporate greed, stand up to Max Moore-Wilton, and rule out betraying regional passengers now and not wait for this sham of a process to conclude?
I think anyone who describes the process that I just outlined as anything other than sensible and robust, allowing full engagement by the public, really does not understand it. This government stands on its record of supporting communities in regional areas. The Labor Party focus on the cappuccino strip in the inner suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. This government has invested very heavily in regional areas. The Labor Party can be judged on their support for regional communities by their focus on abolishing programs like the Regional Partnerships program. We know that they want to abolish the Regional Partnerships program and that they want to abolish the Natural Heritage Trust. They do not like regional Australians. They do not like people who live in remote Australia. To show some interest by raising this scare campaign will bring further scorn on the Labor Party, more than they are getting already in regional Australia.