Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 September 2018


Airports Amendment Bill 2018; Second Reading

11:10 am

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

The Airports Amendment Bill 2018 amends the Airports Act 1996 to streamline processes for the development at and around federally leased airports. The Commonwealth is the consent authority for major developments at airports, which is unusual for infrastructure projects. Nineteen of the 21 federally leased airports are required to submit a master plan every five years for approval by the minister. Each master plan sets out strategic development over a 20-year period. The master plan process requires community consultation. Specific major projects require federal approval or a separate major development plan.

In its original form, the bill made the following changes: all airports will be required to submit master plans, which will be removed from a five-year cycle to an eight-year cycle; an updated Australian noise exposure forecast will be required for each of the master plans; there will be a money trigger for the separate major development plans that will arise; there will be 15 days for the minister to consider reduced consultation periods for the major plans with deemed approval if that time frame is not met; there will be a proposal to enable the minister to extend, more than once, the period during which major developments are required to be substantially completed; and, finally, airport operators will be allowed to notify the minister of exceptional circumstances that mean a major development cannot proceed. The government claimed that these changes removed inefficient outcomes and onerous administrative burdens for the industry.

This bill is being debated at a time of considerable development at our nation's major airports. It also occurs at a time of considerable growth in air transport. Over the past 20 years, international passenger movement has grown at an annual average rate of some 4.5 per cent. That is slightly above the GDP growth in aviation. Labor has made it very clear that we support broad consultation with local communities, proper assessments of community impacts and reasonable mitigation measures to reduce those impacts when it comes to the question of airport development. We've had some concerns about the original form of this bill, but the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Mr McCormack, was prepared to work with the shadow minister to resolve these issues in a bipartisan manner and make this a better bill. Firstly, as the bill originally proposed increasing the monetary trigger for requiring the development of a major development plan from $20 million to $35 million, the government agreed to a lower trigger of $25 million. This figure, in our judgement, more accurately reflects the recent increases in construction costs.

Secondly, the initial bill introduced into the House proposed inserting a new subsection that would have provided that, if an airport makes a request for a shorter consultation period for a major development plan and the minister doesn't make a decision on the request within 15 business days, the minister is deemed to have approved that shorter period. Labor could not have supported such an amendment. Of course, the amendment undermined the right of local communities to actually have a say. In the words of the Bills Digest, which were prepared by the Parliamentary Library:

This amendment seems to raise the possibility that the Minister could simply not decide on the request, and then be deemed to have approved the short period, even if the development is inconsistent with the airport master plan, or raises issues that have a significant impact on the local or regional community.

It should be well within a minister's capability to consider any request for reduced consultation within 15 business days, and that's why we welcome the government's decision to accept Labor's amendment which will deem any request for a shorter consultation period not approved by the minister within the 15 business days as being refused. This will achieve the right balance. And if we don't get the balance right in these tragic circumstances, I think it is of great disadvantage to local communities.

Now, we saw the situation that occurred in my locality—I'll make this point. I've actually lived underneath a flight path with regard to Essendon Airport. I no longer live under a flight path, I'm pleased to say, but I do still live in Pascoe Vale in Melbourne, a few minutes from Essendon Airport. The circumstances that arose with regard to the events in February 2017, where a Beechcraft Super King Air B200 crashed into the DFO shopping centre in Essendon, has stuck quite dramatically in the minds of the local community.

The circumstances of this incident, I acknowledge, are still under investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. But I am reminded that that shopping centre is within, I think, 170 metres of the runway. It is an extraordinary thing to actually visit that shopping centre and see just how close it is to the runway at Essendon. This crash was described at the time as 'Victoria's worst civil aviation accident in 30 years,' and it caused concern for residents and businesses surrounding the airport. I make the point that not only is that runway very close to the DFO but it's also very close to the freeways that run parallel to the airport and cut across the flight path of that runway.

Having received an overwhelming volume of calls and correspondence from local constituents, Mr Khalil, the federal member in the seat of Wills, and Mr Shorten, the federal member adjacent to the airport in the seat of Maribyrnong, hosted, in December 2017, a community forum at Strathmore Heights Community Hall, which is just around the corner from where I live. Hundreds of local residents attended, as well as representatives of the Victorian government and considerable media. It reflected the concerns of residents. The points that were raised by Mr Khalil and Mr Shorten had been presented in a letter to Mr Chester in October 2017, saying that until the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has published its findings about the fatal crash that occurred on 21 February 2017 questions remain unanswered about the safety of the airport, especially given the proximity of commercial and residential developments.

This tragic event at Essendon and incidents at other airports like Moorabbin highlight the need to get the planning balance right—that is, the balance between community safety and airport operations. I've long held the view that it's not unreasonable to suggest that the primary purpose of airports is aviation, not retail. I think the balance has been lost in the planning decisions that have been taken at a number of airports around the country.

I make the observation that Labor has had a look at the second reading amendment to this legislation proposed by the Greens. We won't be supporting that amendment, but we do readily acknowledge the concerns of community groups and individuals who are affected by airport noise. We acknowledge that policymakers and agencies that oversee these issues have to pursue practical measures to minimise the impacts that airports have on communities that live around them. It is a simple proposition that airports are not islands. They have grown up in circumstances where the communities around them have changed over time. We have to acknowledge, however, that a proper balance needs to be set.

That is why the last Labor government developed and implemented Australia's first-ever national aviation white paper, which strengthened the community consultation requirements and put in place transparent public oversight developments at Commonwealth leased airports. These measures include requiring all Commonwealth leased airports to establish community aviation consultation groups to address planning and development issues and a range of other operational matters, such as aircraft noise; establishing an Aircraft Noise Ombudsman; banning older, noisier aircraft flying over residential areas; obligating Commonwealth leased airports to submit more detailed master plans; and introducing a new major development plan trigger that is activated by any development with a significant community impact, regardless of the size or cost, ensuring communities get the opportunity to scrutinise developments which may be contentious within a local area, including proposed new flight paths.

Lastly, Labor supports the April 2018 recommendations that were made by the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, following her investigations into the complaints about the introduction of the new flight paths in Hobart, including that Airservices access external expertise in community consultation to develop a 'more detailed community engagement strategy'. Labor also supports the ombudsman's recommendations that would strengthen Airservices' complaint management processes so as to ensure that the concerns of affected residents are managed effectively. These measures would benefit not only those who make complaints but also Airservices itself.

I think Australians generally acknowledge the importance of our aviation infrastructure. Labor have certainly always supported investment in Australia's aviation infrastructure. We are committed to supporting the growth of the industry, but growth must be underpinned by compacts between airports and local communities. The amended form of this bill, in our judgement, will help to ensure that airport planning processes remain transparent, while giving the industry the certainty to plan and invest for the longer term.

11:23 am

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Airports Amendment Bill 2018 is evidence of the government going in entirely the wrong direction. It is not a particularly bad bill, like many that we see in the Senate, nor is it a particularly punitive bill, like some we have seen this week—such as the cashless welfare card bill—but it is a bill that is going in the wrong direction. It is yet another example of government being entirely wedded to making things easy for incumbent businesses and those with access and power, rather than looking after the interests of ordinary people in the community.

I want to go through the changes that this bill makes. It wants to raise the threshold for airports needing to release major development plans. We already did this. In 2007, this parliament amended the act to raise the threshold from $10 million to $20 million. Why do we need to do it again?

What evidence does the government have that doing this is in the overall interests of the community? The major development plan process is a critical time for communities to be involved in the direction of airports and the impact that airports are going to have on them. It allows communities to see, comment on and engage with the activities of an airport and to ensure that their interests are protected. Why does the threshold need to be higher? It's only been a decade since we doubled the threshold, and here we are increasing it again. The government was proposing an increase to $35 million. It's good to see that it has been brought back to $25 million by amendments in the House. But the question remains: why are we going in this direction? What is the rationale for doing this?

It's the same with the airport master plans. The development of master plans, like with the major development plan process, is one of the very few periods where we as members of a community get to see the direction that an airport is heading in. It is our key chance to make comments and to have input into that vision. This is so important for local communities, local residents and, in fact, local governments which co-exist with airports. But here we have the government trying to extend the period for when airports need to issue master plans, which basically will make it more difficult for the community to engage and it will be less frequent.

I suppose, yes, we should be grateful that the legislation doesn't require the major airports in our four larger cities to have their master plan cycle changed from the current five-year cycle. But why do we need to extend it to eight years for all of our other federally leased airports? Okay, it's in the interests of the airports, but it is not in the interests of the local communities that are affected by those airports. The government, of course, says that it has consulted on these changes. For a bit of discussion about this I turned to the Bill's Digest, and we are told that in 2014, quite a while ago now, the then Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development circulated a discussion paper on efficiency proposals for the master plan and major development plan processes under the Airports Act—that is, this was the beginning of the process underpinning what this legislation is enacting today. This discussion paper was apparently distributed to a range of stakeholders who fed into a second discussion paper for consultation in May 2015. The second discussion paper set out a number of recommended better regulation proposals, many of which are contained in this bill.

So where are these discussion papers? Where are the submissions? They certainly don't seem to be publicly available. Why does the explanatory memorandum not mention this consultation process or show any details of that consultation, particularly given that consultation now happened over four years ago and it has taken this long to get to this stage of enacting the results of the recommendations in legislation? Given the lack of documentation it's impossible to confirm this, but perhaps it's actually not useful for this government to have such a smoking gun of them listening entirely to the interests of the industry over the interests of the community.

Although the government has wisely decided not to go ahead with this proposed change, the worst idea in the original bill was to allow a proposed reduction in the public comment period from 60 days to 15 days in the event that the minister merely remained silent rather than the minister actively having to decide to allow a shortened comment period. We note that the minister currently has the power to do this, but only when the development is consistent with the airport master plan and doesn't raise any issues that have a significant impact on the local or regional community. How ridiculous would that have been, that simply by standing to the side and remaining silent the minister could create a 75 per cent reduction in public comment time? It's very illustrative of the regard that this government has for community consultation. It's very telling who they are really serving. It's the big business, the aviation industry, over the interests of local residents. We know that from the fact that that measure could even have been proposed. So we're glad to see that amendments that passed the House removed this proposed change.

This attitude—governing in the interests of business, vested interests, political donors and their mates—feeds the alienation that's driving our politics. Average members of the public are feeling that the deck is stacked against them and that the people who government are really listening to are big business and their corporate mates. We hear a lot from this government about red tape and regulation driving up the cost of doing business. I've got news for this government: community consultation and public and social licence are not red tape; they're the very stock of goodwill that underpins our democracy. When we destroy the ability of the community to be informed and have their say we are building the basis for community discontent, public backlash and, ultimately, the politics of division and anger.

Recently, I was part of a Senate inquiry into my private senator's bill which would have amended the Air Services Act to require a much higher degree of consultation by airports and aviation operators, and which would have better protected communities from air noise. We developed the bill because, currently, communities affected by airports feel disempowered, left out and that their concerns are just being paid lip service to. They feel that the current consultative mechanisms do not achieve the aim of communities' concerns being listened to and acted on.

I want to share a few choice comments from the witnesses at the hearing we had in Melbourne. Frank Rivoli, from the Hume Residents Airport Action Group, said:

The issues we raise are dismissed by the airport operator, stakeholders, the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities and Airservices, on the basis that the airport is an important piece of infrastructure and economic driver.

Frank said that since 2014, when he's been on the Community Aviation Consultation Group:

… it's made no recommendations which result in any worthwhile things for community, apart from some of the proposals to challenge some building proposals.

He continues:

Our concerns are not being addressed seriously. Aircraft noise answers are usually on the basis that there's nothing that can be done about aircraft noise. It's a product of aviation. Airservices says, 'We're doing our best to manage but our responsibility is to the safety of air travellers and so on'. They're the sorts of things.

It's just become too much for us. I resigned from this committee—

The consultative committee—

about three or four weeks ago on the basis that there is no point since that committee has removed the public from its deliberations.

'No point'. I know Frank, and I have met with him often about his concerns about the impact of Melbourne Airport on his community, on the suburbs of Gladstone Park, Tullamarine, Westmeadows and Broadmeadows. I know how genuine Frank is about acting for the benefit of his community. He's just the sort of person that governments and agencies rely on to give up their time and energy to be a conduit between them and the community. Our whole democracy relies on people like Frank. We know people are feeling disempowered about politics. They're cynical about politics. They're tuned out because they don't feel that anything they can do will make a difference. They feel that they lack agency.

When you have a person like Frank, who tries his best to be involved, to be active and to participate in our democracy, and he says: 'There's no point. I'm resigning from the community consultative committee,' and gives up after so many years of trying to be meaningfully involved, that is serious. It's particularly serious for communities such as those that Frank represents. They are working-class communities, very multicultural communities and very diverse. The people are often doing their best to juggle working and surviving on low incomes, struggling with unemployment and feeling isolated and unvalued by the broader community. To have people like Frank say that there is no point engaging is a travesty. To have people like Frank standing up to represent the communities is a gift to us.

Before standing for election to the Senate, I worked for a few years for Hume City Council, which covers the airport environs. I worked in the strategic planning department and I know how difficult it was to get people involved with the work that the council was doing. We ran workshops. We had leadership programs. We ran empowerment and community engagement programs to get people involved, to build social capital and to give them the sense that it was worthwhile engaging and that you could make a difference by being involved with activities that government was doing.

To trash that social capital by so-called community engagement—community consultation which is nothing of the sort—is an absolute travesty. It is running so-called community consultation exercises where people put themselves out to give their opinions and then find that nothing changes. Yes, they're asked to give their opinions, but those opinions aren't listened to. That damages our democracy immensely. It's the very thing that builds cynicism, builds resentment and builds a sense that the voices and the needs of ordinary people don't matter and that decisions of government are made because of the interests of the rich and powerful, the big corporations, not because of what's in the interests of ordinary people. In so many circumstances, that perception of people that they're not being listened to is absolutely accurate. Their voices are being ignored and bad things are happening to their communities. They are being deafened by unacceptable aircraft noise day and night, because the airports, the airlines and the aviation industry in general are the ones who hold all the power and who determine what happens.

I'll share with you another quote from our hearing into my private senator's bill, my bill which would have changed that and would have required more meaningful consultation. In short, it would have given the community more power. Joe Biviano from the Moorabbin Airport Residents Association had this to say about the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman:

When they get complaints about noise, they will defer that and say: 'That's not our responsibility. You need to speak to the airport.' Their role, as they see it, is to deal with the complaint-handling process. So if the complaint-handling process is not done effectively, they will look at that; they do not actually deal with noise issues or try to address the root cause of what a noise issue may be.

This simply isn't good enough. We can't have consultation that's just a tick-and-flick exercise. In particular, the consultation that occurs around the times of major development plans and the airport master plans is critical. That's what has got to be done well. It has got to be at that time, because that is when you can have meaningful engagement and you can actually change the shape of what's going on at the airport so that these noise issues are ameliorated and reduced, reducing the impact on local communities.

The committee report into my private senator's bill noted that it was clear to the committee that there are significant noise impacts that affected communities are facing which are not being considered, let alone addressed, within the existing consultation frameworks. Yet this bill is taking us backwards by reducing the requirements, and the time frames for community engagement on them, at the most significant time when there needs to be consultation: the major development plan and the master planning processes. It's in these processes that we should be upping engagement, not reducing it. That's why I want to foreshadow that the Greens will be moving a second reading amendment to the bill as follows:

At the end of the motion, add ", but the Senate calls on the government to develop and implement better consultation and community engagement standards for federally leased airports, to mitigate the impact of air noise on communities under major flight paths."

If my second reading amendment were passed and implemented, it would go some way to addressing the serious issues that I have outlined this legislation is ignoring.

Before I finish, one thing I will say is that the Greens do welcome the requirement to include new air noise exposure forecasts in each master plan. This is a good change. But that alone is not sufficient to garner our support for this bill. This is a bill that deserves to go back to the drawing board. Although it looks like it is going to pass here today, we call on other parties and the crossbench to support our amendment as a call to action to the government to look after impacted communities instead of helping big business ride roughshod over them.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Rice, I believe you had a second reading amendment? Are you moving it now?

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I thought I had done that, but formally, yes, I move the second reading amendment standing in my name:

At the end of the motion, add ", but the Senate calls on the government to develop and implement better consultation and community engagement standards for federally leased airports, to mitigate the impact of air noise on communities under major flight paths."

11:39 am

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a pleasure to join my colleagues in speaking to the Airports Amendment Bill 2018. There are obviously a lot of important issues to consider in the context of laws relating to our airports and the impact they have on communities. Senator Rice was discussing that, and that is something I will touch on later. It is something I know Senator McKim is aware of in our home state of Tasmania. In fact, there's probably an affected residence on the Tasmanian peninsula. But that's something I will touch on a little later on.

Obviously airports right across our country are critical pieces of infrastructure for our economy, for the movement of people around our country to conduct their business, for leisure and also for freight of goods. That is something I know only too well in the state of Tasmania, where you have two options to get on and off the island: to go by boat or to go by plane. I think about 90 per cent of those coming in and out of our state come and go by air. So I know only too well how important it is that the legislative arrangements that relate to the future developments of our airports and the safeguards that are in place with regard to community consultation et cetera are as strong as possible. I believe this bill goes a long way towards doing that.

Noting that airports are important pieces of community infrastructure that we are all reliant on, this bill puts in place a number of elements that enable us to ensure that the works planned, proposed and done have appropriate scrutiny and appropriate consultation as well. As has been pointed to by the former Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Mr Chester—and I had a quick look at his second reading speech in the other place—when works are proposed at federally leased airports across the country, under the act dating from 1996 airports are required to prepare a master plan every five years and to establish a strategic direction for efficient and economic development at the airport as well as prepare major development plans for significant major on-air developments. Back home in Tasmania, a lot of things are on the radar for the Hobart International Airport that probably put it in the category we're talking about. I'll talk more about that little bit later on.

The act sets out what the required content of each plan is to be and has prescriptions around the public consultation process that any lessee company must undertake prior to submitting the plan to the minister for final consideration. As was stated by the former minister, on average the current legislative process requires an airport lessee company to expend significant resources, and it can take a company two years on average to develop a plan. That's a huge undertaking, with a massive amount of resourcing going into ensuring that the plans comply with the requested standards as set out in legislation. It can take two years to develop and consult. As one would imagine through a two-year process, for a private organise entering into this process there would be a degree of inefficiency and imposition of administration and compliance costs which one would think to be quite unreasonable. So that's what this bill goes to, in some regards—dealing with some of those concerns.

I will just turn quickly to the elements of the bill and what it proposes to do with regard to the master plan submission cycle for federally leased airports. I'm sure others have touched on this, but I will go over some of these details as well. When you look to the major airports, which include those in the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Sydney west, they will maintain the current five-year submission cycle. Then the remaining airports of Adelaide, Alice Springs, Archerfield, Bankstown, Camden, Canberra, Darwin, Essendon, the Gold Coast, Hobart, Jandakot, Launceston, Moorabbin, Parafield and Townsville will prepare a master plan every eight years, which I think is probably in keeping with the amount of development and growth that occurs at these particular airports.

The bill, as I'm sure has already been canvassed by previous speakers in this debate, also mandates the inclusion of a new Australian noise exposure forecast in each new master plan. I will talk in a little more detail about this later on, but obviously, with the increasing frequency of air traffic over residential areas—in the case of Tasmania, it is over less densely populated areas but still an increase in traffic—it is something that we should be taking into account as plans are developed. Of course, growth is forecast, and we have to make sure that the amenity, the lifestyle, of those who live under these flight paths will be taken into consideration appropriately.

The bill also proposes to increase the current monetary trigger, which is set at $20 million, to $25 million, and of course to include an indexation mechanism to allow for increased building costs in the future, as benchmarks set in place today obviously will not be appropriate a decade hence. As I'm sure has been noted in this debate by previous speakers, there has been a good degree of negotiation between the government and the opposition on the monetary threshold trigger and also around provisions for approved requests from airports for shortened public consultation periods for major development plans. Now, if the minister doesn't make a decision within 15 days of the receipt of the request, the request is taken to have been refused.

So, as I noted previously, there are some provisions that will go a long way to reducing the administrative burden on, and the associated cost to, proponents of developments—the lessee companies. In the context of clients, users of airports, passengers and freight companies, this can only be a good thing. They will have an improved service at an improved facility. And one would hope that, when costs are not being borne by those who run, maintain and own these airports, the cost isn't being passed on to airport users, be they the airlines, their passengers or the freight clients.

I turn now to some local issues. I have mentioned the Hobart airport, which is one of the federally leased airports. Senator Rice has touched on a number of issues with regard to noise. In Tasmania, we've recently had a significant amount of consternation over the issue of flight paths in and out of Hobart airport. The residents of the Tasman Peninsula, and communities just south-east of Hobart, in southern beaches that Senator Bilyk would be well familiar with, at Sorell and Midway Point, have all experienced significant changes around the flight paths. Airservices Australia, who are in charge of managing and regulating our air traffic and ensuring that it operates safely and in order, went through a process which, to the local community, was less than satisfactory. In short, the flight path of air traffic coming in—over communities like Sorell and Midway Point, closer to the major population of Hobart—was moved, to go out to the east and then to circle in over the Tasman Peninsula.

There was a very limited degree of public consultation around those changes, and of course that resulted in a great degree of consternation on the part of community members. Senator Bilyk and of course Senator McKim, who was present in the chamber earlier, would be well aware of that. There was the lack of consultation and then, all of a sudden, a great many flights overhead, in communities that were previously almost deadly silent when it came to air traffic noise. That has had a significant impact on members of those communities.

So Airservices, who have acknowledged that the consultation process was more than deficient and could have been done better, have conducted further consultations. I was pleased to be able to attend one of the community consultation sessions in Sorell, which was well attended. Airservices convened quite a number of these throughout the communities affected. It is important to note that, wherever a flight path is going to be located, someone is going to be impacted.

The feedback at the community forum reflected that there were some people who were very satisfied with the change of flight paths—those living in the communities of Midway Point or Sorell. As some of the people who got up and spoke at the forum said, they'd been living with planes flying overhead from approximately 6.00 am through to 11.00 pm every day for a great many years. They were pleased with the change because they now don't have planes flying overhead. They can sit out in their backyard and have a barbeque without having to yell at guests when a plane was flying overhead. A different story was relayed by those who live in the communities of Dunalley, Carlton, Dodges Ferry and some other Tasman Peninsula communities. They felt very aggrieved that all air traffic has now been redirected over their once peaceful communities.

As I said, Airservices has been conducting extensive consultations, and they recently released the work that has come out of those consultation sessions. Airservices will continue to work with the communities affected and provide, I hope, some relief, because it is important to ensure that, when changes are proposed, people's lives are taken into account. In fact, there was one example of an individual wanting to start a new business just north of the community of Dunalley. It's been publicly reported that, until this issue is resolved, this individual will not be setting up his new business because of the impact of the noise on the amenity in the area he is situated in and where he intended to set up his business. So, this bill, as discussed earlier, is going to require every new master plan to include an Australian noise exposure forecast, and it will specify that the forecast must be renewed each time. That is good news, I think, for those who have been impacted previously.

Hobart Airport, which is the one that is of most interest to the state of Tasmania, is going through extreme growth. Anyone who is aware of Tasmanian matters will be aware of the fact that Hobart Airport only recently opened its extended runway, in March this year. There was a huge investment in that airport. I think around $40 million was invested in the airport, predominantly from the Australian government. That investment was for a number of reasons. We have a growing visitor economy in Tasmania—I'll return to the numbers shortly. We also have increasing demand for our fresh produce, so, of course, there's been a great degree of interest in setting up, establishing and maintaining a direct freight link with parts of South-East Asia so that they can have instant access to our fresh produce.

The other element to this, of course, is the fact that we have the status of being Australia's gateway to Antarctica, particularly East Antarctica. We recently saw the work being undertaken to create a paved, year-round runway in the East Antarctic region, which will enable us to have year-round access and not have to rely purely on sea access, which is incredibly important for our science community. There is a growing interest in Antarctic science and what it means for the world. These are major developments. They are costly. The changes that are being proposed, worked through and planned for at the airport will definitely be impacted by the need to create a major development plan as these works are proposed.

As stated, though, the extension to the runway does provide the opportunity for Hobart Airport to become home to some direct international flights. There's been talk of direct flights to New Zealand and to certain cities in South-East Asia. Some have also said we will be in receipt of direct flights to and from South America. They're all very exciting opportunities. But the increase in the number of passengers does put demand on infrastructure.

It was pleasing to see that Hobart Airport had originally planned for a certain amount of growth in terms of numbers. In their 2015 master plan, they had predicted that 2.6 million passengers would be passing through there each year by 2020. The problem was that, given the growth, the investments and the interest in Tasmania as a visitor destination, we've outstripped that prediction. You only have to look at the comments of the CEO of the Hobart International Airport corporation, Ms Sarah Renner. She said earlier this year that Tasmania would more likely see three million passengers a year come through the airport by the year 2022. That's a significant boost when you consider that we were in a state of decline when it came to visitor numbers. It means that Hobart Airport will have to factor in, amongst all the other major developments it is undertaking, some significant terminal works as well. The respected economist, Saul Eslake, has called on the airport to invest in aerobridges, for a start. There is the need to consider push-back mechanisms, like we have at our major airports, rather than the current arrangement at Hobart Airport where planes effectively turn on the spot. It will mean that we will have more efficient use of space. But, of course, these are all things that point to the need for proper management plans and making sure that we are appropriately planning for the future.

The board of the airport is considering its options in terms of major developments when it comes to a fresh produce export facility and exactly where on the site that will be. Again, it being federally-owned land leased to the Hobart International Airport lessee company, this facility will be, along with other works, I suspect, subject to a major development plan. Some experts in Hobart, like Mr Phil Pike and Mr Ian Locke, who is a Tasmanian fruit and vegetable export facilitator, predict that the fresh produce export side will grow by $15 million by the year 2021. This might sound like small change to some from bigger places, but in Hobart and in the state of Tasmania that's a significant amount of money, and that's a significant market we will be accessing through direct freight produce. Again, quoting Sarah Renner from Hobart International Airport, who is a proud supporter of the runway extension, having that direct freight link from Hobart to South-East Asian destinations means that you can have a punnet of berries being handpicked in the Coal Valley one day and then being shipped across and eaten in an Asian destination the next. The terminal itself will require internally significant upgrades to cope with the growing numbers, and aerobridges would require a second level. This would come at a significant cost to the proponents and to the owners of the airport as well.

All of these things are exciting to note. All of these things are very, very important to our community and to our economy. This legislation sets out how lessee companies are to proceed and how they are to take into account community concerns when it comes to things like aircraft noise, which, as I have said before, has been a significant concern in Tasmania and has been perhaps handled less than optimally in the case of the Hobart flight path. It is good to see some rules being set out and some efficiencies being found in how airport corporations are to move forward and exactly how they propose to undertake these developments, as well as some certainty and hopefully some efficiencies, which can only be a good thing for consumers. I am pleased to have spoken to this bill and I of course commend it.

11:59 am

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to briefly speak on the Airports Amendment Bill 2018. I support the remarks made by my colleague Senator Rice on this bill. This bill actually weakens planning regulations and community consultation processes for federally-leased airports. I'll get straight to the point: Western Sydney Airport in New South Wales. The Western Sydney Airport is a complete scam being foisted on the people of Western Sydney by the federal government and by the state government in New South Wales. The people of Western Sydney are being totally conned. They are being promised the world when the reality that this airport will bring will, really, be quite different.

Western Sydney is being held to ransom. The government are saying: 'You will get significant infrastructure upgrades. You will get jobs, you will get public transport, you will get better roads, but only if you agree to this 24/7 curfew-free aerotropolis in your backyard.' They did not listen to the community at all. Here we are today talking about further weakening community consultation processes. They did not take into account community interests, because the only thing that this government is interested in is its mates in the big end of town.

The Western Sydney Airport will cause significant environmental and human health impacts due to air pollution, due to noise pollution and due to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. That will exacerbate climate change. This is the crucial aspect of where this airport is being built. It will jeopardise the World Heritage listing of the unique Greater Blue Mountains area. Its environmental value will reduce and its quality will reduce. The economic benefits it brings to the local community will also reduce. The Blue Mountains City Council is opposed to the Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek due to the massive impact it will have on their local community, their quality of life and the environment. The government has totally ignored this while planning and developing the Western Sydney Airport.

Let's talk about jobs. The government now is claiming that there will be 120,000 jobs in Western Sydney at some undetermined point way into the future. The way governments manipulate job data is just shameful and it becomes so completely meaningless. It is almost Monty Pythonesque. They used to go around saying that Western Sydney Airport will create 60,000 jobs, and now they have unilaterally doubled it. Meanwhile, the 2012 joint study on aviation capacity puts jobs growth closer to just 10,000 additional jobs by 2040—not the 120,000 this government is touting.

The people of Western Sydney are being sold a lemon by the political elite, who are saying they must take one for the team. What team is this? This is the team with big pockets. This is the team that is part of this whole game of mates, corporations and governments working together to fill these really deep pockets. Jobs for Western Sydney will come from government investment that meets the needs of the community, that meets the needs of the workers and that meets the needs of the employers instead of meeting the needs of the capital markets. We need to invest in public transport, renewable energy, manufacturing and the TAFE education sector. It will come when the state and federal governments stop spending billions on their pet projects and unjustifiable aviation fantasies and start putting it into public transport that serves the people and not the corporations. But there is one thing that will be undeniably good for Western Sydney; it will be good for jobs, it will be good for climate and it will be good for commuters. That one thing is high-speed rail—instead of this new white elephant airport.

Labour market researcher Dr Ian Watson recently released a Jobs for the west report. Overwhelmingly, it shows that a strategy focused on high-speed rail could see Western Sydney become a manufacturing centre for this nation-building project. Dr Watson has said it would 'revitalise and stabilise manufacturing and construction in the region' and this would anchor other initiatives, including rebuilding the TAFE system to upskill the population and extending community banking to support small- and medium-sized businesses that join the supply chain. His report also shows that even on the government's own figures fewer than 120 jobs a year would go to Western Sydney locals during the construction phase of the Western Sydney Airport.

Imagine if we were a country that could dream big, that could construct nation-building projects like an east coast high-speed rail?

Two of the busiest air routes in the world are in Australia. Sydney to Melbourne is the world's second-busiest air route, with more than 55,000 flights a year, and Brisbane to Sydney is the eighth-busiest in the world, with more than 33,000 flights a year. The demand for high-speed rail is there. All we need is the political will. The people of Western Sydney deserve much better than having a 24/7 polluting airport foisted upon them.

12:05 pm

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you to those members who've contributed to the debate on the Airports Amendment Bill. The federal government regulates planning and development on federally leased airport sites through the Airports Act 1996. On 1 December 2016 the former minister, the Hon. Darren Chester MP, introduced the bill into the House of Representatives. The bill proposes several measures that were developed in consultation with key industry stakeholders to streamline certain administrative arrangements in the act relating to master plans and major development plans that are currently generating inefficient outcomes for industry as well as imposing unnecessary and onerous administrative and compliance costs. In particular, the bill proposes to implement a differential master plan submission cycle, therefore requiring the major airports, being Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney—that is, Kingsford Smith and Sydney West airports—to main the current five-year submission cycle, while the remaining airports will provide a master plan every eight years.

The bill also proposes to increase the current $20 million monetary trigger for a major development plan to $25 million. This monetary threshold will be reviewed and revised by legislative instrument every three years, having regard to changes in construction activity costs and associated indexations to ensure that the monetary trigger accurately reflects and keeps pace with economic and marketplace conditions. The bill reinforces the government's commitment to improving the capacity of our regulatory framework to ensure that it continues to deliver a proportionate and efficiency based approach that reduces administrative and compliance costs for operators, creates regulatory certainty for industry and maintains appropriate and effective regulatory oversight.

On 9 February 2017 the bill was referred to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by March last year. Following an accident at Essendon Airport, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting, to 19 March this year. In March this year the committee recommended that the Senate pass the airports bill, and their report made it clear—just for the avoidance of doubt—that there is no linkage between the accident at Essendon Airport and the matters that are under consideration in this bill.

The government contends that the bill will bring about positive changes for the aviation industry and airport users while still maintaining appropriate regulatory oversight, and this bill should be supported. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the second reading amendment as moved by Senator Rice be agreed to.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.