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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 3976

Mr SHARP (Minister for Transport and Regional Development)(4.05 p.m.) —We have had a complete farrago of fabrication here this afternoon, and the chief fabricator was nobody other than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley), who, for example, made up a complete load of codswallop in his presentation to the House this afternoon. If you listen to what the Leader of the Opposition said, he obviously knew nothing about what he was talking about. For example, and I draw on one of many inaccuracies in the Leader of the Opposition's presentation speech to the House this afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition said that I rang Airservices Australia three times. He repeated it several times. He said, `The minister rang Airservices Australia three times.' In fact, I rang them once, not three times. It goes to show how inaccurate and how badly briefed the Leader of the Opposition is in regard to this issue.

The Leader of the Opposition also said in one of the many inaccuracies that he made in his speech to the House this afternoon that these types of aircraft—the light propeller driven aircraft that I was flying in that day—were banned by the former Labor government. In fact, they were not. They were never banned. That is why airlines like Country Connections, who fly precisely that type of aircraft, continued to fly right into Mascot airport throughout the period that you were in office.

So what the Leader of the Opposition said in his speech to the House this afternoon—that this type of aircraft had been banned under a Labor government—was completely and utterly false, as are the allegations made by the Leader of the Opposition and by the opposition spokesman for transport, the member for Melbourne (Mr Tanner). Indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you go back to the core of this, you will find that there is no substance, none whatsoever, to the accusations made by the Labor Party in the House this afternoon. They accuse me of hiding something when I did not table an attachment to the letter that I had tabled earlier this afternoon. I have looked at what that attachment was. I could not see why it was so important. I will table it. Do you know what it is? This is the only thing that I have got that says there is an attachment. In fact, it says in the letter from the head of Airservices Australia that `a copy of the relevant page is also attached'. That is the only reference to anything attached.

I am also about to table the thing that the head of Airservices Australia referred to there, which is the published phone number that is available on a free-call basis. I shall shortly also table a transcript of the phone conversation I had—a transcript which, of course, the Labor Party already has. It is a transcript of a conversation that Airservices Australia gave to the journalist who wrote the article on Monday of this week. In the transcript, you will see, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I sought no favour and that I only gave my name because the person who answered the phone gave his name. To go back to the farrago of fabrications made by the Leader of the Opposition when he said—and I think it was also said by the member for Melbourne—that I did not give the call sign of the aircraft—

Mr Tanner —I didn't say that.

Mr SHARP —Well, the Leader of the Opposition said it, if that is the case. Indeed, I gave the call sign of the aircraft, as is the appropriate thing to do. The Labor Party's spokesman on transport said that the reason these types of aircraft are not allowed into Mascot airport is that they add to the confusion already created by this coalition government since it came into office 16 months ago. I suggest that the opposition spokesman for transport should go and speak to the people who use Mascot airport. He should go and speak to the people who live under the flight paths, particularly his Labor supporters in places like Marrickville, Sydenham, Petersham, Leichhardt and Glebe—all Labor strongholds where the Labor government put 50 per cent of all aircraft movements over their heads while we have got it down to 26 per cent today and will get it down to 17 per cent under the long-term operating plans proposals. These are the sorts of people who could have been given relief by a Labor government, but who were denied that relief by the Labor government and who are being given it by a coalition government.

One sees a fair bit of hypocrisy in political life here in Canberra, but nobody has reached the zenith of hypocrisy that we saw this afternoon from the Leader of the Opposition. He was talking about me seeking some special favour to be given priority into Mascot airport. Who is the champion of VIP aircraft travel in Australia today? Who was the champion of it when Labor was in office? None other than the now Leader of the Opposition! Who is given priority over all other aircraft arrivals at an airport? Who is given that priority? None other than people who travel in VIP aeroplanes, like the Leader of the Opposition. Here he has the gall to stand up in the House this afternoon and say, `Fancy the minister for transport seeking to gain some advantage by getting priority access to Mascot airport,' when it is he who travels more in VIP aeroplanes than certainly I and most others on this side of the House, and it is he who gets the priority access to the airport. Talk about the kettle calling the pot black! My goodness, you are a beauty, fella!

If ever there was an attack that was destined to backfire, that was destined to be seen as incompetent and that was destined to be seen as a hollow attempt to try and make some political capital out of nothing, it is this attack here by the Labor Party in the House this afternoon. As the head of Airservices Australia points out in his letter, the phone number that I used is available as a free-call number. It would not be made as a free-call number if Airservices Australia did not intend it to be used. Indeed, Airservices Australia informs me that 50 calls a day, on average, come in to that number. The reason why people ring in on that number—about 50 of them a day—is for the same reason that I rang in: I was flying in in a light aeroplane and wanted to know what time we were going to land. I wanted to be able to determine whether we would land at Bankstown and avoid delay there or persevere and land at Mascot. This is a common practice. I am sure many people use it and that is why 50 people, according to Airservices Australia, phone that number each day to seek that sort of information.

The substance of the attack made by the disaffected Airservices employee was with drawn. The Leader of the Opposition and the Labor spokesman for transport referred to the fact—and I am glad they raised it and not me—that this person accused me of being corrupt. That was the basis of his attack. The basis of his attack was that I was corrupt in trying to seek this advantage. He withdrew it because, when he saw the transcript, he knew he had got it wrong. So when they cast aspersions on the basis that somehow or other he did not withdraw the substance of his attack, that is wrong and they have proved it here today.

The real reason is that we know by this example today—and Sydney be warned by this—that Labor intends to revert to parallel runway operations at Mascot airport. That is the basis of this campaign. The person who made this complaint—the person who is supporting the member for Melbourne and the Leader of the Opposition in their attempts here today—is opposed to the runway operations we have made at Mascot airport that have given so much relief to so many people.

The motion put forward by the Labor Party is hollow, hypocritical and has no substance. It should be totally and utterly rejected by this House. I table the transcript of the conversation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins) —Order! The time allotted for the debate has concluded.

Mr Adams —There is a considerable amount of noise from those on the government benches, which is very disruptive when you are trying to listen to the speaker. Most of the people making the noise are not sitting in their own seats. People from way down the back have come forward—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. Whilst he has made a good point, the debate has moved on. I am now to put the question.

   Question put:

   That the motion (Mr Beazley's ) be agreed to.