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Wednesday, 22 October 1997
Page: 9577

Mr TUCKEY(10.39 a.m.) —There are a number of issues arising from the simple amendments proposed in the Airports Legislation Amendment Bill 1997 , and also opportunities to comment on air transport and the operation of airports, but I wish to take the opportunity before the member for Perth (Mr Stephen Smith) leaves to point out that, of course, the proposal of the government is consistent with all ministerial decisions when it comes to the removal of a reference or the ability to appeal to the AAT. Ministerial decisions can be subject to scrutiny by way of the rules of the House and become disallowable instruments tabled in the parliament, where the very people that the community elects have an opportunity in either house to review them by disallowing them; or, of course, we have the judicial review legislation which allows for public appeal and the use of the courts.

Mr Stephen Smith interjecting

Mr TUCKEY —No. The proposal that our party room was advised of is that the change will be from AAT to disallowable instrument. The minister, we are told, will table the determination in the House and, of course, it follows that it is a disallowable instrument. The advantage of that process is that it gives to one house of the parliament—for instance, the Senate—the opportunity to override that decision on behalf of the constituency they believe they represent. The realities are that it gives the House of Representatives the opportunity to do it also, where of course the opposition of the day is never very well represented. But the realities are that that opportunity exists.

Just this morning we had queues of people around the place demanding the continuation of legislation in the Aboriginal area, legislation that opens up thousands of opportunities for litigation. We have $80 million of Aboriginal money that should have been spent on people's health going to lawyers. The same situation applies here. If the parliament can deal with it, why should we leave it to the courts?

It has been a trend, which I criticise substantially, of this parliament even to admit with new legislation that they are bringing in a law but they are not really sure what it means but that, no doubt, at some time in the future the courts will tell us. Of course, in the interim, the community walks around not knowing whether it is breaking the law or not. If large amounts of money are involved, as could be so in this case, that is an unsatisfactory situation. All parties are entitled to see these matters cleared up. The fact is that there is still a substantial opportunity for review of the ministerial decision. It is one of the two choices available on this. In fact, it is generally believed that disallowable instrument is the better response, because it is certainly not—

Mr Stephen Smith —What is the rationale for taking it away?

Mr TUCKEY —The rationale is efficiency in making it a determination of the parliament, the law-makers of this country—as compared to some unelected judge who sits out there being addressed by lawyers who, in the state of Western Australia, as you would be aware, now charge $25 for every six minutes. That is a huge cost to both sides, a cost which is frequently never recovered. But I do not want to go on with that debate.

I make the point that the suggestion is that there is no review in the future, but that is wrong. The review will be done in that very appropriate place, the parliament. It is similar of course to the opposition to the freeholding of some of these places. As the member for Swan (Mr Randall) knows very well, prior to the privatisation proposal the FAC was proposing a major commercial development at Perth airport. Personally, I thought it may have had some advantages, but it was going to be extremely disadvantageous to other people who, under the planning provisions of the state government of Western Australia, had invested large amounts of money—thinking they understood that no other competition was available. Here we have two jurisdictions working side by side whereas, as the member for Swan has already pointed out, once these properties are freeholded they are subject to state law—although we make it very clear that such freeholding will not occur until there are adequate arrangements in place with state, and state planning, authorities relative to the continued existence of the airport.

The matter that has been discussed by the last two speakers was Jandakot airport. I was once the holder of a private pilot's licence. I can remember flying down from Carnarvon to Jandakot airport. My overview as we came into land was literally miles of undeveloped bush surrounding this airport. It required almost a map and a water bag to find your way into the city of Perth.

Did the planners try and keep that exclusivity? No, everyone wanted to build a house out there. I am astounded that, be it Sydney airport, Perth airport or Jandakot airport, people can complain about the noise when not one of them owned the house before the airport was built there. They all knew what it was about.

Do not tell me that old DC3s were not noisy. I lived next to the Carnarvon airport and I can tell you that, when they got out of the airport, they were still only 150 feet off the ground and the houses used to shake. That was compared to modern jet aircraft, notwithstanding their frequency. That is the matter I want to really address today. The realities are that more and more aircraft are getting quieter and quieter.

I have some rights to make those remarks. I can drive from my house to the Perth airport domestic terminal in 2½ minutes. It cannot be said of me that I live in some exclusive area miles away from the airport. I live right at the end of one runway. Admittedly, it is not the one that is used most frequently. I know a bit about airports. I find that these people want to destroy the economic arrangements.

Perth is extremely fortunate to have an airport so conveniently located. It makes it a great attraction to people visiting our city. The member for Perth mentioned the long-term potential for a parallel runway. I was one of those that petitioned the then minister, Wal Fife—another was Peter Shack, whose electorate was significantly affected—to get the new international airport, which was commenced under the Fraser government and opened by then Prime Minister Hawke, put on the other side of the main runway, so when the second parallel runway is in place the terminals will be between it. It was hoped by many of the local authorities that in time the domestic terminal would shift to there to encourage the construction of the second runway. Geographically that would have been a better situation.

There has been quite a lot of planning of Perth airport, because Perth airport does have rural land on the typical approaches and industrial land at the end of the typical departure course. It is pretty well done. It is ridiculous for people to be so silly as to suggest that there should be curfews at that airport, or at Jandakot airport, when each and every house that is being affected today was built long after its construction.

It is interesting that the minister's second reading speech also mentions some of the issues relating to Sydney airport and particularly how things will be delayed until final decisions are taken about a second major airport for Sydney, such as that proposed at Badgerys Creek. When you have certain responsibilities in this place, you try and expand your knowledge.

Over a long time since it was first mooted, the idea of a very fast train between Melbourne and Sydney has been something that I believe has great economic and environmental potential. More recently, I wondered if we have ever sat down and done a proper survey of our transport infrastructure—roads, airports and high-speed rail—as it shifts passengers. What is the opportunity for one to reduce the demand on another?

Whilst I cannot put any figures to this House, I have a gut feeling that if an appropriate high-speed rail, as is now being considered for Sydney-Canberra, was extended to Melbourne, you might not have to build Badgerys Creek airport at all. With that linkage—and the interconnection and the load sharing you could achieve between Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney—you might already have sufficient airport infrastructure. You would have an adequate connection. I am talking about the only suitable speed at which that is achievable and that is somewhere around 450 to 500 kilometres an hour. Fortunately, that technology is now available. I have ridden in it. It is the magnetic—

Mr Sawford —Try 300.

Mr TUCKEY —I have done 421 kilometres an hour in a train. That is the point I make. Three hundred is about the end of your wheeled technology, once you go into magnetic levitation. I have been in the vehicle—it is available. I have been on a test track. I have done 421 kilometres an hour in that vehicle, and that was on a 20-kilometre track. The main constraint on its speed was getting up and getting down again from those speeds.

The realities are that we can have a train service running on a form of monorail, which removes a lot of the disadvantages of resumption of land and some of the other environmental opportunities, operating between Melbourne and Sydney, via Canberra and places like Wollongong and Goulburn. You can have that running at 500 kilometres an hour on existing technology. That is 40 or 50 minutes from Canberra to Sydney, and about two hours from Sydney to Melbourne.

Once you have done that, the demands on the existing airports, with the reduction—I do not say the annihilation—of domestic travel, both interstate and intrastate, is the first improvement you get in terms of greater opportunities to compensate international arrivals. The second is that you start to share the international arrivals. Perth is a gateway for traffic from the west and, to a degree, from the north. Melbourne is equally advantageous in that regard, if people could step out of their plane and get onto an extremely comfortable train that would have them in Sydney—if that was their destination—in two hours.

These are arguments; they are not facts. But I am hopeful, and I have made representations to the newly appointed Minister for Transport and Regional Development (Mr Vaile) that we should really and truly start to consider this. That sort of high-speed rail has a freight capacity. It is not a heavy freight capacity, but the sort of items to a great degree that are travelling up and down the Hume Highway, with thousands of trucks every night, could be also on that rail service.

A lot of it would travel in the daytime in separate carriages simply because it would be able to be combined with passenger travel. I understand that the carriages could carry about 80 tonnes of freight, which is quite a lot. The idea of getting a lot of that traffic off the Hume Highway would be very attractive to many people in the environmental sense and also, of course, in terms of the maintenance cost of many of those roadways.

If we are prepared—it just might be something where we look to a bit of bipartisan interest—we should be sitting down with a joint standing committee of the parliament. I think my particular committee, the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Public Works, would be an ideal body to do just that, and say, `How do we interlink road infrastructure, airport infrastructure, and fast rail infrastructure in this highly populated, relatively wealthy south-eastern part of Australia to maximise the benefit of both, and reduce particularly the environmental problems that arise today from airports?'

Whilst I have put points about existing airports and the complaints that people have about them, I cannot put those arguments on the case of a new airport. Quite obviously, the people that live anywhere near where one of them will be built have got a lot of reasons for complaint. It just might be that we have a better option. What is more—I am sure it would not be long if that happened—we would see a similar transport system starting to run north of Sydney, where you have a couple of very substantial military airports—Richmond is one, and I think the other is Waverley. Is it Waverley?

Mr Jull —No, Williamtown.

Mr TUCKEY —Yes, Williamtown. That is where it is—near Newcastle. There are things called spur lines. But the reality is that you have another big block of international-style runways—if not facilities—that again, if that infrastructure went north, over time, would put Newcastle 20 minutes—or something—out of Sydney and, of course, the linkage with those airports.

This is a very responsible position that this House should be taking. We have tended to see them in packages: roads is roads; aeroplanes is aeroplanes; and trains—we have not got any of them.

I want to come back to this maglev technology; I have been on the wheeled TGV, too. I take a significant interest in this. Because the power required to move them is on the rails, there is a point at about 300 kilometres an hour when the cost benefits cease and the amount of power you have got to put on the rails actually starts to work against itself. When you go to maglev technology, the power is in the track. You actually have a stator in the track. You can therefore climb a 10-degree grade because when you get to that section of the track, with the same carriage, which carries no motors, you just increase the power of that section of the track. It is an interesting thing. Technically, at least, you also cannot have a collision because, if two trains are on the same section of track, they can only travel in the same direction because the power is in the track.

It is long-established technology that has been perfected in recent times, no doubt because of the availability of computerisation. The Germans have got one working. The Japanese are not far behind them. They will parallel the bullet train with this type of technology.

Why do you need 500 kilometres per hour? Because the greater the distance, the more competitive in time is an aeroplane. If you have not got those levels of speeds between Melbourne and Sydney, you will not get the passengers. Somebody is suggesting that we should have a tilt train between Canberra and Sydney which, I am advised, would take half an hour less than it would take to drive to Canberra once the road upgrade is completed. That is a recipe for a disaster. Of course, it would never compete with an aeroplane, where probably, central city to central city, you are looking at about an hour. You have got to get that central city to central city time to about the same.

With all the debates we have over airports and the problems they genuinely create for people, I am asking the parliament to think about getting down to the idea of looking at the three together. I would love to think it was viable for my city of Perth, but the population is not there.  When one addresses the financial viability of this proposal, one just has to think of the great sporting events that occur every weekend between Melbourne and Sydney today, with AFL competition and so on, and of how many people would move back and forward if they could do the trip in two hours in groups of 1,000. That is the sort of situation that we are confronted with.

In my mind, it is also the sort of project that we want, to address unemployment and to give the Australian people a bit of confidence that this country has still got a future and can get into this sort of Snowy River project of today. The actual structure is such that it could be a huge help to the steel industry directly. In fact, from the type of structures that are used, it would also employ a lot of unemployed people. The roadway is quite basic structural technology. I have had a look at it; I have taken photographs of it.

I ask the House to give some consideration to that. I think it is something we should all support. I have had a conversation with the minister and I am sure he understands the logic of my argument. There are many factors to apply and, quite clearly, the research needs to be done to support my arguments. I think it would be a great idea and it could be a huge attraction, even to tourism, with people travelling between those airports.

If we were to put in Badgerys Creek at a cost of $3 billion and then put another few billion into all the connecting infrastructure—albeit fuel pipes or the suburban type of electric trains—it would be further away in time than Canberra from Sydney. On an ordinary suburban train, it would be further away in time than on a maglev train.

Mr Albanese —You think Wollongong is on the way to Canberra.

Mr TUCKEY —I can tell you that the proposed route goes through Wollongong. So that shows how much you know about what is happening in your own state. (Time expired)