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Wednesday, 28 March 2001
Page: 25928

Mr TUCKEY (Minister for Forestry and Conservation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister) (7:26 PM) —While I am here to put the summing up speech for the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, I too have been in this parliament for a long time—in fact, 20 years. I was very interested to hear the members for Watson and Werriwa lecture us on some of the historical aspects. The simple fact is that I was here when we were in the Old Parliament House when Wal Fife, member for Hume and Minister for Aviation, stood up and proposed a $300 million investment in a parallel runway at Mascot airport. Of course, some time after that we lost government and the first thing that the then Hawke Labor government did was to cancel that runway, and for years and years and years the congestion and the noise built up and eventually they were forced to build it. I might add, as I recollect, that the then Minister for Finance, Senator Peter Walsh, was very critical of the delays involved. So when it comes to procrastination we cannot rewrite history in this place, because it is all on the record.

I thank the honourable members, on behalf of the minister, for their contributions. The Sydney Airport Demand Management Amendment Bill 2001 will make a minor change to the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act 1997. The bill will enable the slot management scheme for the airport to differentiate between different categories of aircraft movements, despite the access provisions of part IIIA of the Trade Practices Act.

The Sydney airport slot management scheme has been a great success. More than 82 per cent of flights through Sydney airport are now on time—a figure better than any of the major airports in the United States. Sydney airport is now coping extremely well with its level of air traffic. The government has concluded that it will cope for the next 10 years, provided we implement some minor changes to the slot management scheme.

Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister released a discussion paper setting out the proposed changes to the scheme. I remind the Opposition Whip that the bill does not pre-empt the outcomes of the consultation process. It simply ensures that the amendments to the scheme, whatever their final details, will be valid. The discussion paper recognises that Sydney airport is a vital transport hub for regional New South Wales: over 40 per cent of the regional passengers arriving at Sydney airport connect with flights to other destinations. The government believes that it is essential that regional airlines have guaranteed access to the airport, and the discussion paper includes key measures to protect them.

I note that the opposition has announced that it intends to convene a Senate inquiry into the bill. The government always welcomes parliamentary scrutiny, but I warn the House that it is extremely important that the bill and the amendments to the scheme be finalised by 1 June. The slots for what is known as the northern winter 2001 scheduling season must be allocated in early June. The world's international airlines will be gathering from 2 June to 12 June to coordinate their timetables. The airlines need to have stable slot allocations before they attend the conference. We cannot allocate slots at Sydney airport according to our own convenience. We cannot ignore the international scheduling process. The slots allocated at Sydney airport will affect the slots allocated at Heathrow and gate availability at airports such as Bangkok, Tokyo and Los Angeles. I welcome the opposition's support for the bill, but I urge all of the parties involved in the Senate process to conduct a timely inquiry that recognises the realities in the international airline industry. I commend the bill to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.