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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23297

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (2:27 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. It relates to the implementation of his new airspace system last week. Is the minister aware that air traffic controllers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide are reporting around four transponder failures per hour and a marked decrease in traffic activity? Does the minister agree with the spokesman's comment to the Townsville Bulletin that he was not surprised by the number of incidents reported by air traffic controllers? Why is the minister persisting with the introduction of these changes when he knows full well that the risk of midair collisions is increased?

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —There are forms of the House for those on my left and right!

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for his question and appreciate his very great and newfound interest in transport matters in this place. I have heard some fairly interesting claims around but, in a broad sense, the stage 2b phases of the NAS were introduced the other day. There have been around 20 incidents reported and, of those, five relate to the new airspace arrangements. They were not near misses—in the main, they were minor technical glitches involving transponders, and all of them will be assessed by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

But the House ought to know that in fact the numbers of incidents being reported in controlled airspace are not really terribly different to the sorts of normal numbers you get. It is quite normal to have between two and five incidents a day anyway, and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has a responsibility for checking those out. These are not, as the opposition spokesman put it, `my' airspace arrangements. These are Australia's airspace reforms. They are strongly supported by industry and industry leaders and, of course, the safety case has been well and truly checked off by those responsible for aviation safety in Australia, as the opposition spokesman well knows. He might want to keep aviation in the 1940s and 1950s, but I do not and the government does not either.