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Tuesday, 20 March 2007
Page: 82

Mr GEORGANAS (8:43 PM) —I too would like to support the opposition’s detailed amendments as moved by the member for Batman. I appreciate this opportunity to comment on the Airports Amendment Bill 2006 and some of the amendments because, as I have said many times in this place, my electorate has the Adelaide Airport smack bang in the middle of it. It affects 15,000 to 25,000 people living around the airport. This bill is very important to my electorate.

I would like to start off by speaking of the proposed amendment to section 85A subsection 93(2), which reads:

(2)   A draft major development plan submitted to the Minister must be accompanied by

(a)   a written statement signed on behalf of the company:

(i)   listing the names of the persons consulted; and

(ii)   summarising the views of persons consulted, and

(b)   a copy of any document provided by a person consulted.

A written statement signed on behalf of the company would be from the Adelaide Airport in my case in Adelaide, South Australia. That would have to list the names of persons consulted. Currently no listing has to be done. It also requires that we summarise the views of those people who have been consulted and make copies of any documents provided by those persons. Persons in my electorate would mainly be residents who live around the airport. I think the minister needs to know what these people are going through or what the effects on their lives will be before developments take place. I think that, if the minister is not getting that information, he is getting only half the information and is not getting what is going on in the area and the consequences for the immediate suburbs around the airports which will affect those residents.

I think it is unfortunate that we are here tonight speaking of a decade of Australian aviation which has resulted, by one means or another, in an almost sardonic attitude shown by those affected by the act with which this amendment bill is concerned. We have had a history of minimal conditions placed upon the proposals of developments and activities at the airports which has allowed the practice to develop where the master plan is originally developed, the master plan implementation is the second stage and then there are amendments. Some people in my electorate will swear that the master plan should be dumped in the wastepaper basket as soon as it comes back from the minister’s desk, for all it is worth.

A situation has developed whereby the government outsources virtually all functions pertaining to airport development to the very businesses the act is supposed to regulate. Multimillion-dollar companies have been given responsibility for: ensuring the community is consulted over their plans; incorporating substantial objections and amendments; policing the observance of their own master plan; and assessing amendments to the master plan irrespective of what those amendments are or what anyone thinks of them. So ensuring that the minister sees what has happened in the consultation discussions can only be a good thing.

The very recent case of the proposal for some development in the middle of Sydney airport being turned down by the government has been one of the only things that I have ever seen be turned down. I am not aware of any airport lessee company around the nation having any of their claims rejected by this government apart from this recent one. An airport lessee company’s consultative committee may meet with the representatives of community groups. They may meet with people without any inside information or expert knowledge. Some of these companies may even meet with their shareholders, but to what end? The current system that we have in place puts the community at the disposal of the airport lessee companies. It puts the general public in a position of reliance on the very organisation they are notionally going to disagree with, the company that is their notional adversary. Will an airport lessee company say, ‘Sure, we agree to kill off this multimillion-dollar project because you don’t like it,’ even if it does not contravene the master plan? The notion that the government can rely on airport lessee companies to do the right thing, consult, take everyone’s opinions into consideration throughout the airport’s development over a couple decades because they were asked to by this act we are going to amend is naive in the extreme. The people in the community have no faith in these companies; they have no faith that their comments will not be misrepresented or discounted.

Government amendments will not help if the airport can misrepresent or underplay the substance of comments and discard the relevance or importance of those people submitting. It is ridiculous for a party with such financial bias to be given full rein in collating, interpreting and assessing substance of comments and then be expected to say to the government that they have viewed community comments with total objectivity and a not-for-profit sense of community responsibility. Persons who make comments should receive copies of airport lessee companies’ responses to comments as submitted by the company to the minister. Subsequent to any determination, they should also be informed of any determination of the minister pertaining to their comments. All such documents should be on the public record—comments, airport lessee company submissions and ministerial responses. My question for the minister is: what evidence can be hoped for by any person in the community who has made a comment that (1) the airport lessee company has considered it and (2) the airport lessee company accurately represented it in their submissions to the minister?

That is what this amendment is all about. It is about showing the minister who has been consulted, what those people have said and what the outcomes have been. These are only good things. The more consultation we have, the better for those residents who live in and around the airport in my electorate. Therefore, I commend and support the opposition’s amendments to this bill.