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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8627

Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (16:39): I rise to speak on the Australian Noise Exposure Forecast 2025. The ANEF is a noise map promulgated to show the noise effect of the Joint Strike Fighter, which is due to be introduced at RAAF Base Williamtown in 2018. I have spoken on this issue in the parliament several times. However, this is the first time I have been able to say that the Gillard government has finally followed through on its ANEF promise, albeit eight months late. Last week, the government finally met its 2010 pre-election commitment to replace the ANEF over my electorate of Port Stephens. I am glad the member for Eden-Monaro is here because he is the person that actually made the promise to the people in my electorate. This is a huge victory for my constituents, who faced severe losses of property value and quality of lifestyle through no fault of their own and despite their own due diligence.

I point out that the great majority of people in the electorate want the RAAF base to stay exactly where it is; it is a critical driver of our local economy. After all, 25 per cent of all RAAF personnel are based at Williamtown. Residents only ever wanted the RAAF to be a good neighbour. The new ANEF 2025, released last Wednesday, 10 August, proves that the RAAF and local people can be good neighbours. In that vein I would like to pay tribute today in the parliament to the community groups that worked so hard to help achieve the new ANEF, which alleviates the unfair noise burden created by the previous version of the ANEF 2025 noise map.

To Andrea Pitt and the Save Our Castle group, to Paul Le Mottee and the SAFE-EARS group, to the east and west Medowie groups, to those from the Salt Ash Weapons Range group and to the first residents panel to set up on this particular matter, the Save Oyster Cove group: on behalf of the people of Paterson I say thank you. This outcome would not have been achieved without you and the support of the RAAF.

While there has been fantastic progress on this issue, there are some lessons for the future and I would like to make a point of them here today. Firstly, the Gillard Labor government and Defence must learn to consult with local people when implementing such life-altering restrictions. From the concepts of the original map to the final promulgation of ANEF 2025, residents were simply not kept informed. Many people did not even know how the map would affect their properties until a public meeting I attended in Raymond Terrace. To make matters worse, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited Raymond Terrace on 19 August 2010, just days before the election, she chose to visit the pub just down the road rather than attend the ANEF meeting with almost a thousand affected people. In fact, she drove by the meeting. The Prime Minister chose to have a beer rather than listen to and consult with those people that were affected. That is just not good enough. I will certainly be working to ensure the government adequately consults as the map is moved through the environmental impact study stage.

Secondly, there is a lesson for the Gillard Labor government in taking swift, decisive action. The Prime Minister promised to replace the ANEF by the end of 2010, yet just a couple of weeks ago still nothing had been done. By the time the new noise map was promulgated, the Prime Minister was 222 days late on her own deadline. That is 222 days of anxiety, stress and fear which was completely unnecessary.

Thirdly, there is a lesson for local government. I say to Port Stephens Council, as I have said so many times before: you should not continue to rezone rural land that is directly under the flight path. To do so places future residents at risk. It also jeopardises the long-term operations of RAAF Base Williamtown, which is vital for the economic health of our region. Every single Port Stephens councillor voted in favour of the new Kings Hill development going ahead, placing a brand new subdivision directly under the flight path, and that includes councillors who live among the community already affected by the implications of noise maps. You would not build a house in the middle of a freeway, so why would you build a township directly under a major flight path? It defies logic.

Fourthly, I will continue to pursue the New South Wales government to instigate a grandfathering clause which would protect the existing property use rights of those who live in and around the RAAF base. Finally, I would like to place on the record for the people of Port Stephens that I will continue to fight for them on this issue. Despite the great development, there are still some issues that need to be finalised and I will pursue them with vigour. Once again, I thank everyone involved for their hard work. That includes the community and the RAAF.