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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 3554

Senator McGAURAN(3.26 p.m.) —I also have been provoked to join this debate. I will be brief, because I want to hand over to my—

Senator Carr —Tell us about South Yarra.

Senator McGAURAN —parliamentary leader, Senator Boswell, to defend Mr Sharp, the good minister for transport, and a National Party colleague. It is not for me as a Victorian to venture into the great debate of the Sydney airport and all the debacles that have followed it over the last 10 years. But Senator Ray got up in here and talked about political bias because this government opened the third runway. Well, I would have thought that is why you built three runways—to open it up and maximise your ability to land.

But for him to talk about this minister opening up the third runway to gain some sort of political advantage for the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) in his seat of Bennelong is absolute nonsense when we all know that it was the previous minister, Laurie Brereton, whose absolute motivation was to shut down one complete runway so that it would not go over his particular electorate. Coming from Victoria, I know that much: you built a third runway and then shut one down.

I will offer some advice to the minister. Given the queues at Sydney airport and the debacle that has followed over the past 10 years because of previous policies, it is probably timely for me to mention that that sort of delay would not happen in Victoria, currently. If he were to land at the Essendon airport, he would get an instant result. There are no queues at the Essendon airport, being as efficient as it is. It is Melbourne's second airport and it should remain so and remain open. I just offer that timely advice to the minister: these sorts of delays and frustrations just do not occur in Victoria, because of our good airport system and the two that are in the inner city.

In a week when we have had good economic news, namely the lowering of interest rates, in today's question time there was not one single question from the opposition on the economy—not one single question. What we have had are all these lightweight issues today, such as the minister chartering into Sydney airport. We have had a question on a political adviser to Tony Abbott, for heaven's sake, and what he could take out of the office, and also several questions from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Faulkner) on the position of the Prime Minister's senior Public Service adviser, Mr Max Moore-Wilton—none of them relevant. None of them are relevant to the everyday lives of Australians. I accept that they are probably trying to build up some sort of political perception, some sort of flawed political perception.

But the fact of the matter is that, in a week that we have had good economic news in this economy, the opposition is attempting to distract the government and the Australian people—and the media no doubt—to focus on these shallow pathetic issues that do not go to the heart of government.