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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20505

Mr CAUSLEY (2:20 PM) —My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House of recent initiatives in airspace management? What benefits will these bring for the aviation industry?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for his question. I am pleased to be able to say that this morning at the annual Safeskies conference, which has become quite a notable event on the aviation calendar—it brings together the best expertise in all areas of aviation from right around the world—I was able to take the opportunity to launch the second edition of the Australian Air Traffic Management Strategic Plan, and I think this is worthy of some note. Australia has always been a leader, if not the leader, in air traffic management. Today we are finding that our expertise and our capacities are winning considerable markets internationally. Indeed, we are determined to maintain our technological leadership, and the plan launched today will help ensure that we do. I have an overview of the plan here and I will table it for anyone who is interested.

The strategic plan is the result of a lot of work between government agencies and the aviation sector. It will see us take advantage of the rapid emergence of new communication, navigation and surveillance technologies. Under the plan we will, amongst other things, be able to replace the existing fixed aviation routes around the country with a system where airlines can fly directly—which they often cannot do now. For example, to get from Sydney to Brisbane, they go over Casino; that is not a direct route. Under the new arrangements, airlines will be able to fly directly to their destination with the same level of safety that they enjoy now through the use of satellite navigation technology, data links between aircraft and the air traffic management system. Over the next few years this will actually make quite a difference. It will reduce flight times on some major routes in Australia and on a lot of minor routes as well; lower operating costs; lower fuel usage, with attendant benefits in emissions and pollution outcomes; reduce aircraft maintenance requirements; and help us cope with the congestion at our airports.

As an important step towards implementing the plan, I also announce today that, as part of this, Airservices will establish 20 ground stations across Australia for a new air traffic control technology. That will give complete coverage of the mainland. Conversely, we have never had air traffic control radar coverage across the whole continent, particularly in the outback and far-flung regions where not many planes fly, because of the immense cost of radar and the vast size of Australia. But under this new approach the system will cover virtually the entire continent at a fraction of the cost of installing and operating radars. Initially, particularly for flights operating at over 30,000 feet, it will enable pinpoint accuracy in tracking all aircraft movements. That will increase safety, as air traffic controllers will be able to pinpoint precisely all aircraft equipped with the system. It will reduce air traffic control delays, and it will ensure that controllers are able to space aircraft more closely, which enables better safety and better congestion management.

This is another area where we can proudly say we genuinely lead the world. I think we are all proud of that. I certainly commend everyone in the Australian aviation sector who has put us into that position. With the new CASA coming on stream, with airspace reform, with liberalised skies and with the successful, or largely successful, rewrite of the nation's aviation regulations, I think we are set for a welcome and strong surge in growth in the aviation sector in this country.