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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 4921

Mr TUCKEY (10:32 AM) —It is amazing how often we find ourselves in this House correcting the mistakes of the previous or of this government—more particularly this government—where, as in this case, laws are passed without providing the appropriate authority.

Mr Martin Ferguson —Have you read the bill?

Mr TUCKEY —I have read the bill. Let me quote the purpose stated in the second reading speech:

The Airports (On-Airport Activities Administration) Validation Bill 2010 will validate potentially invalid infringement notices …

Mr Martin Ferguson —Read on—‘going back as far as 2004’.

Mr TUCKEY —What did I just say? I said previous and present governments.

Mr Martin Ferguson —You talked about correcting the current government. What do you think this is: a race?

Mr TUCKEY —What I am saying is that it is a situation of fixing problems that should not have occurred in the first place and it has taken all this time to find out what they are. I do not have to worry too much about this particular government alleging that two wrongs make a right, which is its mantra. We get the Prime Minister doing it every day. We say, ‘Why have you let this happen?’ and he says, ‘Oh, but you did it worse.’ That is maybe why the people change the government—people change the government in anticipation it will be done better. The giggling that is going on over there is coming from the minister who, if he were me, would declare himself the minister ‘for’ resources, as I did ‘for’ forestry, when the Labor government of the day, particularly in Western Australia, was just decimating jobs in the forestry industry to pick up a few Greens preferences.

Mr Martin Ferguson —Relevance, Mr Deputy Speaker!

Mr TUCKEY —If you are worried about relevance, you started it. You—the minister at the table—raised the issue of two wrongs making a right, and it is with some pleasure that I am responding to those comments. The reality is that the Rudd government seldom even correct their own problems. They believe that, as long as they can put an alternative case or pick some example going back 100 years, they are justified in their mismanagement of the Australian economy.

In that regard, we had a situation across the road just a little while ago where we saw a building erected in haste to demonstrate the dimensions of a school canteen which cost $600,000, when last Sunday in Perth a house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a home theatre, an office and air-conditioning was advertised to be constructed on your block for $160,000. This thing, which you could not park a car in, cost $600,000. The tragedy is that the Minister for Resources and Energy is in here every day defending the decisions that were made in his absence to add a huge financial burden to the mining sector so the government can pay off the losses of the Building the Education Revolution. Evidence was given of a guy who did $60,000 worth of work and cannot get paid. Where is the stimulus?

Coming back to the issue of airports, I rose to speak recognising that this is a relatively simple matter. It authorises people to issue parking infringement notices, primarily. I believe that at our airports we still have security problems around the proper identification of people who work on the site. I well remember when the then Premier of New South Wales objected to the installation of surveillance cameras in the baggage areas because it might catch some of the union members having a sleep and/or breaking into people’s luggage to steal things! I think it was Bob Carr who objected strenuously to the upgrading of that service, and everybody knew that you could go through half of those areas and the CCTV cameras had cigarette packets stuck over them and no-one was game to take them off.

There are other issues that we might debate on this matter, but my major concern is Perth Airport and its major role—and the minister at the table, Minister Ferguson, might be interested in this—with the fly out arrangements. Fly in, fly out is now a major component of the mining industry. It replaces the Charles Court mantra: if you want to get a mining lease in Western Australia then you build the township and you build the infrastructure and you build the railway lines—which they still do. Why they need to be taxed so the government can duplicate what the mines have done already in mining infrastructure, I do not know. Every time there has been a need to increase exports, the mining companies and the new entrants, like Forrest with Fortescue Metals, have built their own railway lines, built their own airports and made their own arrangements. Near the town of Ravensthorpe in my electorate, BHP, as part of their $3 billion development, built a very good 737 style airport. As a consequence, they could fly people in and out, notwithstanding that was a locality where a lot of people preferred to live.

This is another serious matter arising out of the attack on the mining industry. I am surprised at times to find where I have a mine in my electorate, even under its present boundaries, compared to its new boundaries, where of course I move into the goldfields. In the present boundaries there is a major nickel mining project near a little town called Hyden. Hyden has been producing wheat and sheep for as long as I can remember. Hyden had a pretty bad year last year. Most grain growers did because, whereas typically you need a tonne of grain to pay your input costs, last year it was two tonnes. It was a dry finish and they did not get two tonnes and the region around there lost $1 billion. What the farmers have discovered, particularly the broader family, is that, regarding the cash flow of a family enterprise which is dedicated to farming, they can go and get well paid jobs just down the road. That particular company has dug two shafts and has decided not to dig the third one. It is the marginal one; it is marginal and the tax will make it impossible.

We heard the Prime Minister going on yesterday about somebody who said, ‘Minerals are just sand in the ground until we in the mining sector do something about it.’ I presume the minister at the table knows what the meaning is of recoverable reserves. We in the mining industry never talk about ‘the reserves’ or the amount of minerals that are there at whatever grade. It is always a case, when you go to your banker, of recoverable reserves. In other words: in the present environment, how much can you extract at the available prices, which are usually set internationally, and make a profit sufficient to repay your tax and your debts? By any measure, if the government sequesters to itself a more significant amount of the available revenue then in fact the recoverable reserves are reduced as a matter of simple arithmetic.

But the mining sector has built most of its own infrastructure and certainly does not need to be robbed by a government for the purpose of duplicating what is there already, or what they are quite prepared to build in their construction planning. Let me say that when you build an airstrip or you build a new mining project, the ratio of employment is probably 10 or 15 to one compared to the operation of that mine. Consequently, this new tax, which is an attack on new development, is going to hit the big side of employment in mining very hard. But nevertheless maybe this very mining debate has removed the problem that I came to this chamber to talk about—that is, congestion created by the fly in, fly out system at Perth Airport.

It was claimed recently that because of the nature of the industry, and to keep with their work program, the mining companies want their crews to leave Perth at six o’clock in the morning, so you get a concentration of departures at that time. I thought, ‘Well I need a bit of information on this,’ so I put a question in writing to the minister’s office, thinking that no doubt he and his department would have given considerable thought to this problem and be able to provide me with a range of solutions already to hand. I should have brought the answer in and sought leave to table it, but I believe it is supposed to be published under the arrangements in this place. It is a farce. It was just another one of the answers we get here to questions without notice that are obfuscations; it virtually did not answer the questions, particularly those where I tried to make suggestions that might solve the problem.

My first question was: in an environment where you have a high number of departures at six o’clock in the morning, how many arrivals do you have? Do you have to have a rule that there is a time interval between take-offs, to allow for an aircraft to land between each take-off? Obviously in Perth at six o’clock in the morning, the tourist flights are not coming in from the rest of the world. They come in at midnight, because we Western Australians, luckily, have no curfew on our airport. I asked: what is the time interval, and how does it compare with those of major international airports? That request was just ignored. That is a bit hard, isn’t it—they are the department of aviation and they do not know what goes on in major European or American airports. They do not know the time interval, the gap.

I remember sitting some years ago in Denver airport. It was snowing and they were hosing down the wings of the airplanes. The airplanes were coming in to land almost nose to tail, and the snow plows were ducking out between them. I have had a private pilots licence, and the intervals that are legally applicable in Australia are just a joke. But why not tell me what they are, how they compare with those of other busy airports in the world and how, consequently, we could improve the productivity of Perth airport. There are no answers—no ideas.

Some of my other questions were quite simple. Firstly, it is a productivity issue. Might I say to those who manage the airport: take a tougher line on no-shows, or people who have checked in and then do not turn up when the boarding call is made. I do not know how, in that environment, you could tolerate it. Presumably the mining companies have to say to their workforce: ‘If you’re not on the plane at the correct time so that plane can meet its slot for take-off, don’t come to work.’ I go to my electorate on similar early flights, sometimes the same flights, and I hear the call: ‘Will Bill, Jack and so-and-so please get on the plane?’ That is an administrative issue that would no doubt improve things in that regard.

Acting Deputy Speaker Washer would be familiar with this, having quite a few fly-in fly-out people living in his electorate—typically, I might add, in the more expensive suburbs. They probably have a boat and go out and pinch his fishing spot from time to time. Their proximity to the RAAF Base Pearce is probably the same as their proximity to Perth airport. So I ask: why can’t we—as it is done at Richmond Airport in New South Wales, for example—have a FIFO operation at Pearce? ‘Oh, no, you could not do that; that is an air force base.’ Well, so is Richmond. And other air force bases around Australia could also quite easily accommodate some departures. They have the established structure, and they are ready to go for the relatively simple structure of a terminal. ‘Oh, no, you couldn’t do that’—in other words, there has been no thought, no recognition that it happens already and that that could be a solution to getting people out of the metropolitan area, and out of Acting Deputy Speaker Washer’s electorate in particular.

Let’s travel all the way south. Some years ago the shire of Margaret River made the decision that they needed to be a tourist hub and that it was practical to have a, I think, daily air service to an airstrip for people flying from Perth. They built an airstrip for that activity. They then discovered that people did not take that option. People are rusted onto their motorcars. The journey is a bit short for that, and through the efforts of the member for Canning and through the pressure applied by the Howard government, the then Carpenter WA government and the then minister for transport—who now wants the member for Canning’s seat—were forced to put a dual four-lane highway to interconnect with the section of the Old Coast Road, which was just a death trap, and fix it up. I occasionally drive on that road to other parts of my electorate and it is a dream. It is another reason why that airport is not used by people who live in places like Margaret River.

As we speak, there is an aircraft that leaves that airport, I am not sure on the frequency, as a FIFO. It flies to the Pilbara. It is a propjet and it can land on that airport. The good salaries that people are earning—and not just machine operators but young women working in the restaurant and catering area—are such that they choose to live in some of these lifestyle blocks. Compared to the salubrious suburbs of Perth, they are lower in cost, but they have room for kids and access to the beach, fishing and all the things they desire. Some of the newer areas of my electorate, like Bridgetown and Manjimup—which took a tremendous blow from the restriction of native forest harvesting—are seeing these people come in and buy the relatively small acreage blocks that were designed years ago. They are living there and spending money in the local community, and that airport is the logical place for them to depart for work. What is the problem? There is a curfew of 7 am in the morning on this airport for the local community. You would think there is a plane coming in every five minutes—even with an expanded role it might be two or three a day. That convenience should be there. It relieves the pressure on Perth airport. What was the answer I got when I asked about that? ‘That’s someone else’s problem. Don’t tell us about it’. There is a case for this minister to say to his aviation minister, ‘You’d better resume that airport, take control of it and put in some reasonable arrangements so that it can be made available to fly people into these airports.

With the half a second I have, I ask: where are all these people coming from? There are two flights a week from Cairns, with 14 per cent unemployment, and we are going to strangle that off. Then, of course, every other state—(Time expired)