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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6515


Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (10:03 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Like no other country, Australia combines vast internal distances with isolation from the rest of the world.

The aviation industry is critical to Australia’s economy and our society. It connects Australians to each other and to the world.

Airports, in particular, serve as significant transport and economic hubs, handling over 120 million passenger movements in 2008-09 and generating hundreds of thousands of jobs, both directly and indirectly.

In 2008, almost a century after the birth of the Australian aviation industry, the Australian government commenced the development of our first ever national aviation policy.

Comprehensive engagement with the community and aviation industry stakeholders started with the release of the Aviation Issues Paper in April 2008. Submissions to the issues paper underpinned the development of the green paper, which was released in December 2008.

The green paper gave all stakeholders a further opportunity to have their say on the future direction of Australia’s aviation industry.

Over 600 submissions were received to the issues paper and the green paper, underscoring the wide interest in aviation and the level of community and industry engagement in the policy development process.

In December 2009, the government released Australia’s first ever national aviation policy white paper, Flight Path to the Future.

Today, I present to this parliament the Airports Amendment Bill 2010 which will give effect to many of the government’s airport planning and development policies that were announced in the white paper.

These policies have been subject to extensive consultation with stakeholders in the aviation industry and the community, and also with state, territory and local governments.

We have learnt a lot since the original Airports Act commenced in 1996.

Significant reforms are needed to get the balance right between the investment in aviation infrastructure, community consultation and the integration of airport planning with local and state planning regimes.

This government is committed to ensuring the right regulatory settings are in place to support sustainable growth in aviation, underpinned by meaningful engagement and consultation with industry and community stakeholders.

The government’s aim is to give industry the certainty and incentive to plan and invest for the long term, to maintain and improve our excellent aviation safety record, and to give clear commitments to travellers, airport users and the communities affected by aviation activity.

As airports get busier and our major cities grow, airport planning assumes an increased importance.

It is vital for airports and for the amenity of surrounding communities that airport development plans be properly integrated with land planning around airports.

The public rightly demands better information and consultation when it comes to airport development, and especially when it comes to the effects of aviation on communities close to our airports. Better planning is essential. This government is committed to better urban planning—and that includes for federal leased airports and the areas around them.

Better integration of on- and off-airport planning is in everyone’s interests—airport operators, airlines, fare-paying passengers, local communities and businesses.

The current legislative reforms have been developed with this in mind.

Furthermore, the amendments contained in this bill underscore the objects of the Airports Act as enunciated in section 3 of the act, particularly the first three objectives. These are:

  • to promote the sound development of civil aviation in Australia;
  • to establish a system for the regulation of airports that has due regard to the interests of airport users and the general community; and
  • to promote the efficient and economic development and operation of airports.

The primary role of the leased federal airports is to provide aviation infrastructure that serves the Australian community.

The planning framework should above all facilitate the development of airports as aviation infrastructure. It should do this not only by encouraging investment in aviation facilities but also by enhancing the place of airports as key transport hubs to support our communities, jobs and the economy.

The need to strengthen airport master plans was a recurring theme in submissions and meetings during the 20-month consultation and development period for the white paper.

The Airports Amendment Bill 2010 will strengthen airport master plans through a number of new requirements.

Firstly, airport master plans will need to include a ground transport plan which has detailed information on the airport’s road network and transport facilities. It will also have to show how the airport’s facilities connect with the road and public transport system outside the airport.

Secondly, airport master plans will need to include additional detail on proposed use of land in the first five years of the plan. As well as details on aviation infrastructure improvements, master plans will have to include detailed information on proposed non-aeronautical developments and other developments not directly related to airport services.

Thirdly, airport master plans will need to have information on the number of jobs likely to be created, anticipated traffic flows, and the airport’s assessment of the potential impacts on the local and regional economy and community.

Fourthly, airport master plans will need to include detailed analysis on how they align with state, territory and local government planning laws, as well as a justification for any inconsistencies.

Fifthly, airport environment strategies will now be part of airport master plans. This will ensure the airport and community can focus on a single public consultation and approval process. Airport environment strategies set out the operational framework for the environmental management of airport sites. Under the amendments, the airport environment strategy will be part of an airport master plan to ensure that planning for an airport site is comprehensive and holistic.

Community consultation over major developments at airports is very important, and this bill will add an important extra trigger for major development plans.

The process for major development plans involves 60 days mandatory public consultation, after which the plan is submitted for ministerial approval.

The current triggers for major development plans will be supplemented by a new requirement that any proposed development that is likely to have a significant impact on the local or regional community will be required to go through the major development plan process. This will ensure the community is better consulted on specific developments proposed for an airport site.

This is an important amendment to improve community consultation and the oversight of airport developments.

The changes to the act which ensure the community is better consulted on proposed airport developments are supported by other non-legislative reforms contained in the government’s white paper. These include the requirement for all leased federal airports to have community consultation groups with independent chairs, and for capital city airports to also have a high level planning forum with the state government and my department.

The bill also supports infrastructure investment and encourages best practice planning. It does this by ensuring that developments that are covered in detail in the master plan can be considered for a reduced period of public comment if the development proposal is consistent with the master plan and, very importantly, does not raise any issues that have an impact on the community.

In recognition of how important aviation is to the economy, the bill also allows for the approval process for aeronautical developments to be streamlined where appropriate safeguards are met.

Together this suite of reforms significantly enhances the exchange of information and the involvement of the community and other governments in the planning of the federal leased airports.

As I indicated earlier, the primary purpose of an airport is the provision of aeronautical services. There are a range of activities that are likely to be incompatible with the long-term operation of an airport as an airport. These activities include long-term residential developments, residential aged or community care facilities, nursing homes, hospitals and schools.

These incompatible developments will be prima facie prohibited unless the airport is able to demonstrate to the minister that there are exceptional circumstances for taking the development to the next stage. If justified, developments will then go through a major development plan process which includes 60 days public consultation before the development is submitted to the minister for consideration.

Airports are not islands. Their activities provide a major source of employment for the local communities and contribute significantly to the economic and social outcomes of their host cities and regions. Aviation operations and other activities at the airport site can also have a major impact on surrounding neighbourhoods in terms of aircraft noise and ground traffic flow. This is why any alteration of a runway, including a runway alteration that changes flight paths or patterns of levels of aircraft noise, will be subjected to public consultation under a major development plan approval process.

Other minor technical and housekeeping amendments will be made by this bill, including amendments to:

  • remove certain items that have been made redundant by previous amendments to the act,
  • update the names of a couple of airports; and
  • clarify the operation of certain sections of the Airports Act.

The government’s aviation white paper was Australia’s first ever national blueprint for aviation. It contained a balanced set of planning and development reforms to improve planning at Australia’s leased federal airports.

This bill gives effect to those planning and development reforms. It will result in better consultation, improved integration and coordination of on- and off-airport planning schemes whilst continuing to recognise the importance of continued investment in Australia’s airport infrastructure.

This bill gets the balance right and demonstrates this government’s commitment to support appropriate and efficient airport services and facilities for the Australian community.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Dr Southcott) adjourned.