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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 11983


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (11:05): I rise to speak on the Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill and to congratulate my coalition colleagues the members for Pearce and Swan for their efforts drafting this bill and for raising the serious issues within it. There are many elements to this bill that deserve discussion in this place and, with the likelihood of there being further amendments, I look forward to the opportunity to address each of these issues at a future stage. In the limited time available today, I will focus on the impact of aircraft noise on the people of Bennelong and on how this bill will improve processes and opportunities available to my constituents to redress this issue.

The Bennelong electorate is notorious for the 'Bennelong funnel', a passageway in the air that cuts straight through the region and serves as a flight path for a large percentage of planes descending into Sydney airport. The 'Bennelong funnel' results from the electorate's position due north of the major north-south runway. My neighbours living in East Ryde, North Ryde and Gladesville as well as those in Carlingford, Dundas Valley and Ermington are all too familiar with their automatic 6 am alert that Sydney airport's curfew is over. One of the key ingredients used by Airservices Australia in the analysis and administration of noise abatement issues is the information received from noise monitoring terminals. Despite our region's name being synonymous with flight paths and aircraft noise, there is not a single noise monitoring terminal located in the entire electorate of Bennelong. My representative on the Sydney Airport Community Forum has made clear my request and expectation that this apparent oversight is resolved at the earliest opportunity.

This private member's bill seeks to implement some of the recommendations made by the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport following their inquiry into the effectiveness of Airservices Australia's management of aircraft noise. The Gillard government took more than half a year to respond to this inquiry and then finally supported only three of the 10 recommendations, with only one having been implemented. Central to this bill is the requirement for Airservices Australia to advise the minister for environment when new flight paths or changes are likely to impact on residents. The current legislation only requires this consultation when the changes are significant—a subjective determination that Airservices Australia has never made in relation to Sydney airport. As the member for Bennelong, I can assure Airservices Australia that many of my constituents will have strong views on whether the impact from unannounced flight path changes are significant and deserve consultation.

This bill will require an improvement to complaints management, a process about which many of my constituents have made their frustration very clear. The bill will also lead to the appointment of a community aviation advocate to complement the role of the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman in acting on behalf of communities like those in Bennelong.

Modern technological progress presents today's air traffic controllers with opportunities to prioritise noise abatement over residential areas as their second highest imperative after safety. This kind of progress led to the Howard government's implementation of the long-term operating plan for noise abatement and flight path management at Sydney airport. This world's best practice system set noise sharing targets and included concepts of respite, reduction, redistribution and reciprocity of aircraft noise over residential areas.

It remains a grave concern to many of my constituents and me that the implementation of performance based navigation at Sydney airport will lead to a concentration of aircraft into a single 40-metre path right through the heart of Bennelong. This would be in direct contradiction to the long-term operating plan and would be devastating to those unlucky souls living underneath. A strong community engagement regime such as the community aviation advocate position created by this bill is essential to ensure community interests are safeguarded and that this kind of system is not considered without appropriate consultation.

There exists a solid background to the perception that Airservices Australia is not fulfilling its duty to the standards expected by the community or listed in their ministerial direction, leading to a low level of public confidence in this important institution. This bill will improve Airservices Australia's levels of public accountability and will provide for a consistency in the approach to flight path changes and consultation with affected residents. As the representative for those communities living under the infamous Bennelong funnel, I commend this— (Time expired)