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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 575

Senator GIETZELT —On Tuesday last, Senators Tate, Archer and Devlin raised matters with me with respect to Wynyard Airport. Senator Archer subsequently raised the matter during the adjournment debate. I undertook to get a response from the Department of Aviation which indicated the Government's attitude to the problem. There is an amazing degree of unanimity in this chamber about the need to make some progress on the construction problems at Wynyard Airport.

The Government, of course, supports and is committed to the airport local ownership plan. In that respect it has made an offer to the Marine Board of Burnie whereby the airport would be upgraded to a good standard for F-27 aircraft at a cost of $1.2m to the Commonwealth. The provision of T-VASIS, a visual approach slope indicator system, would be funded separately by the Commonwealth at a cost in the order of $175,000. The need and demand for such services could then be properly assessed to determine the need for further upgrading of the Airport. The Government accepts that that position is justified. However the need and economic justification for the upgrading of the airport to medium jet standard has yet to be proven.

I am advised that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has advised the Tasmanian Premier that use of the unallocated Gordon below Franklin funds at Wynyard should be based on entry to the airport local ownership plan under the original Commonwealth offer. In response to that, the Premier has again written to the Prime Minister indicating that the State is prepared to provide $3m on the understanding that $3m of Commonwealth funds will be available. This most recent communication is being considered by the Government. It is correct that the T-VASIS equipment has been available for installation at Wynyard since November 1984. However, the installation has been deferred because the Tasmanian Government has indicated that it wishes to proceed with the construction of a new runway at Wynyard and that therefore it would not be sensible to install the equipment at this stage if the new runway is to be built.

I can give an assurance to honourable senators from Tasmania that the matter is receiving the urgent consideration of the Government. We will be in a position to make a final decision on this matter as soon as the Cabinet has had an opportunity to consider the submissions from the Tasmanian Government.