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Tuesday, 16 April 1985
Page: 1097

Senator KILGARIFF(10.50) —I want to speak for a few minutes on the Bosch report. That report was recently completed and handed to government. It relates to cost recovery in the aviation industry. In these days of communication it is still very difficult to get the ear of government and authority on some matters which are of grave concern to some people in Australia. Once again I will refer briefly to the construction of the international airport at Darwin. I hope that the Government, after looking at the Bosch report on cost recovery in the aviation industry and the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, will reconsider the situation and find that it would be economically viable to continue with the project, which has been cancelled.

The Bosch report makes very many recommendations. Some of the recommendations are that particular projects should be justified in both financial and economic terms; that each major airport project should be subjected to financial and economic analysis to determine whether it is economically justifiable and whether costs can be fully recovered; and that there should be an immediate moratorium on all significant new investments and projects of the Department of Aviation not already approved by government unless it can be shown that they will reduce attributable costs or be fully recoverable.

The report goes on to talk about the aerodrome local ownership plan. It states that all future transfers should be subject to evaluation to ensure that unnecessary upgrading is not undertaken and that transfer will be a cost saving to the Commonwealth and industry. The report also makes recommendations which I think are of note, particularly as they affect the Northern Territory at present. One recommendation is that substantial reductions in departmental costs are necessary. The Committee supports decisions to separate airport and airway charges. There is a recommendation to improve planning in order to involve more closely those who will use and pay for these facilities. It goes on to make other recommendations.

It is noticeable that since the Bosch report was tabled some projects in Australia have been cancelled-I refer particularly to the International Airport at Darwin-yet construction under other projects around Australia within the aviation industry which cost much more money are continuing. Perhaps someone has been so enthusiastic, at the tabling of the Bosch report, that there has been somewhat of a jumping of the gun, with the effect that the construction of the international airport has been cancelled. I would have thought that before this was done there should have been this review, this immediate moratorium, that was suggested in the report. The first of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee in relation to this project is:

Facilities at Darwin Airport for international and domestic passengers and aircraft are grossly deficient and measures designed to rectify the situation should be implemented.

The second recommendation is:

The staged northern development option for the development of facilities at Darwin International Airport has operational and cost advantages over other options examined and is supported.

The third recommendation is:

The Committee is satisfied that the factors which contributed to the design of the proposed new terminal and associated aprons and taxiways at Darwin International Airport were rigorously examined by Commonwealth departments and reflect realistic forecasts and spatial requirements.

The Committee goes on to make other recommendations relating to the upgrading, as an interim measure, of the old war time hangar. An unfortunate aspect of this cancellation is that already the Federal Government has spent some $12m to $15m on the development of this project. The cost might be $12m, $13m or $14m; it is something like that. I understand that at the same time the contractors and sub-contractors who were working on this project have been told to cease their work and to put in their claims for the work which has been carried out and which has not been claimed for up to the present. Goodness knows what that amount will be. With the work that has been done now, perhaps it will be another $10m. Perhaps it will cost the Federal Government some $25m to cancel the project.

Of course, this does not take into consideration the enormous cost and planning involved in this project within government departments such as the Department of Housing and Construction. There is the cost of relocating the supervisors and officers of the Department of Housing and Construction from Adelaide to Darwin and the immense costs involved in the preparation of the site. One could well imagine that something like one-quarter of the cost of the terminal has already been spent. The cancellation of this project means that some one-quarter of the cost of the project-as I said, $25m or thereabouts-is money down the drain.

I would like to see a review of this situation. I believe that the Federal Government, its departments which have recommended this project, the Northern Territory Government and, indeed, private enterprise should take part in a conference of all interested parties, if this is the way this International Airport is to be constructed. I believe that Australia and the North cannot afford the cancellation of this project. When the project came before the Public Works Committee of this Parliament it was estimated that it would cost some $95m. I believe that with a review of the plan the cost could possibly be adjusted and there could be savings so that the project may not have to cost some $95m. I am extremely concerned that this contract should have been cancelled out of hand.

At the moment absolutely hundreds of millions of dollars-that is no exaggeration-of private enterprise money is coming into Australia, is being generated out of Australia and also within Australia, for the building of international hotels in Darwin and Alice Springs. The investment is enormous. I believe that it would be to the benefit of the Government to encourage this investment in the Northern Territory to develop the tourist industry and to bring about employment-to develop the North. Indeed, investment in this industry could be so enormous that a considerable amount could be recovered by the Federal Government in taxation and by other means. The Darwin International Airport project would be to the benefit of Federal Government's coffers. I believe that the investment that is now coming into the North was encouraged by the fact that the Federal Government saw fit to construct this new international terminal at Darwin.

The matter must be reviewed. I for one do not think that the contract should be cancelled. I am not prepared to say or to believe that the recommendations of the Bosch report are such that they should cancel out such a project. I suggest once again that there should be a conference between the interested parties to see what can be done to rectify the situation. When one considers the various international airlines that come into Darwin now and will do so in the next two or three years, it is clear that their international travellers will have to be subject to being brought into the reception area of the existing Darwin terminal which, in effect, is an old wartime hangar constructed before 1942. Indeed, if one looks carefully at its roof, one can see that it still shows signs of damage from the Second World War.

I was present at the weekend when Cyclone Gretel hit Darwin. This old terminal, as I understand it, can withstand winds only up to 75 knots per hour or 80 miles per hour. This is an impossible situation. One would concede that in times of cyclones, with winds of high velocity, people would have to be evacuated from this old hangar, this so-called national and international terminal. At present, of course, the Customs facilities and the handling of people has been described by travellers from overseas as being worse than they have experienced in any Third World country. It is my suggestion that this project is far too important for Australia, having regard to the fact that it is the front door of Australia. It is the northern door through which so many people from overseas enter Australia. Their first thoughts, on being subjected to the incredible inconveniences in the present terminal are: 'Is this really Australia? Do they want tourists in Australia?'

I ask the Government to reconsider the situation. There has been a lot of emotion. There have been attacks on the Government with, I think, good reason because I believe that it has jumped the gun. But I think that the situation should not be lost and I ask the Government to reconsider. In the interests of the development of the north and in the interests of one of its major industries, the tourist industry, the Federal Government, the Northern Territory Government and private enterprise should bring about a package for the Northern Territory in which both airports-that is, in Darwin and Alice Springs-are upgraded so that they support the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars that are now being invested in the Northern Territory.