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RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT REFERENCES COMMITTEE
28/04/2010
Effectiveness of Airservices Australia's management of aircraft noise

CHAIR —Welcome.

Councillor Godfrey —As well as being the Mayor of the City of Belmont, I am the chairman of the Perth Airport Municipality Group and have been since 2005. The Perth Airport Municipality Group, known as PAMG, has been running for over 25 years. Also, I live under the flight path.

Councillor Daw —I am on PANMCC, the Perth Airport Noise Management Consultative Committee, for the Shire of Mundaring.

Mr Erceg —Unlike my colleagues, Armadale is not represented on the airport noise committee.

CHAIR —You have all lodged submissions. Do any of you need to make any alterations or amendments to those?

Councillor Godfrey —No, but I would like to reiterate some of the points.

Councillor Daw —I have prepared something of an opening statement. Did you want to hear any opening statements?

CHAIR —I invite you to make a brief opening statement. As two of you would like to make opening statements, we will perhaps limit them to five minutes each and then we will have the rest of the hour for questions, if that suits.

Councillor Godfrey —I will be reiterating some of the points that may be before you from our written submission.

CHAIR —As we have your written submission, it would be beneficial for the committee if you wanted to add anything that is not already before us in written form—that which, of course, we have all read.

Councillor Godfrey —I understand that. The previous speakers have spoken on many of the issues. But as to whether they have conducted an effective, open and informed consultation strategy, the answer is definitely no, they have not conducted an effective, open and informed public consultation strategy. I suppose it comes down to the word ‘consultation’. When something goes wrong, our community come to local government to advocate on their behalf, and that is what has happened this time. In our view—and what has been pointed out—the consultation was undertaken in a forum that did not guarantee the balance and the wide-ranging audience which local government are very good at doing.

As to the recent overlay of the airport runway, the West Australian Airports Corporation have been excellent in the way they have communicated that to the local government, at shopping centres and with flyers et cetera. It has been pointed out by Airservices Australia that they agree that, due to the lack of knowledge, many of the community complaints had been directed to local government rather than Airservices Australia—because of the complex matter with CASA, local government and the West Australian Airports Corporation. Also, this has been disruptive to local government and has had a direct effect on our resources in handling the complaints. Therefore, local government business operations have been compromised in order to manage this situation and the function of local government.

The last point I would make is that the local residents may have been more accepting of the WARRP changes if they had been told the reasons in relation to safety et cetera and why it was needed to be altered in the first place. But I reiterate the point of going back to consultation versus just telling people what we are doing. The community engagement needs to be a proactive, ongoing process. It can help local residents become more informed about airport noise and all those related issues. Airservices Australia needs to hold education information forums for the community and stakeholders prior to implementation of the outcome of a review.

Councillor Daw —As a councillor, I began to receive calls and complaints from constituents and ratepayers from all over the Mundaring district, including from Chidlow, Glen Forrest and Darlington, soon after the introduction of WARRP by ASA. Constituents were concerned with this new and increased volume of air traffic, both jet and non-jet, above their homes and the amount of aircraft noise and vibration caused by this sudden, never before explained, increase in air traffic. Like the public, councillors and shire officers had not been consulted by ASA about these changes, despite ASA claiming that they had consulted local governments and local communities, which ASA knew beforehand—through their modelling of flight path changes—would be badly impacted by WARRP.

Constituents were bewildered as to how areas which had barely any aircraft overflights and noise emissions before now became aircraft superhighways above their heads. The volume of aircraft traffic at all hours of the day and night—sometimes 20 aircraft in an hour from 5.30 am onwards, only two to three minutes apart, and with up to 90 aircraft departures and arrivals in the course of a single day—is an ongoing saga in the daily life of Hills residents. Some aircraft are separated by only one minute. The total noise exposure often equates to at least two or three hours of aircraft noise and vibration over the course of a day.

Clearly this is an unacceptable situation. These aircraft are overflying areas with very low ambient noise—and this point came up earlier—with levels of, say, 28 decibels, and the noise pressure is rising to sometimes in excess of 65 decibels. In other words, that is a massive 60-fold increase in noise. This is having continuing negative health effect on our people. This morning—because they have the temporary noise monitor located at Chidlow now—the ambient noise was about 30 but, as soon as you had the aircraft go over, it went up to 60, which is a 32-fold increase in sound pressure. When you look at Greenmount, the ambient noise was 50 dBs and the overflight of an aircraft brought it up to 68, which is an eight-fold increase. So it is a 32-fold increase compared to an eight-fold increase, because in Chidlow which is further out it is much quieter and there is less ambient noise. So it is a massively increased impost on the people who live there.

Statistics provided by ASA verify these increases in aircraft flights and now the temporary noise monitor at Chidlow is demonstrating with real data on WebTrak—you can see it on WebTrak; a little box comes up with the amount—exactly what the people have been saying since the introduction of WARRP. They have been saying that there is a noise problem and that it must be fixed. WARRP must be reviewed with a view to alleviating its impact on Perth Hills and the lifestyle of its people. Also, the very legislation underpinning ASA, which is both a government—‘public service’—department as well as a government corporation interested in making money for government through the airline industry, needs change to protect the public, so that they are not subject to the kind of corporate tyranny that they have been subjected to by Airservices Australia.

Because of the level of public anger and frustration caused by WARRP, the Mundaring Shire Council met with ASA to try to resolve the issue and called a public meeting on 3 February this year which was attended by ASA to answer questions. About 130 local people attended this meeting—probably the largest public meeting I have seen on any issue in my seven years on the council. The council has also passed a number of resolutions on the matter of aircraft noise, in an attempt to help our constituents and get ASA to make necessary changes to ameliorate the aircraft noise problems that they have caused.

CHAIR —Thank you all for your submissions. Mr Ponton, I would like to address your submission for just a moment. On the first page of your submission you say that Airservices Australia can appear autonomous in their approach. Can you explain to the committee what you mean by that?

Mr Ponton —Yes. In general dealings with Airservices Australia there is at times an impression of a lack of information. Coming from a general planning background. I and I think many others on the committee do not have a lot of expertise in some of the complex matters that are used to justify flight paths, noise and those sorts of things. There is, I suppose, the impression that a lot of the proposals and plans put forward are justified on grounds that are not clearly understood by the people that they are ultimately impacting and those responsible for looking after those communities.

CHAIR —You also say that the objectives within Airservices jurisdiction are conflicting and competing. Can you outline a bit for us what those conflicts and competitive aspects are or what you mean by that?

Mr Ponton —I think it is the dual role of environmental regulator and safety regulator and the clear conflicts in relation to those areas. Again, whilst the submission does not discount the need for safety in aircraft operations, from the City of Canning’s point of view, it was regularly used both in relation to Perth airport and Jandakot airport to justify flight changes. Also, on a number of occasions when asked about details of the safety case put forward to justify those flight changes, the feedback was that the safety case justifying the changes was confidential.

CHAIR —On that safety argument you go on to say in your submission that, in your view, Airservices uses the safety argument to discount serious consideration of alternative flight paths. Do you have any evidence of that that you could give the committee? You may want to take that on notice and perhaps supply some further information on what you see as the evidentiary basis for saying that ASA had used that safety argument to not consider alternative flight paths.

Mr Ponton —Perhaps I would need to take it on notice.

CHAIR —Obviously through a lot of the submissions there was the issue of lack of consultation and what needed to be done in the future so that did not happen again. That is all fine, but in terms of the WARRP, obviously it is a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. In your view, if there is a problem—and you obviously see that there is—what is the solution? What would you like to see done to fix what you see as the problem?

Councillor Daw —It would seem that the WARRP needs at the very minimum to be reviewed if not rolled back, because the issue of noise and impacts and so on people are very severe and serious. To impose such a regime on people without consulting them is really a sad indictment of the society.

CHAIR —Did anyone else want to add to that?

Councillor Pilgrim —Can I just add that at the public meeting held on 3 February at the Shire of Mundaring that Councillor Daw mentioned, Airservices Australia did talk of ways off, if you like, tweaking the system to provide for changes in the altitude over the hills in terms of the approach that could be taken. Airservices Australia did indicate that there were some opportunities there. Local government is not the expert in this area, so we have to defer to Airservices Australia as having the knowledge on this. But certainly at that meeting there was an acknowledgement of Airservices Australia that there were ways of at least modifying not so much the current flight path necessarily but certainly, as I recall, the approach that was used.

Senator ADAMS —Mr Erceg, have you actually applied to the committee to be admitted as a council?

Mr Erceg —No, we have not. It has become a much more significant issue in the last two to three months. Up until that time the City of Armadale was not aware of an ongoing problem—at least there are no records to indicate that. In the last two or three months the noise levels have increased significantly up in the hills. We had at least a couple of our people attend that Mundaring meeting. The community is extremely upset about the fact that they were not consulted and that there was no opportunity for them to be consulted.

Senator ADAMS —Are you going to try to get on the committee?

Mr Erceg —Certainly.

Senator ADAMS —I note that the Bedfordale residents are really suffering very, very badly there because more and more of the aircraft are coming in on that particular flight path. Have they been represented at the council?

Mr Erceg —As I say, the council has not had much involvement in each issue at all. It has emerged in the last couple of months as an issue. We put in a late submission. We would certainly like to be on the consultative noise committee.

Senator ADAMS —Councillor Daw, you are on the committee. Any of the questions that you have been asking, and having heard the results of the meeting from Mundaring, what answers have you had from Airservices Australia as to the issues?

Councillor Daw —Airservices Australia have put in the two noise monitors, one of which is functioning and one which is not due to be in ability to replace a SIMM card in that particular machine. Hopefully that will be rectified soon. You can go online and you can see what the people have been saying. Like I say, a 60-fold increase in noise is just huge. They have put them in. They did come after the fact. After introducing WARRP they came to Mundaring and they spoke to the people. They answered some questions.

With regard to the committee, there is a tradition in Mundaring that has been around a little while to take a technical adviser, because Airservices have acknowledged that the information they gave the PANMCC committee is of a technical nature and hard for councillors, who are layman. There are councillors on that committee and others who are not experts in aviation. So we have taken along a community representative to that committee who is a technical adviser. He had drawn up an alternative set of flight routes—an alternative proposal. Last time I took that technical adviser, Mr Tony Anderson, with me, he was removed from the committee by the chair of the committee, Dr Peter Cock, before the committee could get going that day.

During the course of that committee, they went through Mr Anderson’s alternative routing proposals and, as we expected, they pooh-poohed them. But he was not there to respond through me. Mr Anderson does not normally talk at that committee, because he is the adviser to me as the representative of the shire. We would just talk together or pass a note on a particular matter. He was not there even to argue the case for those proposals. Once Airservices comes in and gives their advice, that kills that matter as an alternative way of having these flight paths arranged and having these flights arranged. I was really disappointed, because Airservices had made the point publicly at the Mundaring meeting that the advice was too technical. So we take along a technical adviser and before the meeting gets going the technical adviser is removed—who is someone from the community with expertise, an ex-aviator.

Senator BACK —Can you tell us why he was removed before the meeting started?

Councillor Daw —I think there are various levels of reasons why he was removed. The reason they gave at the time was that Mundaring had another officer at that meeting. In other words, it took up two seats. That is at one level. I think there is a different level of meaning as well—to get him out of the room so that technical questions about his alternative proposals could not be asked.

Councillor Pilgrim —My understanding is that, for membership of that committee, the shire is invited to have an officer there as an observer and we had that officer there in a Mr Adrian Dyson. I am not aware that the meeting is actually open to the public. But I am happy to take that on notice and provide advice back from the shire of Mundaring CEO.

Senator ADAMS —Can you give us an example of what is happening in Midland?

Councillor Zannino —As far as Midland goes, probably the worst affected area would be in the vicinity of Bellevue. People in that area were not used to the noise because previously the flight path was not in that direction and it is very difficult. If you take Guildford and Hazelmere, for example, people in that vicinity know that the flight path is in that area and they get used to it and they take appropriate action to ameliorate the noise. As soon as the flight path is changed and it goes through an area that had not had to take those precautions, obviously it is going to affect the community and the initial impact is going to be fairly extensive. The other areas that were also fairly impacted were areas of Beechboro, because there were flights going out in the early hours of the morning and that was not one of the flight paths which were previously designated. Apart from that, in the other areas people were aware of it and had appropriate measures in place. We did not get as many complaints. We were affected but I think the areas in the Hills were affected much more greatly than Midland.

Senator ADAMS —Was the City of Swan advised by Airservices that these routes were going to change? Some of the areas in the Hills, the area below Stoneville Road, are still under the Swan council, and that is one of the areas that has really been affected. Were you as a councillor advised that these routes were going to change and there would be that change of flight path up there?

Councillor Zannino —I think the areas that you are indicating come under the Shire of Mundaring. Gidgegannup is part of the City of Swan. As far as I am aware we did not get any significant complaints from residents in Gidgegannup. Greenmount comes under the Shire of Mundaring. It does not come under Swan. Koongamia and Bellevue are the areas that come under the City of Swan, and we did get complaints from those areas.

Senator SIEWERT —Councillor Godfrey, I would like to go to the issue of consultation and the issue that you raised earlier. You touched on the consultation process for the runway upgrade. That seems to me to have been quite comprehensive. There were mail-outs; they were briefing everybody. In this process they did not do that. So there is a marked contrast between the two. Would you think that they thought, by having the committee, they did not need to do that—that the members of the committee were somehow expected to then get that information out?

Councillor Godfrey —I believe so, yes.

Senator SIEWERT —To the people that were on the committee—I am sorry I am excluding those that were not—(a) what do you think about that and (b) was that made plain? I should ask that first.

Councillor Godfrey —Are you talking about the noise committee?

Senator SIEWERT —Yes.

Councillor Godfrey —We actually have an elected member on that committee. That elected member is a long-serving elected member who is hardworking and quite knowledgeable about noise issues but still believes it was too technical. He was being told that the effect of the changes would be further out and not really to do with the metropolitan area. I do not believe that they thought they had to come back to council. They did not have any information. It was only when we as the PAMG received a briefing from Mr Dudley that we were aware, and that was after the effect on the community. It was done poorly—not like the overlay, where they had learnt before and they advertised in the local papers, they had shopping centre displays, they did leaflets to people in the area that was affected, they kept them fully informed and council received briefings. Everyone new. They knew that there was going to be a lot of noise.

I must admit, going back to the health issues, living in the flight path—when you are on the phone or talking to your husband over a meal or being woken up because we do not have curfews—you do get quite frustrated about the noise. You have to stop a conversation. Because you knew what was going on, you knew what they were trying to do for safety and the overlay of the airport and it was being done once every 20 years, I believe it was an excellent job of communication—but this, which they call consultation, was not consultation. It needs to be. The chair is asking what needs to be done. All the monitoring outcomes need to be published in the public domain so that we all know what we are talking about, so that we can all be informed. As elected members we need to be informed because local government is the first place of call when they are not happy when you are dealing with a complex issue on crown land.

Senator SIEWERT —There are a whole stack of issues here. To make a comparison between the two processes, playing devil’s advocate, could you say, ‘Okay,  they learnt from one process so they carried out the second process much better’?

Councillor Godfrey —No, they were different people.

Senator SIEWERT —Different organisations. But you can still learn. They must know that there is a lot of angst going on.

Councillor Godfrey —They do, but I think the complex thing about this is that they were sort of running parallel.

Senator SIEWERT —This one is slightly before that one though, isn’t it? It started before the overlay process, so they did not look at how that was stuffed up and go, ‘Okay, this one is a better one.’ Do you think there is a possibility there? I am trying to get down to what actually happened.

Councillor Godfrey —They have acknowledged that they could have done it better and, as Councillor Pilgrim said, they said they will go back and tweak it. Maybe they are thinking they should go back and take it to the community to explain what they are doing. I do not believe we have actually heard why it has all changed and the safety reasons et cetera.

Senator SIEWERT —You have touched on my next issue—that is, there has not been a full explanation to the broader community about why the changes have occurred, what the limitations are for the Perth airspace—all those sorts of things. If that were done in a full and open way, would that not set the basis for a much better dialogue with the community about what was possible and what was not?

Councillor Godfrey —Possibly.

Councillor Pilgrim —At the meeting held at the shire of Mundaring on 3 February this year Airservices Australia provided an explanation as to the rationale for the changes.

Senator SIEWERT —This is in February?

—Yes; it was after the complaints were initiated. That meeting was attended by residents from as far away as Armadale. There were quite a number from Kalamunda and Swan, and the majority were from the shire of Mundaring. Airservices Australia did provide that rationale. I found that extremely useful as a councillor. I cannot say as to whether other residents found that useful but certainly there were still many questions from the people attending the meeting about why it had to happen the way it did. I think it is also fair to say that the complexity of who does what in air traffic management in Australia was highlighted by a lack of understanding, including my own misunderstanding, as to what the role and responsibility of Airservices Australia is. Many issues were brought up that were not actually part of their responsibility. So there is a lack of understanding, I suspect, in the community about who does what in the air transport business. So that briefing was provided, and whether it was adequate or satisfactory is to be judged by others. Personally, I found it useful.

Councillor Daw —When they say why it had to happen, it is their side of their story as to why it had to happen the way they did it. They probably thought they could sneak it through without too much opposition, but the people have stood up to the bureaucratic tyranny of ASA and made their complaints. They make their complaints to the ASA noise complaints unit. It goes in a circular fashion and gets filed away as a statistic somewhere, although I will admit that through the number of complaints the temporary noise monitors have been put in place and so on for them to collect their data. But they did not reveal their models and so on to the Perth Airport Noise Management Consultative Committee about what the impacts would be on the community. They did not do anything like that. They have never shown their environmental reports. They just thought they could sneak it through and that people would cop it and wear it and tough luck.

Senator STERLE —Mayor Godfrey, I will put my questions to you as the chairperson and if any other councillors, or mayor, want to jump in, please feel free. You represent the ratepayers around the airport where airport noise has been a constant problem, but people buy into the area and know that that is fine, and that is what has made it harder for those outer areas that have not had to deal with this noise before. Could you briefly tell us again why the changes to the flight paths were made, in the knowledge of your group?

Councillor Godfrey —There is conflicting air space between Pearce, Jandakot and Perth, so there was a rationale for that. That was the presentation that was given to us. As Councillor Pilgrim says, we, the PAMG, do understand from the presentation that was given but the community do not understand, and that is where the catch is. So it is a rationalisation of safety.

Senator STERLE —What we do know is that there are some 110,000 movements per year in and out of Perth Airport, a couple of thousand a week. We know how busy it is and it is going to get busier. If Airservices Australia had gone out and consulted as broadly and widely as they have now tried to do after the event, would that have appeased your group? Do you think the residents would have had a fair hearing?

Councillor Godfrey —Whether they are appeased and whether they get a fair hearing are two different issues. We have not had a fair hearing.

Senator STERLE —This is what I am leading to. I take it from your opening statement that you understand why it is done. That is not the argument. The argument is how it was done. But this is where it will come to Councillor Daw to speak for himself, because we in politics, whether it be federal, state or local, sometimes use words without going straight to the point. I would rather go straight to the point. Your words, Councillor Daw, were that WARRP ‘must be reviewed’. You also said that you have met, or would like to meet, with Airservices to resolve this issue. From my narrow point of view of what is going on up the front here, I have an interpretation that what must be reviewed might mean something different from what you think it means. What is your interpretation of ‘it must be reviewed’?

Councillor Daw —It is proven that people outside of what is normally in the ANEF corridors are coping a whacking—a hell of a lot of noise—and it is unacceptable. There has been a 60-fold increase. You can work that out for yourself if you look at decibels.

Senator STERLE —60-fold?

Councillor Daw —Yes, a 60-fold increase—not a doubling but a massive increase in the level of ambient noise created by the aircraft.

Senator STERLE —From 30 to 60?

Councillor Daw —Yes, but decibels are not measured lightly.

Senator STERLE —Let us not waste time on that. Keep going. Sorry, I interrupted you.

Councillor Daw —That is all right. It needs to be reviewed. It needs to be changed so that people do not get these massive amounts of aircraft overhead and the consequent noise issues.

Senator STERLE —I take two answers from that. When you say it must be reviewed, are you saying that the planes should not be flying over those areas where they are now flying? Is that your fix for the review for your constituents?

Councillor Daw —There has to be a fair sharing rather than a concentration.

Senator STERLE —Okay. So you are not saying that it should go back to how it was before with no planes flying over your area—is that right?

Councillor Daw —Various areas took in different parts of the district of Mundaring and other areas of the hills of course. Some had planes and some had no planes. Often where areas had no planes, they are getting heaps of planes now. Some areas had planes. I have the figures with me and I am happy to table them at this meeting, but I think I have provided them before. For example, in Chidlow, it is something like 30 flights a day pre WARRP and up to 90 a day post WARRP. There has been a big, big increase. That is just one example.

CHAIR —It seems to be agreed that the changes were made because of the safety considerations. In your view, if this was going to be reviewed, as you are suggesting Councillor Daw, is there a better way that those flight paths could have been determined and the traffic distributed to still take into consideration the safety needs of the changes?

Councillor Godfrey —I am chairman of PAMG, but I am also the WA delegate to AMAC, the Australian Mayoral Aviation Council. At the city of Belmont, we ask that the policy of sharing the noise needs to be reviewed because you need to have measurable effect and you cannot have measurable effect when you have sharing the noise, as pointed out in the AMAC submission. That is in line with the review.

Senator STERLE —This is where I get a little confused. Airservices Australia will be here today and we will be asking them this question. I believe it was first convened in 1999 but then WARRP commenced about 2004—you would have a far better idea of that than I do. If it was based on CASA’s recommendations about the safety issues and if it was proved that there was no other safer way of doing it, how do you as local representatives of your ratepayers take that from there?

Councillor Daw —The CASA safety report was requested under FOI by one of our local MPs. I saw few, if any, mentions of safety in that report. The Hon. Judi Moylan got a copy of that report under FOI. Does that mean for 40-odd years pre WARRP, how ever the flights were configured, that they were all completely unsafe?

Senator STERLE —No, in all fairness, Councillor Daw, I think that question is a little cute, with the greatest of respect. We know well the movements in and out of Perth airport. I must put on the table that I deputy chair the Prime Minister’s task force on national resource sector employment and we know the madness of the boom that is coming. We know what has been there. To get the story on an even keel, Perth airport is a lot busier than it has ever been and it is going to be busier.

Councillor Daw —Looking at the military airspace and so on, to what degree has ASA consulted with Pearce airbase to negotiate access to their air space? We do not to what degree. They say they have, and that it is an ongoing thing, but that is an important consideration if you really want to open up those northern corridors of airspace so that you are not so squeezed and so that people—residents and so on—are not impacted the way they are There are a whole lot of considerations here about the airspace, the level of negotiation and the acuteness of that negotiation. How serious is the negotiation with a view to opening that up? One of you spoke about having fly-in fly-out from Pearce airbase. Maybe that is an idea; maybe there are alternatives.

Senator STERLE —I think, in all fairness, that issue goes across the Department of Defence, and it is not the work of this committee to have those conversations. I also remember a brick works being whacked on the airport too, and there was a lot of conjecture over that. I have one last question, and I think it is only fair because, Councillor Daw, are you a member of the Perth Airport Noise Management Consultative Committee?

Councillor Daw —Yes.

Senator STERLE —Are you, too, Mayor Godfrey?

Councillor Godfrey —No, I am not; my deputy mayor is.

Senator STERLE —You were in the room and you heard Mr Macpherson the answer from the Department of Environment and Conservation when I asked whether the technical aspect of the information coming out was over and above—this is with no respect to members of the committee—the ability of the committee members to understand what was going on.

Councillor Daw —I am a new member of PANMCC; I have only been to two meetings. I was only elected to it in October, but I can say to you—I emphasise this—that I went in with a technical advisor last time the technical adviser was removed, and the same kind of highly technical information was being put up. And no-one said anything. So, yes, you would have to say that for that committee ordinary people do not have the expertise. I just got a copy of that CASA safety review. I am prepared to offer that to the senators.

CHAIR —We will table that. Thank you.

Senator STERLE —I have a lot of other questions but in all fairness there are other senators.

Senator BACK —Can I ask, if the information is available now: do the various local governments have records of the numbers of complaints about aircraft noise that have been registered with your councils? If not, can you table that for us or take it on notice?

Councillor Godfrey —We can take it on notice. I know with the overlay we only received 26 complaints.

Senator BACK —The overlay was the resurfacing of the airstrip.

Councillor Godfrey —That is correct.

Senator BACK —I am asking now about aircraft noise relevant to this inquiry.

Councillor Godfrey —I will take mine on notice.

Councillor Daw —Complaints go in all directions. Councillors are called; the shire might be called—

Senator BACK —That is my question: are they being captured? Clearly, we are not getting the information from other sources. Can we get that inform from local government, being closest to the community?

Councillor Godfrey —Yes.

Councillor Daw —Yes.

Councillor Delle Donne —We will take it on notice. I am not sure exactly what the number is but I will certainly get it back to you.

Senator BACK —As part of that question, has there been an increase in the last period of time? As Senator Sterle has said, as our economic activity has accelerated again, has this been reflected in an increased number of complaints by virtue of an increased number of flights?

Councillor Godfrey —That is true; yes.

Councillor Daw —For the Shire of Mundaring, I am happy to take that on notice but I would add that we obviously were receiving a number of complaints and that is why we negotiated with Airservices Australia to hold a public meeting in February of this year.

Mr Erceg —Working in the area where complaints would be directed, my experience is that people are aware that it is a federal government responsibility and they do not call local government. I can remember very few occasions in the 30 years I have been in local government where we have received a complaint. I worked formerly, in the City of Swan.

Councillor Delle Donne —We have records from a few years ago when the noise over the city became unbearable. We still have that on record. We collected all the complaints from the city but since then the airport owners have come to the party and they are trying to make different arrangements. Now they fly over some of my neighbourhood councils to spread the load if you like—the noise or the inconvenience to people. Since then, we have recommended that people ring direct to Airservices Australia. But I have been on this particular noise management committee—on behalf of the former mayor and then as the mayor myself—and I must have spent at least seven-plus years with really nothing I can show for the time that I have dedicated towards this committee.

Airservices, in my way of thinking, are supposed to be the regulatory people, and they should not work hand in glove with the airlines. I know that the airlines are a commodity that have to be there—they have to exist because without them we would not be a flourishing country—but at the same time there has to be recognition of the imposition on the health of people caused by waking them up in the middle of the night. When you are woken up at one or two o’clock in the morning, you never go back to sleep. People suffer health wise and they get irritated.

I have been asking myself whether there is any technical reason why the aircraft cannot take off—at the moment they take off at three degrees—at five degrees. We have been given all sorts of technical reasons as to why this cannot be achieved. Some people who know the industry tell me that there is an economic side to it, in that the fuel they use is more. But no-one tells me that, if they go at five degrees, the plane will not keep going, so to speak.

As far as the City of Canning is concerned, we have areas—like Queens Park, for example—where you can actually count the pop rivets on the frame of the aircraft. I am not exaggerating. I invite all of you to come down there at times when you can actually count the pop rivets. When that happens, you can imagine what it is like. You cannot hear yourself thinking.

Senator BACK —I do not have to imagine it.

Councillor Delle Donne —The other issue I have is that the departure tax that people pay at the airport is not really reinvested into allowing the surrounding areas of council to have those houses double insulated. I do not know where that money goes. Obviously something is not working.

Senator BACK —Thank you for that. Councillor Pilgrim, you were telling us that you were not aware of the role of ASA until a recent briefing which clarified it. From your recollection, did you come away from that briefing with an understanding that there is a requirement for Airservices Australia to have and/or implement a national noise management strategy and that the role of ASA does include noise management and its reduction?

Councillor Pilgrim —Yes, I did. I had a reasonable understanding of what the role of Airservices Australia was, but I found the meeting made very clear that there were a whole range of things, such as the introduction of curfews, which were not part of their responsibility, that it was not their role to be even talking about whether an airport should have curfews. To answer your question: yes, I am aware of that.

Senator BACK —You are of the understanding that they do have a role in noise assessment, noise management?

Councillor Pilgrim —Yes.

Senator BACK —I am delighted to learn that. Senator Sterle just made the observation that it is not incumbent on this committee to look at the issue of sharing airspace. I do not quite agree. Has anybody on the local governments, particularly those closer to Pearce, considered separately, or through your various consultative committees, actually talking to the RAAF about its possible shared use of airspace, or have you raised that with ASA formally?

I ask it because my understanding is that we are now training Singaporean and Malaysian and possibly other air forces in pilot training, which is contributing to their demand for the use of airspace. Have local governments taken that issue on board?

Councillor Godfrey —We have not considered that at PAMG but we could raise it. We thought that would be out of our realm of expertise.

Senator BACK —We are aware that at least two airports in Australia, Darwin and Townsville, are in fact military airports shared for civilian use. So there is no precedent to Pearce either being used or greater access to Pearce airspace. There are two options, and I wonder if it is something local government would be considering.

Councillor Daw —I actually suggested that at the last PAMG meeting, Perth airport municipalities group meeting, that the RAAF be invited to discuss these particular matters. It would be a circuit breaker if we could somehow or other get more access to that airspace. That is why I asked the question earlier to what extent have these negotiations with the military regarding Pearce Air Base being pursued, with what level of acuteness. This is a critical matter.

Senator BACK —Is it your impression that the community generally is attuned to and well aware of the importance of Perth airport to our community and to the economy of this state? Is there any large disagreement or argument from your constituents about its importance?

Councillor Godfrey —I believe you are right there, they do believe that it is very important to the economy. However, there is a small minority believe that the Perth airport should not have been placed there and it should be moved. But the infrastructure is huge and there is still a lot of developable land there. Going back to Mayor Delle Donne’s point, the technologies now exist for planes have very narrow flight paths, so this should be assessed to minimise the effect on the least number of residents. These houses could then be treated with noise attenuation measures, as has been the case in other capital cities of Sydney and Adelaide. Advice from these cities is not to share the noise, but a future debate perhaps needs to be done on that.

Senator HEFFERNAN —The committee that you people are just talking about, is that the same one that Mr Macpherson is on?

Councillor Godfrey —No, he is on the noise committee. We are independent from government funding, we are funded local government.

Senator HEFFERNAN —This is very cunning because it is a very good idea to compartmentalise everything so that no compartment talks to the next compartment. You realise you have been conned?

Councillor Godfrey —Well, no, we do not believe that we are because we are independent and we are not funded by government.

Senator HEFFERNAN —All of that, but your committee reports to who?

Councillor Godfrey —We report to our local government, our ratepayers.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Yes, but when you report to yourselves what happens to the report?

Councillor Godfrey —We are informed by the government departments that you are talking about, so we are becoming informed.

Senator HEFFERNAN —You can committee all your life until you are 300 years old, but if you have not got some outcome from all these committee hearings you have—

Councillor Godfrey —We have had a good outcome and I would like to tell you about one. The West Australian Airports Corporation under DOTARS believe that they did not need to pay their rates—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Yes, but—

Councillor Godfrey —I would like to finish. You are making a criticism about our committee.

ACTING CHAIR (Senator Sterle) —Senator Heffernan, you asked a question. You may not like the answer but we want to hear the answer.

Councillor Godfrey —We are talking about an independent group of local governments that come together and pay our own way to make submissions on all of these government departments that we believe are not giving our local community a fair deal.

Senator HEFFERNAN —That is very good, but getting back to noise, the noise is only going to get worse. I understand that the fly in, fly out segment in the mornings is full, chock-a-block. Is that right?

Councillor Godfrey —Yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN —And I understand the mining industry is going to double in the next few years. It is all right to talk about the noise and report and committee and have all the committee meetings you like, but to find a solution you have actually got to find an alternative. If the joint is full now for the fly in, fly out slot you have either got to do that slot through the middle of the night or some other time of the day or move it to somewhere else or, as someone has suggested, get the Air Force involved. It might be an extra 20 minutes for the fly in, fly out person to drive to Pearce or somewhere. Do you consider those things as the local government committee? Where are we going to be in 20 years time if the mining industry doubles? If we think it is bad now, what is it going to be like then?

Councillor Godfrey —Exactly; your point taken. Councillor Daw mentioned about Pearce but, until we are actually fully informed, how do we know what our options are?

Senator HEFFERNAN —But Mr Macpherson said that he could not get the report released that he needs to be able to technically scrutinise the noise but it is patently obvious with a blunt axe and a sledgehammer: you do not need a monitor to work out the noise is a problem. Can’t you as a committee group get the government to give you the information so that someone can analyse it?

Councillor Godfrey —I thought that was what we were doing here.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I am not too sure.

Councillor Delle Donne —The increase of air traffic over the suburbs of the metropolitan area of Perth can be fixed. What Mayor Godfrey said is quite right: they could at least show the initiative that we give some respite to our residents who are also the residents who elect you people to parliament to look after them as well. Like I said earlier, the airport collects the departure tax, and I do not think it costs that much to insulate at least a house to start with so they can get some respite but even that has not come forward.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Have you put that on someone?

Councillor Delle Donne —We have on our committee two local members of parliament. In the past they spent most of their time in Canberra, as you would appreciate, as that is where your job is but at the same time I am sure that if you have got an office in a local area, they know what goes on and we rely on them. As mayor, when I have a problem in my area, I go and have a look and assist those people in need. That is what we are there for. If we are to give available service that is what we try to stick to.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Have you put up a motion to someone to say: let’s have a curfew?

Councillor Delle Donne —That has come up time and time again but the response to that is that it is not an option because of the time difference between South-East Asia and Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. That is correct.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So the answer to that is no, so then the follow-on is that if you do not want people to be having all the things that Mr Macpherson talked about—being woken up in the middle of the night, having heart troubles and all the rest of it—then surely insulation is a must.

Councillor Delle Donne —But it is the government. It is you people who have to push this on our behalf. We are only local government. We are only little cogs.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But you should be saying to us today: We demand insulation. Don’t muck around, just say: Get off your backside and do it.

Councillor Zannino —I can understand where you are coming from but I think that what you are trying to do is put the initiative or the onus on local government whereas—

Senator HEFFERNAN —No. I am not.

Councillor Zannino —where I am coming from is: who benefits from the airports where it comes? You get the fly-ins fly-outs going to the mining industry. Who gets the mining royalties from up north ? It is the federal and state governments, and that amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I agree entirely with all of that.

Councillor Zannino —The onus should be on the federal government and the state government to work out what the problems are, not local government. They should be working with local government to work those problems out.

Senator HEFFERNAN —The long-term solution, if the noise is going to double, is to shift some of the noise somewhere else. As Senator Back said, the Air Force is one option. Move the Air Force or move the fly-in fly-outs. But let me tell you: you have got a big part to play in that. I am not excusing the federal government and the state government. Most governments are gutless because they only look to the next election to get themselves elected.

Councillor Zannino —That is right.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So you blokes have got to use people power to shove them beyond the next election.

Senator O’BRIEN —I am not the going to make a speech like Senator Heffernan. Is it the collective view of the councils here today that the solution is not to share noise but to concentrate it and insulate against it? Is that the collective view of councils here?

Councillor Godfrey —PAMG do not have a view on that; that is my view as Mayor of the City of Belmont. I support Sydney and AMAC’s view on that but I think we have not dealt with that at PAMG.

Senator O’BRIEN —I will ask each witness to give me a view on that.

Councillor Godfrey —I support it.

Councillor Daw —Does that mean that you are going to insulate outside the ANEF corridors? The statistics that I pointed out earlier are that you have massive doses of noise increases outside the ANEF. Are you talking about insulation inside or outside that? It is all about how you measure noise—

Senator O’BRIEN —Councillor Daw, you would be aware that insulation has only ever occurred in the ANEF footprint at any other airport around the country and that insulation has generally been paid for by the imposition of a levy on flights out of an airport that is the subject of the insulation program; that is Adelaide and Sydney so far. So you are aware of that, and you are also aware that it has been in the ANEF footprint.

Councillor Daw —But Perth has no policy on that. What is being revealed here is that people outside of ANEF are being whacked by noise. So it is not going to solve the problem at all.

Senator O’BRIEN —So that is not the solution that you support. Is that right, Councillor Daw?

Councillor Daw —Can you ask the question again? I am lost.

Senator O’BRIEN —The first question was: do you support not the sharing of noise but the concentration of noise on footprints and insulation?

Councillor Daw —Australia has an outdoors lifestyle anyway, so it is not going to help people who want to be outdoors. It is not going to help people outside the ANEF—where my constituents are, for example. Also, that pinpoint concentration of noise is going to make life hell for those people. If you are not going to go outside the ANEF it is a waste of time.

Senator O’BRIEN —Okay. Any other views?

Councillor Pilgrim —In our submission for the Shire of Mundaring, we state in part that what we are seeking is a fairer distribution of traffic flow across the greater metropolitan area. To follow on from Councillor Daw’s comment, just to concentrate the traffic flow would not alleviate the problems that we have in Glen Forrest, in Stoneville and Chidlow. Those have been, from my knowledge, the key areas of concern. A concentration would not resolve those issues for those residents who are affected. I think we all acknowledge that people are impacted differently by air traffic, but it certainly is not the outcome that we have sought, which is a fairer distribution.

Councillor Zannino —For the City of Swan, I think that you have got to decide whether you have designated flight paths or whether you are going to share. At the end of the day the responsibility would be, as I said previously, back on the Commonwealth government, as stated in our submission in the last paragraph, where the responsibility is for the federal government to provide some form of subsidy or reimbursement for the cost of noise mitigation measures to the properties that are affected. If you have designated flight paths then you can identify those paths and the properties affected; or if you are going to share then obviously that cost is going to be more, because all the properties have to be—

Senator O’BRIEN —Which does Swan support? Sharing or designated flight path?

Councillor Zannino —I have not put it to the council, but my own personal view would be to have a designated flight path.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I presume if you had a designated flight path the market would work out what the house under the designated flight path is worth if there is a discount in the market.

Councillor Zannino —If you have got a designated flight path, what can happen is that if that falls over a residential area, the people who are affected could be relocated and that area could be rezoned to a more appropriate zoning as industrial, commercial or something else. I just came back from an international planning conference in Christchurch, and there was a keynote speaker from Seattle. He indicated in his speech that they just spent over $300 million trying to relocate residents in close proximity to the airport, because of the flight noise. It is an ongoing issue.

Senator O’BRIEN —Are there any other views that have not been reflected?

Councillor Delle Donne —I would just like to put our point of view there. Obviously, none of us assembling here today can claim to be aircraft experts. I spent about eight years on the committee, and they bamboozle you with science. The issue that I understand is that the aircraft cannot go in a particular direction every day, 365 days of the year, because of the weather conditions. So we cannot really say that we have the corridor and that this is where you go every day. It is impossible. It cannot happen.

Senator O’BRIEN —There would be a number of corridors.

Councillor Delle Donne —So the control tower tells them where they have to go from time to time, but it has to do with the conditions. Like you said earlier, the departure tax is done for Adelaide and Sydney. Where does the money go that people from Western Australia pay? Does it go into a reserve fund to ameliorate this particular problem that people experience in our area or is it used for insulation in Sydney and Melbourne and other places?

Senator O’BRIEN —Councillor, your airport does not have such a levy. The moneys from the other airports have gone into insulation around those airports, but the same fee structure does not apply here.

Mr Erceg —I would like to respond on behalf of Armadale. We have talked about consultation. Yes, that is important, but if the people we are consulting with are not prepared to listen then you do not get the outcome you want. Responsiveness is an issue for people in Armadale. We heard earlier that flight paths can be tweaked. Someone I spoke to yesterday suggested a minor flight path change over an uninhabited area and felt that she was brushed off. So I think it is very important that we look at alternatives and that there be open communication in non-technical language so that people can understand what is being said and what the options are. The lady I spoke to yesterday also talked about the impacts of things like wind direction and echoing from the hills. The data clearly shows that the impact is not so great and yet her reality is that it is like thunder, that it is significant and it is real. If only she could find someone who would be prepared to listen to her and respond.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I think that you will still be sitting here in 10 years time without an outcome unless you decompartmentalise this. Join up all the bits of information and get across the technical detail. You also need to do a cost-benefit analysis, even if you have to get the government—whoever the government is—to put some money in. Someone needs to fund a cost-benefit analysis on the difference between what Senator O’Brien is talking about—piping the noise or distributing the noise, moving part of the load to Pearce or somewhere or moving the airport.

CHAIR —Is there a question?

Senator HEFFERNAN —I am just saying that my suggestion is that you ought to get a cost-benefit analysis.

Councillor Delle Donne —It really is not the responsibility of the local government. It is the responsibility of the federal and state governments. I would like to add to that. Currently the WA Planning Commission still allows development and subdivision under the flight path.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I am dealing with that in Canberra. The Tralee development is a disgrace.

CHAIR —Thank you all very much for coming today. We do appreciate it. We do appreciate the load that falls on local government in dealing with the issues that people in the local communities have obviously brought to you. Thank you very much for appearing here today.

[10.55 am]