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Effectiveness of Airservices Australia's management of aircraft noise

CHAIR —Welcome. Do you need to make any amendments or alterations to your submission?

Mr Geatches —No, we do not.

CHAIR —Would you like to make a brief opening statement before we move to questions?

Mr Geatches —We appreciate the opportunity to appear before the committee. We would like to make the point in opening that the WARRP process that is currently central to your review reflects changes to airspace management in the Perth metropolitan region. Changes in airspace will continue in the future and they will continue to be required for a range of reasons including, most importantly, safety. We think it important that these sorts of reviews of the processes of reviewing aircraft noise impact and airspace management are important because this will be a continuum going forward.

We expect changes in the future in airspace management to arise from issues to address safety. They will also arise due to changes in aircraft technology and the capability of aircraft. They will also arise due to changes in the way community and industry deal with environmental issues such as climate change. So changes to air space management are with us in the long term.

We make the point that, while the level of activity at Perth Airport is expected to grow substantially in the future, there will also be substantial improvements in aircraft technology, including improved navigation techniques. These will assist to offset the impact of aircraft noise over time. There is no doubt that there are significant social, economic and cultural benefits for Western Australians associated with commercial air services. Obviously, our geographic location and our multicultural population means that we as a state are very dependent—and, arguably, more dependent than most other states—on commercial air services. There are significant benefits from commercial air services but we recognise that there are significant disadvantages for communities and those are particularised for communities affected by aircraft noise.

Some communities are clearly impacted by aircraft noise, but there are also members of some communities who perceive that they are impacted by aircraft noise, although they may not actually be impacted. We consider it is important to communicate with all members of the community but we think our obligations principally lie with those who are actually impacted.

Our submission confirms that, in our view, on the issue of the WARRP review both Perth Airport and Airservices Australia did not meet our obligations to the people who are affected by aircraft noise. The nature of our failure was failing to ensure that the information provided on the WARRP review was in a form that could be understood by a lay person. With the benefit of hindsight much of the information was in the wrong form for both community members and their representatives.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Did anyone get the sack?

CHAIR —Hang on, Senator Heffernan.

Mr Geatches —We note that the WARRP changes did not materially impact the noise exposure for community members within 10 nautical miles of the airport. We would also make the point that the Perth Airport Aircraft Noise Management Consultative Committee is a very important body. We have a strong vested interest in seeing the success of that committee in terms of its role in providing information to community members and ensuring community members are informed. If that committee is successful Perth Airport will go a long way to meeting its obligations to community but also supporting the development of the airport. We want to see the committee successful. It has been in place for over a decade and we do apply substantial resources to seek to make the committee effective.

We think that Airservices Australia could have done a better job in relation to briefing local, state and federal representatives of the people in relation to the WARRP. We have discussed those issues with Airservices Australia and we have agreed with them on the need to improve that approach. As a result of the failures around the WARRP we have decided to devote more resources to the issue of aircraft noise consultation, particularly the manner in which information is provided to the community not only through the noise consultative committee but also through ongoing processes, including through our website and local council websites.

The aviation policy white paper that was promulgated by the federal government contains a number of policy statements of intent that we think are sound public policy reform. Firstly, they would include the appointment of an aircraft noise ombudsman within Airservices Australia. Secondly, we think that the processes within the white paper that encourage all aviation industry participants to adopt better practice community consultation are sound and our company will be adopting them.

We would also make the point that it is incumbent on local, state and federal governments to meet their obligations to reduce aircraft noise exposure among the community by controlling land use in the vicinity of airports in areas that are impacted by aircraft noise.

There are numerous examples in relation to Perth Airport where governments have in fact contributed to aircraft noise problems through inappropriate application and planning schemes. A recent example in relation to Perth Airport was the approval, in early 2000, by the Shire of Kalamunda of the Hillview Retirement Village in High Wycombe on the boundary of the airport. This was in spite of strong opposition by Perth Airport. So we now have a retirement village on the boundary of the airport. There are other examples, including the rezoning of rural land on Helena Valley Road in Helena Valley. We, again, opposed the rezoning but the rezoning has occurred. There are other examples.

CHAIR —Sorry, can I also remind you that we are a little short of time, so if we could move to questions when you are finished.

Mr Geatches —I have two more points. We believe there are ways in which the federal government can assist in relation to aircraft noise management, and that is to give priority to advances in technology, including RNP and ADS-B aircraft navigation technology. These will improve the precision of aircraft navigation in Western Australia and the Perth region, and they will assist in aircraft noise management. In closing, we would seek to emphasise that Perth Airport provides an absolutely vital service in Western Australia given our dependence on long-haul aviation services, and it is incumbent on us all to ensure that the airport is able to meet the community’s needs over the long term.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Did I hear you say that you think we should appoint an ombudsman attached to Airservices? Surely it would have to be independent.

Mr Geatches —There are examples elsewhere—

Senator HEFFERNAN —It does not matter; let us deal with this one.

Mr Geatches —We think the appointment of an ombudsman that is focused on aircraft noise and the manner in which Airservices Australia deals with community concerns would be a productive step.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I agree with that.

Mr Geatches —It ensures an increased profile on the issue. I actually believe, and most people do, that Airservices Australia is a high-quality organisation. It would benchmark amongst the best in the world in relation to its fields, and it will take the matter quite seriously.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But why do you need to be attached to someone who has, obviously, a community of interest with the outcome? Why wouldn’t it be independent? Is that because the act requires that?

Mr Geatches —We are not in a position, as the operators of Perth Airport, to make a fully informed view on it. All we are doing is making the observation as a participant in the industry that it seems to be a commonsense step and it should improve the process of—

Senator HEFFERNAN —So as a consequence of the earlier mistakes, which we are grateful you have owned up to, did anyone get carpeted or counselled? Did anything happen?

Mr Geatches —I would like to clarify in relation to Perth Airport’s role in this. We have an obligation to work with Airservices Australia to ensure community is informed on aircraft noise issues, particularly changes in exposure. We participate in and coordinate the noise management committee, and we rely on Airservices Australia to bring to that committee and to bring to our organisation the information on changes. What we have found is that with the benefit of hindsight we have underestimated, as an organisation, the impact of these changes on community. We reflect that it is probably due to the form in which the information was communicated.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So to alleviate that problem, do you understand section 160 of the EPBC Act?

Mr Geatches —I cannot tell you what that section says.

Senator HEFFERNAN —It refers to the adoption of implementation of aviation airspace movement changes that may have, have had or could have an impact on the environment—which includes the way people get woken up at three o’clock in the morning with the thunder of a plane overhead. Have you actually experienced this? Have you been out to one of these places where you get woken up at four o’clock in the morning every morning?

Mr Geatches —No, not personally.

Senator HEFFERNAN —No, I bet. Would you like to? Would you like to accept an invitation to see exactly what does happen?

Mr Geatches —I am happy to accept an invitation.

Senator HEFFERNAN —My first question earlier was who owns your group? Are you Macquarie? Are you the same as Sydney?

Mr Geatches —No, we are not.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Who are you?

Mr Geatches —Perth Airport is a privately—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Don’t you know?

Mr Geatches —I do know.

CHAIR —Just let him finish.

Senator STERLE —Let him answer the question.

Mr Geatches —Perth Airport is a privately owned company. The majority shareholders are Utilities Trust of Australia, which is an unlisted infrastructure fund.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Who is that?

Mr Geatches —It is an Australian infrastructure fund which is—

Senator HEFFERNAN —But who are the people? Do they live in Australia?

Mr Geatches —We estimate that around 75 to 80 per cent of the airport is held to the benefit of Australian superannuants.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But you do not actually know who owns it, other than the corporate entity.

Mr Geatches —What I am saying is that if you trace—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you know who the personalities are?

CHAIR —Just let him finish, Senator Heffernan.

Mr Geatches —It is Australian superannuants.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So would you be agreeable to a review, under section 160 of the EPBC Act, of the changed airspace?

Mr Geatches —It is not a matter for Perth Airport to decide; it is a matter for Airservices Australia. You need to clearly understand the roles.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Would you have any objection to that?

Mr Geatches —It is not a matter for us to—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you have a view?

Mr Geatches —We do not have a view. Our view is that the act is there to comply with and that the obligation falls on Airservices.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I applaud you for being here, for a start. Were you here earlier in the day to hear some of the other witnesses?

Mr Geatches —No.

Senator HEFFERNAN —You have not had a rep here?

Mr Geatches —I had a number of representatives.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Okay. It seems to me that the elephant in the room is the huge Air Force airspace, which would help share the pain a bit. Obviously, you have to have an airport and, as you say, the development is critical for Perth and Australia. Do you think it is a bit silly that we do not try and negotiate with Pearce?

Mr Geatches —There is ongoing dialogue with the Air Force around efficient and effective use of the airspace and the Perth metropolitan scheme. I think it is in the interests of everyone that the airspace is used effectively and efficiently.

Senator HEFFERNAN —With modern communications technology et cetera it is feasible that you could share the airspace.

Mr Geatches —Our view is that, with a combination of the Air Force coming to the party with a realistic view on the use of the airspace and with improved technology in aircraft navigation, there is an opportunity to substantially improve the capacity and the efficiency of the airspace in the vicinity of Perth. The advantage of that sort of reform is to the community in terms of aircraft noise. That is point 1. Point 2 is the capacity of the airspace to meet the needs of the Perth metropolitan area. So it behoves the Air Force, Airservices Australia, Perth Airport and governments to see that that airspace is used safely, effectively and efficiently.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So is it feasible to have a curfew at Perth Airport?

Mr Geatches —It is feasible to do these things, but it would be lunacy.

Senator HEFFERNAN —That is your view. If this committee were to make a strong recommendation on making use of the airspace at the Pearce airport, would you be agreeable? It would help your shareholders.

Mr Geatches —As I said, we think that an ongoing critical review of the airspace use is essential to make sure that we use it appropriately. It is a valuable resource.

Senator O’BRIEN —Indeed, some of that airspace is available now, isn’t it?

Mr Geatches —Certainly.

Senator O’BRIEN —In terms of communication with the Air Force on an hour by hour, minute by minute basis, the terminal control units at Perth Airport are shared by Air Force personnel, managing their traffic, and Airservices Australia personnel, managing domestic traffic. That is right, isn’t it?

Mr Geatches —Correct. We would not want our comments to be construed as any criticism of the Air Force.

Senator O’BRIEN —I am not sure how well understood those facts are; that is why I asked you to confirm that. We did see that yesterday in an inspection that some of us attended at the airport. You said a curfew would be inappropriate. What are the negative impacts, in your view, of a curfew being imposed on Perth Airport?

Mr Geatches —We have addressed this issue in our submission, but to expand on that I think the first and fundamental point—and it is often said but can be glossed over—is that we have to understand the tyranny of distance that we face. There are no reliable, alternative means for longhaul transport for people in Western Australia. We hear the debate about critical national infrastructure but commercial air services are some of the most important infrastructure for the people of Western Australia—absolutely critical.

One of the implications of our geography is that, first of all, we are the end of the line in terms of many of the commercial air services. We do not act as a hub, and many of our services operate through very busy hub airports such as Singapore, KL and Dubai. The viability of many of the international air services that come to Perth absolutely depends on the ability of that service to connect with ongoing services through those hubs. If those services cannot connect to the wave of aircraft going out of those hubs, then those services will cease to exist. It is as simple as that. So we are not makers of the time schedules; we are takers of the time schedules. Many of those services, the most popular ones, occur in the late hours of the evening from 11 pm through to 1 am, so you would kiss goodbye to our connectivity to Europe and the UK.

Another point in terms of our geography is our relationship to the east coast, the fact that we are two or three hours behind and the fact that there are curfews at Sydney Airport for instance. The timing of services from Perth to the east coast is also influenced and impacted by the operating hours of the east coast airports. For example, rule of thumb, it is quite difficult for a service to leave here for Sydney after 4 pm or 4.30 pm because it will not get into Sydney in time for curfew. The other important point about that east-west geography is that a significant proportion of our domestic services arrive at Perth Airport late in the evening from about 10.30 to midnight. It is called the red eye, et cetera. They are not there because we, as consumers, want to fly at that time; they are there because they actually make sense in terms of airline viability. If those services cannot come at that time we will lose that capacity.

We are talking about significant constraints on critical transport infrastructure for the people of Western Australia. We cannot get in our cars and go somewhere. We cannot get on the train as an alternative. It behoves us—all industry participants and governments—to do everything we can to avoid curfew and to devote significant resources to avoid that. Not only should it be viewed as an absolute last resort in the normal course of events, it should be ruled out in relation to Western Australia. We have the capacity and the technology to ensure that it is never needed.

Senator O’BRIEN —In relation to what might be additional cost in requiring a steeper departure take-off trajectory for aircraft where possible, what resistance would you expect that we would receive from the airline industry if that was a requirement in air traffic management?

Mr Geatches —Senator, do you mind if I ask Dr Cock to field that? He is chairman of the noise committee.

Dr Cock —The way aircraft take off is a balance between the noise impact of people at distance to the airport and people close to the airport. There are noise control procedures that we have at our airport which mean that the aircraft do not go at maximum take-off trajectory until they get to flying height. That saves noise impact on people close to the airport, although it does mean the aircraft is slightly lower when they get to the more distant suburbs. It is not a matter of a cost issue; it is a matter of a balance issue.

Senator ADAMS —I would like the committee to have an idea about the expansion and where we are going. You have briefed us before and we are fully aware of where the passenger movements are now in comparison to what your projected area is in 2015 and then further out. Could you give the committee a brief overview of that and what you expect?

Mr Geatches —Our recently approved airport master plan has long-term forecasts for passenger movements and aircraft movements. I would refer you to that to give you a thorough view. But, as a general observation, it is fair to say that for the very reasons I indicated about the importance of commercial air services, Perth Airport has grown at a faster rate than most other capital city airports, and we would expect it to continue to do so in the future—though we note in recent times the BITRE has published its long-term forecasts that suggest that the rate of passenger activity at Perth Airport in the long term will be second only to Brisbane airport. So the airport will continue to grow, with passenger numbers over the long term at five or six per cent per annum, we would expect, broadly speaking. You would see that that number of movements is not a direct correlation to the number of passengers; it is a function of what size aircraft and what markets they grow in.

Senator ADAMS —So, as far as the resource sector, with their expansion over the next, say, 10 years, how are you going to cope with that?

Mr Geatches —We have the plans in place to meet the needs of the resource sector as one of the users of the service. In terms of the airport infrastructure, we have terminal development plans and airfield development plans that will comfortably meet that demand. But it does come back to the question that was asked about the airspace. There is a strong demand for morning departures at Perth Airport for the resource sector. The airfield is utilised at close to 100 per cent for the period from 5.30 to around 7 am as the resource sector heads out. The airfield is substantially less utilised throughout the balance of the day. The resources sector would like to see the capacity of those early morning departures expanded. We can do some work on the airfield but it will come down to the airspace and the airspace efficiency to allow that to happen.

The other important point there which goes to capacity but also goes to aircraft noise exposure is that the ADSB technology that the government is committed and Airservices is committed to will allow more precise navigation for these aircraft, which will reduce their separation requirements beyond the immediate Perth area and will allow more aircraft to depart.

Senator ADAMS —I have a question in relation to Pearce airspace. At that hour of the morning, are they utilising most of it or have you got a dispensation at that stage, especially when most of the aircraft are going north?

Mr Geatches —My understanding is that Pearce air force predominantly operates in daylight hours and that you would start to see some conflict then. But I am not sure of that.

Senator STERLE —I want to talk a little about the expected boom. We have taken a lot of submissions today and we have heard a lot of grief and pain. Quite simply, I think it would be irresponsible for us to let people think that solutions where planes will not be flying over their suburbs. I sympathise with those people, but we should not lead them down the wrong path. Have you got figures available of the extra flights we could expect through Perth Airport, with Gorgon, Wheatstone, Browse, Pluto II and, of course, the mid-west magnetite—the area of the state that is currently exploding at the moment?

Mr Geatches —The demand for air services with the resource sector and their projects has a substantial increase during the construction phase of these projects. Once the facility is constructed it settles down to a much lower level, reflecting the ongoing operations of the facilities. If you take, for instance, Gorgon, during its construction phase, I have read reports of 3½ thousand people involved in the construction of that project. We understand that the number of services per week to service Gorgon will ramp up from five a week through to 20 to 25 a week during the construction phase. That gives you a sense of the scale of ramp up. Once Gorgon is constructed and commissioned, that will drop off substantially. That will typically be the cycle of them.

One of the things that we experience in relation to Perth Airport and the resource sector is that it is quite volatile and hard to predict in terms of its demand for the airport. It is a function of the resources it is investing. The question of where in the state will determine the size of the aircraft and the nature of the aircraft. So it is quite volatile and hard to predict. Some of the trends are with the larger projects is that they are going to larger aircraft. Therefore, that reduces the number of movements to a degree.

Senator STERLE —But what we can ascertain is that, if some of these major projects do go to final investment decision and the stars and the moon line up, there could very well be a constant flow of increased movements?

Mr Geatches —Indeed. One of the productive developments in relation to, for instance, the Gorgon project is that, whereas the resource companies would normally want to have a strong preference for this early morning departure, what pleased us in relation to the Gorgon project is that the services are timed not only in the morning but also throughout the day. So they have established a ferrying operation, if you like. That is good in terms of the use of the airport facilities and it is also good, I think, in terms of the aircraft noise issue.

Senator STERLE —Sure. Chair, I know that we are tight for time but I think it is very important that we have Dr Cock and Mr Geatches. There was some considerable angst that the Perth Airport and Airservices Australia have hidden under the cloak of safety. I think that is what the accusation was. This committee has had its briefings and it was put to us very clearly that this review started way back in 2004 or 2005 because of certain safety concerns. This is Perth Airport’s chance, Mr Geatches, to actually tell us what led to the WARRP and why the changes are necessary.

Mr Geatches —I will ask Dr Cock to assist me with this, but I think there are some important points to note with respect to aviation safety. Obviously we are experts in terms of airport safety and airfield safety but we rely on Airservices Australia and CASA in relation to airspace safety. We do not have the remit or the capacity to question their judgment; we can only respond to it.

Senator STERLE —The reason that I asked you that was that you did mention safety in your opening statement. I was saving that for Airservices Australia, but you have cleared that up. I now know that that question should be put to Airservices.

Mr Geatches —Yes.

Senator BACK —Staying with the future plans for the airport, first of all, you are moving to a more integrated process. Is that to be based at the international terminal or the domestic terminal—where?

Mr Geatches —The plan is over, we estimate, the next decade to transition to a consolidated Perth Airport in the international precinct. So, over time, we will be shifting the domestic operations into the international.

Senator BACK —Can you comment on the viability or the cost benefit of moving the airport further inland as a longer term strategy should the demand continue to rise?

Mr Geatches —I would make two observations. Firstly, Perth Airport is a significant element of infrastructure. It is quite well located, relative to the city and other transport modes. It has plenty of capacity and it can continue to meet Perth and Western Australia’s needs over the very long term—and it has been planned and designed to do so. The need for a second airport for the Perth metropolitan region for long haul services is really a function of when the city grows and the demand grows to support that. That is many, many, many decades away.

Senator BACK —You have got the capacity for another parallel runway at the moment, as I understand it.

Mr Geatches —We have capacity and the reserve for a third runway. It is a dependent parallel runway. The airport can service the community for the next 75 to 100 years.

Senator BACK —Dr Cock, you chair the noise management committee. Historically, was that a function of Airservices Australia or one of its predecessors prior to it coming under your area of responsibility?

Dr Cock —No. It was initiated by Westralia Airports Corporation.

Senator BACK —Why wouldn’t Airservices Australia, as the party responsible to parliament, have responsibility for it in the first instance and you be a participating member of it?

Dr Cock —I was not around when it got created. All I know is that, under our master plan, we agreed to create a committee that facilitated the communication of noise issues between community leaders.

Senator BACK —Prior to your corporation making that decision, what was the mechanism or process by which people monitored noise or laid complaints—prior to you bringing this committee, PANMCC, into existence?

Dr Cock —I am not aware, sorry.

Senator BACK —Can you tell me what the situation is at other major airports around Australia? How is this whole question managed in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide et cetera?

Dr Cock —I think there are a variety of mechanisms between committees with independent chairs and committees run by airport corporations.

Senator BACK —And you have never attempted to understand others or benchmark yourselves against others?

Dr Cock —We are just in the process now. The white paper review calls for improvements in the way that community consultation is undertaken. We are going through a process of engaging with both the committee members and working out what the best way is to communicate with the community, whether it is via the committee or via a website. Mr Geatches mentioned that we are doing those improvements. As part of that, we are going to look to benchmark.

Senator BACK —As your website indicates, you have got an aircraft noise management policy and the committee. Can you respond to this comment in a submission given to us by a previous witness today:

The disconnect is now complete: having aircraft noise complaints to the federal regulatory agency (ASA), fobbed off to the regulated airport (WAC) for the airport to apparently … “take any necessary action.” Yet the WAC’s PAANMCC in its stated strategy says that … The Committee’s purpose has now evolved into a monitoring role and has been renamed the Aircraft Noise Management Consultative Committee.

The point this person is making is that Airservices Australia manages to have devolved everything from themselves to you and action has ceased to be action and has become monitoring and therefore it is down the long slippery slide. Would you care to comment on what would appear to be a fairly pessimistic sort of overview?

Mr Geatches —I will start on that. The sentiment, I think, is misfounded. I bring you back to my opening comments, that Perth Airport has a strong vested interest in successful consultation. If we have failures in consultation, we have these sorts of issues arising and we have discontented communities, impacted communities, and that is not in Perth Airport’s interests.

We want a viable, effective consultation committee. This WARRP thing has been a wake-up call for our company. It has been a wake-up call that we have to take a far more active role, we have to engage Airservices far more actively and ensure that the consultative committee works. We have got to meet our obligations to have information brought before that committee that assists the community to understand.

But our responsibilities go beyond the committee. Our responsibilities go to making sure information is available through other sources and engaging with local representatives of the people, which we do very actively through meetings with councillors, mayors et cetera. We recognise the need to do that. Airservices, in my view—I am not speaking for them—have had a wake-up call in relation to this matter.

I think also that the other representatives on the committee have had a wake-up call that they also have to be a conduit back to the community. I would just like to stress a point: Perth Airport is not critical of any of the consultative committee members during the WARRP process. For them to be able to effectively communicate back, they have to be given information at a time when and in a form that they can communicate. They were not given that information.

Senator BACK —Certainly. You have made that point. There was a learning, of course, because the way in which you handled the consultative or community information process for the overlay of the main runway was a lesson to us all. My final question is about how, in your submission, you said:

In 2009/10 the committee will review its terms of reference, membership and the commitment of each organisation …

And you had five actions. Ten months into the 12 months of this financial year, which of those five have you been able to implement? I will not read them out because of time. Can you tell us where you have managed to go with those specific objectives for 2009-10?

Mr Geatches —I will let Dr Cock deal with that, but before he does I note that I did not completely answer your previous question in terms of what the committee does and does not do and why it is currently the province of Perth Airport to organise the committee. The committee is a consultative committee—it is a conduit—but also we control one source, or a number of sources, of aircraft noise. One, for example, is engine ground running. On the airfield, the running up of engines influences aircraft noise. We are in a position where we can completely control that and we are responsible for it. There are other sources of aircraft noise that go to how aircraft manoeuvre in the airspace. Perth Airport cannot control them; Airservices and CASA must deal with them. We do not take community complaints about aircraft noise lightly, because at the end of the day we know our licence to operate depends on the support of our communities.

Senator BACK —Thank you.

Dr Cock —In relation to some of the actions that we have undertaken for the five dot points, one was to work to enhance the understanding of the WARRP process. We discussed the CASA review. WAC, as the chair of the committee, has lobbied to try and allow the committee to gain an understanding of what that safety review said. Whilst CASA did not want to release the report, we have got a senior CASA representative to come to the committee and speak to the committee members so they could understand and ask questions of CASA firsthand about what that review was about and what the findings were.

Senator STERLE —When did this happen?

Dr Cock —In November-December last year. We also helped facilitate the public meeting in the shire of Mundaring with Airservices so they could talk to the community. Through that committee, alternative flight paths have been proffered by members of the community. Those flight paths have been considered by Airservices Australia as alternatives, which goes to the second point, ‘explore opportunities’. The committee, at its last meeting, had a report given to it on technology changes and how they might assist in reducing aircraft noise impact on communities. Those are the things Brad has mentioned also.

The review terms of reference are being undertaken at the moment. As for the location of Airservices Australia noise-monitoring stations, a number of temporary noise-monitoring stations are being put in the hills. That has been facilitated by the committee. I believe one is in place at the moment but it has communication issues, and another is being calibrated. That is in the outlying suburbs, where a lot of the complaints are now coming from. There is also a review of where the noise monitors are being located in the Perth Basin. Airservices Australia are putting out terms of reference for that study, and the committee are then going to feed back to Airservices on that, so that is a process that is underway. Undertaking measurements of the noise impact of engine ground runs is a matter that is ongoing. We hired a noise consultant to undertake those, and we changed a number of locations where the aircraft do engine ground runs to minimise the noise impact based on some initial findings. Now we are just following up to get more data.

Senator SIEWERT —I want to pick up where you just left off. You started your presentation today by acknowledging that the process did not work well and that there have been problems. The difference between the consultation process over the overlay and the noise process is very stark. I appreciate all the things you have just said about how you are working with the committee, but it seems to me that you are still putting a load on the committee to do the consultation process and to take that back to the community. I am not sure how much you have spent on doing the public awareness process et cetera around the overlay, but I should imagine that is significant because documentation has been produced and there have been emails, and I think that has been a very thorough process so that everybody could understand what is going on. The same has not been done for the RAP process, and unless you provide those sorts of resources, whether it is Airservices or a combination, I would suggest that the community is never going to get the information properly or be engaged properly because it is an unfair burden to put on the committee in the first place.

Mr Geatches —I think your statement goes to the heart of the issue—that is, let us be clear on the role of the consultation committee. It has one part to play in consulting with community and informing community, but it is not the only method and we would be paying lip-service to the issue if we said that it was or we acted as though it was.

Senator SIEWERT —In that case, what else is being done?

Mr Geatches —The lesson for us is in the case of material changes to aircraft noise exposure in the area of our stakeholders—that our company, in its own right but also through its relationship with Airservices Australia, has to make sure that appropriate resources are applied to giving people the information that they need. We think that the runway overlay consultation was a far better example of how you effectively and efficiently communicate this information. It is a great example. We did not rely on a committee. Sure, we involved the committee. We went to various other forums involving local government. We set up shopfronts in shopping centres and in libraries, we populated our website and we had mail-outs. All these things should occur when there is material change in this area. In terms of consultation, we need to be careful about raising expectations. It is important that we look at what is effective consultation and communication. In the case of the WARRP, I think an important starting point was to package information that the layman could understand, that the members of the community and their representatives could understand, and get that out there and talk so people could start to understand and then provide our forums through which the questions could be answered. From personal experience, I do not think it is productive consultation to have town hall meetings and stand in front of people who want to turn up. That is just as inefficient as relying on the consultation committee.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Are you saying what you have done rather than what you want to do?

CHAIR —Do not answer that; Senator Siewert has one more question.

Senator SIEWERT —What can the community expect now in response to their concerns—I know you have had representatives here; you said you had. Where to from here in terms of addressing the very serious issues the community has brought up about noise and the new impact, because despite the fact that there has been ongoing consultation it does not sound as though there has been a reduction in the noise for a lot of people in the community under the new routes?

Mr Geatches —I think the issue of what the routes are in the metropolitan region as they currently sit and what their impact is is a matter that Airservices Australia and CASA are responsible for. We will facilitate through the consultative committee any lines of inquiry or questions about that route structure. We will push Airservices Australia to engage in providing that information.

While the WARRP thing could have been done substantially better, you would be aware that Airservices do devote substantial resources to aircraft noise management issues. I think the WebTrak site, where you can actually go and get real-time information about aircraft, is phenomenal. It is just amazing technology. They are the sorts of things that Airservices have done and, frankly, our organisation needs to do more of.

Changing the current exposures is an incredibly complex issue. The issue is not only the exposure that people have: the moment you change the exposure you actually create a whole range of other interested people. You can actually do something that is a net improvement in noise exposure and have more complaints, just because you have changed it.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So are you in favour of a levy on all these terrific new businesses you are going to have for the next 100 years, you say, to finance insulation? If you say it is lunacy to have a curfew, what about a levy—five bucks for umpteen years on the passengers—to fund these people? You ought to go out there and sleep at night and get woken up at two o’clock, three o’clock and four o’clock in the morning.

CHAIR —I think Mr Geatches has already undertaken to accept an offer if one is given to him.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Would you be in favour of a recommendation by this committee that the government—or whoever it is—implement a levy to fund the insulation program?

Mr Geatches —My understanding is that federal legislation exists that covers this subject matter. If the federal government is of a mind to introduce a noise insulation program in Perth, my understanding is that the legislation exists.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you think that that is unreasonable?

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan! We have had a long day and we have had enough.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Yes, I know, and I have come a bloody long way!

CHAIR —We all have.

Senator STERLE —You can go back—we don’t mind.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you think it is unreasonable?

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan! I am sorry, Mr Geatches. I will come back to you if there is time, Senator Heffernan. Senator Adams has the call.

Senator ADAMS —Just on the composition of the committee, we heard evidence this morning from the City of Armadale. With Bedfordale and that area now being impacted fairly strongly the residents are getting pretty upset about it. How do the City of Armadale become a member of the committee—or can’t they? You have the other councils.

Dr Cock —When the committee was formed it talked about who should be involved in it and it was around federal members of parliament and elected representatives of places impacted by aircraft noise. The committee considers who should be membership. For example, we had a local private school that wished to join and the committee members decided that that was an inappropriate group to join, because it was not a representative group. But in relation to a local council that is impacted by noise, I think that is a matter that the committee would consider and the members of the committee would make a decision on it.

Senator ADAMS —What is the process? Do they have to apply to the committee to become a member?

Dr Cock —That is how it is run, yes. That is how the local school tried to become a member. They applied and, as chair, I brought that communication forward to the committee to consider. But we are in the process of reviewing how that committee works because of the white paper recommendations.

CHAIR —We have one quick question from Senator Sterle, one from Senator Back and then one from Senator Heffernan and then we will pull up.

Senator STERLE —It might be one and a half, Chair. Mr Geatches, it would be really helpful to this committee, because in Senate estimates last November it got a little bit emotive between the minister and my colleague, Senator Back. It has not come up today—

Senator BACK —You, Senator Sterle, were the main cause of the problem, as I remember.

CHAIR —I think there was emotion on all sides, Senator Sterle.

Senator STERLE —I was being nice.

CHAIR —Question.

Senator STERLE —The question is: could you, Mr Geatches, provide to this committee the attendance records of those meetings through this whole WARRP process? Is that possible?

Mr Geatches —We can.

Dr Cock —They are publicly available. They are published on our website, but we are very happy to provide them to the committee.

Senator STERLE —If you could, please provide the minutes and the attendances. I take on board what you have said: a lot of water has gone under the bridge and we do not have to review old ground. But if it comes up in Senate estimates next time, that is fine, we will all be informed. I think the way that Perth airport has handled the overlay was exceptional. It really was. As a member of parliament I was certainly bombarded with information from Perth Airport. The wake-up call has come for Airservices Australia, it has come for Perth Airport and it has certainly come for the members of the consultative committee.

It would be imperative then, if the hand is out there and offered, that all members of the committee should be given the chance to have those meetings called when the federal members of parliament are not sitting—I am sorry; I do not want to sound like I am preaching—and with plenty of notice so that there is no excuse for federal members to not be there. Everyone has to be fair dinkum if they want to be part of this committee. And that, Chair, is all I wanted to ask.

CHAIR —Thank you, Senator Sterle.

Senator BACK  —Dr Cock, Councillor Daw from the Shire of Mundaring mentioned earlier that he brought along a technical person—I think Mr Anderson—because obviously members of the committee did not understand the technical aspects of it, and this gentleman was not allowed to participate in the meeting. Given the fact that he had technical knowledge and he had made proposals, what is the basis upon which that gentleman would have been excluded and was it wise to exclude the benefit of technical knowledge like that?

Dr Cock —The committee is very strong on the membership. The members are allowed to bring along one delegate. The organisation which the members represent decides who the member and the delegate is—for example, a local shire, in the case of Mundaring, had Councillor Daw and one of their officers. When the additional person came along it was not in line with what the committee’s requirement was. I asked the committee and the committee at that time expressed the view that the extra individual was not to sit at their meeting. That was the view of the committee and it was checked at that time.

Senator BACK —Is anyone allowed to participate or at least attend as an observer?

Dr Cock —At a special meeting we had on the route review we actually did invite additional members to come along, but generally no.

Senator BACK —Thank you.

Senator HEFFERNAN —We have been hearing about the problem all day. We have not been hearing too much about the solution. I would really like to nail this down on the solution side, given that we all want you to work and get a quid and the rest of it. Why don’t we and why don’t you put up a proposition to actually fund a noise insulation program?

Mr Geatches —I would make a couple of observations around that issue. Firstly—

Senator HEFFERNAN —I just want to give you one—


Senator HEFFERNAN —I need to put it into context.

CHAIR —It better be very quick.

Senator HEFFERNAN —This letter from Marlene and Charles Wilson says, ‘Of particular concern is the excessive noise of flights between 11 pm and 6 am.’ I think that it is unreasonable for you as responsible, well paid CEOs of an organisation to know that, as a consequence of your commercial success, people are having to put up with that—with no consultation; it was just imposed. So why can’t we impose a solution?

Mr Geatches —The federal government can. The point is, Senator—

Senator HEFFERNAN —But they would be encouraged if you said yes.

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan, just be quiet.

Mr Geatches —The point is that Perth Airport does not determine public policy on these issues; the government does. The government has the legislation. The impact of a noise insulation program will not be borne by the shareholders of Perth Airport; it will be borne by the members of the flying public. That is a matter for those people who elected the governments, the airlines—it is not our role to decide that.

Senator HEFFERNAN —But don’t you think it would be a fair thing to do, as an ordinary human being? You do not want to answer?

Mr Geatches —I do. I think those sorts of programs are sensible in an overall regime. But the important thing to note is that many of the people, if not most of the people, who are complaining about aircraft noise in our region would not qualify.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I understand all that.

CHAIR —Thank you very much, Mr Geatches and Dr Cock, for giving us your time. We do appreciate your making the effort to get in rather earlier than you were listed for.

[2.46 pm]