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Thursday, 4 June 1970


Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) (12:47 PM) -On Wednesday, 18th March 1970, I mentioned to the House that I had received information that preliminary land surveys had been carried out by the Department of the Interior for a north-south runway as an adjunct lo the existing east-west runway at Richmond air base. I referred also to rumours that were circulating lo the effect that this new runway would be used for civil aviation purposes as part, possibly, of the next major airport to be built in New South Wales. Those were the rumours that were circulating. The following morning, 19th March, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) directed a question to the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) who in this place represents the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). He referred to the statement that I had made the night before about the Richmond air base. In his reply the Minister stated:

No ground surveys for an additional major commercial

Note the word 'commercial' - airport in the Richmond area have been carried out by the Department of Civil Aviation, although in the first quarter of last year the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise new over that region and examined the noise level there.

I do no; know how one examines from the air the noise levels on the ground. I still have noi worked out the Minister's logic there. However the point is that he said that there had been no ground surveys for an additional major commercial airport. Unless one looked at that answer very carefully one would gain the impression that no ground surveys had been carried out for any type of airport. That night the honourable member for Mitchell took part in the adjournment debate and referred to the Minister's reply to the question that he had directed to him that morning. On this occasion he was more specific because I think it will be realised that the Minister's reply had been couched very carefully. As I have said, unless one looked at it very carefully one could be misled. That night the honourable member for Mitchell said:

A survey was made last year. I was brought into it because many of the property owners involved got in touch with mc and wanted to know what was going on. lt was simply a survey by the Department of Air in relation to the identification of blocks of land that the air base at Richmond had controlled for many years. There was nothing in the suggestion about the establishment of an aerodrome in the area.

I was not satisfied because I had quite definite information that a survey had been carried out. Because I was not satisfied I wrote :o a number of departments all of which had representatives on the interdepartmental committee to investigate where the next major airport should be. I had in mind that Richmond had been one of the 5 sites mentioned in evidence before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. Accordingly most of these departments that 1 had written to should have been aware whether or not Richmond was being considered. I started to get the run-around when I wrote to these various departments. This is where the evasion came in. I wrote to the Department of Supply and 1 was told to go to the Department of Civil Aviation. I went to the Department of Civil Aviation and it said that nothing had been initiated by that Department, lt suggested 1 go to the Department of Air. I went to the Department of the Interior with 6 questions and it said that some surveys had been conducted. When I wrote again and asked what sort of surveys were conducted the Department would not elucidate. In each instance it referred me to the Department of Air who would know what these surveys were all about.

I wrote to the Department of Works and that is where 1 got the break-through. This Department was specific that a survey had been carried out. 1 received this answer from the Department of Works only on 27th May, just over a week ago, after 2i months of going from department to department, of ringing up departments and asking when I would receive a reply. There was evasion. As I have said, 1 went lo the Department of Works and it eventually replied and said: Yes, a survey had been conducted. The Department gave full details of the survey, pointing out that it is an 11,500-feet runway with 1,000 feet overruns at each end, making 13,500 feet in all. This is a very big runway indeed, able to take any of the really large planes that land in this country. Only yesterday I received a reply from the Department of Air to all the questions I had directed to that Department. The Department answered my individual questions as well as the various letters that had been referred to it. In its letter dated 3rd June the Department stated:

The survey-

The Department admits again that a survey was conducted. Now the cat is out of the bag. The letter continued: relating to a northsouth runway was for the purpose of locating boundaries of all properties which would be affected if a runway of 11.500 feel length, running from about 400 feet south of the western end of the existing eastwest runway and on a magnetic bearing of 197 degrees, was to be developed.

The Department went on to give all the details of this runway, lt made the point that it does not intend to develop it at this stage; it is part of an overall survey that is being carried out in respect of all air bases throughout Australia. The letter from the Minister for Air is rather lengthy, but I think it is quite an important one. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate it in Hansard.

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA MINISTER FOR AIR

Parliament Mouse, 3 June 1970

Dear Mr Armitage.

I refer lo your letter of 24th April 1970 concerning preliminary land surveys carried out by the Department of the Interior in respect of runways associated with the existing airport at Richmond and lo my reply of 4th May 1970.

I also refer to your letter to my colleague the Minister for the Interior about the surveys carried out at Richmond during 1.969 and to his letter dated 13th May 1970 which advised you tha your letter had been referred to me for advice lo you direct.

My colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation has also forwarded to me a copy of your letter dated the 1st May 1970 on the same subject together with a copy of his reply to you dated 2 1st May 1970.

The matters raised in the above letters are of a similar nature and 1 propose that this reply will provide an answer to all three letters.

Surveys were carried out al Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond by the Department of the interior at the request of my Department. These were a survey at each end of the existing east-west runway to determine obstructions to a 1 in 50 approach clearance plane and the other in connection with the feasibility of siting a runway in a north-south direction. These surveys did not cover any proposal for an east-west runway parallel to the existing runway

The survey relating lo a north-south runway was for the purpose of locating boundaries of all properties which would be affected if a runway of 11,500 feet length, running from about 400 feet south of the western end of the existing eastwest runway and on a magnetic bearing of 197 degrees, was lo be developed. Such a run wa would involve 1,000 feel over-runs at each end and 750 feet clearances from the end of the overrun to the property boundary, over a total width of 1,500 feci. The Department of the Interior was also asked lo determine obstructions to a I in 50 approach clearance plane at the ends of this possible runway.

There is al present no proposal to construct a new runway al R.A.A.F. Base Richmond or lo expand the present runway. These surveys were carried nui in connection wilh R.A.A.F. future planning for R.A.A.F. Base Richmond and lo allow consideration of the feasibility of a runway of 11,500 feel being conducted at that base if this were decided at some future dale. This is in accordance wilh the practice of the R.A.A.F. in relation lo all major R.A.A.F. Bases in case there should be an operational requirement in Hie fi t s s re for new or extended runways.

There arc no proposals at this lime for the R.A.A.F. Base al Richmond lo be transferred lo the Department of Civil Aviation. This base has been d'\ eloped specifically for the use of the R.A.A.F. and if any proposal lo transfer the base to Civil Aviation was made, il must necessarily lake into account the considerable expense in providing the R.A.A.F. wilh another base from which lo conduct the operations now carried out al Richmond. Consideration would al-o need to bc given to the loss of R.A.A.F. operational efficiency which would follow such a move having in mind the transport rule of the Richmond Base in the overall concept of iiic air defence of the Newcastle/Sydney/ Wollongong industrial complex.

Yours sincerely

TOM DRAKE-BROCKMAN

The Sydney 'Daily Telegraph' is said to be the official organ of the Liberal Party and the paper you can trust. Yesterday it published some details of this matterand pointed out that 2 approaches were made bv that newspaper to the Department of Air. On each occasion the Department denied that any surveys had been carried out or that it had requested them. I again emphasise the extent of this evasion andI cannot help but suspect that we have not yet heard the whole story. I ask honourable members to note that the letter from the Department of Air does not exclude the possibility of the transfer of the base finally to the Department of Civil Aviation.

I have not the slightest doubt that the honourable member for Mitchell believed what he said in the House that night. He was categorical in his denial andI am quite satisfied that he believed what he said. But I believe that he was misled by the Government. Had a Labor government been in office and hadI made approaches as the local member on an issue like this I would have expected to be taken into the confidence of the Government. I think the honourable member for Mitchell should have been taken into the confidence of the Government. I do not think it matters whether the airport is to be used for civil aviation or by the RAAF. It can take very large planes on a runway of 13,500 feet.

The basic issue is that which I raised the first time I mentioned the subject and that is the question of aircraft noise. Largeareas of my electorate can be affected - Mount Druitt, a huge housing area, Cambridge Park, Werrington and St Mary's, not to mention Windsor, Richmond, Penrith in other electorates. A great many homes are located in this area and obviously there is a very great need for a standing committee to be appointed to select sites and to inquire into this matter so that there will be proper planning. It would ensure that any future air base is not built in a position where it will affect existing homes and the residents. In view of the evasion which has taken place I cannot help but think we still have not heard the whole story and that it could be used as an airport in the future.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 12.58 a.m. (f riday)







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