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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
Page: 0


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - This afternoon honourable members witnessed a very remarkable demonstration outside the Parliament. I have seen many demonstrations here. This was one of the largest and, I think, one of the most genuine that has taken place. In the past when there have been large numbers of people at demonstrations very often you see the same faces and you know that these are people who are here not because they believe in a cause but in order to demonstrate. They are reinforced by local cheer squads from Canberra. The demonstration this afternoon was not like that. It was a demonstration composed entirely of genuine people who came here to Canberra. They were not the normal crowd that has been involved in other kinds of disturbances. They were here because they had a genuine case. They were determined but orderly. I am afraid they did not have an opportunity of putting their case to Ministers who, with one reluctant and late exception, refused to have anything to do with them and who would not even see their spokesmen except, as I have said, for that late and reluctant exception.

I appeal to the Government and to the members of the Government party to see that this demonstration was not in vain and that some notice is taken of these people who have a genuine and I feel a good cause. I know very well that a decision has been taken in this matter already. I look at the Press release of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) of 28 August. It starts off with the bald phrase:

Galston has been chosen by the Australian Government to meet Sydney's airport needs for the 1980s.

I see no reason to quote the rest of that statement. But looking at it, there is no doubt that the Minister says that a definite decision has been made and the only thing in question is the details of how to carry out that definite decision. I look also at the text of the interview which the Minister gave on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program 'This Day Tonight' on 28 August. Again he was quite definite. The interviewer, Mr Carleton, asked him:

Is it quite definite it is going to be at Galston?

The Minister said:

The decision was we would locate the second one at Galston.

The interviewer said:

This committee will not be looking at alternative sites or anything like that; it is definitely Galston.

The Minister said:

Galston is the site. He went on to say that if he were at liberty to do so he could state the exact position of the proposed airport. I do not want to cloak the position. I realise that the Minister has definitely announced a decision which was made. Nevertheless, in my view it was a wrong decision and I am asking for it to be changed. In spite of the fact that it is a definite decision I ask for it to be changed. There is a technical provision in the rules of the Labor Party which would allow Caucus tomorrow to overrule the Cabinet and the Minister. I ask Caucus to do just that in accordance with the technical power that resides in its members. The matter is difficult, I know, because when this Government announces a decision one never quite knows whether that decision will really be carried out. As was pointed out, suppose Caucus tomorrow decided that the Australian dollar was not to be revalued. If that happened, what would the Government do? The position with respect to the airport at Galston is exactly the same. Nevertheless, the decision with respect to that airport is such a wrong decision that I appeal to the Government to change it even at this late hour.


Mr Martin - Where would you like the airport to be located?


Mr WENTWORTH - The honourable member asks where I would like it to be located.

That is a very good question. I have stated already in this House that, in my view, no need exists for a second airport in the Sydney area. But a second international airport for NSW should be located in this Canberra area. There are good technical reasons for putting one here. As honourable members know, a site has been selected in the Bungendore district. That site would not cause any interference with any assembly of people. It would be a good site technically and would be welcomed, I think, by people in that area as noise interference would not be a problem and an additional facility of which people could take advantage would be provided.

People would take advantage of that facility particularly if the airport were correlated - again I remind honourable members that I made this point in the House a couple of weeks ago - with an upgrading of the rail system and the utilisation of the new techniques which would allow rail services at a speed which is not considered customary in Australia but which is quite technically possible even over the terrain of that area. That facility could be correlated with the desirable improvement of the railway line between Sydney and Albury. Certainly the section of that line between Sydney and Wagga is one of the worst aligned railway sections in the world having regard to its present and potential volume of traffic. So I thank the honourable member for his interjection. Yes, there is an alternative - a constructive alternative - and that is the one which I urge upon the Government at present. Even if the change is made tomorrow, as I hope it will be - in which case I think that the demonstrators who were outside Parliament House today can congratulate themselves - a need for vigilance will still exist. A decision to change, made once, can be made again.

I do not believe that the demonstration would have been as persuasive as it has been if a by-election in the Federal electorate of Parramatta were not pending. It may be for the most unworthy motives from the Government's point of view that the change would be made. That decision might be made not because the Government believes in the need for the change but because it is worried about the outcome of the Parramatta by-election. This motive would be unworthy but, nevertheless, the action taken would be worthy and worth while. I do not think that the Government should be reluctant to take this decision even if the motive behind it were unworthy. But I do say that even when or if the Government does change its decision a need for vigilance will remain. Once the Parramatta byelection is over the Government will be able, if the motive is an unworthy one, to do as it has done so often in the past, that is, short change and deceive those who voted for it. I do ask for this change to be made, but I would point out that even if it were to be made there would be grounds for vigilance because when it made its original decision, which was an off-the-cuff decision, the Government did not really know where Galston was and probably did not even know that the electorate of Parramatta could be affected. The Government has in this instance acted in haste and in ignorance but in a way which, I am afraid, is so characteristic of its other actions.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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