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Thursday, 1 April 1965


Senator HENTY (Tasmania) (Minister for Civil Aviation) - by leave - Mr. Deputy President, the Government has recently undertaken a review of its national airports programme and has reached several significant decisions involving large sums of public money and covering developments of considerable importance not only to Australian aviation but also to the national economy and progress. In the circumstances, I consider it appropriate that I should report the substance of those decisions to Parliament.

Honorable senators will recall that the Government is currently engaged in a fiveyear airports programme which is designed to improve and extend the technical and passenger facilities at a large number of airports throughout the Commonwealth. This five-year programme began in the 1 963-64 financial year and covers the period up to and including the financial year 1967-68. Apart from the numerous other works involved, many of which are already complete with others under way, the two major projects included in the five-year plan are those at Sydney and Melbourne. It is to these two projects that I wish to direct my remarks today.

Since the two projects were first put to the Government, additional demands have been superimposed on the original requirements, mainly because of an unprecedented increase in both international and domestic air traffic. In domestic aviation, the rate of annual increase in the ten years up to 1962 was an average of 4 per cent. In 1963 it rose to 11 per cent, and last year it rose to 17.5 per cent. In the international field the average annual increase in the ten years up to 1962 was 17.5 per cent, with a tendency to flatten out towards the end of the period. However, since 1962 passenger traffic has risen by 21.5 per cent, in 1963 and by 23.5 per cent, last year. Preliminary figures for the first few months of this year indicate no slackening in the rate of increase. Indeed, recent trends in international aviation indicate that we must plan for large and continuing increases as new sources of traffic are tapped.

One practical result of this unprecedented traffic growth is that we have had to reconsider the new air terminals which we plan to build at Sydney and at Tullamarine so that they are now about twice as large as those we originally contemplated in 1962. With this must go a corresponding increase in all the other necessary supporting facilities such as apron areas and engineering services. We are planning the two terminals so that they will not require any significant extension for about ten years after their completion, although they have been designed in such a way as to allow for extension when and if needed.

The major result of all this additional work has been to increase the total estimated cost involved in these two projects alone to over £32 million. The Government had to consider all this against the background of increasing defence expenditure and the very many other demands placed on the national income. Nevertheless, it decided that the two projects should be pressed ahead as quickly as possible.

I think it would be appropriate if I dealt with the Sydney project first, not to indicate any order of priority, but rather because Sydney is our major international airport and therefore, quite logically the work already under way and planned for the air- port involves the greatest amount of Commonwealth expenditure. As honorable senators know, the airport's north-south runway is now being extended into Botany Bay to a length of 8,000 ft. with a 500 ft. over-run. The work, which includes the diversion of a main sewer line and the construction of a large tunnel to carry General Holmes Drive under the runway extension, is progressing quite well and the entire project should be ready for operations by July 1967. The total cost of this runway extension is now estimated at just over £6 million.

We also plan to build a new international terminal at Sydney on a new site in the north-west corner of the airport. The cost of building this terminal together with the necessary aprons, taxiways and other facilities is estimated at about £10 million. The experts advising the Government say that with a terminal of this size and because of the difficult nature of the site we could not reasonably expect to have it operating before 1969. Every effort will be made to improve on that date, but at present we must regard 1969 as a realistic and practical target. Plans will be submitted to the Public Works Committee shortly, but I can say that the terminal will be a fitting gateway to Australia. Basically it will be a threestory building with radiating passenger loading fingers and aero bridges. International jet aircraft will nose in under their own power to a point immediately adjacent to a passenger holding room on the loading finger or concourse. An aero bridge will slide out at the same level as the cabin floor of the aircraft to connect with the aircraft nose door. This will give passengers a complete under-cover walk from the terminal entrance to their aircraft seat. The terminal building will also incorporate many of the better features of the latest overseas terminals.

The apron area will accommodate twelve large international aircraft simultaneously, and the loading fingers or concourses have been planned so that this arrangement can be readily and progressively extended to at least twenty international aircraft positions. The latest information we have about the British and American supersonic airliners indicates that the apron and terminal facilities will enable these types of aircraft to be handled quite satisfactorily. There is, of course, room for extension of the terminal to take domestic operations and this development is ultimately envisaged. However, the domestic airlines have indicated that for the present at Sydney they prefer to remain in their existing separate terminals on the other side of the airport.

One of the biggest problems we face in the construction of the new Sydney terminal is the site. The area is low lying and swampy and approximately two million cubic yards of filling will be required to bring the area up to the required levels before building and pavement works can start. In addition, test borings and subsurface investigations by the Department of Works have also established that the area will need surcharging with a further one million cubic yards of sand to achieve the necessary consolidation. This surcharge will subsequently be used for filling the adjacent areas reserved for future domestic terminal development.

Unfortunately the northwest section is the only part of the airport capable of reasonable development as a terminal area, initially for international aircraft and ultimately for domestic aircraft as well. We have had our experts investigate alternative sites on the airport, including the use of the existing building area, but they have concluded because of size and other factors, the northwest corner of the airport is the only area suitable.

Mr. Deputy President,if I may restate briefly what the Government is proposing to spend on the further development of Sydney airport: A sum of over £6 million for the runway extension and a further amount of about £10 million on the new international terminal complex - a total of approximately £16 million. I might add that this is in addition to the new air traffic control and communications centre which I recently announced would be built at Sydney airport at a cost of approximately £1 million, and which will ultimately include essential control and .safety equipment worth over £3 million.

Now, I turn to the project for a new Melbourne airport at Tullamarine. The total cost of this project is now estimated at about £16 million. Tullamarine is, unlike the Sydney project, an entirely new airport, made necessary because of the simple fact that the present Melbourne airport . at Essendon is incapable of further extension.

The figure of £16 million includes the airfield works such as runways, taxiways and aprons, the terminal and service buildings, engineering services, a new control tower and fire station as well as numerous other necessary facilities. Work on the runways in already going ahead.

The terminal building will be, like that at Sydney, a three-storey structure, incorporating passenger loading fingers and aero bridges. The apron area will accommodate eight international aircraft simultaneously, as well as up to 24 domestic aircraft with room for expansion. This pays due regard to the particular roles of Sydney and Melbourne airports. I mention it here because there have been, in some quarters, unfounded remarks about the respective claims of the two cities in regard to airport facilities. Sydney is logically and geographically our major international airport. Accordingly we are providing at Sydney more facilities for international aircraft than at Melbourne. Melbourne is the centre of our domestic aviation network and the new airport at Tullamarine is being equipped accordingly to meet that role as well as to handle its share of international traffic.

The apron at Tullamarine will be designed to the different strengths necessary for its role. For example, the international part of the apron is designed, like that at Sydney, to carry supersonic aircraft. The domestic section of the apron is designed for smaller, but nevertheless still large aircraft of the subsonic types such as the Boeing 727's which are now operating on our domestic routes.

The substantially increased size of the Tullamarine terminal will put the completion date back to 1969. However, this does not automatically mean that Melbourne will be denied international operations until then. Certain of the passenger handling focilities could be available in advance of this date. My Department is considering this possibility with the Department of Works and other interested Commonwealth departments, such as the Department of Customs and Excise.

I might add that this time schedule will enable the two domestic airlines to more adequately finance and phase in their shift to Tullamarine.

Both Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett A.N. A. face a very heavy financial and technical commitment in moving from Essendon to Tullamarine. The estimated cost is of the order of £5 million for each of them over and above the several hundred thousand pounds it will cost them to furnish and fit out the respective areas they will occupy in the new Tullamarine terminal. I emphasize, however, that this factor did not influence the works schedule which has been dictated solely by the size and complexity of the project.

Mr. Deputy President,the Government also considered a number of other airport projects in its review. These include terminal and runway extensions at Adelaide, strengthening of the runway at Brisbane to handle the heavier type of international jets, extension of the Perth runway, major extensions to the terminal at Canberra, some further runway works at Coolangatta and Mackay, a new terminal at Port Moresby and also some temporary extensions to the existing international terminal at Sydney. I should emphasize that all these projects are in addition to the Government's normal airport works programme which has been running at an annual rate of about £2 million. The Government has decided that this group of projects, which also involve a further large sum of public money, should be referred to a special interdepartmental committee for further investigation for possible Budget consideration in the next few months.

I present the following paper: -

National Airports Programme - Ministerial Statement, 1st April 1965.







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