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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1657

Mr LLOYD(10.28) —This evening I draw the attention of the House to an answer by the Minister for Aviation (Mr Peter Morris) to question on notice No. 4563. I asked the Minister what were the reasons for the proposed expenditure of $10.8m on a central aviation training college to be built at Pialligo in the Australian Capital Territory for training air traffic controllers and associated personnel, search and rescue et cetera, all of whom are members of the Department of Aviation. The Minister, in his answer, asserted that there was absolutely no advantage in having the college established near a larger airport, for example, Essendon or Tullamarine in Melbourne, and that the present facilities at Henty House, Melbourne, are neither functionally nor structurally suitable for upgrading. Since receipt of that answer on 10 December 1986 I have received information which, to use the Minister's phrase `fell off the back of a Jumbo' and which throws serious doubt on the accuracy of the Minister's answer and justification for the costly transfer from Melbourne to Canberra.

I believe that the Minister for Aviation has been misled by his Department for reasons of its own pursuit of centralisation of power in Canberra. The comprehensive information I have received includes the following: Department of Aviation Central Training College Basis of Planning; Department of Aviation Melbourne-Canberra Transfer Program CTC submission; Department of Aviation submission to LAGE Committee; LAGE Committee report of December 1986; Statement by air traffic control staff at Henty House; CTC relocation industry aspects; and a proposal for provision of professional consultancy services for the review of air traffic services training program. All of these documents clearly indicate that Melbourne is the best place for the college, including the cost effectiveness and ease of upgrading the present building to house the Department's new training simulator purchased at a cost of $8m.

What is more, further information which has been given to me by an individual who is obviously deeply concerned with the possible misspending of over $10m of taxpayers' money makes it plain that other proposals currently being considered, such as having the College accommodated in Watson High School in the Australian Capital Territory, are not realistic alternatives. Watson High School would have to be significantly modified, including the possible building of a whole new wing to accommodate the simulator as well as considerable modifications to provide suitable training rooms as well as the essential supply of a large air-conditioning plant for the simulator wing. It would be a purpose built building. It would have many other problems and would be more expensive than upgrading Henty House.

In fact there is still a question mark as to the need for a central aviation training college as the Department is still to finalise the new air traffic control plan for Australia, which must surely have a significant effect on the way the Department will need to approach training. If, as the Department states, a significant proportion of training-around 50 per cent of operational training as per part 19 of the Minister's answer-is carried out in the field, it may be more prudent to wait until the new system is in place rather than trying to guess or artificially force a system to evolve.

However, assuming that there is a need for a central aviation training college, Canberra is not the ideal place for it. None of the five staff associations linked with the training, nor the Australian Council of Trade Unions, support a move to Canberra, which indicates the opposition to the push by the Department of Aviation for Canberra. If the college is located in Canberra, the trainees will be deprived of access to facilities--

Mr Hollis —I take a point of order, Madam Speaker. This matter is before the Public Works Committee. Surely, if there is--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member does not have a point of order.

Mr LLOYD —If the college is located in Canberra, the trainees will be deprived of access to facilities that are essential to reinforce their theoretical training. As an example, the Department's own submission to the interdepartmental committee on the location of Australian Government employment, the LAGE committee, on page 4, admits:

Both the air traffic control and flight service schools should be located adjacent to airways operational facilities similar to those at which trainees will ultimately be employed to allow familiarisation visits by trainees.

It goes on:

As Canberra does not provide a full range of operational facilities, it may be necessary to arrange visits by courses to Sydney operational centres.

The truth is that Canberra has none of the following facilities with which trainees will be expected to be familiar: Area approach control centre; operational control centre; area control centre; flight service centre; rescue co-ordination centre; a general aviation aero- drome procedures aerodrome; a major airline training establishment. At present all of the above facilities are available to trainees at Henty House in Melbourne because half day or day trips can be organised to Essendon airport or Tullamarine airport. If the college is in Canberra entire classes will have to be transported at the Government's expense to Sydney--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.