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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 11976

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (10:35): I thank the member for Pearce for presenting her private member's bill on Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill 2011 because it gives us an opportunity to discuss the issues in this place that affect the thousands of people who live under flight paths around the country. For many years I have lived in Mile End, directly under the flight path, and have said many times in this place that I recall as a toddler running out the front with my parents to see the plane that would fly over once every two days into Adelaide—and gradually, as the years have gone by, there is now one every two minutes. So you can see how people's lives have been dramatically impacted on. Nevertheless, aircraft carriers and aircraft transport are a major part of today's life. All you have to do is look at what happened over the weekend to see how it disrupts our lives when there are no aircraft. Somewhere in the middle, governments have to find a good balance between the importance of aircraft travel and aircraft aviation industries and the thousands of residents who live directly under flight path, like in my electorate.

Many years ago, before I was involved in politics, I chaired a group within my neighbourhood called the Adelaide Airport Action Group. This group of residents lived very close to the airport and right under the aircraft flight paths. At that point in time there was no curfew in Adelaide. There was no consultative committee, as there is today. There was no airport ombudsman. The only place we could go was to Airservices Australia. I have to say that the service they provided in informing the residents was very poor, but it has improved over the years.

In Adelaide, for example, there was no curfew. That was one of the first things that those residents directly under the flight path lobbied for. The previous member in this place—and I congratulate her—was able to get an Adelaide airport curfew in writing. We now have legislation that protects those residents in Adelaide between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am.

Those who know Adelaide airport will know that it is slightly different from many of the other airports around the country. It is situated at West Beach and is surrounded by high density housing on every single side. Flights coming into my electorate of Hindmarsh cannot be changed because they are actually landing or taking off once they hit the borders of my electorate.

We had a very similar issue in South Australia a few years ago and the flight paths were changed. They were changed in some of the outer suburbs. I can understand the member for Pearce's anxiety on this. At the time many were concerned about the new flight paths. Even though they were outside my electorate, many people contacted me because they knew of my interest in this area.

The Adelaide Airport Consultative Committee has been going for a long time. It has been up and running for a number of years now. It has been used as a model and a showcase for other airports around the country. I was very pleased to see once the white paper came to fruition that consultative groups are to be set up in every airport constituency around the country to work through issues and these problems. When this problem happened in South Australia, we invited some of the residents from the areas that were not on that committee to talk to the consultative group. These issues and the flight paths were discussed. Everyone was informed of exactly where the changes would take place.

At that point Airservices Australia decided not to change the flight paths but then, with consultation over a period of 12 months, they implemented those changes. It is always very difficult when there are to be flight path changes. If you divert or move a flight path, another group of people will be directly under the new flight path. They will have concerns and the people who were previously under the flight path will be quite relieved. Residents who live under the flight path are always affected. It is a difficult thing. Through the consultative group I am happy to say that consultation did occur with those residents and the new flight paths have been implemented with minimal impact.

In Adelaide there were many issues that we are resolved under the Adelaide Airport Consultative Committee. Currently an environment officer attends every single meeting of the Adelaide Airport Consultative Committee. Representatives of the resident groups are also in attendance at those meetings, as am I, or one of my staff members if I am stuck here in Canberra. The environmental issues are also thrashed out. There is good consultation. All those residents who live around the airport are informed and have a say on what takes place in and around the airport.

The curfew was a very big issue in my electorate. I was very pleased a curfew was implemented. Another avenue for complaints to be investigated is the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman. I am very pleased that this has come to fruition. The government law went through last year. I, like the member for Pearce, had a private member's bill on a complaints authority. I put that in this parliament on two occasions but it did not get through. I am very pleased that the white paper gave us the things we are talking about today, especially the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman. Many of the complaints we used to get in my office—and we used to try to investigate them individually through the minister for transport and Airservices Australia to no avail—are now being investigated by a totally independent umpire. This is very positive and very good for the constituents who live under the flight paths or around airports.

The white paper is giving us a consistent approach. The white paper gave us the airport consultation groups, the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman and, very importantly, the planning forums. When they are discussing building plans or plans for the airport, there is a planning forum with representation from the area and from the councils. This planning forum has to be consultative. Airports have been privatised around the country and have previously put up warehouses and buildings with no regard for the local government rules and laws. That has had an immediate impact on the surrounding area. Now with these planning forums they have to consult with the councils so their plans fit in with the local area. It also gives the local councils an opportunity to plan ahead because of what is happening in different airports.

As I said, the white paper covers a lot of the things that are in this bill. In fact, I think most of them are covered in the white paper. Many of the things have come to fruition through the office of the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Mr Albanese. He himself is very familiar with airports, having one in his electorate that is very similar to my electorate. It is extremely hard for those people who live near and around airports, but I think that the way that we are heading now and the way that we have gone in the last few years is very positive. When I look at the things that are in place today and compare them with the things that were in place when I was in the residents advocacy group more than 20 years ago, there was very little in place for residents to have their views heard, whereas today we have an airport ombudsman, we have the consultative groups with representation by residents associations and we also have planning forums—all of which came out of the minister's white paper. It is a big difference, believe me. Having been involved in these issues 20 to 25 years ago, I can actually see where we are today. Today we have far more consultation, far more advice from the residents, and we certainly are in a far better place today than we were a few years ago. (Time expired)