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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 11981

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (10:55): I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill 2011. There are two airports in the near vicinity of my electorate: Parafield Airport and the Royal Australian Air Force Base Edinburgh. Prior to coming into this place, I was a councillor and Mayor of the City of Salisbury, where both of those airports are located. So I am very familiar with the issues associated with aircraft noise, flight paths, noise exposure, forecast patterns, community consultation processes and criticisms of those processes. I therefore have a great deal of empathy for the member for Pearce's concerns and I well understand why she has introduced this bill.

Having said that, it seems to me that the need for this bill is perhaps not as relevant as it might have been some years ago—and that was a point that the member for Hindmarsh also made. It seems to me that many of the concerns arising from the member for Pearce's experience arise from matters that occurred as part of the Western Australian Route Review Project and which were begun by the Howard government. Decisions were taken during the time of the Howard government that I suspect also underlie many of the concerns of the member for Pearce.

The reality is that the bill that we are debating today fails to recognise the changes that have flowed since this government has come into office—and, in particular, changes that arise from the aviation white paper of 2009 and, subsequent to that, amendments brought into this place as part of the aviation amendment bill. I refer in particular to the two changes relating to the community aviation consultation groups that have since been established and the establishment of the independent Aircraft Noise Ombudsman. The requirements of this bill are therefore, in my view, unnecessary. They also add considerable cost to airport operations and they do so without achieving the intended objectives.

The fact is that the new consultation process that was introduced by this government is working and it is making a difference. In my electorate of Makin, Parafield Airport last year had its draft master plan rejected by the minister because he was not satisfied with the community consultation process. In a press release at the time, the minister said:

Today I am announcing my decision not to approve Parafield Airport's 2009 draft master plan. I am not satisfied with the community consultation undertaken by Parafield Airport in preparing its draft master plan. Parafield Airport has failed to provide the community with accurate information about current and forecast aircraft movements and they did not adequately consult with those sections of the community that will be most affected by aircraft noise as the airport grows. Parafield Airport should make sure that there is clear public information about the hours of flight training, agreed flight paths, and contact information for the public.

I think that is a clear example of where the government's new process is working and has worked. As a result of that decision, the airport was given an extended period in which to commence the community consultation process and then to submit a fresh master plan for the minister to consider.

Much of this bill arises from the work of the inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport into the effectiveness of Airservices Australia's management of aircraft noise. I note that there were 10 recommendations from that inquiry. I also note that most of the recommendations were broadly picked up by the government, with the exception of a couple, and perhaps those are the ones that the member for Pearce is most concerned about. The first is recommendation 2, which, I understand, talks about community advocates being appointed to each airport; however, since there are 180 airports around Australia, appointing community advocates to each of them would be a very costly exercise. The second is recommendation 7, which also talks about disputes between interested parties in the community and so on. If recommendation 7 were to be adopted by the government, there is no doubt in my mind—and I say this as someone who was caught up in disputes time and time again—that the door would be opened to continuous legal disputes between residents groups, industries and airport operators and that you would probably never get anything achieved because the matters would constantly be referred to the courts and drag on and on.

The processes that we adopt certainly need to be fair and thorough, but they should also be practicable and place realistic and sensible demands on airport operators. If they become unworkable, nobody benefits. As Mayor of Salisbury, I was caught up in many disputes over airports. At the time, we set up what we referred to as the Parafield Airport Consultative Committee. It included not only airport operators and the industries that were located on the airport but also just about every significant department of government at federal, state and local government level. There was also provision for the local community to be represented on the committee. Through the committee, matters were debated, discussed and—generally—resolved. They were not always resolved to the satisfaction of everybody, but they were resolved in a fair and reasonable way. I suspect that most airports could do the same if they wanted to set up similar committees, because it is not out of the question for them to do so. The reality, however, is that ultimately the decision about changing operations at airports has to be approved by the minister. As I pointed out earlier, this new government has shown that it is prepared to be quite strong and at the same time reasonable about what it considers to be appropriate changes to land use on airports.

I have also had experience in dealing with the changing flight path patterns of airports. This issue was very difficult to deal with. Flight path patterns change, and, if they do change, the noise emissions forecasts also change. As a result of that, you have to carefully manage the land use around airports. I recall that we had to go through a process whereby we had not only to negotiate with the airports concerned—and one of the airports concerned was the Royal Australian Air Force base at Edinburgh—but also to issue appropriate notices to the surrounding residents, advising them of the noise they might be exposed to if they chose to build and live within the area that would have been under the flight paths. The issue of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Edinburgh is interesting because the base does not operate under the same regulations as do the general aviation airports such as that at Parafield; nevertheless, the concerns that arise are exactly the same. Only earlier this year, I raised with the Minister for Defence Materiel a concern that was brought to my attention about the current process that the Edinburgh air base is going through in changing its flight paths and the impact that that is having on land use in and around the RAAF base. While I can understand the reason that the member for Pearce has brought this bill into the parliament, given the changes that have taken place in the last couple of years, I believe it is no longer necessary.

I referred earlier to the Parafield Airport Consultative Committee. Only today, Phil Baker, who is Managing Director of Adelaide Airport Ltd, which also manages Parafield Airport, retires after having been in the position since 1998. I take this opportunity to compliment Phil on work he has done since 1998. In my discussions and negotiations with him during his time in the position, I always found him to be fair and reasonable in his negotiations and dealings. While he had a responsibility to look after the airport, he did it in a fair and reasonable way. I wish him, his wife, Sarah, and their three kids all the best in his retirement.