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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 11984

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (11:11): I am pleased to be able to speak in this debate, not least to be able to correct some of the misapprehensions which have been put forward in remarks from members of the opposition in today's debate. I know that there are a great many people around this place who have advocated for their communities in relation to aircraft noise and the amenity issues which arise as a result of that. It was in part for that reason but for a variety of others that the government embarked on the process of bringing about the national aviation policy white paper in December 2009.

In terms of the misapprehensions that I mentioned before, much has been made of the recommendations arising from that report. It is simply not true to say that there have been only a few recommendations arising under the report that have been reflected on, implemented or are in the process of being implemented because, of the 134 initiatives which are contemplated in the white paper, almost every single one has either been implemented or is underway.

There are a range of things that the white paper has brought about—and it was a fairly comprehensive document addressing the future of Australia's aviation strategy. It is particularly important to note how comprehensive that paper has been because we regularly hear from those opposite about the consequences of overregulation and the lack of necessity for regulation. Yet here today there are quite clear instances where matters which are already incorporated into legislation on our books are being reviewed and reflected upon and put forward in what is really quite a clumsy and fairly legally ambiguous piece of proposed legislation, the consequences of which in some instances may be potentially adverse environmental, safety or efficiency outcomes for Australian air traffic services. I will turn to each of those instances of deficiency in the draft legislation shortly.

This government has a very proud record in relation to dealing with the issue of aircraft noise. It was a result of this government's actions and the development of the national aviation policy white paper that we now have community aviation consultation groups at each of the 19 federally leased airports. I know that at least two of the members of the opposition have attended those community aviation consultation groups—those being the member for McPherson, who has attended the Gold Coast group, and the member for Herbert, who has attended the Townsville group. Presumably, those members of the opposition regard these groups as perfectly functional and useful mechanisms for addressing issues of aircraft noise on behalf of their respective communities.

We have also heard that the government has established the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman under the white paper and that planning coordination forums for airports, councils and state governments have been established to manage better outcomes. So a variety of things have been addressed through the white paper. Those are simply a few of the initiatives which have been generated by this government. Turning now the deficiencies in the bill before us, I expect that my colleague the member for Hunter, who will speak next, will address some of the issues that I am unable to get to in the time remaining to me. For instance, the bill proposes to incorporate reference to residential areas in the definitions, in addition to the existing references to the environment. It fails, it seems, to note that the definition of environment in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act already contemplates the qualities and the characteristics of locations, places and areas. Airservices, in managing environmental effects, having regard to the provisions of the EPBC Act, has long considered the environment to include residential areas and communities. So it seems curious that the bill seeks to legislate something which is already dealt with.

The second amendment that I would like to address relates to the proposed section 160A, which contemplates that the minister should appoint and, indeed, fund a community aviation advocate to represent the affected parts of the community during the consultations. But we know that the community is already represented by the community aviation consultation groups that I mentioned earlier—an initiative of the white paper established by this government and which operates as a mechanism for community consideration. Unfortunately, Mr Deputy Speaker, it appears that my time has expired, so I will leave it to the next government member.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): It has indeed.