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Thursday, 23 September 1999
Page: 10435

Mr RUDD (5:40 PM) —Before I proceed to address the remarks I had planned for the adjournment debate this afternoon, I would support the comments just made by the member for Menzies about the passing of Raisa Gorbachev. The role which she played indirectly in changing the face of global politics in the last 25 years is one which is probably unsurpassed in terms of those who informally advise heads of government and heads of state around this world. I think when the history of the 20th century is written, her role and, more particularly, that of her husband will be recorded very largely indeed.

In the adjournment this evening I will refer briefly to the provisions of the Aviation Noise Ombudsman Bill 1999. This is a piece of legislation which has been introduced into this parliament and which contains within it a range of powers which I believe are of potential benefit to communities right across the country, particularly those communities directly affected by the problems of aircraft noise.

There are two specific powers outlined in this draft bill. One is that it provides a power for all complaints concerning aircraft noise to be referred to an independent ombudsman—complaints concerning noise abatement procedures, complaints concerning fuel dumping and complaints concerning those things which affect the quality of life of local communities as a consequence of being located close to large operating metropolitan airports. The second power which the bill contains relates to any change by Airservices Australia in the flight paths or air routes which are operated near large metropolitan airports.

This legislation is derived from a similar piece of legislation which has been in force in the United States for the last three years. The previous US Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, Mr William Albee, will be visiting this country in November this year and attending a conference. We find from that, therefore, that there is precedent elsewhere in the world for the operation of this legislation, including in a country which contains within it the largest volume of civil aviation traffic in the world.

The tradition of the office of the ombudsman is a good one. It is one in which communities around this country both at the state and federal level have confidence. It is a tradition which derives from Scandinavia. It is a tradition whereby, detached from the official machinery of state, you have an institution and a person capable of independently reflecting upon the objections raised by individual citizens. Here we have a particular application of that institution on a matter which concerns so many communities around Australia, including in my own city of Brisbane.

It is also demonstrably better than the arrangements we have at present whereby Airservices Australia in effect act as Caesar judging Caesar in terms of complaints about aircraft noise which are registered with that body. After all, it is Airservices Australia—an arm of the federal government—which both designs and implements flight paths and air route procedures in general. Therefore, when the community comes to Airservices Australia with a complaint, obviously Airservices Australia is placed in a conflictive position. Secondly, Airservices Australia, by its very nature, must have a close operating relationship with the large airlines. As a consequence of that relationship it is conceivable—and in fact I am sure it has occurred on many occasions—that its deliberations on complaints from the community are shaded by the closeness of its commercial and other dealings with the large airlines.

In Brisbane we have a large potential application for the provisions of this proposed piece of legislation. We have a large north-south runway which has a concentration of flight paths across the north and south of Brisbane. We also have proposed by the Brisbane Airport Corporation a new runway—a parallel runway—which of itself will have a large new concentration of flight paths across the southern and northern suburbs if it is built. In the southern suburbs, in particular, which I represent in this parliament, we also have many reported examples of fuel dumping—an area where, again, the aircraft noise ombudsman would have a particular reference.

I therefore urge those opposite to support this piece of legislation, particularly those members who come from metropolitan centres affected by airports. We need an independent umpire on these questions. We can no longer confidently rely upon Airservices Australia discharging this function, because it is compromised both by its closeness to government and by its closeness to the major airlines.