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Thursday, 26 June 2003
Page: 17826


Mr MURPHY (11:06 AM) —In making my contribution on the Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill 2003 I would like to reinforce the comments by the member for Blaxland in his contribution to the debate a few moments ago. I have no doubt that the government can potentially see Bankstown Airport as an overflow airport. We all know that the Southern Cross Consortium paid far too much money—it paid $5.6 billion—for Sydney airport. Against that background, obviously under the stewardship of Mr Max `the Axe' Moore-Wilton, Sydney airport is going to be allowed to expand in order to return to the stakeholders the profit that they anticipated when they paid such a vast amount of money for the airport. This has dire consequences for the people that I represent and the people that the member for Blaxland represents, because it ensures that air traffic movements grow in Sydney. Potentially, Sydney airport will operate for 17 hours per day, with an 80 movement per hour cap. If you multiply that by 365 days, you will get 496,400 movements per year at Sydney airport. With the growth in air traffic movements and with larger aeroplanes, that is disastrous from an environmental angle for the people of Sydney.

I want to bring to the attention of the parliament this morning the comments in the supplementary explanatory memorandum circulated by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. The explanatory memorandum states that the purpose of the government amendments to this bill is to amend the Air Services Act 1995 and to expand the scope of Airservices Australia's statutory functions so it may pursue additional commercial opportunities overseas and in Australia. What is the significance of this bill for the residents of Sydney? What is the significance of this bill for the public interest? In light of the government's demonstrated conduct as it relates to the residents of Sydney, do the Sydney Airport Corporation Ltd, Southern Cross Consortium—the Sydney airport lessee company—and Airservices Australia have any regard for the public interest? Do they have any regard for the people of Sydney who are copping interminable noise for the sake of the Southern Cross Consortium's endless selfishness and lust for financial profits?

The original explanatory memorandum for this bill provides a very technical legal analysis of prevailing legislation governing the regulatory regime of civil aviation in Australia. The purpose of this amendment is to remove provisions considered redundant by virtue of either the legislative provisions being duplicated or the provisions having been overrun by subsequent legislation and, ultimately, economic imperatives. These details are far too technical to go into in the parliament today and for me to do justice to them in the time that I have been allocated to speak on this bill.

However, it is safe to say that the purpose of the bill is to bring civil aviation management into line with international standards, including the provisions of the Chicago convention and the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. All this is in the name of efficiency and, ultimately, the marketing potential to sell Airservices Australia to offshore purchasers of civil aviation services. Again, the motivation is profit first and the people of Sydney second. Again, the tired, same old mantra of the utilitarian ethic, which I keep talking about in this parliament, runs paramount in the blinkered mindset of this government at the expense of the public interest, the environmental impact and the logical consequence of this bill.

Two things come to light that I ask the House to think about when considering the bill: firstly, clean up your own backyard first; and, secondly, actions, not words, are the true test. I now ask: what is the hidden agenda behind this bill? Let us examine some of the facts. It is estimated that the total world market for Airservices Australia's capability is in the order of $2.3 billion. It is further understood that Airservices Australia's technological capacity, work force skills and efficiency are reported to be amongst the world's best. I put to the House a very sobering point which was made by none other than Mr Pat Barrett AM, the Auditor-General of Australia. In the follow-up audit of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority it was noted—and the Bills Digest No. 147 of 2002-03 also notes—that there was `general compliance with its 1999 audit recommendations'. Airservices Australia likes to receive a pat on the back for the things it does well, and it does many things well. It also wants to parade itself when it gets the ticked box for cleanliness.

What makes Airservices Australia such a valuable entity? Like any company, one would look at its core business and ask whether the company is performing well. If you were a prospective investor in a company, you would want to know whether the company was actually performing and not just ticking the boxes. I would like at this point to raise the issue of corporate performance. I cite Mr Barrett in his keynote address `Achieving best practice—corporate governance in the public sector', which he gave in Adelaide in 2001. In his address Mr Barrett spoke on the nexus between conformance and performance, citing `three major Australian corporate boards' which regularly challenged the `obsession' with conformance rather than performance and their previous position to be risk averse. Mr Barrett said:

... there's just been too much concentration in recent times on the conformance, the governance, the ticking of boxes, who comes to meetings and I think it's far from clear that that adds value, improves the performance of companies, delivers benefits for shareholders ...

How can we measure the performance of Airservices Australia? If we were to assess the value of a commercial company then it would be prudent to look at two major assets: its work in progress, which is a tangible asset, and its goodwill, which is an intangible asset. What is Airservices Australia's work in progress? Airservices Australia has many functions, not the least of which is its statutory obligations to implement the long-term operating plan for Sydney airport, which is a ministerial direction under section 16 of the Air Services Act 1995.

I have been asking a staggering number of questions of the Minister for Transport and Regional Services about the real performance standards of Airservices Australia, particularly as they relate to the long-term operating plan. The bottom line, in commercial terms, with regard to Airservices Australia's performance—or lack thereof—in this matter is that they have systematically failed to meet their long-term operating plan in regard to air traffic movement targets to the north of Sydney airport. Not once in the entire history of the plan have Airservices Australia been able to achieve the 17 per cent target that was promised to the people of Sydney before the 1996 election with regard to fair and equitable noise distribution. Under the long-term operating plan for Sydney airport, the target for the north—I say for the umpteenth time in this House—is 17 per cent. But the May 2003 statistics show that it is running at close to 30 per cent, which is fast approaching 100 per cent more noise than the people of Sydney, particularly my constituents in Lowe, were promised.

I reject and I repudiate the minister's claim to me, in the innumerable questions that I have asked of him in this chamber and on notice, that the long-term operating plan has been substantially implemented. As it relates to the people whom I represent, the plan is a dismal failure because the people I represent were promised only 17 per cent air traffic movements. It is all very well for the minister to look at each of the four quadrants and say that in regard to the east, the west and the south the target has substantially been implemented or that in some cases it has exceeded itself and provided less noise to the people who live in those three quadrants, but that is at the expense of the people whom I represent in Lowe—the people of the inner west. They have had a gutful of the horrendous noise, not to mention the concomitant environmental risks associated with dirty, loud, large aircraft flying over their homes and schools. Nothing changes.

Most galling of all, Mr Max Moore-Wilton leaves the comfort of his office in the Prime Minister's department to take up his new appointment to run Sydney airport—which is all about maximising the profit of the consortium which invested a ridiculous amount of money to have a monopoly. You can be sure that, as I stand here in the House today, it is full steam ahead with parallel runways so that we can achieve 496,400 air traffic movements under the existing law governing the operations of the airport, not to mention the potential for an overflow airport to be developed at Bankstown, in the electorate of the member for Blaxland. That will be a catastrophe for the people of Sydney.

I must raise again that the government have shelved their commitment to provide a second airport for the people of Sydney. The consequences of that are going to be visited on the people of Sydney for many years to come. It was never the intention of the government to provide a second airport for the people of Sydney. It is a monumental betrayal of the promise that was given to the people of Sydney before the 1996 election that the government would do something about this very important issue for the people of Sydney. We know the real agenda—the old agenda of looking after the rich and the powerful, which we are witnessing today in the House and in the Senate with the government's attempt to hand over democracy to Mr Packer and Mr Murdoch in the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2002. It is very consistent. How can the government do that and slaughter the public interest, thinking they might get a short-term gain and have Murdoch, Packer and Fairfax barracking for them at the next election? It is a very serious issue and it should be considered when it comes back to the House today.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. B.C. Scott)—Order! The member for Lowe will bring his comments back to the bill before the Main Committee.


Mr MURPHY —I take your point, Mr Deputy Speaker, but that is a very serious public interest piece of legislation in the Senate at the moment. If Airservices Australia were a board of directors of a public company, they would be lynched for such abysmal failure. The minority shareholders would want their scalps and heads would be rolling—there is no doubt about it. Like HIH, Mr Barrett would be shaking his head in disgust at AA's failure to perform to their stakeholders' expectations. Yet, as Mr Barrett says in his speech, they are content to boast, along with the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, that the long-term operating plan has been substantially implemented. That is wrong, wrong, wrong! My constituents in Lowe know it and the people of the inner west who live north of Sydney airport know it all too well.

Upon what basis do they claim this substantial compliance? It is because they allege that they have ticked 29 out of the 31 boxes of the recommendations of the long-term operating plan for Sydney airport. It is too bad that the LTOP fails to meet its bottom line performance targets. It is like saying of a football game: we scored the least penalties, we suffered the least casualties, but we lost the game. In the corporate world there is only one figure that counts, and that is the bottom line. We all understand that. So let us talk about bottom line rationalism. Let us talk about the performance of Airservices Australia. As it impacts on my electorate, the performance is absolutely shocking. Airservices Australia do not perform. They are not worth two bob in my view if they cannot perform to—


Mr Slipper —Have you written to the minister?


Mr MURPHY —Parliamentary Secretary, I have lost count of the innumerable questions that I have asked the minister about this very topic. He is getting to the stage of exhaustion; he said in many of the recent replies that I have received that he has dealt with these matters exhaustively. But he is not telling the truth to the parliament, and I have made it clear in this chamber to him that, as the long-term operating plan relates to my constituents—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! Is the honourable member seeking to ask a question?


Mr Slipper —No, I am not, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am taking a point of order. It is not appropriate for the member for Lowe to accuse the Deputy Prime Minister of not telling the truth. I ask that he withdraw that statement.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Lowe will withdraw that reflection on the Deputy Prime Minister.


Mr MURPHY —I strongly doubt the veracity of the claim by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services that the long-term operating plan for Sydney airport has been substantially implemented, because it has not.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Lowe will withdraw that reflection on the Deputy Prime Minister.


Mr MURPHY —I do not want to reflect adversely on the Deputy Prime Minister—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I am asking you to withdraw that remark.


Mr MURPHY —To facilitate the committee, I will withdraw that statement. I will say one positive thing about the minister, if it makes the parliamentary secretary feel a bit better. The minister does answer my questions, unlike the cheek that we suffer from the Treasurer, who is not too keen to answer questions that we put on the Notice Paper with regard to matters that fall within his purview. But at least the Deputy Prime Minister answers the questions, although the answers are a monumental triumph of obfuscation and do not address the issue that I have been campaigning on since I was elected to this House in October 1998. The people of my electorate were expected to get 17 per cent of air traffic movements to the north and they are fast approaching getting 100 per cent more movements than they were promised. The minister cannot hide behind a shroud and say, `The long-term operating plan has been substantially implemented because others in Sydney are receiving less noise.' But they are getting less noise at the expense of the people of the inner west and people who live to the north of the airport. In that respect, the minister should be flogged.

This week I received an email which is relevant to this matter and relevant to Airservices Australia, SACL, DOTARS and the minister with respect to their meritocratic arrogance and elitist self-congratulation. Ms Janette Barros wrote an email to me. Ms Barros deserves a gold star for her crusade to protect the interests of the people of Sydney from the many very serious environmental risks associated with Sydney airport. In that email, with regard to the attitude of big corporations to the current Sydney airport master plan process, she says:

I am sick and tired of meaningless motherhood statements made by corporations who seek to socialise the costs of the negative impacts of their operations, in order to maximise financial profits for themselves. We have governments for a reason, and one of their jobs is to protect the public from cynical exploitation; however John Howard's government is riding shotgun for those who would exploit our citizens.

I could not agree more.

The corporations wish to parade themselves as captains of industry. In performance terms, Airservices Australia are just another HIH. They are so inflicted with insensibility that they cannot see how flawed they are in their failure to meet their statutory performance levels. It is said that HIH failed because its shareholders did not speak up when the warning signs were imminent. I will not be silenced on behalf of the stakeholders of my electorate of Lowe or Ms Barros's stakeholders, or indeed all Sydney basin residents, who are being ridden roughshod over by these corporates whose gloss is more surface paint than substance.

I strongly recommend that, before Airservices Australia considers selling its wares offshore, the minister should take up Ms Barros's challenge and have a proper master plan process assessed under certified world-class environmental management parameters as established by the environmental section of the Airports Council International Europe. The current master plan process under the Airports Act 1996 is a joke, and the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee's reporton the inquiry into the development of the Brisbane Airport Corporation master plan is a damning indictment of the flawed statutory regime that is a mockery of true environmental management. In short, if the intention of this bill is that the minister pave the way for increased international competitiveness for Airservices Australia, the minister must also admit to exposing the spoilt brat, Airservices Australia, to full international standards of environmental accountability rather than persisting with this cynical mockery of environmental performance—(Time expired)


Mr Murphy —Can I seek leave to table this, because I have not finished my contribution?


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Leave is not granted.



The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The member for Lowe will resume his seat.