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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Page: 144

Mr MURPHY (7:50 PM) —On behalf of my constituents in the inner west of Sydney and in my electorate of Lowe I raise yet again the very serious issue of aircraft noise emanating from Sydney airport. As this House is aware, Sydney Airport Corporation Ltd was sold to the Southern Cross Consortium, chiefly held by Macquarie Bank and affiliates, on 28 June 2002. Since that date Sydney airport has continued to expand beyond its ecologically sustainable limit. Principally, this fact is best demonstrated in the continuous failure of this government to fairly implement the long-term operating plan. I have spoken exhaustively on the failure of the Howard government to fulfil its promises to solve Sydney airport’s aircraft noise problems. The Howard government has not solved the problem—it sold the problem.

I note that for the month ended 30 April 2005 aircraft movements to the north of Sydney airport were 28.21 per cent of total aircraft movements. The long-term operating plan target for total aircraft movements to the north of Sydney airport is 17 per cent. Movements to the north frequently reach 30 per cent and have been as high as 33 per cent, nearly double the long-term operating plan target.

Sydney airport’s aircraft noise problems continue unabated. I raise the issue in the context of a recommendation to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services by the Sydney Airport Community Forum, SACF, that requested him to draft terms of reference for the commission of a consultant to review the long-term operating plan’s performance. Environmental consultants Airways International were retained to perform this work, and last March Airways International handed down its report.

I stand here tonight to record that the Sydney Airport Community Forum is very disappointed with this report for many reasons. The report does not make recommendations as to how the long-term operating plan may be achieved. Nor does the report shed any light on the reasons why the long-term operating plan’s aircraft movement targets cannot be achieved. Rather, the consultants refer, dishonestly, to the long-term operating plan as a ‘community expectation’ and not a statutory instrument carrying the full weight of ministerial direction.

The long-term operating plan is not a mere community expectation. The long-term operating plan and its movement targets are the result of the operation of a statutory power, being section 16 of the Air Services Act. The minister has issued a ministerial direction under that power when directing Airservices Australia to fulfil its terms of reference in the making of the long-term operating plan. The terms of reference are supplemented by further terms of reference of the Implementation Monitoring Committee in which reaching the long-term operating plan targets is a prescribed outcome. Interestingly, Airways International has no knowledge of the Implementation Monitoring Committee terms of reference and makes no reference to those terms of reference in its report. Point 1 of the Implementation Monitoring Committee terms of reference states:

To assist the achievement of the integrity, intent and TARGETS of the Sydney Airport Long Term Operating Plan, the Committee shall ... monitor the distribution of noise, flights paths and runways movements which arise out of the implementation of the Long Term Operating Plan’.

This House has heard enough of the spin, the obfuscation and glib terms of the minister and from the sculptured reports that fulfil his mission. He who pays the piper calls the tune. The minister is paying for the report, and the report predictably reports what the minister wants to read.

Thankfully, the Sydney Airport Community Forum is not blind, deaf or dumb. No, Minister, Sydney airport’s aircraft noise problems have not been substantially solved. No, Minister, the long-term operating plan targets are not mere community expectations. They are the result of ministerial direction on not one but two occasions in which the minister has exercised his statutory powers. It is upon these two well-founded facts that I can say in this House with absolute certainty that the community and constituents of Sydney have every legitimate expectation that the long-term operating plan must be implemented to its specifications.

That means the long-term operating plan targets must be reached. This is so, despite the fact that the long-term operating plan targets, to be fully implemented, may reduce the number of aircraft and ultimately the profitability of Southern Cross Consortium. Southern Cross knew of the long-term operating plan before they purchased the airport and cannot now deny its effectiveness or implementation. The real variable to implementing the long-term operating plan is not weather conditions, but aircraft demand. The long-term operating plan can be achieved, even if it means fewer planes. To put it bluntly, the government must honour its promises and put the citizens of Sydney first and the shareholders of Southern Cross Consortium and Macquarie Bank last. Moreover, it is time for a second airport for Sydney.