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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 445

Senator ARCHER(10.45) —Mr President, I had intended to ask a question today but, due to circumstances beyond my control and to some extent beyond your control, it did not get asked. However, I advised the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Senator Gietzelt, the Minister in charge, that I would be asking a question and this evening I advised him that I would ask him about the matter tonight. My question concerns the Wynyard Airport. I have previously spoken on the matter, so I will speak only briefly tonight. Over many years both the Government and the Opposition have supported the issue of local ownership of airports. Those in the area around the Wynyard Airport have decided to pursue the local ownership issue and have agreed to take it on. All the requirements have been met, and honourable senators may recall that approval was given in December 1982 by Mr Fife, the Minister for Aviation in the previous Government. It was confirmed by the then Government and by the present Government and was very much a part of the platform of both parties for the 1983 election.

Of course, subsequent to the election came the excuses, the procrastinations and the double dealings. Despite the fact that Wynyard Airport has a very high number of passengers and covers a large, highly industralised and productive part of Tasmania, this was shelved while other airports in other places were approved. I particularly mention that a couple of airports in New South Wales, with much smaller numbers of passengers, closer together and so on, were approved and have been dealt with. As a result of considerable negotiations between the local authority, the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government, fresh offers have been made, withdrawn, dealt with and changed. During all this time there has been total agreement from all the interests on the west coast of Tasmania and in the north-west and far north-western areas on the necessity for the airport to be upgraded. There is complete unanimity from the primary and secondary industries of the area, the mining industries, the various chambers of commerce and, I am pleased to say, the Burnie Trades and Labour Council.

Senator Peter Rae —And supported by a bipartisan committee of the Senate.

Senator ARCHER —Yes. I particularly mention that Senator Devlin and his organisation have been strongly supportive of what was going on. Although he has come into the picture only in fairly recent times he has supported it totally and solidly. Despite that and with all the help, the situation continues. Various amounts have been offered and retracted. I do not know why, in spite of the fact that all the requirements have been met, approval has been withheld. Wynyard is serviced by the Fokker F27s. I understand that even now these could be upgraded to F28s if a T-VASIS system-visual approach slope indicator-could be installed. Simply, the installation of that system would allow the F28s to use it now. Although the aerodrome local ownership plan is a federally funded scheme, Tasmania has reached the stage of offering up to $3m of its own funds because Tasmania recognises the importance of an adequate and balanced transport service for industries generally and for tourism in particular.

At present on the west coast of Tasmania we have the most significant current mining development in Australia, which requires the best possible transport service. It is an extraordinarily fine development. At the moment it is not proceeding but it would certainly help considerably to have a better air service in and out of Wynyard for the transport of people and various goods. With the new tourist ferry service shortly to commence the tourist potential of Tasmania will be taxed as never before. The amount of promotion that will come about with the introduction of the ferry will require considerably better upgrading of the airport services than was previously the case.

I raise two matters. Firstly, the Federal Government asked for a Tasmanian contribution to the project. Now that the Tasmanian money has been put up, all that is necessary is for the Government to confirm its commitment and to make the announcement so that work can get underway on the general upgrading of the airport before winter breaks. That is what is important now. The reason I am making this request tonight is that unless work can be put in hand before the winter, another year will be lost. It will be to the considerable detriment of the mining and tourist development of this part of Tasmania if the airport extension cannot be started before this winter breaks. Secondly, I mentioned the T-VASIS system as being necessary. The question I was going to ask today was on this matter. Strangely enough, the equipment is in boxes in the shed at Wynyard Airport, waiting for installation. It has been there since September of last year but has not been installed. The question I was endeavouring to ask was whether the reason for the non-installation of the equipment was the fact that it is to be part of the overall upgrading or whether it is something else. I gave Senator Gietzelt notice of that question this morning. I again advised him of it this evening so I expect that the Minister for Education, Senator Ryan, who is obviously here acting for Senator Gietzelt, has the information. I look forward to receiving it.

Last week I telexed the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) requesting that he confirm the Commonwealth's contribution now so that work can start before the winter because of the Hellyer mine and the tourist hump that will occur with the introduction of the new ferry. Today I intended to ask that question. I ask it now. I know that Senator Devlin has also been trying to get that simple confirmation. I plead with Senator Ryan, who is in charge of the House at this stage, to provide this answer. I think it would be a very fine gesture if the Prime Minister, after all the time and effort that have gone into the project, were to allow Senator Devlin to make the announcement and to share in the honour, glory and satisfaction of seeing that this development gets underway. I ask the Government to give us that confirmation as quickly as possible so that work may proceed.