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Wednesday, 15 September 1971
Page: 1352

Mr ROBINSON (Cowper) (Assistant Minister assisting the Postmaster-General) -4 rise to commend the statement which has been made to the House because I believe it gives a very responsible account of the Government's action in this matter. It is rather interesting to hear the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) assert that the correct location for Sydney's second airport would have been Towra Point. I wonder just what his colleague, the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison), really thinks about that, lt surprises me that the Opposition in this matter should assert so positively that it is the view of the Opposition that Towra Point was the correct site. We will certainly be interested to hear from the honourable member for St George about this when he speaks a little later in this debate.

Mr Charles Jones - I rise to a point of order. I did not say that the Opposition had selected Towra Point as its site. I said it was the Government's decision and I can prove it.

Mr ROBINSON - I will not join issue with the honourable member for Newcastle. He has made this further comment but I recall that he very clearly said that Towra Point was the site that should have been proceeded with. I think the important consideration is the fact that a recommendation has now been made and that a proper inquiry based upon appropriate information assembled by the Department of Civil Aviation will be conducted into this matter. Of course it is correct that the State authorities should have a significant part in this approach. I believe that the terms of reference of the committee that is to be established, a joint Commonwealth-State committee, are more than appropriate for the task that the committee will undertake.

The honourable member for Newcastle criticised the Government and referred to reports in 1969, 1965 and 1968. He said that there should have been a different approach to this matter, but I remind the House that the facts are that the development of the present Sydney (KingsfordSmith) airport has been in accordance with the most practical approach possible. That was to provide for both international and internal transportation by air the best possible service for the city of Sydney. There has of course been and continues to be some discomfort for some citizens of that city. This is most regrettable, but the establishment at Mascot of an asset that has been developed for an outlay of Si 67m and the fact that the extension of the north-south runway has still to be completed spells out very clearly that it would be false economy to sell out the Sydney Airport at this point of time.

I believe that this is the background that must be taken into account when assessing the statement that has just been made to the House. The extension of the runway into Botany Bay certainly will also minimise the noise factor and it will give the added advantage of providing an opportunity to develop a parallel runway. I believe this is a proper approach and I seriously question the assertion by the Opposition that it would make an immediate decision to sell out Sydney Airport and establish an alternative airport for Sydney. I believe that if the responsibility were with the Opposition - we hope it will not be at any time in the future - it would not proceed on these lines but would follow quite closely the pattern that is now firmly established as a consequence of the investigations that have been made and would seek to establish in due course a second airport to serve the city of Sydney. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that there is just not a suitable site within easy distance of the city of Sydney. Richmond and Somersby are locations which, have been determined as the result of a very detailed study.

Mr Cohen - Where is Somersby?

Mr ROBINSON - Somersby happens to be in the electorate of the honourable member for Robertson. If he were to pay as much attention, to this matter as other members of this House perhaps he would be one of the first to support a proper investigation into the prospects of the use of the site at Somersby. But of course the Richmond site is a far more logical location, provided that when the State authorities have had an opportunity to express their views on it and when further investigation of a technical nature has been completed it turns out to be the best site. But in terms of distance from the city of Sydney and of its relationship to the built up area of the Sydney' metropolis certainly Richmond seems to offer the best prospects. I do not think that his is the appropriate time to debate precisely the location at Richmond, but it is fair to assume that it has a relationship to the existing Royal Australian Air Force establishment in that locality.

The terms of reference give the opportunity for those 2 sites to which I have referred, as well as others, to be looked at effectively. I believe that that will provide the means for avoiding some of the pitfalls that have been experienced with Tullamarine and other main airports in Australia. A very sound decision was made in the case of Tullamarine. The land was acquired and the project got under way. But because of a degree of lack of realisation on the part of Victorian State authorities too much development occurred too close to the Tullamarine Airport before the Airport was even completed or opened. I hope that the action now being taken in relation to the selection of a site for a second airport for Sydney will avoid that very serious risk.

The State authorities alone will have the means to avoid any problem of that nature. It is all very well for the Opposition to be critical of the Government on this matter but, as I said earlier, if the Opposition had the responsibility for the selection of the site I doubt whether it would have proceeded in any other direction. If the Opposition were to turn back the clock it would have to admit that the first proposal for the establishment of the present Sydney airport was made by the Chifley Government in 1946 and that the New South Wales Government of the day, which was a Labor administration, agreed with that proposal. The statement that there has been a misdemeanour on the part of this Government in the very formative stages of the airport really cannot be sustained. At no point of time has there been a practical stage at which one could say that it was appropriate to move from the existing Sydney Airport site to an alternative site. One of the real reasons for this is the nature and geography of the Sydney area.

If there had been a site in Sydney similar to the Tullamarine site in Melbourne in terms of distance from the existing airport and if there had been an appropriate area closer to Sydney then perhaps a different policy may have been appropriate. But the suggestion is made to those who use our own internal air system, and to international operators that they should use a site as far removed from the city of Sydney as those that obviously are the only ones available, would have met with very great resistance. I suppose it is fair to say that even the 2 sites that have been mentioned specifically will have that disability at least in a few years to come.

Reference has been made to the decision of the British Government. The honourable member for Newcastle said that the British Government did the right thing and made the right decisions in view of the problems of the London (Heathrow) Airport. But the development of a new airport at Foulness, 50 miles east of the City of London, at the cost of $ 1,500m is only just getting under way. So the decisions to which the honourable member for Newcastle referred as having been a demonstration of action by another government are certainly hard to find. The comparison if one wants to assess it in that way - of the City of London, in terms of traffic and the problems of getting to and from the airports that serve that city, with the City of Sydney demonstrates clearly that the decision that we make must be for a very long term project. When we think of Richmond or the other site we are thinking in terms of a distance of 30, 40 and more miles.

The appropriate thing to do is to develop a second airport which, in the first instance, will serve for international travel. There is a very good reason for that. 1 believe that the travelling public in Australia and the commercial interests of Sydney - those who use air transport day after day - will still want to use the Sydney Airport for a long time to come. In other words, can one visualise the situation in which the journey from Sydney to Melbourne or Brisbane to Sydney would be equal in time to travelling by road from the city to a second Sydney airport? I do not believe that that is feasible as far as our own internal travel is concerned, but it is a different matter for international travel. I do not think that it would be asking too much to expect international travellers to spend a little more time getting from a second airport which was an international airport, to their final destination in the city of Sydney. Of course, that is purely a personal view.

I believe that in the light of all the information that has been given in this House in the past and in the light of the various reports that are so valuable in assessing this whole matter, there is a practical course that must be followed. The appointment of a Commonwealth-State committee will provide an opportunity to follow through very logically the steps that are necessary to reach the point where we can act in a manner appropriate to the time, to the economic factors that must be taken into account and to the balanced interests of all sections of the community. I repeat that the Government recognises the disabilities of those who live under the flight paths of the existing Sydney Airport and the discomfort that they suffer from noise. But at the s«me time a vast section of the community depends on the effective operation of the Sydney Airport, and its interests must also be taken into account.

Undoubtedly, when a report is submitted by the proposed committee further steps will have to be taken. No doubt at some stage the Public Works Committee will want to study the report that is submitted. That would be right and proper. I am sure that the statement that has been made is timely and that it accounts in a very proper manner for the Government's actions. I very strongly commend what has been put to the House tonight.

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