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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 953


Mr SPENDER(10.14) —I had hoped that the Minister for Aviation (Mr Beazley) would be present this evening because he is, after all, the Minister administering the Aviation portfolio. I understand that he is in Peking and I hope he enjoys the trip. I do not begrudge him the trip but it shows a lack of consensus that he did not invite me to join him. To be more serious, it shows somewhat of a lack of concern by this Government about the seriousness of these Budget Estimates that the Aviation estimate has not been postponed. We have before us in the chamber the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) who was, I understand, the architect of the Australian Labor Party's aviation and transport policies. I hope that he will be in a position to answer some of the questions that I put to him. I want to make some genuine inquiries of the Minister and to get some genuine and direct answers from him.

First of all, there is the question of the second Sydney airport and, with that , the fate of the Kingsford-Smith Airport. There has been some doubt as to what will happen to Kingsford-Smith but, as I understand the present position of the Minister for Aviation and the Government, it will be maintained. One would think that there could be little doubt that that is so in the sense of maintaining it as a facility. Page 95 of the explanatory notes for the Department of Aviation, under the heading 'Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure', shows that there are a number of items for the upgrading of the Kingsford-Smith Airport, including taxiway augmentation estimated to cost $16m. In all these items come to about $ 17.73m. Presumably, therefore, the Government is very serious about the maintenance of Kingsford-Smith and about its long term position.

This brings us to the question of site selection. It will be recalled that when this Government got into power the Minister for Aviation spoke of the need for a second airport site. I agree that a second airport site should be reserved. He also spoke of the need for speed and he made it plain that he would act with speed. But, of course, the Government has not acted with speed, and one wonders why. We know that any new airport will involve noise pollution of 360 degrees, and therefore the sooner one moves to reserve a site the better it is. We do not know what the functions of the new airport will be and nothing in the Budget Papers throws any light on that question. We do not know which classes of operations will be diverted to the new airport. We do not know which airports or which sites are on the short list. We do not know how large the airport will be. We know very little about the consultation which the Government has said it was going to undertake with interested parties and in particular local councils.

I would be very glad if, when the Minister gets to his feet, he could say something about the functions of the new airport, about how large it will be, about a short list, if there is one, and about consultation. A few months ago I was talking to members of two of the councils in the Scheyville area. They had not heard of any attempt by the Government to consult on this question, which leads one to conclude that perhaps the Government is not anxious to make a decision on this subject this side of the next election, or at all.

Going to the history of the second airport, we all know that there was an extensive inquiry called the Major Airport Needs of Sydney Inquiry. That was, I think, the sixth or seventh inquiry held over quite a few years into Sydney's present and projected Airport needs. That was meant to be the basis on which the new inquiry was to start. What do we see? We see at pages 57 and 58 of the explanatory notes items which relate to the second Sydney airport site selection studies. On page 57 it is stated:

The 1983-84 provision under this heading-

it is a general heading of 'Administrative'-

was underspent primarily due to delays experienced in proceeding as quickly as expected on major consultancy tasks related to the Second Sydney airport site selection . . .

It also mentioned other matters. Why the delay? In March or April 1983, if I recall correctly, the Minister was speaking about the Government's plans. In August of last year the Government had been at work for some time. Why the delay ?

Let us look to the figures. The figures tell us a lot. We see that in 1983-84 the actual expenditure on the second Sydney airport site selection studies was $ 310,000 but we see that at 1984-85 proposed expenditure is to go up to $1,450, 000. We also see that in 1983-84 actual expenditure on the second Sydney airport public information program was $15,800, which would go a long distance towards advising people as to what is happening. But then, in 1984-85 the figure for that expenditure is to be $75,000. In short, roughly five times as much is to be spent this financial year as was spent last financial year on the second Sydney Airport site selection program. That leads to the pretty obvious conclusion that a great deal of work has been deferred and that the Government has deliberately failed to act promptly to secure a new site. By doing that, not only does it cause great problems to residents who may be affected, but it may well make the exercise very much more expensive for the taxpayer. So I should be very glad if the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) would tell us why we are to have the increases this year and what they will be for.

Next, I turn to a different subject, that is, search and rescue. We have an aviation budget of $471m for 1984-85. In the last few months we had tabled in the House of Representatives the report of the Committee of Review into Civil Aviation Search and Rescue. That Committee was composed of three men, all reputed to be expert in the field. It made 14 fairly extensive recommendations calling for fairly considerable expenditure of money. Certainly a great deal would need to be done to implement those recommendations; for example, the recommendation that in areas where there is a high level of aviation activity and/or there is a history of relatively frequent or difficult search and rescue actions involving civil aircraft, operators of aircraft suitable for immediate search and rescue response be selected, equipped and trained to provide the services required. What I should be glad to know from the Minister for Transport is what money has been allocated to the implementation of the recommendations of this report, because the report showed that the Australian search and rescue services were in an antiquated and dangerous state of repair in many respects. It also showed that there are some outstanding organisations such as the National Safety Council of Australia, Victorian Division. It outlined the problems and it recommended action.

Going to the Budget Papers, we see at pages 40 and 42 that there is an amount which is to be expended on the Search and Rescue School at Weston which the Minister opened last week or thereabouts. I was there. It is a step in the right direction. But the plain fact is that a great deal needs to be done. The Minister has talked about this report and has, as I understand it, accepted it, and he has accepted it as a very serious document. As a very serious document, its recommendations need to be implemented. If they are to be implemented, there must be expenditures which have been set aside for that purpose. Therefore, I should be very grateful if the Minister would point to the expenditures which have been set aside for that purpose so that we can be assured that the Government's concern for search and rescue is real, genuine and fundamental, and is not window-dressing.