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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1576

Mr MARTIN —(1.06)-It is interesting to follow the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in a debate on this issue because clearly he is endeavouring to present an argument to the people of Australia that is based on media reports. He has quoted extensively from what has been written in Time magazine, the Australian, the Australian Financial Review and everything else without actually getting the facts or, indeed, relying on answers to questions that he has already posed in this House to the Minister for Aviation (Mr Peter Morris). It was most interesting that he was trying to lecture this Government on how to run statutory bodies when in fact it was members of the present Opposition when they were in power who let Trans Australia Airlines virtually go broke. If it had not been for this Government coming along and rescuing that particular statutory body, there would probably be no Australian Airlines for them to sell off. The Government invested that capital, made the legislation tighter, and as a result there have been record profits for that statutory body. I would just say to the honourable gentleman that perhaps he should look at those facts.

A number of points made in the course of the debate today need to be restated. The Government has announced quite a number of initiatives aimed at improving the provision and operation of aviation infrastructure in this country. I do believe that it is important to restate those points again because it can be clearly shown that these initiatives have stemmed from a consistent and coherent policy, as far as the provision of facilities and services are concerned, with respect to future aviation, and they have been introduced at the least cost to the taxpayer. That is quite appropriate. Perhaps I will develop that theme a little later on.

Let us look at a few of the things the Government has done. Firstly, it has established the Federal Airports Corporation to ensure airports are operated in an efficient, commercially oriented manner. I was most struck by the fact that the honourable member for Murray commended the Minister for putting this Federal Airports Corporation into effect. Yet in this House last year, in the debate and in the subsequent vote, he opposed the establishment of the FAC. Now here he is, coming along saying that he commends the Government for it. What does the Opposition propose to do with the FAC should it ever get into power. The Opposition-or at least the Liberal Party, and I presume at this stage it is still the coalition's policy though maybe next week it will not be--

Mr Lloyd —On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: It is the official coalition aviation policy; I introduced it and I am a member of the National Party.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr MARTIN —That policy in respect of the Federal Airports Corporation says that steps will be taken gradually to phase out the Corporation. So here we have on one hand the honourable member for Murray commending the Minister for putting the Federal Airports Corporation into place, but on the other hand he voted against it last year and the coalition's policy is to get rid of it. Consistency has never been a strong point in the National Party of Australia and that is again shown quite clearly here.

Secondly, of course, the Government has committed major investment funds to the expansion of international and domestic passenger facilities in a number of our primary airports. It is worth looking at this issue because the honourable member for Murray did catalogue a number of instances where, he said, investments did not take place and there were problems in various airports around Australia. Let us just have a look at those terminal developments and see what has in fact happened. In other words, we are going to look at the fact, and we will separate that fact from the fiction. As far as Perth airport is concerned, for example, $78m has been spent on works over the last three years, including a new international complex with associated aircraft parking apron, roads and car parks, a new control tower, an air traffic service centre and taxiways, with a new western parallel taxiway, to serve domestic traffic. An additional $24m is being invested by the airlines, oil companies and concessions operators to complement the Commonwealth's investment. Is the honourable member trying to say that this Government is letting down the people of Australia, the air travellers of Australia, by not investing in appropriate gateways to this country? Perth airport seems to have done reasonably well out of this. It seems to have done quite nicely.

We are all familiar with Canberra Airport; we go there every time we come down to this place. We can see for ourselves the work going on at the moment. At present $3m is being spent on works to upgrade extensively the passenger terminal building. As part of a joint project between Ansett Airlines of Australia and Australian Airlines, this particular development will see the airlines, along with the Government, contribute some $11m. So, Canberra Airport is being upgraded.

Of course, a number of issues were raised concerning Sydney's international terminal and Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport itself. My colleague the honourable member for Barton (Mr Punch) will, I am sure, effectively cover that particular point, but there are some things that I would just like to touch on. There has been $22.6m allocated to improve the capacity of the Sydney international terminal to cope with peak demands. The honourable member for Murray was absolutely right when he said that he recognised that there were problems at Sydney. Sydney is recognised as the international gateway to this country, and rightly so. Why should it not be. The Government has recognised that. The Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) has said that that is the case. The hourly passenger handling capacity is to be increased by 80 per cent. There will be an enlarged departure hall, new check-in facilities for outward bound passengers, improved concession facilities, which would be expected to generate additional concession revenue of up to about $7.5m per annum, an increase in the public waiting areas and, of course, as the Minister related to this House some time ago in answer to a question from the member for St George (Mr Dubois) about the operation of Sydney Airport, an increase in the number of Customs officials operating from that terminal.

The honourable member for Murray did express some concern about the fact that the Public Works Committee had examined recommendations as to how Sydney terminal could be improved, and that the Government rejected those findings and instead agreed to do the works. Quite clearly from what I have just said major improvement will come from the investment of that nearly $23m. It will improve the facilities, and the handling capacity of Sydney's international terminal. These works are supported by Qantas Airways Ltd. The honourable member for Murray alluded to the fact that I might come in about Qantas, and I will, though I will not go through an exercise of quoting back to him so he could come back at me and so on. Rather, I will just say this: Qantas certainly agrees that its earlier proposal for a government funded temporary facility to be constructed adjacent to the current terminal was not a cost-effective solution. I refer the honourable gentleman to Hansard, of 10 October 1986 and the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) when the Minister for Aviation clearly pointed this out. He said that there had been a proposal many months ago from Qantas, it was concerned about a second terminal but when it looked at the costs involved it was no longer a feasible alternative and therefore was dismissed. The honourable member will say `Rubbish', then I will say `Rubbish', so we will just leave it at that. We will just say that what I am putting to the House are, in fact, the facts.

What about the other areas? Darwin was mentioned. The Government has adopted a rational approach as far as Darwin is concerned. It has decided that there could be a significant saving on the original $95m that was proposed for the construction of new developments associated with Darwin Airport. It has taken the approach that it will look at the development of that airport facility in a much more rational way. The Government is planning for a much less expensive development of civil aviation facilities. That planning is most important. The honourable gentleman talked about the effect on Budget deficits and about the many hundreds of millions of dollars-I think that was the figure he used-that it would take to do all the sorts of works he was suggesting. Quite clearly this Government is not about blowing out the deficit. This Government is about planning what is necessary to meet the needs of the travelling public to this country and within this country. Again, as far as Darwin is concerned, rational planning is necessary and this Government is going down that track. We are looking to investigate the site to determine the layout of terminal facilities to be provided. We are looking at the possible maximum use of existing aircraft pavements, roadways and service facilities because we would not have to spend as much money. If the existing facilities can be used through upgrading, use them. Of course that is a rational approach. As has been indicated by the Minister previously, this could save a considerable amount of money for the Government.

Brisbane Airport was mentioned as well. A new domestic airport at Brisbane will open later this year. The project, including capitalised cost, has been valued at something like $640m. The construction of it presently employs something like 910 people in the private sector. The existing international terminal is being extended and is expected to cope with demand levels into the 1990s. All of this indicates quite clearly-at least to any rational person, I would have thought-that there has been a commitment and that terminal facilities in Australia for international travellers, and indeed domestic travellers, have been improved. Upgrading has taken place because the need to do so has been recognised. It would seem, as a result of all of that, that this Government has taken a rational, planned, economically responsible position in everything it has done.

I conclude, Mr Deputy Speaker, with a few comments about Sydney's international terminal at Kingsford-Smith. This Government last year chose a site for a second Sydney airport, and in fact has commenced the acquisition of land for that facility. I understand-and I have to say to those honourable gentlemen opposite that I commend them for this part of their policy-that the Opposition has suggested that that is a very reasonable and rational thing to do. I agree although, as many honourable members would know, one of the sites not chosen was in my electorate. I commend the Government for actually making that decision, committing financial resources to the site at Badgerys Creek and getting on with this facility that obviously will take Australian aviation into the future.

Some comments were made about radar facilities and so on required for Sydney Airport. Again, I refer the honourable member to an answer that the Minister has given in this House. He quite clearly indicated that there is going to be, and already has been, an upgrading of radar facilities. I refer the honourable member to the answer given to the honourable member for St George on 24 February 1987 when he said:

. . . later this year we will be inviting registrations of interest for the installation of a new system of radar which will improve the handling of aircraft through the airport. We have already upgraded on an interim basis the existing radar. But the new system of radar is due for completion by 1991.

So, as the honourable member has suggested, there has been upgrading of radar facilities in Melbourne and Brisbane, and these particular facilities are also being upgraded in Sydney to meet the demands of an international and domestic airport. Quite clearly it is important that we do get on the record the fact that this Government has seen the necessity to adopt a rational, planned approach to the development of airports around Australia. I pose just one question to those honourable gentlemen opposite, and particularly, perhaps, the honourable member for McPherson (Mr White) who will follow me in this debate. I would ask him, because of his tourism responsibilities: How does one justify the fact that during the course of Liberal-National Party governments pork-barrelling exercises were indulged in so that whoever happened to be the Minister for Aviation generally speaking ended up with a major airport facility in his electorate or adjacent to it? Why was it specifically necessary to have so many international terminals developed around Australia? We have heard his colleagues suggest that Sydney is the gateway to Australia. I reiterate that I endorse that remark 100 per cent, although the Minister at the table, the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy), shook his head to indicate that he did not agree-because he comes from Melbourne, I suppose. Why, then, can one say that it is necessary to have so many of these international terminals spaced right around Australia if in fact we are endeavouring to get people to Sydney and use that city as a staging point for the rest of Australia? It is a very interesting question and I hope that there are some answers to it. Quite clearly it is a fact that through changes in technology the 707 aircraft has gone and we now have the big jets with double the passenger capacity, so the facilities need to be improved-and they have been.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.