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Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Page: 3652

Mr MORRISON (10:56 AM) —I rise to support the Sydney Airport Demand Management Amendment Bill 2008, as has already been indicated by an earlier speaker. The purpose of this bill is to make administrative changes to the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act, which was introduced in the first term of the former coalition government to fulfil an election commitment of the Howard government made prior to the 1996 election. If we cast our minds back to that time we note that, while there were many issues upon which the Howard government was elected in 1996, this was certainly one that was very salient in Sydney at that time. The whole point of the former Prime Minister’s pledge was that there would be genuine noise sharing in Sydney, which was not possible previously with the two runway operations ripping up and down the north-south axis, flying directly over my electorate of Cook.

In essence, this bill will make technical amendments to the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act such as to clarify definitions and ensure consistency between the Slot Management Scheme, the statutory compliance scheme and the act itself. The act is an important regulatory instrument, as it gives legal standing to the long-held policy whereby the number of aircraft movements at Sydney airport is limited to a maximum of 80 per hour. Adherence to this limit is achieved through the implementation of a slot management system. Both the slot management system and the statutory compliance regime were developed and approved by the former government and operate to achieve the objectives behind the demand management act.

The background to this current bill before the House is a report undertaken by the Australian National Audit Office into the implementation of the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act. The Audit Office report found that there were several inconsistencies in the interpretation of definitions in the act and the subordinate instruments. This bill seeks to rectify any inconsistencies with the legislation.

Other changes proposed by the bill include a new section that gives the minister additional powers to make variations and amendments to the compliance scheme where exceptional circumstances warrant such action to be taken. The explanatory memorandum provided with the bill gives examples of these exceptional circumstances where the powers could be used, and they include events such as major changes to the operations of an airline that are beyond the airline’s control and that impact upon the airline’s on-time performance for a period of time.

The last significant variation to the compliance scheme was the period following September 2001 and the collapse of Ansett Australia. These events had a major impact on the Australian aviation industry and warranted the variations granted. Instances where the minister issues a determination to vary the compliance scheme in effect become legislative instruments without disallowance provisions and must be tabled in the Australian parliament.

The amendments that are concerned within this bill currently before the House will be supported by the opposition. We recognise that the changes will bring about improvements to the operation of the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act and are proposed to address concerns that were raised by the Australian National Audit Office in its recent review of the legislation.

My electorate of Cook has a strong connection with Sydney’s Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport, KSA. Aircraft fly directly over the Sutherland shire, in particular over the village of Kurnell, the birthplace of modern Australia, as well as over Bundeena in the Royal National Park, the oldest national park in Australia, and over the beachside suburbs around North Cronulla and Wanda. A very large number of people who work at the airport live in the Sutherland shire in my electorate of Cook, and the single largest number of Qantas employees live in Cook than in any other electorate in the country—and I take this opportunity to place on record my strong support for that airline and the work it does throughout Australia. In my time as Managing Director of Tourism Australia, we could always rely on Qantas for promotions overseas. When there were disasters in other places and Australians were in trouble, Qantas was always there to help out.

Since being elected as the member for Cook in November last year, I have spent considerable time in Kurnell, and more recently in Bundeena, listening to residents’ concerns. As I stated earlier, Kurnell was the landing place for Lieutenant James Cook during his exploration of the east coast of Australia in 1770—recently, on 29 April, we once again commemorated and celebrated that landing. A large proportion of the Kurnell Peninsula has been set aside as a national park. It is an absolutely magic spot with recreational open space, providing the opportunity for residents not only of the Sutherland shire but of Sydney to come and visit that most significant of landmarks in this country, the landing site of Cook. I am sad to say, though, that these beautiful areas within the national park are in stark contrast to other areas of Kurnell that have been neglected and degraded by noxious industry and extractive sandmining. This poor track record continues with the New South Wales government’s decision to construct a desalination plant and a pipeline across Botany Bay.

The residents of Kurnell have been forced to live with the burden of aircraft noise day and night, from 6 am to 11 pm and beyond the curfew. That is right: after 11 pm mail and freight planes—one recently went down off the national park, and the mail floated up on the beaches early that morning—fly over residents in the Sutherland shire, particularly over Kurnell and Bundeena. These planes all arrive and depart over Botany Bay. While the departures can skirt around the Kurnell village by tracking out through the Heads over the sandhills, arrivals must fly over the village of Kurnell. We have just heard how Bankstown is being shut down. I am concerned that future growth in Sydney airport will be accommodated through more out-of-curfew operations. In 2007, there were 2,995 take-offs from and 3,328 landings into Sydney airport between 11 pm and 6 am—that is, more than 6,000 movements that residents in these areas were forced to deal with in what should be a silent period. The technological developments in the aerospace sector have seen rapid development with new low-noise jet aircraft. I oppose any increase in airport operations that would occur within the curfew period.

The coalition parties have had a strong track record as far as the Sydney airport curfew is concerned. The Howard government delivered increased fines for breaches of the Sydney airport curfew. In March 2000, the then Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, announced that the maximum penalties for breaches of the curfew would increase from $110,000 to $550,000. At the same time, the penalty for individuals who breached the curfew also increased to $110,000. The decision to increase the penalties for breaches of the curfew was made to ensure that residents living close to the airport have peace and quiet, particularly at night. While introducing the legislation, the former minister said:

The Sydney Airport Curfew Act is fundamental to the management of the airport’s noise. Sydney is Australia’s busiest jet airport, and the surrounding suburbs are overflown by large numbers of aircraft during the day. However, the night-time is the most sensitive time for noise and the government is committed to ensuring that the community is protected as far as possible from disturbance during this period.

Until the penalties were increased, airlines calculated whether it was worth paying the penalties as opposed to the costs of having the aircraft sit overnight and providing accommodation for the passengers in Sydney hotels. The result was that some airlines made the decision that it was worth taking off without the necessary clearances being given. With the increased penalties for contravention of the curfew, the residents of suburbs surrounding the airport have one less thing to worry about.

The residents of Kurnell, however, are concerned about the number of planes that overfly their suburb. Kurnell takes more than its fair share of aircraft movements and noise. It is a fact that 55 per cent of all aircraft movements from the airport happen to be over Kurnell. In Kurnell there are about 700 households affected by aircraft noise.

The amount of aircraft noise that affects a suburb is determined by the Sydney Airport Long Term Operating Plan. This document enshrines the principle of noise sharing, whereby flight paths are rotated to provide relief and respite for residents living in the most affected suburbs. A basic principle of the Long Term Operating Plan for Sydney Airport involves maximum use of flight paths over water and non-residential areas. But let us be clear about this: flights over water mean flights over Kurnell. When we are talking about trying to keep flights away from other parts of Sydney, we are intentionally causing flights to go over 700 homes in Kurnell, as well as the suburbs of Wanda, North Cronulla and Bundeena.

The Sydney Airport Long Term Operating Plan provides the densely populated residential areas to the north-west and the east of the airport with periods of respite. Within the plan, there are 10 modes available to be utilised by the air controllers. The mode that is in use at any point in time depends upon factors such as time of day and the prevailing environmental conditions. Each of the 10 modes consists of different combinations of runway operations that result in a shared noise burden between the suburbs surrounding the airport.

When modes 4, 5, 10 and 14A are in operation, departing aircraft movements are sent out over Botany Bay. Some go around Kurnell and others take short cuts and fly over the village. When modes 7, 8 and 9 are in operation, arriving aircraft fly directly over the village before landing over Botany Bay. The difference between an aircraft that is taking off and an aircraft that is landing is that landing aircraft do so at a much lower altitude than one that is taking off. This exacerbates the noise disturbance to residents in their homes trying to watch TV, read or have a conversation over the back fence with their neighbour.

The residents of Kurnell and Bundeena tell me that the aircraft taking off do not always follow the designated flight paths and continue to fly over the suburb rather than tracking out over water. I note that the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government is here. I commend the minister for establishing the Sydney Airport Community Forum.

Mr Albanese —And expanding its membership, too!

Mr MORRISON —And expanding its membership to include a proper representation of the shire. Maybe one day our state member will be included, but we are very pleased to have the Sutherland Shire Council represented and very pleased that the minister responded to our advocacy on that position. Nevertheless, we are concerned that these planes are not sticking to their flight path. Research is being undertaken—and this is an issue we need to raise—to make sure that planes coming in and over Bundeena are following the proper flight path. The Sydney Airport Community Forum should be a very good outlet to ensure that the minister, the department, the airport and the airlines—everyone involved in this forum—can understand that they need to stick to the rules. I am sure I would have the full support of the minister for transport in ensuring that that the airlines and the airport stick to the rules, so that all of our residents, including those in the electorate of the minister for transport, will have protection when these rules are followed.

There was no aircraft noise insulation available to the residents of Kurnell. They were told they did not qualify because the noise was just not loud enough. Several years ago there was a levy collected from all airline passengers and the funds raised were allocated to the aircraft noise insulation project. This very worthwhile project only applied to areas where the noise was 30 ANEF and above. All of the affected residents at Kurnell, about 700 families in total, are just outside the 30-ANEF contour but fall within the 25- and 30-ANEF contours. Insulation was provided to the Kurnell Public School, which sits under that flight path, because it did fit within the lower standard for noise, the 25-ANEF contour. I would like to express my concern for the residents of Kurnell. I fear that additional growth at Sydney airport will bring more aircraft noise.

The government’s budget contains a $9 increase in the passenger movement charge, which used to be called the departure tax. This decision is expected to recover an additional $459 million for the government, and much of this increase will be put towards recovering the cost of additional aviation security measures. However, I believe that some of this extra revenue could be allocated to providing noise insulation to the worst affected areas, Kurnell included. In this year’s budget, $14½ million worth of funding has been allocated, we note, for aircraft noise insulation at Fort Street High School. The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government would know about that and would support that initiative. He would also know that, despite the fact of this school not falling within the 25-ANEF contour, the school is still going to get the funding.

The current rule says you have to be between 25 and 30 in order to attract that funding. Kurnell Public School fell within that framework and it got the funding for that noise insulation. The argument being put forward by the residents of Kurnell is that if it is good enough for the parents and kids of Fort Street High School to have their school covered—because it is recognised that there is significant noise falling on Fort Street High School’s students—then why isn’t it good enough for the residents of Kurnell, whose homes sit in a noise contour which is worse than that of Fort Street High School, to also receive that same insulation for their homes? At the very least, why isn’t it possible for us to sit down and consider other ways by which we might be able to provide some sort of support to ensure that this insulation can go into these homes? I know these are issues that the minister would be aware of and that we would like to pursue through the process of the Sydney Airport Community Forum—and we look forward to that conversation.

In March 2004 the former coalition government approved a new master plan for Sydney airport. The approval was contingent upon Sydney airport giving the then minister for transport an assurance that curfews would not change. The minister said at that time:

Of critical importance in my approval was the fact that—

Sydney airport—

strongly committed to its obligations to the Government’s ongoing noise amelioration measures. These include the curfew, movement cap and noise sharing under the Long Term Operating Plan and all of them are here to stay.

The issues that I have raised today in relation to Kurnell are many. I also raise those issues in relation to other parts of my electorate, in particular the significant complaints that I am receiving from Bundeena, which is in a royal national park. They go to the matter of the need to look at the whole issue of noise insulation and how the airport is impacting on the surrounding suburbs due to the changing commercial conditions that are impacting upon that airport and the push for greater business. We have talked about the significant flights increase and the large number of freight flights that are now flying within the period from 11 pm to 6 am. We are looking to see that is recognised and to make sure that the increase in those flights does not provide any burden on the residents who are living under those flight paths.

There is much material here to provide for a very positive discussion with the government. There is much material here for which I think there is a great deal of sympathy, particularly from those members on the other side who have electorates which sit under these flight paths. Having dealt with the politics of noise in previous times, I do sense that there may well be a new sense of cooperation in dealing with these issues.

In concluding I make a particular plea for the recognition of Kurnell in this sense. Kurnell is the modern birthplace of our nation. Frankly, this is a site which has not received the recognition from either side of politics that it deserves. The behaviour of the state government towards Kurnell with repeated industrial activity—most significantly and most recently represented by the desalination plant and the digging of a 45-metre-wide trench across Botany Bay, to lay the desalination pipeline—only adds insult to injury.

As to what we are concerned about and want to see, I would ask the minister to ensure, as there may be some further discussion of future airports for Sydney, that the idea of a second airport at Kurnell is never discussed and that the option is forever ruled out. I place on record my personal objection to it, just as the former member for Cook did. The former member for Cook was very successful in ensuring that it did not take place. He argued the case within his government to ensure that it did not happen. But I am asking the minister for transport and infrastructure to say today that it will never be an agenda item for his government, that there will never be consideration of a second airport at Kurnell. It is a simple matter to rule it out. Enough destruction has been done to Kurnell. Enough lack of recognition and respect has been paid to Cook’s landing site at Kurnell, and it is time to make sure that this is matter is never on the agenda again.