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Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Page: 3657

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (11:15 AM) —in reply—I thank members for their contribution to the debate on the Sydney Airport Demand Management Amendment Bill 2008. This bill is practical and will help the management of Sydney airport, which is a critical piece of Australia’s economic infrastructure. I acknowledge and appreciate there is bipartisan support for this legislation.

The Sydney Airport Demand Management Amendment Bill 2008 will introduce a differentiation into the act between aircraft movements on the runway and aircraft movements at the gate. The differentiation is significant because the slot management scheme is based on gate movements and the movement limit applies to runway movements. Operators allocated slots for movements that result in an aircraft operating in the curfew period will now be subject to the compliance provisions of the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act 1997. The bill will formalise a requirement for the slot manager to have regard to the likely aircraft movement times on the runway when allocating slots and to ensure the allocation of the slots is consistent with the movement cap. The bill will also allow the minister to vary the operation of the compliance scheme during exceptional circumstances. The collapse of Ansett and the September 11 attacks are examples of exceptional circumstances.

The exercise of the power to modify the operation of the scheme will be subject to the registration, tabling and sunset requirements of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003. The objectives of the act remain the same—that is, to minimise the impact of aircraft noise on the community by enforcing a limit of 80 aircraft movements per hour and providing for the orderly and efficient operation of flights into and out of Sydney airport through a slot management regime that keeps Sydney in step with international scheduling practice. The act will continue to guarantee access to new entrant airlines and operators of New South Wales regional slots through the protected regional and Ansett slots. These protections will remain in place and are not affected by the provisions of the bill.

During the debate there were a number of issues raised which do require addressing. The member for Cook congratulated the government on establishing the Sydney Airport Community Forum, of which he has been appointed as a member. I thank him for that. It is important that airports operate in harmony, to the extent that it is possible, with their local communities, and it is important that the community have direct input into the impact of aircraft noise and other issues associated with the operations of airports. The Sydney Airport Community Forum allows just that. I have also agreed to the request from Sutherland Shire Council to expand the membership of that forum by one to include the Mayor of Sutherland Shire.

In terms of the operations of that forum, I think that Vic Smith, as the chair, has shown due diligence, and I understand there will be another meeting of the forum in the next week. They will have an important consultation role, particularly with regard to the RESA works which will be taking place at the airport. I do note that, under the previous government, the forum was completely politically biased; there was no representation from anyone to the immediate north of the airport, the area most adversely affected by aircraft noise—no local government representatives, no community representatives, no state government representatives and no federal government representatives either. In fact, you had to cross the Parramatta River to the north side of Sydney before you found substantial representation from the communities. As minister, I have chosen not to do that but to make sure it is a real forum that represents all affected people around the airport. I thank the member for Cook for his participation in that forum, and I hope people will participate in a constructive fashion.

The member for Cook raised the issue of the noise amelioration program that took place through the acquisition and insulation of homes in Sydenham in my electorate. He called for an expansion of that program and spoke of the aircraft noise levy. Of course, the previous government stopped collecting the aircraft noise levy for insulation. That was an act of the Howard government done on the quiet without any fanfare or media release. They just stopped that and gave up on assisting residents and communities around the airport.

I understand that the Leader of the National Party raised the issue of the installation of Fort Street High School. This was a commitment made by the Labor Party and the then shadow minister for transport, Lindsay Tanner, at the 1998 election. It was a commitment made by the Labor Party and the then shadow transport minister, Martin Ferguson, at the 2001 election. It was a commitment made by the Labor Party at the 2004 election and, immediately prior to the 2007 election, Martin Ferguson again visited Fort Street High School to give a commitment to insulate that school against aircraft noise. I note that Newington College, at Stanmore, was insulated a decade ago at a cost to the government of some $15.5 million. The school has heritage buildings, which are particularly costly to insulate. But the government makes no apology for ensuring that not just this commitment but every one of our election commitments are met.

The Leader of the Opposition, the member for Bradfield, when he was chair of the Sydney Airport Community Forum, and the member for North Sydney, when he was chair of the Sydney Airport Community Forum prior to the member for Bradfield, both supported the insulation of Fort Street High School. But that was a position that the then government refused to implement. As member for Grayndler, I invited the member for Wide Bay to come to my electorate to see firsthand the circumstances of those students, but he refused to do so. I give credit to the member for Lyne, the member for North Sydney and the member for Bradfield, who were each prepared to come to the inner west of Sydney to see the impact of aircraft noise. I am surprised by the negative statements made by the member for Wide Bay, and once again we have an unclear statement from the member for Cook on whether the opposition supports this or opposes it. Similarly, it is not clear where the opposition stands on a whole range of measures that were included in the budget—the fuel tax, means testing, the luxury car tax, the Medicare levy and alcopops. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.