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Tuesday, 13 June 1989
Page: 3852

Senator BROWNHILL —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Telecommunications and Aviation Support. Perhaps the question should go to Senator Richardson, if he would rather answer it. I draw the Minister's attention to airline industry estimates which suggest that the air traffic controllers dispute, now entering its fourth month, is estimated to have cost Australian air services more than $26m to date. Given that the outdated conditions and facilities at Sydney Airport are at the heart of this dispute and given that commuter airlines such as Hazelton Air Services Pty Ltd are finding particular difficulty in providing services when they are reduced to one flight slot per hour to service 23 country airports, I ask: When is the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the third runway to be started? Is it a fact that it has not yet commenced? If it has started when did it start and what is the likely completion date? Does the Minister agree that commuter airlines are likely to face severe financial difficulties if the dispute continues without resolution? Does the Minister accept that companies such as Australian Airlines, with losses in the vicinity of $12m so far, are likely to be forced to lift ticket prices to cover these losses?

Senator RICHARDSON —I have not seen the reports suggesting that the air traffic controllers dispute has cost companies $26m.

Senator Boswell —Don't you read the press?

Senator RICHARDSON —I learnt to read some time ago but, unlike Senator Boswell, I have a busy life to lead. I have other things to do than the sorts of things that he gets up to. It is just as well I have other things to do than the things that he gets up to. If we all lived our lives in the way that Senator Boswell does the country would go backwards.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Boswell will cease interjecting. I ask the Minister to ignore the interjections.

Senator RICHARDSON —I was then asked about Hazelton Airways which has had its services reduced to one flight slot per hour. I will seek further information on that matter. I think the main part of the question really concerns the EIS and the third runway. The difficulties that are being experienced with air traffic controllers are not related to that. It is much more of an industrial relations problem. I understand that undertakings to do the right thing from now on have been received from the air traffic controllers. I only hope that they are kept. It is quite clear, not only with Hazelton Airways but also with a number of internal airlines in New South Wales and airlines generally across Australia, that this has been an extremely damaging dispute. I particularly worry about its effect on international tourism. There is no question that a great many international tourists have had their plans disrupted. I hope that does not reflect too badly on us in the future.

I am asked about the environmental impact statement. It has not yet started because the Government is honouring its undertaking to consult with the community about its terms before its commencement. That consultation is proceeding. I hope that work on the EIS will begin very quickly. I will ask Mr Willis, who has responsibility for this matter, exactly which stage it has reached. My Department does not conduct those negotiations. I understand that commuter airlines are in difficulties as a result of that dispute, but, as I said, it is not a dispute that will be solved by a third runway. It will be solved by the Government and the air traffic controllers coming to a proper agreement.

Senator BROWNHILL —I ask a supplementary question. I am advised that Ansett Airlines of Australia told the Federal Airports Corporation and the Civil Aviation Authority, through their inquiry, that the air traffic controllers had been costing Ansett some $900,000 per week. That additional information regarding costs that have been incurred by the problems at Mascot might help the Minister. The EIS would surely have a fair bit to do with his Department. What is the need for it, seeing that there has been plenty done on it in the past anyway?

Senator RICHARDSON —No-one in the airport debate seriously believed at any stage that there did not have to be an EIS. The comment made by Senator Brownhill is typical of the National Party's attitude to the environment, be it the urban environment or the rural environment. Senator Brownhill is a joke, a throwback, when it comes to the environmental debate. There is no doubt that when one considers a development such as the third runway quite clearly there are a number of very important issues to be considered. There are a million people living around that airport who would certainly want to know what sort of effects the third runway would have on their daily lives. Those million people are at least entitled to know, by way of an EIS, what those effects will be. There is a place of which Senator Brownhill may have heard called Botany Bay where Captain Cook landed some time ago. There are a lot of people who consider Botany Bay to be important as well and who are concerned about possible impacts on the bay. Further, had Senator Brownhill bothered to consult the fishing industry he would understand that it is concerned about it as well. For all of those reasons, an EIS is necessary and only the most ignorant of senators would believe otherwise.