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Wednesday, 26 June 1996
Page: 2224

Senator FORSHAW(1.00 p.m.) —A couple of years ago, I was talking to a friend and we were discussing a visit that we had made to the United States, particularly to New York. This friend said to me, `The question about New York is: how do they get rid of all the garbage in that teeming metropolis?' Now that Senator Baume is off to New York, I think they are going to have an even bigger problem.

Today, I would like to make some further remarks in respect of a matter of the utmost public interest to the people of Sydney, particularly those in the Hughes electorate and the surrounding areas near Holsworthy. On Sunday, 2 June, a public meeting was held at Wattle Grove, a delightful new housing development in Holsworthy, the site of the impending second airport for Sydney if the coalition government has its way. Some 4,000 people attended that public rally, held on a wet day, to express their anger at the deception perpetrated by the coalition government with respect to this issue.

At Wattle Grove there is a sign at the entrance to the area with a picture of John Newcombe, the former great Australian tennis player, with a caption that reads: `I'd like to live here'. We know that John Howard, the Prime Minister—the then Leader of the Opposition, prior to the election—and John Sharp, now the Minister for Transport, certainly were not saying to the people of Wattle Grove and Holsworthy that they would not like to live there, but they are saying it now. It is a pity that they did not come clean before the election on 2 March and tell the people of Holsworthy, Wattle Grove, Moorebank, Chipping Norton, all those other suburbs in the electorate of Hughes and the state electorates in this area, of the plans that they had to put Holsworthy firmly back on the agenda as a potential site for Sydney's second airport.

As we know, the issue of aircraft noise and the location of Sydney's second airport was a most important issue in the last election in a number of electorates in Sydney. It is an issue that many of us have spoken about before in this parliament, and no doubt we will do so in the future. It is an issue that, particularly in more recent years, has been at the forefront of public debate. In that context, one has to ask why the coalition kept secret from the people of Sydney, particularly the people of the electorate of Hughes, their proposal to relist Holsworthy as a site for a potential second Sydney airport, notwithstanding that it had been rejected firmly back in 1985, at the time of the environmental impact assessment and examination of Sydney's second airport's needs.

Before the election, John Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition, was clearly on the record with respect to issues of aircraft noise and Sydney's second airport. He was campaigning strongly for the reopening of the east-west runway. He was saying to everybody that Badgerys Creek was their proposed site for Sydney's second airport. At no stage was there ever any mention by John Howard, or indeed any other spokesperson from the opposition, that Holsworthy would even be considered.

Mr Acting Deputy President, having been a member of the Senate select committee at the time, you will recall that, when a proposal with respect to Holsworthy came to the committee from an action group on the North Shore, it was firmly rejected by the committee in its majority report. That committee was chaired by Senator Parer, the then shadow spokesperson on transport, also a person who had campaigned and spoken publicly time and time again about this issue but who at no stage ever divulged to the committee or the public the plans for putting Holsworthy back on the agenda with respect, as I said, to a possible second Sydney airport.

The fact is that we now know that, whilst the Senate committee was inquiring into this issue and taking evidence from hundreds of people and organisations from around Sydney and receiving in excess of 4,000 or 5,000 submissions, Senator Parer was sitting there, knowing that they had been approached in the previous year about a proposed development for an airport at Holsworthy. That has been confirmed by the transport minister, Mr Sharp, who, on 28 May in answer to a question in the House by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley, acknowledged that they had received a proposal for a development which effectively involved a swap for land at Badgerys Creek acquired by the government. In return, they would be involved in the development of an airport at Holsworthy.

Mr Sharp acknowledged in the House on that day in answer to this question that they had been asked to keep it secret, and so they had kept it secret. But we know that John Howard knew about this proposal—given to them well before the Senate committee's inquiry and before John Howard himself gave evidence to the committee that they supported an airport at Badgerys Creek, that that was their policy and that their policy was also to reopen the east-west runway.

Of course, we all know that reopening the east-west runway was part of the coalition's proposal to try and alleviate the problems for John Howard's own electors in the seat of Bennelong. He was certainly looking after the interests of his electors but, when it came to the electors of Hughes, he was silent—even though he knew that the proposal had been brought to him, as the then Leader of the Opposition, and to his shadow spokesperson on transport, Senator Parer. They kept it a secret.

It is all coming out now that there was in fact a deal between the opposition at the time—now the government—and the proposal developers, to keep the proposal quiet. It disturbs me that the people of Hughes and surrounding areas have been deliberately misled and deceived. They have continued to be deceived by subsequent attempts by mem bers of the government to transfer the blame. Danna Vale, the now member for Hughes, attended the rally on 2 June. She indicated that she did not know anything about the proposal at the time and said that she was opposed to the airport, but she then got up at the public meeting and tried to lay the blame at the feet of the former member for Hughes, Robert Tickner. She stood up at that public meeting and quoted from a speech that you, Mr Acting Deputy President Childs, had given in the Senate on 30 May. You had said:

I must comment on the member for Hughes, Mrs Danna Vale, who is a Liberal member of parliament. She says that, when she was a candidate, she did not know about the possible Holsworthy airport site. Robert Tickner certainly did. He spoke out.

They were your words, Mr Acting Deputy President, and of course we know what you were referring to. You were referring to the fact that, at the time that the Senate committee received this submission about Holsworthy from the North Shore action group on 14 September, there was an immediate response by the member for Hughes, Robert Tickner, objecting to this proposal. He put out a press release dated 19 September 1995 and I seek leave to table this if I may.

Leave granted.

Senator FORSHAW —The relevant part of that press release says:

Federal member for Hughes Robert Tickner has condemned proposals by residents of Sydney's North Shore to have the second Sydney airport sited at Holsworthy.

Further on he refers to the fact that:

. . . the proposals for a major airport at Holsworthy have been put forward by the North Shore Aircraft Action Group in their submission to the Senate Select Committee on Aircraft Noise which met in Sydney last week.

That was the context in which that press release was issued. It was an immediate response to a proposal brought before the Senate committee at the time. And I remind the Senate that the committee was being chaired by Senator Parer who knew about this other proposal for Holsworthy that is now on the table, but who did not tell the committee about it.

But Danna Vale, the member for Hughes, stood up at that public meeting and said—and I paraphrase—`Don't blame me because I didn't know anything about it, but Robert Tickner knew about it.' It was a deliberate attempt to distort the facts.

But it gets worse. At that public meeting on 2 June at Wattle Grove, there were a number of members of parliament. I was there; Danna Vale was there, as the member for Hughes; Mark Latham was there, as the member for Werriwa; the now member, but then candidate, for Blaxland, Michael Hatton, was there; and a number of state members of parliament, including Craig Knowles, the member for Moorebank, and Ian McManus, the member for Bulli. There were no state Liberal members of parliament at that rally that I can recall, and certainly none were there that spoke.

That is relevant because on 4 June in the New South Wales state parliament, the member for Bulli, Mr Ian McManus, moved an urgency motion to condemn the proposal to build an airport at Holsworthy. That has since, of course, been put back on the agenda by the minister for transport (Mr Sharp) who has authorised an EIS.

In that debate, Mr Chris Downy, who was Danna Vale's campaign director in the last election, made a speech. On 4 June, in his speech to the state parliament of New South Wales, he said:

The Federal member for Hughes has been very active and vocal on this issue. She has defended the people she represents; she has put them before her party and she should be congratulated for what she has done.

These are the words I want to emphasise:

That contrasts starkly with the approach of the former Federal member for Hughes. Last week Senator Childs actually indicated—

There was then an objection by Mr Phillips who is the member for Miranda and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. His is another state seat which certainly has electors who would be affected by an airport here. He interjected and said:

He is a Labor Senator, isn't he?

Referring to yourself, Senator Childs. Mr Downey replied:

That is right, a Labor Senator, a factional colleague of the former member for Hughes—that Robert Tickner certainly did know about Holsworthy and the proposal to put an airport there.

Again, we have, in the state parliament of New South Wales, Chris Downey the state member for Sutherland, who was Danna Vale's campaign director in the last election, picking up this spurious, deceitful, disgraceful allegation that Robert Tickner knew about this proposal for an airport at Holsworthy.

As I have clearly demonstrated, what the then member for Hughes was doing was responding as soon as he knew, and as soon as the Senate knew through the committee process we were undertaking, of another proposal for an airport; he was responding that he was opposed to it. But what do we have now? We have this disgraceful attempt at that public rally by a member of this parliament, the member for Hughes (Mrs Vale), and by one of her close colleagues, Chris Downey, the state member for Sutherland, to try and shift the blame to the very member of parliament who was out there representing the electors and opposing any proposal of Holsworthy for an airport. Frankly, I could think of nothing worse than an attempt by members of parliament to deceive and mislead the electors of this area on such a major and important issue, as has been perpetrated by these people.(Time expired)