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Wednesday, 21 August 1996
Page: 2844

Senator CRANE(5.49 p.m.) —I begin my contribution in this debate by thanking Senator Murphy for allowing me to speak at this time, because I have an important engagement at 6 o'clock which I could not break. He has left the chamber, but I am sure the duty minister for the Labor Party will pass the message on that I do appreciate the fact. Also, this is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate Senator Murray on his first speech in this place today. I had the privilege of being involved with his first foray into Senate work in terms of the committee we were on last week.

I would like to clear up a point with regard to the altercation which unfortunately occurred this morning between Senator Conroy and me; I do not believe it should have done, nonetheless it did. I want to put on the record the situation which exists as far as Sydney is concerned and our going or not going up there. We had one submission from New South Wales which was in on time, which was from the Bankstown City Council. They came to Canberra and appeared. We had a second submission from the Sutherland council. It was a late submission and they asked whether or not we would take it into consideration. They were the two submissions we had from New South Wales. We did not get a submission from the New South Wales government.

Another point I want to clear up so that the matter is absolutely clear is that, in relation to Melbourne, this morning I may have inadvertently led people to believe that the representative of the Victorian government wanted to appear but did not appear. I want to make it absolutely clear that, while the Victorian government put in a submission, they expressly said that they did not wish to appear before the committee.

In dealing with this legislation before us, I am going to deal with the inquiries we had and the response to some matters, because some very important matters were raised during those hearings and it is important that I refer to them briefly in the time I have. The first point I wish to make—and it is very important in terms of the committee hearing—is that prior to the hearing the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee received, through a letter to me as chairman of that committee, the additional amendments that the minister had. So the witnesses who were there were familiar with them and able to deal with them in a formal manner. I am pleased to say that the recommendation from the committee reads:

The Committee recommends that the Airports Bill 1996 and the Airports (Transitional) Bill 1996 be agreed to subject to amendments notified to the Committee by the Minister for Transport and Regional Development.

So we agreed on those aspects of it. I also note that at the end of that hearing Senator Conroy congratulated the committee for adopting what he called the amendments from the opposition in the other place. But they were more than amendments from the opposition in the other place. Whilst I acknowledge that they were moved there, they were positions also put by a number in the community including—I am not 100 per cent certain about this—the Victorian and New South Wales governments about the situation that existed. I see Senator Conroy is nodding about them both.

We dealt with other important matters and we heard from every witness who wished to appear before us. Other than the submissions that I have mentioned, there was one other but the witness did not wish to appear. So we did not get a large response in terms of people wishing to give evidence either through submissions without appearing or by appearing. But the important thing about this inquiry was that the submissions went straight to the point. They were very important and the committee took on board the aspects raised.

Another recommendation was:

The Committee recommends that the Minister raise with the Minister for Finance the need to ensure selection processes take into account the broader development and economic concerns of the States, Territories and Local Government.

I think it is fair to say that the Western Australian government, the South Australian government, the Bankstown Council and the conglomerate of councils from Tasmania all put that aspect to the committee and I am pleased to say that the minister has taken that recommendation on board. It demonstrates quite clearly the value of the hearings.

The next recommendation states:

Further, the Committee recommends that the Government establish clear consultative processes with the States, Territories and Local Government.

It is fair to say that once again all the witnesses were concerned about the consultative process. They were concerned that it was not clearly spelt out, although they did not really criticise the communications to this point. They were concerned about the future, the leasing program and what was occurring. We put that recommendation to the minister and, once again, the minister has accepted it and is prepared to implement that in a practical way. We as a committee will obviously be interested in the outcome and will continue to monitor it. I am sure that those councils and the state, territory and local governments will all remind us, as time goes by, if it is not implemented, but I have no doubt from the discussions that I have had with the minister's office that it will be implemented and that that is the intention.

The next recommendation was raised by all the witnesses, and I have to say that this is the only inquiry on which I have sat and on which there has been a consistency of theme from all the witnesses. The recommendation states:

The Committee also recommends that the Minister regulate to ensure that non-aeronautical business activities are consistent with State, Territory and local Government planning and trading laws.

I had some personal experience on this issue because of what almost occurred at the Perth airport at Guildford approximately 18 months to two years ago. There was a proposal, which nearly saw the light of day, to build a shopping centre at the airport. It would have been operating in competition with the various businesses around the airport but under a totally different set of trading rules which, as I understand it, would have severely disadvantaged those shops and shopping centres outside of the airport. It did not proceed because of the community outrage. We were also given other examples of real concern. The minister has recognised this as a problem and once again he has been quite happy to make sure that there is consistency in what occurs with non-aeronautical activity on both sides of the fence, if you like.

The committee drew the minister's attention to a number of concerns raised by the airlines. There is no doubt that the airlines themselves have a vested interest in the outcome of this leasing program, but one has to recognise that, having serviced the Australian public for a long time, they do have some rights. We have drawn to the minister's attention the concerns that they raised. A number of these have been dealt with in the report that we put down today and they are included in a letter from, I think, the department which deals with consultation, critical national issues, domestic terminal leases, et cetera. I will not read them all out—it is in the back of the report—but I make the point that, once again, we have had a positive response from the minister to them.

With this legislation, as far as the arrangements into the future for the leasing of the airports and the development of policies are concerned, I believe we now have a very sound policy position and one that will be great for Australia and its capital cities into the future.

I emphasise one thing, which came out in the state government submissions and the submissions from the councils in Tasmania. They put a lot of emphasis, because of the development of air travel, tourism and commercial development—once again I use an example from my state of the development of commercial products, chilled goods into Asia—on the necessity to have a coordinated Commonwealth-state approach based on consultation. The hearings that were held were very fruitful and helpful to the government in consolidating a policy position.

I thank all the witnesses for their contributions. It would be remiss of me if I did not thank the departmental officers, and Senator Tambling as the parliamentary secretary there on that day. A lot of information was put on the public record and it was a classic example of how the committee system should work to improve a situation. Most of that improvement was in getting an understanding of the proposition rather than in changing anything.