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Thursday, 22 August 1996
Page: 2908

Senator MARGETTS(12.07 p.m.) —I move:

Clause 2, page 2 (lines 2 to 4), omit the clause, substitute:

2 Commencement

   This Act commences on the day after the day on which a written agreement, signed by representatives of all local government councils which are located within a 20 kilometre radius of Sydney (Kingsford Smith) or Sydney West Airports, and certifying that a satisfactory plan to provide for equitable sharing of the noise and air traffic burden over Sydney and implementation in a way that cannot result in an inequitable or onerous noise burden in the future has been agreed to, is laid before both Houses of Parliament.

The Airports (Transitional) Bill is a technical bill to transfer ownership. However, it is important to deal with some of the issues in bringing on the commencement of the bill in general.

Last year the coalition while in opposition effectively scuttled the ALP's airports transitional bill by putting an amendment that said management at Sydney airport could not be sold until the noise problem was resolved and the noise burden shared equitably. There is no such measure in this bill. Presumably, the coalition believe they have solved the noise problem in Sydney and the noise burden is now equitably shared. This may be news to the residents of Sydney. Personally, I do not think the noise problem has been solved. It has certainly not been solved to the satisfaction of people who live under the flight paths.

The coalition, by discarding its own amendment, has shown itself to be hypocritical. The amendment last year was obviously a spoiling tactic not designed in any way to actually address the problems of the real people who are suffering. All the tears shed by the coalition may have been crocodile tears and, now they are in power, the amendment has gone. The concern for the people of Sydney is not very much evident and you are ready to sacrifice them for the pleasure of selling off public assets.

My amendment asks you to take cognisance of your own words—your own supposed concern—to behave with integrity and to put your money where your mouth is. The amendment simply says that this bill will not commence and that you cannot sell off the airports until you have demonstrated that you have worked to solve the Sydney noise problem, or done it as equitably as possible. It requires you to do exactly what you as an opposition demanded the former government should do.

My amendment goes a bit beyond yours. For one thing, I ask that you not only attempt to solve the problem in the present but work out a way to ensure the problem is not simply deferred and that you solve it permanently. I ask that you solve it to the satisfaction of the real stakeholders, not to the satisfaction of government, parliament or the Treasury. The real stakeholders are not the Treasury or the buyers who hope to make money from this. The real stakeholders are the people who must live under the planes. I ask you to work to solve the problem to the satisfaction of the councils that lie under the flight paths.

Your amendment said the government should not sell the Sydney airport until they have solved the problem. Mine says you should not sell the management of any airport until you have solved this. I believe that, if you cannot solve the Sydney problem, you will not be able to solve the Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth or any other noise problem that may arise.  If you sell management of these other airports, even if you do not sell Sydney, the problem will eventually arise and you will have no model to resolve them.

I was concerned during the original debate, and put it on record, that we were only dealing with it as if it was a problem in one part of the country. It was defining itself in one part of the country but we had not worked out mechanisms to deal with it in any other part of the country either. There are problems of compensation, noise and safety everywhere there is an airport. Once you go to the point of privatising it, dealing with those issues becomes extremely difficult unless you have a management plan to do so.

If you can work a plan to solve the problem of Sydney, you will have a model for resolution. Both state and territory government, local government and the lessee companies will have a good idea of what to expect, which is fair, and you will be able to plan ahead to make resolution of future problems easier and less expensive. Sydney is therefore a test case. If you cannot resolve this problem, I do not believe that you should be allowed to recreate it under a regime where government has even less control—that is, after we have sold the leases to the airport.

The amendment is simple and modelled on your own. It says that the noise burden must be equitably shared and that it must be clear to councils that this equity can be maintained and that equity does not mean equal but increasing pain but, rather, that the noise problem should not become too onerous. It requires you to get the agreement of councils whose bounds lie within a circle of a 20kilometre radius of the airport and to table that agreement in parliament before this bill, which allows the sale of airport management, can commence.

I commend this amendment to the coalition and Democrats who put forward and voted for a similar amendment last year. But, in my opinion, the amendment last year was hastily written and perhaps had implications for safety which this specifically does not because it deals with working out a plan. It does not specify the plan regardless of safety. It says `. . . to work out a plan which is agreeable' and it looks at a plan for the future, which means that you can factor in safety as part of that.

Providing noise insulation should acknowledge that the noise problem is significant. It is a potential problem in any large city and should be resolved prior to relinquishing control and responsibility. There are other amendments to the Airports Bill which I will be putting later which deal with the specifics of noise management. However, this, I believe, should provide a model to deal with the future and not just Sydney. We are dealing with every FAC airport in the country and we are dealing with proposed increases in traffic which may increase the noise and traffic burden to a great extent in many parts of the country.

People need to be assured that there might be some model to which to work to resolve these problems in a consultative way. And that is what I am asking today, that there be some accepted model and that there is some confidence in the community that they will be part of this process.