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Thursday, 12 September 1996
Page: 3465

Senator FORSHAW(7.33 p.m.) —Madam President, this is the first occasion on which I have had an opportunity to congratulate you on your recent election to this position. Tonight I rise to speak about this government's disgraceful decision to inflict upon the residents living near the Holsworthy base fear, panic and despair as a result of their decision to include Holsworthy as a potential site for Sydney's second airport. As I have said on previous occasions—and I will go on saying because this is an issue that is going to become bigger and bigger as the residents to be affected come to understand what is in store for them—it was this government that, prior to the election, failed to outline to the people their plan to make Holsworthy Sydney's second airport. After the election, with the announcement, hundreds of thousands of residents who thought they were living safe in the knowledge that the site had been rejected as long as 12 years ago were suddenly faced with the prospect of a 24-hour, full domestic and international airport being built in their backyard.

This is a government that has made a lot of noise about its promises and how they would keep them. We have seen their track record so far. When the government announced that it would include Holsworthy as a potential site, the Minister for Transport and Regional Development, Mr Sharp, waxed lyrical about how the process of the EIS would be inclusive and would enable full community consultation and input to the decision. On 28 May, in the other place, the member for Hughes, Mrs Danna Vale, asked the minister:

Can the government guarantee the people of Hughes that the environmental impact assessment conducted into the Badgerys Creek and Holsworthy sites will be fully comprehensive on both sites?

In his answer the minister said:

The study will follow the guidelines established by the Senate Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, which involves full public consultation, full industry consultation and its being a transparent process. The honourable member for Hughes is concerned to ensure that residents of her electorate will have their views considered in this process. I assure the honourable member for Hughes that that will be the case: their views will be considered and given great weight in the process of determining the environmental impact study.

One of the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Aircraft Noise was that an independent auditor would be appointed to oversee the EIS process, but no such independent auditor has yet been appointed, notwithstanding that the draft EIS guidelines have been prepared and released and the period for public comment has now closed. So a fundamental promise of this government regarding the EIS process has simply been discarded. The people have been treated with contempt because that committee found that, to protect the community's interests, it was vitally important that an independent auditor be appointed to run parallel with the EIS process being conducted by the proponent and the consultants involved. Again, on 27 June, the member for Hughes, Mrs Danna Vale, asked the minister this question:

Can the minister assure the House that the constituents of Hughes will be given the opportunity of making submissions on the draft guidelines so as to ensure that all relevant matters are canvassed by the environmental impact statement itself?

I remind the Senate that Mrs Vale is the Liberal member for Hughes. The response from the minister was—and I quote in part from his answer:

Submissions will be invited from interested persons in the public.

In relation to the last aspect of the question of the honourable member for Hughes—that is, whether members of her electorate will be able to make comments and submissions in regard to the EIS process—the answer is yes. They will be welcomed, we will expect them and we will treat them with due regard and great importance.

This was from the minister, after having broken a fundamental commitment to follow the guidelines laid down by the Senate select committee by not appointing, as that committee recommended, an independent auditor.

What has been the reaction since the minister's comments on 27 June welcoming the involvement of the community? Over 52,000 submissions were made to the Environment Protection Agency by residents in and around the Holsworthy site—an incredible response, indicating the outrage and the concern of those people. What was the re sponse by the Minister for the Environment and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Hill? His response to the agency under his administration having received 52,000 submissions was contained in an article in the Daily Telegraph of 3 September, which reads:

Environment Minister Robert Hill questioned the intentions of the alliance—

that is, the community alliance representing the residents in the area—

in sending a deluge of submissions on the environmental impact statement guidelines.

"It appeared to be an attempt to clog up the system," Senator Hill's spokesman said.

What a disgraceful, despicable remark from a spokesman for the minister. At no stage has the minister disowned that statement. The attitude of this government, after welcoming and calling for comments and submissions and promising the community that they would have the opportunity to be fully involved, to have their submissions treated with great respect, has been to say, `All you're trying to do is clog up the system because you happen to put in excess of 50,000 submissions to the Environment Protection Agency.'

That sort of contemptible attitude has been further demonstrated this week when, despite numerous attempts by representatives of the South-West Sydney Community Alliance, the group formed to fight this airport proposal in south-west Sydney, to meet with the minister, Mr Sharp, he has declined to do so. They have been to his office in Goulburn, they have been down here this week, but he will not meet with them.

This is a government and a minister who say, `We welcome the community being involved.' This is a government that attacked the former Labor government over the EIS process for the third runway at Mascot. This government said they would be judged by how they opened themselves up to community involvement and community input. They have been found sadly wanting. In fact, more than that, their attitude is clearly one where they have no regard at all for the interests of the residents of south-west Sydney. They have no regard at all for the interests of the residents, the electors, of the seat of Hughes. Not only did they inflict this decision upon them after the election—a clear breach of a commitment given at the election—but when the people put in their submissions in accordance with the procedures laid down, they were abused and criticised, and there were allegations that their submissions were nothing more than an attempt to clog up the system.

This issue is not going to go away. A lot of questions still need to be answered by the government. I am going to continue to stand up in this place on behalf of the residents of south-west Sydney because, unfortunately, the member for Hughes elected at the recent election is really doing nothing at all for the residents of her electorate. Those of us on this side are going to stand up for those residents and their legitimate concerns.