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RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT REFERENCES COMMITTEE
10/06/2010
Effectiveness of Airservices Australia's management of aircraft noise

CHAIR —Welcome. I remind Senators that the Senate has resolved that an officer of the department of the Commonwealth or of a state should not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. Officers of the department are also reminded that any claim that it would be contrary to the public interest to answer a question must be made by a minister and should be accompanied by a statement setting out the basis for the claim. Do you need to make any alterations or amendments to your submission?

Mr McCormick —No, Chair.

CHAIR —Would you like to make a brief opening statement before we move to questions?

Mr McCormick —Yes, I would. Thank you very much, Chair, and I would like to thank the committee for the invitation to appear and to make a brief opening statement. I thought it may assist the committee if I clarify CASA’s role in respect of aircraft noise. CASA is a Commonwealth statutory authority established by the Civil Aviation Act 1988. CASA’s main function is to conduct the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australian territory. In exercising its functions under section 9(1) of the Civil Aviation Act, it requires CASA to regard the safety of air navigation as the most important consideration. Section 9(2) also requires CASA to exercise its powers and perform its functions in a manner that ensures that as far as is practicable the environment is protected from the effects of the operation and use of aircraft.

CASA has a wide range of functions and some of them are as follows: licensing of pilots, aircraft maintenance, engineers and air traffic controllers; providing entry control to and surveillance of air operators and maintenance of manufacturing organisations; and certifying or registering aerodromes.

CASA has sole responsibility under the Airspace Act for the declaration, designation and classification of all Australian administered airspace. The object of the Airspace Act is to ensure that Australian administered airspace is administered and used safely, taking into account the efficient use of airspace, equitable access to that airspace for all users, national security and the protection of the environment. This means that as far as practicable airspace should be administered in a manner that contributes to the protection of the environment, including the reduction of noise, gaseous emissions and other environmental factors. Accordingly, in relation to any airspace change proposal, CASA will assess the environmental impact of the change, including whether the change will have a significant impact on the environment.

If it is considered that it will have a significant impact, CASA will consider the application of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Section 160 of this act provides that, if CASA adopts or implements a plan for aviation airspace management involving aircraft operations that will have or are likely to have a significant impact on the environment, CASA must obtain and consider advice from the minister.

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government issued the Australian Airspace Policy Statement 2010 to commence from 1 January 2010, which states that the key principles to guide the administration of airspace as a national resource are to consider the following: (1) the safety of passenger transport operations as the most important consideration. The policy statement states that decision-making practices with CASA for assessing and making changes about dividing airspace are to be characterised by openness. CASA publishes a large amount of information concerning airspace and changes to that information on its website.

Annex 11 of the Chicago convention describes 7 classifications of airspace and their associated services from class A to class G. The classification assigned to each volume of airspace determines two factors: the category of flights permitted and the level of air traffic service provided by Airservices Australia.

It is important to appreciate that my references to ‘airspace’ do not include references to changes to or the establishment of airways or air routes. An air route is a specified route between two points, the purpose of which is to channel the flow of air traffic to facilitate the provision of air traffic services. An airway is a controlled area or a specified part of a controlled area established in the form of a corridor equipped with navigation aids.

Whilst regulation level of the airspace regulations provides that CASA may designate air routes or airways in Australian administered airspace, changes to the establishment of airways or air routes are not required by law to be approved by CASA. It is on this basis that Airservices Australia has noted at page 2 of its written submission to this inquiry, ‘design flight path corridors’. CASA does not design these flight paths; however, Airservices Australia, as a matter of practice, informs CASA of changes to flight path corridors. If, for whatever reason, CASA considers that an air route or an airway prejudiced the safety of air navigation, it could direct—pursuant to regulation 12 of the Airspace Regulations—a change to that air route or airway. Section 12 of the Airspace Regulations—

CHAIR —Mr McCormick, can I just pull you up there for a moment. Perhaps you could just do another two or three minutes, because I am mindful that we have questions.

Mr McCormick —Certainly. It would not be within the power to direct a change solely on the basis of a noise complaint. There are various other regulations which touch on this, Chair, as I am certain you are aware. Let me just turn to a couple of issues which are perhaps more pertinent: looking at some of the transcripts from the Hansard.

CHAIR —Thank you. And feel free to table the entire statement if you would like.

Mr McCormick —Preventing noise impacts of land use: state and territory land use planning and environmental legislation have complementary roles. Effective land use planning may help prevent potential noise impacts before they occur. Development control planning: consider potential noise impacts during the development application phase. In the Hansard transcript from this committee meeting in Melbourne on 21 May, at page 98, it states:

… if it is circuit operations then there are requirements on how those circuits must be operated, which are CASA regulations, training times and so on. That is CASA.

That is perhaps not strictly accurate in all phases. For example, on 8 October 2009, Busselton Council in Western Australia gave notice to various aircraft operators that they could not conduct certain activities at Busselton Airport without development consent.

Development application, as you know, is a formal request for permission to carry out proposed development. The activities identified by the council were: landing and take-offs, approaches, missed approaches—which I assume means a baulked approach to land—and touch and goes. Subsequently a notice was issued to all airmen: ‘Flying training not available includes: landing and take-off, missed approaches and touch and goes. For further information contact the airport manager, Shire of Busselton.’ CASA is not involved in these decisions.

Another real-life example is at Jandakot, where there was some discussion—but not in Hansard I do not think, I have not read all of it—about Jandakot circuit area times, that CASA had limited the amount of time available for circuits. If one refers to the minutes of the Jandakot Airport Holdings Pty Ltd Community Consultative Committee meeting on 7 December 2009, those minutes, at item 7.4 state, inter alia, ‘Jandakot Airport Holdings in the interests of flying neighbourly and noise have limited the circuit training and hours to weekdays 7 am to 10.30; weekends 8 am to 6 pm.’  I believe that was a reduction in circuit training available of approximately 11½  hours. CASA was not involved in this decision.

We do consider requests for change of the airspace and we do consider the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act when required. We are also involved in the development of the voluntary fly neighbourly agreements and I can give you further information later, if you wish.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr McCormick. Mr Doherty, did you wish to add anything?

Mr Doherty —No, we have no opening statement. We did provide a written submission back in February, and we received a letter late last week which was replied to yesterday afternoon. I want to confirm that members of the committee have received our reply.

CHAIR —We have, thank you very much. I want to ask some questions about the approval of the ANEFs from the airports. We are now very clear on the fact that Airservices Australia has responsibility for the determination of the appropriateness of the technical information that goes into the ANEFs, but not the assessment of the assumptions used by the airport in determining the ANEF. That, as we have been told, is the responsibility of the department, to verify the assumptions themselves that go into the ANEFs. Could you outline in detail the process of verifying those assumptions, if indeed that is your responsibility?

Mr Doherty —I am not sure that is a correct description of the requirement. The requirement is that, in lodging a draft master plan for the minister’s consideration, the airport lodge an endorsed ANEF. The endorsement of that ANEF needs to be in accordance with a document issued by the minister which sets out the matter for endorsement. It basically covers the process that Airservices Australia follows. That document, once endorsed by Airservices as an ANEF, then can be included in the master plan and it is the master plan which the minister considers.

CHAIR —I will go back a step, and just use a case so we can get an understanding of the oversight of the assumptions used. We have been discussing the Canberra plan, and we have the forecasts here of the operations and the aircraft movements. The airport has obviously used some assumptions to come up with those aircraft movements. That is fine. But who verifies the assumptions that the airport uses? Who determines if those assumptions are appropriate?

Mr Doherty —The way that the process would normally be handled, as I understand it, is that most airports would engage some expert consultants in putting together the ANEF. They do that according to specified requirements about the process for doing so.

CHAIR —They may well utilise those expert consultants, and I am sure they do, but who verifies those assumptions that have been used, even if they have been provided by the expert consultants? From the department’s point of view, who verifies that the assumptions that have been used are correct to come up with the figures that are used to establish future aircraft movements?

Mr Doherty —That may depend on which assumptions we are talking about. If it relates to the size of aircraft using the airstrip, the alignment and things like that, that would be covered in the Airservices endorsement process. If we are talking about the assumptions in terms of commercial growth or the success of commercial activities, then I do not think there is anyone that verifies that. I am not sure that there is any way to do that.

CHAIR —That is very useful. How, then, does the department ensure that the recommendations they give to the minister are taking into account correct assumptions being used by the airport before they go into a master plan that goes to the minister?

Mr Doherty —I think part of the conversation here is driven by an expectation that it should be possible to make a black and white assessment of the future traffic at an airport—

CHAIR —Not from this committee’s perspective; not at all.

Mr Doherty —You are asking about verifying the information that comes forward in the master plan—can anyone say that the future growth of traffic at the airport, outlined in the proposal that is coming forward, will happen? The answer is no.

CHAIR —We do understand that, obviously, you cannot have a black and white determination of the number of movements there will be 20 or 30 years down the track. I am not talking about Canberra here; I am talking about the process of putting this information together for any airport. Are you saying that from your perspective you trust that the airport—and I am not saying there is any reason you should not—have taken in appropriate information for their assumptions to then provide the ANEF that goes into the plan?

Mr Doherty —As I said, there is a degree of the technical information which be tested—

Senator NASH —Leave that aside. We know Airservices do all the technical stuff. We are very comfortable with that.

Mr Doherty —but in relation to its commercial processes, its intentions for investment and its prospects for growth at the airport: yes, the airport is the judge of what it puts into its master plan.

CHAIR —Okay. Sorry to be pedantic on this but it is really important. There is no oversight of the judgment that the airport makes in terms of the information that it provides—is that what you are saying to me?

Mr Doherty —You need to understand this in the context of the master plan process. In the master plan process the minister endorses the land use planning at the airport for the period of the next 20 or 30 years. That is done in the context of the airport’s proposals for how they are going to use the airport and develop it. The minister, in responding to a master plan, may well make a range of decisions relating to the airport. If we take Canberra, for example, when the initial master plan was lodged it did include proposals, quite open-ended at that stage, in relation to an overnight freight hub. The minister rejected the initial plan, and one of the factors there was the lack of detailed information about noise.

The revised plan that came back included a much more specific proposal about the extent of operations envisaged in the foreseeable future in relation to overnight freight, and it was a handful of movements rather than many more. On that basis the minister was able to make a decision on the master plan, including initiating some work through Airservices for a review of noise abatement procedures to try to control noise. So it is not that noise is not considered and that there is not a positive approach to responding to management of noise, but I think that is a different thing to rejecting the assumptions underlying the plan.

CHAIR —Can I just clarify: did you just say that when the plan came back the second time and the minister did approve it there was a handful of freight operations in the second plan?

Mr Doherty —Set out in the second master plan, which has now been published by Canberra Airport, is its envisaged scenario for the growth of the overnight freight hub.

CHAIR —That is 23,846 movements a year. That is hardly a handful, is it?

Mr Doherty —No, no—

CHAIR —That is a different thing entirely?

Mr Doherty —I am not familiar with that figure. That may be in the ANEF documentation. Specifically set out in the master plan there is a description of their proposal for the overnight freight hub in the foreseeable future. Again, one of the issues with ANEFs is that a key element of an ANEF is as a basis for planning land use into the future, and in that context it is important not to understate the potential effect. So the ANEF may well look to the aspirations or the potential in the longer term. The master plan, which comes up on a five-year cycle, may make a decision that relates to the nearer term as well.

CHAIR —We might provide you a copy of the document I am reading from, because I just want to be clear. We may well not be talking about the same thing. This particular document is the Canberra international airport practical ultimate capacity ANEF final report. The part I am referring to is: ‘Arrivals and departures, night—freight operations’, which is a total of 23,846 movements.

Mr Doherty —As I understand it from what you are saying, it is part of the ANEF process, which goes to articulating the ultimate potential for noise at the airport, if you like—so it is looking forward beyond 30 years to 50 years.

CHAIR —I know what it does; it just does not seem to correlate with what you have just said.

Mr Stone —I think the handful of movements that Mr Doherty was referring to are what Canberra Airport detailed in its master plan as the short-term phase-in of this, which I think was about five movements, doubling to something like 10 or 12 over the next five to six years. But the difference in the ANEF is that it has aspirations of what that operation might look like in 20 years.

CHAIR —Thank you. That it is very useful. We recognise that this is not black and white, but the assumptions the airport has used to come to this figure as a long-term plan, as you were saying earlier, are as a result of advice given to them by expert consultants, and the department does not verify the appropriateness of those assumptions? You accept the assumptions given to you by the airport because they are best placed to determine what their future capacity is going to be? Is that correct?

Mr Doherty —The assumptions as they relate to the technical aspects are tested—

CHAIR —Forget the technical stuff. We understand the technical stuff. That sits with ASA and that is fine. We are just trying to get an understanding of the other assumptions the airport uses.

Mr Doherty —The rest of what is driving the ANEF document is the commercial aspirations and the commercial proposals, and that comes from the airport.

CHAIR —So the answer to my question is yes?

Mr Doherty —Sorry, I have answered it as well as I can.

CHAIR —I want to get this very clear for the record. I am sorry to have to do this for a third time but I just need a simple yes or no. The airport utilises advice from expert consultants to come up with a determination of what their future capacity is going to be. They use those assumptions to go into their future planning. They then provide that to you. The department does not do any assessment of the assumptions that the airport has used. Is that correct?

Mr Doherty —I am struggling with the use of the term ‘assumptions’. This is not an assumed outcome, it is a forecast which is assessed by the airport, having regard to their commercial intentions and aspirations. I struggle with the use of the word ‘assumptions’ in that context.

CHAIR —It is just that there the word ‘assumptions’ has been used right throughout the inquiry. We are used to that word because Airservices have used it and everyone has used it. I do not think I am going to get anywhere here.

Senator STERLE —We had estimates last week, Chair!

CHAIR —Senator Sterle, you must know that I do not intervene very often. I will leave it there and I might come back to it. Senator Back.

Senator BACK —We have just had put before us a letter from the secretary of the department. It is a copy of the manner of endorsement for ANEFs, including a series of steps to ensure the forecast reflects the realistic potential noise from the airport, having regard to factors such as the mix of aircraft operating and the size and alignment of runways. It goes on to outline the manner of endorsement. Once again, as the chair has been exploring, the endorser is Airservices Australia. Airservices Australia has a role, and we have been told this repeatedly in confirming the technical aspects of the ANEF. If the endorser is satisfied with those technical criteria, they stamp it according to standard, long range or ultimate practical capacity. Am I correct in assuming that neither of your agencies has any relationship at all with ANEFs?

Mr Doherty —Our engagement with ANEF is, firstly, at the minister’s issuing of the manner of endorsement and, secondly, when the ANEF comes in as an endorsed document in the draft master plan process—it is part of the consideration of the master plan. But we are not engaged in the actual endorsement of the ANEF under this process set out in the minister’s manner.

Mr McCormick —And CASA has nothing to do with the ANEF.

Senator BACK —So the airport operator makes a prediction, based on their perfect world, in terms of the future use of the airport. They draw upon expertise. Airservices Australia is required to examine the technical aspects of the advice that the airport operator gets. If Airservices Australia is satisfied with those technical assumptions, or if dissatisfied goes back to them, it simply and only comments and endorses based on the technical aspects that are presented to them by the airport operator?

Mr Doherty —That is right. The Airservices endorsement is as set out in this document.

Senator BACK —Effectively, then, there is no party related to government that actually looks at the ANEF in terms other than technical?

Mr Doherty —No-one seeks to second-guess the airport’s assessment of its commercial proposals.

Senator BACK —Yet, once it is endorsed by the minister, the ANEF does become the blueprint for future development around the environs of that airport, wherever the airport may be?

Mr Doherty —What it becomes is the indication of potential noise from the airport for the purposes of publication with the master plan. I do not think anyone is saying that that will definitely happen. It may happen, and if so it needs to be taken into account in the planning processes.

Senator BACK —But it is exactly from that that local governments, for example, in those jurisdictions where local government has an influence, use the ANEF. If a local government were dissatisfied with an ANEF as endorsed by the minister, do they have any legal recourse at all to go back and say, ‘We think that this ANEF is unduly harsh,’ or, ‘It is too blue sky.’? Does anyone have the capacity to challenge an ANEF once it has been endorsed by the minister?

Mr Doherty —I cannot answer that as a legal question but I point out that, in relation to the manner of endorsement, under 2F, there is a process of consultation with local government.

Senator BACK —It says, ‘Evidence that the relevant state and local government authorities have sighted the ANEF contour chart and have had the opportunity to comment.’ That is what you are referring to?

Mr Doherty —That is what I am referring to.

Mr Stone —Another process flowing from the government’s white paper is for the Commonwealth to lead a group of state and Commonwealth planning and transport agencies to improve the state and local government planning processes around airports. While in its white paper the government said that it supports using ANEFs as the primary mechanism for land transport planning at the moment, part of that is because not all jurisdictions currently do that. We think the ANEF is a tested measure that is worth keeping. But there is nothing to stop states in their oversight of land use planning to have other mechanisms for noise description if they choose. We are working with them to assess how some of that might work in a planning context. So the ANEF and the master planning process do not put a legal requirement on states to use that as the only source of information for its planning regime.

Senator BACK —But a local government is pretty well obliged, is it not, to use the ANEF for its actual planning programs?

Mr Stone —It is certainly the best measure and a tested measure that has been around since the 1980s that has proved fairly successful in helping local governments to plan around the vicinity of airports. Nobody has ever said that it is perfect, and that is why we have started this work going forward. However, it is not the view of the department that having more conservative ANEFs would in any way assist to improve that process.

Senator BACK —I would like to go to some submissions that have been made to us specifically with regard to Moorabbin and Jandakot Airports. The department oversees the tender process for the allocation of the airports to lessees who are now airport operators in Australia.

Mr Doherty —That happened some 10 years or so ago.

Senator BACK —Yes, I know.

Mr Doherty —It was a one-off process for lease for 99 years.

Senator BACK —Is the term ‘lease ‘ the correct term to use?

Mr Doherty —Yes, it is a lease.

Senator BACK —I understand, from a question asked earlier, that, in accordance with the act, the terms and conditions of these leases are actually publicly available.

Mr Doherty —The department does monitor the compliance with the terms of the leases. In addition to the terms of the lease, there are the regulatory requirements set out in the Airports Act. We do have a process of going through annual lease reviews and monitoring compliance with conditions.

Senator BACK —And what would be the process if any party, be it a state government agency, a local government agency, a concerned group or an individual, had cause for concern of the compliance by the airport operator? What is the path for them to communicate that to the department?

Mr Doherty —Obviously we would encourage people to take up issues directly with the airport lessee in the first place, but if that was unsuccessful then I guess it is an approach to the minister or the department, which we would take up as necessary with the airport lessee.

Senator BACK —And within the lease agreements, firstly, is there some conflict resolution process and, secondly, are there financial constraints or are there financial penalties written into these lease agreements? In other words: if you are satisfied that a complaint is legitimate, the airport operator subsequently fails to comply with the reasonable requirements of the department as landlord, what right do you then have under the act to require the airport operator to comply?

Mr Doherty —I cannot give you chapter and verse of what the enforcement arrangements would be, but as a contractual arrangement, there would presumably be some recourse available to the Commonwealth as lessor. It may also be that there are administrative processes available under the Airports Act, but I am struggling with what the term of the lease or the particular provision might be that is breached.

Senator BACK —Certainly. My memory tells me that in the case of Jandakot the original lessee has in fact, presumably with the agreement of yourselves as the landlord, on-sold the unexpired portion of their lease to another party. The party is substantially from overseas. It was put to us that the current operator has little interest in, for example, community consultation with those affected around Jandakot. The complaint made to us was that they were not listening to what the community regarded as their obligations. My question is: in that case, how would that community of people move forward having already perhaps approached the airport operator and having not got satisfaction? What is the mechanism by which they can then go to your department, as the landlord, to seek a remedy?

Mr Doherty —I do not want to comment on the specifics of Jandakot—

Senator BACK —Neither did I, but you asked me for an example.

Mr Doherty —but generally the issue of whether airports consult effectively with communities has been a matter of ongoing comment. In the white paper, which the government released last December, there was a range of mechanisms aimed at trying to improve that. One was reinforcing the concept of community consultation groups, requiring them to have independent chairs and upgrading the participation on those. We certainly hope that that will be an initial step in trying to improve the level of consultation. At the moment there is no intention, as I understand it, to give that legislative force, but it would be possible to consider that down the track if necessary. I think that sort of issue, about whether consultation is effective, is one of those areas where it is very hard to see a legal remedy working for a breach of contract, if you like, or some sort of enforcement provision.

Senator BACK —But one would think though that when common sense has failed in the process that the landlord must have a mechanism in the lease to be able to resolve these differences.

Mr Doherty —Yes, but I am just not sure about the practicality of resolving a dispute about how good consultation is or is not. It sounds like the sort of issue in which there are likely to be two views at least.

Senator BACK —That is why we seem to have lawyers in abundance, Mr Doherty.

Mr Stone —The government has made it quite clear that its policy in the white paper is for airports to have a framework around the community consultation groups—as Mr Doherty said, independent chair, publication of notes of meetings and that sort of thing. It is clearly the government’s policy that that is the way to address this in the first instance. The department’s published draft consultation guidelines are being finalised at the moment. We would expect that to be the first path that communities and airports take to improve consultation.

Senator BACK —Sure. I do come back on the pessimistic note that there must be some mechanism. Perhaps I will pursue it and just have a look on the net to see what the terms are under the lease. But, as you say, this is an undesirable and hopefully a never-to-be-encompassed outcome. But, in the event that consultation falls down and there is no capacity to move forward, a community has surely got the right to revert to the landlord—being you, representing the minister—to actually have a path for recourse. That is the point I want to get to.

In the time available to me, I want to move to another issue. Mr McCormick, I do not know whether you or the department are able to assist with it. We had representation from people residing in the area of Tyabb, down on the Mornington Peninsula, where there is obviously a privately-owned airfield. Once again, it would appear that the type of aircraft that land there get Airservices’ approval. One term used for the aircraft is ‘war birds’ and other terms are ‘older aircraft’ and ‘historic aircraft’—presumably aircraft whose engines do not meet modern noise standards. The residents put to us a situation where they could not get any satisfaction in terms of communication with the airfield owners. We asked Airservices to take this matter on notice and their answer was: ‘The Tyabb and district ratepayers business environment group made policy decisions that are outside Airservices purview. Such policy matters sit with the department.’

My question is about the overall management of private airfields—and I am not talking about airfields on a private property, a farm or a station somewhere; I am talking about airfields that are now finding themselves in built-up areas, and Tyabb would be such an example. The Tyabb owners group identified 10 airfields in the greater metropolitan area around Melbourne. So it would appear that there are a few airfields in the area. Who has control of those airfields in terms of safety and aircraft noise? Local government seemed frustrated. The operators of the Tyabb Airfield have communicated with us; but, unfortunately, we have not been able to hear from them. I am keen to know from you who monitors and controls those airfields.

Mr McCormick —Tyabb is a private aerodrome, as you point out, and because of that fact it is neither registered nor certified. Certification occurs at an airfield where there is regular public transport, it has an instrument approach procedure or aeroplanes are capable of carrying more than 31 passengers. Once we get outside of that particular certification or registered aerodrome into the private aerodrome operations, we have very limited ability to control what happens at those airfields. Tyabb has been the focus of a series of noise and other complaints over the years. If, for instance, a complaint was of the nature of low-flying aircraft—and we do get, shall we say, mixed reports where there is aircraft noise but someone also complains about low-flying aspects or whatever—yes, low-flying, safety operations is CASA. If there is a noise report as part of that complaint, we would pass it straightaway to Airservices. To give you an example, last week we were talking at some length about our industry complaints commissioner. Since 7 March 2006, we have received 40 noise related complaints. We referred 31 of those complaints internally to our own operations, mainly on the basis—and I cannot say whether all 31 were on this basis but certainly the vast majority of them were—of the complaint also stating that there was dangerous flying, low level flying or some other activity which we do rightly regulate. The other nine those 40 reports were referred to Airservices. They were noise complaints without any other issue for us to look at.

Senator BACK —In the case of your investigation of low flying, what action would CASA take?

Mr McCormick —CASA has a range of options under section 141 and other parts of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations where we can take action against the individual person, the operator—if it is an Air Operators Certificate holding, such as a flying organisation—and we are happy that our enforcement powers are robust and sufficient in those areas.

Mr Doherty —From the point of view of the department we do have a role at those minor airports, or to aircraft operations generally which would include those, in relation to the issue of noise certificates and noise permits. But there is a problem in relation to Victorian airports in particular, including Tyabb, that Mr Stone will be able to explain in more detail. But fundamentally, for aircraft to operate in Australia they would normally be of a type which has a noise certificate, which shows that basically the aircraft has been tested and has been found to comply with the international standards. There are some provisions for aircraft to operate without a noise certificate, and these tend to be occasional operations on a humanitarian or other public interest purpose, for some historical aircraft where there is a public interest in having the aircraft continue to operate, for some air shows for temporary purposes, and for some adventure flights.

Because the control around these is essentially around environmental issues, it was not fundamentally something that the Commonwealth had power over. But we were given a reference of power to deal with some of these environmental issues. Two states, Victoria and Queensland, have subsequently enacted legislation which basically removed the referral of power. So our legislation, in the noise regulations, goes as far as the Commonwealth can in relation to its heads of constitutional power. So it applies it at Commonwealth airports and it applies to interstate operations. But there are a range of private operations intrastate at private airports which our regulations do not catch in Victoria and Queensland. The arrangements that we have in other states, for requiring consultation with councils before there is an issue of a noise permit, do not apply in those states, and we have a lesser measure of influence there.

Senator BACK —So in Queensland and Victoria it is the state governments that take that responsibility, is it?

Mr Doherty —The state governments could legislate to take that or alternatively they could refer it back so we could cover it.

Mr Stone —There sometimes seems to be some confusion about the issue of the Commonwealth issuing a noise certificate or a noise permit for an aircraft and the idea that that somehow gives the operator cart blanche to operate in any manner that they wish—just because it is aviation and there seems to be this idea that all aviation is a Commonwealth responsibility because safety regulation and air traffic management is.

In the case of Victoria, the Victorian EPA has recently issued draft guidelines for managing industrial noise in regional Victoria. It goes to very detailed specifications about what the noise footprint should look like in noise-generating industrial zones. It goes to things like having a preferred 58-decibel at the boundary of that premises and, say, down to 50 decibels of an evening and that sort of thing. There is no reason that a regional airport like Tyabb should not be captured in that sort of framework. The only issue in a constitutional way that we would come into conflict is where a council—and Mr McCormick gave the example of Busselton earlier—tried to impose something where CASA or the Commonwealth had a concern that what the council was proposing had a negative impact on safety. But I think as Mr McCormick said in the case of Busselton, often that would not be the case. The local community has the right to manage its airport and its industrial noise in a way that is consistent with other applications. We would be happy to engage with the Victorian EPA on that issue if there is any confusion around that.

CHAIR —Thank you. Can I just ask you to take on notice, in the interests of time: I am interested in the powers of local government when it comes to noise and how those powers are utilised or can be administered. If you could take that on notice; I think that is fairly straightforward. We are due to report very soon, so if you could have that back to us perhaps by earlier next week, that would be very useful. Thank you very much, gentlemen. We do appreciate your giving us your time today.

Proceedings suspended from 12.19 pm to 12.50 pm