Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1807

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - Like the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) which reads:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: 'whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading the House is of opinion that a joint select committee should be established to investigate and report upon accidents involving international aircraft and the serious problems of Qantas and the South Pacific route'.

I believe that this is an issue which goes far beyond the question of Party politics. It is an issue which should be taken up by the Government. I find it incomprehensible that members from the Government side should not have supported the amendment. Only one member from the Government side has spoken during this debate and he immediately attacked the amendment.

Mr Cope - He left immediately afterwards.

Mr ARMITAGE - That is quite correct. He left the House immediately afterwards. That was the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin). I believe that these 2 issues - the establishment of a committee to investigate and report upon accidents involving international aircraft, particularly here in Australia, and the serious problems of Qantas and the South Pacific route - should be non-party issues. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) have both dealt very extensively with the issue of Qantas Airways Ltd. It is hard to add very much more except to say this: We find that our great and friendly ally, the United States of America, when it comes down to commerce and profit is no longer the wonderful friend that we have had in the past, even though, as the honourable member for Newcastle has mentioned, Ansett Airlines of Australia, Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd have all purchased or ordered between them over the last 10 years $560m worth of aircraft from that country. Surely this represents a wonderful boon to the economy of the United States. Yet, when it comes to that country giving a little reciprocal assistance, helping Qantas - its own customer - to be at least an effective financial and commercial organisation, the United States, that great and friendly ally, turns around and, in spite of the recent agreement reached, tries to grind Qantas straight into the ground. I do not think that is very fair.

Mr Cope - Are you anti-American?

Mr ARMITAGE - I am not antiAmerican. I think America is a wonderful country. All I can say to the honourable member for Sydney is that I just wish that this Government would do a little more to stand up for its own commercial organisations and not bow down to the might and the will of the United States in its commercial transactions. As one of my colleagues points out, only 2 Government supporters are in the House.

I wish to refer to article 44 of the Air Navigation Act 1920-1966. I wish to deal particularly with section (c) of Article 44 and section (h). Section (c) states:

Encourage the development of airways, airports, and air navigation facilities for international civil aviation.

Section (h) states:

Promote safety of flight in international air navigation.

In dealing with these 2 items, I think we must look very carefully at the question of international safety and the development of airports. I refer particularly to the proposal that there should be a second international 24-hour a day airport for the Sydney region. In relation to this question, I draw particular attention to the issue df safety. The Government has already recommended that Richmond or Somersby should be the site of the next international 24-hour a day airport. We notice that the report of the interdepartmental committee refers to the fact that the airport should be as close as possible to Sydney. It is well known that Richmond is closer to Sydney than is Somersby. For that reason, the people right out through the far western suburbs no matter what suburb they come from, whether it be Windsor, Richmond, St Marys, Penrith going right through to Blacktown, Mt Druitt, Wentworthville, etc., and even up into Castle Hill and Baulkham Hills in the electorate of Mitchell, a key electorate, are very deeply concerned that this airport could be established in that region. If honourable members read the statement of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) carefully and the remarks of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) when that statement was debated in the House, they will see that the Minister for Social Services stated that he believed Richmond was the most suitable site for the airport. If we take that into account, together with the Minister's own statement that the airport should be as near as possible to Sydney - he recommended 2 sites, Richmond or Somersby, and Richmond is the nearer - then we must realise that the Government in actual fact prefers Richmond as the site for the second international 24-hour a day airport for the Sydney region. What is the motive of the Government deciding this, after 3 years of interdepartmental committee inquiry into this matter, 3 years of full inquiry in which a recommendation for one of 4 sites was brought down, 2 of which have been rejected by the Government without any reason being given? Wattamolla is in National Park; I think we can understand the reason for rejecting that. Also, there is

Duffy's Forest up in French's Forest. What is the reason for that site being rejected? If honourable' members look carefully into the position, they will find, of course, that Duffy's Forest and French's Forest are bounded by the electorate of Mackellar which is the electorate of the Minister for Social Services, the electorate of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), a long term member on the other side of the House, the electorate of the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes), a former Attorney-General of this country, the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), a former Minister for the Army, and the electorate of the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar). They are 5 solid Liberal electorates. It is obvious that the intention of the Government is that, even though Duffy's Forest may be recommended by the interdepartmental committee on technical and commonsense grounds, nevertheless it is going to knock that back for purely political purposes.

Mr Charles Jones - Forty per cent of the loading from Mascot comes from the north shore of Sydney.

Mr ARMITAGE - The honourable member for Newcastle makes a very good point. At least the people from the north shore who live in these electorates would be nearer to the airport if it were at Duffy's Forest. Forty per cent of the loading on our aircraft comes from those areas. But that is beside the point. I think the issue is that the Minister for Social Services and those 4 other honourable members in that area should look carefully at playing political football in this way. They should remember that the electorate of Mitchell is also a key seat and could determine the future of this Government. I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the people of Windsor and Richmond, the people in the suburbs of Wentworthville, Castle Hill, Baulkham Hills, as well as the areas in my electorate such as Mt Druitt, St Mary's, Werrington, Cambridge Park, and areas in the electorates of other honourable members such as Penrith are all up in arms about this issue. They are talking now about public meetings to protest against the decision. I received a letter in my office today saying that a pensioners' organisation - it is not in my electorate - is prepared to assist in taking up a petition to protest against this airport. I think the Government should look carefully at this issue.

However, I believe we should also look at the issue of safety. Article 44 of the Schedule to the Air Navigation Act deals with the question of safety. When it is considered that the Blue Mountains rise immediately behind Richmond, does the Government believe in all honesty that this is the safest place to build the second international 24-hour a day airport. This is quite apart from the tremendous damage to the environment and the aircraft noise issue in all those suburbs I have mentioned before with their huge mass population. Keep in mind also the fact that the planning authorities believe that this is the best area to develop housing. The area where housing development is occurring naturally today is in a segment running from Richmond south to Campbelltown and Camden. Yet, if honourable members read the report and take notice of the remarks of the Minister for Social Services, they will see that the Government is deliberately proposing that the second airport should be placed in the middle of what will become one of the most congested housing areas in the whole of the metropolitan area of Sydney. I believe it is time the Government had a look at a few other proposals. I believe that it is time that we were given the opportunity to have a look at the report of the interdepartmental committee to see what its technical recommendations were. Further, I believe it is time that the Government, instead of evading the issue, told this House and the other place the reasons why Duffy's Forest was deliberately rejected despite the recommendations of the inter-departmental committee.

I ask the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this place, to tell us the reasons why it was rejected. T want him to tell us the technical reasons. When I asked the Minister a question on this matter the day after the statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation was brought into this House last Thursday week I was given an evasive reply. Senator Mulvihill in the other place asked the Minister for Civil Aviation himself why it was rejected and what the technical reasons were. He also was met with evasion. It is pretty obvious that the Minister for Social Services has had a very great impact upon this decision. I think it is time that we looked at the report of the interdepartmental committee. It is time that the secrecy surrounding the report was dispelled. We should be able to find out what the committee thinks about the proposals which are being developed in other parts of the world today. For example, seadromes are being considered in the United States of America. We should be able to find out whether 'dromes placed out to sea are a practical proposition. I can only assume that if the inter-departmental committee conducted its inquiry in a proper way it would have inquired into that aspect.

There is a lot in what was said by the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament. He said that the day will come when an aircraft will crash into one of the residential areas surrounding a great airport such as Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport and that when that day comes the whole world will experience a feeling of revulsion and will agree that some action has to be taken. That is why the Leader of the Opposition advocates that airports should be located out in the country. An airport placed in the country could be serviced by feeder aircraft from a capital city. This is a proposal that should be looked at.

I cannot but wonder why there has been such tremendous secrecy about this issue. Despite the fact that I mentioned that there had been a preliminary land survey at Richmond on 18th March last year and that the rumours were that this survey was for a possible second airport, I cannot but wonder why it was that the Government has clouded this matter with secrecy and evasion. Why has the Minister, when I have asked questions, deliberately evaded the issue and denied it. One cannot help wondering whether the Government or the Minister in actual fact misled the House at that time. It is time for us to be honest with one another. It is important that we reach a quick decision on this issue. It is important that we make sure that an airport, irrespective of where it is, is not located near a large residential area, be it Richmond, the far western suburbs of Sydney or any other part of the area surrounding the metropolitan districts of Sydney.

I wrote to the Minister for Civil Aviation on 17th September of this year and asked him the following question:

When will the Joint Federal/State Committees be set up and start considering where the Airport should be sited; that is, whether it is to be at Richmond, Somersby or some other point?

I also asked:

When will the Committee mentioned . . . be likely to make a final decision and recommendation?

I interpose to say that this is important because it is obvious that a quick decision must be reached. I went on to ask:

Is there any proposal for the early use of Richmond aerodrome for freight and commercial flights-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Corbett)Order!I think the honourable member for Chifley's remarks are getting very wide of the Bill. I have allowed him some latitude but I think his remarks are somewhat irrelevant to the Bill.

Mr ARMITAGE - I am dealing with such matters as air safety, international airports and the development of international airports in accordance with Article 44 of the First Schedule of the Act. I believe that safety and the development of international airports are issues of vital importance. I hope that no attempt will be made to stifle me.

Suggest corrections