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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1158

Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) (Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation) - by leave - I have sought leave to make a statement to the House on the present position in the planning to meet the future airport needs of Sydney. Over a long period of years honourable members have shown a deep interest in this matter, not only because of its importance in the overall planning and development of the Sydney region, but also because it is important in the national sense with Sydney as Australia's busiest airline centre and principal international gateway. The starting point in this planning must be a most careful assessment of the likely pattern of growth in the demand for air services between now and the turn of the century. A feature of aviation over the years has been the rapid rate of growth of this demand and the most recent experience has shown no change in this pattern. (Quorum formed) All the studies so far made point to the saturation of the present airport about the end of this decade. There is a clear need for a second airport and the timing for satisfying this need will depend on whether the present airport is expanded, and if so, the form and extent of the expansion. The planning for a new airport is therefore intimately related to the future of the present airport.

There are many people who would like to see the present airport abandoned and all its airline traffic transferred to a new site. Against this proposition there are some important features of Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport, including its proximity to the city and the substantial and unobstructed area of Botany Bay on one side of it. It also represents a large investment - nearly $200m and the cost of its replacement could be much higher. It seems obvious that the only way in which its ultimate closure to airline traffic could be contemplated would be if a new airport can be provided at one of the alternative sites closest to Sydney. The siting of a new airport near Sydney is a particularly difficult task. If it is to provide for air services efficiently, particularly domestic services, it should be located on the coastal plain reasonably near the city. In this area the terrain itself seriously restricts the number of possible sites, and also makes some alternatives very costly indeed. The extent of existing urban development and the proposals for new development also eliminate a number of otherwise suitable areas.

Honourable members are well aware that in 1971 the previous Government adopted the recommendations of a Commonwealth interdepartmental committee to set up jointly with the New South Wales Government a CommonwealthState committee to investigate, and make recommendations upon, the siting of a second airport and also upon the respective roles of the 2 airports in the future. The decision to set up this committee has been endorsed by the present Government. Another recommendation of that committee, which was also adopted at the same time, authorised the Department of Civil Aviation to engage consultants to carry out. at the cost of the Commonwealth, a benefit-cost evaluation of the alternatives available. The report on this evaluation is to be submitted to the CommonwealthState committee and made available to both Governments. After world-wide inquiries the Department of Civil Aviation engaged the very experienced firm, R. Travers Morgan and Partners of London, to carry out the benefit-cost study. In July 1972 the consultants commenced to assemble their team in Sydney, which now includes some 25 experts in the fields of economics, engineering, aviation, town planning, statistics and computers. A number of the team have been drawn from Australian Government and consulting organisations. Under its terms of reference, agreed by both Governments, the CommonwealthState committee was required to address itself to the alternative sites of Richmond and Somersby for a second airport, but without necessarily restricting itself to these locations if the committee considered that others merit detailed consideration. One of the first actions of the committee was to determine whether other sites should be examined. After careful inquiries, and on expert advice, the Committee unanimously agreed that the merits of all possible sites, including those already examined, be reviewed in the light of new technical information now available. Accordingly, in June 1972 the Commonwealth-State committee sought the agreement of the then Minister for Civil Aviation to examine all feasible sites for the new airport.

I remind honourable members that the previous Government decided that Duffy's Forest and Wattamolla should not even be considered, and, at an earlier stage, Towra Point was excluded. These decisions were made before any substantial factual information was available to them. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Commonwealth-State committee received no response to their recommendation. The Liberal Government was not prepared to face up to the important issues involved. The consultants themselves, very early in their appraisal of the problem, made a firm recommendation of a similar nature to that of the Commonwealth-State committee.

This was also referred to the Minister. And so 5 months went by and no decision was given in respect of either of these recommendations by the Liberal Government. Nevertheless, under the direction of the CommonwealthState committee, the consultants continued with the design of the benefit-cost study to commence as soon as a decision on the sites to be examined could be obtained. This work has now virtually been completed and from what I have learnt of it I am confident that this study will present an excellent appraisal of all the significant issues involved in the siting of a new airport, including environmental aspects. A decision on the sites to be considered must be made immediately in order to give an urgently needed focus for the study. I have already mentioned some of the particular difficulties in siting airport facilities near Sydney.

Mr Garland - Mr Deputy Speaker, due to the reluctance of Government supporters to keep the House-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The honourable member will resume his seat.

Mr Garland - 1 draw your attention to the state of the House.

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