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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3069

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) -A little piece of history is always useful when looking at the development of airports. There has been a growing concern over the Brisbane Airport. It has manifested itself in this place and it is certainly manifesting itself in my own State. Brisbane Airport is the most neglected in Australia and it is the worst airport in any mainland capital city. The anger and the concern that have developed are well exemplified by a newspaper article in the Brisbane Courier-Mail dated Saturday, 4 November 1967. The article contains a list of promises in relation to the Brisbane Airport. These promises have now extended well over 10 years. This is merely a record of the last decade. If one were to reach back into the early 1960s, one could peruse the promises made then. I shall read certain excerpts from this article and from the statement of the then Minister for Civil Aviation to indicate just what has not occurred.

The then Minister for Civil Aviation indicated at that time that Brisbane was expected to become Australia's No. 2 international airport under Federal plans to develop it. The Sydney

Airport was to be brought up to an equal standard. The article said, and this is the important point:

The Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Swartz, in Brisbane yesterday confirmed that the Civil Aviation Department had accepted 12,500 feet as the necessary runway length for nonrestricted operations of the Boeing 747. He indicated that Sydney Airport had two runways of 7,900 feet and 5,500 feet in length and that Tullamarine, Melbourne's new $45m airport -

That is in 1967 dollars- due to become fully operational in 1969 will carry only limited jumbo jet traffic and will not be extended to become a major port for them. Tullamarine's main runway will be 8,500 feet. Jumbos using it will do so with restricted loads because of the runway conditions.

The article then described the Darwin Airport and the Perth Airport. The plain fact is that there has been development and extension at every one of those airports within the past decade. There has been none at Brisbane, and Brisbane is the third airport in Australia. It is also the third international airport in Australia. That is why the Courier-Mail, in a magnificent editorial last Friday, made it perfectly clear that it expected something to be done in relation to Brisbane airport. I have not seen such a forthright editorial in that newspaper for a long time. There is a growing and real concern. Let me make it quite clear that the runway at Brisbane airport, in terms of both domestic and international traffic, is the most inadequate runway at any capital city airport in Australia. I say that it is not right that that should be so and I say that it is not a fair go. So the members from Queensland are concerned.

The second reason why they are concerned is simply this: If an airport is stunted the development of a region will be stunted. In some ways airports have become the modern equivalent of seaports. In the past, nations, regions, and states, were built up around their ability to have ocean and sea traffic. That still obtains but airports are a modern counterpart to that position. If an airport is stunted demand and activity through that region will be reduced. That is what is happening with respect to Queensland and that is certainly what is happening quite precisely with respect to Brisbane and south east Queensland today. The plain fact is that the growth of traffic at Brisbane airport has been in excess of the original estimate of the needs of the airport. I am referring to the totality of the traffic, the larger volumes of traffic mentioned by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). I am referring to international traffic, commuter traffic, general aviation traffic and domestic mainline traffic. I am taking them all together. Commuters and other services have as much right to use capital city airports as to other lines. They fulfil a very necesary purpose.

From 1969 to 1976, which included three years of recession, the growth of traffic movement at Brisbane airport was over 6 per cent per year. The growth this year is well in excess of the 6 per cent per year for 1976, and is well in excess of 7 per cent per year. So that airport will reach its full capacity and queuing will have to occur many years earlier than was envisaged in the Brisbane Airport Transport Survey made some years ago. The data on which the survey was based is seriously out of line and seriously out of focus. Therefore we have to look at the proposals in respect of Brisbane airport. Again I look at the long history of promises that have been made in relation to Brisbane airport, so well exemplified by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). Recently, one of the members of the board of Qantas Airways Ltd, Sir John Egerton, who also happens to be an inhabitant of my electorate, pointed out that there were some plans for the immediate development of Brisbane airport which would cost over $200m. These plans which were made public, were for some runway realignment, terminal development, et cetera. As Sir John Egerton indicated, that is a very large expenditure to contemplate. I suggest that that expenditure is totally unrealistic.

As I have pointed out and as Queensland member have made clear, we do not want the development of that airport to be a miniature Snowy Mountains scheme. We do not want anything like that. The realistic program for expenditure for what is required between now and well into the 1990s, towards the end of this century, is one-third of the amount which is being talked about. Some of the programs in respect of runways, I suspect- I cannot obtain all the details of them- are unrealistically elaborate and luxurious. They are unrealistic as to what is required for Brisbane airport. I suspect, and I say this quite frankly, that some of these costs have been so loaded as to make the program unfeasible, to make it quite unrealistic. I suggest that an expenditure of $60m to $70 would satisfy what has been promised in relation to Brisbane airport till the end of this century. What are required are two features in terms of public expenditure: A realigned runway, and sufficient fill for the replacement of terminals. Most of the other expenditures that are required- other expenditures are required- lie within the private enterprise field. We do not want a Taj Mahal. We say that a Taj Mahal is being suggested and worked on in order to make it unrealistic and unattainable. It has the effect of making the financial barrier so high that it cannot possibly be hurdled. We are suggesting modest proposals that are realistic and capable of being fulfilled.

I want to say this: The people in Queensland are becoming increasingly concerned about the airport. Pieces of quite serious misinformation have been conveyed. For example, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who is a very talented Minister, has indicated to the Australian National Travel Association in Queensland that in respect of Brisbane airport there are no real restrictions imposed on international movements at that airport by either the runway or the recently completed international terminal facilities. That is an incorrect statement and the Department of Transport, which is responsible for the operation of the airport in Brisbane, knows that it is incorrect. It knows that international carriers fully loaded- we are talking about economic operations fully loaded- are unable, under the temperatures and the conditions operating, to reach the nearest Asian port. From there planes are required to drop down at Darwin. British Airways planes travel from Brisbane to Sydney and then to Singapore. They have the pleasure of watching planes from Tullamarine airport flying overhead not only on their way to Singapore but also on their way to Hong Kong, Manila and so on. That position is not sufficiently good. It is not a fair position and it is not one that would intend or would be able to defend.

These things have to be pointed out. There are realistic programs which can be put into operation. We ask only that the people who are responsible for the engineering in this area and the consultants responsible for drainage and engineering requirements in Brisbane and in other Queensland areas be consulted, but that the airport not be designed at an unrealistically luxurious level such as we find in Melbourne or some other southern capital. Brisbane airport must have something done to it. Above all we say that any proposal to extend the runway is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for a whole host of reasons. It has also been declared to be unacceptable by the State Government and by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. That proposal has also been declared to be unacceptable by the Liberal Party of Queensland and by the Federal Council of the Liberal Party, by a unanimous vote in both instances. What is required at Brisbane airport is a realigned runway and fill for the establishment of terminals and those other facilities in an appropriate direction. Basically that is all that is required until the turn of this century. Unless that is done, queuing will begin to occur at that airport much earlier in the 1980s than was originally foreseen. Most tragically, unless something is done to develop an adequate airport, promises made in 1967 will be shown to have been promises of straw. But above all, an inadequate airport indicates that a region can be kept back in an unrealistic manner.

Let me make one further comment. The economic conditions under which a development occurs are also important. There can be attitudes towards capital development programs that will occur as a particular stage of an economic cycle. It has been part of the Government's program to have capital works programs restricted more than they would be otherwise . If we accept that fact, it is nonsense to suggest that over the long period that is required for the development of an airport, similar restrictions on capital works programs are going to persist. Is anybody in this House going to suggest that similar restrictions over capital works programs will occur over the next five, six, seven or eight years? The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has indicated that 1978 will be a year of far more substantial economic growth than we have experienced in the immediate past. We welcome that statement. If 1979, 1980 and the early 1980s are going to be years of substantial economic growth, that is the period of time over which a modest capital works program in relation to an airport can be organised and sustained. So the economic circumstances will enable something to be done. In fact, the economic circumstances could encourage that a capital works program be initiated during the next Parliament with respect to Brisbane airport. I suggest that the Courier-Mail editorial has given a magnificent lead to the people of Australia and the people of Queensland. I believe that that lead will be taken.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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