I spoke today about the issue of aircraft noise, responding to a private member’s motion moved by Judi Moylan.
Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill 2011
18 June 2012
I rise to speak on the Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill 2011 to highlight a range of government initiatives significantly improving aircraft noise management around Australia’s airports. I do so as a member with the Canberra airport in my electorate. In rising, I acknowledge the hard work being done by the Canberra airport to minimise the impact of aircraft noise on the surrounding suburbs. As a father of two little boys who enjoy looking up in the sky and seeing aeroplanes flying overhead, I am aware that my views on aircraft are probably different from those of many of my constituents who, while aircraft noise is not as severe in Canberra as in other cities, do note the impact of aircraft. I am in ongoing conversations with Canberra airport to make sure the impact of aircraft noise on Canberrans is minimised.
In the aviation white paper of December 2009, the government set out a path for improving the management of aircraft noise around Australia’s airports. As Australia’s first ever comprehensive national aviation policy statement it identified solutions, the industry’s current challenges, and aimed to guide its growth over the coming two decades. The white paper was the product of more than 18 months of consultations and there were hundreds of submissions made during that process. Prior to the release of the aviation white paper in 2009, the government released an issues paper in April 2008 and a green paper in December 2008.
Federal Labor has a strong record on aircraft noise. One of the important decisions we made since coming to office was to ban the older and noisy jet aircraft such as the hush-kitted Boeing 727s from Australia’s major airports because they contributed to unacceptable levels of noise around those airports. The government gave effect for amendments to the aircraft noise regulations in May 2010. From 1 July 2010, no new services using those types of aircraft were allowed in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin, Cairns, Gold Coast, Essendon, Newcastle, Williamstown, Avalon and Canberra airports. From 1 September 2010 all existing services using those hush-kitted Boeing 727s ceased at Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
The white paper also recognised airport operations have a major impact on community. Issues such as aircraft noise, traffic congestion and pressure on public transport all require cooperative management between airport operators, all levels of government and local communities. I am very much aware of that in the ACT where the federal government in the latest budget put $144 million into the Majura Parkway, an arterial road that will link up the Federal Highway to the Canberra airport thereby minimising the impact of the airport on traffic congestion. That will be the largest road building project in the ACT’s history. I am pleased that the ACT government has contributed fifty-fifty to that road building project, setting, I think, a good standard for other states and territories.
There has been a positive response to the government’s initiatives from the community and the aviation industry. Airservices Australia, our national air traffic services provider, and industry continue to express concerns over this private member’s bill even as amended. In response to the aviation white paper, the 19 federally leased airports have established local, independently chaired Community Aviation Consultation Groups to help discuss and examine a range of community related issues, including aircraft noise. These are now underway at all 19 airports.
Local residents are represented by community members on these groups, and Airservices Australia is represented and is actively briefing all of these groups. These local groups are helping to address planning and development issues and a range of other operational matters, such as aircraft noise, allowing parties to exchange information and examine concerns raised by residents. Local residents are represented by community members on these groups, and Airservices Australia is represented on all of these groups.
Coalition members are attending these groups: the member for McPherson has attended the Gold Coast consultative group; and the member for Herbert has attended the Townsville consultative group. Of particular note for the member for Pearce, is the establishment of the Perth Community Aviation Consultation Group and the healthy engagement by a diversity of people on that committee.
Another key white paper initiative was the establishment of an Aircraft Noise Ombudsman to examine and make recommendations about noise complaint and information handling issues. The Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, respected former Deputy Commonwealth Ombudsman, Mr Ron Brent, is already making a difference. For example, the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman’s 2011 report on complaints handling made 18 specific recommendations for improvement, all of which Airservices Australia is implementing. Similarly, Airservices Australia has accepted the seven recommendations made from the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman’s review on noise information and complaint resolution for Perth completed in November 2011.
This government has strengthened the environmental focus of Airservices Australia. The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has provided a strategic direction to the Airservices board last year under section 17 of the act, which requires that Airservices effectively consult with the community on any significant developments or changes to its services.
The Airservices Australia board has itself responded by setting up a dedicated board environmental subcommittee. There are also sound governance provisions in place for Airservices Australia, including corporate plan provisions requiring the board to consider the government’s objectives, which include assisting the implementation of environmental initiatives in relation to aircraft noise management.
Another white paper commitment is the planning coordination forums which are underway at every major capital city passenger airport. These are the vehicle for constructive, ongoing dialogue on matters such as master plans, proposed on-airport developments, regional planning initiatives and off-airport matters.
Minimising the impact of aircraft noise is a joint responsibility of airports and local planning authorities. It matters for long-term planning in our major cities that developments do not proceed where they will lead to public safety risks or unacceptable levels of aircraft noise. That is why the government has engaged with all states and territories to develop a set of principles for safeguarding airports from inappropriate developments in surrounding areas.
We are not aiming to constrain development but to make sure that airport and government planners work together more constructively than they have in the past and, through the Community Aviation Consultation Groups, there is now an independent ombudsman to direct further difficulties to and Airservices Australia are being proactive in their engagement with communities.
It is in this context that we must question the value of the member for Pearce’s bill. Compared with ongoing government aircraft noise initiatives, the bill offers a ministerially-imposed, taxpayer-funded community adviser scheme with the potential to make community consultation more polarised. It also proposes a reopening of established safe flight paths at Perth and unwieldy and unnecessary additional consultation and reporting arrangements.
Lessons have been learnt on better consultation on complex air traffic issues, since air traffic changes were made to address emerging safety issues in 2008. These air traffic changes were approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and since then Airservices Australia has carried out a post-implementation review of the changes to see where improvements can be made to assist in reducing impacts on the community.
This government has established a strong platform for better aircraft noise management and consultation arrangements at our airports. We have put a white paper together when those opposite had over 10 years to do something. The frustrations around this bill were created a long time before we come to government, and the government’s aviation white paper set out the initiatives for better consultation and better information to the community in relation to air traffic and aircraft noise management issues. This is exactly what is being delivered through the work of the Community Aviation Consultative Groups, the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman and the increased engagement of Airservices, airport and airline operators.