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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9444


Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 08/12/1994

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 9444

PM: and compatibility of the operation of the airport for passengers and
for residents. Now, you will be aware that this been a matter which
has been around for at least 15 years, and the Government in 1989
with the then encouragement and support, indeed pressure of the
NSW Liberal Government decided that Sydney's expansion required
a second parallel runway. That runway was built, built efficiently
again, under time and under budget and it was opened about 4
weeks or so ago. In the meantime we have had a substantial amount
of disquiet about its opening and today the Minister has brought a very
comprehensive package of measures, in addition to those already
announced for noise abatement, to the Cabinet after having heard the
concerns of the community and residents of the surrounding area of
Sydney to the issues. Now, the runway, as you know, was opened
about 4 weeks ago. Before that for most of the last 20-odd years
since the north-south runway was opened into Botany Bay we have
had a cross-intersection of traffic, and we have had the flight plan
arrangements so arranged by air traffic controllers and the Civil
Aviation Authority to accommodate that cross-traffic. It should come as
no surprise to anybody that once that changed and the air traffic
control system had to accommodate 2 parallel lines of traffic or
landings and take-offs to the north and south there had to be a rearrangement
of air traffic control, and a re-arrangement of flight paths
in the area.
You will also be aware that the new control tower and the new control
equipment in the tower is not yet available, and it means that given the
first few weeks of the opening of the airport, there has been a view on
the part of air traffic control managers and operators of aircraft that

they wanted a broader spread for safety until* they became
accommodated to the new environment. In other words, you can't
change a traffic pattern around a major airport that existed for 15 or
years overnight and find everybody back in line on the new runways in
the new systems without a trial and error process a transitional
process. And the transitional process is the one that has basically
brought a lot of residents produced a lot of disquiet, indeed anger,
amongst residents. And they are looking for solutions to ease the
noise burden on them, and to be certain about where the future traffic
movements will be, and how the airport will operate in terms of curfews
etc. Laurie Brereton and I understand those concerns, and today we are
here to do something about them additional to that which we have
already done. Now, in the statement I think you have, you will find
there are a number of key changes here. One is the establishment of
designated flight paths before this we haven't had designated flight
paths we have had a deviation of about 7.8 degrees from the centre
line. But in the past in the last past month, that has been all over the
place, and that has been part of the problem they have been
traversing areas they have never traversed before. These paths will
apply to all jet take-offs and landings there will be penalties for flight
path violation. That is, the adherence to the new flight paths will be
closely monitored and regulations introduced under the Air Navigation
Act to provide a legislative basis for their effective policing, and for
penalties for violation and heavy penalties.
The third element is requirements. for jet aircraft to depart from the
southern end of the main north-south runway, and obtain as much
height as possible over residential areas. In other words, instead of
taking off to the north when the prevailing winds are blowing instead
of taking off to the north from halfway down the runway, they will need
to go right out to the end of the seaward runway which is another
couple of kilometres and take-off from there, and then gain as much
height as possible, which is less fuel efficient for them and more costly
to the airlines. So they have got more time in the taxiing, and costinefficiencies
in the gaining of altitude, but we will be requiring them to
do that. And we are going on then to reaffirm the Government's policy
on operational noise controls, saying that unless otherwise required on
safety or weather grounds, all take-offs must be to the south of the
airport not to the north to the south over Botany Bay. And there will
be no take-offs to the north from the new runway, and the east-west
runway will remain available for use when weather conditions preclude
take-offs on the other parallel runways.
And there are then further decisions about noise treatment measures.
What the Government has decided to do to is to accelerate the
program we have already announced, but instead of it being completed
over 10 years, having it completed over 3 years at a cost of around

million each year. The levy will still stay on the airline industry,
but we the Commonwealth will carry the upfront costs and collect the
levy later. And the insulation programs will commence immediately for
schools and colleges, and we will expect that the school and college
insulation program will be completed by the end of the first term of the
new school year. We are particularly concerned that schools and
colleges and children who have, of course, experienced this noise in
the past, but may now experience it more frequently will find
themselves much more relieved of it, and we will be having the
Department of Administrative Services assisting in the early
commencement of that program.
We go on to talk about Badgerys Creek, saying that we have already
spent $ 150 million acquiring the airport, committing a further $ 120
million to a 2,900 metre runway, commence the EIS and the operations
for a national highway out to there, and also a study to secure a rail
corridor and on how the airport might be developed in the future.
Lastly and importantly, there will be a stringent enforcement of the
curfew arrangements. The curfew regulations under the Air Navigation
Act will be amended to provide for financial penalties for unauthorised
operations under the curfew because we have seen, on occasions,
some substantial incursions into those arrangements. Now, we have
got some maps on the wall behind me I'll point out some points to
these in a minute and then I will invite Laurie Brereton to add to my
remarks, and perhaps deal with some of the points that I haven't. But I
would just like to make these points to you this decision was always
taken by the Government in terms of getting the balance between
social and economic imperatives right. The airport was going to be
built at some time better for the residents to have it built more on their
terms than less on their terms. There were 180,000 people affected by
Mascot airport noise that is now reduced to 90,000. So that has been
cut in half. Now the aim of the game is to reduce the burden of the
change on that 90,000. And the other point I would like to make is that
in the month that the airport has been opened, we have had most
unseasonal summer winds persistent northerly winds which are
unseasonal for this time of year. And once the northerly winds go over
knots, for safety reasons the aircraft are required to take off to the
north. This is unusual so we have got an unusual concurrence of
events. Firstly, the change pattern of air traffic movements which is a
great change from the past and spreads which have come from that
which in any other operational circumstances would be unlikely,
prevailing northerly winds which are way, way different than the
year average with many people in the industry remarking about the
unseasonality of the persistent northerly winds and the take-offs to the
north and also the silly season of a state election campaign, which is
bringing out the worst absolutely the worst in all the political players,
and most particularly of course John Fahey and his ministers. And as

a consequence we have had a very large public debate and a few
public meetings.
Now, before I invite Laurie Brereton to make some points, I will make a
couple of points off the charts and then I will leave the discussion over
to him. But let me repeat the points these are major changes, and
they make a major difference to a lot of people living in the vicinity of
the airport, or certainly under the flight paths.
( discussion of maps)
LB: If I can supplement those remarks, and say the key in terms of the
restriction of the flight path, is that by the time planes arrive on takeoff,
at the Parramatta River, the spread of planes will be restricted to .8
of 1 nautical mile, and that is about a third of the spread that was
allowed under the old arrangements that is the 7.8 degree deviation on
either side. So you can see, at that point, where as the Prime Minister
has said, planes fully laden jumbo's and 747' s will be at about 14 or
1500 feet, it will be flying in a much tighter configuration than has
previously been the case. And of course, that is, that, for the first time,
will be a configuration enforceable at law, in that a corporation that
flies outside of those guidelines will be liable, for prosecution with a
maximum penalty of up to $ 25,000, and this is a significant measure
introduced to make sure that we not only have tight patterns, but that
we have adequate policing of them as well. I might say something
about the curfew as well, because, the Prime Minister has indicated
that Cabinet agreed today to a much tougher approach in respect of
the curfew at Mascot Airport. The curfew at the moment of course
applied between the hours of 11 at night and 6 in the morning, subject
to certain classes of planes being able to fly during the night, and
subject in addition to that, to some exemptions between 11 and 12 at
night and 5 and 6 in the morning, and only to a total of 14 per week.
We found that the exemptions have been taken up as part of the norm,
in the last 12 months there were 257 dispensations granted for flights
in the curfew hours and we intend to take a much tougher approach to
the whole question of the curfew and it will also, for the first time, be
enforceable with penalties of up to $ 25,000. All told today we -have got
a package agreed to by Cabinet of great significance. The bringing
forward of the funding amount to $ 180 million being spent over three
years not ten, paid for off the budget, recouped over the ten years by
the tax on the airlines. The new tight flying paths will restrict greatly
the number of people affected, and indeed, the new arrangements for
maximum climb in commencing take-off from the southern most end of
the runway will also greatly alleviate the noise nuisance that people
are experiencing at the moment. So we think that these measures
combined as they are in this package will tackle the difficulties being
faced by people in Sydney quite comprehensively. It is a fact that the
overwhelming majority are better off at the moment, but that does not

for a moment lift the burden on those who are suffering increase noise
nuisance as a result of these arrangements. But just let me say
something finally about the question of safety, it needs to be
remembered that one of the key benefits of this new parallel runway
configuration is not just a question of extra capacity, lifting it up to
approximately 85 take-offs and landings per hour, but they're take-offs
and landings that are operating on the one axis, without intersecting
flight patterns, and the sort of incident that we saw only in the last
couple of years, we have seen a couple of them, but there was one in
particular with a Thai Airlines DCI 10, a Qantas 747 and an Ansett A320
which could easily have ended in a very considerable disaster, will be
avoided as a result of these arrangements, because simultaneous
take-offs and landings, which is a less safe mode of operation will be
eliminated, so that's a plus for safety. This package is a plus for the
residents affected by noise nuisance in Sydney and if I can just add
one final thing, and that is, I was told this morning that the operators at
the airport had the airport now operating at very close to the capacity
that existed prior to the new arrangements coming into place. In fact, if
you take out the second two weeks of the operation of the new
arrangements, we recorded this year 52 take-offs and landings per
hour, that compares with the same two weeks of last year at 54 per
hour, there has been a further improvement over the last two weeks
and we are very confident that the airport will be operating without any
reduction in its capacity and operating more safely for Christmas. So
are there any questions.
J: Mr Brereton you don't appear to have sped up the building of
Badgery's Creek any faster than what was announced in Working
LB: Well I think there has been a great deal of work done, on the contrary,
in respect of Badgery's Creek since the Working Nation Statement
advanced the timetable for Badgery's Creek construction by some
years. The commitment in Working Nation of $ 120 million to build a
full operational strip, that is a 2900 metre strip of sufficient pavement
thickness to accommodate any class of jet up to a 747, was a very big
dollar commitment, and it is one that has been reinforced with our
subsequent commitment of some $ 200 million in road works linking
Badgerys Creek with the national highway system and in turn with the
so that there will be a link between the two airports Kingsford
Smith on the one hand and Badgerys Creek on the other end as is of
course, the study that is already under way with the NSW Government
on reserving a rail corridor so that we can have a public transport link.
So that you genuinely in the future can have these two airports
hubbing back to back. But having said that, we only got that go-ahead
in May of this year and it is a great planning job to be done to make
sure that Badgerys Creek is properly planned and is sequentially
planned so that it can open at the earliest possible date and can be
added to to meet demand over time. Now we have a task force

working at this very moment on that and it is pulling together all of the
disciplines necessary to guarantee that that master planning is done
and done perfectly and that we don't have a half-baked airport out
there, that we have a properly designed and built airport that can meet
the future airport needs of Sydney and take some of this load off
Kingsford Smith, because as the Prime Minister has said, we have had
an expansion in demand between February and November of this year
of 50% on the peak hours of the peak days, and with that demand
coming through from the airlines, it will only be a matter of months
before all of the capacity of Kingsford Smith is used up again, even
with the new ground radar, even with the 85 take-offs and landings per
hour. So, that makes it all the more important to get the planning right,
to build the road, to get the rail link reserved, to build that runway, and
we're committed to doing that and then to get on and open Badgerys
Creek as soon as possible.
J: The spending in the Forward Estimates set aside for Badgerys Creek
into this year's budget
LB: Well the job this year of course is to spend a lot of money on planning,
because it is fair to say that there has not been anywhere enough
planning done on Badgerys Creek to date. I mean, up until April of this
year, no-one had so much as thought of putting a line on a map to
reserve a road corridor to link the two airports. The NSW Government
had simply not accounted for an airport link, road or rail, in its planning
arrangements. Now that's the sort-of fundamental planning I want to
make sure we get right. That's what the master planning must
encompass. That and every other element of development. We don't
want to have an airport that is other than the absolute optimum design
and that Taskforce is working to deliver that result for us now.
J: Does this plan turn the Liberal voters of the North Shore into victims of
winner take all politics as Mr Howard alleges?
PM: Well, there is only one way you can take-off from the north/ south
runway, which has been built for twenty years and that's north over Mr
Howard's electorate, and knowing that, Mr Howard said, when asked
" do you think the Government will go for a third runway?" -this is in
March ' 89 " I think it will, I hope they do, they should have gone for it 6
1/ 2 years ago. There's an overwhelming case for building it", he said,
and, you know, " if they don't build it, they will have totally betrayed
Sydney's interest in the interest of the tourist industry". So that's the
members own views.
.:... i. tn naowrr osow th at it's more concentrated
LB: Can I say something on this score of Mr Howard's comments today.
Mr Howard's electorate is more than 6 nautical miles from the airport.
To get to it you have got to travel over three Labor electorates. The

seats of Grayndler, Sydney and Lowe, and as the Prime Minister has
said, by the time they get to Mr Howard's electorate, under this
arrangement, a Boeing 747 will be travelling at approximately 2250
feet as opposed to the current practice of 1400 or 1500 feet. And if
any, either Mr Howard or his constituents are troubled by that, and I
know that many will be, they should come down to Sydenham and
Tempe and see what real noise nuisance is all about. This is not a
case of doing anything other than getting the optimum efficiency, the
optimum safety and minimising the noise impact, and it will be Labor
electorates that bear the burden now as they always have, and will
continue in the future. And breastbeating from John Howard is really
the last thing that we need now.
PM: hypocritical breastbeating. Can I just say, before I do just make this
point though, John Howard's as are other constituents will benefit from
this because the aircraft will be higher the track that they have had
over their electorates for twenty odd years. So, they will be higher and
therefore the noise profile will be better.
LB: Could I just, I know that John Howard aspires to be Leader of the
Opposition once again, but it is worth recalling what he published last
time he was Leader of the Opposition on his ' Leader of the Opposition'
letterhead in 1989 when he said this in the interests of safety,
airport facilities should be upgraded immediately", including he said
" the construction of the third runway, a decision is needed and the
Government has to face up to its responsibilities". So, it is a bit late in
the day for him to be putting on the performance that we have seen
from him today.
PM: The core point is that aircraft have always taken this track ever since
the seaward runway was built, the original north-south runway. What
we are doing today is making it better, for not only Mr Howard's
constituents but others by getting more height, by making aircraft take
off further back down the runway at the seaward end and obliging the
airlines to spend more money on fuel by getting height and, of course,
we are doing as few governments in the world are doing, none are
doing in fact developing the most comprehensive noise abatement
procedures out through those affected areas.
J: Prime Minister, do you think now that may be you made the wrong
decision five years ago, instead of fast tracking Badgerys Creek,
instead of building the third runway now. All the problems the Minister
and yourself have outlined noise and traffic congestion. I mean you
could get rid of that if you accept what the minister said five years ago
when he didn't want the third runway built and you, chief amongst the
lot of them, was hot and strong to build it.
PM: The consensus was with the NSW government, Mr Greiner

J: ( inaudible) it was a Federal government decision.
PM: No, just a second, it was a decision of the Federal Government at the
urging of the NSW government that had to provide a lot of the
surrounding infrastructure and who had no intention of doing anything
for Badgerys Creek, as the Minister has already told you, they didn't
even have the wit or the sense to at least plan a corridor for traffic out
to it. Even at this point. So, let's go through the thing. ' NSW
Government Swoops on the Runway'. Premier Nick Greiner said ' work
on a third runway should start as soon as possible' 20 September
1990. In 1989 the Premier, Mr Greiner urged the Federal
government to cut the red tape and start preparing the runways EIS.
Certainly the State will do all it can and will hasten the study', and he
goes on in that vein. And, there are half a dozen press releases from
him. Then we had John Fahey the current Premier on 18 January
1993 saying about the curfew, that w e should reinvestigate the curfew.
He said ' I think, we have got to remember that when the curfew was
put on it was in relation to a certain decibel level of aeroplanes. That
decibel level of aeroplanes has dropped significantly and it is time we
had the debate.' Ti'me we had the debate about suspending the
J: But Prime Minister, I'm not suggesting that you listened to Nick Greiner
and not Laurie Brereton ( inaudible)..
PM: Just a second Alan ( Ramsey). I picked up all the nuances of your
question, I don't need additional help, thanks very much. John Sharp
who is the Opposition's spokesman said I have repeatedly called for
the commencement of construction of a parallel north-south runway
and a new international terminal. The quickest, easiest most cost
effective solution to this problem is the construction of a third runway
at Kingsford Smith, not at Badgerys Creek.' Mr Fischer, Leader of the
National Party any further delay in deciding on a third runway at
Mascot would mean loss of life as well as economic insanity'. Charles
Blunt who was then spokesman for transport said he was joining a
petition campaign to add to the mounting pressure on the Hawke
government to build a third runway at Kingsford Smith.' And it goes on
and on. Then, you have got Mr Jull who is the shadow spokesperson
for tourism, aviation and sport the construction of a new third
runway for Sydney should be commenced immediately', he said in July
1989 and Mr Howard saying it should have been built six and a half
years earlier'. I mean, that was the general consensus of the political
parties about this.
LB: Can I just add that it was also the consensus of all the assembled
journalists at all those press conferences that I attended in the days
that I was campaigning about Badgerys Creek. Because, press
conference after press conference people said ' well, aren't you just

interested in local parochial issues, isn't this just a case of looking after
your own backyard?'
PM: We were being urged to introduce a major micro economic reform
question by many of you in the room today.
J: Do you still think
PM: And, any questions from you Geoff ( Kitney) on the basis that some
tricky little ploy about whether a decision is right or not is basically
hypocritical. Of course it is. It needs to be rejected with the contempt
it deserves.
J: No. I still think it's the right decision. I'm asking if you still do.
PM: Well, the airport has been built, it is an actuality.
J: Exactly.
PM: Exactly. Therefore, the decision of the Government, what we have to
do is to make sure that the airport operates effectively, efficiently and
with much more compatibility with residents' interests.
J: What was the advice to you from the airline companies of the double
effect of the designated flight paths and the take offs from the extreme
southern end on their schedules?
LB: It has been indicated to me by my officials that it is likely to lead to a
very minor reduction in the optimum number of planes that they can
squeeze in and out of Kingsford Smith. It will, at the margin, have
some affect, because aeroplanes will have to cross the major northsouth
runway to get onto the taxi way to proceed to the very southern
most tip of runway 34L. That said, it will give us a much better
environmental result and, I think, it is certainly worth the effort.
J: So, the effect of this is that fewer flights will be able to come in and
LB: But, I think you should see that against the backdrop of the tower
coming on stream in February or March of next year and of the ground
radar coming in later next year and the capacity of the airport being
lifted from its present capacity of the high 50s up to 80 to 85 take-offs
and landings per hour. So, this will give us safety and will give us a
good environmental outcome and will not be a great burden for the
airline industry to bear, especially with the very good efforts of the air
traffic controllers that have already seen capacity recover to that which
existed under the old simultaneous operations at the airport.

J: Was any consideration given to allowing take-offs to the north off the
new runway in order to spread the burden of take-off noise?
PM: A policy decision was made about that in 1989 at the time and that has
never been altered.
J: It was a political opposition rather than..
J: There's a hotel in the way!
PM: There is now a hotel in the way apparently, but there we are.
J: Well, that's factually correct, but..
PM: Well, it's there. I don't know whether you haven't seen it as you drove
J: But, it doesn't prohibit take-offs.
PM: Well, you can occupy the top floor.
LB: I think the reality, you need to see this airport for what it is. It is a
parallel runway airport now which will have a maximum capacity
operating those parallels with take-offs to the south preferably, but to
the north when necessary 85 take-offs and landings. But, when there
are big cross winds, it will of necessity drop to about 40 because they
can only use the east-west runway which will remain open. But, to
suggest that we should add to the air port with take-offs to the north on
the new parallel runway, to squeeze it from 85 up to 90, with all of the
environmental consequences that would have for take-offs, twice as
noisy as landings, to the north in a new area, I think, would be a very
bad deal for Sydney. I would much prefer to get on with the
development of Badgerys Creek and see it as the supplementary
airport for Sydney.
J: There is a suggestion it would spread the noise rather have it all
running off the old north-south, having it run off both north-south..
PM: Tom ( Burton) you have got a debate now about the additional noise
affects of a parallel runway system, fair enough. Imagine the debate
we would have had if the Thai's DC10 had collided with the A320
Ansett plane. The vectored directions of their collision would have
then picked up a 747 which Qantas had and the whole lot of them
would have ended up in the overseas terminal. That's what we had on
our hands here. And, as the demand for air traffic out of Sydney has
risen along with all traffic movements of Australia, it was getting
impossible to run that system. The whole system is based on the fact
that only pilots familiar with the system and certificated for it can use it.
So, an international pilot cannot use the cross runway unless that pilot

has flown in and out of Australia, been to the CMA and has a certificate
about the use of the runway.
Now, even with it, I mean, I just picked up a Sydney Morning Herald
report of that incident and it said this, on the day 13 August 1991
simultaneous landings are standard on the two main runways at
Sydney airport. When two planes land at once with one stopping short
of the intersection to allow the other plane to land safely'. So, in other
words if the pilot overflies and then for either water, rain, breaking or
anything, can't stop short of the intersection he collects the one on the
other runway. I mean, that is the system we have had.
J: But, it never happened.
PM: It nearly happened. They were in the international journal Flight
International, I mean Alan ( Ramsey), you would be wringing your
hands, the rhetoric would be dripping out of your column, the papers
would be soaked with the feigned indignation that that cynical remark
you have just made subsumes. Now, the fact is..
J: ( Ramsey) Prime Minister, I would argue you are making cynical
PM: I'm not here to debate with you Alan. Flight International said this
investigators believe that the A320 passed about 33 feet above the
DCIO0'. Now, not long later my predecessor in a VIP aircraft also had a
problem with aborting a flight on the cross wind runway. The fact is,
you don't have to be an air traffic controller to know that a parallel
system of flights in and out of Sydney is far safer than a set of cross
runways and you can have this debate, but if we had a collision on the
cross wind ' runway it would be the incumbent Minister for Transport
right in the slot, we would have hand wringing on a scale that we have
never seen before. So, the parallel system is the right system and the
key is to get it into place and it is, I think, a great pity that John Fahey
has shown no leadership in this, that he has run off hiding with a little
bit of poor politics when in fact he knows the safety issues as well as
Laurie Brereton and I know and he knows that his government
supported it all the way through. I mean, there must be some public
decisions in this country that deserve some integrity of treatment, even
from people like John Fahey.
We have got about three minutes and we have to go off. Question
Time is at 3: 00pm. So, two more questions.
J: What penalties apply to the airlines if they ignore the directive to takeoff
from the southern most end. You say penalties will apply if they
ignore the deviation from the main take-offs to the north. Will they
apply if they..

LB: They will be directed to the southern most point on that runway and
they will have no option but to take-off from there. That will be the
standard operational practice for where jets commence their take-offs
at Mascot in future.
J: How much will the extra fuel cost and do you think that will fit into
higher ticket prices?
LB: I was told it might cost $ 20 a flight to get these arrangements in place.
PM: Not a ticket is it?
LB: $ 20 a flight, not a ticket. That is $ 20 for the plane, so I suppose it will
depend on the number of passengers, but I don't think it is anywhere
near too great a price to bear for the sort of benefits that will flow from
PM: We will leave it at that. Thanks very much for coming.

Transcript 9444