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Senate Estimates: Department Transport and Infrastructure and agencies

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 12 Jul 2013

Senator Rhiannon questions the Department of Transport and Infrastructure and transport agencies - ATRC, Air Services Australia and CASA.

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee - 29/05/2013 - Estimates - INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO - Infrastructure Australia

CHAIR: Thanks, Senator Gallacher. Senator Rhiannon?

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Chair. Is the Infrastructure Australia's position on tolls on motorways still that the preference is not to toll any existing sections?

Mr Deegan : Infrastructure Australia has taken the view that there should be a closer connection between the user and the payment they make for use of roads. Certainly we have taken the view that the network approach to these sorts of issues as broader issues, as Senator Ludlam referred, is one where pricing of road use is appropriate, and we would recommend that governments closely consider the opportunity to apply tolls more broadly.

Senator RHIANNON: So that is your recommendation? Is that the standard recommendation that goes with all motorway projects?

Mr Deegan : Essentially that is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: Just on the West Connex project, so that—there has been some controversy around tolls there, so you are recommending tolls should be with that project?

Mr Deegan : At this stage, Senator, West Connex is at an early stage. The New South Wales government is considering its business case development, and again, our view would be that there is an opportunity to apply tolls as part of that project.

Senator RHIANNON: So that recommendation has been given to the minister?

Mr Deegan : Not as yet, because West Connex is still at an early stage of our consideration.

Ms O'Connell : Senator, the federal government has made a commitment to assist funding with the development of the business case for West Connex. That work is currently underway. So it is not yet at a stage of submission to Infrastructure Australia?

Senator RHIANNON: So is it correct the minister has said it should be tolled?

Ms O'Connell : No, the minister's position was made clear that existing roads should not be tolled in order to fund the West Connex project.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Mr Deegan, with regard to how you approach many of these projects, I know that you have this emphasis that there needs to be a clear focus on making better use of the existing networks, the efficient movement of freight and the efficient movement of road based public transport. Does that fit into the national urban policy? Is that part of the starting point when you were assessing what you are doing with that policy?

Mr Deegan : Certainly, senator. We think there is a lot to be gained in most of our major cities, and indeed in regional Australia, from better use of the existing assets, whether they are road, rail or indeed in water and the like, and that that will often provide a better return to the tax payer and the users as part of that process. So our road systems typically in cities are heavily used for relatively short periods of the day. I think Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are getting more and more congested for longer periods, but there are ways that we could better use that road asset, indeed in truck configuration and the like. Similarly in our rail system; what systems do we need in place to ensure that the freight trains, for example, are fully loaded, axle weights are heavier, so we can make more efficient use of that space? Often the money spent there will provide a better return, in some cases, than necessarily new green field projects.

Senator RHIANNON: So does the IA's requirement to make use of existing networks imply an exclusion of major road extensions or expansions?

Mr Deegan : No, it is a combination of those things. We would see those as part of a package of solutions, so both better use of existing assets and in some cases new assets to complement the existing arrangements.

Senator RHIANNON: So you also have the—you will conduct assessments of all projects over $100 million that seek funding under Nation Building program 2. When will IA conduct or release an assessment of Sydney's West Connex?

Mr Deegan : Senator, as indicated, the work on West Connex from the New South Wales government is at the business case development. Once we have the opportunity to review that business case and once it is provided, we will provide assessment work on that.

Senator RHIANNON: Will funding proceed if Infrastructure Australia does not judge it appropriate? Can you just explain how that process works, please?

Mr Deegan : Senator, advisers advise and governments decide. We advise on projects. It is a matter for governments to determine the approach they wish to take.

Senator RHIANNON: Are there examples where the minister has disagreed with your advice?

Mr Deegan : I am sure the minister would consider our advice in all of his decisions.

Senator RHIANNON:    I am talking about past history. So are there examples where they have not followed your advice?

Mr Deegan : Of the 10 projects that we have recommended to date ready to receive, the Commonwealth government has funded each of those projects.

Senator RHIANNON: I notice that several submissions to Infrastructure Australia in the past year have continued to focus on the development of large motorways. They are often presented when your material is out there and you talk about them as freight roads, when what we find is that 80 to 90 per cent of the projected traffic is expected to be private vehicles. So when you read into the detail, it sometimes appears there is a contradiction. So, considering that that issue of the efficient movement of freight is listed as one of your key points and you are talking about these as freight roads, is there a contradiction in how this actually plays out in terms of your recommendations?

Mr Deegan : Thank you—a good question. I think the earlier question you asked, about efficient use of roads in this case, and the freight system can be drawn together. We think that a number of these major road projects are essential to move goods and services through the freight network and a continuing focus is part of our work. In terms of better utility of those roads and the use of cars, I think there are some issues around the pricing of car usage of those systems and we have recommended tolls be considered as part of the answer.

Senator RHIANNON: Just moving on: there was the news today that the Parramatta Epping rail line funding has been pushed out. Is that something you can comment on?

Mr Deegan : No.


Senator RHIANNON: Mr Mrdak, I understand that most of the $24 billion Nation Building infrastructure funding for the next phase is set to kick in beyond the forward estimates. That is correct, is it?

Mr Mrdak : There is funding. The forward estimates period runs until 2017-18, whereas the Nation Building Program extends a further year beyond that.

Senator RHIANNON: So it does go beyond. Thanks. Can you confirm how much is allocated this year? I read one figure of $3 billion but I was just trying to get that confirmed—or a bit over $3 billion.

Mr Mrdak : In this current year we are in or in the first year of the Nation Building 2 Program?

Senator RHIANNON: The first year of the Nation Building 2.

Mr Mrdak : In the first year of the Nation Building 2 Program, 2014-15, the government has committed $5.851 billion.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay. On budget night, with the media releases and looking at all those projects—just under 40 projects—the table that I got then was $15 billion of project announcements. But there is the $24 billion in total, so what is that additional $9 billion doing?

Mr Mrdak : It covers a range of programs which are existing and continuing. We covered some of those a little bit earlier, but I am happy to give you the figures again. It is for Roads to Recovery, Black Spots, maintenance and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, for instance. Those are four programs which the government has provided funding for to continue on to the program, as well as the new projects, which are effectively the $15.4.billion—which is essentially your projects.

Senator RHIANNON: I am sorry I missed that. Maybe you have given this information. I was after a list of how much money will be spent on what projects in the coming four financial years, including the one we are in.

Mr Mrdak : I think we have just been through that with Senator Nash.

Senator RHIANNON: Right, that is what all that was.

Mr Mrdak : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Were you dividing that up by year?

Mr Mrdak : Yes, we provided that by year, but I am happy to run through the totals again.

Senator RHIANNON: No, you did—

Mr Mrdak : Then we gave the answer to Senator Nash in terms of individual project commitments by the government on Nation Building 2.

Senator RHIANNON:    . Good. Okay, I can look that up. Where I am trying to go is the new public transport spending out of that. Can you identify those projects, please. I do remember it was a long list.

Mr Mrdak : There are a number of projects there. I will start, perhaps, and my colleagues will tell me if I missed any. There is a commitment of $3 billion of grant funding to the Melbourne Metro project, plus a commitment to meet a proportion of the future availability payments under public-private partnership financing. There is a project in Brisbane, the Cross River Rail project, which is a cumulative—

Ms O'Connell : It is $715 million. There is the Perth light rail or airport component; that is $500 million. Tonsley Park Public Transport Project in South Australia is $31.5 million. They are new commitments. There are a range of existing commitments that continue: for example, the Moreton Bay Rail Link in Queensland. We have talked about the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link and the Regional Rail Link Project in Victoria and the Perth City Link project, in addition to the projects completing, such as the Noarlunga to Seaford Rail Extension project in South Australia. Previously announced is the Goodwood and Torrens Junctions project in South Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: So new projects are about $4.5 billion. Is that about $10 billion for current and past projects being completed? Where I am going with this is just trying to get a comparison between your roads and motorway spending and public transport to see if it is still lagging.

Ms O'Connell : Can we answer more generally on that. Broadly over the Nation Building Programs—so 1, 2 and 3—the rail investment is approximately 25 per cent of the overall program envelope over those periods of Nation Building 1, 2 and 3 forward commitments.

Senator RHIANNON: So that has been consistent each year.

Mr Mrdak : No, in fact the commitment, particularly to urban public transport rail, has been increasing considerably over the last few years and will continue. The two major investments that the government has committed to are the Melbourne and Brisbane rail projects; they are the largest single commitments.

Ms O'Connell : So in any one year it will not be a split; it is very much based around the need of the project. With those major urban rail projects such as Cross River Rail and Melbourne Metro, the funding flows according to when the major need is in terms of the construction of those projects.

Senator RHIANNON:    Within that 25 per cent, can you then give us a breakdown between passenger and freight?

Mr Mrdak : We can do that; if we have not got it here, we can get it for you fairly quickly.

Mr Jaggers : The government has made investment commitments of $16.7 billion on freight rail, intermodal and urban passenger rail. The breakdown of that is that on freight rail there is a $5.1 billion investment. On urban passenger rail investments it is $11.6 billion.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I know I will be wound up soon, but I wanted to just move on and pick up on the response you gave, Mr Mrdak, to Senator Ludlam's question about active transport. There was no dollar amount there. Does that mean that you have given up on implementing the work of the Major Cities Unit in your urban policy in terms of actually taking it forward so the projects happen?

Mr Mrdak : No, far from it. What I was indicating to Senator Ludlam earlier this morning is that the government has made strong commitments in relation to providing for active transport provision in the program, including many of the road, rail projects that have been announced; they will all have an active travel funding component. What I was saying to Senator Ludlam—he was asking about cycling infrastructure—is that there is no dedicated cycling infrastructure program per se. We continue to do work on active travel. It is an area, as you know, where we have recently been out with an active travel discussion paper, to which we received about 138 submissions. We are currently going back to government with advice on that matter.

Senator RHIANNON: That has been the response that has been given at many estimates and some very good work has been done on that, but we do not see it coming out in terms of dollar amounts and projects. So that is what I am trying to identify here. Is there anything to show for it?

Mr Mrdak : When you get the quantum of investment in urban public rail that the government has put into this budget, I think that is a fairly strong demonstration—

Senator RHIANNON: No, I am talking about active transport at the moment. The question is just about active transport.

Mr Mrdak : We certainly do look at urban public rail as a contributor to active travel and active transport. Certainly this has been a substantial lift in expenditure by the government in that area coming off the back of its commitment to major cities.

Senator RHIANNON: I will ask it again in terms of cycling and pedestrian, because I think you know that that is what active transport means. I know public transport can contribute to it, but the question was about pedestrian and cycling forms of transport.

Mr Mrdak : Certainly, while there are no dedicated programs at this point by the government in relation to cycling and the like, there are substantial investments in the Nation Building Program which will involve active transport facilities.

Senator RHIANNON:    Thank you for that, Mr Mrdak. With the motorway projects, do you advocate or is it ever part of the conditions that it should have bicycle lanes linked with it?

Mr Mrdak : It is certainly the government's position that wherever possible those projects should provide for active travel to be included in the design, which enables both pedestrian and cycling access, yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Have you then built in provisions that they are actually retained, noting the experience in New South Wales, where cycleways had to be linked with motorways? That happened with the Cross City Tunnel. It happened with the M2, but there was subsequently no requirement to retain them, so then they were removed. Have you looked at it in terms of requiring cycleways to be retained, not just built in association with the motorways?

Mr Mrdak : We have not got to that position as yet. But certainly the commitment which the minister made earlier this year, I think, gives strength and focus to the Commonwealth looking to such a requirement.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you outline why you have chosen to fund the M2 to F3 motorway project in Sydney.

Mr Mrdak : It is a significant project; it has significant productivity benefits. That section of the Sydney motorway network has for many years been a chronic pinch point in terms of congestion and delays. There is a large volume of traffic moving down what is now Pennant Hills Road. It has been planned for many years to complete that motorway linkage between the F3 and M2. The opportunity has now arisen with the unsolicited proposal put to the New South Wales government by the Transurban company, to provide a means of funding and financing that with a government contribution.

Senator RHIANNON: When you are making these assessments—and we are largely talking about the transport needs of Western Sydney—why would a project like that get the funding over the Parramatta Epping Rail Link? I know you are saying that that funding is still there. But, considering it has been pushed out for so long, do you weigh up those competing priorities?

Mr Mrdak : I think the decision to push out the Parramatta Epping Rail Link has not been made by the Commonwealth government. It is a decision of the New South Wales government, who have decided that that is not a priority project for them in comparison with other projects. Given that position, the Commonwealth is not able to advance that project. Hence, the Commonwealth continues to make provision of funding for that project. At the same time, an opportunity has arisen where New South Wales has a strong disposition to proceed with the F3 to M2. It is a priority national project and we have decided to provide funding to do that project. It will make an enormous difference for access down the F3 and then into the city network.

Senator RHIANNON: But does your argument not fall down when you say, 'Well, the state governments have not chosen to prioritise it'? With WestConnex, it was the federal government that have put it onto the table with the Prime Minister's announcement when she had the week's visit out to Western Sydney. So in that case it was the federal government that drove it. Why could they not be driving rail projects in the same way?

Mr Mrdak : I do not think I would characterise it that way. The WestConnex is the No. 1 priority transport project identified by Infrastructure New South Wales and the New South Wales government. That is a decision that has been made. They sought Commonwealth assistance and the Prime Minister's announcement was that the Commonwealth is prepared to assist in financing that project. In the budget the Commonwealth made provision for that project with funding conditions. I do not think you can characterise that as a Commonwealth priority in the first instance. It is a project that has been developed by Infrastructure New South Wales and the New South Wales government to which the Commonwealth has decided to make a contribution.

Senator RHIANNON:    Talking about the contribution, I think it was initially $1 billion and I think it is now up to $1.8 billion. Is that correct?

Mr Mrdak : That is correct. The Commonwealth government has provided for up to $1.8 billion with funding conditions—particularly, as we have discussed previously, the finalisation of the business case and settling some issues which the minister and the Prime Minister have commented on in ensuring the effectiveness of the road in providing an effective link from Western Sydney to the CBD and also to the port. There are also some conditions around how the financing of that project takes place.

Senator RHIANNON: Considering it is still a concept and that we know what happens with costs, are you confident that these costs will not increase and will not require additional funding?

Mr Mrdak : It is too early to determine the costs, in the sense that we have yet to see the business case. We are working with New South Wales. I and Ms O'Connell and Mr Jaggers are on the steering committee for the project. We are working through some of the design issues. Until such time as some of those designs are determined—particularly the issue of how it links the western access into the CBD and to the port around the airport links; those design issues will somewhat drive the costings—it is too early to indicate what the final costing will be for that project.

Senator RHIANNON:    Why did you go from $1 billion to $1.8 billion when you are still not sure of costs? Why did you have to make that jump? What was needed?

Mr Mrdak : New South Wales indicated to the Commonwealth government that that was the financial assistance that they would be seeking from the Commonwealth government based on the work that has been done to date.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you update us on the Maldon to Dombarton Rail Link please?

Mr Mrdak : The Commonwealth has made an initial commitment of funding to that project. I think the study work is now underway. I will ask Mr Wood to give you an update. The Commonwealth, in the light of that study work, will make future decisions on that project.

Mr Wood : Yes, as Mr Mrdak indicated, the study work is underway. It is a $25 million commitment for detailed design work. The most recent milestone in that was the release of tenders for specialist surveys. That was released. It was announced on 1 May and that process is currently underway for the tender assessments being undertaken by New South Wales. As you would expect for a project of this sort, there are a number of tenders being let for engineering, geotechnical and other works. They are in various states of delivery.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you just give us a bit more of a timeline? How does that process work? When do they determine the tender?

Mr Wood : It is currently anticipated that the project design studies will be completed in the middle of next year, mid-2014.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.


Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee - 29/05/2013 - Estimates - INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO - Australian Rail Track Corporation

Senator RHIANNON: How does the ARTC respond to criticisms of the report? I am referring to the report that was commissioned by you for a rail corridor air quality monitoring study in the Hunter. I understand that report was conducted in February and March 2012, but it was during a very wet period. The advice from New South Wales Health is that to assess air quality it is best to do the readings in a dry period. How do you respond to that criticism, and do you have any plans to defer the studies?

Mr Fullerton : Yes. The monitoring of two locations occurred in March 2012 in that initial program of monitoring, and we released that report on our website in September 2012. That report was provided to the EPA, so we responded to their questions in terms of the study itself, and once that was completed we then released that report in September. It was then considered that we should do further testing, because there was a view that the testing was done during our wet period and if we did that testing in the drier period that we would get different results. That led us to do some further testing in the summer just gone and that report is—

Senator RHIANNON: I was not aware of that. When did you do the further testing?

Mr Fullerton : That testing was done just before Christmas.

Senator RHIANNON: For an equal period of time?

Mr Fullerton : Yes, for an equal period of time. It was only at one location, which was at Metford. That report has been completed. It has been provided to the EPA. We have received comments back from the EPA and that report will be published on our website on Friday of this week.

Senator RHIANNON: Very timely. Are you able to share anything with us from the report? Will there be ongoing monitoring of coal dust in the Hunter?

Mr Fullerton : Obviously, we have carried out both these tests as a condition of our licence with the EPA. We will be publishing this report on Friday and we will have further discussions with the EPA on what further follow-up work might be necessary.

Senator RHIANNON: So, there are no recommendations in the report? You are just reporting the data? Is that correct?

Mr Fullerton : We are reporting the results on Friday in the report on testing at Metford that occurred in December of last year, and our information is that it is not too much different from the results that were obtained in the report issued in September of last year.

Senator RHIANNON: Are there any recommendations in the report?

Mr Fullerton : No.

Senator RHIANNON: In May of this year Port Waratah Coal Services announced it had accepted voluntary reductions in contract tonnages from the majority of Hunter Valley coal producers. How does the deferral of the T4 affect ARTC's 2012-2021 Hunter Valley Corridor Capacity Strategy that you released in June last year, which put the total escalated value of the recommended projects for the Hunter Valley rail corridor at $3.5 billion up to 2020-21? Does this change—which is big in terms of Port Waratah's announcement—affect any of the ARTC's planned rail works in the Hunter and, if that is the case, which ones?

Mr Fullerton : It will. As we are all aware, a number of projects in the Hunter Valley have been suspended from the coal producers. We have now produced a draft updated strategy that we are required to do every 12 months, and that is currently being provided to the coal producers for their comment. Obviously, some of those projects have been delayed and deferred due to the slowdown of some of the projects in the Hunter Valley. So that corridor study will be released once it goes through a full consultation with the coal producers and the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator.

Senator RHIANNON: When do you expect that it will be publicly released?

Mr Fullerton : We would expect about the end of June.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you share with us what shortfalls in rail track system capacity there may be?

Mr Fullerton : T4 was triggered when there was a requirement to go beyond the 205 million tonnes per annum. Because some of the producers are now saying that they do not require those volumes the T4 has no longer triggered, and we are now planning to deliver up around the 205 million tonnes per annum as part of our corridor strategy. We are currently operating the Hunter Valley at about 140 million tonnes per annum. There is still an increase over the term of that strategy and we are currently in negotiation with the coal producers on the infrastructure that is required to support that growth.

Senator RHIANNON: So, the growth is substantially less than expected. Before we continue with that, I note the Hunter Valley Access Undertaking. Can you explain to me what that is?

Mr Fullerton : Yes. It is an undertaking that came into effect on 1 July 2011 for a term of five years. It is a voluntary undertaking. Prior to that the Hunter Valley was regulated by IPART, the New South Wales regulator. It is now part of the ACCC undertaking. That has been an undertaking that has been negotiated up with the ACCC, the coal producers, the rail operators and ARTC to provide a regulatory framework for access to the Hunter Valley.

Senator RHIANNON: Will that also be renegotiated?

Mr Fullerton : No. There is no volume dependency on the undertaking. What it sets in place is certain rules and certain rates of return that we can generate through our investments in the Hunter Valley and also what the interface arrangements between ourselves and HVCCC are in managing the coal chain.

Senator RHIANNON: I might come back to that. I want to move on to some developments in March this year. Did the ARTC or any representative speak to or give comment to or forward a copy of the ARTC particulate report to a journalist from AAP on or about the week of 18 March 2013?

Mr Fullerton : I am not aware of any such event.

Senator RHIANNON: Did ARTC have any correspondence with Mr Albanese's office about this matter? He has spoken in parliament about it.

Mr Fullerton : That report that you are referring to was the report that was published on our website in September 2012.

Senator RHIANNON: It is called what Mr Albanese refers to as 'the ARTC's rail corridor air quality monitoring study: pollution reduction program 4'.

Mr Fullerton : That is right. That was a report that was published on our website in 2012. It is currently on our website.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, I know that, but Mr Albanese is quoted in the paper about this and he denies it was himself, but his staff have corresponded about it with our office. We are trying to understand what actually happens here. Does the ARTC support the sentiment reported on 16 March 2013? That was when Mr Albanese was reported in the Newcastle Herald as saying that the level of particulate matter emitted by coal trains was not statistically significantly different to passenger trains.

Mr Mrdak : From recollection, the minister in the House has made clear that that comment should not be attributed to either him or his office.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. That is why I asked the first question, because there has been email traffic from a staffer to the journalist supplying the information. That is why I am asking the question.

Mr Mrdak : An ARTC staffer?

Senator RHIANNON: It appears that it is the minister's staffer. That is why I am asking the questions, to clarify that.

Mr Mrdak : I do not think that either Mr Fullerton or I can assist you in that matter. I am sorry. We are not privy to conversations in the minister's office.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are saying that it is none of your staff?

Mr Mrdak : No. I think you were referring to a ministerial staffer. That is not a departmental officer nor an ARTC officer.

Senator RHIANNON: So, we can rule out your staff. Let us just deal with the substantive issue. I will repeat again: do you support the sentiment reported on 16 March that the level of particulate matter emitted by coal trains was not statistically significantly different to passenger trains?

Mr Fullerton : I am not familiar with the detail, but I do know that similar words are expressed in the report that is on our website.

Senator RHIANNON: My reading of the report, if you read the whole report, is that you do not conclude that. So have I misread it? Are you saying that is a correct assumption from your report?

Mr Fullerton : No. There are words similar to that in the report. The report is quite comprehensive in how it assesses various emissions for different types of trains and when there have been no trains present. I am not familiar with the words that you are referring to other than that they are similar to words that are in the report.

Senator RHIANNON: So similar to the words but—

ACTING CHAIR: I will ask you to wrap up now, Senator Rhiannon. That is your last question.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. This is my final question. Are those words in line with or contradictory to the conclusions—so not just a passage, but the conclusions—in the ARTC's rail corridor air quality monitoring study? Are those sentiments that there is no difference in line with or contradictory?

Mr Mrdak : In the absence of having the report in front of us, I am not sure we can make any comment along those lines. You are asking Mr Fullerton to make a subjective comment.

Senator RHIANNON: It is not a subjective comment; you know the report.

ACTING CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: Could I ask them to take it on notice to clarify whether it is in line with or contradictory to the conclusions of that report?

ACTING CHAIR: You certainly can.

Mr Mrdak : Certainly.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Fullerton. I now call the Inspector of Transport Security.

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee - 29/05/2013 - Estimates - INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO - Airservices Australia

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, I will give you seven minutes.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you outline the process for handling noise complaints around airports due to aircraft? I am obviously thinking of residents.

Ms Staib : Yes, certainly. We have a published bulletin on our website that outlines the complaints management process. If the senator would like a copy I would be more than happy to give you that. We have a noise complaints and information service. There are a number of ways that people can make a complaint. They can ring the service, and this bulletin will give you the phone number. You can get onto our website at Airservices to make a complaint. We also have what is called Webtrack. This is a component of our management where you can actually get onto the website, identify either where your house is or identify a flight track and then understand that was the aircraft that you were worried about in terms of the noise and submit a complaint around that. We have a formal process where we are obliged to respond to those complaints within 21 days. What we have to do is take the information from the complainant and then investigate what aircraft it was, what day it was, what were the conditions and so on.

Senator RHIANNON: I am short of time but I ask: do you have examples where it actually makes a difference? Is it just managing complaints like talking to people so they do not get too cranky with you, or do you have examples where you actually make a difference? As part of that, is there a difference in how you treat helicopter noise from fixed-wing aircraft noise?

Ms Staib : In regard to the first question there are a number of examples. Perhaps if I give you two. In Western Australia we are working with the people from Roleystone, which is a community that has been affected by increased noise over the past couple of years. I can say that we are being far more proactive now in terms of understanding what options there are to amend the flight paths so that we can look at where we can improve noise.

Senator RHIANNON: On this issue of flight paths I am getting complaints from people around East Melbourne near the MCG. They are reporting that in their area aircraft noise was previously less intrusive because the aircraft were flying over waterways and highways. I am told that many of them feel that this is no longer the case, with the aircraft flying over residential areas. Has there been a change in the regulatory regime, or however you manage this, which has permitted a change in the flying patterns and is resulting in the complaints that I am now receiving?

Ms Staib : I am aware of the issues around East Melbourne and specifically regarding the helicopter noise around the MCG. We have been in communication with Adam Bandt to understand exactly because he has represented to us some complaints. This week we received details of what his concerns are—that is, what days and so on—and we are investigating that now. I cannot tell you now whether it has been a change in the regulations but I will take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: When will you be able to get back to us, because for many people it is a weekly or a daily problem? When would you be able to follow up on that?

Ms Staib : Would within a fortnight meet your requirements?

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Is it correct that above a certain height aircraft such as helicopters and fixed-wing planes are not required to submit flight plans?

Mr Harfield : It is probably below a certain altitude and depending on what type of operation and what class of airspace they are operating in.

Ms Staib : But it can be the case?

Senator RHIANNON: That is what I thought. This, again, goes back to the situation in East Melbourne. In April of this year I understand there were 200 flights in one week, which seemed a lot. People there are not just raising issues about noise; they are raising issues about safety with so many planes in the air, even if they are permitted. Do you judge this as a safety concern?

Ms Staib : I would have to examine the detail before I could make that judgement.

Senator RHIANNON: I would be interested in any specific response about April with regard to a lot of flights in Melbourne, but also more generally can you take on notice if there are many flights above whatever the limit is, because they do not have to register or whatever it is when you are below that height. Are you judging that this could become dangerous at some point because of the number of aircraft in the air?

Mr Mrdak : I think it is important to be clear that aircraft that are operating over residential areas do not operate without air controls. Mr Harfield is setting it out for you and it would probably be beneficial to give you some information about the nature of aircraft operations over urban areas. There are no aircraft that operate in a manner which is unsafe or uncontrolled.

Senator RHIANNON: I will ask that in a different way, as I may have misunderstood the response. I thought that the response was that above a certain height you do not have to put in flight plans?

Mr Mrdak : No.

Ms Staib : It is below a certain height.

Mr Mrdak : It is in certain airspace areas. I think it is probably best to get you some information on notice to explain that, because I do not want to leave any impression that there are aircraft operating without any controls or regulatory requirements. That is far from the case.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. An issue that has been raised with me is about helicopters. This seems to be the big one, in particular leisure aircraft hovering for extended hours. Does the current regulation make any provision for the length of time helicopters may hover above residential areas?

CHAIR: I am going to have to wind you up there, Senator Rhiannon.

Mr Mrdak : Again, we would have to look at the circumstances. I cannot imagine too many operators hovering as a matter of leisure over an area. Are these helicopters involved with sporting events or film coverage?

Senator RHIANNON: I think it is all of the above and doing searches. I can tell you beaches around Sydney where I have had similar complaints in the past from Sydney residents, because they will hover over a headland for whatever reason.

Mr Mrdak : Search and rescue aircraft?

Senator RHIANNON: I do not know what they are doing. I remember years ago getting the complaints and now it is coming in from Melbourne. I do not have details about what the helicopters are doing. My question was: does current regulation make any provision for the length of time helicopters may hover above residential areas?

Mr Mrdak : We would have to look at the circumstances. There is no such regulatory regime of which I am aware, but by the same token aircraft are often involved in activities which require them to be in a particular location for a purpose. If you have some further information we will take it on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

CHAIR: I thank Airservices Australia.


Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee - 29/05/2013 - Estimates - INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO - Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Senator RHIANNON: Mr McCormick, does CASA expect tier 2 operators to operate to the flight and duty limits established in CAO 48? I was interested in looking at what some of the representations were that had been made to our office. But, in 1.12—I am sure you aware of it, but I want to give some context for why I am asking about it—the first dot point talks about the fatigue risk increases, then it goes on to say that the impact on performance 'eventually becomes unacceptable sometime after 16 hours awake'. We are talking about pilots being awake for more than 16 hours. Some of the representations made to us are that pilots may be operating for 19 hours. We are talking about the limits in CAO 48. Would you comment on that. Is that what you are expecting? If you have that there, do you actually expect that those limits will be what people work to?

Mr McCormick : Sorry, I will have to take that on notice and get back to you.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you or any of your colleagues share some information? You have signed off on CAO 48. It is your first point in 1.12 of a document that I imagine you have put considerable work into, and it has there 'after 16 hours awake'. Surely somebody could give us some background to this, please.

Mr McCormick : I do not think we can, to be honest. We do not have the document in front of us, I am sorry.

Senator RHIANNON: I can give it to you.

Mr Mrdak : Perhaps the way forward is to take your question on notice. During the dinner break, officials can look at the document just to ascertain what it is, if that is all right, Chairman. I am just trying to find a way forward to assist the senator.

CHAIR: I was just having a meeting with my deputy chair. The agreement between the chair and the deputy chair, and I would ask the permanent members of the committee to agree, under the circumstances of my insistence on giving Mr McCormick and CASA the opportunity to put on the record whatever they needed to put to certain questions, and with the approval of Hansard and broadcasting, is to go to dinner at 18:50. I have agreement for Senator Edwards and Senator Heffernan to ask a few questions. It is against the norm, and that is what we are going to do, but we are not coming back to CASA after the dinner break. So, Senator Rhiannon, I am going to ask you to put your questions on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: I will put the rest on notice. Will I hear here informally from CASA afterwards?

CHAIR: You will hear formally. It will be on the record. But we will not have CASA back at the table.

Senator RHIANNON: But they will give the answer today?

CHAIR: Mr Mrdak is a man of his word.

Mr Mrdak : We will examine that document during the dinner break, and if you put on notice your questions—

Senator RHIANNON: I just want to make sure we do not hear from you until the next estimates.

Mr McCormick : We will need a specific question, if we could.

CHAIR: I am sure Mr McCormick does not mind waiting after the dinner break for one minute to have a chat with Senator Rhiannon.

Mr McCormick : Certainly.

Senator RHIANNON: And the rest I will put on notice. If CASA does not expect operators to utilise the limits of the CAO 48 based on perceived individual operator risk, how does CASA intend to manage that risk? What head of power is CASA reliant upon in imposing further restrictions on the CAO limits? If CASA is imposing Air Operator's Certificate operations manual limitations, against what standard are those limits assessed and audited? Does CASA expect all, many or most of the tier-2 operators to have limitations imposed on them?

CHAIR: Mr McCormick, where possible, please could we have the answers as direct and short as possible. I know that is a big call for this committee.

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