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Speech on Aircraft Noise

On Thursday 10 November 2022, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about the unsustainable aircraft noise that has been hitting residents all across Brisbane. For more information about what I've been doing on this issue, click here. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.

E WATSON-BROWN: I've had countless people from my electorate, from as far out as Upper Brookfield all the way in to Indooroopilly, get in touch with my office every week to tell me how badly flight noise is affecting their lives. People across Brisbane are impacted. If you're not living under a flight path, you might not realise what it's actually like. It's hard to imagine the impact this has on your life. In a survey conducted by the Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance, 74 per cent of respondents indicated that they've suffered mental health impacts because of unrelenting flight noise. Imagine having low flights over your place at 11 pm and at 2 am, at 80 or more decibels—enough to wake you up. Imagine that happening every night. Imagine, perhaps, you have young children that are being consistently woken up. Residents in Upper Brookfield who use rainwater tanks have also raised with me worries about the impact of pollution in their water from low-flying planes from Archerfield.

The media likes to say, 'Look, if you don't want to experience flight noise, don't buy a place under a flight path.' Most of the people affected in Ryan had bought their homes well before the new parallel runway at Brisbane Airport was built and the new flight paths came along. In fact, locals were directly lied to about the impacts of the new runway. Likewise, flights from Archerfield have increased in recent months so the problem is actually getting worse.

It's important, I think, to understand what's going on here. This is the result of a number of major structural issues. Firstly, with the Brisbane Airport Corporation being privatised back in 1997—a Keating decision carried out by Howard—the airport is now run for profit, not for community benefit. By the way it makes no sense to privatise an asset like an airport. No amount of competition will result from it that could drive efficiency. Add to this problem the fact that Airservices Australia, the regulator for air travel, was corporatised in 1997, meaning that it acts like a private corporation. Airservices Australia now relies on fees paid by private airline corporations like Qantas and Virgin. Regulatory capture! Then add BAC's donations to both the major parties. Put all this together, and you start to get the picture of a completely dysfunctional regulatory framework, although it's a very functional framework if you're in the airport business.

I note that there's currently yet another consultation with the community taking place in Brisbane right now. I've got to say that I've been to some of these, and they're hardly consultative. Forgive me if I share the community's cynicism towards this consultation. The community has been loud and clear about its preferred solutions for a long time now. They don't need more consultation; they need someone to take action. Firstly, introduce a cap on the number of flights coming in and out of Brisbane Airport so the problem doesn't worsen. Next, introduce a curfew from, let's say, 10 pm to 6 am, so people can be guaranteed a decent night's sleep. Sydney airport has this. It makes absolutely no sense that Brisbane Airport can't, too. In a turn of events that will shock no-one, ASA's Post Implementation Review Advisory Forum just today came out with a long and tortured list of reasons why, counterintuitively, a curfew would somehow increase flight noise at night. If Airservices can't design a curfew that works, that's a reflection on them and their competence, not on the community's wish for a good night's sleep. Finally, institute a complete redesign of the flight paths, not a couple of piecemeal changes, with more flights going over the bay.

The Labor government could just legislate this now. If this doesn't happen, locals have said they're ready to take up protest action. The Greens and I will be there to support them. Longer term, we have to restructure the whole way air travel is regulated. We should re-nationalise BAC and overhaul and wind back corporatisation of ASA, so we can have genuine democratic oversight on this important industry and so people can be put before profits.

At the same time, we should build high-speed rail to reduce our reliance on air travel, while also reducing the enormous emissions that come from it. I supported that bill recently. As I've noted in previous speeches, though, it's something that Labor are dragging their feet on and may well end up with a similarly corporatised structure.

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