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Speech on Private Members' Bill to tackle Brisbane flight noise

On Monday 16 October 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on my Private Members' Bill to tackle Brisbane flight noise. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.



I rise to speak to my private member's bill to introduce a curfew, cap on flights and create a long-term operating plan for Brisbane airport.

I want you to guess who said this:

'Aircraft noise is a major problem for many people in Brisbane's suburbs … there are an increasing number of night flights disturbing people's sleep. I believe the only solution is an introduction of a night curfew … everybody has a right to a decent night's sleep.'

These are not my words. These are former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd's words when he was the fledgling candidate for the seat of Griffith.

Here are some more words: 'This is not a 'nimby' attitude. I am tired of those who say this debate is about inner city people wanting to dump their problems somewhere else.' They were the current Prime Minister's words when introducing his private member's bill to tackle flight noise in Sydney.

Two Labor prime ministers, claiming to listen to the community when it suits them politically, then abandoning them when they came into positions of real power and influence over these situations.

Right now, thousands of Brisbanites are affected by constant, unrelenting flight noise. All they're asking for is a decent night's sleep, a simple request met with utter disdain and hostility from Brisbane Airport Corporation, from Airservices Australia, from the political establishment and from this Labor government.

Airservices Australia have wasted countless hours and resources, giving false hope to residents with their fake consultation processes. Brisbane Airport Corporation runs attack stories in the media against anyone who dares to question their right to make enormous profits at the expense of residents. The reaction of the transport minister was to simply dare the affected residents to go out and protest. Be careful what you wish for, Minister!

Solutions exist—like those already in place at Sydney airport. And BAC continues to argue, with no cogent rationale, that they are impossible for Brisbane.

The contemptuous treatment of affected residents was exemplified a few weeks ago by Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles labelling those affected 'inner city elites'. The irony of someone on $380,000 a year speaking to a room full of aviation CEOs and lobbyists calling everyday people 'elites' is breathtaking, and it was not lost on residents.

If Steven Miles and the Queensland Labor government are more interested in the profits of Brisbane Airport Corporation and the airline companies than they are in the wellbeing of everyday residents in these areas, their seats will be in grave danger at the 2024 state election.

The latest spin from Brisbane Airport Corporation is that somehow regional Queenslanders would lose out if caps and curfews were implemented. Dividing Queenslanders between those who live in the city and those who live in the regions—a pretty hackneyed political strategy that everyday people see right through. They know regional flights get cut when privately run airlines and airports are willing to sacrifice regional Queenslanders to corporate profits.

The solution to this? Simple! Take the profit motive out of the equation. We need to reconsider public ownership in this sector. It's clear that the current system—in which monopolies like that of Qantas and its subsidiaries control around 60 per cent of the domestic aviation market—is not working. Another monopoly, Airport Coordination Australia, controls airport slot management at most of Australia's major airports, and, extraordinarily, ACA is majority owned by Qantas and Virgin. They are effectively selling slots to themselves! And the monopoly Brisbane Airport Corporation, who are determined to double flights through Brisbane, exacerbating flight noise, all in the relentless pursuit of profit.

In the medium to long term, publicly owned high-speed rail also needs to be part of the conversation. This has obvious benefits not just in flight noise reduction but also in the decarbonisation of the transport sector more broadly. Sadly, this opportunity is being squandered under the Labor government's plan. It is unlikely that high-speed rail connecting Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra would be completed before the mid-2060s; this is despite a comprehensive report written by research institute Beyond Zero Emissions in 2014 that shows that such a route could be built in just 10 years.

Fundamentally, all this demonstrates the absolute corporate capture of what should be essential public services: airlines, airports and regulators. This is a consequence of the sell-off of public assets primarily by the Hawke-Keating Labor government in the eighties and nineties. Qantas and airports have been privatised. Airservices Australia, tasked with regulating our airspace to prioritise safety and reduce impacts on communities, is similarly 'corporatised' and relies on airline revenue to function.

This needs to be fixed. The residents of Brisbane should have the same rights as other Australians: the right to a good night's sleep.

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