Preparing for the Future: Address to Airservices Australia's Waypoint 2014 Conference



04 September 2014

National Convention Centre, Canberra

Thank you Rob [Walker, Manager Corporate Communication, Airservices Australia] for the warm welcome. Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

Firstly, I would like to thank the Airservices Australia Board, its Chair, Angus Houston and Chief Executive Officer, Margaret Staib, for inviting me to speak at Waypoint 2014.

We are all cognoscent that, around the world, aviation has been embroiled in 2014's most tragic events.

I want to acknowledge and thank Angus for taking on the extra tasks of leading the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, which is managing the search for MH-370, and for his recent work in the Ukraine under incredibly difficult circumstances following the heinous shooting down of MH-17.

Not that anyone needs reminding…but these tragedies are salient reminders of the importance of air travel and the precious cargo aircraft carry…people, families and loved ones.

From the perspective of the aviation sector, as everyone in this room knows, aviation is a tough business. The industry has successfully faced a number of challenges in recent years but has adapted, developed, and continued to grow.

Aviation's direct and indirect contribution to Australia's economy is over $75 billion a year, or around six per cent of Australia's GDP.

These are significant numbers—but they do not, of course, tell the full story.

Due to the vast distances between our towns and cities—and Australians' propensity to travel—aviation has become an integral part of the social fabric of the country.

Australians do not have a culture of train travel as they do in other parts of the world—we fly.

Australian aviation is fundamental to keeping the nation connected—socially and economically.

Preparing for the future

The aviation industry's importance to Australia's social and economic future underlines the need to prepare for and maintain excellence in every aspect of its operations.

And, as you all know, preparing for the aviation industry's future involves long term strategic planning and making the right investments today to ensure the industry has the capacity to grow into the future.

We need to keep up-to-date with technology so that the industry remains safe, efficient and competitive in all respects.

We need to ensure that ensure that we are attracting and keeping the right people with the right skills in the right jobs for an increasingly complex and competitive industry.

And finally, we need to ensure that we are able to manage growth and other industry transformations that the future will inevitably bring.

A static aviation industry, one hampered by a lack of planning for growth and Government red tape, runs the risk of being left behind.

As Minister, I am determined that the Australian Government should deal with the legacy issues and get on with building a more stable and dependable environment for the industry to prosper.

Our approach to issues from the Western Sydney Airport to managing aviation safety, are based on our recognition of the need to respond to growth and seize opportunities.

Effectively managing growth also involves maintaining the standards for safety, and the wise use of technology, that have been key reasons for Australia's international aviation excellence.

The Aviation Safety Review

The national significance of aviation reinforces the need to maintain Australia's aviation record and reputation for safety.

This is absolutely fundamental to the industry's future.

That is why, in November last year, as one of the first acts of the new government, I initiated an independent review of Australia's aviation safety and regulatory arrangements.

The review examined Australia's regulatory framework to ensure it supports the highest levels of safety without imposing unacceptable burdens on the aviation industry.

The review panel consulted widely with industry and considered some 270 submissions.

I would like to thank David Forsyth and the other panel members, and all who contributed to the review. I want to recognize the constructive attitude that industry took to the review.

The report found that Australia has an excellent safety record but identified opportunities for improvement.

The Government is now carefully considering all of the 37 recommendations and other matters arising from the report and we intend to provide a comprehensive response before the year is out.  

Above all, we are committed to ensuring that aviation maintains an appropriate safety regulatory framework that will provide the platform for the industry's future growth.

Deregulation agenda

This Government is committed to reducing the regulatory burden on business, through cutting unnecessary red tape and allowing more competition within the market to facilitate job creation and more opportunities for all Australians.

Aviation has more regulation per square inch than any other industry I know. I would like to get rid of most of it—but I know that would compromise confidence in our safety record.

But there are things we can do.

The Government has been working to find ways to reduce the regulatory burden on our Federal airports.

My Department has been engaging with aviation stakeholders to identify areas of regulation duplication and overlap affecting our airports. In particular we are consulting on proposals to streamlining the Master Plan and Major Development Plan processes.

Airport owners are telling me that they would like to see a longer duration between Master Plans, and that further productivity gains could be achieved if the financial thresholds around Major Development Plans were amended. I think this is achievable.

Airports are looking for greater business certainty to allow them to continue to develop these important pieces of national infrastructure and contribute to our economies.

Airservices Australia is also playing its part in reducing costs to the aviation industry by reducing delays and investing in technology that will improve efficiency and productivity.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has also begun reassessing its regulations to reduce red tape while not impacting on safety outcomes and to produce plain English versions of regulations.

Of course, the Coalition Government has jettisoned the leftover baggage weighing down the aviation sector—namely the carbon tax.

This should have been a simple act.

It proved anything but simple given Labor's determination to cling on to the carbon tax and bring it back should they win government again.

Our delivery of this key election commitment will save your industry hundreds of millions of dollars and unshackle you from one of the most useless, destructive taxes in our history.

Business jets proposal

In the context of reducing red tape and in line with our election commitment to update the list of small business jets allowed to operate at Sydney and Adelaide Airports, today I can announce the opening of public consultation on the implementation of the Government's proposal.

In an interesting twist, the last time the list was updated at Sydney Airport was in 2005…when I was last the Minister. Adelaide's list hasn't been updated since its introduction in 2000.

Certainly it is time for an overhaul. The latest model quieter business jets cannot land during the curfew—but old noisier aircraft can.

The Coalition Government proposes to update the list of aircraft by allowing newer, quieter aircraft models to operate during the curfew.

Over time this will decrease noise from Sydney and Adelaide Airports during the curfew by allowing businesses to upgrade to newer, quieter and more fuel efficient aircraft.

The Government is very conscious of the impact of aircraft noise on communities and, in that context, it should be noted that at Sydney Airport aircraft are required to arrive and depart over the ocean and at Adelaide Airport arrival and departures over the Gulf of St Vincent unless it is unsafe to do so.

The Government proposes to transition from the almost 40-year-old noise requirements in Chapter 3 of the International Civil Aviation Operation guidelines to the stricter requirements of Chapter 4 by 2022.

This is a modest and sensible change that will benefit industry, but also produce a better noise outcomes for residents.

The Government remains committed to the curfew at Adelaide and Sydney Airports and the movement cap at Sydney Airport.

Managing aviation growth

As I have mentioned, we are committed to providing an environment that will encourage growth. And Australian aviation is certainly growing.

In 2013–14 there were nearly 147 million international and domestic passenger movements, nearly three per cent higher than in the previous year.

This growth is projected to continue, especially given Australia's location in the fast growing Asia-Pacific region.

Airservices Australia, airline and airport stakeholders have been working together to develop and deliver programmes to improve efficiencies.

The Airport Capacity Enhancement programme is now well-established in several major airports.

It maximises the use of existing infrastructure and identifies other opportunities to improve the efficiency of our major airports.

Some simple but effective examples include optimising arrival spacing, standardising terminal speeds and reducing runway occupancy times.

There are tangible benefits from this investment. Brisbane Airport has seen runway occupancy down by 11 per cent compared with 2012; and this is despite air traffic movements increasing by almost five per cent in 2013.

At Perth Airport, strong passenger growth continued last year and averaged eight per cent—almost double that of other major Australian airports.

This remarkable growth, driven by increased international and fly-in fly-out domestic passengers, has put a great deal of pressure on airport operators and air traffic managers, especially during weekday peak periods.

The Airport Capacity Enhancement initiatives at Perth Airport have helped it become one of the best airports for on-time performance in Australia—a credit to Airservices Australia, the airport and airline operators.

Air traffic management and the use of technology

In planning for the future of the aviation industry, nothing is more important than air traffic management.

Our air traffic controllers handle more than four million flights every year, using the Australian Advanced Air Traffic System.

However, this civil aviation system and its Department of Defence equivalent are coming to the end of their designed lives.

Airservices and Defence are working together to procure a new harmonised air traffic management system. The new system, known as OneSKY, is expected to be fully operational by 2021.

The aviation industry has of course been a long-time supporter of a harmonised civil-military system and I hope that, one day, we will have a single air traffic control organisation.

With air traffic in Australia's region expected to grow by close to 50 per cent over the anticipated life of the new system, the introduction of OneSKY will be a very important development in Australian aviation.

The use of the best and most appropriate technology has distinguished Australian aviation throughout its history—and will continue to do so into the future.

In May this year, I had the pleasure of commissioning a ground-based augmentation system called SmartPath at Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport. This technology, the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere, allows suitably equipped aircraft to land in low visibility conditions.

The new system is part of Australia's move towards a satellite-based, performance-driven air navigation system to meet the demands of the 21st century.

The SmartPath system reaffirms Australia's place as a leading nation in the use of aviation technology—and its implementation would not have been possible without the close cooperation of Airservices, Qantas, the system's manufacturer and of course the airport.

I was pleased to have a similar opportunity to see advanced aviation technology at Melbourne Airport in March this year when I commissioned the new state-of-the-art air traffic control tower, fully equipped with the latest technology.

The days of passing flight details by hand from one controller to another to the next are finally on the way out.

The Western Sydney Airport

Our continuing investment in air traffic management infrastructure and planning is critically important—and better planning and investment in the future capacity of our airports is just as crucial.

In April this year the Coalition Government ended a half-century of indecision and uncertainty, when we locked-in an airport for Western Sydney at Badgerys Creek.

Our decision involved moving beyond the three-year Federal Election cycle to secure both long-term and more immediate benefits for Western Sydney and the nation.

Western Sydney Airport will be a key economic driver for Western Sydney into the future, as well as for NSW and the nation.

It will create thousands of jobs in construction, but once the airport is operational it will create tens of thousands of jobs, supporting the new industries and business parks.

The Western Sydney Airport will enable more efficient management of Sydney's airspace, and will match Sydney's aviation infrastructure with growing demand, especially from the Asia-Pacific.

Our decision now allows the aviation, transport and tourism industries to make long-term investment plans based on a commitment that they can count on.

But building a new major airport is not an easy task; it is a complex, long-term project but the Government is getting on with the job.

We are working with our NSW colleagues on implementing a $3.5 billion roads package for Western Sydney. The tender for Stage 1 of the Bringelly Road upgrade was advertised in July and the Local Roads Package has commenced. Construction on The Northern Road is expected to begin next year.

Round 1 of the Western Sydney Local Roads funding closed on Friday, and the government is now considering the applications.

Additionally, over a fortnight ago the Notice to Consult with the owners of Sydney Airport was formally issued as required under the Right of First Refusal process contained in the Share Sale Agreement.

I am pleased that Southern Cross Airports Corporation, the owners of Sydney Airport, has moved swiftly to agree to the Notice.

Ahead lies detailed discussions about the scope of the project, operational arrangements, environmental assessments, engineering design and financial management, etc.

The Western Sydney Airport is expected to be operational in the mid-2020s, and will be one of the most important infrastructure and economic assets to be developed in Australia over the next two decades.

Regional aviation

Regional airports provide critical access and service gateways for Australians living and working in remote communities.

The Government recognises the importance of this access and is providing significant support for regional Australian aviation.

We have committed $9.1 million under the Regional Aviation Access Programme to upgrade 42 remote airstrips across Australia.

Hobart Airport will also receive a $38 million upgrade—and the Port Lincoln Airport in South Australia has received a $13 million upgrade, strengthening the regional gateway to the Eyre Peninsula.

I can advise you that the Government is in the final stages of approval of the new En Route Navigation Charges Rebate Scheme.

I know many carriers in the regional aviation space have been keen to see this election commitment delivered. The scheme will provide rebates for services on low volume routes, especially those linking regional communities to their capital city.


The Government and our aviation agencies are committed to enhancing Australia's aviation infrastructure and services.

All of this investment requires well thought-out planning—and this can involve a significant and often under-appreciated effort.

Better aviation planning and infrastructure investment is the result of strong, dedicated, co-operative partnerships between Government and industry.

In respect of planning, I have read that the American soldier and President Dwight Eisenhower said that ‘plans are nothing; but planning is everything’.

I wouldn't entirely agree with the first part of Eisenhower's observation—but I would certainly agree with the second.

The Government looks forward to working with the aviation industry to ensure the industry continues to play a key role in supporting Australia's economic growth, and enabling access to all areas of Australia.

Thank you again for inviting me to Waypoint 2014 and I wish you all a successful and rewarding forum.

Thank you.