Brisbane Airport Curfew and Demand Management Bill 2022


I move that this bill be now read a second time.

The story being told right across Australia, from my electorate of Melbourne to the people of Sydney and Brisbane, is one of their lives being disrupted because of unfair and unsustainable aircraft noise.

That's why, following previous bills I have introduced to this place to tackle the problems, I rise now to introduce the Brisbane Airport Curfew and Demand Management Bill 2022. Let me start by saying that this bill is the product of years of community campaigning by thousands of Brisbane residents, standing up to the Brisbane Airport Corporation.

In particular, I would like to commend the work of Max Chandler-Mather, the Greens candidate for Griffith, Stephen Bates, the Greens candidate for Brisbane, and the Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance who have led the way in fighting for a reduction in flight noise. The bill itself was produced after direct and detailed consultation with the Brisbane community, and I want to thank everyone who engaged in that process.

I had the chance to meet some of those residents at a community consultation meeting in the Brisbane suburb of Hawthorne, in the electorate of Griffith. This is an incredibly well informed and organised community. Their feedback over the course of this consultation process has improved the bill, and for that I thank them.

Unsustainable flight noise has had a devastating impact on the people of Brisbane. A survey of 2000 Brisbane residents last year found that 81 per cent of respondents had their sleep disrupted as a result of flight noise, 68 per cent of respondents suffered from mental distress, and 11 per cent of respondents had been forced to seek medical help. Studies around the world have shown the terrible health impacts that come with prolonged exposure to high levels of noise and sleep disruption. With international and domestic flight traffic beginning to return, this situation is only going to get worse.

It's clear that the community was badly misled in the initial consultation for the new parallel runway at Brisbane Airport. This has been confirmed by two independent authorities, including the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman and the Brisbane Airport Advisory Committee recently established by the federal government. Both identified serious flaws with the consultation, but unfortunately neither have gone far enough in their recommendations.

We need immediate action as well as a sustainable, long-term solutions to unsustainable flight noise.

This bill introduces a curfew from 10 pm to 6 am and an hourly movement cap of 45 flights per hour at Brisbane Airport. It also directs the minister to instruct Airservices Australia to produce a long-term operating plan for Brisbane Airport that reduces flight noise, ensures more flights over Moreton Bay and changes flight paths to ensure a fair distribution of air traffic over Brisbane.

A 10 pm to 6 am curfew will ensure every Brisbane resident is able to get a good night's sleep, without being exposed to unhealthy levels of flight noise.

Meanwhile, a flight cap of 45 flights per hour would allow Brisbane Airport to return to pre-pandemic flight traffic, while ensuring they don't grow unsustainably beyond that level.

But, of course, without a substantial change to flight paths and airport operations, a cap and curfew won't address many of the fundamental issues with Brisbane Airport. This is why the Greens will also legislate to force the transport and infrastructure minister to implement a long-term operating plan for Brisbane Airport.

A long-term operating plan will ensure that better consideration will be given to:

  1. more flights will take off and arrive over Moreton Bay;
  2. a fair distribution of flight traffic over Brisbane that ensures no group of residents is forced to bear the overwhelming majority of flights; and
  3. an overall reduction in flight noise for all Brisbane residents by prioritising flight routes that don't pass over residential areas.

These are reasonable and moderate measures that airports around the world have already adopted. Indeed, it's happening around Australia as well. Sydney Airport already has a long-term operating plan, a curfew and a cap on flights. The question that both the Liberals and Labor must answer is: if it's good enough for Sydney Airport, why isn't it good enough for Brisbane?

Brisbane Airport Corporation has said previously it expected annual passenger traffic through its domestic and international terminals would more than double from 22 million in 2014 to 50 million by 2035. It also forecast the number of annual individual flights would grow from 227,000 in 2019 to 360,000 by 2035 and 500,000 by 2045. That is completely unsustainable, in terms of local air and noise pollution and carbon emissions that contribute to the climate crisis.

Prior to the pandemic in 2018 the four major privately owned airport corporations, including Brisbane, made a combined profit of $757.6 million—up nine per cent. As we emerge from travel restrictions and begin to see more international travellers visiting Australia, we can expect similar profit levels to return. We must not let the private corporations' relentless pursuit of profits get in the way of a better future for all of us.

Let us be clear. This is ultimately about the Brisbane Airport Corporation relentlessly pursuing profit at the expense of the community. Like so many big corporations and billionaires, the rules are written in their favour, with little regard given to the community and the environment.

It is no surprise that Brisbane Airport Corporation has previously donated to the Labor Party. While as recently as 2018 the Australian Airports Association, the chief lobby group for airport corporations, paid tens of thousands each to Labor and the Liberals for secret cash-for-access meetings. No wonder the major parties are so reluctant to hold the big airport corporations to account.

This, ultimately, is a story of everyday people standing up to the power of a big corporation. And the Greens will always stand with people in that fight.

I said earlier that this is a story that is happening right around the country, and it is. This bill will apply to Brisbane Airport; previously introduced bills were with respect to Melbourne. Now the electorate that I represent is, as some people would know, some distance from the airport. Some might ask, 'How is it that airport noise has become an issue in the inner city of Melbourne?' The answer is the same as the problem that is sought to be addressed by this bill with respect to Brisbane.

It's a story being told right around the country. As our cities have grown, and as air travel has grown, no-one has paid attention to what that means for people living under areas of flight paths that aren't immediately adjacent to the airport. There is a whole set of rules in place for people who are near airports; but, for people further afield as well as for people who are living next to airports, the law has not kept up with the rise in traffic. As a result, we see two things. We see the point has been changed where all the planes have to gather and turn around before they loop over the city and come in and land on the runway. As a result, in places like East Melbourne you can look up at certain times of day and see plane after plane after plane going over.

We also have the issue in Melbourne of people needing to clock up their training hours, or perhaps going for some joy flights. They're coming in and doing loops around the MCG, which, for the people who live near it, turns into unsustainable and unfair aircraft noise with low-level, low-flying planes all the time. No-one has paid attention to it, and it's the same in Brisbane.

Over the years the number of flights has increased and flight paths have been changed. They're going over people's houses, and there's nothing in the law to protect them. And instead of taking on the big corporations and government entities that have the chance to regulate it, Labor and the Liberals are captured by these very same organisations and refuse to stand up on behalf of residents.

This bill is about getting a better balance, and it's about saying that people who live in our cities have the right to live in peace and to have their amenity protected. This is getting to the point where in Melbourne, as well as in Sydney and now in Brisbane, it is affecting people's health. It is not just a question of not being able to go outside in your own home because of intensive aircraft noise; it is affecting people's health. We need to do something about it, and this bill will do that.

Adam Bandt
House of Representatives
14/02/2022 from 10:04am