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Aircraft Noise

Update: I was pleased to support the Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance at their first major protest in June at the Brisbane Airport Corporation Headquarters. With more than 1,000 people in attendance it's clear the community are pulling together a huge amount of support for this issue. In the upcoming parliamentary weeks, myself and my Greens colleagues Stephen Bates and Elizabeth Watson-Brown will be re-introducing our bill to parliament to mandate a noise curfew from 10pm-6am, a cap of 45 flights per hour and a long term operational plan for more flights over the water. 

Excessive flight path noise from planes arriving at and departing from Brisbane Airport is a massive problem affecting thousands of Brisbane residents – in particular after the completion of the New Parallel Runway. It’s abundantly clear that something needs to be done to reduce noise pollution for Brisbane residents and find a more sustainable way of managing Brisbane Airport. But for those not directly affected it’s also a very important insight into the power big corporations can wield over people’s lives and the legal system that allows them to do it.

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) has produced a flight path design and operational model that maximises profit at the expense of Brisbane residents, small businesses and local schools, with no meaningful oversight from regulators or the Federal Government. Meanwhile, Airservices Australia, which is meant to act as an impartial regulator, appears to have completely rolled over for Brisbane Airport Corporation.

In fact, Brisbane Airport has one of the worst noise abatement plans in the developed world. Unlike Sydney Airport, it has no curfew and is currently run to maximise profit at the expense of Brisbane residents and the environment. Not only that, but BAC is completely exempt from state-level noise pollution laws – and in the medium term it’s clear we desperately need national legislation to regulate and mandate restrictions on aircraft noise.

Noise pollution from Brisbane Airport is affecting an increasing number of residents. Unfortunately the continued return of air traffic to pre-pandemic levels (and beyond) means that some previously sparingly used flight paths are now becoming busier. New flight paths have been in place since the opening of the second runway in 2020, but due to the effect of COVID on air travel, not all of these paths have been populated by flights. Now that air travel is gradually returning, more residents are now beginning to experience flight noise issues for the first time.

Brisbane Airport Corporation has an aggressive plan for growth over the coming years as it pursues its ambition to become a major freight airport for the eastern seaboard. According to analysis by the Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance, BAC’s forecast air traffic exceeds 110 flight movements an hour by 2035, far exceeding air traffic from Sydney or Melbourne Airports, and bringing them on par with major international airports like Singapore or Hong Kong. If growth of this kind goes unchecked, it means that residents across the city will be affected more and more. For this reason my focus is on solutions that will benefit everyone, including a cap on flights and curfew. I will never support measures that just push the problem onto someone else. 

Flight noise solutions

After more than three years of denials and consultations and reports and reviews, we’re still not hearing anything much in the way of real progress from the Government on this issue. 

As your MP, I’m supporting the community-led demands to curb flight noise, including:

  • implementing a 10pm-6am night-time curfew
  • a total cap on flights at 45 flights per hour, 
  • a new long-term operating plan for more flights over the water

Noise abatement mechanisms like these are already in place and providing relief for other communities near other airports across Australia, including at Sydney Airport. The Minister for Infrastructure has so far ruled out entertaining reasonable solutions like these. Apparently, a curfew or a cap on flights is good enough for Sydney residents, but not Brisbane.

In February 2022, Greens leader Adam Bandt introduced the Brisbane Airport Curfew and Demand Management Act 2022 to the Parliament, which would have introduced a curfew and cap on flights, and required a new long-term operating plan for the airport. You can watch Adam’s speech about this bill here.

These key demands from the Greens bill are all options available to the Minister now, and would make an immediate impact on this issue for residents affected by unsustainable flight noise. 

Instead, residents are expected to put up with back-to-back flights coming in loud and low over their homes at any hour of the day, so that Brisbane Airport Corporation can reap the profits from becoming a major freight airport for the rest of Australia. 

Our community campaign

In the absence of Government support, we’re looking at how we can build community power to compel the Minister to take real action. I’ve been inspired by stories from how Sydney won their noise protections in the 1990s, after more than 10,000 people marched on Sydney Airport, creating pressure that the Government could not ignore.

Right now, BAC has the support of the Labor Party and the Coalition, the aviation industry, and Airservices Australia, which has been almost entirely captured by corporate interests. Just like in Sydney in the 1990s, this fight won’t just be won in parliament, but in the broader community as well.  In order to win real positive reform for Brisbane Airport the community has got to be prepared to call a protest action and get organised behind it.

Approx 10,000 people march on Sydney Airport

In 2022, following the disappointing review from Airservices into the new runway, and the Federal Government’s lack of commitment to serious noise reform for Brisbane, I convened a strategy meeting of over 200 residents in Bulimba to determine our path forward. 

The key outcomes from this meeting was broad agreement that:

  • To win meaningful progress on the community demands ( it’s going to require a major mobilisation of the community, building to a large collective action - similar to the Sydney protest movement
  • The ultimate goal is to push the Federal Labor Government to legislate real substantial reform for Brisbane Airport, including a curfew and capacity limit. To achieve this we identified all the major groups and institutions we can pressure to in turn increase the political pressure on the Federal Government.
  • The targets to help increase pressure include Brisbane Airport Corporation and the broader aviation industry, and might also include the Federal Opposition (who left open the possibility of support for a curfew & cap on flights at the election), or the Queensland Labor Government (as the second-largest shareholder in Brisbane Airport).
  • The airport and the major parties are watching and wondering how big this movement is. At this stage, a protest only attended by a few hundred people risks being a show of weakness, which would set the campaign back. So, it’s important to make sure the movement is organised enough to leave a big impression.

We are building momentum, to culminate in a major protest action to be agreed with community members in 2023, followed by the reintroduction of the previously defeated Greens’ private members bill to Parliament. For this action to have the best chance of success, we need maximum participation from the community, and need to make sure everybody is on board with this protest action to bring everybody along. As agreed at the previous strategic meeting, a follow-up meeting is planned on the north-side of the river in February 2023, where The Greens will seek to consolidate agreement around this action.

Sign up on this page to stay informed about this next meeting, keep up to date about our plans for this community action, and how you can help contribute and make it a success.

My actions on this campaign 

I’ve been fighting for residents on this issue for a long time. Here’s a recap on some of the major actions the Greens and I have taken so far:

  • In May 2021 I hosted a "Solutions to flight noise" community forum, alongside the BFPCA. Almost one hundred people from all across Brisbane gathered to express their outrage at excessive flight noise. David Diamond, Larissa Waters and I all spoke at the forum and echoed the same sentiments; Brisbane Airport Corporation has tricked our communities with its consultation and has been ruthless and callous in its implementation of the second runway.
  • On 2nd of June 2021, 125 people gathered outside BAC's Headquarters to demand a Sydney-style curfew, a new flight path operation model done with real consultation that doesn’t just shift the problem onto other residents, and a total cap on flights. When we got there, BAC literally locked us out. 
  • Our biggest rally to date was on Friday the 22nd of October 2021. To show that we were not backing down, we targeted one of BAC’s biggest shareholders, Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC). Over 200 people arrived to reiterate three basic demands: a Sydney Airport-style curfew, a total cap on flights per day, and a new flight path model within the framework of a new EIS that results in more flights over the bay. 
  • In February 2022, Greens leader Adam Bandt introduced the Brisbane Airport Curfew and Demand Management Act 2022 to the Parliament, which would have introduced a curfew for Brisbane Airport from 10pm to 6am, and an hourly movement cap of 45 flights per hour at Brisbane Airport. It would have directed the Minister to instruct Airservices Australia to produce a long-term operating plan for Brisbane Airport that reduces flight noise and ensure more flights over Moreton Bay. These are perfectly reasonable demands that airports around Australia already have, including Sydney. You can watch Adam’s speech about this bill here.
  • At the May 2022 election, the Greens were (and remain) the only party to support all 8 of the key community demands on Flight Noise.

  • Following the election, on 8 August 2022 my Greens colleagues Stephen Bates, Elizabeth Watson-Brown and I met with the new Minister for Infrastructure, Catherine King. We learned that the pressure the community has mounted in recent months is definitely making an impact. The Minister noted she has received a lot of correspondence from residents in Brisbane, and is very much across the level and extent of concern in our communities. Disappointingly, she indicated to us that Labor currently remains opposed to flight caps and a curfew. She indicated that it is Labor's position that these measures would be too disruptive to  jobs, BAC's business model and the broader community. Obviously we all know, the factor she's clearly not considering is the enormous toll and impact on the health and wellbeing of the wider Brisbane community.

  • On 25 September 2022, I hosted a Flight Noise Community Strategy Meeting in Bulimba, where around 200 community members came together to discuss the next steps for this campaign.

  • Throughout 2022, I have engaged with Airservices Australia’s Post-Implementation Review into the New Parallel Runway, attended Airservices public and private consultations, and made submissions in support of the community demands. You can read the final submission from myself and the other Queensland Greens MPs here. In short we have outlined our support for the positive parts of the report, such as the long overdue Brisbane Airport Community Forum (which Labor promised at the last election) and some technical measures to bring flight noise relief (including by enabling more flights over the bay), but my overarching concern is with the inadequacy of this process and of Airservices regulation more generally, which will probably see any small improvements dwarfed by the massive growth planned by Brisbane Airport over the coming years.

  • In November 2022, I spoke in Parliament about the shocking news that Brisbane Airport has received more noise complaints than all the other major airports in Australia put together, and also spoke about this report in the Courier Mail.