Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance – people before planes

60 Reasons to Protest: Reason #54 – Complaints to Airservices go nowhere

Airservices Australia systematically stonewalls community members with legitimate complaints about aircraft noise.

Community complaints manuals obtained by BFPCA through Freedom of Information requests show how Airservices staff are instructed to provide pre-scripted answers designed to quash complaints and prevent them from progressing to investigation or referral to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) or to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

Of the total 207 pages of staff training materials BFPCA obtained under FOI, just under half a page deals with “noise improvement investigations.” The remaining pages instruct NCIS staff in how to send boilerplate responses arguing that complaints are unjustified and nothing can be done. Suggested replies include, “this cannot be changed,” “investigations already conducted,” “no investigation will be conducted,” “no direct transfer to Department.”

Airservices confessed in Senate Estimates that they received 14,019 complaints and enquiries from 2,956 complainants between 12 July 2020 and 31 October 2022. They were then asked, how many noise improvement investigations has Airservices complaints team conducted anywhere in Australia for any airport annually since 2018?

Answer: Nil 

While the Air Services Act 1995 requires Airservices to protect communities from aircraft noise, we now have hard evidence that Airservices prioritises ‘air traffic management efficiencies’ instead. The government and aviation industry have created a dedicated team charged with purposefully stonewalling communities. It conveniently shields decision makers from hearing people suffering aviation noise pollution.

If complainants do not give up and submit further complaints, Airservices staff are instructed to treat this as “unreasonable behaviour.” The training manual suggests these ‘difficult people’ are to be put on a management plan. This imposes access restrictions such as limiting phone calls or email contact “including deleting without reading submissions.”

To top off Airservices’ stonewalling tactics, BFPCA also found that noise complaints get underreported on purpose. Airservices only report on the number of complainants and issues raised each month – not the total number of complaints received. This hides the true impact of excessive noise pollution experienced by local communities.

The Government’s latest “Statement of Expectations for Airservices Australia” only requires Airservices “to continue to improve the flow and quality of information to noise affected communities.”

In response to this orchestrated negligence, BFPCA has taken matters into our own hands with our own complaints reporting process. Brisbane residents and communities can lodge complaints through BFPCA’s simple one-click web link:

Using this link enables communities to bypass the biased and negligent Airservices complaints process, by emailing their complaints directly to the Minister for Transport Catherine King MP, the Shadow Minister for Transport Sen. Bridget McKenzie, the Greens spokesperson for cities and transport Elizabeth Watson-Brown MP, the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner, the CEO of Airservices, the CEO and Chair of Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), the Brisbane Airport Community Aviation Consultation Group (BACACG), the Airport Advisory Board (AAB), and the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO).

BFPCA demands that Catherine King MP issues a revised “Statement of Expectations for Airservices Australia” that puts communities first as per the legislation. We further demand that the Air Services Act 1995 be amended to free Airservices from its regulatory capture by the aviation industry and ensure it protects the human and natural environment, community amenity and residential areas from the effects of the operation and use of aircraft. These regulatory changes must also include strengthening the independence and authorities of the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO) and integrating the ANO with the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

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