SYDNEY HARBOUR TUNNEL POLLUTION
Mrs BEAMER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for the Environment. What action is the Government taking to improve air quality and monitoring?
Ms ALLAN: The issue raised by the honourable member is particularly relevant following today's report in the Daily Telegraph Mirror of high air pollution levels in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. I advise the House that I have asked the Environment Protection Authority to review emissions data from the tunnel with a view to tightening controls. It is interesting that the honourable member for Port Macquarie lays the blame for this issue with a former State Minister, Laurie Brereton. We should note that the current pollution control licence -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I remind members that question time has not concluded. Members who wish to leave the Chamber should do so as quietly and expeditiously as possible.
Ms ALLAN: I am disappointed that the honourable member for Port Macquarie, after her idiotic interjection, has left the Chamber because she should be aware, as we are on this side of the Chamber, that the current pollution control licence covering the tunnel was actually granted by the former Liberal-National Party Government. At the time there were major disagreements between the former State Pollution Control Commission and the tunnel operators over the ventilation monitoring systems. We should thank the former Liberal-National Party Government for the present quality of air pollution in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. Tighter controls can be applied for the Sydney Harbour Tunnel Company. The Environment Protection Authority is currently investigating methods of upgrading the ventilation system in the tunnel to ensure improvements to air quality.
This Government's primary concern is to ensure that motorists are not exposed to harmful levels of air pollution. Of course our commitment to clean air extends well and truly beyond the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. In July of this year we released the preliminary findings of the metropolitan air quality study, which found that air quality in Sydney will seriously deteriorate by the year 2020 unless action is taken now to dramatically reduce pollutant emissions in the air. If we do not act now, the number of high air pollution days will increase significantly. The worst affected areas of air pollution are not in the heartland of the current Opposition, they are in western Sydney where the majority of Sydney's growth is occurring.
Despite these realities the former Government had no commitment whatsoever to improve air quality in Sydney's west or even provide a permanent air quality monitoring network in the region. The former Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to establish the network in the first instance and then it failed to provide the funding to enable it to be monitored in the future. The coalition, led by a
former Treasurer at the time, planned to shut down 25 per cent of Sydney's air quality monitoring networks. In fact, seven of the monitoring stations were due to be closed by December last year. It appears that the coalition kept the monitoring stations open on a short-term basis to avoid embarrassment prior to the March elections this year. It carried out this single act by raising funds otherwise earmarked for other environmental protection programs to fund the stations until after the election. The stations that would have been the first to close were in western Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong - the areas of most need. The closure of those stations would have left these regions without adequate monitoring stations. It would have made it almost impossible to make a proper assessment of air quality in some of the State's biggest air quality trouble spots.
In contrast this Government is committed to the maintenance of the air quality monitoring network. Not only have we found the $1.4 million needed to preserve this network, but I can announce today that the Government will establish two more monitoring stations in Sydney's west and south-west. The first of these stations will be operational in a matter of months; the other is expected to be operational by early next year. The difference between the previous Liberal-National Party Government and the current Labor Government is clear: the previous Government was about perpetrating a short-term confidence trick on the people of western Sydney. This Government is concerned with making lasting improvements to the quality of life of the people of western and south-western Sydney. and it will find the dollars to honour that commitment.
Questions without notice concluded.