'Nothing sinister' in Tralee talks
Village Building Company managing director Bob Winnel on site at Tralee. Photo: Jay Cronan
The Liberal senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries, says there is nothing inappropriate or sinister in getting information from the developer of the Tralee housing project to help frame questions at a Senate estimates hearing on aircraft noise.
Senator Humphries had asked Department of Infrastructure and Transport secretary Mike Mrdak about reviewing the management of aircraft noise during a recent rural and regional affairs and transport legislation committee hearing.
Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said Tralee's developer, Bob Winnel, had given Senator Humphries the information for the Senate hearing.
Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron. Photo: Rohan Thomson
The airport opposes the NSW government's decision to approve Tralee for 2000 homes, saying it will lead to aircraft noise complaints, noise-sharing over the ACT and Queanbeyan, and eventual loss of the airport's curfew-free status.
Mr Byron said Senator Humphries' questions, and reports of a fund-raising dinner for the Liberal Party, raised serious questions for the NSW government on the wisdom of approving Tralee.
Mr Winnel hosted the fund-raising dinner in mid-October at his home in Yarralumla, which was attended by Mr Abbott and Mr Humphries.
He said the decision on Tralee flew in the face of recommendations from the Planning Assessment Commission, which was established to improve transparency and independence in planning.
Senator Humphries said Mr Winnel's fund-raising dinner was held some time after the NSW cabinet had made the decision to approve Tralee.
At a Senate estimates hearing on October 16, Senator Humphries questioned federal transport and aviation staff on noise standards.
On Sunday he said: ''When senators ask questions in committee, particularly in estimates committee, they are often done so on the basis of a discussion with a constituent or organisation which brings issues to their attention before the hearings take place, and that's the nature of what was discussed between me and Bob Winnel about noise standards at Canberra Airport.
''I am not particularly concerned whether the development goes ahead or not.
''What I am concerned about is whether the same noise standards apply to the ACT as will apply in other parts of Australia.''
Senator Humphries said Mr Winnel had raised an interesting issue with him in relation to noise standards that educated his questions at the estimates committee.
''There is nothing inappropriate or sinister about that. I would say every day when the Senate estimates committees meet that very same phenomenon happens,'' he said.
Senator Humphries said he did not know whether Mr Winnel was at the hearing, but anyone was free to watch proceedings over the internet.
Senator Humphries said he did not have a separate fund-raising account, and funds raised for the federal Liberal campaign would go to whoever was preselected.
He was unable to say whether the funds raised could be redirected to NSW.
''I can say we need this money in the ACT for the next federal election here.
''I can tell you now, none of it will be going to NSW.''
Mr Winnel did not return calls.