Jul 31, 2003

Address to St Peters Tempe ALP Branch: Badgery’s Creek Airport


30 July 2003

The previous Labor Government made a dreadful decision when it decided to build a third runway at Kingsford Smith Airport (KSA) rather than fast track the construction of a new airport at Badgery’s Creek. At the time Western Sydney Councils and MPs were overwhelming in their support for an airport.

This decision directly impacted on the quality of life of more than one million residents and led to the blockade of the airport by mass protests involving tens of thousands of people. Labor Party members in coalition with a broad group of community activists from across the political spectrum provided leadership to this movement.

This furore led to increasing concern in Western Sydney about the impact Badgery’s Creek would have on people’s quality of life. I respect the position of other Labor MPs who are reflecting the views of some of their constituents, however I believe that Badgerys Creek remains the most viable option.

The land at Badgerys Creek has been purchased and approved by two Environmental Impact Studies. The site is also twice the size of KSA.

The 2001 census showed that 23,746 residents live within 10km of the Badgerys Creek site. More than 800,000 residents live within the same distance from KSA. Within 5km figure is 5,000 compared with 143,000 for KSA. On equity terms it’s a no-brainer. This meeting would be within the Badgerys Creek airport perimeter if it were held there.

Furthermore, the construction of an airport at Badgerys Creek would create somewhere between 30,000-60,000 new jobs and improved infrastructure in Western Sydney.

However, Labor must bring communities with us and we must respect local communities right to have primary say over the region in which they live.

The controversy surrounding a second airport for Sydney is about much more than parochial interests. A report conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research found that between $9.2 and $11.2 billion would be lost to the economy if a second Sydney airport were not built. That’s why this is a debate about nation building, jobs and future economic opportunities – it is about having a long-term vision for this nation.

Does anyone in public life believe that Essendon Airport should still be Melbourne’s only airport?

Unfortunately inadequate consultation has resulted in a flawed policy and a bad outcome for all of Sydney. The process has been acknowledged as hopeless. It relies upon figures provided by Sydney Airport CEO, Max Moore-Wilton, whose only interest is maximising his company’s profits through its ownership of KSA. Given the announcement has been made, it is now time to move forward towards the policy outcome that would have emerged if proper Labor Party practice had been observed. Labor needs a policy that all Sydney can embrace.

Simon Crean has regularly pointed out how important it is for Labor to be known by what we propose, not just what we oppose. He has already made important announcements on Medicare, TAFE, restoring the health of the Murray River, reform of corporate governance and most important of all, last week’s higher education policy.

It’s time for this same approach to be applied to Sydney’s transport needs. It is not good enough for Labor to simply rule out the Badgery’s Creek option without identifying an alternative site. This position adopts the Greens’ approach to policy– all protest, no solutions. At the end of the day, the planes have to go somewhere. Unless a second airport is built, pressure to move jets and regional airlines to Bankstown will inevitably grow. This outcome would be the ultimate disaster for Sydney.

Consensus can be achieved to abandon the Badgery’s Creek option in our Platform if an alternative site is named. This alternative must be identified before any change to Labor’s current policy platform is debated at the January 2004 National Conference.

This alternative would of course be subjected to an Environmental Impact Statement. Labor should approach the Government to support our option, thereby taking the politics out of the debate. Labor should also support or initiate legislation to conduct an EIS on this site in 2004.

Given the community’s current cynicism about whether Badgerys Creek would ever be built, what hope has Labor got reassuring Sydney-siders that a second airport is still on our agenda when no alternative site has been named. A “Where’s Wally” approach to a second airport site is bad politics exposing Labor to multiple scare campaigns and taking all the pressure off the Howard Government.

If an alternative site cannot be found then I would rather be honest with my constituents and tell them now, rather than give them false hope.

A visionary approach to Sydney’s transport needs must also include a Sydney Airport Community Plan. This Plan should include:

  • Mandatory enforcement of the curfew and cap by imposing significantly increased fines and penalties for all breaches;
  • Reform to the operation of the LTOP to maximise the number of flights over water;
  • Implementation of LTOP targets to ensure genuine sharing of aircraft noise;
  • Noise measurements (ANEI) to be conducted at least every second calendar year with insulation provided to houses based upon the scientific reality of these findings. As any doctor under the flight paths will verify, this provision is an important health issue;
  • Allow the Parents and Citizens groups of all schools within 1km of the insulation boundary to apply to have their schools insulated. All young people have a right to be educated unhindered by excessive aircraft noise pauses;
  • Negotiate compensation for those small businesses who relied upon the residents in the half of Sydenham demolished following the construction of the third runway;
  • Noise amelioration measures to be funded by an extension of the Aircraft Noise Levy;
  • Rejection of the proposal to relocate air traffic control to Melbourne on safety, operational and security grounds.

The voters in the electorates surrounding KSA have exclusively elected Labor members to state and federal parliaments for more than a century. My electorate contains some of the poorest income groups in Sydney and 42% speak a language other than English at home. The overwhelming majority look to Labor to give them a fair go. They deserve to have their loyalties rewarded and not taken for granted.

For the last century nation building has been a proud part of Labor’s past. Proposing real solutions to aircraft noise and support for a viable second airport will determine whether nation building also has a place in Labor’s future.