Feb 11, 2013

Question Without Notice – Regional Air Services

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (Dobell) (14:23): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Minister, there is strong support in my part of the Central Coast for a large regional airport. Does the government support the concept of the region having its own airport and, if so, what are the next steps in establishing a regional airport on the Central Coast?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:24):  I thank the member for Dobell for his question. I have met with him and the former mayor, Bob Graham, about the proposal for an airport to service the regions of the Central Coast and the Lower Hunter. The joint study conducted with the New South Wales government found that there would be over a million people living in the Central Coast and the Lower Hunter regions over the next 25 years. As a result of that population growth, as a stimulus to the local economy supporting jobs, increased aviation capacity would be required. That is why the government has agreed to examine strategies including the Wallara site, which is in the member for Dobell’s electorate. It would be a small airport due to the size of the land that would be available, according to the Council, but would be able to service that region. Of course, the member would be aware that this would not alleviate the need for a second airport for Sydney in order to secure jobs, ensure economic growth and ensure Sydney’s position as a global city. As part of the study that is being undertaken, we are also investigating whether RAAF Base Richmond could fulfil some capacity as an interim measure with limited civilian operations.

What we are seeing is enormous growth in aviation – 64 million passengers 10 years ago has grown to 111 million passengers during the last full financial year. What that doubling means is that there will be an increased demand for aviation as a result of aviation’s critical role as a driver of national economic growth, as a driver of jobs and as a driver of Australia’s position in a global economy. Because Sydney has four out of every 10 movements, the capacity constraints at KSA are a handbrake on the national economy. I note the comments of the shadow minister, and I welcome his comments acknowledging that there is a need for bipartisanship on this issue and that there is a need for this issue to be dealt with. It has been a political football for a long time, but we do need to deal with this issue. There is substantial support amongst many communities for the jobs and economic growth that aviation activity brings, and I look forward to working with the members on the Central Coast about these issues into the future.