Apr 16, 2014

Radio interview – Fran Kelly, Radio National Breakfast

Subject/s: Badgerys Creek, infrastructure, Labor Party 

KELLY: Anthony Albanese is Labor’s spokesperson for transport and infrastructure. Anthony Albanese welcome again to breakfast.

ALBANESE: Good to talk to you Fran.

KELLY: Tony Abbott says it’s time to get cracking. It’s been shirked and squibbed. Are you embarrassed that he’s going to build the second airport at Badgerys Creek? He’s announced this within seven months of winning government and you didn’t get to start on it. You had nearly seven years.

ALBANESE: What we did was produce the evidence firstly that a second airport would be required through the joint study we commissioned with the NSW government that was chaired jointly by Mike Mrdak from my department and Sam Haddad, the head of NSW planning. Barry O’Farrell of course refused to even receive the report that his own Transport Department had helped to write and said that there was no second airport required in Sydney or anywhere in NSW for that matter.

KELLY: Well he’s been persuaded. He’s been persuaded on this.

ALBANESE: Yes and he’s got to explain what the difference is, why this is just an issue that he took personally in terms of it being about me or Joe Hockey and why he has changed that position is a matter for him. He seems to have a bit of a problem with his memory lately Barry. I look forward to seeing his explanation there.

We then produced a report. It showed that Badgerys Creek was the best site, but also showed that sites, including Wilton, needed to be examined. I worked across the Parliament. I didn’t have a group of Labor MPs, I had briefings for all MPs across the Parliament to make sure that the Parliament was brought with us. Other sites were examined, including Wilton, to see the detail so that you could have the facts there.

The facts are there now. This is a necessary component of the national economy to have a second airport. You do need also the work that is being outlined today. All of the planning work for that of course was done by the former government. You can’t just draw lines on the map. You’ve got to get the evidence and the planning work done. It’s done. It is now ready to commence and I think that’s a good thing.

KELLY: Well you think it is a good thing. Not everyone is convinced. I mentioned before when I was talking to Michelle Jackie Kelly who is a long-time resident of western Sydney. She’s not convinced. One of the things that is concerning residents is this notion of no curfew.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott said very clearly yesterday there will not be a curfew.

ABBOTT: First because quite frankly people don’t want to travel in the middle of the night and second because we are just dealing with far, far fewer people. If you look at the noise footprint, some 4000 people live within a Badgerys noise footprint. The equivalent at Sydney is 130,000.

KELLY: As you have been telling us Labor is committed to bi-partisan support for this second airport at Badgerys Creek. But your position has been only with curfew restrictions in the past. Are you planning on keeping that promise?

ALBANESE: Well, where have I said that Fran?

KELLY: I understand that that is your position.

ALBANESE: Where have I said that Fran?

KELLY: Is that Labor’s position? Is that Labor’s position in the past?

ALBANESE: Where have I said that?  Well you just asserted that it was.

KELLY: That was my understanding that it was. Am I wrong? That’s fine if I’m wrong. 

ALBANESE: The EIS needs to examine those issues. I have heard some people say also we want the same conditions at Badgerys Creek as occur at Kingsford Smith. There are two issues there, one which Tony Abbott just outlined of the relative numbers of people. The second is that last year there were 3500 flights during curfew hours at Kingsford Smith Airport. So people should be careful about getting what they wish for. These things need to be examined in detail, unemotionally, based upon facts. I think that it is legitimate for those issues to be considered about the operation of the airport as part of the EIS process. Those submissions will occur and it’s important that the issue of the way that the airport operates be considered as part of that process. That’s my view.

KELLY: Let me ask you further your view because you have been thinking about this for a long time now and you’ve had the benefit of those investigations. Is a second airport in Sydney at somewhere like Badgerys Creek only financially viable if it is a 24-hour operation?

ALBANESE: My view is that the real crunch point isn’t what’s happening at 3am. It’s what’s happening right now at Sydney Airport. Right now the roads around Sydney airport will be clogged. People will be urgently trying to get through to the airport. The rail system will also be full that goes to Sydney Airport and there’ll be planes waiting at the gate to push back or planes that have landed waiting to get access to a gate just standing there on the tarmac stationary. That’s the problem at Sydney airport is the peak hours and those peak hours have been extended as time has gone on. It used to last about an hour. Now it lasts for about four hours. And a delay at Sydney airport, because four out of ten flights go through Sydney, means a knock-on impact right around the country.

KELLY: Well nothing is going to change there quickly for Sydney airport at Mascot because it will be 10 years the government says before a plane is ready to land or take off at this second airport at Badgerys Creek. The Prime Minister is going to announce a $3.5 billion road package today. No news yet on a rail link although the suggestion is that the NSW Government will build that. Is a major international airport viable without a rail link to the Sydney CBD?

ALBANESE: No that’s absolutely essential. It’s essential to have a rail link that links the two airports. It’s also essential that the rail link link up with the Greater Western Line and provide big benefit for the infrastructure of western Sydney. This has got to be not just about the airport. It’s got to be about jobs and economic development of related industries and of innovation in western Sydney. Part of that has to be a rail line. I don’t understand this ideological objection that Tony Abbott has to rail. You need rail as well as road in order for this airport to work.

KELLY: And Anthony Albanese, just finally and briefly if you would, your colleague Louise Pratt says she’s ashamed of the deal that saw Joe Bullock elected to the Senate in WA ahead of her, the incumbent. It was a deal between a right-wing union and a left-wing union, that’s your faction. Are you ashamed of the deal too?

ALBANESE: Well I wasn’t a part of it.

KELLY: No, but nevertheless as a senior member of the Left and a senior member of the ALP? 

ALBANESE: I wasn’t a part of it.

KELLY: Was it a bad deal?

ALBANESE: My view is that Louise Pratt is a big loss to the Labor Party. She was a very good senator. She will remain one until June and I just hope to see her back in some capacity in terms of making a contribution to Parliament. She in the past of course was a West Australian parliamentarian prior to going into the Senate. One of the things that we do need to examine is a way in which we make sure that we increase participation in the Labor Party in a way that ensures that you can’t just have a small number of people making the decisions.

KELLY: So rank and file election for the Senate?

ALBANESE: Well I think certainly there is a need for a rank-and-file component. Louise Pratt is very highly regarded in Western Australia and it is a very poor result for the Labor Party that we appear to have only returned one senator out of six.

KELLY: Anthony Albanese thank you very much for joining us.

ALBANESE: Thanks Fran.