Apr 15, 2014

Radio interview – John Laws 2SM

Subject: Badgerys Creek

LAWS: The Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has previously given his backing for the project. And he is on the line now. Anthony, Good morning.

ALBANESE: Good Morning John.

LAWS: Nice to be able to talk to you again. Are you well and happy?

ALBANESE: I am pretty well although I’ve been trying to get fit and I’ve done my knee and I’ve done my ankle. I was better off when I was a minister and didn’t have time to do physical things. But apart from that I’m fine.

LAWS: People ask me what exercise I get. I tell them I wrestle with my conscience, run up bills and fight depression. That’s the only exercise I get. When you reach a certain age you’ve got to be careful Anthony. I’m not casting aspersions upon your maturity or otherwise, but when you get to a certain age you’ve got to be careful

ALBANESE: Indeed you do.

LAWS: Do you support the use of Badgerys Creek as a second airport?

ALBANESE: Yes I do John. We do need to come to a resolution. I commissioned a joint study between the Federal Government and the NSW Government that reported in 2012. It found that Badgerys Creek was the best site but also found that Wilton was another possibility. We did further examination of the Wilton site and what’s clear is that Badgerys Creek is the preferred site in terms of the land has already been purchased. It is in a location where you can ensure that there is minimal impact in terms of aircraft noise and it will be a significant job generator. In terms of infrastructure development, you’ll need to extend the south-west rail extension that’s happening to Leppington. You just keep going essentially to Badgerys Creek and then you’ll have a direct rail link between the site and the Kingsford Smith site. You also need significant infrastructure investment in roads. They are all issues in terms of a final position that we will hold. We’ll wait and see what the government determines. But as a principle our view has been very clear which is that Sydney needs a second airport sooner rather than later.

LAWS: OK. So you in fact do approve of what the government is doing, with some reservations.

ALBANESE: Well we’ll just see the details but we certainly approve of the need for a second Sydney airport sooner rather than later. I said in Government that construction should commence this term of government once a site is chosen and I am of the view that politics has got in the way of this project in the past.

LAWS: Well, you are right.

ALBANESE: … that we need to make sure politics does not get in the way again and because four out of every ten flights go through Sydney this is a national productivity issue. It’s not just an issue about Sydney or New South Wales. It is an issue about the Australian economy.

LAWS: Should Badgerys Creek be used for all types of flights – international flights as well as domestic flights?

ALBANESE: It should but that will be over a period of time. It will commence pretty slowly as you’d expect and the existing Sydney Airport will remain the major airport for a considerable time to come. What we need is to soak up the growth that’s there. You have enormous potential for growth in our region in terms of the growing middle class in China, in Indonesia, in India, in Vietnam and there are huge potential job benefits. It needs to be a transport and logistics hub. It needs to be a centre of innovation, and it needs to drive jobs growth in Western Sydney. There are two things you can do for a region. You can give them an airport or a university. The University of Western Sydney has played an important role in terms of driving that innovation and jobs growth, but we need to make sure Western Sydney benefits from considerable infrastructure upgrades in road but also in rail. The rail line needs to be extended through to the Western Line. We want to see that investment there as well. It’s got to be a whole package, rather than just an airport.

LAWS: And how long will all this take?

ALBANESE: Well the land of course is there. A lot of the planning has already been done. There’s a great deal of detail in the joint study and in the further report that I commissioned, that the government now has access to. The total infrastructure spend directly on the airport was estimated to be the $2.4 billion figure. It makes sense to build the infrastructure before the airport, because it’s cheaper. You can build the rail line under the airport now rather than try and retrofit the infrastructure once the airport is up and running. But it should be expedited. We know around Sydney airport the land transport issues are just enormous.

LAWS: Absolutely. It’s a mess.

ALBANESE: And that traffic gridlock come 2015 would be a lot worse than it is now.

LAWS: Yeah. It’s very interesting and it’s also very very important. But I’ll tell you something that I find very good, to hear somebody who generally opposes the government, to be looking at it sensibly as you are, and to be in favour of what the government is doing with certain reservations.

ALBANESE: We have to be constructive. When it comes to infrastructure, by definition it takes more than one term. If it was the case that an airport was announced and simply opposed for opposition’s sake, it would never happen. I’m firmly committed to nation building and infrastructure development. I see it as the key to long-term productivity and economic growth and it’s the key to jobs.

LAWS: How refreshing to hear someone say “I’m not in opposition simply for the sake of opposition”. It’s a good way to look at it, because sometimes bipartisan attitude to something that’s going to make the place better is the best place to go, and obviously you’re going to take that attitude.

ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that when it comes to infrastructure it’s absolutely essential to take a long term view, otherwise nothing will happen. We’ve got to look at the great city of Sydney, which I love dearly. But it can’t continue to be that the jobs are in a band from the CBD up to Macquarie Park where the high value jobs are, and the State of Australian Cities report that I commissioned through the Major Cities Unit, showed that all the jobs growth was in the finances sector and the services sector, and it was all around the CBD and Macquarie Park area. In Western Sydney, you didn’t have those high value jobs. An airport can generate high value jobs because of the transport and logistics sector, because innovation can be built around what needs to be an industrial centre. You have protection, because you don’t have residents built up against the airport. The protections of course have been there since the 1980’s in terms of people building there. What people want is certainty. With regard to issues like aircraft noise, they need to be considered and factored in. And they will be, to the Environmental Impact Statement process, that will allow for community consultation, looking at the detail of flight paths and making sure that noise impact and those issues are absolutely minimised.

LAWS: Absolutely. Anthony I better leave you because of the news we’re about to encounter and I know you wouldn’t want to hold up the news.

ALBANESE: I certainly would not John.

LAWS: It’s nice to talk to you as always and I hope we get to talk to you again soon.

ALBANESE: Great to talk to you John.

LAWS: Thank you very much. Anthony Albanese, who’s the Opposition when it comes to Transport but he’s not opposing too much there. Wisely, because what I think is being suggested is good because it’s good for Australia and will good for its people. He’s the Shadow Transport Minister as you know and does a terrific job. But he’s very flexible in his thinking which is pretty important in politicians and let me tell you it is very rare.