Apr 5, 2011

Transcript of Press Conference – Commonwealth offices, Sydney

Subject: Sydney needs a second airport

ANTHONY ALBANESE: As people would be aware the Federal Government has commissioned a joint study with the State Government into Sydney’s airport needs and related land transport matters. This committee is jointly chaired by the head of my Department, Mike Mrdak, and Mr Sam Haddad of the NSW Planning Department – it contains various private sector expertise as well as drawing upon the resources of both public service organisations.

It’s looking at the need for Sydney to have a second airport and related land transport matters. And it will report to the governments in the second half of this year. What this committee has done is a series of economic modelling, and that modelling shows that a second airport for Sydney will be required soon rather than later.

Sydney Airport has a cap of 80 movements per hour and of course a curfew between 11pm and 6am. What we’re seeing is the peak period at Sydney Airport growing as the growth occurs in movements at that airport. So the peak is being pushed out. Whereas it used to be just between 7am and about 8.30, that is now growing as time goes on.

More and more what that means is that one delay at the Airport will result in potential delays for passengers of up to five hours. Because the airports are interconnected, what that will mean over a period of time, unless there is a second airport to take some of the capacity into Sydney, is delays for passengers, inconvenience and a cost to economic growth and jobs as a result of that capacity constraint at Sydney Airport.

That is why we need a second airport for Sydney sooner rather than later.

This report also shows, for example, that this year there are seven different hours in which the number of requests for slots at Sydney Airport exceeds the 80 that are allowed to be granted.

So on seven different hours, the applications were made on that basis. Last year that was the case on only four. That reflects the growth there. Already, right now, we know there are more people want to fly into Sydney Airport than the capacity will grant.

Now, Sydney Airport’s response I noticed in the newspaper this morning to talk about the Productivity Commission looking at a review of the constraints is code for looking at the cap of 80 movements per hour and looking at the curfew. On my watch, there will be no shift in the curfew or the cap on movements at Sydney Airport.

I can understand Sydney Airport wanting to maintain its monopoly position, but the truth is a global city such as Sydney needs a second airport. The truth is that that has been known for some time. That’s why we established this joint planning taskforce with the State Government.

Sydney is Australia’s global city. It is the city that global citizens want to fly into more so than any other airport around Australia. And it’s vital that that infrastructure be kept up to date. That is why we need a second airport.

What is not a solution is a removal of either the curfew or the cap which are constraints that have been put legitimately around Sydney Airport.

Happy to take questions.

QUESTION: So when will we know about the second airport? When will you decide?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The report will be provided to us in the second half of this year. What the preliminary discussions or the advice that I’ve received is, is that they’ve looked at the issue of the economic impact of not having a second airport, what that would be in terms of economic growth not just for Sydney but for the nation, and they have commissioned studies from outside private sector organisations to do that. I’ve already had a preliminary discussion with the new NSW Transport Minister, Gladys Berejilkian, and in that first discussion I had with her I raised this study. It would be appropriate for the Federal Government to sit down with the NSW Government, but it’s certainly my view that that report should be made public.

QUESTION: When is it going to happen? When will the – let’s go back to 1946 when they first discussed a second airport. We’ve had numerous studies. Now everyone wants to know when will you make a decision?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what I’ll do first is receive the report. One of the…

QUESTION: We know that’s coming in the second half of this year.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: One of the things that we’ve done is make sure that we remove the politics from this. In the past it has suffered because politics has interfered with good policy-making. That’s why when we established the committee it was independent of government, at arm’s length. There are no politicians on this committee. We’ll receive the report, we’ll release it, and we’ll consider it on its merits.

QUESTION: When this report is handed down, will it recommend one location or a variety of sites?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That is up to the committee itself. They have been given very wide terms of reference. What they’ll look at which is different from the past is that they’re also looking at what are the land transport links, that is road and rail links to any particular site. They’re looking at the economic implications for the whole of Sydney, that is, they’re looking at this as an economic issue not just as an aviation issue.

QUESTION: Why won’t you remove the airport [indistinct] from Badgerys Creek, the Badgerys Creek site?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: This study is also looking at the future use of the site. Badgerys Creek is a site that has potential in terms of what it’s used or, and part of the debate has to be whether it’s used for housing, whether it’s used for commercial use. There are a number of options open for the site, and that is one of the reasons why the NSW Department of Planning are very engaged with this process as well.

QUESTION: What happens if none of the sites that the report recommends are any good?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t want to pre-empt the review. The review, I’ll receive it, they are undertaking their work, unencumbered by politicians, be it state or federal. Let’s have a look at what they come up with. Let’s consider the report. But we know that there are real consequences for the national economy if we do not get a second airport for Sydney.

QUESTION: You just said here sooner rather than later in and that’s great. Now you’ve set a timetable that you’re going to have – the [indistinct] will get a report at the middle, at the end of this year, right.


QUESTION: Okay. So how much more time do you need to make a decision once you’ve done this report… and considering that reports have been done since 1946 [indistinct]…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I can’t pre-empt the report. The report hasn’t been finalised yet, it hasn’t been written yet. It is appropriate that there be a considered response to this rather than a series of announcements in which there are chopping and changing. We need to receive the report, consider it, and have discussions between the Commonwealth and the NSW Government. Have it properly considered by the Commonwealth.

At the moment the report hasn’t been finalised, so it would be premature to comment on the detail of the report, and a response to the report that hasn’t been written yet.

QUESTION: Well let’s look down the track – now I’m not going to hold you to it, but I mean do you think you would be standing here in 12 months time hoping to make a decision on a second airport?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I will hold to it if I put a timetable on that I don’t need. I believe there’s been enough speculation. What people want is reality moving forward. I have informed the public through you here today the progress that’s been made on the review. The committee is clearly finding that there is indeed an economic imperative for a second airport.

QUESTION: You’ll make history you know. If you’re the Aviation Minister that – or the Infrastructure Minister to announce the second airport, you’ll go down in history as a very brave man.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There have been announcements in the past. What there hasn’t been is a second airport up and running.

QUESTION: Minister [indistinct]?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The committee is looking at all of those issues including financing. There are of course leasing arrangements there as part of the privatisation of airports undertaken by the previous government.

The current owners of Sydney Airport have an option, a first right of refusal if an airport is built within a particular distance from the airport.

But those commercial issues and financing issues are also being considered which is why this review is taking some time. They are making sure that they look at all of those issues – planning issues, land transport issues, financing issues.

QUESTION: I was just going to ask. The latest analysis here says that within a decade it’s going to be unbearable. Could you promise then that [indistinct] before the decade is up?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: My position is very clear. I certainly have known for some time that Sydney needs a second airport. I think most people in Sydney know that Sydney needs a second airport. People know that there was a decline in the number of movements and passenger movements as a result of the global financial crisis.

But people know full well that there are issues with regard to delays, and those delays, as congestion occurs at the airport, will get longer not shorter.

QUESTION: Can I just [indistinct] this morning he doesn’t want to have a second airport in the Sydney basin. He suggested one up Newcastle. Would that be something that you’d look at?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The committee is examining all of the options. I’m letting them do their work without ruling things in or out. The government has a position of not proceeding with Badgerys Creek.

But otherwise the committee’s been allowed to do its work.

QUESTION: [Indistinct] will a potential site be nominated this year – perhaps you can say yes, no, or not necessarily.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s up to the committee but certainly what they’re looking at in great detail is sites. That’s the job that they’ve been given.

QUESTION: Is it 10 sites as the paper suggests?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think they considered many more than that.

QUESTION: Do you think they’ve now zeroed it down [indistinct]?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not aware of that, I think that’s probably speculation rather than fact.

QUESTION: Is the high-speed rail study feeding into the second airport study or are they using the information [indistinct].

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly I should imagine that there’d be some examination but there’s no direct link there. The high-speed rail study is being undertaken separately by private sector – we went through a tendering process. Private sector is looking at that – certainly in terms of that study – it’s looking at receiving it in two parts. The first part in July; the second part the following July. So the first part will look at routes, preliminary costings. The second part will go into the detailed work that hasn’t been done on high-speed rail which is all the geotechnical work.

We know that from Sydney to Newcastle would be the first stage of an east-coast high-speed rail network is what they’re looking at and we know that the cost particularly of Sydney to Newcastle just due to the geography and the topography are difficult, is a challenge.

They’re looking at those issues, but there’s no cross membership of the two exercises. Clearly both those reports will be supplied to the government.

Thank you.