Sydney without an airport – welcome to the fantasy world of the Greens – Opinion Piece – The Australian
One of the advantages of representing a minor political party is that because you aren’t trying to win government, you never have to deliver on your promises.
But that fact should not excuse politicians from minor parties from offering genuine, workable solutions to policy challenges facing the community.
Increasingly, minor parties in this country and overseas are crafting opportunist and negative election positions rather than proposing solutions.
So it is with the Greens and their approach to the commonwealth’s plan to build a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. The NSW Greens oppose the development of the Badgerys Creek airport, but they also want to close the existing Kingsford Smith airport and build a new airport at an imaginary, unnamed site outside the Sydney basin, which they would connect to the city by high-speed rail. If this were put in place, Sydney would be the only global city without an airport. It’s the stuff of fantasy. It has no place in the world of serious policy debate. Yet this has been Greens policy for the whole of this century.
One on one, realistic Greens party members acknowledge this is not practical. Yet the policy remains and enables the party to campaign for zero impact of aviation activity anywhere, despite the fact modern aviation is a driver of economic activity.
The community has the right to expect that serious parties come to the table with ideas capable of implementation, not just complaints.
Regrettably, the Greens have given up serious participation in the decades-long debate about Sydney’s aviation needs.
They have not been prepared to step back from the local political angles, to consider the bigger picture and the broader economic and strategic national interest.
The Badgerys Creek airport will create thousands of jobs for the people of western Sydney. It will provide a huge boost not only for the economy of NSW but for the entire nation. The issues involved require serious consideration from politicians.
Before the Abbott government’s decision to proceed with construction of the Badgerys Creek airport, the former Labor government examined whether there were other options. The research identified the only possible alternative airport site at Wilton, but it was a higher cost and an inferior site to Badgerys Creek, where the Hawke Labor government had already purchased the land and put in place strict environmental controls.
The Greens opposed Wilton, too. In the light of this, their proposal to banish Sydney’s airport to an unnamed site and to link it to the city with a high-speed rail line cannot be taken seriously.
The comprehensive study into the plan to build a high-speed rail line from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra found that 67km of tunnelling in Sydney would be necessary for it to operate.
It’s a serious project worthy of support. But, like any major infrastructure project, high-speed rail would affect communities along the route. Tunnels require exhausts. Construction creates inconvenience.
Delivering high-speed rail, just like building the Badgerys Creek airport, will require explanation of the benefits and broad support across the political spectrum.
Indeed, it is likely that the challenges of high-speed rail construction will create issues over a far wider area than the second airport.
In short, it will require political representatives to act on principle rather than seek to exploit local communities’ fear of change for political gain. Given the Greens’ record on opposing a second Sydney airport, opposing the Moorebank Intermodal, which will take freight off trucks and on to rail, as well as opposing safety upgrades to the Pacific Highway, it would be remarkable if they did not confect reasons to oppose high-speed rail in practice.
When it comes to economic infrastructure, the Greens are political opportunists.
If this criticism sounds too harsh, consider the tactics being employed by the UK Greens in the campaign for this week’s British election.
The Tories have proposed to spend more than $30 billion to construct a high-speed rail system linking eight out of 10 of the UK’s major cities. The HS2 is designed to serve one in five of the UK population, reducing the need for air travel and providing a major boost to economic productivity.
The Liberal Democrats back this nation-building project. Labour also supports high-speed rail.
But in a bizarre twist, the UK Greens oppose the project. They argue it will inconvenience nearby residents. Never mind the productivity benefits to the British economy, the jobs the project would create or the opportunities for economic development in cities along the route of the track.
This opinion piece was first published in The Australian on Tuesday the 5th of May 2015.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.