Jul 25, 2013

Transcript of doorstop interview – Sydney

Subjects:  Second Sydney airport         

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we have to do is to get the proper processes in place. That’s why we’re gone through an exhaustive process of identification of sites. That’s why we’re going through the additional work that we are in terms of Wilton.

We know that notice has to be given to Sydney Airport, the current owners, under the legal obligations that have been put in place.

But I would envisage a site needs to be confirmed and then the process of notification given to Sydney Airport. And then construction I would like to see commence in the next term; over the next three years.

We know it takes a substantial period of time to get it up and running, but we know that Sydney Airport is already congested to the point whereby it is a handbrake on national productivity.

Because four out of every ten flights nationally go through Sydney Airport we need to make sure that this problem gets addressed, and that it gets addressed in a way that is bipartisan as well.

I’ve had discussions with people in the Coalition about ensuring that that bipartisan approach can occur. And we know that in the past politics has got in the way. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.

QUESTION: So if construction did start in the next three years, what would be the time frame then? How long does it take to build an airport?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  It takes a substantial period of time to build and construct an airport, and it depends, obviously, on the site chosen what that time frame is.

But in terms of an airport you would begin slowly in terms of the number of flights, the runway configuration, and build up over a period of time.

QUESTION: So if construction did start in the next term you would have to make a decision on a site basically after the election, wouldn’t you?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: A decision would need to be made in the first year, and that would certainly be my objective.

I know from discussions I’ve had with the Coalition that a number of their senior members have said exactly the same thing.

QUESTION: Badgerys Creek would be the heavy favourite, wouldn’t it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   I am not going to pre-empt that process, as much as that was a rather blatant attempt.

What you need to do is to have proper processes in place. People are aware of what the options are. People are also aware of the details because we have published transparently all of the reports.

We’ve done the hard work. There is more work that needs to be done.

But we know also in terms of what Sydney Airport has said in terms of its master plan, and people know also that the issue of road congestion around Sydney Airport, the limited space, the size of Sydney Airport is a real constraint on it. That’s the major constraint.

It’s an advantage for Sydney, but it is also a disadvantage in terms of the potential that is there for growth at the airport.

And we know already that there are real issues with regard to increasingly planes being delayed, and increasingly occurrences whereby a plane – even after it lands – can’t get access to a gate because of the infrastructure constraints that are there on Sydney Airport.

So saying no to a second Sydney airport is essentially saying no to jobs, no to economic growth, and no to Sydney’s future position as a global city.

QUESTION:  Have you spoken to the Premier or the State Government about this?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Premier and the State Government are two different things on this question.

The Premier, I think, made a statement about Canberra being Sydney’s second airport that he probably regrets. And common sense tells you that that is not an option.

It is an option in terms of already considered and rejected in terms of the study that was done jointly chaired by the New South Wales Government and the Federal Government; it’s a joint study.

Most of the information in that study, in terms of planning, came from New South Wales Government agencies. And indeed the New South Wales Government had not just the head of the planning department as the joint chair of the report, they also of course had the head of the transport department also on that committee.

QUESTION: Would you be concerned that the Opposition could use this to create fears about aircraft noise in western Sydney and south-western Sydney?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There’s nothing new in my statement, I am committed to a second Sydney airport.

There has been a bipartisan approach to that from leaders in the Coalition, including Joe Hockey and others, for that.

It needs to be worked through in a bipartisan way. If it becomes a partisan political issue, it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.

That has been a constraint in the past, which is why in spite of some inaccurate media articles from time to time in various journals attempting to say ‘why haven’t you just done this’, there are legal processes to be done and you need to get the analysis right.

I have consistently said that you need bipartisan support in order to get this done.

QUESTION:  When would you like to see this airport up and running?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s not a political decision, that’s a matter of the infrastructure processes being put in place.

If you look at a city such as Melbourne, it has Avalon as its second airport. Of course Essendon also provides some regional flights. But Avalon is very much welcomed by the local community as a generator of jobs, particularly for Geelong.

QUESTION: You have previously ruled out Badgerys. Is it back on the table?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, the report is there. The Labor Party policy supports a second airport for Sydney. What we’re doing is investigating.

Maybe people haven’t kept up. But if you have been keeping up and paying attention – and I know that most of you have been – then you will know that what we’re doing is doing further work on geotechnical work on the Wilton site.

When that is done, it will be published. Then an assessment can be made.

What I’m not doing is getting ahead of that. You can ask in a whole number of different ways but I’m not getting ahead of that.

What I’m doing is saying Sydney needs a second airport, everyone knows Sydney needs a second airport. There needs to be bipartisan support for it.

QUESTION: In terms of construction starting in the next term, are you saying you would like that to be the case, or can you commit a re-elected Labor Government-

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I would like that to be the case. I’d like that to be the case.

You need to go through the process, and indeed there are legal requirements around a second airport for Sydney that have to be fulfilled. Those are legal requirements that were imposed by legislation carried by the former Government.

So in spite of the odd editorial, have a look at what those legal requirements are. They include, for example, 12 months’ notice. They include a whole process due to the first right of refusal that the existing owners of Sydney Airport have.

QUESTION: Every time you have raised this issue, the Premier has said it makes no difference because you haven’t put any money on the table. So, is there any money on the table for this?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The poor old Premier doesn’t seem to understand either that airports are not owned by governments and run by governments these days. They are leased. They are leased by the private sector: major airports.

And indeed the first airport, in terms of Sydney Airport, its owners have a first right of refusal.

Now with that would be some infrastructure costs associated with a second airport for Sydney. That’s a good thing because what that means is infrastructure investment and improvements that have consequences for people also who don’t use the airport. That’s investment into Sydney.

But if you look at the costings of these proposals, and compare it with other major infrastructure projects for Sydney, this is a relatively non-expensive project compared with other proposals for infrastructure in Sydney.