Nov 6, 2012

Transcript of Doorstop Sydney Airport T3 – 6 November 2012

Issues: Second Sydney airport; NSW Government’s approval of Tralee residential development

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Barry O’Farrell today has trashed his own policy which said that Canberra should be Sydney’s second airport. It was always a preposterous idea. Sydney needs a second airport that’s actually going to service Sydney, but at the same time, this decision to place a housing development under the flight path at Canberra Airport, is a very bad policy decision.

Every single time an independent body has looked at this issue of housing at Tralee, including the NSW Government’s own Planning Assessment Commission just earlier last year, including the separate independent inquiry established by the former minister, Frank Sartor, they have all rejected the idea.

Canberra’s one of the few airports, and indeed the only capital city airport in Australia, that has a flight path onto its main runways, that is free of housing development under it.

To take a parcel of land, have it bought by a developer, then have it rezoned for residential development, is just extraordinary, which is why no proper planning process would have approved this development.

I don’t argue with either the developers or Canberra Airport pursuing their sectional interests, but what governments have to do is to rise above sectional interests, represent the interests of the community, and represent the national or the state economic interests.

Canberra Airport is the only curfew-free airport between Brisbane and Melbourne that can increase capacity. Canberra Airport is expected to grow at more than 30 per cent over the next 10 years. Canberra Airport will be a significant airport serving Australia’s national capital, but also serving the region around southern New South Wales.

So, to put housing under this development will create an issue in future years. Already we’re seeing local residents’ associations speak about the danger of increased aircraft noise, when you look at the area, and how close it is to the airport, just 10 kilometres away, and you consider that there is a real difference in an aircraft going over homes at 3pm in the afternoon, and going over homes at 3am in the evening, then this decision simply doesn’t make sense.

I’m happy to take questions.

QUESTION: Brad Hazzard has said that they have complied with Federal Government guidelines and they’ve accused you of telling porky-pies.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, he doesn’t have to listen to me; he can listen to his own Planning Assessment Commission. He can listen to any of the independent reviews that have been established on this. He can have a look at not just this Federal Government’s view, but the former Federal Government’s view under John Howard. Whoever has looked at this in an objective way has rejected this proposal, and Barry O’Farrell now looks completely ridiculous.

If Barry O’Farrell and Brad Hazzard were proud of their decision, they wouldn’t have put it out on the morning of Melbourne Cup Day. Melbourne Cup Day is known amongst politicians and journalists as ‘put out your trash day’. Well today, Barry O’Farrell’s put out the trash, and he’s trashed his own policy on Sydney’s second airport.

QUESTION: The State Government says though that this development will be far away enough from the flight path of Canberra Airport though.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I suggest that when you leave the airport here, travel 10 kilometres in any direction, and ask residents in places like Leichhardt whether they are free from aircraft noise, and what it would be like living in a community like that under a curfew-free airport that operates 24 hours a day?

Now Canberra has particular prospects for growth in the area of freight, and particular prospects because it’s curfew-free, to engage in that freight, particularly with fresh produce going to the Asian region, that can’t go out of Sydney because of the curfew that’s here. Canberra Airport has very good prospects for expansion in the future – that’s something that’s very positive for New South Wales. We’re talking about Queanbeyan here, we’re not talking about looking at Petersham or Leichhardt and saying, ‘oh well, there’s no other sites available for housing’. This is an area that has open space to the north, to the south, to the east, to the west. This is an area that has other options for housing development.

I’m pro-housing development, but it’s got to be in the right place, and common sense tells you that where you’ve got a flight path, what you do is, you use that for industrial purposes. It’s right next to the Hume Industrial Estate in the ACT, it is prime land for industrial, which is why it has had to be rezoned for housing. It has taken intervention to rezone this land for housing development because previously it was recognised that this was frankly just a dumb idea.

QUESTION: Mr Hazzard 100 per cent insists though that this development won’t have any effect on any plans to expand the airport.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Have you asked him why he put it out on Melbourne Cup Day? If he was prepared to actually defend this decision in a positive way, they wouldn’t have done it in this manner. I mean this is a Government that completely ignores its own advice, whether it be the need for a second Sydney airport that was recommended by the Joint Aviation Study, commissioned by the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government and jointly chaired by the head of New South Wales Planning.  You then had Infrastructure New South Wales, chaired by Nick Greiner, coming out just weeks ago, saying that Sydney needed a second airport, and throughout that debate you’ve had Barry O’Farrell out there saying, ‘no, Sydney doesn’t need a second airport, I’ve got a great idea, it’ll be in Canberra in another city, hundreds of kilometres down the road, that’s where we’ll increase Sydney’s aviation capacity’. And today this decision has completely trashed that idea itself.

QUESTION: Minister, will you challenge this decision in the courts?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We certainly will get advice. The advice that we’ve had up to now is that this is a planning decision of the New South Wales Government. We’ve certainly made our views very clear, and we’ve been consistent on this, this Government, this State Government, the former State Government, have been in no doubt as to what our views are.

This is something whereby, I, as the Infrastructure and Transport Minister, have got a responsibility to represent the national interests. I’m doing that, I’m not caving into any sectional political interests. It is true that there are some people in both political parties who support this proposal. I’m saying governments have to do the right thing by the community, and by the national interest, not by any particular sectional interest, be they a developer or an airport owner.

QUESTION: So we could see a court challenge?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we’ll seek advice, I’ve written to the Premier and the Planning Minister today asking them to reconsider their decision. Airservices Australia are about to introduce a flight path which would take planes away from Jerrabomberra towards exactly where this Tralee area is. I’ve written to the Minister – I’ve been quite clear about the Federal Government’s position on this. I must say the State Minister, to give credit where credit is due, has been prepared to sit down with me and discuss these issues, and I thank him for that, but on this decision, he’s simply got it wrong.

QUESTION: Brad Hazzard has assured Canberra Airport will remain curfew-free, can he guarantee that, or is that outside his jurisdiction?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course he can’t, it’s not his decision. It’s like saying that anyone who’s moved into a flight path under Sydney Airport since the 1920s, has no right to complain about aircraft noise. I’ll give you the big news tip – people do. People will buy houses under flight paths, and then object, particularly to the impact of aircraft noise at night, and this will have an impact.

You have in Queanbeyan – a regional centre that has industrial and factories on its main street. Common sense tells you that with much better planning you could make Queanbeyan a much better, more liveable city, as well as dealing with the need to create jobs and have industrial activity on a site next to the Hume Industrial Estate.

This is a very bad decision in which some people in Queanbeyan have been promised development in terms of assistance with roads, et cetera, by the developers. At one stage there was a plan for a school under this flight path. Well, we’ll see how that goes, but I think people will have a very close look at the process that has led to this decision, and I don’t think this is the last that you’ll hear about this issue.

QUESTION: This has been a long-running issue, how do you propose this to-ing and fro-ing between the State and Federal Government comes to an end, and something actually happens?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the State Government have made a decision, what I’m doing is making clear the Federal Government opposes this decision. I would have had exactly the same position when the former New South Wales Government was proposing this. We have made our position very clear, to successive Planning Ministers and successive Premiers, that this simply doesn’t make sense.

I produced an Aviation White Paper in 2009, and it spoke about the need to protect infrastructure corridors. When it comes to infrastructure, what we’ve got to do is make sure that decisions we take today, don’t block economic activity and job creation in the future.

That’s what good infrastructure decision-making is about, that’s what I’m about. The New South Wales Government has had a shocker with this proposal – Barry O’Farrell has gone out there with his rhetoric about Canberra being Sydney’s second airport. Given that rhetoric, this is absolutely extraordinary and it’s not surprising that Barry O’Farrell has taken today to trash his own policy on what is one of the great ‘take out your trash days’ that the nation has.

Thanks very much.