Nov 6, 2012

Transcript of Interview – ABC Mornings With Alex Sloan

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

ALEX SLOAN: Minister, a very good morning to you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Alex.

ALEX SLOAN: You’ve accused the New South Wales Premier, Barry O’Farrell, of trashing his own second airport plans.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that’s because it’s exactly what he has done. At Canberra, we have an airport that has an approach to the runways that’s free of housing development. That’s virtually unique amongst our capital city airports. The idea that you would change the zoning, which is what’s occurred here – a changing of the zoning to allow housing that was previously not permitted for common sense reasons – defies logic and flies in the face of Barry O’Farrell’s own rhetoric saying Canberra should be Sydney’s second airport.

ALEX SLOAN: But you’ve always scoffed at any talk that Canberra could be Sydney’s second airport. Why are you buying into this?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Because, as the Aviation Minister, I understand the growth that will occur in aviation this century. And what that will mean is not just that Sydney needs a second airport, but that there’ll be considerable expansion at airports such as Canberra that services our national capital but also services the region.

And the fact that it’s curfew-free means it’s particularly suited to air freight growth and there is enormous economic potential here, and good infrastructure planning means that the need to ensure that decisions taken today don’t discount what will occur in terms of future growth.

ALEX SLOAN: The developer says that the development is not under any current or future Canberra Airport flight path, it’s 10Ks from Canberra Airport. He also says this allows young, first home buyers a chance to buy a house in this region. Doesn’t he have a point?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What he has is an economic interest. What he has is a windfall gain from the fact that you’ve had property bought then rezoned and then used for a higher value.

I mean, it’s not surprising that the developer has pushed this, and I’m not critical for him…

ALEX SLOAN: [Interrupts] But affordable housing – affordable housing is a key issue.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course it is, and affordable and sensible housing needs to be done in a way which is properly planned not just in Canberra but the Queanbeyan area.

There are other options for housing development. I’m certainly not opposed to an expansion of housing, but let’s not put housing under flight paths.

ALEX SLOAN: What, as a federal minister, are you going to do about it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, this is a decision of the New South Wales Government. It’s a pretty extraordinary decision given Barry O’Farrell’s rhetoric about Canberra Airport. I’ve made my views very clear and I’ve written to the New South Wales Government today asking them to reconsider their decision.

ALEX SLOAN: But is that it? This is a decade-long argument. There’s really nothing you can do?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I’d be surprised if this ended today. This is an issue that’s been a decade-long argument because every single time it’s been looked at by independent planners – including the New South Wales Government’s own Planning Assessment Commission and an independent body set up by Frank Sartor – all of them that looked at it, rejected this proposal and they rejected it for good reason.

Common sense tells you where you have a site. If you had an approach to Sydney or Brisbane Airport today that didn’t have any houses under it, you’d be mad to put houses there. What you do is use it for other purposes.

ALEX SLOAN: The South Tralee, the developer says the South Tralee rezoning complies with all the relevant planning instruments.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s against the New South Wales Government’s own Planning Assessment Commission’s recommendations and it’s against every independent study that looked at it. This defies common sense and it really is an extraordinary decision by New South Wales. We need to make sure when it comes to infrastructure planning that we don’t make decisions today that rule out economic activity tomorrow.

 And we have, of course, a $300 million investment by the ACT Government and the Federal Government in the Majura Parkway. That’s about the potential that’s there for the Hume industrial zone and for employment growth and economic activity in the region. It makes sense to have an industrial site next to the Hume industrial site in the ACT.

ALEX SLOAN: Minister, you talked about the developer’s commercial interests. What about Canberra Airport owners? They’ve got a commercial interest as well. Is that what we’re looking at in this argument, one commercial interest up against another?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I have no regard for the sectional interests of either party. I’d expect both of them to pursue their own interests.

 What governments have got to do is rise above sectional interests and represent the long-term interests of the community. That’s what I’m doing. This is something that’s been supported, as you’d be aware, by local members of different political persuasions, and I’ve been lobbied by people not just in the Coalition but in the Labor Party. I’ve stuck firm, as did the previous Federal Government, in saying this is a bad policy decision, and politics shouldn’t rise above good policy.

ALEX SLOAN: But you’ll write to the Premier, but that’s basically all you can do?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ll look at other options that might be available to the Federal Government. But the State Governments are in charge of planning. This is a decision that was firmly in their court. I’ve a great deal of respect for Brad Hazzard as the Planning Minister. He’s been very consultative with the Federal Government, but on this call the Premier essentially has come in and he’s got it wrong.

ALEX SLOAN: And just before I let you go. Your Labor counterparts here in the ACT have locked themselves in to building a three-quarters of a billion first instalment of light rail to basically stay in government. The Minister, Simon Corbell, yesterday talked about money from Infrastructure Australia. How much are you going to cough up? They need $15 million in the first year.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Infrastructure Australia is not a funding body. What it does is make recommendations based upon cost benefit analysis to the Government.  If the ACT Government or anyone else wants to make submissions to Infrastructure Australia, they’re welcome to do so.