SUBJECTS: Second airport for Sydney; High Speed Rail; Tralee housing development under flight paths at Canberra Airport
PHILIP CLARK: …plenty of people would agree with you, but it seems the Premier is not one of them, neither is the Federal Transport Minister either, Anthony Albanese, who joins me on the line this morning. Mr Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
PHILIP CLARK: Well, that’s Mr O’Farrell, says it’s just politics on your part, because you’re worried about your seat. Look, putting the politics aside, we either need an airport, or we don’t, don’t we?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s just a breathtakingly ridiculous position for him to take, to argue that this is about me. This is about Sydney’s needs, as well as the Business Council of Australia and other senior people who were on the committee that produced this report. The Secretary of the Department of Transport in New South Wales, was on the committee. There were only seven people on it – two of them were his senior bureaucrats. It was jointly chaired by the New South Wales Department of Planning, the New South Wales Government wrote most of the report, they provided all of the data that shows that a second Sydney airport is absolutely vital to Sydney’s growth, to jobs, to the economy, and to the functioning of Sydney as a global city.
PHILIP CLARK: Yes. You’re the Federal Transport Minister, the Federal Government’s got substantial powers in the field of aviation, you could probably make a decision, and go ahead and build the thing anyway, I know this would be unusual, but you could probably do that, why don’t you do that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Because we can’t. We can, it is true, have control over the airport precinct, but…
PHILIP CLARK: You could acquire the space, you could acquire the land, you could acquire the services…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We can do that, what we can’t do is connect the electricity, connect it to the rail and land transport networks, I mean Barry O’Farrell showed once again in that interview that he hasn’t bothered to open the cover of this report. If he had, he would show that this isn’t a report just on aviation capacity, it addresses very directly land transport links, infrastructure issues, the road and rail links that are required for a second airport, for it to be successful.
We need the cooperation of the New South Wales Government – that’s the truth of the matter. I find it astonishing that the New South Wales Premier is saying this, at a time when he says we need to engage with India, engage with China. It’s pretty hard to catch a train to China and India.
PHILIP CLARK: This idea of the fast train to Canberra, where did this idea come from, does this idea have any currency in Canberra, and do you support it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think out of a Coco Pops packet, frankly. The idea that a second airport for Sydney can be in Canberra is, as Joe Hockey says, absurd. The idea that people overseas will book a plane flight into Sydney and be told that they’re actually going to Canberra, is like booking a plane ticket to New York, and landing in Washington DC.
I mean, high speed rail is worthy of consideration, we’re spending $20 million on a high speed rail study, but it does not, and the report written in part, co-authored by the New South Wales Government, it shows that it is not a solution to the second Sydney airport. And remarkably, there is before the New South Wales Government at the moment, a proposal to put housing under the flight path at Canberra Airport, something that the Federal Government, we’re saying to the New South Wales counterparts, that should not be approved, we should protect that corridor. Because it is a 24-hour airport, it is important for freight. There will be growth at Canberra Airport, and the New South Wales Government is considering putting housing under there.
PHILIP CLARK: Yes, alright, I mean one of your predecessors in the post of Transport Minister, Laurie Brereton, years ago, in the mid-’90s, in fact, was sitting in this very studio, in this very chair, I’m not trying to play ancient history with people, but it was a long time ago, he said to me, Philip, what you’ve got to understand is that Badgerys Creek will be built, he said, and people will be getting off aeroplanes, international aeroplanes there, and catching a train to the Sydney Olympics, he said, which of course was in 2000. Now that was a cast iron promise he gave me. I mean politicians have poor form, and poor records of these things, don’t they?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Let’s be clear. If we had been elected in 1996, that would have occurred. The land was acquired, all the planning approvals were all done. The fact is, the Howard Government got elected, and stopped work progressing on it, put it off to the never-never. The land was still preserved, but they didn’t proceed with the next steps that were required. Had it continued at that time, it would have been up and running today.
PHILIP CLARK: Yes. The truth is, there’s nowhere to build this thing now anyway, is there, you can’t build it at Badgerys Creek, there’s been too much housing development there, there’s something like 4000 houses under the flight path there, there isn’t a viable alternative site readily available that’s easy anyway, is there?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Any infrastructure project is difficult, but the report identifies Badgerys Creek, which the Government has also said that we wouldn’t proceed with, and Wilton, as options for a second Sydney airport. We believe that Wilton is worthy of further consideration.
If you want to talk about infrastructure difficulties, the High Speed Rail project requires a 200 metre-wide corridor. When you want to talk about disruption, when the report comes out in December of this year, if it is to proceed, it will require houses to be resumed, it’ll require massive tunnelling under Sydney in particular, it will require a massive amount of work. That is one of the things that occurs with infrastructure.
But we simply can’t, as a global city, say, ‘no, we don’t want the jobs; no, we don’t want the economic activity, we’re fine thanks, we’ll just put our head in the sand’. What this report shows is the consequence, even for traffic gridlock around Sydney Airport – where the New South Wales Department of Transport are saying there’ll be traffic gridlock around Sydney Airport within the coming five years.
PHILIP CLARK: Yes. Mr O’Farrell admits he hasn’t read the report, he says he’s had a look at the executive summary, and that’s as far as it’s gone, it’s getting kicked back and forward, between the Federal and State Governments again. This time it’s a Coalition Government here in New South Wales that’s knocking it on the head, it was a Labor Government before that. Is it ever likely that we’ll ever see the light of day for a Sydney second airport ever?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes, because we have to. The alternative is extraordinary. The people who run Sydney Airport would quite like for the regional airlines to be kicked out, and just kicked to Bankstown, and for Bankstown to become Sydney’s de facto second airport.
PHILIP CLARK: That’s an option too, isn’t it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well it’s not an option that I support. If you want to talk about highly densely populated areas, the sort of scenarios that Barry O’Farrell is talking about, he needs to give proper consideration to, because we’re already at peak. During peak periods there are now no slots available for regional airlines right now. People who use Sydney Airport know that the delays are increasing. This is a hand-brake on our productivity, because every delay at Sydney Airport has a knock-on effect right around the country, because about 40 per cent of the aircraft that fly around the country, go through Sydney at one time or other, during the day.
It simply is absurd to argue also the increased size of aircraft argument – the idea we’re going to have A380s as the only aircraft flying is quite absurd, Mr O’Farrell needs to read the report, written by his own senior people, and people such as the Business Council of Australia, Warwick Smith, Chris Brown, the former head of TTF. This is a serious piece of work, and anyone who reads it, and is briefed on it, as Federal colleagues across the political spectrum have shown, knows that action must occur on a second Sydney airport, sooner rather than later.
PHILIP CLARK: Mr Albanese, we’ll leave it there, thank you for your time, appreciate it.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you this morning.
PHILIP CLARK: Thank you. Anthony Albanese, the Federal Transport Minister.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.