Issues: Sydney airport curfew; Second Sydney Airport; NSW government’s approval of heliport
TIM WEBSTER: Now, there’s a suggestion around today, Trace, that says if the curfew at our airport was wound back by a couple of hours, let planes take off and land until 1a.m., the state’s economy would be boosted by about $300 million. Now, we need the money, but I just think it makes sense for a traffic issue at the airport, getting people to come through the airport.
TRACEY SPICER: Yeah, so we thought we’d get the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, on the line, afternoon Minister.
ANTHONY ALBANESE:Gday, how are you?
TIM WEBSTER: Good mate.
TRACEY SPICER: Very well. Are you being negligent in your role as Federal Transport Minister by thinking of the small number of people in your electorate as opposed to the bulk of the Australian population?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly not. This is an absurd proposition. The difference is, neither Melbourne or Brisbane have any residences within six kilometres from their airport runways. In Sydney, the nearest homes are 700 metres from the end of the runway. There’s 300,000 people who live less than 10 kilometres from Sydney airport. And the curfew wasn’t introduced by me, it was introduced way back in 1995. All we’ve done is keep those arrangements in place. It’s a bipartisan position, and, frankly, this figure’s been plucked from a coco-pops packet.
TRACEY SPICER: So would you question this $300 million figure for New South Wales?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just complete nonsense. Nothing to back it up.
TIM WEBSTER: Yeah, to be honest with ya, as I said, I’m not that interested in the money issue, but surely, Minister, if we can get more people coming in and out of Sydney Airport, we don’t even have to talk about a second airport, which will never happen while we’re all standing on two feet.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t know about you and I don’t know when your next trip’s planned, but I’m sure you that you don’t want to plan it for 12:45am, to leave Sydney to go to Melbourne. The fact is that now flights are allowed up to 11 p.m. The last flight to Canberra leaves at about eight. The last flight to Melbourne leaves at around about just after nine o’clock or nine-thirty.
The fact is, people want to travel in peak periods, and this figure, from a bloke who is a self-appointed expert, there’s nothing to back it up whatsoever. The fact is there are curfews not just at Sydney, there are curfews at other airports that are in the middle of residences, such as Essendon in Melbourne, Adelaide and Gold Coast. All have curfews in place and that is for reasons of common sense.
TRACEY SPICER: And common sense dictates, Minister, that Sydney is the biggest city in Australia, and if this is going to help our economy, surely we should do it. You said that the curfew came in 1995, but since then aircraft have become quieter. That makes common sense to me.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: In your dreams they’ve become quieter. They’ve become quieter per capita. The fact that an A380 is quieter compared with a dash 8 aircraft per person, doesn’t mean it is a quiet flight.
TIM WEBSTER: I don’t think we’re going to talk you into this are we?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No chance, and there isn’t anyone in Federal Parliament who suggests that this should happen. And, indeed, there’s no one serious either, in the aviation industry who’s arguing that this should happen.
TIM WEBSTER: Yeah but mate, we’re not bloody serious about a second airport either as I said…
ANTHONY ALBANESE:Well we have to get serious about a second airport.
TIM WEBSTER: Yeah we do. But as long as our rear ends point to the ground, we’ll never get one.
ANTHONY ALBANESE:We need to get one because otherwise we are saying no to economic growth. People want to fly during peak periods. The problem with this argument isn’t just of itself, the problem is that it’s a distraction from the real argument, which is that Sydney needs a second airport, and it needs it sooner rather than later, and it needs it because people want to fly at peak periods. Business people don’t want to fly at twelve o’clock at night.
TIM WEBSTER: Look, but yeah wait a minute. If that’s the case, then why do politicians like you keep dodging the issue of a second airport?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not dodging the issue of a second airport.
TIM WEBSTER: No no, mate, we’ve been talking about this the length of time I’ve been in broadcasting, and that’s a long time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Absolutely. But I’m not dodging the issue. I’ve set up a process whereby we had a joint committee of the Federal Government and the State Government, trying to get consensus, trying to recognise that whilst it’s the subject of politics, we won’t get progress. So that’s why I set up this process. It came down with the unanimous recommendation, Federal and State, and immediately Barry O’Farrell, who seems to support a second airport as long as it’s in the middle of Sydney harbour for helicopters, opposed it.
You know, it’s a bizarre proposition and I’ve asked the aviation airspace experts to have a look at this story, that’s broken in the last 48 hours as well because my department certainly weren’t consulted by NSW prior to this decision being made.
TRACEY SPICER: Yeah it sounds like there’ve been problems with process there, Minister, but can you give us a time frame on when we will see a second airport in the Sydney basin, be it Wilton or Badgerys Creek?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think we need to make a decision in the next twelve months.
TIM WEBSTER: Good.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’ve been working closely with people on the Federal level, and the fact that you’ve got people like myself and Joe Hockey singing from the same song sheet is very important.
TRACEY SPICER: That’s pretty rare too.
ANTHONY ALBANESE:It is, but we’ve been working hard on it. I note Warren Truss, the Shadow Minister made similar comments in the last week about the need for a bipartisan position, and he’s right. Because Governments come and go, because by definition it’ll take a decade to build and the chances are you’ll have changes of Government every decade. That’s why we need to actually get this done in the interests of the Sydney, New South Wales and national economy.
TIM WEBSTER: Couldn’t agree more.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: …and not worry about who’s flying at quarter past twelve at night. Because the demand for it isn’t there.
TIM WEBSTER: Hey, I’ve caught the red eye from Perth.
TRACEY SPICER: That’s it, we think both measures would help, but I guess we’ll agree to disagree. Thanks Minister.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Indeed. Bye Bye.
TIM WEBSTER: Thanks mate, see ya.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.