Mar 2, 2012

Transcript of press conference – Sydney

ISSUES: Second Sydney airport, the Monthly.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  First – the site constraints at Sydney Airport where the size and location of the site imposes significant operational costs but also real capacity limitations, not just in terms of aviation capacity limitations, but also importantly, the land transport issues around the airport that are considered in this report. Secondly, the report goes through the costs of inaction in terms of foregone gross domestic product; also for New South Wales in particular, foregone gross state product. What it shows this report is that the economic costs of not acting, is enormous. By the year 2005, the cost to the economy will be $6 billion. By 2060, it’ll be 10 times that. There are enormous costs of inaction as a result of this not occurring. The third slide I’ll put up is the cost in terms of reduced expenditure, which shows that over a period of time if there isn’t action in terms of a second airport for Sydney there are significant economic costs in terms of jobs and in terms of economic activity. The fourth slide I want to show you is the timing of capacity issues. The report goes through what the implications are of not acting over a period of time. Right now – today, there are no remaining peak slots, for example, remaining for regional services. What that means is that if regional services in Ballina or other parts of New South Wales which rely upon access to Sydney Airport come through, then they will, in terms of the airport, not be able to deal with that growth.

By 2013, all peak morning slots are gone; nothing available for regional; nothing available for interstate; and nothing available for international. By 2018, all peak morning and all peak afternoon will be at full capacity. By 2020, essentially LTOP – that is, noise-sharing functions at the airport – will have a situation whereby it will only operate early in the morning and early in the afternoon. By 2027, essentially the airport, all slots, will be fully allocated. So what this shows is the growth that’s there. The last slide that I want to show you refers to what will occur in terms of other airports and the impact on the national economy. It’s important to recognise that in terms of the nat… international – in terms of the national economy, because Sydney is effectively the hub, a delay at Sydney Airport has an impact right around the nation.

By 2020, the report shows that a one-hour delay in Sydney will delay some 600 aircraft, but that’s not the real story. The real story is the flow-on impact throughout the national economy and the cost of productivity. In Melbourne, 128 flights will be delayed by one hour, 34 flights by two hours; Adelaide, 36 flights one-hour delay; nine flights a two-hour delay. Brisbane, 82 flights a one-hour delay, 22 flights a two-hour delay; Perth, six flights a two-hour delay and 24 flights a one-hour delay. And so on it goes. Essentially, as Sydney Airport reaches its peak capacity, any incident at Sydney Airport, be it weather or other delays that do occur, will have a knock-on effect right throughout the entire system and that is occurring already. People that travel through Sydney Airport regularly will be able to know the fact that the delays at Sydney Airport have a knock-on effect; that is people sit at Tullamarine or at Brisbane Airport or at Adelaide Airport as a result of the delays that are caused through Sydney Airport, because throughout the day just about every single domestic plane that operates around the country goes through Sydney. That is why this is a national productivity issue.

Now, there are a range of recommendations in the report, many of which will be considered by the national government. We’ve received the report, of course, this morning. It speaks for itself that it’s 3,200 pages, and the Government needs to examine this work very closely. But there are a range of positions that we have said that we have that we intended to maintain.

Firstly, the curfew and the cap at Sydney Airport will be maintained. The report speaks about an increase of the cap could go up to 85 per hour from the existing 80. The only reason why there can only be a minimal increase is because of the site constraints at the airport. The Government does not believe that that is an appropriate measure; the cap is enshrined in legislation and we do not support any change to that legislation. Secondly, we don’t support Bankstown Airport being Sydney’s second airport. Bankstown Airport has an important role to play in general aviation, but we don’t support it being – through a process of stealth, becoming Sydney’s second airport. We also maintain our position of opposition to an airport at Badgerys Creek. That was a commitment that we gave at the last two elections and we believe that’s appropriate even though the report indicates that Badgerys Creek is its preferred site.

The second preferred site of this study is Wilton; and the Government intends to examine the Wilton site. There would need to be a scoping study of that as the first step and I had discussions with the joint chairs of the report this morning on that. So there’ll need to be some scoping works done; there would also, of course, need to be an environmental impact statement were that to be proceeded with. Importantly, the report goes through what the consequences are for Sydney in terms of its economic capacity, but also the implications for New South Wales and Australia, of not acting on this issue. This issue is hard and it will require courage from governments to act. But it also, very effectively I think, dismantles some of the arguments that are being put forward as alternatives. For example, it explicitly rejects Canberra Airport, or any other airport such a distance from Sydney becoming the second airport, and effectively outlines why all international experience shows that that will not work. It also speaks about the increased needs for aviation capacity in other parts of the Greater Sydney region. In particular, the growth that’s required in Newcastle and the Central Coast will require additional aviation capacity there. It also opens up the discussion about – in the short term there being some regular passenger transport services operating from the Richmond air base. But it outlines that Richmond can’t be due to capacity constraints and size restraints of the site, can’t become Sydney’s second airport because it could only take a very limited number of flights.

So this is a report that the Government will consider. We will now release the report for full public discussion and disclosure; 3200 pages of information. I’m sure that there will be discussions with all of the stakeholders. I conclude with this point, that there will also be a discussion in terms of stakeholders with the existing owners and operators of SACL at Sydney Airport. Under the legislation there are very, what I regard as very generous provisions for Sydney Airport’s owners to have options in terms of the site. And we will today write to Sydney Airport, starting that process of consultation that’s required under the Act. That is, that we intend to take action as a result of this report and we will trigger the consultation mechanisms today that are in that report. I’m happy to take questions.

QUESTION:   The report, as you said, makes clear that Badgerys Creek is the best option; it’s just a politically dangerous one. Isn’t it time to show some real leadership, put aside concerns about votes and just start work on Badgerys Creek?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Badgerys Creek is chosen as the preferred site. What that shows is how fair dinkum we were in the way that we dealt with this report.  The report importantly was chaired by Mike Mrdak, the secretary of my department, Sam Haddad, the secretary of the New South Wales Department of Planning. It also had the secretary of New South Wales Infrastructure, Les Wielinga and four independent people are Warwick Smith, who’d be well known to people here as a former Federal Minister; Warren Mundy, who’s the deputy chair of the Airservices Australia, the former CEO of airports internationally, there in a personal capacity; Jennifer Westacott, the secretary or the CEO of the Business Council of Australia; and Chris Brown, who’s a former head of the Transport and Tourism Task Force. So, these people weren’t given a political brief. There weren’t politicians sitting on the report. They came up with the recommendations that were available. One of the things that they do with the report also, there weren’t constraints on them. They looked at thirty-six potential sites. And, so they weren’t given a brief. It was go away, do your work, come up with your recommendations free of political interference.

QUESTION:   So, if you engaged such a panel of experts and they looked at 36 sites and they still came to the conclusion that Badgerys Creek was the best one, why won’t you listen to them?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Because in terms of the commitments that we gave at election campaigns were that we would not consider Badgerys Creek as a site. They also looked at – one of the things that their brief was, was looking at the site – at Badgerys Creek and what potential uses it could be. In terms of Badgerys Creek, they essentially argued it should be land bank, that is not just made available for housing. The site – one of the things that the involvement on New South Wales Planning in particular was very useful for is they looked at employment opportunities in Western Sydney. What the report shows is that the growth at the moment will be in the north-west corridor and the south-west corridor. Once that reaches a point, the north-west won’t grow any further; the south-west will continue to grow. That is the McArthur South region, which is one of the reasons why Wilton comes online very much as the second preferred choice. What this is a report to governments. A joint report to both governments – the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government. We will consider the recommendations of the report, but we’ll also consider what the views of the community are on these issues.

QUESTION:   Minister, when did you get the report?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: This morning.

QUESTION:   This morning. You got the report this morning. Have you read it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No.

QUESTION:   Okay. [Indistinct]…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Interrupts] It’s 3200 pages. I haven’t read it in between 9:30 and 11:30.

QUESTION:   So without reading it, within a few hours you’ve already rejected its two key recommendations: Badgerys Creek and…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Interrupts] No. What I’ve done is read the Labor Party Platform that has a range of commitments in it. And they were being upfront about what recommendations are there. Of course, there have been various commentary in the media about these issues, and I’m just stating what the Government’s position is.

QUESTION:   It beggars the question, Minister…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Interrupts] Which is – I’ll give you another chance. But which is that the curfew and the cap at Sydney Airport, regardless of the recommendations, would not be altered and Badgerys Creek that we had stated what our position was on that site.

QUESTION:   It beggars the question, doesn’t it Minister, why waste the time of the people involved in this study, and taxpayers’ money for that matter, on this process?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, this is not just a study into aviation. If you look at the report, and I have read the executive summary and I’ve read all the recommendations and I’ve been fully briefed by both Mike Mrdak and Sam Haddad from the New South Wales Planning Department. What this is not just a report into aviation. This is a report into planning and transport usage including land use planning in the Greater Sydney region. It’s a vital piece of work with regard to the report. But it is important in terms of – at the very beginning that we state what our position is. Our position is also, that the Government maintains, for example, if you want a political statement, the Government maintains that regional airlines need access to Sydney. That is a vital issue. If you are going to talk about a pure economic case, then you would not necessarily proceed with that position.

QUESTION:   Minister, isn’t it the case that the last thing this subject needs is a political statement? That’s the very thing that’s held it up for decades.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Indeed, which is why we have, in terms of the report, there’s no selective positioning here, it’s going to be all out there. It is now on the website. It’s available for anyone to examine and to come to their own conclusions. This has not yet been considered by the Cabinet – we’re not trying to pre-empt the process, we’re trying to ensure…

QUESTION:   With respect, Minister you just have.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: … ensure that you have a look. Well on some positions we have.

QUESTION:   On some positions, the key positions Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, that’s not right. On some positions with regards to the curfew and the cap, it is stated. What this report clearly argues is that Sydney does need a second airport, and we need one sooner rather than later. It ranks the sites, just as the sites were ranked when they were last looked at more than 20 years ago. The conclusions interestingly are the same in terms of Badgerys Creek as the preferred site, and Wilton as the second preferred site.

QUESTION:   Could you for…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What it also shows though is that unless you make that decision the number of sites – there is one graph in the report that shows what has happened over a period of time as growth occurs, the possibilities become less.

QUESTION:   Minister…

QUESTION:   If the evidence for Badgerys Creek is so conclusive in the report, could you foresee a situation where, you know, some government in the future might just say we’re going to go for Badgerys Creek because it stands out so much?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well what I’m arguing for is the Government that I represent, and I’m a member of, I note that the NSW Government had the same position as the Federal Government with regard to Badgerys Creek.

QUESTION:   So you will move, you know, all guns blazing for Wilton then?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well with regard to Wilton we think that is worthy of consideration. I don’t want to pre-empt our Cabinet processes, but it will need a scoping study and then the environmental impact statement. One of the issues, this isn’t an EIS. And any new airport will need a proper EIS that goes through a process including community consultation et cetera. What this did was consult extensively with stakeholders. And I thank those committee members who did that.

QUESTION:   I mean, around Badgerys Creek there seems to be a sense that the Government has ruled it out but hasn’t really ruled it out, so are you saying there will you know never be an airport there at Badgerys Creek?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That is the Government’s position.

QUESTION:   [Indistinct]… how viable will it be as a possible second airport when it’s not near any transport? I mean Badgerys Creek is near the M7, the M4 South West Rail Link. Wilton is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well one of the reasons why the committee preferred Badgerys Creek to Wilton was what’s occurred including the South West Rail Link that is close to where Leppington station will be. And it went through those recommendations.  Wilton however is close to road and rail links. It would require substantial land, transport investment as well, but both sites would require that. And consideration of land transport, issues with relation to each of the sites that were examined – and I go back to saying there were 36 sites examined in the report. Each of them, there is a little document at the back that has in it each of the sites on the way through and how it was going. I was obviously briefed as to the progress of the committee as it’s met over the last – since we established it as part of our 2010 election commitment.

QUESTION:   Minister, how much did the report cost?

QUESTION:   So, is that your only reason for not proceed then Minister? That you made an election promise before the last election that you wouldn’t put an airport there, so that’s the only reason that you won’t do it, even though all these experts and $8 million plus was put into a report that says you should.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we have a commitment…

QUESTION:   So that’s the only reason then?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We have a commitment that was made. I haven’t had the opportunity to read the report in full. We’re releasing it on the day that we received it. From my experience with NSW, that’s a good idea, because otherwise chances are Jake and others might get it before I do.

QUESTION:   What if you read it and…?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  So we’ve released it out there. We’ve stated clearly what our position is. You know, no ifs, no buts, we’re stating what our position is.

QUESTION:   Best case scenario, when might we see a decision for a second Sydney airport?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I would hope as soon as our processes can go through. You need a scoping study and I spoke with Sam Haddad about that this morning. You also need an EIS process before you could approve it. There’s also the complicating factor of Sydney Airport Corporation Limited and what they have. There are specific provisions of the Act that require a period of consultation with them. That is a legal requirement under the Act. We are legally required to contact them. I am saying and have announced, and they will be expecting this announcement, that we’re writing to them today triggering the provisions of the Act, so that the cops start ticking on that process.

QUESTION:   But it would be reasonable to say sometime, 2013, there’ll be another news conference where there will be another step forward but construction will be happening when many of us are pensioners?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. If you go through the report, it speaks about specifically what will be required for sites. For example, substantial earth moving would be required for the Wilton site. So it goes through them in terms of the construction phases. Obviously one of the reasons why the committee preferred Badgerys Creek to Wilton is that the land is there. And there has been some work begun in terms of the pre-construction work. But it would also require an update of an environmental impact statement.

QUESTION:   So just to the second airport issue, [indistinct], the short-term solution they said was to lift the cap, and it was not recommended the curfew was changed. So if you don’t want to lift the cap, what do you propose that we do to ease the burden and to try to handle the demand in traffic at Sydney Airport in the short term?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s why I say the solution is a second airport for Sydney.

QUESTION:   No but short-term.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: One… that is the…

QUESTION:   In the next few years.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That is the solution is a second airport for Sydney.

QUESTION:   But there’s planes already waiting off the bays that can’t get in…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s right. It’s a failure of governments in the past to act which is why I’ve initiated this process. In terms of…

QUESTION:   [Inaudible question].

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  If you increase the cap from 80 to 85 movements, all that you do is ensure that noise sharing doesn’t occur, but you also just put off by in the report, it’s one year. That is all that it buys you, one year. The thing about this report that is very clear is that you can fiddle around at the edges and it won’t make any difference because of the site of the airport.  One of the problems that you’ve got at Kingsford Smith Airport is it’s where it is. You can’t get – it is a relatively small site. You don’t have the capacity to increase the number of gates at the airport. The plan that was released or the proposal released by SACL last year in order to pre-empt this report could potentially give you an extra six gates at the airport, six to eight. That’s it. The problem with Sydney Airport is that the physical constraints there mean that there aren’t measures to fix the problem. You can move the regional airlines out, that would give you a little bit of scope. You can increase the cap, that in itself would just change the dynamic by just one year.

QUESTION:   But you’re saying you can’t even give us a timeframe on when there might be a second airport, Given that yes we have to have a second airport?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m releasing to you the information today that will allow people to engage in this debate. I am saying a second airport is needed now, that is my position. We need it sooner rather than later; that all of the short term fixes that have been proposed at the airport, for example, the curfew which was examined by the committee. No government would ever get rid of it.  But to answer the question of why were some things considered, because there were no constraints. They looked at it, it doesn’t make a difference. People don’t want to fly at 3am in the morning. It doesn’t solve the problem that you’ve got which is the peak period capacities at Sydney Airport are extremely limited.

QUESTION:   Now you’ve been the Federal Transport Minister for over four years now. As the Member for Grayndler, would you have wanted to have made more progress on locking in a second airport by now? Did you think your constituents would have wanted you to?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: They’ll make their own judgements. I have been very disciplined about acting as the Infrastructure and Transport Minister. We need to get this right. We need to get it right. It was also my view that, in terms of a study that the need for an airport, we need to learn some of the lessons of the past which is that if you made a decision to build an airport now, you couldn’t have it op and… up and running in two or three years. That’s the facts of the matter in terms of the processes that have to take place. Therefore, it made absolute sense to have the Federal Labor Government working with a State Coalition Government to try to get a level of bi-partisanship for this. Otherwise what you will have is that what occurred with Badgerys Creek, which was that when the Government changed work on Badgerys Creek was stopped up to – after 1996. Had that proceeded then it would now be operating, it would now be providing jobs and economic activity.

QUESTION:   Yeah, but this is vital for the national economy, vital for the state economy. Well, where are they? Where’s the State Government?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well…

QUESTION:   All we’ve heard from them today is that they’ve also rejected this idea of buying back the airport rail link.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is a report that’s a joint report. There were two State Government officials on it; only one from the Commonwealth. The secretary of the Department of Planning and the secretary of the New South Wales Transport Department. It was proposed that there be a joint receiving of the report this morning, which would be the normal way to proceed today.

QUESTION:   Did all these people sitting around this table doing this report for however long get told prior to the conclusion that by the way, we’re not going to do this, we’re not going to do that, it doesn’t matter what you say we’re still going to reject it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The people who worked on the report have worked in good faith and have done…

QUESTION:   [Interrupts] You’ve wasted their time, Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, they have not. They have done an excellent piece of work that advances the need for a second Sydney airport, that makes it clear what the consequences are. The challenge is now over to us as political leaders, both at the national level and in NSW, to make sure that this piece of infrastructure is advanced.

QUESTION:   Did you invite the Premier to stand with you at the release of this report and what did he say?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It was proposed that that occurred. The NSW Government then said that the NSWTransport Minister will do it and yesterday we were advised that that wouldn’t be occurring.

QUESTION:   So, you can’t even be in the same room together…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that…

QUESTION:   …to talk about something that probably isn’t going to happen anyway?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s a matter for them. This needs to happen because the consequences of not happening are very clear in this report.

QUESTION:   Minister, we’ve been hearing that. I’ve been hearing that for beyond a decade but yet here we are still talking about it…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we’re releas…

QUESTION:   …still rejecting Badgerys Creek.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’re releasing the report today for everyone to see and everyone to examine and I am saying that the Federal Government’s position is we are committed to a second airport for Sydney but we’ll examine the report that we believe that the report finds that Wilton is a viable option as have previous reports found.

QUESTION:   [Interrupts] So, you said two to three years. So, is that your expected minimum time frame for a second airport to get up?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  No. You can’t build an airport in two to three years. That’s what I said.

QUESTION:   So, why did you…?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You can’t build an airport within two to three years and I’m not going to make statements about planning and the processes of an EIS and construction timetables on the run. This needs a considered response and we’ll provide a considered response.

QUESTION:   Do you anticipate putting aside money in the next Budget to start acting on this? And when will you provide your response?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ll provide the response when Cabinet has had an opportunity to consider it. That’s a matter for the Government.

QUESTION:   And money?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly this will require substantial investment and will also require, in terms of – depending upon the ownership of the airport of course. This isn’t necessarily just government funds we’re talking about. But we’re starting today the process by triggering the provisions of the Act by writing to Sydney Airport and indicating them that we intend to proceed with a second airport for Sydney.

QUESTION:   Do you still expect to be the Minister responsible when this response is ready?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes.

QUESTION:   Can I just ask you then about Wayne Swan’s comments [indistinct]?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yeah sure.

QUESTION:   Do you agree with him that the likes of Gina Rinehart are posing a threat to democracy and undermining good public policy by some of their public statements in the campaigns? And what do you make of the Oppositions comments that that’s, you know, inciting [indistinct]…?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  I certainly do agree with Wayne Swan. What we’re seeing in this country is some people trying to exert, I think, undue influence over the political landscape. I think we’ve seen that in a range of areas, most notably on the issue of miners paying their fare share of tax. And I think when people see the sort of demonstrations that are – that were held, I think that stands in stark contrast to the sort of statements that are made by working people who are prepared to pay their fare share. I think that the sort of statements that we’ve seen from people like Clive Palmer, the sort of donations that we’ve seen from Mr Palmer and his companies are quite extraordinary. And I think people will have a look at people like Clive Palmer’s attitude in general to governance issues. Certainly I was pretty dismayed by his attitude towards the Football Federation of Australia. Anyone who thinks that the A-League hasn’t been advanced in recent years compared with the state of where soccer was – but this guy thinks it’s all about him. I think what Wayne Swan’s doing is pointing out that we need to be very mindful about those issues.