Subjects: Badgerys Creek Airport, WestConnex
WENDY HARMER: Well I’d like to welcome Anthony Albanese to the studio. Good morning.
ALBANESE: Good morning Wendy.
HARMER: And I should let people know what your responsibilities are these days. You’re the Federal member for Grayndler, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development and Shadow Minister for Tourism.
ALBANESE: I wonder why I’m so tired.
HARMER: That’s a lot on your plate right there. I’d like to start by asking you, do you think Sydney will see a population of eight million people one day? Do you think that’s inevitable?
ALBANESE: I think that is most likely. Nothing is inevitable and it won’t happen unless we get the planning right, it simply won’t work and in the past too often what we’ve done is open up new housing estates to spread the city and without doing the transport infrastructure, but also the community infrastructure, the schools the hospitals the services that people need. And it’s good that now there is a focus as well on making sure that jobs are created close to where people live. I raised the issue of the 30 minute city, in our cities policy way back in 2014.
HARMER: I was going to say it might’ve been nicked.
ALBANESE: Well you know they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so I don’t mind the fact that Malcolm Turnbull has nicked that. I just wish he’d nick some of the substance as well as the headlines.
HARMER: So what is missing in this grand plan that Lucy Turnbull has put forward, the Chief of the Sydney Greater Commission?
ALBANESE: Well what’s missing is substance essentially, for example Badgerys Creek Airport.
HARMER: By the way are you okay to take some calls on this subject?
HARMER: Alright well I’ll just remind people of the phone number, I’ve already got hits coming in off Badgerys Creek. It’s a hot old topic and I’m remembering that back in 1996 when you were first elected you had the no aircraft noise mob who were very vocal. So these issues don’t go away, that’s for sure.
ALBANESE: They don’t and with any piece of infrastructure you have challenges but, this is an exciting opportunity for Western Sydney if it is seized and done properly. The roads are being done but the public transport needs to be done as well.
HARMER: Well let’s just invite people to join the convo. Okay you’re very welcome to give us a call. So let’s talk about Badgerys Creek. I’m already getting texts through:
I would like those who live in the Eastern Suburbs to come and experience the magnificent Blue Mountains from our home. They will quickly see that it is worth preserving this area for future generations and a 24-hour airport will destroy peace and quiet and cripple the tourism industry.
HARMER: Now you have those combined portfolios that you’re shadowing, Transport and Tourism, do you think that it is essential that we have Badgerys Creek for tourism? That’s the case that’s being put forward.
ALBANESE: It’s absolutely essential, but the truth is that for Sydney to function it’s essential. Western Sydney will have more people in it, has now, than Adelaide and Perth combined. The idea that Adelaide and Perth would not have an airport is frankly, in 2016, really isn’t on. It needs to happen but it needs to be got right.
And one of the benefits of Badgerys Creek that’s been shown by study after study, this is the third EIS that has been conducted into it, is that you can actually have flight paths that don’t impact at all in terms of during the night. That’s the position that we put forward earlier this year, has been adopted now by the government.
In terms of the Blue Mountains, of course, it already has planes as a result of Kingsford-Smith Airport and certainly there will be no planes over the Blue Mountains at night. And in terms of getting it right this is an opportunity, because it’s a greenfield site, to get the environmental standards absolutely right.
And to minimise any impact, but maximise the benefit through the employment lands to the north of Badgerys Creek. This can be a real catalyst for economic activity. If you want to bring economic activity with a big multiplier into an area there are two things you can do, a university and an airport. This is an opportunity for Western Sydney but it has to be got right and the residents need to be protected, as do residents around every airport around Australia.
HARMER: Alright, well we’ve got a couple of calls for you on this, you’ll need your headphones on Anthony. Trevor from Emu Plains joins the program and good morning to you Trevor.
CALLER: Good morning Wendy, good morning Albo. How are you?
ALBANESE: G’day Trevor, I’m good mate.
CALLER: My question is Anthony, what is it about the residents of Western Sydney that doesn’t protect them from the same curfew protections that is at Mascot? And bear in mind that when you answer this, that the Clayton’s curfew that Labor has proposed and has been taken up by the government, is just that, a Clayton’s curfew, we’re still going to get planes at night.
ALBANESE: Well I’ll give you a little trivia quiz, Trevor. How many planes do you think flew over Kingsford-Smith between 11pm and 6am last year?
CALLER: I have no idea.
ALBANESE: Four thousand. Four thousand. There are flights now over water, at Kingsford-Smith Airport right now each and every night. Freight flights, hospital flights, a range of flights during those hours. There is also a shoulder period at the airport. Four thousand. You and I will be long gone before there are anything like that number of flights during those periods at Badgerys Creek Airport. Your kids and my son will probably be gone as well.
So in terms of the impact and protections that are there, one of the benefits of Badgerys Creek Airport is its location, is that it can be got right, with the flights southwest providing absolute protection. We can also make sure that the design of the airport is got right, as occurs at places like Schiphol in Europe to minimise the aircraft noise, around, even very close to the airport. But when you look at the airports around Australia, the only airports that have passenger curfews are the ones that are in the middle of cities, the Gold Coast, Adelaide, Essendon and Sydney. Melbourne, Brisbane, don’t operate with a curfew and they’re very successful at bringing in economic activity and jobs.
HARMER: Okay, let’s talk to Jamie from the Blue Mountains. Hello Jamie.
CALLER: Hi, hello Anthony.
ALBANESE: Hi Jamie.
CALLER: Hi. My question is about the fact that you’re locating this airport in the Sydney Basin. The Sydney Basin is well known to trap air pollution and it’s also well known that that pollution gets concentrated out west because of weather patterns. Penrith already has the highest incidence of hospitalisation of children with asthma, it also has higher than average deaths and illnesses from cardiovascular and cancer related to air pollution. So, putting it in the Sydney Basin is the wrong place to put it from a health point of view, it’s also next to the water catchment area at Warragamba Dam and it risks the world heritage safety (inaudible).
ALBANESE: Well, if you want to have a look at health impacts, and air pollution, there’s little four wheel things and six wheel things and eight wheel, called trucks and cars, that are overwhelmingly, the big cause of air pollution in our cities. And if you have jobs created, close to where people live, you won’t have all that traffic through the city.
We need to deal with public transport, we need to also minimise the impact of the airport. I support that totally. And it is possible in terms of Badgerys Creek Airport, it has been the most studied infrastructure project in Australia’s history. It has been studied since the 1970s, it was approved by an EIS in the 1980s, again approved by an EIS in the 1990s and the current EIS is of course with the Minister at the moment.
HARMER: Alright, well we’ll move on from Badgerys in just a moment. But one more question from Rob before we do that. We’d like to get to some other infrastructure questions; hi Rob.
CALLER: (Inaudible) Anthony is a very amazing man. He’s achieved a lot for his constituents. The thing is, the second airport, the only way you’re going to do it properly is if you make a mini city out of it like they did in the United States. You have got to have all the infrastructure, you have got to have transport that being rail, roads, everything that works to make the whole thing happen and you can have the most functional place and as far as that lady before saying about the pollution from the planes. Well that’s peanuts, I mean, like Anthony just said, you get more pollution in a car.
HARMER: Well thanks for that.
ALBANESE: Music to my ears. If my house was as close to the runway as Badgerys Creek I’d still be on site. One of the things about Kingsford-Smith is that it’s a half and a third the size of Melbourne and Brisbane, the land size just isn’t big enough. You can’t squeeze any more into it. Badgerys Creek is an opportunity, it shouldn’t be seen as just a runway and a terminal, it has to be a facilitator of jobs and economic activity for the people of Western Sydney and it has to be got right. Yes there is an impact of airports. I support Kingsford-Smith Airport staying right where it is, it’s a major employer in my electorate. And some people have said no we’ll just get rid of it. And that’s not been my position because I understand how important it is not just to the local economy but to the national economy.
HARMER: Okay, let’s take Danielle from Hawkesbury. Hi Danielle.
CALLER: Hi Wendy, look I’m a bit shocked at Mr Albanese’s treatment of people who are ringing up. Western Sydney is a one of the most marginalised areas of Sydney. We’re about to have an airport dumped on us, to service, probably not necessarily the people who live in Western Sydney and Mr Albanese thinks that the way to engage with people who ring up is to engage in snark and sarcasm.
HARMER: I don’t think he’s being snarky (inaudible).
CALLER: Little four-wheeled things.
HARMER: I think he’s being forthright to be fair Danielle.
ALBANESE: Well look you have an airport right near you in the Hawkesbury at Richmond.
CALLER: Because it’s right by the airport, with very strong curfews.
ALBANESE: Well actually there’s no curfew at Richmond.
CALLER: Well it’s extraordinarily well-regulated because it’s an airport (inaudible).
HARMER: Well let’s leave Badgerys for a bit because I wanted to talk to you about WestConnex and I’ve got a couple of calls here, saying that they don’t think that you, Anthony have stood up for your constituents with WestConnex in the way that they might have hoped.
ALBANESE: Well I think that the electoral result on July 2 shows something very different to that. I have stood up, but once again there’s an impact of an infrastructure project. It has a massive impact on my electorate, and I’ve been about making representations, including saving Ashfield Park. I went pretty hard when Lucy Turnbull, as the head of Sydney planning on your program, said she wasn’t aware of demolitions in Haberfield, and the protection of heritage at the moment. I’m campaigning very strongly about Blackmore Park, to make sure that it is saved. But this is a State Coalition Government project. What the Greens had at the election campaign is the view that, somehow if you stop a couple of hundred million dollars of Federal funding that will somehow stop the project.
That was more about politics than anything else. The State Government has just got another windfall gain in the last month with $16 billion dollars with the latest electricity sale, so it’s not about where the money’s coming from, it’s a matter of, that this a project that they are building, it is under construction and I’ve been very critical. I’ve raised in Parliament over 30 times the issues that have resulted from getting the funding and starting the project first, and then doing the planning and the community consultation.
HARMER: Well yes, as we saw with the Powerhouse yesterday. I wonder though whether you think with all this infrastructure happening at the moment and much more to come, do you think that Sydney people need a bit of an attitude change? I mean are we being NIMBYs? Is it something that we are going to have to put up with? This kind of upheaval.
ALBANESE: Well I think people are concerned that they can’t see the benefits of projects and therefore all they see is the impact. There’s a problem with starting to construct a tunnel where you don’t know where the tunnel is coming up. And the changes in scope of the project, there’s a problem with, they’ve now done the Rozelle interchange has been improved I think, as a result of the campaigns of locals, but St Peters interchange is still a monstrosity, where it’s unclear where the traffic will go once it leaves that interchange.
And of course this is a project that began as a project to get access to the port, to get freight to and from it. And it doesn’t go to the port, it goes to the other side of Sydney Airport. So it’s not surprising that the community has raised concerns given the lack of consultation, that has been added to, it must be said, by the Baird Government’s outrageous actions with regard to local government where they’ve just knocked off elected councils and representation and appointed essentially dictators over these areas and that’s raised additional concern as well.
HARMER: So you think that those all combined, to have a public that’s sort of in the dark of the benefits often…
ALBANESE: Well that’s right and I think people need to be prepared to put their case about projects and to bring the community and public with them. If a project stacks up, that will happen, and the benefit of community consultation is that projects get better. Some of the changes that have been made to the WestConnex project have got better, but some have just created even more uncertainty. And when they hear people say in senior positions, that they’re not even aware of demolition of essentially parts of a heritage listed suburb, then it’s not surprising that there’s concern.
HARMER: Let’s talk about the social side of Sydney. And I mentioned earlier that you grew up in Camperdown, single mum in council housing and you would have seen a lot of changes in your area since you were a young bloke.
ALBANESE: I sure have. Camperdown wasn’t an address that created a sort of sense of middle class in those days.
HARMER: I wonder what you think about the social fabric of Sydney. I guess a lot of people are being moved out of Millers Point and so on and people are lamenting the fact that perhaps we’re getting one type of person in the inner city and we don’t have that sort of mosaic of people that we used to.
ALBANESE: Well, successful cities are inclusive cities. They’re ones where you can’t define someone’s income by where they live, by their postcode. And that’s why I was opposed to what has happened at Millers Point, both specifically but also in terms of Sirius and buildings that were purpose built for social housing and for people with disabilities and for the elderly and also for Millers Point. Millers Point began of course as Maritime Services Board Housing, was where workers lived. Where I grew up in Camperdown it was city council housing and the city council had a lot of housing stock and they were for council workers, so for people who were workers, it was working class housing.
Increasingly we’re seeing a view put definitely over Millers Point, which is people who have less income should be all clustered together, rather than that mix that brings a city its vibrancy. I live in Marrickville, I think it’s a fantastic community that has benefited from the bars and restaurants and the increase in vibrancy, but still has your Greek, Vietnamese, Italian flavours to it and that makes it a fantastic place to live.
HARMER: Do you think that you would have been able to get ahead as easily, or attained the kind of heights that you have, as Deputy Prime Minister, do you think it would be harder for you to get ahead these days?
ALBANESE: I don’t think so. I do think there’s a bit of a tendency, including from people on the sort of the left of the spectrum, where I am, to romanticise the past. The truth is that for myself and my generation so many of us can say not just that we were the first in our family to go to university, we were the first to finish school. And that’s the case today, I think. There are opportunities there but we need to make sure that we don’t take that for granted. It’s constantly under pressure and we need to make sure that we have a mobile society whereby people can achieve their aspirations, whatever that may be. Whether that’s to be a panel beater or, I’ve got to say a lot of my mates who became tradies are much better off financially than I am even though I got to be Deputy Prime Minister.
HARMER: Well Malcolm from North Ryde has jumped on the line and he’s bringing up an interesting topic, G’day Malcolm.
CALLER: G’day Wendy how are you?
HARMER: Good thank you, you’ve got a bit of a suggestion I guess?
CALLER: Yeah I do, Albo’ and Wendy (inaudible) childcare costs. I mean I know childcare is sort of the sixth biggest, budget line item, the rebate currently. Wouldn’t it make sense to have the existing school grounds sort of expanded to have childcare in the public school system? I mean that would obviously, that money could be reinvested into a new education level and if you wanted to follow up from that? What are your thoughts on that?
ALBANESE: Look in some places that does happen. It makes a lot of sense particularly with families who have more than one child, it avoids the double and triple drop-offs. So it can make sense. It’s hard to have one-size-fits-all because a lot of our schools, certainly schools in my area, are overflowing.
There was a real drop off in the number of children at schools and indeed there was proposal to close schools 20 years ago, things like Erskineville Public School and Marrickville Public School that are now absolutely bursting at the seams, my son goes to a local high school it is more than full.
HARMER: Now I should ask you about your family, now we mentioned that your family. It was a terrific story Karen Middleton wrote for you, wrote your life story and it was a wonderful story. How you managed to meet up with your dad after all those years and went to find him in Italy and didn’t know that he was alive after so many years. Your mum was a single mum and I wonder when was the last time you caught up with your dad?
ALBANESE: Well, I didn’t, that would be a miracle. He passed away.
HARMER: Oh I’m sorry about that.
ALBANESE: He passed away in January 2014.
HARMER: Oh right, I only got up to the bit when you met him.
ALBANESE: I met him for the first time in December 2009.
HARMER: What about your brothers and sisters there?
ALBANESE: I’m still in contact with them, and my son’s in contact with his cousins. And it’s quite extraordinary finding a family over in Italy that I didn’t necessarily know existed. But people who haven’t read the book and they should. Get to the end, giving Karen Middleton a plug. Yes, my mum had me as a single mum and I was told that my father had died before I was born. And it was hard for a young Catholic woman in the 1960s to have a child out of wedlock, and so she told me when I was a teenager and I didn’t find him until much later on. But, it’s sad that he passed away but it underlines how lucky I was to find him when I did.
HARMER: The book is called Telling it Straight, Albanese Telling it Straight, by Karen Middleton. You should get that out and have a read. Thank you very much for joining us Mr Albanese-
ALBANESE: Great to be with you Wendy.
HARMER: I think people enjoy hearing from you and I’m just going to mention the South Sydney Rabbitohs. They’re going to do better next year aren’t they?
ALBANESE: Well, the one positive we had this year was we finished ahead of Manly, sorry Wendy.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.