Sunday, 3 March 2013

Second Sydney Airport - Decision required now.

Whilst the need for a second Sydney Airport for Sydney has been a debate occurring for 40 years, the state has now reached a stage where there is a unique opportunity for a decision to be made if the O'Farrell government shows some leadership, goodwill and political courage. 

I grew up in the shadows of aircraft landing and taking off from the east-west runway at a time when only propeller-driven aircraft flew into or out of Sydney airport. I witnessed the arrival of jets, particularly 707 jets, that roared overhead and basically ensured that it was impossible to speak on the telephone or listen to television. The house shook as they flew aeroplanes flew overhead. I witnessed construction of the second north-south runway and the dredging of historic Botany Bay. I witnessed the second Sydney airport site selection study during the term of the Fraser Government. When the Fraser Government tried to build a third runway at the Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport, it was blocked by the New South Wales Wran Government. 

I witnessed the election of the Hawke Government with its promise to build a second airport for Sydney. That promise was made approximately 10 years after the Whitlam Government announced that Galston would be the site of Sydney's second airport. I witnessed the Hawke Government acquiring land and preparing for a second Sydney airport. I witnessed probably many separate site selection studies and every report indicating a desperate need for Sydney to have a second airport within the Sydney Basin because nowhere in the world is there an airport the size of Sydney airport that is so constrained by a shortage of land vis-à-vis the volume of aircraft using it, let alone an airport that is blocked into a corner by Port Botany, thereby making land transportation of passengers freight almost impossible. That is something that the Minister for Roads and Ports is about to discover when he attempts to use limited funds—approximately $10 billion—to resolve an unsolvable problem. 

I witnessed the Hawke Government break its promise and override the Transport Minister and Aviation Minister and instead of a second airport it  built a third runway at Sydney airport. I was among the 10,000 people who blockaded the Sydney airport as a result of aircraft noise that was impacting upon the people of the Heffron electorate. I sat with Sir Maurice Byers in the High Court of Australia to try to stop construction of the third runway because I knew it would impact so adversely upon so many people.

The reason that construction of a second Sydney airport did not proceed in the eighties, and by government prior to and after the Hawke Government is that the vested interests, which included the aviation industry, were not on board. If you speak to former Ministers they will tell you of the influence of Sir Peter Abeles of Ansett. I experienced Qantas being able to stop any type of aviation policy development in this country for the short-term benefit of ensuring that Qantas and Ansett did not have to compete in a newly deregulated market. I heard first hand about the then Department of Aviation making decisions ensuring that new entrants, such as Compass, effectively were sent broke as they tried to compete with major airlines. 

A very significant stage now has been reached in the history of aviation. For the first time ever vested interests are actually on board: For example, the head of Infrastructure NSW will tell anyone who will listen about the need for a second Sydney airport. The Chief Executive of Qantas— where was Qantas 20 years ago?—is desperate for a second Sydney airport. Even the chief executive officer of Sydney airport  recognises the need for a second Sydney airport. 

The people of western Sydney know that approximately 240,000 jobs are generated by Kingsford Smith Airport and that enormous growth in jobs will be associated with a new airport. They know that governments do not really have the funds to develop the required infrastructure to service the area without construction of a massive infrastructure project, such as a second Sydney airport, in western Sydney. New South Wales is in a position to benefit from a unique opportunity.

I do not know whether the Badgerys Creek site is right. I do not know what development has occurred around Badgerys Creek. I do not know whether or not the site will be Wilton, which is being advocated by the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, or whether that is the right site. But I do know that a second Sydney airport has been required for more than 40 years. 

I also know that the New South Wales Government alone will never be able to fund the necessary infrastructure to provide for the ever-increasing population density of western Sydney. But what will have a significant effect and bring benefit to the western Sydney population will be the right decision being made in respect of the location of the second Sydney airport. 

I urge the O'Farrell Government to co-operate with the Federal Government. It is too late to play politics. If that occurs this State's aviation needs will be in crisis, as will be the infrastructure so needed in Western Sydney. We are in a unique position to achieve something for New South Wales.

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