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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23622

Ms LEY (2:40 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Will the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House of the government's policy on Sydney's future airport needs, including the need for a second Sydney airport, and are there any alternative policies?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for Farrer for her question and acknowledge her real interest in aviation matters. She is a keen pilot herself. The government's policy on the future airport needs of Sydney is clear. It is firmly based on the economic and planning needs of Sydney's future air traffic requirements. After exhaustive examination, it has become clear that the existing airport will be able to handle the air traffic demand for a long time to come. Changes in management and changes in aircraft coupled together mean that, even with the very real constraining arrangements we have put in place in Sydney airport—the curfew, the LTOP and so forth—there is no need to build a second Sydney airport.

But I am asked about alternatives to the government's policy, and I have to say that they are not at all clear. The new opposition leader has, over the years, consistently and loudly declared himself to be a champion for the building of a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. He has a history of it—a history he has been proud to promote. He outlined it in great detail in this House not long ago, in 2001. He went back to 1987, when he was on Liverpool council, and he said that, at that time, he started to advocate the construction of Badgerys Creek. He went on to say that he continued that advocacy when he became a mayor and the chairman of WESROC in 1991. Ten years later, he was still advocating the building of Badgerys Creek in the debates in this parliament. In fact, the member for Werriwa remained a staunch advocate for Badgerys Creek as a site for a second airport right up until 1 July this year. From 1987 to 2003—that is, for 16 years—the member was an advocate for Badgerys Creek. But what happened then? On 1 July, the former Leader of the Opposition, the member for Hotham, suddenly announced that the Labor Party would not build a second airport at Badgerys Creek. Do you know what happened then?

Mr Murphy —It was a very good decision.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Lowe!

Mr ANDERSON —Suddenly the 16-year advocate of Badgerys Creek wanted us to believe that he had changed his mind, that he no longer supported Badgerys Creek. Other Sydney Labor Party members, like the members for Grayndler, Watson and Sydney, all stuck to their guns.

Mr ANDERSON —Yes. Well done. You stuck to your guns, and you had the gumption to criticise your leadership over the decision—but not the member for Werriwa. Not only did he suddenly declare that abandoning Badgerys, that walking away from his position of 16 years, was the right decision for Western Sydney, he even joined the Labor Party squad looking for an alternative airport—and aren't we waiting with great interest to hear where it might be? It has to be said that this was a pretty extraordinary backflip, especially when you think about what he also said in 2001 when he was outlining his support for the second airport at Badgerys. He said then—and I happen to agree with some of the sentiment of this: `One of the things that the public has grown cynical about is inconsistency in politics—people who take a position because of a change in direction in the political wind.' Not a change in direction of the facts, the economic need or the planning needs of a region but because the political wind has changed direction.

We all know what happened in July this year. The facts about Badgerys Creek did not change. The gradual encroachment of housing or whatever close to the site did not suddenly change; airport needs did not suddenly change. There was no need to overturn our perfectly responsible policy position. The one thing that did change was the political wind in the Labor Party and, with it, the member for Werriwa. One thing is sure: he has down pat the essential Labor rule for leadership, which is to do `whatever it takes'.