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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 17958

Mr TICEHURST (2:37 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware of the new proposals to build a second airport in the Sydney basin? Would the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House of the results of work done to identify such sites? Are there any alternative policies?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for his question. It was only a little over two years ago that the coalition government thoroughly examined Sydney's airport needs. It was a pretty exhausting process. We came to the conclusion that building white elephants at that point of time was in no-one's interests because Sydney airport would clearly be able to handle the air traffic demand for many years to come. That was a good sound policy decision. It has proven to be even more durable than I could have imagined because of changing technology and better management practices. More people travelling on fewer aircraft and a whole range of other management practices have meant that, even within the very real and remaining constraints that we put in place—LTOP, the curfew and so forth—to ensure that nobody is too badly disadvantaged or affected by noise, our judgment has been confirmed as appropriate. We have said that we will review it in 2005, but even that review looks to me as though it is many years premature.

I am asked about proposals to restart the search for a second Sydney airport site. For reasons that are inexplicable in policy terms and pretty hard to understand, I have to say, in political terms, the Leader of the Opposition has said that Labor will build a second airport and has reopened the whole debate. The shadow minister for transport, interestingly, has said that Labor is looking at `a variety of options,' but he will not tell anyone where they are. This is just not good enough. The opposition have to come clean on the secret undisclosed locations they are considering. We have to know where they are. There are a couple floating around—

Mr ANDERSON —There we are! There is one. Which one is that? One shadow minister has proposed Wilton or Darkes Forest. Let me go to Wilton, which is near Wollongong. Depending on the runway alignment, aircraft could fly directly over Wollongong and create a significant level of noise for communities such as Picton and Wilton. Eighty-six per cent of the Wilton site is in the catchment for Sydney's water supply. But Labor has raised it explicitly as an option, despite that problem of water contamination, which is why we did not look at it again. Labor has also proposed Darkes Forest, which is off the Princes Highway, as a possibility. An airport there would create enormous noise problems for people living in Bulli, Thirroul and Coledale. I wonder what they think of that proposal. But it also ought to be noted that, for a lot of the year, it could not be used anyway. It is subject to fogs that can last for more than a day; it is much more of a problem there than it is in Canberra. It is also affected by windshear and turbulence.

One way or another, I think members of the House would understand that there are not many potential sites in the Sydney basin that I have not heard of. I want to say to the Labor Party that there are residents in a whole lot of areas who want to know what this variety of locations that the shadow minister for transport is thinking about might be. The residents of Canberra, Newcastle, Goulburn, Warnervale, Somersby, Scheyville, Londonderry, Bringelly, Galston, Duffys Forest, Richmond and Windsor might like to know. All of them have a right to know if it is their backyard in which Labor's secret proposal is to be located.

Labor refloating this at this time, when it is obvious it is not needed, demonstrates that they are incapable of making good policy. Firstly, they are planning to impose a second airport on the city with all its costs. It would be a white elephant. The international experience plainly says that, if you build on these things before they are needed, no-one is going to use it and nobody is going to go there. We do not need it, so it is not needed for policy reasons. Secondly, they say people need certainty. Where is the certainty? All the people in those various locations around eastern Australia need to know where it might be. This is stunningly incompetent. I cannot help agreeing with one Labor MP's comment about the shadow minister for transport, who comes from Sydney. If anyone ought to understand the politics of Sydney it ought to be—even though he lives in Melbourne—the shadow minister for transport, Martin Ferguson. One of his colleagues said, `He puts himself up as a policy man, but in the end he is just a brawler.' That leaves the new proponent of fiscal rigour in this country—that is, of course, the member for Werriwa, who only recently wrote an article about Badgerys in which, as a very strong piece of advocacy for this much-needed piece of infrastructure, he said:

It has the potential to generate 30,000 jobs in a region which has the nation's highest rate of unemployment.

That is not right, I understand, but that is what he said. He continued:

Incredibly an essential piece of public infrastructure has been delayed by 14 years by a lobby group representing 0.1 per cent of the electorate. This is a black hole in Australia's microeconomic reform record.

He went on to say that good policy and good politics are still synonymous. By that record, he plainly believes that Badgerys should still be built, but he just will not tell his leader.