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Wednesday, 11 February 2004
Page: 24406

Mr FARMER (2:45 PM) —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the minister please advise the House of the government's position on the construction of a second airport to service Sydney? And are there any alternative policies?

Mr ANDERSON (Deputy Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. The government very closely and very fully examined Sydney's airport needs some time ago. I have to say that even while fully maintaining the curfew, the 18 movements per hour cap, the noise-sharing arrangements and full regional access—something the government is very deeply committed to—the fact is that the airport will plainly carry Sydney's airport needs for many years into the future. The position is simple: Sydney will not need a second airport in the foreseeable future. Indeed, any attempt to identify a site at this point in time would be fraught with difficulties in establishing the real parameters, the real needs and the real solution, because there is not a problem.

I am asked about alternative policies. I have to say at the outset that you have to track through the record of Labor's policy making to try to understand the alternative policy position, but I will give it a go. As we know, the present Leader of the Opposition has been a very long-term advocate of building a second airport at Badgerys Creek. He started to advocate it in 1987. He was then newly a member of the Liverpool council. He continued it when he became the mayor and then the chairman of the local Wesroc in 1991. He was a staunch advocate of it when he became the member for Werriwa, and he continued to be so as a junior shadow minister. In fact, he was a staunch advocate for Badgerys Creek for the first 16 years of his time in public life. That was right up until the time he was promoted to shadow Treasurer, when all of a sudden the former Leader of the Opposition announced a new Labor policy: they would not build a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. They said that they would set up a committee to find a new site within the Sydney basin. That committee consisted of the then Leader of the Opposition, the member for Hotham; the transport spokesman, the member for Batman—it is good to see him here; the members for Grayndler and Barton; and Senator Faulkner. It also included the newly promoted and former Badgerys champion, the member for Werriwa.

I thought, `Well, this will be good.' I have always been prepared to be open and transparent, and I thought they would soon come along to the department for a full briefing. This issue has had a long history; it goes back a long way. We have rooms full of information. I thought they would like to at least look at some of the material that we have on the environmental impact statements that have been done over the years, but I did not hear from them. Then I thought we would see some media reports of site inspections and community consultations, but they do not seem to have happened either. Then you would think that there would have been a definitive report at some stage, but that did not happen either. In fact, I cannot find any evidence that that committee did anything at all. I do not believe that it did anything at all.

What did happen was that the new Leader of the Opposition suddenly announced—wait for it—that there was no suitable site in the Sydney basin, so the second Sydney airport would have to be built elsewhere. Then we had reports leaked from the Labor Party that the site would be Wilton. But there were some protests about that from the Labor candidate for Cunningham. He cut up so rough that the opposition leader said: `No, Wilton is off the list. It won't be Wilton.' Then he promised that the site would be announced at the ALP conference, but it was not announced at the ALP conference. Finally—

Honourable members interjecting

Mr ANDERSON —Has the site been announced? Did we miss something? Did you announce the site at the conference?

The SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister will address his remarks through the chair.

Mr ANDERSON —Of course, that is not what happened. There was no announcement. Finally, we are assured that the new policy was carefully worked through with the New South Wales government.

Mr Murphy —What makes you think it was?

Mr ANDERSON —It was! How come Premier Carr said he did not know anything about it? The New South Wales Minister for Regional Development and the Minister for the Illawarra, David Campbell, said he played no part in the decision and that his federal colleagues did not consult him. So we are left with Labor's idea of a clear and concise policy. Somewhere in the future, they are going to build an airport that airlines do not want to use for an overflow of air traffic that does not exist in an area somewhere south of the Nepean River where no-one wants it. But they still say it will not be a white elephant.