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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4245


Mrs IRWIN (8:57 PM) —I cannot agree with everything that the member for Dunkley has said, but I do support his proposal for a ‘do not knock’ register.

As governments at federal, state and local levels consider plans to spend billions of dollars on projects to improve our nation’s infrastructure, it is not surprising that transport needs are at the top of the list. In New South Wales over the past few months we have seen almost daily proposals for motorway extensions, metro rail systems, tramways and other multibillion-dollar dreams. Apparently few of these have been well costed, and many could only be described as pipe dreams.

The recent experience of the Cross-City Tunnel and the Lane Cove Tunnel have not dented enthusiasm for even more inner-city projects designed to bring more and more commuters into the Sydney central business district. Yet even more proposals emerge from the short-sighted planners who seem to think that Sydney’s western boundary is somewhere east of Strathfield.

In this great grab for infrastructure dollars, there is one massive oversight. Sitting like an elephant in the lounge room is the 1,700-hectare government owned Badgerys Creek airport site in Western Sydney, in my electorate of Fowler. If there is any one piece of infrastructure that Sydney must plan for right now, it is a second airport to serve the Sydney region. As it happens, the next review of Sydney’s airport needs is scheduled for this year—it is 2009 already, the year that we are supposed to get the review which was deferred from 2005 to 2007 and then 2009. That review, however, is now to be part of the government’s white paper on Australia’s aviation future. While that review includes all aspects of aviation, the most awaited part of the white paper will be the question of a second Sydney airport.

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has taken a strong stand in the past on the issue of a second Sydney airport. In 2003, as an opposition frontbencher, he set out his position in a speech to the ALP St Peters Tempe branch in his electorate of Grayndler and later published the speech on his website. The now minister told the branch that the opposition, sparked by the construction of a third runway at Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport, led to opposition growing in Western Sydney, which is in my electorate, to an airport at Badgerys Creek. He said:

This furore led to increasing concern in Western Sydney about the impact Badgerys Creek would have on people’s quality of life. I respect the position of other Labor MPs who are reflecting the views of some of their constituents, however I believe that Badgerys Creek remains the most viable option.

The land at Badgerys Creek has been purchased and approved by two Environmental Impact Studies. The site is also twice the size of KSA—

Kingsford Smith airport. He added:

Furthermore, the construction of an airport at Badgerys Creek would create somewhere between 30,000-60,000 new jobs and improved infrastructure in Western Sydney.

However, Labor must bring communities with us and we must respect local communities’ right to have primary say over the region in which they live.

The controversy surrounding a second airport for Sydney is about much more than parochial interests. A report conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research found that between $9.2 and $11.2 billion would be lost to the economy if a second Sydney airport were not built. That’s why this is a debate about nation building, jobs and future economic opportunities—it is about having a long-term vision for this nation.

The minister went on to say:

At the end of the day, the planes have to go somewhere. Unless a second airport is built, pressure to move jets and regional airlines to Bankstown will inevitably grow. This outcome would be the ultimate disaster for Sydney.

Consensus can be achieved to abandon the Badgerys Creek option in our Platform if an alternative site is named.

Now we stand at a point where we can expect to see within the next few weeks the white paper for Australia’s aviation future. The review was announced by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government in April last year and the white paper is due by the middle of this year. It almost goes without saying that a major white paper on Australia’s aviation future must address the question of a second Sydney airport. If the minister is to be taken at his word, given in his speech to his ALP branch, then the white paper will begin another search for the site of Sydney’s second airport. But I doubt that, despite the best efforts to bring community in with the government in the selection process, any site considered will enjoy the full support of the local community.

In the meantime we are left with that elephant in the room—the Badgerys Creek airport site of more than 1,700 hectares of land in Commonwealth ownership—without the slightest idea of what to do with it. Beyond that are the areas beneath the range of flight paths set out when an airport was planned for the site. The effect of this has been to sterilise thousands of hectares of valuable land on Sydney’s western fringe. On previous occasions in this House I have detailed the impact of the restrictions imposed by the airport designation on families and businesses in the area surrounding the redundant airport site. Some of these impacts would make a good script for a Yes, Minister episode. For example, homeowners cannot build an extension to their home unless they have noise insulation because it is under the flight path of a non-existent airport, an airport that this government has said it will never ever build. For many residents it has already meant putting their lives on hold. In fact, they have had their lives on hold for 25 years. Until the airport designation is lifted they cannot plan for their future. But to these reasons for deciding the future of the Badgerys Creek site we can add the important impact on transport planning for Western Sydney and other planning issues.

I recently saw an outline of a transport plan prepared by Dr Garry Glazebrook of the University of Technology, Sydney. Glazebrook’s $40 billion plan to develop public transport in Sydney contains most of the usual wish list items. The plan envisages a network of metro rail, light rail, bus routes and T-ways as well as extensions to heavy rail. As I said earlier in this speech, there is a concentration of new transport links east of Strathfield. But one thing really struck me about the plan—apart from the words ‘Badgerys Creek’ in a vacant part of the map there is no mention of a second Sydney airport. The planned heavy rail extension from Glenfield to Leppington terminates halfway to Badgerys Creek—no airport site so no transport links.

As anyone from Western Sydney who has relied on the M5 tollway to catch a morning flight from Kingsford Smith knows only too well, it is a good idea to allow an extra hour for the journey. From the centre of Fowler the trip can take less than half-an-hour but you would not consider trying to make a flight in peak hour in less than 1½ hours. I am sure the same would apply to approaching the airport from other directions. Yet here we have transport planning experts presenting solutions to Sydney’s transport problems without knowing the location of Sydney’s second airport. As the minister said:

… this is a debate about nation building, jobs and future economic opportunities—it is about having a long-term vision for this nation.

So at a time when we are engaged in the biggest nation-building program in Australia’s history surely we should have some long-term vision. Without this vision it is impossible to plan for transport links to a second Sydney airport and sadly for Western Sydney it is impossible to plan for the future of the single biggest reserve of land in the Sydney basin. The minister began his speech to the branch back in 2003 by saying:

The previous Labor Government made a dreadful decision when it decided to build a third runway at Kingsford Smith Airport …

Failing to make a decision at the earliest possible time on the location of a second Sydney airport will only compound that dreadful decision. Following the release of the white paper, the minister should definitely act and he should act immediately to lift the airport designation at Badgerys Creek for the sake of the people that I proudly represent in Fowler. (Time expired)