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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 726

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (17:24): Members will remember the view so fulsomely expressed by the Murdoch press and others in the lead up to the last federal election that Labor faced obliteration in Western Sydney. Let us look at what really happened.

The only Western Sydney seat lost was Lindsay. In two of the other six Labor-held Western Sydney seats there was a solid swing to Labor, while the swings in three of the other four seats were well below the national average. Overall, the six seats experienced a swing to Labor of 0.2 per cent. So much for the apocalyptic views in the Daily Telegraph.

When it came to the crunch, Western Sydney voters decided that they trusted Labor more than its opponents to look after their interests, to strike the right balance between competing interests in the difficult public-policy decisions governments have to make. The people of Western Sydney are well accustomed to having their views taken for granted by conservative governments. Only last year, the New South Wales Liberal government revealed its plan to dump radioactive waste from a disused industrial site in Hunters Hill to Kemps Creek, just outside my electorate.

We are seeing it once again in the debate over the location of Sydney's second airport, with conservative opinion leaders telling us that an airport at Badgerys Creek will bring jobs and prosperity to the region and should be welcomed by all locals. There is no denying that Western Sydney desperately needs more local jobs and a broadening of the regional economy—all the more so as this government continues to sit on its hands while tens of thousands of skilled jobs in manufacturing and services are wiped out or disappear overseas.

Fowler, overall, is an area of disadvantage. The median family income is just two-thirds the New South Wales and Australian average, and the number of people in Fowler identified as prospective National Disability Insurance Scheme clients is the third-highest of all 150 Australian federal electorates. Grace Fava, the founder and president of Autism Advisory and Support Service, tells me that an astonishing 52 per cent of all New South Wales families who live with autism reside within a 25 kilometre radius of the Liverpool CBD. As study after study has shown, with disability comes financial hardship.

In this light, we should not be surprised that opinion is divided in Western Sydney on the desirability of building Badgerys Creek. But what the government and others are not telling us is what sort of airport we would be getting and who would pay for the necessary infrastructure—not just for the airport itself but for the vital road and rail links that are essential to the viability of a new airport.

New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has made his view quite plain. He believes the Commonwealth should provide the bulk of the funds. He had a great line when he said the $200 million funding package Mr Abbott offered for the area 'seems to be missing a zero'. We are entitled to ask whether this explains Mr O'Farrell's reluctance to sell-off the state's power assets. While I am sure we do not share an underlying philosophical view when it comes to retaining poles and wires in a public monopoly, presumably the Premier of New South Wales is a little worried that a newly cashed-up state government would be in a much weaker bargaining position with the Commonwealth in negotiating cost-sharing for infrastructure to sustain the new airport.

The Victorian government's experience with the Avalon Airport, which is a similar distance from Melbourne's CBD as Badgerys Creek is from Sydney's, is a salutary warning that there is no guarantee that a second Sydney airport, wherever it is located, would be financially viable over the longer term.

Despite massive investment in Avalon and ongoing subsidies from the Victorian government, and the capacity to operate virtually any aircraft type, passenger movements have declined by more than two-thirds from the 2008 peak and no international movements are in prospect. Qantas' maintenance facilities at Avalon will close next month, costing about 53 jobs. The retail businesses that operate there comprise sparsely staffed rental car and shuttle-bus outlets and a single coffee shop. So the job-creation promise that goes with Badgerys Creek needs to be taken with more than a grain of salt.

In any case, what assurance is there that the bulk of these jobs would go to locals?

Will local jobseekers have the skills that these new jobs will require? If not, will they be able to gain these skills? I think that is questionable, particularly given the severe cutbacks to TAFE NSW? We are entitled to ask whether there is any plan to give preference to locals in filling these jobs or at least a plan to have local employment targets.

The adverse effects on people's health and quality of life were clearly documented in the 1997 and 1999 environmental impact statements on Badgerys Creek. The south-west corridor is the fastest growing residential area in the country, so there can be little doubt that an updated investigation would be even more damning. For starters, the already strained M2, M4 and M5 motorways, not to mention arterial and local roads, would be stretched to the limit by the millions of extra passenger and freight movements the airport is projected to generate. Even the pro-airport, Liberal dominated Liverpool council has now hedged its support for Badgerys Creek, indicating last week that all infrastructure must be properly planned and funded for the proposal to be viable. It seems they too now are worried about the impact on the local community. Fairfield and Campbelltown councils remain staunchly opposed to an airport at Badgerys Creek as do Penrith, Blacktown, Camden and Blue Mountains councils. They are joined by president of WESROC, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Councillor Tony Hadchiti, who said at a forum last week:

WESROC is still opposed to the airport until more information is released about the details of the plan and environmental impact and noise statements are done …

That brings me to the airport itself. The government is being coy about the crucial question of its hours of operation, but business interests have made it plain that they expect it to operate around the clock in order to clear the backlog of flights—passenger and freight—because of the curfew that applies at Sydney airport between 11 pm and 6 am.

On the subject of whether there would be a curfew at Badgerys Creek, the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, said only last week that he sees no need for a curfew, because modern aircraft are much quieter. Minister, if that is the case, shouldn't you first be reviewing the curfew at Sydney airport? Or is it one rule for the residents of the inner city, the North Shore and the Shire, and another for the people who live in Western Sydney? Badgerys Creek, like Avalon airport in Melbourne, will probably receive few cashed-up international tourists. Rather it will more than likely be used by low-cost carriers and freight movements at times that the carriers are prevented from operating through Sydney airport.

I note that the member for Hughes has just entered the chamber. He was at the same forum the other day and heard much of what I have just spoken about. Perhaps the real agenda about Badgerys Creek has little to do with Western Sydney and everything to do with pre-empting a thorough review of the potential efficiencies at Sydney airport. The people of Western Sydney deserve better.