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Thursday, 6 April 2000
Page: 15493

Mr MOSSFIELD (10:10 AM) —It gives me great pleasure to speak on this excellent report, entitled Time running out: shaping regional Australia's future. I have listened to a number of the members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services speak on it and I have been very impressed with the work that has been done. I would like to touch on a number of areas in the report, certainly regional leadership and the need for road infrastructure, and possibly the issue of airports.

I want in particular to relate the report to the area that I represent, Greater Western Sydney—in itself a region. I will give a brief word picture of the region, which is some 72 per cent of Sydney's metropolitan area. It goes up to the Hawkesbury in the north, to Wollondilly and Campbelltown in the south, to the Blue Mountains in the west and to Parramatta in the east. It is a very large area. As the report indicates, there is a need for regional leadership, and I suggest that that leadership is being provided to a great extent by the Greater Western Sydney Economic Development Board.

The board was established originally by the state Liberal government and has been continued by the Carr Labor government. I am pleased to have been a representative of the Labor Council of New South Wales on the original board, which at that stage was capably chaired by Mr Bill McNamara, who was a major business person in the area. The board is now chaired by Mr Bosnjak, who is also a senior businessman in the area. It is an excellent board, providing great leadership for the area.

I will touch on two areas of infrastructure that the Greater Western Sydney is giving some consideration to. In particular, I draw to the attention of the chamber, and of the minister and the shadow minister responsible for road construction, the Western Sydney orbital road.

Greater Western Sydney has a population of 1.5 million people and some 60,000 businesses and is now one of Asia-Pacific's premier centres for economic development, global trade and capital investment. But economic development is still being retarded by inadequate road development. Western Sydney's population is expected to grow by nearly 400,000 over the next 20 years, and a start must be made now to expand the road transport network in Western Sydney.

The proposed Western Sydney orbital will provide a road link between the M5 and the Hume Highway at the Crossroads near Liverpool and the M2 at Seven Hills in the north. It will also connect with the M4 at Eastern Creek. I have been encouraged to raise this matter again by a recent survey conducted by the NRMA which reveals significant levels of congestion on the current route serving as the Western Sydney orbital between the Crossroads and Pearces Corner. The NRMA report states:

The Western Sydney orbital would improve travel time, reduce congestion and crashes, provide better freight movement, boost employment and contribute to the economic development of Western Sydney.

The Western Sydney orbital will link Australia's major freight route, the Hume Highway, with major employment and production areas in Western Sydney and also supply intersuburban road transport movements and traffic relief across the Sydney metropolitan region. The survey reveals that the worst congestion occurs in the morning peak on the southbound run, where 27 per cent of the route experiences speeds below 30 kilometres per hour.

The NRMA survey has identified congestion hotspots, for southbound travel, as Thornleigh to Pennant Hills—Duffy Road to Boundary Road—in the electorate of Parramatta; West Pennant Hills (Thompson Corner) to Carlingford—Castle Hill Road to North Rocks Road—in the electorate of Mitchell; North Parramatta (Kings School)—Russell Road to James Ruse Drive—in the electorate of Parramatta; Wentworthville—Smith Street to the M4—in the electorate of Reid; Merrylands West to Woodpark—Merrylands Road to Woodpark Road—in the electorate of Reid; Fairfield West—Hamilton Road to Sharpe Road—in the electorate of Prospect; Cabramatta to Liverpool—slow sections from Cabramatta Road to Hoxton Park Road—in the electorate of Fowler; and Liverpool—Reilly Street to the M5—in the electorates of Fowler and Werriwa. So you can see that congestion is occurring across quite a number of electorates in Western Sydney.

The NRMA survey conducted in October 1999 found that the 40-kilometre journey from the F3 at Pearces Corner near Hornsby to the Crossroads took one hour, 20 minutes and 34 seconds, an average speed of 29.9 kilometres per hour. The journey in the opposite direction took one hour, nine minutes and 54 seconds, an average speed of 34 kilometres per hour. The journey time was the average time taken by 10 cars travelling in each direction in the morning peak traffic. A spokesman for the NRMA has stated:

The Federal Government has tried to argue that the orbital was necessary infrastructure for Badgerys Creek Airport but it is necessary now on the grounds of congestion, freight needs, road safety and employment.

I also draw to the attention of the Main Committee that, with the considerable opposition to an airport at Badgerys Creek from the public and right across the political spectrum—I have to say that certainly within the Labor Party there is strong opposition; I know from talking to some of my colleagues in the Liberal Party that there is also opposition in that party; there is strong opposition from community groups and church groups—and irrespective of what decisions the government might make on this question in the future, we do not believe the debate on the Badgerys Creek airport should have any impact at all on, and certainly not cause any delay in, the construction of the Western Sydney orbital.

The enormous population growth taking place in Greenway and other parts of Western Sydney must be supported by transport infrastructure. The latest information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics proves that the population growth rate for Greater Western Sydney far exceeds that of Sydney or Australia. With around one-quarter of its population below the age of 16, Greater Western Sydney will remain a focal point for employment, investment and training for decades to come.

For the full potential of Greater Western Sydney to be achieved, it must have good public and road infrastructure. I will conclude my few remarks on that subject by referring to the NRMA's report, which states:

In light of the Western Orbital's status as a national highway the federal government should support this project. The deficiency in the road system must be addressed immediately if the Western Sydney and NSW economy is to be genuinely developed.

I would like to move on to another subject that I intended to speak about this morning, and it relates specifically to the question of the proposed second Sydney airport. One of the reasons initially put forward for the airport to be built at Badgerys Creek was the employment opportunities. I believe this is really an excuse rather than a reason. The main reason that the Badgerys Creek site was selected in the first place was that at the time the site was far enough away from major residential areas to not be a political problem, yet close enough to the Sydney CBD to minimise infrastructure costs. Certainly the former argument does no longer stand up. It should be remembered that employment opportunities go to the people with skills, not necessarily to those people who live under a flight path or live near an airport. Any net job growth that would arise from Sydney's second airport, wherever it would be, would be available to all citizens, irrespective of where they live. There would also be a transfer of some existing staff from KSA to Sydney's second airport.

The aircraft industry itself is a highly technical industry rather than labour intensive one, where employment is likely to fall rather than increase over the years. Over time, there is likely to be an increase in the technical side of the industry and a decrease in the labour force. In his excellent book, Airport Economics, Leon Warren, a member of the Campbelltown Anti-airport Group, points out the weakness in the argument concerning job growth. He refers to the claims of a predicted job growth as the result of a third runway at KSA. Mr Warren states:

The Department of Arts, Sports, the Environment, Tourism and Territories in its environmental assessment report on the third runway, noted that an estimated 17,500 jobs could be generated in the airport subregion between 1995 and 2010 as a result of the operation of the new runway, with a further 27,000 jobs generated in the wider Sydney region.

No attempt has been made to measure the employment impact of the third runway, but productivity gained and reduced employment numbers have been reported for the FAC and airlines. The FAC has reported employment reductions during the period. The annual report shows that in 1996-97 the total work force in the industry was 1,180 compared with the 1992-93 figure of 1,366. At the same time, passengers per employee rose from 34,271 in 1992-93 to 51,316 in 1996-97. We have seen over this period an increase in passenger movements but a reduction in the work force. What should also be understood about employment in the aircraft industry is that much of the maintenance work on aircraft can be performed overseas. I notice from press reports, even at this time, that there is a dispute in the industry. The unions are expressing concerns about the companies moving their aircraft overseas to have maintenance work done as this is taking work away from the Australian work force.

Qantas currently has a large jet maintenance facility at KSA and there are a number of maintenance and service facilities at Bankstown airport. If forced to relocate to a second Sydney airport, Qantas could move its maintenance facilities to Brisbane, Melbourne or Auckland. Australia does not build international aircraft—all equipment for aircraft is imported. The maintenance of aircraft could be transferred, as I have indicated, to many overseas locations.

The creation of large retail outlets at the international airport does not result in a net increase in employment opportunities for local residents. The effect is that local retail facilities are sucked into an international airport complex, similar to the effect that major suburban shopping complexes have on local strip shopping centres. The figure used by the pro-Badgerys Creek lobby group to predict employment growth as a result of a Sydney second airport at Badgerys Creek is, in my view, greatly exaggerated. Due to globalisation, the aircraft industry would appear to be an unreliable source for increased employment opportunities in Australia. The Very Fast Train project to link Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane has the potential to create more employment opportunities than expanding our aircraft industry. From listening to other speakers on this report, I understand there is some support for that Very Fast Train link. I certainly would like to add my support to that project.

The most important impact of the failure of the federal government to make a decision on Badgerys Creek airport, if it is deferred, is the question of the reduction of funding for the Western Sydney orbital. It is estimated that, by the year 2012, Western Sydney will have a population greater than the rest of Sydney. The final question I put to this parliament is: if the federal government were looking for the first time for a suitable site for Sydney's second, 24-hour non-curfew international airport, would it put it in the middle of Sydney's fastest growing residential area? I suggest not.