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Transcript of joint press conference: Sydney: 12 December 2016: Western Sydney Airport; New Zealand Prime Minister



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PRIME MINISTER

THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP

TRANSCRIPT

12 December 2016

Joint Press Conference with the Minister for Urban Infrastructure, the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP Sydney

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

The Western Sydney Airport is now approved for take-off. This is a gigantic infrastructure investment in Western Sydney. It is the first time that all of the approvals have been given and we can now look forward to the first flights, Minister -

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

In the mid-2020s.

PRIME MINISTER:

Mid-2020s. So it is now very close to realisation. This is a critical element of our focus on ensuring strong economic growth and strong jobs growth right across the nation, but in particular here in Western Sydney.

We know, in this city, we have now a situation where 2 million people who live in Sydney are further away, they are closer to Badgerys Creek than they are to the current Sydney airport at Mascot. So we are in a situation where this airport is needed.

It will drive jobs. It will drive investment. It will drive industry. It will drive technology. It will deliver 9,000 new jobs to Western Sydney by the early 2030s, and 60,000 in the long-term. It will become a catalyst for investment and industry in Western Sydney. That is where Sydney's growth is. Western Sydney is and will be the fourth largest city in Australia in its own right. It is a massive element, a massive contributor to our national economy, and it needs more jobs. Too many people who live in Western Sydney have to commute into the city to work. We need to create more opportunities for

employment, for investment in Western Sydney. We are already doing that with massive investments in infrastructure in Western Sydney already. All of which are contributing to this great development of the Western Sydney Airport.

So the approval has been given, the plan has been determined. I will invite the Minister to say some more about this great development, and then there are a couple of other matters I will address before we go to questions.

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

Thank you, Prime Minister. As you rightly say, the making of the airport plan today means that from a regulatory perspective, Western Sydney Airport is now cleared for take-off. That is enormously important for several reasons.

Firstly, Sydney needs additional aviation capacity. The joint study into the aviation needs of Sydney completed under the previous government found that Kingsford Smith Airport would run out of available flights makes lots by 2027 and would run out of available capacity by the mid to late 2030s.

Sydney is Australia's international aviation gateway, so it is so important for economic and social reasons that we have the additional aviation capacity that Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek will provide.

The second reason this is so important, as the Prime Minister has said, is because it will offer convenient new travel options for people living in Western Sydney, and some 2 million people will now find that Western Sydney Airport is closer to them than Kingsford Smith Airport.

The third reason this is so important is because of its economic and jobs potential. Around the world, airports are proven job generators. We expect that the airport itself will generate around 9,000 jobs by the early 2030s.

But even more important than that is the economic catalyst, as the airport attracts businesses and employment to areas around the airport, and that is why the Turnbull Government is working so closely with the Baird Government in New South Wales on the land use planning issues, and through the Western Sydney City Deal, that is the framework through which we are working to maximise the broader economic impact of Western Sydney Airport, delivering a very significant benefit to Western Sydney where more than a million people will be living in addition to the 2 million people already there, over the next 20 years. But also an economic benefit for Sydney and for the nation.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Paul. On two other matters - firstly, earlier today I was delighted to congratulate Bill English, New Zealand's new Prime Minister, on his appointment and his succession to John Key, who has recently, as you know, announced his retirement. Bill is a very good friend of Australia, very well-known in Australia, he has done an outstanding job in charge of New Zealand's finances during the time of the

Key Government, and I know that he will continue the very successful, very collaborative relationship that we have between Australia and New Zealand. So we are all delighted that Bill has become Prime Minister.

On a sadder note, on a very sad note in fact, I condemn the attacks, the terrorist attacks, in Istanbul and Cairo over the weekend. As you know, there was a terrorist attack in the Saint Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo over the weekend and 25 persons were killed, many more injured. Another terrorist attack in Istanbul also over the weekend, 38 killed and many more injured as well. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends, with our allies around the world in the fight against extremism, the fight against terrorism. These crimes are despicable, they are cowardly, and the Australian Government, and I know the Australian people condemns them.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, critics of the decision today say the announcement is premature, no flight paths arranged in the plan, no noise abatement plan in place, no fuel lines announced either to service this airport. Do you think you have rushed ahead to quickly here?

PRIME MINISTER:

I will let the Minister answer that one, but the answer is, if anything, the decision, the need for an airport in Western Sydney has been screamingly obvious for many years. And it is a great credit to the Coalition under Tony Abbott's prime ministership and my prime ministership that we have got on with the job, and we have got the Airport Plan approved. All the regulatory approvals are done. That’s a first. We are getting on with the job and this airport will be built. Tens of thousands of jobs will be created. It will transform the economic opportunities in Western Sydney. Minister -

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

Thanks, Prime Minister. I think it is worth making the point that we have gone through a careful and thorough process in relation to particularly the development of the Environmental Impact Statement, there was a draft Environmental Impact Statement issued last year, out for community consultation. Some 5,000 submissions received, carefully assessed, the final Environmental Impact Statement issued this year. And just recently, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg cleared that and attached a series of conditions. Conditions which are reflected in the Airport Plan, addressing a whole range of matters, things like biodiversity, noise, water quality, air quality, cultural heritage, both Aboriginal and European. So a very comprehensive framework.

I also want to make the point, in relation to air space planning in the flight path, which is obviously an issue of acute community interest, there are a number of processes under way.

Firstly, we’ve announced we’ll be establishing what we will call the Forum on Western Sydney Airport, which will be a community consultation mechanism and indeed I am in the process of inviting local members of Parliament and councils to nominate representatives to that forum.

Very importantly, the Environmental Impact Statement sets out a set of indicative flight paths. But we now go through a very detailed flight path planning process. Presently, Brisbane Airport is going through a similar process in relation to a new runway which will open in the next year or two. And as an indication, that process has taken several years, because there needs to be very detailed consultation with airlines, with the community, on the possible flight paths and the impacts of them.

The Government has announced some key principles which must be complied with in determining those flight paths, and perhaps the most important of those, or a couple of them to single out. Firstly, we have said that there will be no single point merge over any residential community, and secondly we have said that during evening hours aircraft must both take off to and land from the South-West, the relatively unpopulated areas of the South-West, where safe to do so, which indications are will be more than 80 per cent of the time. So that is very important, and that is one of the dividends of the fact that Badgerys Creek has been set aside as a location for Sydney's second airport since at least the mid-1980s. So there have been extensive restrictions on development around it since that time and the Environmental Impact Statement contains conditions, including one in relation to that preferred mode of operation to the South-West.

In a whole range of detailed ways we have been listening to community concerns here, and sought to address them, either in conditions that are in the Environmental Impact Statement and in turn reflected in the Airport Plan, or in ongoing processes, for example, in settling the final flight paths.

JOURNALIST:

There’s lots of plans for example, road infrastructure around the airport but the rail plans appear to be lacking, why is that?

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

I don’t think it’s right that they’re lacking. The airport is being planned to be rail ready. What that means is there will be a station box excavated. That’s the space for a station. There will be a pathway, a corridor for the rail designed across the airport location, and then all the terminal and other facilities will be built around that.

At the same time, the Turnbull Government is working with the Baird Government in New South Wales on a scoping study into the rail needs of Western Sydney and Western Sydney Airport. It is asking the question what will the right route be for a rail connection to the airport? When should it be built? How much should it cost? How should that be paid for?

There was a community consultation process on that in response to a discussion paper earlier this year. The final report will come to the two governments during the first half of next year. The Prime Minister has issued the challenge in a speech earlier this year - he wants that scoping study to advise the two governments, can there be rail at the airport when it opens? Or if not, how soon afterwards?

JOURNALIST:

So is possible the airport will in fact open with no rail links into the rest of Sydney?

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

Well the airport as I have mentioned is designed to be rail ready and there is a detailed public policy process in relation to what the options are. Of course it is also worth making the point that there is a $3.6 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan, which is developing excellent ground connectivity, road connectivity to the airport, including the Northern Road being upgraded to four lanes for its entire length. The M12 will be a new freeway running from the M7, connecting to the airport and therefore connecting the airport into Sydney's freeway network. And of course over those road networks there will be transport connectivity from the outset and separately we do a have a very detailed process under way in relation to rail options.

JOURNALIST:

Has a contract been offered to Sydney Airport yet, and what’s the process now for them coming back with their decision?

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

Where we are is that what we are announcing today can be thought of as in effect the equivalent of the development approval on a house. So that’s the planning approval for the project to get underway. That’s terribly important. At the same time, as is well known, Sydney Airport Corporation Limited, the parent company of Kingsford Smith Airport, has what's called a right of first refusal. They have that contractually. That means they have to be given the right to build the airport. There have been very extensive consultations between the Government and Sydney Airport Corporation Limited over more than two years. Extensive exchanges of documents. What now needs to happen, is that before the end of the year, the Government expects to issue to Sydney Airport Corporation what's called a notice of intention. That's the formal legal document. In fact, it will comprise about a thousand pages of contractual obligation that's been developed between the Government and Sydney Airport over the last couple of years. It will then be a question of Sydney Airport Corporation as to whether they want to take up their right, which they will do, if they chose to do so, by accepting the notice of intention.

They will have four months to do that from the time they've received the notice of intention.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister how confident are you bipartisan support for the airport can be sustained for the Airport over the long term, in terms of state and federal governments?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are confident but you can't take that for granted. We have seen the Airport Plan announcement welcomed by the Labor Party today, with a few snipes on the way through as you'd expect from them.

But this is really critical to the economic future of Western Sydney. This is where Sydney's growth is going to be, in Western Sydney.

As Paul was saying before, and we both addressed, this will be an enormous economic catalyst. This is what we need to have for more jobs, more investment, more industry, more technology. You can see we're pulling this all together with our Western Sydney City Deal, which is the compact that we are finalising with the state government, with local government, federal government - working together to ensure that all of our investments and all of our policies are delivering that stronger economic growth that Western Sydney needs.

Connectivity is a vitally important part of it. As you know, I'm a very enthusiastic devotee of rail infrastructure in Western Sydney. So you can understand that we are looking at the options for rail very, very carefully with the aim of ensuring that rail connectivity for the airport will ideally commence when the airport opens and if not, as soon thereafter as possible. That's the goal. There is a lot of work to be done on the routes, the different routes that are available for the rail connection and of course, we have to work very closely with stakeholders, landowners of course and above all, the Government of New South Wales.

We are very, very committed to this. You will see many people call out and say: ‘We want more infrastructure in Australia.’ That's good. We do too. But you've got to go beyond the headline, beyond the slogan. You have actually got to identify the projects you are going to get under way. This is a case where the planning has been done, the plan is determined and now the DA is in place, as Paul has said. It's all approved, so now the notice of intention will be going to Sydney Airport Corporation.

So we are moving along with this as quickly as we can and with absolute determination to deliver this vital economic infrastructure in Western Sydney.

JOURNALIST:

Best case scenario, when can work start?

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

The first point to make is that there is work under way. So there’s demolition work on the site of the airport right now. There is work underway on the ground transport connection, so work’s already underway for example on the Northern Road. There is a number of things that will be happening over the next couple of years - there’s a high voltage transmission line that runs across the site, that needs to be underground, that’s a multimillion dollar exercise. The Northern Road cuts across part of the site, so that needs to be relocated as part of the construction work. There is also some work we need to do to comply with conditions under the Environmental Impact Statement that will take a period of time. For example, we have got to install some water monitors and let them operate for a period of time in addition to the water monitoring that's already been done.

The next major phase will be the heavy earthmoving. So the site is almost 1,800 hectares, there’s variations of up to about 70 metres between the heights of different points on the site. That needs to be levelled. That will be a very major exercise. We are targeting having that work under way by the end of 2018.

JOURNALIST:

What kind of interest have you had from airlines so far?

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

The airlines are certainly interested. The airlines, more than anybody else, are aware of the issue of capacity into Sydney Airport to serve Sydney and other markets in Australia. There is strong interest from the airlines in seeing this airport opening in the mid-2020s, and indeed Alan Joyce, Chief Executive of Qantas was in the media making that point this morning.

JOURNALIST:

You’ve mentioned a second runway is on the way for the Western Sydney Airport, do you expect that to be any further construction or for that to be made bigger across the years, or is that as far as you are going to do it?

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

The plan is to develop the airport in stages. The first stage is a terminal with capacity for up to 10 million passengers. We expect to get that to point by the early 2030s. That's about the size of Adelaide Airport today. In that first stage as well, the runway will be 3,700 metres. That is long enough to carry aircraft up to and including an Airbus A380, in other words, the biggest aircraft engaged in civil passenger aviation today. And so that means the airport will be able to support international flights and long distance flights from the very outset.

Now, there is space for a second runway. The planning is that that runway would be built when the airport gets to between 35 and 40 million passengers. On current projections, that won't be until about 2050. But the important point is, the airport is being planned for future capacity expansion. It's very important we are taking decisions that allow Sydney’s and Australia's aviation capacity needs to be met, not just over the next 10 or 20 years but over the next 30, 40, 50 years and beyond.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, it would be the worst case scenario, wouldn’t it, if SACL was to get control of both airports? Wouldn't it be far better for everybody - government, business, people - if those two airports were competing, keeping prices down from everything from parking to airline slots?

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

The position is this - Sydney Airport Corporation Limited has the first right of refusal. That is their contractual right. And the Government is scrupulous about honouring that right. We have been working very closely with them for over two years. I do want to acknowledge and thank Sydney Airport Corporation Limited for the very extensive work they have done cooperatively with the Government over the last two plus years. We are now at a point where we will shortly, or certainly before the end of the year, we expect to issue the notice of intention to Sydney Airport Corporation Limited. It is then a matter for that company as to whether they wish to take up the right or not.

JOURNALIST:

Where do you want it to go though?

MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE:

What I want to see happen is I want to see the Government comply with our contractual obligations and we will do that carefully and scrupulously.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you all very much.

[ENDS]