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Speech: Airports Amendment Bill 2015 Second Reading

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 24 Jun 2015

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (12:40): I rise to speak on the Airports Amendment Bill 2015. The Greens do not oppose this bill as we are supportive of measures designed to limit the authority of the privatised Sydney Airport Corporation to dictate transport policy in New South Wales. When Sydney Airport was privatised by the Liberal-Nationals not only did the government cede authority over an important level of transport policy in Australia; it handed monopoly control of air travel in and out of Sydney to a private company that paid no tax in the 10 years following privatisation. What a deal. Travellers in the community are in agreement that the privatisation of vital transport infrastructure has been a failure.

The privatisation of Sydney Airport has made it much more difficult for the government to pursue a sustainable, long-term and consultative plan around air travel in the Sydney region. As previously stated, the Greens do not oppose plans to grant the government greater authority vis-a-vis the Sydney Airport Corporation when it comes to the planning of air-travel infrastructure. The Greens do oppose, however, the current plan-supported by the Liberal and Labor leaderships-to build a supplementary Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. This opposition is shared by many in the local community as well as local Labor and Liberal MPs. My colleague Senator Janet Rice, the Greens transport spokesperson, has set out our position with regard to this aspect of the bill.

The fact that this legislation has been brought on more than six months after the government announced its intention to construct an airport at Badgerys Creek shows the lack of momentum behind this project. The fact that the legislation explicitly expands the potential list of bidders for the construction and operation of an airport at Badgerys Creek shows how little success the government has had in securing any private support for its plan to build a new airport at Badgerys Creek. All we have seen so far has been an announcement, the funding of more roads and now this legislation-months after the fact.

Many in the community and experts in the infrastructure industry remain convinced that the Abbott government and the Labor opposition have little intention of actually constructing an airport at Badgerys Creek. Both the coalition and Labor are keen to be seen to be getting on with planning for a new airport as a way to present a jobs message for Western Sydney. We now know that this promise does not stack up.

Time will tell if Badgerys Creek is ever built. The Greens are concerned that the case for the project does not add up for locals and the environment, and this is clearly illustrated when we look at the promised jobs growth. When Prime Minister Tony Abbott made his announcement last year regarding Badgerys Creek airport, many of the assumptions used by the coalition and the building lobby to build support for the airport were reported in the media as fact. As a result, much of the debate around the benefits of Badgerys Creek as a location for a second Sydney airport lacks accurate detail.

In his announcement, Prime Minister Abbott stated that the construction and operation of Badgerys Creek airport would create 60,000 jobs-60,000 jobs is a lot, and the announcement was clearly made to impress people. It was over an unspecified time frame. When you see that, it makes you wonder. The alleged job creation figures have been used by several lobby groups to justify their support for an airport at Badgerys Creek. No sources were presented for the Prime Minister's 60,000 jobs figure claim. It has been argued that to achieve such a high figure the airport would have to have passenger movements rivalling Heathrow Airport in London or Los Angeles airport-a feat unlikely to be repeated at a supplementary airport at Badgerys Creek.

The only recent estimation of jobs created by the construction and operation of a Badgerys Creek airport was conducted by the New South Wales Business Chamber, a lobby group for the business sector who obviously stand to gain enormously by the creation of another private-yet, publicly subsidised-airport and the associated publicly subsidised infrastructure to service the airport. Their report estimated that 30,000 jobs be created by 2050-at least they gave us a time frame. Now that figure is already half of the figure touted by the Prime Minister and reported in the media, time and time again. However, this figure also relies on the assumption-

Debate interrupted.

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (17:58): When debate was interrupted earlier today, I was talking about the Airports Amendment Bill 2015, which we have before us now. I was talking about the big promises on jobs associated with Badgerys Creek airport. I relayed how the Prime Minister promised that that airport will deliver 60,000 jobs. There is no time frame for that, but the promise is out there and it has been repeated many times. Then we have the New South Wales Business Chamber promising 30,000 jobs by 2050. That 30,000 figure is already half of the figure touted by the Prime Minister and reported in the media; however, it relies on the assumption that passenger movements are significantly higher than even the most generous predictions. A more realistic scenario, which was also developed by the New South Wales Business Chamber but this time relying on passenger movements estimated by the federal government's joint study into aviation capacity, puts the job creation figures at 10,000 by 2040. It is quite clear that the Prime Minister and the business lobby have inflated job creation figures to boost support for Badgerys Creek. Without a time line, without a business case and without a contract, any job creation figures touted by the government must be taken with a large grain of salt. This is clearly very important because the jobs issue is something that is very critical to the people of Western Sydney-and we start to see how considerably they have been misled, sadly, by both the Liberal and National parties and the Labor Party.

The issue of a curfew is also highly relevant to the business case behind Badgerys Creek. It has been stated many times that Badgerys Creek will only be viable when there are 24/7 operations, but this would expose residents in Western Sydney to aircraft noise that Sydneysiders living close to Sydney Airport at the Kingsford Smith site are protected from. The infrastructure minister ruled out a curfew just last month, further evidence that the community is ignored in order to protect the interests of the private corporations lining up to make a nice profit out of the construction of a publicly subsidised supplementary airport. How can the Liberal-National government argue that the residents of Western Sydney should be subjected to a 24/7 airport when residents in the inner west and the inner city benefit from a curfew at Kingsford Smith airport? While it is true that much of the land around Badgerys Creek is yet to be developed, that certainly will not be the case in 2025, when the airport is allegedly going to be first operational, or in 2035, when it has been operating for a decade. It makes more sense to create policy around what Badgerys Creek will look like in 20 years, not what it looks like now.

It has also been said that Badgerys Creek will reduce aircraft noise associated with Kingsford Smith airport. It is far more likely that the creation of a supplementary airport at Badgerys Creek will increase aircraft noise at Kingsford Smith. Badgerys Creek is expected to be a smaller airport with less hangar space and a smaller runway, similar to Avalon Airport in Melbourne. Like at Avalon, this means that Badgerys Creek will soak up demand for smaller regional flights, leaving more arrival and departure slots open at Mascot for large international jets. This means more aircraft noise, not less. More noise pollution for the locals is certainly not what we want.

Despite the fact that the leadership of the Labor Party and the coalition are on a unity ticket when it comes to Badgerys Creek, local Labor and Liberal MPs around the proposed airport site have raised significant concerns. Last year, Chifley Labor MP Ed Husic said:

I have maintained an unwavering position against an airport at Badgerys Creek for 15 years.
He is certainly spot on. He further said:

I remain firmly of the view this airport will adversely affect the quality of life of the people of western Sydney and I won't be changing my position until I-and more importantly my constituents-are totally convinced it is in their best interests.
Another quote:

There must be detailed discussion and consultation with the community on any proposal for an airport the equivalent size of Brisbane's and to date this has not happened.
I agree with much of what the member for Chifley has said and it is disappointing that the leadership of his party has run roughshod over his concerns to back the Abbott government's proposal fully. As recently as last month, the member for Chifley was, rightly, attacking the Abbott government for not taking its proposal for an airport at Badgerys Creek to an election and for failing to implement a curfew. Again, these are absolutely valid points and it is a shame they have been ignored by the Labor Party leadership and the shadow infrastructure minister, Anthony Albanese.

The shadow Treasurer and member for McMahon, Chris Bowen, is also opposed to the operation of an airport at Badgerys Creek without a curfew, again putting him at odds with Mr Albanese. The Labor members for Parramatta, Greenway and Werriwa are also on the record opposing a 24/7 airport at Badgerys Creek. The member for Blaxland, Jason Clare, has stated publicly that any new airport at Badgerys Creek should be serviced with a rail link, not just road links. The government has already ruled out a rail link when Badgerys Creek becomes operational. It is simply extraordinary that the concerns of all these local Labor MPs have been ignored by Mr Albanese in his eagerness to support the Prime Minister's proposal for a 24/7 operation at Badgerys Creek. It is not just local Labor MPs who have spoken out against this proposal; many Liberal MPs have done so also. The member for Lindsay, Fiona Scott, has strongly opposed the operation of a 24/7 airport at Badgerys Creek.

While the Abbott government is currently pursuing the construction of an airport at Badgerys Creek, the Greens believe that, at an absolute minimum, an environmental impact assessment should be undertaken as soon as possible so the community is fully aware of its impacts. I will be moving a Greens amendment to the bill to clarify that, if Badgerys Creek airport is not constructed, a completed environmental impact statement for this location cannot be used as a substitute for an environmental impact statement for any other future airport location. The Greens do not oppose this bill, but we do believe it is really important that this amendment is adopted.


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