The NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, said yesterday that any high speed rail project would be better off concentrating on a link to Canberra Airport so that it could act as a second Sydney Airport.
It isn’t hard to imagine two conversations with the Premier on this topic.
Let’s start with a Master of the Universe, someone highly placed in one of the dozens of large corporate entities or financial services executives whose enterprises have a Sydney base that generates wealth for the state and which depends a great deal on air travel.
Master of Universe: You want me to fly into Canberra after flying from JFK to Dallas to Noumea to Brisbane and then wait for as long as it takes to catch a train to Central and then as long as it takes to get to Martin Place before I get a shower and go to my meeting, what sort of a (***%$# ^**&&@*% ) do you think this is.
Premier: It’s a nice train
MoU: Up your’s.
Moving on, as the Master of Universe notes the desirability of moving Sydney base to Melbourne, or even Canberra, as well as never flying Qantas via DFW again ever, Premier runs into Macquarie Banker as one does from time to time.
Premier: Think of all the extra A380s you’ll be able to fit into Sydney Airport now that the cheap flights have all gone to Canberra.
Banker: They’re not going anywhere. In fact, they’re not even coming.
Banker: Well, what do you expect? You ask tour operators to fork out another fifty bucks a head per busload from Hangzhou, and guess what, they go to Queensland, or Auckland, or Singapore.
Premier: But it’s a nice train.
Banker: China’s got lots of nice trains, do you think they’d come here to catch another one.
Premier: You’re just p*ssed because you didn’t win the train consortium.
Banker: Not as p*ssed as we are about not having our airport shops crammed full of low fare passengers who pay us about 60% of our Sydney Airport earnings.
Premier: But business travellers spend more.
Banker: You are freekin’ joking. They freekin’ disappear into the freekin’ airport lounges and spend nothing. Up Yours.
And so forth. Premier O’Farrell, like his predecessors, can’t face up to the reality that without another airport in the Sydney Basin, business and tourism alike will be deterred from spending money in Sydney and the state at large.
He may well understand that every year more business account travel migrates to lower fare options, and he may even understand that the time and cost of the world’s most brilliant fast train service imaginable to connect from the *rse end of Sydney to a remote airport isn’t going to encourage those businesses to do more business in Sydney, but he can’t face the political nightmare of actually supporting, if not demanding, that the existing site at Badgery’s Creek get turned into an airport, and that it is the red hot smart thing to do to keep Sydney competitive, and create another 20,000 jobs as a bonus.
Doing the blindingly obvious is not, and possibly never has been, the popular option in NSW.