If you were a stranger in Sydney this morning in a taxi that had just endured the congestion at its small, dysfunctional airport, you’d be blasted by talkback radio in full frenzy over its second Sydney airport saga.

You’d also be getting an earful of the need for a great big Australian airport at Uluru from which high-speed rail spokes distributed everyone to everywhere all over the country.

Or, a giant Meccano set offshore airport located not very far from Bondi Beach, or on it if the securing cables broke lose in a storm.

In fact, you’d probably think you had arrived in an insane asylum, and if you were anyone senior in business, you’d probably also think it might be time to cut Sydney loose, and move any operation you had to Brisbane, or Melbourne, or even Canberra, where the premier of NSW, Barry O’Farrell, thinks the “overflow” airport should be.

This latest round of uproar began on Good Friday, when first Bob Carr, and then Anthony Albanese, came screaming (after a fashion) out of the sky without warning to do a re-enactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on O’Farrell.

Quite what Carr, as the new Foreign Affairs Minister, is doing intervening in Canberra-NSW relations is open to speculation, but it is a sure fire profile raiser.

The hilarity, as such, continued unabated across the Easter weekend, including Albanese chewing out Lee Rhiannon, of the Greens, for having a Sydney airport policy in which passengers would parachute into the Sydney basin, but no answer as to how they would manage to leave.

Perhaps by cannon?

The much mauled NSW Premier didn’t bite back until today, when his responses seemed very subdued but firm. Basically, he had promised no second airport in Sydney, ever, before he went to the polls, and he was delivering on that.

Which had his own coalition members, and Joe Hockey, the shadow Federal Treasurer, knocking him for promising to do what will kill Sydney stone dead, as if its other infrastructure problems with rail, roads and maritime facilities won’t do the same thing before the century is one third gone.

The chairman of Sydney Airport, Max Moore-Wilton did his urbane best to insist that Sydney airport could easily take the necessary increase in growth for the next 40 years, which anyone who has been using Sydney airport regularly will know is bollocks, now.

In fact, the estimates are that there will be 1000 more flights per week from China by 2025 and there is no room for any of them even if they were Tiger Moths. There is no peak travel-hour  capacity left at Sydney Airport.

Not that Albanese and the federal government aren’t in trouble too. Albanese claimed work on Badgerys Creek, the favoured site for a second airport, was stopped by the Howard government in 1996. In fact, it was stopped by Laurie Brereton in the Labor government in 1995 “in order to fast-track it”, and Howard refused to un-fast-track it from its location in the political outhouse belt, but did keep the site.

Badgerys Creek costs the public nothing if built. It’s government-owned, and gets sold to private owners as an airport monopoly in perpetuity over western Sydney, which has a population of 2 million and is a two-hour road trip to the current airport when traffic conditions are a mess, like they were this morning.

NSW Rail is even building the connecting tracks now by stealth, since the SW Rail project ends about three kilometres from Badgerys Creek, and the biggest graded separation rail fly-over in the southern hemisphere has almost been completed at Glenfields station, meaning the Airport Line will be able to rapidly serve both locations instead of just Sydney airport with a minor extension after its true destiny is revealed.

Further, towards Canberra, Albanese called for “consideration” of the second best site at Wilton, which is now covered with recently completed homes. Oops!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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