Apr 10, 2012

Sydney’s second airport has all sides of politics in trouble

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.

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

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!

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

9 thoughts on “Sydney’s second airport has all sides of politics in trouble

  1. The Pav


    Do you think that the privatisation of the airport has added to the difficultis?

  2. Peter Bayley

    It would probably be cheaper and better to drag the Harbour, the Opera house and the Bridge to Canberra and just leave Sydney to the obscenely propertied – more honest all ’round I would think

  3. Gavin Moodie

    I thought that the NSW Government had allowed developments around Badgerys Creek so that it could no longer operate without a curfew.

  4. tim

    I seem to remember that the 3rd runway at Sydney Airport was pushed through on the lie that it was only a stopgap til Badgerys Creek was built – I guess that promise was ‘non- core’.

  5. Russell

    Be great if you could post some links, Ben… I missed Bob (“Sydney is full, everyone please go away”) Carr’s witty and hypocritical insight. And Albo getting stuck into the Greens is always good sport.

  6. Suzanne Blake

    So many Governments for 40 years have handballed this. They had land, sold it and looked at so many options. Its a political football.

    Any option is useless, unless there is an 8 lane freeway and good feeders, fast rail and other infrastruction.

    For get the 2 / 3 lane M5, F3, M7, M2 jokes.

  7. eric

    Just love seeing OFarrell making the same mistakes about a second Sydney airport that all previous govts have done for 40 years.

    Sydney is starting to become the biggest joke of all the capital cities and thats saying something!I now avoid going there at all costs.

    At least Melbourne does have a sort of plan the improve Avalon Airport and bring it up to international standard even if it is a sop to owner Lin Fox a well known Liberal supporter

  8. AR

    Can anyone think of a major capital city, on this planet at least, which has its airport, its only international airport, so roof skimmingly close to its CBD?

  9. Dogs breakfast

    The first question, “Do we really need another airport?” needs to be answered unequivocally. I’m not as sanguine as most about the future of air transport across the globe. Continued growth in air travel is not the ‘given’ that is always implied in these debates.

    Carbon taxes, global warming, higher fuel prices as fossil fuels are depleted (notwithstanding the Qantas vege oil stunt).

    It may well become one of those activities of the privileged rather than an every day occurrence.

    Further, doesn’t the internet and advancements in these technologies make the business class travel inevitably redundant. There must come the day where businesses demand that a $10 video conference is just too cheap compared with a day’s travel, time off work, air fares, wasting time at conferences and then returning home.

    And further, surely huge investments in infrastructure need to be assessed on a needs basis as much as other expenditure. Improvements in rail to the south west and north west must have a much higher priority and value than another airport, and in any case are necessary for an airport if it were to be built.

    Apart from that, it would appear that Badgery’s Creek is the only option. Why only Labor governments ever have to answer the airport question when Howard and Costello had 11 good years to work on it remains a mystery to me, but partisan journalism isn’t a new phenomenon.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details