Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (21:19): I rise tonight to maintain my objection to the absolute waste of scarce public funds being devoted to the construction of Badgerys Creek airport. I say it is a waste for a number of reasons. In an environment where we are debating budget repair, right in this place, and considering a range of options that will impact on ordinary families, we are dedicating billions to a new facility at a time we could be making better use of the existing Sydney Airport. Let’s face it: tourists want to land close to the CBD. Most international airports are located next to a CBD. Yet no government minister has been prepared to increase the capacity of the airport right next to Sydney’s CBD, lengthening it’s life and avoid the spending of scarce dollars now simply by increasing flight movements by an five extra planes an hour. Why hasn’t this been considered? One of the reasons is an absolute determination to build Badgerys, no matter what.
I also argue the spend on Badgerys is an absolute scandalous waste of money. If I were to ask Western Sydney residents, ‘If you had the chance to spend billions on infrastructure and services to make your life easier, how would you spend it?’ I do not think they would be arguing a new airport would reduce road congestion, improve public transport options, provide better resourcing of schools or even improve hospitals. Yet while we argue for those improvements we are denied the funds for exactly that purpose. But we are insulted by being forced to sit on the sidelines, seeing billions siphoned away for this airport. Worse still, Western Sydney is being kept in the dark about the impact of this facility.
The government has deliberately limited the community consultation around this, underfunded the activity, scarcely notified the public of the consultation measures for it and then set consultation meetings at a time when few people would be in a position to attend. For example, for one of the biggest council areas affected by this airport—Blacktown—only one consultation was proposed. And it was held on a weekday, commencing during work hours.
When I wrote to the deputy PM about this, with my colleague the member for Greenway, he or his office never contacted me or responded directly to me. They contacted my colleague and even involved the shadow minister for transport but did not manage the courtesy of consulting me as one of the stakeholders. And what was the outcome? Another meeting, right before Christmas, during the week and, again, during working hours. How can it be considered that this EIS process has conformed with the act when such dismal community consultation has been undertaken?
Some of the environmental and social impacts of this are serious, yet they have been treated dismissively by government officials overseeing the EIS process. For example, yesterday during Senate estimates I was staggered to see officials downplaying residents’ concerns about the flight path impacts in the lower Blue Mountains, even though a merge point for the flight paths centres over this area and within close distance of World Heritage listed areas. Government ministers and officials claim this noise will be akin to a car travelling outside your home. But unlike Sydney Airport, which has a curfew protecting residents, Badgerys Creek airport will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We face the prospect of two major airports operating in the Sydney Basin, but one group is protected with a curfew while the west is left without one. So when someone tells us the noise impacts will be like a car driving past a home in the middle of the day, I would say there is a big difference between that and a car travelling in the quiet that would be expected in the middle of the night. We are assured this will be reviewed, but my guess is that this will be reviewed on an as-needs basis—that is, determined by public reaction. Good public policy with an eye of the best interests of the public should not be determined in this way.
Unfortunately, this has not been a big issue in our major media outlets because they have taken the view they support the airport. But let me contrast what we are being asked to cop with a scenario that the east of the city might be forced to contend with. Imagine if the east of Sydney were confronted with this: road based tankers laden with jet fuel being driven 40 kilometres from the west to the east to meet the fuel needs of Sydney Airport. Do you think that, for a moment, the east would tolerate that? I doubt it. Yet this is exactly what the west will cop, because at this stage it appears that no dedicated fuel line will be built to serve Badgerys and, as many out west understand, much of the fuel will be surface transported by trucks for an extended period of time. Has this been a major public issue? Not on your life.
Western Sydney deserves better, and I am happy to stand against the tide of prevailing opinion on this because I argue that opinion has not been properly informed. When people realise the proper impact of this facility, I imagine views will turn sharply. Until then, I will continue to highlight the way the west has been ripped off through this scandalous waste of money.