MONDAY 29 MAY 2017
Last Friday the curtain was raised on the facade of one of the great examples of showtime consultation – the Forum on Western Sydney Airport, or FOWSA. A Turnbull Government forum dressed up as an effort to demonstrate meaningful community consultation about Badgerys Creek airport, a facility that will be twice the size of Sydney Airport but unlike Sydney Airport, will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There will be no curfew, no flight caps and no protections for western Sydney residents – relegated yet again as second-class citizens in their home city.
They were ambushed by the sudden announcement from the Coalition of the construction of this airport in its first year of office. A $10 billion airport, with an EIS whose consultation process involved asking people what they thought of the plans by inviting them to forums held right before Christmas, in meetings held during work times. But this was not to minimise the number of residents who were able to give their views about this 24/7 airport, surely?
No – that’s all coincidence. We got the glitz and supposed good news beaming off the front page of The Daily Telegraph, while all the detail and downside gets buried and glossed over.
Talk of coincidence brings me back to FOWSA. Surely it is a coincidence that FOWSA contains hardly any critics of the airport? It is jam packed with cheerleaders – with people wanting the airport. A consultation forum like this should not be a backslapping platform for those who cheered this development on and who just want to rubberstamp all the development decisions.
Besides, those cheerleaders are making money from that decision already – like the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue, whose conferences are big money-spinners. The dialogue is chaired by Chris Brown, a person who lives a stone’s throw from Balmain and nautical mile after nautical mile away from Badgerys Creek.
One of the patrons of this organisation – an organisation that has lobbied for Badgerys Creek – is Peter Shergold, who just coincidentally is the chair of FOWSA. People might say that I am being unfair and that Peter is the Chancellor of Western Sydney University. Good! Does he actually live in Western Sydney? I don’t know. I do not think so, and I am happy to stand corrected.
People might say, ‘Well, it would be good for someone outside the region to chair FOWSA,’ that they might be dispassionate. Really? Could you imagine a western Sydney resident ever the chairing the Sydney Airport Community Forum? Not in a million years.
What a rort by the Turnbull government. This is what FOWSA really is: FOWSA is about faux consultation.
Thankfully, the members for Werriwa and Macarthur can provide some balance, but they are stuck on a forum where genuine concerns will be drowned out by the cult-like chants of supporters used to stack out this committee. There is little balance – too few alternative voices.
Community voices, like Peter Dolan from RAWSA, or John Rickard from the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, or Andrea Grieve, or the mayor of the largest council in New South Wales, Councillor Stephen Bali of Blacktown Council, are excluded from FOWSA. Why? How?
The Member for Macquarie is excluded. The Member for Lindsay is excluded. Senator Payne is on FOWSA, but the membership is now not open to Senator Cameron.
There are only four MPs from Western Sydney on FOWSA; more than 10 sit on the Sydney Airport Community Forum. Four MPs, for an airport that will be twice the size of Sydney Airport, but the Sydney Airport Community Forum gets more than 10 MPs sitting on there.
Including, I might add, the Minister for Urban Infrastructure, a person who complains about noise from Sydney Airport, which is nearly 40 kilometres from his electorate, while telling western Sydney we have to accept 24-hour operations.
Flight free over Kirribilli; 3 am flights over Fairfield. What hypocrisy.
Have you noticed that, when it comes to the noise impact of this airport, it is a tiny airport, but when it comes to the job impact it is massive? What is clear is this: this government cannot tell you the exact percentage of jobs that will go to western Sydney residents – because they do not have one.
There are 3,000 jobs in construction and 9,000 jobs in running it. No guaranteed target for these 12,000 jobs that are reserved exclusively for Western Sydney’s two million residents. The Turnbull government, in their briefing with my fellow MPs and I last week, couldn’t reveal the number – the percentage of jobs reserved for Western Sydney residents – that was put to Sydney Airport in the failed negotiations about Badgerys Creek because they do not have one.
The Turnbull Government dangles the prospect of jobs at Badgerys Creek like a hypnotist watch, but when you ask for detail the Turnbull Government shrinks away. They cannot today, right now, tell you the guaranteed percentage of jobs for Western Sydney now that they are spending $10 billion in taxpayer dollars on building this airport.
We deserve fair dinkum investment in infrastructure, better roads, better public transport, better schools and better hospitals. We shouldn’t be subjected to showmanship by a Prime Minister who will never be held accountable for dodgy decisions.