Keynote Address to the Sydney and New South Wales Business Chambers: Western Sydney's Time Has Arrived

Speech

JBS010/2014

30 May 2014

Parkroyal, Parramatta

It is great to be here in Western Sydney.

Today, two million people call Western Sydney home.

That is almost double the population of my home state of South Australia.

In coming years, Western Sydney will grow by another one million—making it one of the fastest growing regions in Australia.

Yet, just eight months ago, the Australian Government had no long term economic strategy for Western Sydney.

No strategy to create local job opportunities.

No integrated transport strategy to reduce congestion.

No commitment to make a decision on a new airport.

More of the same.

And nothing new.

In just eight short months, we have turned this around.

We have made a decision on the airport.

But more importantly—in cooperation with the NSW Government—we have developed an integrated transport plan for the future.

A plan that will lay down a framework for growth—rather than trying to play catch up years after the growth has occurred—as is the case right across Australia's major cities.

A plan that is funded to the tune of at least two point nine billion dollars from the Australian Government over the next decade—with projects getting under way later this year.

It's a plan that will deliver both jobs and great economic opportunities for the many businesses that are represented in this room today.

Importantly, it is a plan that, for the first time, recognises Western Sydney as a city in its own right.

Productivity Challenge

Like the rest of Australia, Western Sydney faces economic challenges.

To sustain Australia's economic growth, we must lift our productivity.

While productivity growth has been slow for a number of years, a sustained mining boom has allowed us to maintain strong economic growth.

But with the mining boom tapering off—as it shifts from a construction to production phase—we need to find new drivers of economic growth.

The key component to lifting productivity growth is through infrastructure investment.

This is a point the Reserve Bank and the OECD have been consistently making.

Infrastructure Investment Programme

Much of the commentary around the Budget has been about our plan to ensure that Australia lives within its means.

Indeed, it is a Budget that asks all Australians to contribute.

But at its heart, this is a Budget to build a stronger Australia.

A Budget that puts in place a plan to make Australia more productive through a massive new infrastructure programme.

We have outlined a record fifty billion dollar investment in productivity-enhancing infrastructure across Australia over the next five years—including an eleven point six billion dollar growth package.

This is an additional sixteen billion dollars more than what Labor would have delivered if they were re-elected.

Contrary to claims by the opposition, this is new money.

And these are new projects.

In addition, our plan is leveraging greater co-contributions from the state governments and the private sector.

And through an asset recycling programme, our record investment will free up billions of dollars for new infrastructure.

In total, our measures add up to one hundred and twenty six billion dollars of economic benefits spread across the whole economy.

This massive investment will not only deliver productivity enhancing road projects across Australia—it is also allowing the states to get on with building urban rail.

In fact, since the federal election, State Governments have committed to investing in over twenty five billion dollars' worth of major public transport projects.

Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan

The Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan is a major part of our plan to build a stronger Australia.

Over the next ten years, this integrated plan will deliver at least three and a half billion dollars from the state and federal governments to build infrastructure in Western Sydney that supports growth in this region.

While there has been, understandably, much attention given to the decision to finally decide on the location of the Western Sydney airport—the Prime Minister has made it very clear that it will be roads first, and airport second.

The Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan will ensure that the infrastructure is in place well before the airport is operational.

Projects within the plan include:

  • upgrading the Northern Road to a minimum of four lanes from Narellan Road to the M4 Motorway;
  • constructing a new four-lane motorway between the M7 Motorway and the Northern Road;
  • upgrading Bringelly Road to a minimum of four lanes from Camden Valley Way to the Northern Road;
  • improving interchanges that connect the Northern Road and the new motorway with arterial roads; and
  • A two hundred million dollar local roads package.

The Australian Government is providing eighty per cent of the funding—with the New South Wales Government providing the remaining twenty per cent—except for the local roads package—which is fully funded by the Australian Government.

Construction is expected to start immediately, with works on the first stage of Bringelly Road commencing by early 2015 and on the Northern Road in late-2015.

Today I am pleased to announce that two important milestones have been reached in the delivery of the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan.

The major contract to design the four point three kilometre second stage of the five hundred million dollar Bringelly Road upgrade between King Street and the Northern Road has now been awarded to URS Australia Pty Ltd.

And in the coming weeks we will be announcing guidelines for the local roads programme.

We are also now ready to appoint a project director to lead this massive infrastructure program and will now be advertising for the position with the NSW Government.

By beginning our investment immediately, the west will see improved roads well before the new airport opens for business.

The resulting economic and social benefits will transform Western Sydney.

These projects will create around four thousand jobs during construction, in addition to the jobs created through the new airport.

It will mean less time in the car commuting to work—making Western Sydney an even better place to live, raise a family, work and do business.

It builds the capacity of the west so it will contribute more to our economy in the future.

Despite claims to the contrary, our Plan also integrates road with rail planning.

In fact, the NSW Government has announced a consultation process to preserve a corridor for a future rail link to the airport.

The corridor will connect with the South West Rail Link and into the existing network.

Western Sydney Airport

The decision to announce the new airport for Western Sydney represents what the Abbott Government is all about—making decisions and taking action.

Badgerys Creek was identified as a potential site for an airport from as early as 1969.

But it wasn't until the election of the Abbott Government some forty five years later that a decision was finally made.

We all know that Kingsford-Smith Airport will not be able to accommodate expected demand in the future.

Economic modelling has shown that the economic costs of not meeting Sydney's future aviation demands are substantial.

If nothing is done, seventeen point five billion dollars in New South Wales gross state product will be foregone by 2060—as well as fifty seven thousand jobs.

On the other hand, the Western Sydney Airport will generate substantial economic activity and jobs.

By 2060, the Western Sydney Airport has the potential to contribute approximately twenty four billion dollars to the gross domestic product—and create sixty thousand jobs.

But the decision is about more than meeting demand for airport traffic entering Sydney.

This is also about Western Sydney.

This is not a second airport for Sydney.

It is the airport for Western Sydney.

For too long, this debate has been about moving a problem from the east of Sydney to the west.

But that is not what this plan is about.

It is a plan to build capacity, drive growth and deliver the infrastructure that people in the west deserve.

For those who are opposed to this plan, I pose this question, how is it fair that residence of a city of two million people—growing to three million—do not have reasonable access to a modern airport?

Adelaide, with a population of one point two million people, has an international airport—and a very good one at that.

It is essential economic infrastructure.

And it is essential social infrastructure.

The advocacy by local leaders of the benefits of investing in Western Sydney infrastructure has been an important part in getting a decision on the airport.

And this type of advocacy will continue to be important into the future.

I will be here often; talking to you about the plan to make sure it is on track.

Unlike Labor we don't pretend to know it all.

Following the airport announcement—at a forum at the Panthers Club—I discussed with a tourism operator—a small business in the Blue Mountains—about the opportunities of increased in-bound tourism from a Western Sydney Airport.

Middle class growth in Asia is not just a massive boon for our miners and farmers—but also for our services industries as well.

This was the point the Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney made to me recently.

The opportunities for growth are not just domestic.

They are international.

But they can't be taken advantage of without the modern infrastructure.

That is why we are getting on with delivering a long term plan to build a stronger west.

Road construction will begin later this year.

And the Prime Minister has made clear that construction of the airport will start in 2016.

To achieve this—the Government—led by the Deputy Prime Minister—have begun the process of negotiating with the Sydney Airport Group. 

As part of the Australian Government's sale of Kingsford-Smith Airport in 2002—Sydney Airport Group was given the first opportunity to develop and operate a second major airport in Sydney.

While in the past—the attitude of the Sydney Airport operators to the Western Sydney Airport has not been what you would describe as overwhelmingly positive—recent reports suggest a change in mindset.

Now that the commitment has been made by the government, the benefits seem to becoming clearer.

We are very encouraged by this—and we are hopeful this will be the beginning of a short and productive negotiation.

We will also start the environmental and community consultation in the very near future.

Badgerys Creek has already had an extensive environmental assessment—including a comprehensive environmental impact statement in 1999.

At the time, it was the most comprehensive EIS ever undertaken.

The assessment identified no significant impediments to developing an airport at Badgerys Creek.

While of course the Government will meet its legal obligations—and the community will get its say—no-one should underestimate our determination to get the roads and airport built.

Westconnex

The new airport and our infrastructure plans for Western Sydney are complimented by other Australian Government commitments for NSW—including our commitment to WestConnex and the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal.

These projects will ease congestion pressures on passenger and freight connections between Western Sydney, Kingsford Smith Airport and Port Botany.

WestConnex is one of Australia's largest ever road projects.

It's a thirty three kilometre motorway designed to ease congestion, connect communities and create jobs.

During the election, we promised one point five billion dollars to WestConnex Stage One.

We are delivering on this commitment.

But we are doing more than just delivering on our election promise.

We are accelerating construction of WestConnex Stage Two by providing a two billion dollar concessional bridging loan to the NSW Government.

This is a major innovation in road funding—the first ever concessional bridging loan from the Australian Government for a major road project.

This decision will mean that Stage One and Two can be delivered together, bringing forward the delivery of Stage Two by around 18 months.

Today, NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay and I announced that the planning application has been lodged for widening the existing M5 East to four lanes in each direction at the King Georges Road interchange—and community consultation will begin later this month with residents.

This means that we are on track to start fixing both the M5 and M4 next year—Ensuring commuters will experience the benefits of the WestConnex project very soon.

And the benefits are significant.

This project will:

  • Remove three thousand trucks a day off Parramatta Road
  • Halve bus travel times between Burwood and the CBD
  • Shave forty minutes off a trip from Parramatta to Sydney Airport; and
  • Create ten thousand jobs.

A criticism being levelled at WestConnex by the Opposition is that it does not provide a direct link to the Sydney CBD.  

As my good friend Duncan Gay makes the point:

The Opposition is stuck in the type of inner city groupthink that has ignored Western Sydney for so long.

Not everyone is going to the CBD.

They are going to Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool and all the other employment precincts in Western and South Western Sydney.

Indeed, one of the key elements of WestConnex Stage One is to deliver better connections from the M4 to the Parramatta precinct and vice versa.

And the inner city groupthink also forgets that WestConnex is a two-way street.

With new employment opportunities in this region, more people are travelling from the east to the west for work.

And finally, a key design of WestConnex is to help traffic bypass busy Sydney CBD streets—not dump traffic in the middle of it.

Can I congratulate Mike Baird, Duncan Gay and the NSW Government for the work we did together to accelerate construction of WestConnex and the development of the Western Sydney plan.

Too often state and federal relationships are characterised as one of conflict.

But this is a real example of how two levels of government can come together to deliver real benefits to local communities.

Moorebank

While we are improving road infrastructure through WestConnex and the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan—we are also taking trucks off the road by delivering the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal.

In fact, by providing a port shuttle link to Port Botany—including terminal facilities for import-export and interstate freight containers—we are pulling one point two million truck movements off Sydney roads each year.

This will reduce congestion to the Port—benefiting Sydney commuters and the Australian economy.

Asset Recycling

What is exciting about our infrastructure programme is that we have only just begun.

We expect to support even more productivity enhancing projects through the five billion dollar Asset Recycling Initiative, announced in the Budget.

Under this programme, the Australian Government will provide incentive payments of fifteen per cent of the sale price of privatised assets to state and territory governments—on the condition that the proceeds of sales are reinvested in new, productivity-enhancing assets—including public transport.

This will be a multi-billion dollar fund that state and territory governments can access to support major transport projects—if they choose to do so—and allows them to make decision on their infrastructure priorities.

At the same time, the Asset Recycling Initiative will support governments in partnering with the private sector to provide critical infrastructure.

We have already witnessed the keen interest from the private sector in existing assets here in NSW.

The sale of Port Botany and Port Kembla reached five billion dollars.

This is well above expectations of three billion.

And the one point seven five billion dollar sale of the Port of Newcastle was also above expectations—representing twenty seven times annual earnings.

The proceeds of the sale of existing assets—plus the fifteen percent incentive payments—will free up billions of dollars for a new wave of infrastructure investment.

Infrastructure Reforms

Of course, all this funding means little unless we can deliver these projects.

That is why this Australian Government isn't simply handing over cheques and walking away.

We are instituting reforms to get more for less, and more quickly.

The Government is reforming Infrastructure Australia to make it more independent, increase transparency and improve its working relationship with the states.

When we came to government, the relationship between the states and Infrastructure Australia was broken.

Trust was non-existent.

It is imperative that we reform Infrastructure Australia so we can improve project planning and selection.
All projects we have announced in the budget that cost over a hundred million dollars will go to Infrastructure Australia for assessment.

We have also asked the Productivity Commission to report back with a path forward to improve the timeliness and cost of major public infrastructure—as well as consider alternative funding methods.

The Australian Government received the report earlier this week.

We will consider the findings methodically and make a considered response soon.

While we pursue these reforms, COAG has already agreed to reduce red and green tape to ensure infrastructure is fast-tracked and not held to ransom by professional protesters.

Ministerial Oversight

To ensure projects are built as quickly as possible, I recently announced that I will oversee the delivery of key projects in the Australian Government's growth package with my state ministerial counterparts—including the road projects under our Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan.

It is vital that we all work together to ensure we deliver these projects on time and on budget.

And given the enormous amount of taxpayers' money being spent, Ministerial oversight is vital.

An infrastructure subcommittee of Cabinet is meeting regularly to drive our agenda.

And to ensure full Parliamentary oversight, the Prime Minister will also make an annual statement to Parliament on our infrastructure achievements.

The first statement is due later this year.

Conclusion

The previous government talked a lot about the importance of Western Sydney.

But I think people in Western Sydney are sick of the lip service.

What they want to see is action.

With the Abbott Government, that is what you will get.

You saw it with the decision on the airport.

You are also seeing this in our Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan—which will deliver vital road networks to support the new airport and the expected population growth in Western Sydney.

And you are seeing this through our commitment to WestConnex.

Our plan will create more local jobs and ensure that this special part of Australia can make the most of future opportunities.

By making the right infrastructure choices today, we are building a stronger economy for tomorrow.

What we announced in the Budget is a comprehensive plan.

Now we are utterly focused on delivering—led by an Infrastructure Prime Minister who is determined to ensure we build a stronger Australia.

Thank you.