2GB with Ben Fordham



23 October 2015

Topic: Western Sydney Airport

Ben Fordham: The Federal Government reportedly wants to tax passengers flying in and out of the new Sydney airport, the second international Sydney airport, that's going to be built at Badgerys Creek. It's understood former Treasurer Joe Hockey proposed a $5 tax for passengers on domestic flights; international travellers would have to pay $10. The levy would raise billions of dollars needed to build that second airport. So would you want to cough up the extra money every time you fly somewhere to pay for Sydney's second airport? Well Paul Fletcher, Minister for Major Projects, joins me on the line.

Minister, good afternoon to you sir.

Paul Fletcher: Good afternoon Ben. Good to be with you.

Ben Fordham: What's your take on that? Do you think people are going to want to pay five or 10 bucks for a service that they're not actually using?

Paul Fletcher: Well Ben the first thing I'd say is that this week you've seen the Turnbull Government release the draft Airport Plan and the Environmental Impact Statement for the Western Sydney Airport. So we're getting on with this iconic piece of infrastructure which is due to commence operations in the mid-2020s—that's great news for Western Sydney and for Sydney and for Australia. This will be a very important project.

Ben Fordham: [Talking over] Sure. We know you're getting on with it, but if you want us to pay for it you better let us know now.

Paul Fletcher: Well look, as you'd expect we are in discussions with a range of interested parties, including of course the Sydney Airport, so Southern Cross Airports Corporation which owns Sydney Airport. They've got what's called a first right of refusal, and because of the nature of those commercial discussions I'm not going to be commenting on speculation that's around. It is very important that we conduct negotiations to get the best possible deal for taxpayers on this project and every other project.

Ben Fordham: There is a feeling that unless you slug travellers this thing just won't be built, or it will allow a future government to walk away from commitments before the thing is built.

Paul Fletcher: Well can I make it clear the Turnbull Government is very strongly committed to the Western Sydney Airport. We are planning for it to commence operations in the mid-2020s. Can I make the point that we've already committed to the $3.6 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan—that's upgrades to the Northern Road, to Bringelly Road, Narellan Road, a whole series of roads, and critically what will be the M12 Expressway that will connect from the existing M7 to the airport. So there's a huge amount of work already underway in relation to the surface transport connection…

Ben Fordham: Sure.

Paul Fletcher:… There's work underway more broadly. So the Turnbull Government is very strongly committed to the Western Sydney Airport. It will be critical for Western Sydney in terms of delivering new jobs into that area and it will be very important for Australia.

Ben Fordham: Alright. I know that the Environmental Impact Statement and the draft Airport Plan has been released this week, and you're saying that around 48,000 people will experience more than five events at night when the noise reaches above 60 decibels which is equivalent to a noisy office. During the day about 1500 people will be affected by more than five occasions where decibels will reach over 70—which is similar to a car driving past. All interesting information, but you know very well Minister that there is a very important question here and that's whether or not the public is going to have to pay, and we're guessing from today's floating of this idea that that's the way it's going to end up.

Paul Fletcher: Well Ben, again what I say is we're in discussions with interested parties. To ensure that we get the best possible outcome for taxpayers it's important that I not comment and that other ministers not comment on commercial and confidence discussions. But can I say we're very strongly committed to Western Sydney Airport. This is likely to deliver around 9000 jobs by 2030. It's going to start with about between five and 10 million passengers from 2025 to 2030. By 2050-2060 this is going to be up around 80 million passengers. So this is about planning for the future, planning for the growth of Western Sydney, creating new jobs, new economic opportunity in Western Sydney, and for the whole of Sydney and for the whole of Australia…

Ben Fordham: [Interrupts] Alright, there'll be a huge number of jobs, no doubt about that. We look forward to hearing more information about who is going to pay for it. Thank you very much for your time.

Paul Fletcher: Thanks Ben. Great to chat.

Ben Fordham: The Minister for Major Projects, Paul Fletcher, joining me on the line.