Transcript—Interview with Chris Smith, 2GB Breakfast

Interview

PFI035/2016

12 December 2016

Subject: Western Sydney Airport

Chris Smith: There'd be many people listening to me right now who weren't even born when speculation started about a second Sydney Airport—it stretches back to the late 1940s. A million and one sites have been suggested, but today it all comes to an end with the Federal Government preparing to sign off on Badgerys Creek. Now News Limited reports the 1800 hectare site will initially service around 10 million passengers a year, about the same size as Adelaide Airport. It'll have a 3700 metre runway, due to open in the mid-2020s, and then a second parallel runway is due to be built by 2050. Federal Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher says Western Sydney Airport will bring big benefits for Western Sydney to Sydney and for the nation. Paul Fletcher is on the line. Minister, thank you very much for your time.

Paul Fletcher: Good morning, Chris. Good to be with you.

Chris Smith: Well, this has been going on longer than Blue Hills. Can you confirm that you're finally making the announcement today?

Paul Fletcher: Well, yes, that's right. Today we are making what's called the Airport Plan, which is the formal approval that permits the airport to proceed. So since the Coalition Government took the decision in 2014 to proceed with Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek, we've been working on developing and finalising and approving the Environmental Impact Statement. That occurred a few weeks ago. We've also been developing the Airport Plan, and that will be formally made today under the Airports Act. That effectively authorises the airport to proceed, and it also sets out the key elements of it; as you've said, a 3700 metre runway, which is long enough for aircraft up to and including the size of an A380, and a terminal that will cater for 10 million people, that's the level of traffic that's expected to be received by the early 2030s. The opening date will be the mid-2020s.

Chris Smith: Okay. Is Kingsford Smith at capacity? Why do we need a new airport?

Paul Fletcher: There was a major study done by the previous government which reported in 2012 which found that by 2027, there will be no vacant slots at Kingsford Smith Airport. By the mid-2030s, there will be no available additional capacity at Kingsford Smith Airport. So it's very important for Sydney and for the nation that we provide additional aviation capacity in Sydney, which is of course Australia's major international gateway. It's also very important for the people of Western Sydney—there'll be some two million people who'll be closer to Western Sydney Airport than to Kingsford Smith Airport, so they'll have convenient new travel options. And it's going to provide economic opportunities and generate jobs–some 9000 jobs at the airport itself by the early 2030s–but also it'll attract business, it'll attract investment, and that'll generate additional jobs.

Chris Smith: I always worry when they say it'll be finished by … mid 2020s, or something similar, instead of it'll be finished by this particular year. Is that because you've got to do impact tests on noise levels, you've got to do biodiversity, you've got to do tests on traffic flow, you've got to do tests on water contamination first before you even … start digging?

Paul Fletcher: Well, the Environmental Impact Statement which was approved recently sets out a series of conditions which have to be met, and that's included in the Airport Plan—how we're going to meet those conditions. But it's also all of the work of construction, preparing the ground transport and under the $3.6 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan, work is well underway on the ground transport connectivity. The Northern Road is in the course of being upgraded to four lanes all the way, and there'll be a new M12 that will run from the M7 to connect the airport into Sydney's freeway network. So there is a lot of work to do. The point is we've done a lot of work now over the last couple of years to get to this point of the Airport Plan being made today granting the formal permission for the airport to go ahead.

Chris Smith: So when will the tractor start moving some soil, do you think? What year, what month?

Paul Fletcher: Well, there is- in fact, even this week there's some geotechnical sensing work going on. Most of the existing structures on the 1800 hectare site have been demolished or are in the course of being demolished, and then what we need to do is get construction underway and all the other things that have to happen to be ready to open in the mid-2020s. So there's work underway on all of those fronts.

Chris Smith: Alright. Paul Fletcher, thank you very much for your time.

Paul Fletcher: Thanks indeed.

Chris Smith: Okay. Federal Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher.