ABC Radio Sydney, Breakfast with Robbie Buck
17 February 2017
Topics: Sydney Airport, Western Sydney Airport
Robbie Buck: Paul Fletcher is the Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and joins us this morning. Paul Fletcher, good morning.
Paul Fletcher: Good morning Robbie.
Robbie Buck: Okay, should the Sydney Airport have more flights coming in and out of it?
Paul Fletcher: Well look Sydney Airport is certainly entitled to express its views on these matters. The Government has no plans to make any changes there. There was a study into the aviation needs of Sydney which reported in 2012 which found that Sydney Airport, Kingsford Smith Airport, is going to be at capacity. It will run out of what are called slots and by the mid to late 2030s it will be very difficult for it to increase capacity. That's why the Government's plan is to develop a Western Sydney Airport to provide additional capacity for Sydney and for Western Sydney and of course to stimulate economic activity, jobs and growth, employment and development in Western Sydney.
Robbie Buck: What do you make of the argument that the aircraft are quieter now than they were 29 years ago when these rules were put in place. Do they have an argument?
Paul Fletcher: Well look it's certainly true that aircraft are getting quieter. The latest generation of aircraft like the 787 are certainly quieter than earlier generations of aircraft. But certainly the Government has no plans to change the arrangements in relation to Sydney Airport. Our focus on aviation policy for Sydney and indeed for the nation is to build the new Western Sydney Airport to provide additional capacity. And we're targeting having that open by 2026 and of course a lot of work underway now in preparation.
Robbie Buck: So are you saying that the Federal Government would resist Sydney Airport being allowed to put more flights on?
Paul Fletcher: Well I'm simply saying that Sydney Airport is obviously free to put these propositions to government and in the public domain.
Robbie Buck: Okay, and I'm asking you how would you respond if they were to put that to you?
Paul Fletcher: Well, what I'd say is the direction of the Commonwealth Government policy in relation to aviation for the Sydney region is to build Western Sydney Airport to provide additional capacity and of course to provide additional options for people in Western Sydney. There'll be two million people who will be closer to Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek than to Kingsford Smith Airport. So that will give them more convenient travel options. And as our city grows it's important that we have an additional airport but it's also import that our airport facilities be appropriately distributed across the metropolitan area.
Robbie Buck: Paul Fletcher is with you this morning, the Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure—and just talking about the comments that were made yesterday by the Sydney Airport representatives saying that they would like to see more planes in and out of the airport in the coming years.
You mentioned Badgerys Creek of course a couple of times this morning and we've been told that that is going to be the next airport to be built in Sydney. The airport yesterday also told investors that their option to build that proposed airport would be deeply uneconomic without the financial help from you, from the Federal Government. How do you respond to that?
Paul Fletcher: Well, so just a bit of context for your listeners. The owners of Kingsford Smith Airport, Sydney Airport Corporation, have what's called a right of first refusal which was granted to them in 2002 and that means that if the Commonwealth Government wants to build a second major airport in Sydney, Sydney Airport needs to be given the first right to build that. So when the Federal Coalition Government announced in 2014 that we were going to proceed to build a second Sydney Airport at the Badgerys Creek location, the site that's been there now for about- since the mid-80s, we commenced discussions with Sydney Airport Corporation and that culminated in the lodgement of what's called a Notice of Intention. So that was about a 1000 page set of legal documents that we provided to Sydney Airport Corporation just before Christmas. They now have until 8 May to consider those and to essentially come back to the Government and say either yes they do want to take up their right of first refusal, in which case the Notice of Intention will become a contract that regulates the deal essentially between the Government and Sydney Airport Corporation, or to come back and say no they've had a look at it and they don't want to take up that right.
Robbie Buck: Okay. But the question still remains: do you think the Federal Government should be tipping in money to the Sydney Airport Corporation to help them build the airport in Badgerys Creek?
Paul Fletcher: What we've said on that is that there is very substantial Federal Government support already being provided. There's a $3.6 billion Western Sydney infrastructure plan which provides ground transport connectivity, including the new M12 that will be built from the airport to the M7 and to link into the motorway network. There's all the planning work that's been done, the regulatory approval that's now been given to build the airport. So a lot of support has been given. But what we have said is, we don't propose to provide additional financial support. It is an attractive economic opportunity, it would be a 99 year lease and it will be a business decision for Sydney Airport Corporation to make in the interests of its investors as to whether it wants to take up that opportunity. If it chooses not to, then the Government is free to build the airport itself or to seek other private sector operators on the same terms as we've offered to Sydney Airport.
Robbie Buck: So that's a no.
Paul Fletcher: Well, the Government's made it clear we won't be providing additional financial assistance beyond the very significant support in terms of funding the ground transport infrastructure and all the work that's been done on developing the plans and getting to the stages we did late last year where the airport plan is now formally determined, by me as minister, which means that there is now regulatory approval to build an airport at the Badgerys Creek site.
Robbie Buck: Alright. Paul Fletcher, thanks so much for your time.
Paul Fletcher: Pleasure.