ABC Radio Sydney Mornings

Interview

PFI016/2017

16 August 2017

Topic: Western Sydney Airport.

Wendy harmer: And the Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure—he's the Liberal MHR for Bradfield—is Paul Fletcher, and he joins us. Good morning, Minister.

Paul Fletcher: Good morning, Wendy.

Wendy harmer: Are you a snob?

Paul Fletcher: [Laughs]. Look, can I say, Ed is right. We need to get more investment into Western Sydney. That's why we're investing $5.3 billion in Western Sydney Airport. That's a decision the Turnbull Government took at Budget time this year. That's why that's supported by $3.6 billion in the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan, which is a joint Commonwealth and New South Wales Government investment, including the new M12 motorway that will connect the airport to the M7, upgrading the Northern Road to four lanes all the way, and a whole range of other upgrades to infrastructure. Now, on this question of the representation of Western Sydney; first, Ed talked about the forum on Western Sydney Airport, which is the community consultation…

Wendy harmer: [Interrupts] And that's headed by Peter Shergold.

Paul Fletcher: Headed by Peter Shergold, yes.

Wendy harmer: And Ed would probably have a good point there, though, wouldn't he?

Paul Fletcher: There are 22 people. The chair is the Chancellor of Western Sydney University. Other members of it include two Labor federal MPs for Macarthur and Werriwa in Western Sydney, a Liberal MP for Camden in Western Sydney, residents of Blaxland, of Camden-Narellan, of Mulgoa, of Bossley Park, the strategic activities planner from Hawkesbury City Council, the representative of Blue Mountains City Council, and the former general manager of Campbelltown City Council. We've got a resident of Silverdale, a resident of Luddenham. So there's very extensive representation of the people of Western Sydney.

Wendy harmer: It could be said though, Paul, if you were a little bit more sensitive to the feelings of the people in Western Sydney that you would have given the chairmanship of that board—the head of the community consultation—to a local.

Paul Fletcher: Well, the chair of the forum of Western Sydney is held by somebody who is the Chancellor of Western Sydney University, which is a major Western Sydney institution. And there's very [indistinct] as I've just gone through [indistinct] representation of people…

Wendy harmer: [Talks over] Yeah, yeah. Sure. So you reject that one?

Paul Fletcher: Can I pick up another point that Ed made? He rightly points out that a lot of people who live in Western Sydney need to travel out of Western Sydney for work every day. That's one of the strong reasons to be building Western Sydney Airport, which by 2031 is expected to have 9000 direct jobs, on-airport jobs…

Wendy harmer: [Interrupts] So, let's just slow down here because—excuse me, Minister—because this is the thing that Ed Husic wanted from you. He wants some—he said—some real figures. He said that they're rubbery and they're different every time, so perhaps let's slow down and put those on the record.

Paul Fletcher: Sure. Yeah, so 9000 jobs on the airport itself by 2031. That is calculated by looking at the number of passengers we expect to have and applying the ratios we see at airports around the world of the number of passengers to the number of jobs. We then expect another 4000 jobs at the business park at the airport and another 7000 jobs from businesses that will be attracted to locate near the airport, because around the world airports are proven job-generators and they attract all kinds of businesses in industries like logistics, like accommodation and tourism, education, manufacturing. If you go to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, for example, export of fresh flowers—and of course, for us, it could be agricultural produce. So there's a proven track record of airports generating jobs.

And the other key thing is the jobs are typically local jobs. So at Kingsford Smith Airport, for example—so Sydney's existing airport—80 per cent of people working in the Kingsford Smith Airport precinct live within 30 minutes of the airport. So for Western Sydney Airport, what that means is that these are jobs for people who live in Penrith, in Liverpool, in Blacktown, in Campbelltown. And so that's one of the reasons why the Turnbull Government has committed $5.3 billion to this project, because of the proven track record of airports and generating jobs.

And of course, one of the things we're determined to do is move this project forward as quickly as possible to achieve the commencement date of 2026. That's why we've appointed the first four directors of Western Sydney Airport, of the government-owned company that will build and own Western Sydney Airport. Paul O'Sullivan is the chairman, the other three directors we have somebody who is a former Qantas executive, we have somebody who's a former Melbourne Airport executive and now on the board of Auckland Airport—both of those are extremely experienced executives—and then we have an experienced financial services executive.

Wendy harmer: [Interrupts] And so you don't think it's necessary to have someone from the west represented on that board? Will you have someone at a future date, perhaps?

Paul Fletcher: Yes, we will. So what we said when we announced the first four was that we'll be announcing further directors, and included amongst those will be a director with experience in Western Sydney. So it is absolutely important that we have representation of Western Sydney on the board, as well as the extensive experience we already have on the community consultation forum.

This is a project that will deliver great benefits for the people of Western Sydney, and it needs to reflect the aspirations of the people of Western Sydney and deliver economic benefits and employment benefits. Just a couple of months ago, Northrop Grumman—the big American defence company—announced that they will be building a Centre of Excellence near Western Sydney Airport. They've committed a $50 million investment and that's expected to generate a further 500 jobs for that company. So that's one example of the kind of businesses that are already indicating their interest in being located near Western Sydney Airport. So that's good news [indistinct]…

Wendy harmer: [Interrupts] Okay. So we've got those 20,000 jobs there. They're the figures that you're sticking with. I don't think you've…

Paul Fletcher: [Interrupts] By 2031.

Wendy harmer: By 2031.

Paul Fletcher: And it will grow steadily over time. And if you look at other airports around the world, that's the pattern that you see. Airports generate jobs; that's why Western Sydney Airport is a great project for Western Sydney, for Sydney, and for the nation.

Wendy harmer: [Interrupts] Alright. So are you rejecting, then, Ed Husic's charges on this one, that you can't find anyone who actually lives in Western Sydney to be on those positions—heading those positions—at the moment? You say your consultation committee has got folk from Western Sydney on it; you reject that charge that he's made of snobbery?

Paul Fletcher: Look, the way that I would frame it is the same way that Luke Foley—the leader of the Labor Party in New South Wales—has framed it. He says the Western Sydney Airport will be the single greatest contributor to jobs growth in the region. Anthony Albanese, who's the Labor Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, says Labor supports the development of Western Sydney Airport, which will increase Sydney's aviation capacity and create thousands of jobs. So I agree with Luke Foley and Anthony Albanese. And the Turnbull Government is getting on and delivering this project, which will deliver great benefits for the people of Western Sydney.

Wendy harmer: Alright, well, good-o. Well, thank you very much for joining us this morning, Minister.

Paul Fletcher: Thanks Wendy.

Wendy harmer: Appreciate your time. Paul Fletcher there, the federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure. He's the Liberal MHR for Bradfield.