Transcript: 2UE Drive with Justin Smith

Interview

WTC011/2015

01 May 2015

Topic: Western Sydney Airport, Relationship with Indonesia.

Justin Smith: Warren Truss, Federal Transport Minister, also the Deputy Prime Minister, is actually at the Brisbane Airport at the moment, where they've got some incredible storms and he's waiting to leave on the plane but it's been delayed by lightning. But it's good to talk to him. Minister, hello?

Warren Truss: Good afternoon. Yes, it certainly is very wet and a lot of thunder and not much traffic moving at Brisbane Airport at the present time.

Justin Smith: You're the minister—you're the Deputy Prime Minister, can't you do something about the weather up there? [Laughs]

Warren Truss: Can I order the planes to leave? I think the answer's no. It's not safe for the ground staff to be out there in all of this lightning…

Justin Smith: Absolutely.

Warren Truss: …up to 10 inches just north of Brisbane, so there'll be local flooding and there's no sign of this rain letting up any time soon.

Justin Smith: Minister, as I mentioned before, there's a lot of talk about Badgerys Creek, not so much whether it will go ahead or not, but about curfews today. Where do you stand on the curfew?

Warren Truss: Well I think to be a modern airport and to deliver the maximum benefit to the people of Western Sydney, it does need to be curfew-free. Airports like Brisbane and Melbourne, Darwin, Cairns, they're all curfew free and as a result many aircraft, particularly international aircraft, land at times when Sydney is simply closed for business.

Justin Smith: Yeah.

Warren Truss: That has significant economic implications and would also put a damper on the growth that's likely to be associated with this Western Sydney Airport development.

Justin Smith: Minister, as you said, on the curfew—who are you going to have to fight over this?

Warren Truss: Well I think that there is a widespread view in the business community that it has to be curfew-free. The local community, though, are clearly the people we need to take well and truly into this conversation. They're the people who will live there and we need to be sure that we deliver—we are good neighbours with our airport.

Justin Smith: Well you s…

Warren Truss: [Indistinct]

Justin Smith: No, sorry Minister, finish.

Warren Truss: So the reality is that there are not a lot of houses close to the Badgerys Creek site—and the area's been protected from housing because it's been really, the identified preferred site now for a lot of years.

Justin Smith: Yeah, I think about 200, or thereabouts. You said that you were taking the locals into a conversation. Some of them might see it as being taken into it kicking and screaming.

Warren Truss: Well, there have been some people who have been opposed to the airport, that's true. But the survey work that we've been doing, the discussions we've had, has suggested there's also a lot of support for the airport, a real recognition about the number of jobs it's going to create and how it can be a real game-changer for Western Sydney. It will not only attract business directly associated with airports, but it will provide a real hub for other manufacturing and industries. There's a lot of land in the area and this will make a real change to Western Sydney. Let's never forget that there's already a population of over two million at Western Sydney. That's almost as much as Brisbane and it's really unthinkable that a city that has our third largest economy does not have its own airport.

Justin Smith: Yeah, no, fair enough. You can't get the planes to take off in Brisbane is the only problem. The Sydney Airport have got first dibs on this, or first right of refusal. Who do you want to own this thing? Who do you want running it?

Warren Truss: Well, we want the people who can do it best. We want it to be a good airport. The reality is, it would be very difficult for anyone other than KSA to be able to build and manage it. They would work well together. Some people believe it would be good to have the competition between two different operators, and that would certainly be an advantage, but the cost of financing this new airport is very substantial and that is easiest done by the other airport operator.

Justin Smith: Would the Government ever consider trying to help out another party here so we can have that competition?

Warren Truss: Well we certainly want the airport built, but the legislation at the time that Sydney Airport was sold makes it absolutely clear that they have first rights to build any second airport in the Sydney Basin.

Justin Smith: Yeah.

Warren Truss: So the sale was undertaken with that proviso, with that condition. So they have a right to expect that they're going to be made this offer. If they say no, well then we've got to make exactly the same offer to the open market.

Justin Smith: The other one, yeah. But I…

Warren Truss: And so that means then that we're not advantaging one over another.

Justin Smith: I guess Minister, the thing is here, we are hoping, for want of a better term, that we don't get stiffed over this. We hope that Sydney Airport don't take over Badgerys and the prices go up, there is no competition and there's really no difference between going to the Sydney Airport or going to Badgerys.

Warren Truss: Well there is monitoring of the pricing and that'll have to be rigorous and thorough. The cost of building the airport, the capital cost is very substantial and that's going to mean that it has to carry some of that interest and redemption. As well as, of course, the operating costs of the airport. But it's a big site, it's quite a good site, it's well located to serve a big population and growing area and if we can bring in, right from the first day, the largest aircraft operating in the world, the intention is that the runway will be able to take an A380 and all other aircraft; those sort of things make it a real opportunity for Sydney to be seen to be open for business and have an airport that's reliable 24 hours a day.

Justin Smith: You do believe though that most people still think that it's not going to get built. Because we've been down this track before. What's the difference between now and back then?

Warren Truss: Well, I hope if they wander out there, they'll see drilling occurring at the present time, which is the early geotechnical work so that we can identify the work that needs to be done. The negotiations, obviously, with KSA are now quite advanced…

Justin Smith: Yeah.

Warren Truss: …and we should have an offer to put to them by the end of the year. The people who have been living there are being asked to move. There'll be the biggest earth moving project probably in Australian history at the site so that it can be readied for the runways to be built. We're serious, we intend to build it and we think that now is the right time.

Justin Smith: Minister, I thank you very much for your time. I hope you don't mind be asking you this one, but as Deputy Prime Minister—Indonesia, how do you think our relationship is going to be going forward, after Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran were killed?

Warren Truss: Well it's certainly been tested over the last few weeks and there's a lot of disenchantment—firstly that the executions were carried out, but then, seemingly, a lack of regard for the concerns of Australians. There have been times in this relationship when it has been tested. There was a time a year or so ago when the Indonesians withdrew their ambassador from Australia because they were discontent.

Justin Smith: Yeah.

Warren Truss: But we are neighbours, we need to work together. Our economies are becoming increasingly interlinked and I'm sure that the underlying friendship that's developing between our nations will leave us in good stead. And that we'll work our way through this. Of course, there's annoyance and anger at the present time, but I'm confident that the relationship will be restored on the basis of the friendship that's been there over a long period of time.

Justin Smith: There's still some anger around the Australian Federal Police too. Do they have your support on the way they conducted themselves?

Warren Truss: Well, yes indeed, they've—it is their job to try and stamp out crime and to cooperate with other agencies to make sure that Australia's kept as free from drugs and the like as possible.

Justin Smith: It's not their job to send people to the firing squad though, Minister, is it?

Warren Truss: No, and the processes have now changed. And this type of circumstances is not likely to be repeated. So, there's some lessons to be learned, but in reality we have a very good police force.

Justin Smith: Minister, thank you, I hope you get your flight okay.

Warren Truss: Yeah, well I'm looking forward to it, but I think it's raining heavier now than ever before.

Justin Smith: Okay. Thank you, I appreciate your time. Warren Truss, Federal Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.