Transcript - radio interview - ABC Sydney, Mornings with Sarah MacDonald

SARAH MACDONALD, HOST: Well, it's being built. I was there in mid-January and you can see swathes of land changing before your very eyes in the Badgerys Creek area. Big cranes. Now, I couldn't see the runway when I was there, but it's now been done. It's even had the big letters for the airport code painted on that runway where planes will start landing and taking off in 2026. So if you're an airport nerd, you will be excited about this because we have the code. You know, when you're in another country, you look up a flight. If you're coming to Sydney, it'll say, SYD. What will it say here? Drumroll, it will say, well, let's let Catherine King tell you, she is the Federal Transport Minister. Good morning.

CATHERINE KING, MINISTER: Good morning. Thanks for the anticipation.

SARAH MACDONALD: Drumroll for you. What's the code?

CATHERINE KING: It will be WSI. Western Sydney International. That's what the International Air Transport Association has allocated to our fantastic new airport out at Badgerys Creek.

SARAH MACDONALD: I thought it'd be WSA.

CATHERINE KING: No, it is already taken. So there is quite a number of codes across the world and WSA is already taken. So WSI is the code for Western Sydney International Airport. Nancy Bird Walton, NBW was also already taken, but I think WSI gives its location, it's got the Sydney in there. I think that was important.

SARAH MACDONALD: Yeah. I'm imagining the jokes already. Perhaps they won't come till the airport is built of what people can do with WSI.

CATHERINE KING: I'm sure very inventive people will think of all sorts of things.

SARAH MACDONALD: So is it 2026, those planes will take off and land?

CATHERINE KING: Yeah, the airport is on schedule. They've done a terrific job. I think 40% of it's built. We've got the runway. The last time I was out there with Katy Gallagher, we're both the shareholder ministers of the airport, the terminal was well underway. All the baggage bits are done, all the underground bits, and it hit the level of where the terminal is being built. And I'm sure when I go out there today, it'll be even further along than when I was out there last time.

SARAH MACDONALD: So you're back out there today for the announcement. There is concern, though, that the airport will be hard to get to. Dai Le is the Federal MP for Fowler and she wants to meet you over the metro lines. There's concern that Chris Minns, the Labor Leader here, has put off the metro extension to the line from the airport to Parramatta. Have you spoken to New South Wales Labor about this?

CATHERINE KING: Well, certainly we work with governments we look forward to if Chris Minns is elected. Obviously, I have a preference as a Labor Minister for Chris to get elected. I think he's doing a great job. We'll talk about transport priorities right across the state, great state of New South Wales. We work with the New South Wales government on those all the time. Currently, we've got $5 billion on the table, as has the New South Wales government for Sydney Metro. I was out there with David Elliott digging the first sod on that, that's the money that's on the table. But there isn't any other Commonwealth money on the table for any parts of any other parts of Sydney Metro yet. And I think Chris Minns is obviously signalling, if they are elected, that they want to see the bits that are already committed to build, they're going to take time to do. We've got to get a wriggle on to make sure they're open by 2026 and that other parts are really a matter for discussion between the two levels of government later on.

SARAH MACDONALD: Well, hasn't the coalition only committed to a business case from the Parramatta link to the airport?

CATHERINE KING: That's correct, yeah, that's correct. So at the moment, that's all the money that's on the table.

SARAH MACDONALD: Right. So neither side really has allocated the money to do it?

CATHERINE KING: There's no money, no.

SARAH MACDONALD: There's no money to do it.

CATHERINE KING: There's no federal money in to build it at all, yet. As I said, the $10 billion, 5 from us, 5 from New South Wales is obviously for the current proposal around St Marys. So in getting that done, that's really the first proposal, obviously we'll look at, you know. Obviously, we're going to have to look at other proposals around there, but they take time, they're complex projects to plan and build and obviously we're happy to talk to the New South Wales Government at any stage around those railings, but really we're getting that $10 billion project up and running. Want that up and running by the time the airport's open.

SARAH MACDONALD: Catherine King is with us, the Federal Transport Minister. So the link to St Marys will be ready, you feel, in time for the airport?

CATHERINE KING: I hope so. That's what the - that's what the New South Wales government has told me. So that's what they've told me and that's what I hope. Obviously, the airport is due to open in 2026, we want that rail link there, but that's a matter for the New South Wales Government who are building it. We're investing in it as co-partners and certainly, that's my hope that that will be the case.

SARAH MACDONALD: I think there's some cynicism of that in Sydney. I mean, Andrea is worried that St Marys is already a very crowded - overcrowded train station. She doesn't quite know how it'll work with more trains come to St Marys to then link up to the main line. But that's in the state government area, is it?

CATHERINE KING: Yeah, well, they're building it, obviously. We're co-investors in that. We know that getting a rail link to the airport is important. That's the first phase. Obviously, that was seen as the area that we wanted to do first. So it's a matter for the New South Wales Government who are actually building it, as they're the contractors. So, in terms of the details of how that's going to work.

SARAH MACDONALD: And in terms of those first flights in 2026, will they be international, will they be interstate? What will this airport do, that Sydney Airport doesn't do?

CATHERINE KING: So the airport will operate international, domestic as well as freight. All of the freight from Sydney Airport is going to be out of now Western Sydney International Airport. That will create new opportunities for Sydney Airport itself, but also, I think, provide great opportunities. That's why the freight links, the road links, the money we're putting into the M12 is so important. You'll see a lot of freight movements in and out of WSI, as well as international and domestic flights. And the airport itself and the board are busily working away their way through what those offerings are going to be.

SARAH MACDONALD: The big question a lot of people in Sydney want to know, around the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney is the flight path, when will we know about the flight paths?

CATHERINE KING: Yep. By June... what I want to be able to do is not just release here or where the flights are, the flight paths are. We're also wanting and developing a noise tool so people can get a really good sense about just exactly how affected or how not affected they are going to be. I think if you just put a flight path out, you don't actually get all of that detailed information. It's obviously an environmental effects statement process that the flight paths have to go through. So we're looking a little bit later this year. It's taken my department a bit longer than we had anticipated to get some of that right. They've had trouble accessing some of the simulation machines that they needed to actually test some of the flight paths. So, we want to try and do that absolutely as soon as possible. I know how anxious people are to see that, but I also want to make sure people have got as much information to inform themselves to make submissions to the environmental effect statement process as they possibly can. Rather than just putting them out without any further information.

SARAH MACDONALD: Why couldn't they get access to the simulators?

CATHERINE KING: Long story. Long story.

SARAH MACDONALD: So this year, do you think we'll know this year? Next year?

CATHERINE KING: Absolutely. You'll know, this year, in order for the airport to open in 2026, there's a big regulatory process of approval around the flight path that I have to do. And obviously, I'm highly attuned to issues around environment, noise, around how they're actually going to work. And I'm hearing from local communities loudly and clearly about concerns already, but I want to make sure. So it will definitely be this year.

SARAH MACDONALD: Excellent. Well, thank you for your time and the knowledge of WSI is on that runway. You'll see it today.

CATHERINE KING: Lovely to talk to you, Sarah

SARAH MACDONALD: Thanks so much. There's Catherine King, the Federal Transport Minister. That will be interesting to see those flight paths, won't it? I know a lot of people are keenly waiting for that information, especially those who live around the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney.