Sky News Live Newsday with Laura Jayes
07 May 2018
Subjects: Infrastructure spending in the budget, Western Sydney Airport
Laura Jayes: Well if you've ever flown in or out of Sydney Airport, you'll know that the traffic around the airport is a disaster. Especially in the mornings from around 5 AM, it's not unusual to see traffic banked back for about two kilometres into the city. And the Government has today pledged to fix it. We'll see the spending in the Budget tomorrow. Joining me now live is the Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher who joins me here in the studio. Thanks for your time. How are you going to fix it and how soon?
Paul Fletcher: Well we announced today $400 million for Port Botany freight rail duplication. Now what that will do is mean more freight trains, longer freight trains, more frequent freight trains travelling to Port Botany. That links in with the commitment we've made in relation to the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal and in short it will take quite a lot of B-doubles off the roads because one freight train is worth up to 50 B-doubles. So, $400 million on that. We've committed a whole range of additional projects in New South Wales, over $900 million for the Coffs Harbour bypass …
Laura Jayes: Let's just stick on the airport, we'll get to some of the infrastructure spending in New South Wales. I mean if you've been in traffic on the way to the Sydney Airport in the morning you know that is an absolute nightmare and it starts from very early on from 4.30am, 5am and it's a popular thing for commuters to be lamenting about as they board the aircrafts on various days. But just explain to me how removing B-doubles from the roads is actually going to solve that problem because from my observation the trucks aren't the problem?
Paul Fletcher: It will help remove a lot of congestion around the airport and around Port Botany and get freight off of road and onto rail—that's not its only benefit but it is a significant benefit. Of course, bear in mind you've got a rail connection to Sydney Airport that's- the usage of that has jumped dramatically it's now around 20 per cent of total passengers to the airport are going by rail and that's because rail is reliable in terms of journey time whereas the road time can be variable.
Laura Jayes: But can you do anything about those bottlenecks into the domestic airport in particular? Or not really?
Paul Fletcher: Well look there is work underway that the New South Wales Government is leading. Of course, the broader part of the solution there is the $5.3 billion that we've committed for Western Sydney Airport. Kingsford Smith Airport will hit capacity- it will run out of slots by the mid to late-2020s and by the mid-2030s it will run out of capacity. That was the finding of a joint study into the aviation needs of Sydney that reported in 2012.
Laura Jayes: So, your solutions are to take trucks off the roads, especially around that Port Botany area and to offer an alternative in the Western Sydney Airport. They aren't immediate solutions though.
Paul Fletcher: It's all part of- and you know, lead times in infrastructure are significant and it's important to have a plan for the future and that's what we're laying out in this budget: a plan for infrastructure. Part of $75 billion that we committed at last year's budget to spend over the next 10 years. In this year's budget, we're giving people a lot of detail on where that money will go. In fact, $24 billion of new infrastructure commitments. So, there's $5 billion for a rail line, up to $5 billion for a rail line to Melbourne Airport where exactly the same issue arises and is becoming more and more of a problem. So, it's important to have rail. We're also committing significant funds really all around the country, $1.75 billion for the North East Link …
Laura Jayes: So, you're Santa? Scott Morrison's not Santa but you're acting like Santa, are you?
Paul Fletcher: No no, this is taxpayers' funds being carefully invested in the projects around the country that will deliver the greatest benefit in terms of reduced congestion, greater efficiency and productivity. Because if you're a tradie and you can get to five jobs in a day not four because it takes you less time on the road that's productivity but also better safety. It's so important.
Laura Jayes: Can I just go back to Sydney Airport because there was a report into Sydney Airport and the profit margins on the car parks that were just extraordinary. Is there anything the Government can do about this because Sydney Airport surely is a joke when it's the only airport around the world that you can't do a kerbside collection of a passenger? I mean LA airport you can do it, in New York you can do it, Heathrow you can do it. Why not Sydney?
Paul Fletcher: Well again, the fundamental policy response is to make sure that there is competition in airports, in Sydney. At the moment Sydney is a city of five million people.
Laura Jayes: How do you do that? I mean they have a monopoly, the ACCC even said so.
Paul Fletcher: By building a second airport. That's how we're delivering competition. It'll be under different ownership. It'll be owned in fact, by the Commonwealth Government—at least initially. In due course when Western Sydney Airport is open and has established traffic patterns …
Laura Jayes: Paul Fletcher, what do you do about the fact that these people that own Sydney Airport—the Sydney Airport Corporation—are forcing people to park, even if it's for 10 minutes or they have to sit in their cars— isn't it a ridiculous situation that there's no kerbside pickup?
Paul Fletcher: The ACCC has had some significant criticism of Sydney Airport on those grounds. But the point I make is the fundamental solution is to deliver competition. Sydney is very unusual as a city of five million people to have only one airport with scheduled passenger traffic. We're fixing that.
Laura Jayes: But even with two, is that really competition? Is that really going to stop?
Paul Fletcher: That will be a game changer. That will be a game changer. For the first time we will have competition …
Laura Jayes: But what do you expect prices to come down by? I mean, would parking be significantly cheaper? Would you have to ensure that there can be kerbside collection?
Paul Fletcher: What we know is that competition makes a difference and we see that in markets around the world. What we also know- if you look at for example, London which has five airports or other cities with multiple airports, more competition between airports leads to more competition between airlines.
So Western Sydney Airport, we're focused on getting it delivered. By the end of this year early stage earthworks will have commenced. There's already work underway on the site, so the high voltage transmission lines already being undergrounded. That's an over-$100 million contract. The Northern Road being upgraded as part of the $3.6 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan. So, there's a huge amount happening in infrastructure around the country and $24 billion more of projects being announced.
Laura Jayes: So perhaps passengers could boycott Sydney Airport at Mascot and just go to Western Sydney? That might solve the parking problem.
Paul Fletcher: That will be an option. That's ultimately competition. Bear in mind there are two million people who will be closer to Western Sydney Airport than to Kingsford Smith. So, the key point is when we get competition in airports you're going to see some significant changes.
Laura Jayes: Just finally have you had an angry New South Wales Premier on the phone? The New South Wales Government hasn't got a huge share of this big infrastructure spend, only a fraction of it. There's $25 billion being spent there abouts, and they're only getting about a billion.
Paul Fletcher: Let's be clear: there's a phenomenal amount happening in Sydney and in New South Wales, much of it funded by the Turnbull Government. As well as $5.3 billion for Western Sydney Airport, there's WestConnex where we're funding $1.5 billion in grant, $2 billion in concessional loan. NorthConnex $412 million. The Pacific Highway from Sydney all the way up to the Queensland border being upgraded to four lanes all the way, that's $5.6 billion in total for that project and of course another $971 million announced just today for the Coffs Harbour bypass which will form part of that.
So, you've got a huge range of projects: the $3.6 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan. So, a huge amount happening in Sydney. Big focus on getting it delivered and in this budget very significant infrastructure investment additionally going into Victoria, in Melbourne, Queensland, Brisbane, Adelaide, South Australia, Tasmania, $461 million for the Bridgwater Bridge. That's a very big deal. It's been talked about for a long time. Bill Shorten the other week was there and offered $100 million. He got laughed off the island, frankly.
Laura Jayes: Well, all this and a bigger surplus than expected a year earlier.
Paul Fletcher: So, $461 million for the Bridgwater Bridge, $400 million for a road package in Tasmania. And I'm happy to talk to you about infrastructure until the cows come home …
Laura Jayes: What about the size of the surplus? A year earlier?
Paul Fletcher: But I won't be commenting on things that are properly the domain of the Treasurer.
Laura Jayes: Okay. Paul Fletcher, thanks so much for that. I appreciate it. We'll speak to you this week when we see those details.