Battle lines are being drawn between the federal and NSW governments over the placement of a second Sydney Airport, as the bipartisanship called for in the wake of a dire study on the city’s airport needs appears predictably elusive.
Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has in recent days accused conservative NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell of pursuing “short-term politics” by opposing a second airport anywhere in western Sydney. O’Farrell’s preferred plan to link Sydney to an expanded Canberra Airport was unrealistic and might as well have come “out of a Coco Pops packet,” Albanese said.
But O’Farrell shot back, saying Albanese was pursuing a second airport to relieve aircraft noise in his own electorate, which includes Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith airport. O’Farrell insisted he would stand by his election promise not to “dump” aircraft noise on the western suburbs.
Increasingly, however, political pressure appears to be mounting against O’Farrell from both side of the federal parliament, with reports indicating that about a dozen Coalition MP’s have met to discuss how to convince O’Farrell to drop his opposition to a second airport in Sydney.
“The truth is there are no more temporary solutions, there can be no more procrastination, there can be no more delays, we have to start work planning for a second airport now,” Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey told Fairfax, adding that the second airport “cannot be built at Canberra. Canberra is a fog-bound airport 300km away.”
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has also weighed in for the first time, last week telling The Australian that it was “timely to start planning for a second airport in the Sydney basin to ensure that future international and domestic aviation growth opportunities can be realised.”
The push comes in the wake of the release of a long awaited study that called for urgent action on a second airport and said Kingsford-Smith would reach “aircraft deadlock” within a decade. The study, jointly commissioned by the federal and NSW governments, recommended Badgery’s Creek and Wilton as the preferred sites of a second airport. Both sides have rejected Badgery’s Creek, but Albanese is said to be considering further study of the Wilton site despite O’Farrell’s opposition.
Meanwhile, federal frontbenchers from both parties have strongly rejected a call by the Sydney Business Chamber to repeal the hourly cap on aircraft movements at Kingsford-Smith, a move the business group described as a stop-gap measure in light of O’Farrell’s opposition to a second airport.
The recent airport study also called for raising the hourly cap from 80 to 85 aircraft movements during peak times, but Albanese rejected the recommendation, saying it would do little to relieve congestion while adding considerably to noise woes. Hockey said the cap would be lifted over his “dead body.”