Badgerys Creek gathers political momentum

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Transport

Some background on the politics of airports in Sydney – the airport debate was shaped dramatically in 1995 following the opening of a third runway in Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith airport. While this upgrade deferred the need for a second airport for some time, it also angered many locals due to the increase in aircraft noise that it brought with it, resulting in the formation of the No Aircraft Noise Party. This party received 39% of the vote in Marrickville and 36% in Port Jackson on a 2 party preferred basis (Source: Psephos), both heavily affected by increased aircraft noise. In 2003, the Labor Party changed its platform to oppose a second airport at Badgerys Creek (the irony being that it had been Hawke Labor Government that obtained the land in the first place in 1986), and the Coalition followed soon after.

In the 2012, the debate over a Second Sydney Airport seemed to be whether or not to build one. Those against an airport included the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, and the federal National Party leader, Warren Truss, who was also the Shadow Transport Minister. Local MPs and councils in the Western Sydney area (of both parties, but mostly from the area’s dominant Labor Party), where a second airport would be built, also seemed almost universally opposed to a second airport. Meanwhile, the Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, and Federal Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, both supported a second airport,but appeared to rule out Badgerys Creek, leaving Wilton as the remaining preferred option.

(Source: Author and Google Maps)

Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author and Google Maps)

It began with the release of a report last year entitled the Joint Study on Aviation Capacity for the Sydney Region. The knee jerk response was measured at best, with politicians continuing to state their opposition to Badgerys Creek, despite the joint study finding that it was still the best location. Anthony Albanese, restricted by Labor Party policy, announced a second study into Wilton, the second best site identified by the joint study. Jake Saulwick’s opinion piece in the Herald suggests that Mr Albanese actually prefers Badgerys Creek, and the Wilton study is designed to demonstrate that Wilton is not suitable (primarily because it is too far from either Western Sydney or Sydney CBD, not very flat, and prone to fog). At this point, a push can be made to change the Labor Party’s platform to remove the ban on Badgerys Creek.

Meanwhile, commentators began to point out that an airport in Western Sydney would bring jobs and economic development, not just aircraft noise, and this is something that Western Sydney desperately needs in order to stem the daily mass migration from Western Sydney into the CBD because the region has fewer jobs than it has workers. This appears to have been the turning point in the debate, and by the start of 2013 politicians who had previously ruled out Badgerys Creek, and even ones who ruled out a second airport entirely, were now calling for Badgerys Creek to be put on the table as an option. Some even openly began calling for Badgerys Creek to be the site of a second airport.

The case for a second airport was also boosted when it was announced that the decision to host the 2014 G20 meeting in Brisbane rather than Sydney was driven partly by a lack of the required space in which to park 40 jumbo jets for the duration of the summit. The take home lesson from this was clear – Sydney Airport isn’t just close to reaching capacity, by some measures it already has reached capacity.

What appears to have happened is that politicians have privately come to the realisation that Sydney needs to start planning for a second airport, and that this second airport will need to happen in Badgerys Creek. Additionally, this is something that is going to affect whichever party is in government at the time, so opposing it for political gain will only come back to hurt that party in the future once they are in opposition.

While it remains an unpopular position, there has been a clear movement towards supporting Badgerys Creek in the last 12 months. The recent views of key individuals in this debate are included below.

Opposes a Second Airport

Few actually flat out oppose a second airport in the Sydney basin. Those that do tend to have self interest in mind (Sydney Airport Chairman Max Moore-Wilton) or know that as it is an issue for the federal government they can champion a popular position without having to make that decision themselves (Barry O’Farrell).

Barry O'Farrell, NSW Premier (Image: NSW Parliament)

Barry O’Farrell, NSW Premier (Image: NSW Parliament)

“The NSW government believes no other part of Sydney should be contaminated by the sort of noise that comes with an airport. The most sensible option is to build a fast-rail link to the federal capital and use Canberra Airport for additional capacity for flights.”Barry O’Farrell (6 April 2012)

Max Moore-Wilton, Chairman of Sydney Airport Corporation (Image: Infrastructure NSW)

Max Moore-Wilton, Chairman of Sydney Airport Corporation (Image: Infrastructure NSW)

“Mr Albanese has rejected the nine [of ten joint study recommendations] and focused on the one. You might well say it is not a level playing field on this issue. One of their recommendations was that the cap be increased by five movements an hour [from eighty to eighty-five] – that recommendation has been rejected by Mr Albanese.” Max Moore-Wilton (17 May 2012)

Opposes Badgerys Creek

Most of the opposition now comes not towards a second airport, but to Badgerys Creek specifically as a location. The potential for local opposition has only grown in recent decades as the population of Western Sydney has continued to grow. The case for Badgerys Creek is not helped by the presence of 2 members of Federal Cabinet (Chris Bowen and David Bradbury) being MPs from Western Sydney, nor from the state opposition leader (John Robertson) also being an MP from Western Sydney. In Mr Bowen’s case, he has remained tight lipped on Badgerys Creek ever since the 2007 election put his Labor Party into government, and you have to go back to 2007 to get an on the record comment from him on the matter.

John Robertson, NSW Opposition Leader (Image: NSW Parliament)

John Robertson, NSW Opposition Leader and State MP for Blacktown (Image: NSW Parliament)

“State Opposition Leader John Robertson says while he has ruled out Badgerys Creek, he is waiting for a briefing on the report before cementing Labor’s position.”ABC News (23 April 2012)

Chris Bowen, Federal Minister for Immigration and Federal MP for McMahon (Image: Department of Immigration)

Chris Bowen, Federal Minister for Immigration and Federal MP for McMahon (Image: Department of Immigration)

 “A Rudd Labor government will not build an airport at Badgerys Creek.”Chris Bowen (19 September 2007)

David Bradbury, Federal Assistant Treasurer and Federal MP for Lindsay (Image: Australian Consumer Law)

David Bradbury, Federal Assistant Treasurer and Federal MP for Lindsay (Image: Australian Consumer Law)

“I will continue to be a strong advocate for our community and for as long as I represent the people of Lindsay an airport will not be built in Badgerys Creek.”David Bradbury (4 April 2012)

Open to Badgerys Creek

This category involves reading between the lines at times. In Anthony Albanese’s case, in particular, he is on the record as opposing Badgerys Creek, supporting Wilton instead. But his actions, or rather lack thereof, suggest that he actually prefers Badgerys Creek. It therefore seems most logical to place him into this category. In Warren Truss’ case, he had previously ruled out a second airport entirely, whereas he now appears to have backtracked to just ruling out Badgery Creek in the context of the next election, suggesting that he also is reconsidering his position.

Anthony Albanese, Federal Transport Minister (Image: Department of Transport and Infrastructure)

Anthony Albanese, Federal Transport Minister (Image: Department of Transport and Infrastructure)

“You get the sense [backtracking on Simon Crean’s 2003 vow that Labor would not build an airport at Badgerys Creek] is what Albanese wants to do.” Jake Saulwick (17 November 2012)

Joe Hockey

Joe Hockey, Federal Shadow Treasurer (Image:

“The suggestion that Badgerys Creek is going to disadvantage western Sydney is just rubbish. If you have a second airport in the Sydney basin there will be a massive financial and employment boost…Badgerys Creek has been foreshadowed for 30 years and the Commonwealth owns the land. There should be no barrier to Badgerys Creek.” – Joe Hockey (1 January 2013)

Warren Truss, Federal Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Federal Shadow Transport Minister (Image: Australian Parliament)

Warren Truss, Federal Shadow Transport Minister (Image: Australian Parliament)

“I know the problems with all of the sites, but I know why Badgerys Creek was chosen in the first place, and I thought it was very interesting the [recent state and federal inquiry] basically put it right back on the table. But both sides of politics have ruled it out, so that is where it is at the moment. We’ve ruled it out, and we will rule it out in the context of the next election as well, and Labor has ruled it out as well.

I think it would be helpful if there could be some kind of bipartisan agreement about what is the best site, taking into account what the options actually are, because it will be many years before the project starts and many years to build, so it is highly likely it will cross political eras.” – Warren Truss (12 December 2012)

Laurie Ferguson, Federal MP for Werriwa (Image: Australian Parliament)

Laurie Ferguson, Federal MP for Werriwa (Image: Australian Parliament)

“Werriwa MP Laurie Ferguson said he needed more time to go through the report before deciding his stance but said his decision would be greatly influenced by Campbelltown Council.” – Laurie Ferguson (7 March 2012)

Supports Badgerys Creek

Up until Nathan Rees came out in support of Badgerys Creek, it was virtually impossible to find any current Western Sydney MPs willing to state their support of Badgerys Creek on the record. Former politicians, those who stand to directly benefit, and independent experts have tended to be the only ones championing the site.

Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO (Image: Qantas)

Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO (Image: Qantas)

“We also agree that Badgerys Creek remains the best site. Since the late 1980s, this land has been reserved for a new airport…The arguments for and against Badgerys Creek – and every other contender – are familiar. We are wasting our energy going over old ground.”Alan Joyce (23 April 2012)

Nick Greiner, Infrastructure NSW Chairman and former NSW Premier (Image: Infrastructure NSW)

Nick Greiner, Infrastructure NSW Chairman and former NSW Premier (Image: Infrastructure NSW)

“The average person in western Sydney, I think, rationally ought to be overwhelmingly in favour of an airport at Badgerys Creek.” – Nick Greiner (12 October 2012)

Nathan Rees, Former NSW Premier and current State MP for Toongabbie (Image: NSW Parliament)

Nathan Rees, State MP for Toongabbie and former NSW Premier  (Image: NSW Parliament)

“in policy terms [Badgerys Creek was by far the best site for the airport but] politically this is extremely difficult”. – Nathan Rees (7 January 2013)

David Borger, Western Sydney Director for the Sydney Business Chamber and former NSW Roads Minister (Image: Sydney Business Chamber)

David Borger, Western Sydney Director for the Sydney Business Chamber and former NSW Roads Minister (Image: Sydney Business Chamber)

“Borger…is an enthusiastic backer of a Badgerys Creek airport.”Sydney Morning Herald (21 December 2012)

  1. Ray says:

    What is needed to break the impasse is for the hard heads of both major parties to broker a deal to support a second airport at Badgerys Creek thereby neutralising it as an issue at the next Federal election. I’m willing to bet that most of those who are opposed to Badgerys Creek would privately concede that it is the only option, but are reluctant to publicly support it because of perceived negative political considerations. If both sides of politics support it, then neither side suffers any negative consequences. Of course it is all common sense and that all depends on whether the current bunch of politicians are up to it.

    The problems with aircraft noise have been grossly overstated anyway. It’s not before time that there now appears to be a groundswell of support because of the positive economic and employment benefits to the region and this is what needs to be emphasised. If either side of politics chooses to be too cute by trying to make political capital out of opposing Badgerys Creek, then it will come back to bite them if they are elected to Government, because they will then be faced with the problem of having to deal with the issue, which won’t go away.

    I suggest that the best person to broker a deal with both sides of politics is Nick Greiner, the Chairman of Infrastructure NSW, who supports Badgerys Creek and who is someone with the nous to transcend the political divide.

  2. James Patrick says:

    An Airport at Badgerys Creek will open up the gateway for mainly 24/7 Cargo and Air Freight movements, why do you think all of the international freight forwarders have moved closer to the area, this will also stop a lot of trucks from using the M4, M7 and Parramatta Road, Greater Western Sydney will become a polluted sink hole with smog and pollution from the tens of thousands of trucks that use Sydneys streets every day unless the federal government constructs rail lines for the transport companies to use for transportation purposes.
    You will notice all of the people that are rallying for the Badgerys Creek Airport are the ones that either live under the existing flight path or are Government Ministers that had insider knowledge that Badgerys Creek will be given the green light and have shares in land or propety around the proposed Badgeys Creek Airport Site and surrounding areas.
    The Airport is also quite close to Sydney’s two main water sources Warragamba Dam and Prospect, just look at the state of the Cooks River because of the Airport Pollution at Mascot at least at the moment the pollution blows out to sea, this is where the Old Caltex Refinery site at Kurnell would be a better option, it’s parallel to Mascot and the planes can take off out to sea.
    I think a full ICAC enquiry and audit should be carried out to find out what current serving politicians and ex politicians have a vested interest in this land and the form of directorships or family involvement even by family members twice removed from them have, there is also to much last minute jockeying by Anthony Albanese who probably knows Labor will be gone next election for this to be above board.
    The person that has control of the land titles for the land at Badgerys Creek is Gary Rosetto from Raine and Horne Penrith.

  3. thomas sydney says:

    It shows how backward Australia is that in late 1995 I flew out of the then “new” Munich airport.

    They had their protests and NIMBY debates in the previous 5-10 years , argued, made a decision and got on with it. Don’t worry every group would have had their say and compromises been made

    We had been talking even then since the late 70’s . it just shows how mediocre we are that a place like Germany has had this airport running for 18+ years and we have not even decided on a place and we have put this type of decision off for decades.

    If we had built a decent highway from Sydney to Melbourne with 120-130 km/hr speed like France, Italy and Germany the time to drive from the Southwest Sydney that would have made a few people drive instead of fly. I often carry tools and it does not take much to make the drive worthwhile. From North west Sydney to Melbourne took me with minimal stops 9 hours and 10 minutes. I used cruise control most of the way going 113 km/hr in NSW and 180-109 km/hr in Victoria. An hour is just getting to the southern edge of Sydney.

    A European speed level would have knocked time off that and one hour less from SW Sydney would you want to deal with the rubbish for a drive few hours shorter and going all the way to mascot.

    i would have rather had a high speed rail between Sydney to Melbourne. They are so much more pleasant than planes and the rubbish at the airport.

    But that would destroy Qantas and virgin locally as Sydney to Melbourne is around the 4th busiest air route in the world. Did the pollies to sign off against rail competition when they sold the airport. I don’t know , but I am asking because we seem to do nothing with rail at a government level.

    We are a mediocre country, voting in mediocre people that allow a very inefficient government machine to exist that is taking the taxpayer for a ride. Not many countries have had a resource rich start like we have and what have done with it.

    Australia it seems is a country with a lot of takers.

    Lucky to have have it up and and running by 2023 the rate we go and Munich would have been running close to 3 decades by then.

    Did we truly leave enough land at badgerys creek for the place anyway?

  4. Thomas –

    There is nothing in the sale of Sydney Airport agreement to prevent a high speed rail line from being built. The main constraint to HSR is instead the roughly $100bn or so capital cost to build it, little to none of which would be recovered from fares and so would require the contribution to come from the government.

    The land at Badgerys Creek was purchased by the federal government decades ago and is ready for an airport at the site as soon as the government decides to go ahead with it.

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