The question of a second Sydney airport was put to Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott at the leaders’ debate earlier tonight, a mark of how important a seemingly local issue has become on the national political stage. Daily Telegraph reporter Simon Benson asked the leaders whether they would support an airport at Badgerys in the context of job creation, putting forward the figure of 50,000 new jobs that could be created if such an airport was built. Each leader dodged the question, with Mr Abbott choosing to talk about how building WestConnex could improve the capacity of the existing Kingsford-Smith airport at Mascot, while Mr Rudd referred the question to Deputy PM and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese before attacking Mr Abbott for not supporting public transport.
The important thing to take from these responses are two fold. First, each leader has now committed to making a final decision on a second airport in the next term of government. Second, both have done their best to dance around the issue of the Badgerys location, whereas in years past political leaders have been quick to immediately rule it out. This tends to confirm a widespread belief that politicians privately accept that Badgerys is the best location for a second airport, and that a second airport is needed, but that it remains a complex issue within a political minefield.
Ben Sandilands at Crikey has written that an unspoken truce now exists between politicians on the issue of Badgerys. Both know that whoever wins this election will need to start work on an airport, and that both parties will probably govern at some point during its construction. And if it will have to be built at some point anyway, it makes sense to finally put the long term interests of the national economy ahead of short term political interests.