PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 23429

Joint Press Conference, Sydney

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/04/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23429

Subject(s): Western Sydney airport to deliver jobs and infrastructure

Location: Sydney

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, well look, I’m here – very proudly here – in South-Western Sydney to made an important announcement for the future of Western Sydney, South-Western Sydney, Sydney and Australia.

As you know, yesterday the Commonwealth confirmed that Badgerys Creek would be the site of Sydney's second airport; or, if you like, Western Sydney's first commercial airport. Western Sydney is a great city in its own right. It is economically the third city of Australia and the third city of Australia deserves its own airport. But if you're going to have an airport, you’ve got to have the infrastructure that will make it work.

And today, I announce that over the next four years, the Commonwealth will spend $1.2 billion, over the next eight years the Commonwealth will spend $2.9 billion to ensure that Western Sydney has the road infrastructure that it needs. The state government will chip in with 20 per cent of the road funding and the State Government will move immediately to reserve the rail corridor from the South West Rail Link up to Penrith so that not only will Western Sydney get the road infrastructure that it needs, it will also over time get the rail infrastructure that it needs.

We will be upgrading the Northern Road to four lanes from Narellan Road to the M4. We will be upgrading Elizabeth Drive to a very high standard indeed from the M7 to the Northern Road. Very importantly, we will urgently be upgrading Bringelly Road to four lanes from the Camden Valley Way to the Northern Road. These are vital pieces of road infrastructure and what they mean is that the announcement yesterday is not just an announcement about an airport; it is an announcement about jobs and infrastructure for Western Sydney. This is a jobs and infrastructure package. There will be 4000 jobs in the short-term on road construction and over time, thanks to the development associated with the new airport, we believe there’ll be at least 60,000 more jobs in Western Sydney. So I’m very pleased to be associated with this. I am very proud to lead a Government which is serious about Sydney and Western Sydney in particular and I think this is a very good day for Western Sydney; a historic day for Western Sydney.

Now I’m also going to now just say a few words about Premier O'Farrell, then we’ll take questions on this announcement and then I might take a couple of questions on other subjects. Look, I have enormous respect and admiration for Premier Barry O'Farrell. I’ve known Barry for two decades. He has been a friend of mine throughout that time. He’s been a great servant of the Liberal Party, a great servant of the people of New South Wales and of Australia. He has constantly worked to do the right thing by the people of New South Wales and we were together as recently as last Friday in China winning trade and jobs for our country and our state. Obviously, as we now know, he innocently, inadvertently misled ICAC yesterday and he has taken the utterly honourable step of resigning as Premier. Now, this is an honour and an integrity at a very high level. We are seeing an act of integrity, an act of honour, the like of which we have rarely seen in Australian politics. I admire him tremendously for this although I deeply regret the necessity for it.

Ok, do we have any questions on the Badgerys Creek road announcement?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, do you trust this government – the state government – which is proving to be corrupt, to deliver your major infrastructure plans?

PRIME MINISTER:

That, if I may say so, is an entirely unjustified smear. Let me not mince my words, madam, an entirely unjustified smear and frankly, I think you should withdraw that and apologise because there is no evidence whatsoever for that. Can you please tell me what your evidence for that is?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, do you remember drinking…

PRIME MINISTER:

No, please, I’ve asked what the evidence for that statement was and none has been forthcoming.

QUESTION:

I think that voters will have questions to ask about a Premier who specifically said yesterday that if he was delivered a bottle of that nature he would remember it. Today, a thank you note is uncovered and he resigns. I think voters would be quite sceptical about the way this has unfolded.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, well without wanting to get into an argument with the media, what you have just said is very different from the accusation, the statement, that you earlier made and we need to have decent standards in this country. We need to have decent standards from the media, if I may say so, as well as decent standards from politicians. Now, I’ve asked for questions on Badgerys Creek, we will get onto the other subject. But on Badgerys Creek and today's road announcement, yes, I have absolute confidence that this is a rock solid partnership between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government and we will deliver. These roads will be built and because the detailed design work has already been done on the Bringelly Road upgrade, I am confident that work will start on that well before the end of the year.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, how can you be so confident that Premier Barry O’Farrell accidentally and inadvertently misled ICAC?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ll deal with that in a moment.

QUESTION:

You mentioned the New South Wales government will have to preserve the rail corridor to make this project happen. Does that mean buying up homes?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll leave that to the New South Wales Government. My understanding is that one of the great things about Badgerys Creek is that sensible work by both the Commonwealth and New South Wales over the last two and a half decades means that getting on with the airport there is much less disruptive to other things than building an airport elsewhere might be. That, as I said, is a tribute to the foresight and the common sense of our predecessors.

QUESTION:

How much money are you spending in the next four years on the actual airport project – not the roads around the airport? And you said the majority of the airport will be funded by the private sector. Can you name other examples of airports around the world that have been majority paid for by the private sector, the construction of them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, let me just deal with the first part of the question. We will be spending some tens of millions of dollars on the planning and design work. We will be establishing a dedicated office to work on the Western Sydney infrastructure package, particularly the planning and design of the airport; but once that work has been done, we will be asking for the private sector to put in its bids and to get on and build the airport. I am very, very confident, given the projected airport needs of Sydney, that there will be no shortage of interest in getting on with this. I might ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister to expand on the subject of airports more generally but there is no shortage of private sector airports, including even in this country, I can think of one that is rapidly going ahead right now.

Before I hand over to Deputy Prime Minister Truss, let me thank Warren and Jamie, the Assistant Infrastructure Minister for the work they have done here. I am really proud of this. I think this is historic. Let's face it, we have been talking about a second airport at Sydney for 50-odd years. It was 1964 when there was a first public call. I can remember as a teenager looking at cars that had stickers on them saying "Birds not Boeings at Galston" – that’s 40 years ago.

Over to you.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

The Prime Minister is absolutely right that the biggest proportion of airport developments occurring around the world at the present time are occurring and funded by the private sector. In relation to Sydney, the share sale agreement specifically gives to the operators of Kingsford Smith Airport, Southern Cross Airports Limited, gives them the right to build a second airport in the Sydney basin.

That right clearly implied that they would be paying for it.

Not only were they willing to accept that condition, there is not the slightest doubt that there was a premium in the purchase price of Kingsford Smith Airport because of the privilege of being given the first refusal to build an airport in another site in Sydney.

The major new developments that are occurring, the multi-billion dollar developments occurring, in all the other capital cities in Australia at the present time are all being paid for by the private sector. The private sector is very keen to purchase airport properties when they become available. I am sure the Prime Minister is referring to the case in Toowoomba where the private sector, a local company has taken the initiative to build, and it is at least two-thirds of the way through construction now, a 747-standard international airport for the city of Toowoomba, entirely of their own volition without Government funding at all. Airports are profitable investments and there are any number of investors keen to participate in these sorts of projects.

QUESTION:

Is there any indication that the owners of Kingsford Smith will actually build the second airport?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

They have the first rights of refusal. We have to, as a part of the share sale agreement, put together a package. There will need to be discussions with KSA operators. We then need to develop a model. They then have the first right to accept or refuse the option to build that model. If they refuse it, then we go to the open market and invite anyone else who might like to build that model of an airport to put their name forward and we would choose someone else to build it. I think that there are obvious advantages for Southern Cross Airports to build this facility. It was obviously an attraction to them when they bought Kingsford Smith Airport in the first place but, clearly, if they don't want to do it, we will find someone else.

QUESTION:

Do you require whichever party is going to build the new Western Sydney airport to build a rail link into the design of the airport, even if the train line won't be running from day one, to prevent expensive digging in the future? Would you say you have to preserve the underground corridors?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

We are very much attracted to the idea of ensuring that any work associated with the railway is incorporated in the design of an airport at Badgerys Creek. If in fact it is going to be necessary for that line to be underground and that is possible on the basis of the preliminary planning that has been done, it would be our view that we would probably build the actual tunnels underneath the runways so that it won't disturb the runway at a later stage and there is also a view that we would probably build a space, an underground space for the station that would be at the airport. This line, though, will be built not essentially to service the airport, it will be built to service the people of Western Sydney and the residential areas of Western Sydney but it would be obvious sensible that if the railway line goes through the Badgerys Creek site, well then there will be provision for a station.

QUESTION:

The airport may well open without a train line?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

It is going to start as a modest airport operation. It is difficult to justify the cost of a railway line, specifically to service the airport in that initial stage. If you look at the experience around Australia, Melbourne doesn't yet have a railway line to its airport. When an airport is starting small, usually the railway comes along a little bit later on. Bearing in mind that the people who will mainly use this airport will be from Western Sydney so the important thing is to link the suburban areas – the residential areas of Western Sydney – to this airport, rather, than the eastern parts of the city.

QUESTION:

Will there be tolls attached to some of these new roads?

PRIME MINISTER:

My understanding is that there won't be.

QUESTION:

Do you expect that the plans will be similar to plans that have been produced before – the option A and the direction of the runways that were released in the 90s?

PRIME MINISTER:

There has been an enormous amount of study of this. This has been one of the most poured over and studied proposals in our history. That doesn't mean that they can't be further fine-tuned and refined and that will be what the public consultation is all about.

QUESTION:

Which suburbs do you expect to experience aircraft noise?

PRIME MINISTER:

Just on the subject of aircraft noise - a few points. First, planes are much quieter than they were. Second, most people want to travel during the day rather than in the middle of the night. Third and very importantly, because of sensible planning decisions by both the New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government over the years, there are far, far fewer buildings that would be noise-affected here than for argument's sake at Mascot. If you compare the relevant noise footprints, there is 4,000 in the Badgerys footprint compared to 130,000 in the Mascot footprint.

QUESTION:

A Liberal MP has come out and said you have signed your death warrant by making this decision. How concerned are you that you will see a backlash from soccer mums in Western Sydney?

PRIME MINISTER:

Jackie is a friend of mine. We served together for many years in the Howard government and she is a terrific person but Jackie is not right on everything. She doesn't agree. Obviously, not everyone is going to agree with the Government on this. That is life. The job of government is not to make the easy decisions; the job of government is to make the tough decisions. The job of government is not to do what everyone wants; the job of government is to try and work out what everyone needs and do that.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, many Western Sydney MPs say they don't want a 24-hour airport at Badgerys Creek. Will you impose a curfew?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it’s far too early to be talking about curfews and I’m certainly not mandating a curfew. I think that we need to use this airport in a way which maximises its economic value for Western Sydney, in a way that maximises its jobs creation for Western Sydney and if we start whacking restrictions on at this early stage I think we're just undermining the economy asset that we want the people of Western Sydney to have.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you have been claiming for a while, and so has the Treasurer, that we're in a state of Budget emergency. How are you going to pay for all this infrastructure funding and can you rule out raising taxes?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a Government that believes in lower taxes, not higher taxes and obviously this is a Government which wants, even before the bulldozers start working on Bringelly Road, to get rid of the carbon tax and mining tax and that obviously brings the tax burden down.

So, we want lower taxes not higher taxes. The best way over time to ensure that we get the tax burden down is to boost economic growth and that is what this is, it’s a growth package – an economic growth package. That’s why I am confident that it is eminently affordable even though it is quite costly.

QUESTION:

Will there be a rise in taxes and charges in the May Budget?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, have we finished with Badgerys questions?

QUESTION:

I have another question. The South-West growth centre is very close to this planned airport so even though there’re few houses at the moment there will be a town the size of Canberra there very soon.  So, how do you respond to the residents that are moving there now that didn’t maybe even think that there would be an airport and would you say that they won’t be dealing with aircraft noise and that runways won’t go over those new residential suburbs?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’d repeat what I said earlier and I’d also suggest that as part of the community consultation that will quite properly take place, the flight paths will be pitched to try to minimise noise. But look, without in any way wanting to minimise any particular issue and without wanting to suggest that major infrastructure like this doesn't provoke a lot of questioning from a lot of people, we have been talking about a Badgerys Creek airport since about 1986. We have been talking about a Sydney second airport since 1964 and we have thought that Badgerys Creek is the best site for at least two and a half decades, so there’s a sense in which this is not entirely unexpected to anyone in Western and South-Western Sydney.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you do have a challenging budget coming up. Will there be rises in taxes and charges in it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, now are there any more Badgerys questions?

QUESTION:

On the airport, can the Government buy the homes in the flight path, is that an option?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don't want to go into that kind of specificity. We are going to go ahead now with the planning and everything else associated with the airport itself, but the airport will not be fully operational for perhaps a decade. The immediate task is to get cracking on the roads that Western Sydney needs.  So I think that’s a question to address, if ever, in probably eight or nine years’ time.

QUESTION:

On the Premier…

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, well we’re all done on Badgerys? Ok, on the Premier?

QUESTION:

Why are you so confident that he inadvertently misled the ICAC yesterday and would you remember drinking a bottle of Grange from your birth year?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't believe I ever have drunk a bottle of Grange from my birth year.

QUESTION:

Can you be sure?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I can't be sure, but I don't believe that I ever have. This is the thing – if you're in public life, you meet lots of people.  From time to time people give you things. They might give you ties, they might give you pens, they might give you a bottle of wine and sure, a bottle of Grange is pretty special, no doubt about that, but given that Premiers and other senior politicians have very crowded busy lives, I don't think it’s reasonable to expect everything from some years ago to be front of mind.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, have you ever met Nick Di Girolamo?

PRIME MINISTER:

I go to lots and lots of functions and apparently so did he. So I don't for a moment say that I have never met him, but I have no recollection of it.

QUESTION:

Did Barry O'Farrell call you this morning and advise you of his decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, he texted me that I should call him and by the time I saw the text, I think he was about to go in and make his statement and we had a brief conversation and I said to him that he was acting from high honour here and I just said how sorry I was that this wasn't happening in three or four years’ time because Barry is a man of honour. He is a man of integrity. He is a very decent man and I think he has been a very capable Premier over the last three years and I think he will be missed.

The important thing today is to show proper appreciation of the integrity which has caused him to act in this way. As I said, it would be a long, long time since anyone in Australian public life has acted by this standard of honour and integrity and, as I said, I honour him for it.

[ends]

Transcript - 23429