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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 23426

Joint Press Conference, Canberra

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: 15/04/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23426

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

Location: Canberra

PRIME MINISTER:

It is good to be here with the Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister to announce that today the Cabinet has confirmed that Badgerys Creek will be Sydney's second airport.

It will be an airport for Western Sydney.

The planning and design work will start immediately and my expectation is that construction will begin in 2016.

This is a long overdue decision.

In fact, people started talking about the need for Sydney to have a second when the Deputy Prime Minister and I were still at school. So it is a long, overdue decision which- to be honest - has been shirked and squibbed by successive governments for far too long.

I want to stress that my expectation is that the vast bulk of the spending required to produce an airport will be by the private sector. I also want to stress that the Government's approach will be roads first – airport second. We don't want the people of western Sydney to have to have an airport without having the decent transport infrastructure that western Sydney deserves.

I'll be making, along with the Deputy Prime Minister, further transport and road infrastructure announcements in coming days.

Really, what this amounts to is a jobs package for Western Sydney. When fully operational, we believe that this will lead to 60,000 new jobs in Western Sydney. It is essentially going to be an infrastructure package for Western Sydney – a long overdue infrastructure package for Western Sydney that does also involve an airport.

I think this is a good news story for Western Sydney. It's good news for jobs and because of the importance of Sydney in our national economy, it is good news for Australia.

Warren, you might like to add to these remarks.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Western Sydney is already a community of around 2 million people and it will be the place where much of Sydney's growth occurs in the future.

There are no other cities in Australia or, for that matter, most other parts of the world, with a population of two million or more that do not have an airport.

The reality is that Western Sydney does not have the level of services that you would normally expect in a community of two millions so the Government's commitment today about providing a higher level of infrastructure and services to Western Sydney is really in fact a major game changer for that part of Australia.

It is growth area. It's already making a significant contribution to the national economy but we want it to be able to contribute much more. We don't want Western Sydney to just be a place where people want to live and then have to go to other places to work. We want the jobs to be located in that region.

Clearly, an airport is a critical part of providing the kind of services and access that that part of the region will need to the rest of Australia. This will make travel to and from Western Sydney much easier in the future.

It will mean that there will be a capacity for people to fly from their own neighbourhood to the rest of the country and to be able to participate in work and other employment opportunities around the nation. And, of course, it will be a gateway to those people who want to visit the western suburbs of Sydney.

So, this is a very substantial announcement.

The next stage of the process will be for us to engage with Southern Cross Airports who have a right of first refusal to build the Badgerys Creek airport. This process will take at least 12 months and perhaps a little more, and is laid down in the legislation that dealt with the sale of the Kingsford Smith Airport.  So, that will be a process of discussion with the operators of KSA. It will involve the development of a plan and then the opportunity for Kingsford Smith Airport – to make a decision about whether or not they want to build this airport.

If they choose not to do so then that opportunity will be offered to others.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, Phil?

QUESTION:

Is there an estimated timeframe for construction? Is there an estimated price – just for the airport, not the surrounding infrastructure? And is the 2016 date motivated by the fact that KSA, I think, has a two year period on right of refusal? Is that why the start date is 2016?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'll ask Warren to add to this answer because he is the infrastructure expert. I'm just the infrastructure Prime Minister.

We want to get cracking on this.

Let's face it, there's been decades of procrastination here. So, we do want to get cracking. It will be the private sector that will bear the vast bulk of the cost. There will be some expense to the Commonwealth in terms of planning and design, but the $2.5 billion, which is widely quoted as the cost of building the airport itself, is something that will come from the private sector.

I just want to stress that this is a decision that has been shirked for too long. The Coalition said prior to the election that we would make a decision on this early in our term of government and that's exactly what we have done.

Warren?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

The legislation provides timeframes for each sector of the consultation process with KSA and that - broadly speaking - is basically a minimum of a year and a maximum of two years. So, essentially we would naturally be wanting the decision to be made as quickly as possible so that people have a clear understanding of what's proposed, that involves the development of a plan and a case so that KSA are able to make their decision on economic and other grounds that would result in such a substantial investment.

PRIME MINISTER:

We'll go around the circle. Mark, first?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, will the airport be curfew free? Is that the plan? Also, you mentioned that most of the money for the airport itself will be from the private sector but you also said that your approach will be roads first – airport second. Is that also the approach with roads? Will we be looking at more private investment, possibly toll roads – that kind of thing?

PRIME MINISTER:

We'll have more to say about roads in coming days but obviously, the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth will be working together to ensure that the road and other transport infrastructure that is necessary for Western Sydney, amongst other things to support an airport for Western Sydney are delivered.

It's roads first - airport second, because we want to do the right thing by the people of Western Sydney.

Now, on the issue of noise, I don't believe this is going to be anything like the problem at Badgerys that it has been at Mascot for a couple of reasons. First, because, quite frankly, people don't want to travel in the middle of the night and second, because we are just dealing with far, far fewer people. If you look at the noise footprint, some 4,000 people live within the Badgerys noise footprint. The equivalent noise footprint at Sydney is 130,000. So I just don't think it's going to be anything like the issue with Badgerys that it is elsewhere.

QUESTION:

That's no to a curfew, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are certainly not saying there will be a curfew. We are certainly not saying that. We are saying we want this to be a jobs generator. We want this to be efficient economic infrastructure that maximises benefits to Australia and all credit to the New South Wales government and its planning, it's basically created an industrial and commercial zone around the site.

Let's not forget that this has been the potential airport site since the Hawke government's decision of 1986 and the subsequent purchases of about 1,800 hectares of land so there is quite a significant buffer zone around the Badgerys Creek Airport that just means that it's not going to be anything like Mascot when it comes to the problems of noise.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Can I add just one thing that is particularly important in this regard? The modern aircraft are so much quieter than all of those that preceded them. The 787 is 60 per cent quieter than the models it is replacing and so the noisy aircraft that was such a burden at KSA for such a long period of time are not in the air anymore and new models will be quieter and, therefore, more neighbourhood friendly.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, KSA doesn't believe that Sydney needs a second airport for a long, long time. Will you be legislating for a fully operational domestic and international airport and will you ensure that if KSA buy it, that they will operate it in the way that people imagine it would be operated, rather than make it a white elephant?

PRIME MINISTER:

If you look at all the studies, all the studies show that without a second airport Sydney will be grievously under-served within a few decades. In fact by 2060 without a second airport, it is projected that some one-third of all the potential passengers won't be able to get in and out of Sydney and our GDP will be some tens of billions of dollars less without adequate airport capacity in Sydney.

So, we want this to be a significant airport over time. We want it to be an airport which serves our nation and the wider world, but obviously it will take quite some time to become operational.

If we start construction, or if construction starts in 2016, it could well be the middle of the next decade before the airport is fully operational.

Again, I stress, this is a roads first - airport second proposal that we are going to proceed with. It is infrastructure first - airport second. That is our approach.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, will you publicly release some of the modelling that's been done and what consultation will there be with the local MPs and the local communities?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as you can imagine, over the years there's been an enormous amount of work done and the vast majority of it, as I understand it, is already on the public record. Now, we will submit this and associated road projects to Infrastructure Australia, but there has already been a lot of cost-benefit work done on roads and other infrastructure in Western Sydney by the New South Wales government, so this has been quite frankly, Paul, studied to death.

There's been an abundance of study and an absence of political will.

There's been too much studying and not enough deciding and the time for decision has come. We have made a decision; we will now get on with it.

QUESTION:

Public consultation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Obviously there will be public consultation because people need to know exactly how this is likely to evolve. So, there will be plenty of public consultation as provided for in all of the relevant planning instruments.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, I’m still not exactly clear how specific the Cabinet's decision has been about what nature of airport you’ll want to see built at Badgerys Creek. For example, regional airlines have always been concerned that they may get shunted to the second airport and there will be transport problems. Can you clarify for us exactly how you see the airport developing, what services it will provide and how much scope you've got to influence that, particularly with the KSA negotiations?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again I'll ask Warren to add to this, but in broad terms these will be new services, not transferred services.

We think that the services that are currently quite rightly patronised at Sydney should continue, but we are confident once the airport is constructed that there will be additional demand that can be met by new services out of Badgerys.

Warren?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Firstly, I think it's important to note that the airport would be constructed in, I guess, a modest fashion initially and it would grow as time went by. I mentioned to you that this is a region with a population of around two million, so ultimately one might expect there would be an airport rather like Brisbane's, but it's not going to start that way. It's clearly going to be a single runway with a modest terminal building, and it will grow as the passenger demand grows.

In relation to what services will land there, there is no plan on the part of the Government – in fact we specifically rule out - moving operators from one airport to the other. It will be a matter for airlines to make the decisions as to what's the best place for them to land.

In relation to regional operations, there are a number of allocated slots at Kingsford Smith Airport for regional operations – for intrastate operations – in New South Wales. They will remain, but the number of slots for intrastate operations in New South Wales are also filling up and so I would imagine that in time, there will be services from regional centres in New South Wales into Badgerys Creek just as there are into KSA.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you mentioned a couple of times on roads first and infrastructure. Is this an opportunity to complete a rail loop through Western Sydney, obviously via the airport?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the answer is yes, but it is primarily a state government responsibility to look after urban rail, but there will be more to say on this subject in coming days.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, just back on Paul's point, will there be a new environmental impact study for either the airport or the associated roads and secondly, you’re talking about the tourism implications, was that something that you raised on your trip through North Asia recently?

PRIME MINISTER:

Badgerys Creek wasn't discussed in North Asia, but there is a lot of interest in Australia as a tourist destination. In fact, in Korea and China, I think that I was told that Australia is the pre-eminent place that tourists and potential tourists want to visit. So this is an important piece of economic infrastructure, and it will be an important export earner directly and indirectly for Australia.

As for the EIS, I believe one has been done. I dare say it would need to be updated, but the important thing, as I say, is to get cracking.

We won't short-circuit the process, but we aren't going to draw it out either. We aren't going to allow ourselves to be bogged down in endless process. We'll be fair and we'll be reasonable with people, but in the end we do want to get on with things.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, when you say metro rail is up to state, and metro roads the Commonwealth, on what basis do you make that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, the urban rail systems are owned and operated by state governments – always have been, always will be - but major roads, particularly major roads associated with national infrastructure, have been part-funded by the Commonwealth, typically 80-20 funded by the Commonwealth. So we expect to make a very big investment in roads in Western Sydney, associated with this airport, but we expect the state government to quite properly bear its responsibilities in respect of rail.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, will the airport be open to foreign investment?

PRIME MINISTER:

That would be a question for the private sector airport operator, but I wouldn't see any reason why, subject to the ordinary foreign investment rules, it shouldn't be.

QUESTION:

Mr Truss, a report that the Coalition’s western Sydney councils - I think - last year estimated you might have to knock down a couple of hundred houses to build the airport at Badgerys because of urban encroachment. Is that something you are aware of or you agree might need to be done?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

As the Prime Minister mentioned, the site is owned by the Commonwealth and has been for a long time and New South Wales has been – through its planning decisions – keeping the environs largely free of development. So I don't anticipate that there will be a significant impact on properties that are privately owned. However, there are a large number of leases on the Badgerys Creek site at the present time and they have always been temporary because of the fact that there was always the likelihood that it would be used one day as an airport. So some people will be affected. We'll need to talk to all the lease holders, as the Prime Minister mentioned it will be some time before construction actually starts, so there’ll be opportunity for people to adjust and to move if their leases run out.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, can I ask a question on a different subject?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let's finish Badgerys issues and then we’ll go on other subjects.

Okay, Andrew.

QUESTION:

Kevin Andrews yesterday made a number of interesting observations about the pension. One of his observations was that the pension is becoming more expensive, not just because of demographics, but because of the inadequacy of superannuation. He was saying, for example, you would need 15 to 18 per cent of your salary for a period of 20 to 25 years. Given that's the case, do you think that you should perhaps revisit your pausing of the compulsory super increase from nine to 12 and would you consider pursuing a more aggressive compulsory super scheme of the ilk that Mr Andrews is talking about?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Andrew, that's a rather detailed question that you have asked me to speculate on. Can I just say about the Budget that we have been left with debt and deficit stretching out as far as the eye can see and we will tackle it. I keep saying, and I mean it, that we will keep our commitments. I really mean we will keep our commitments. If there is one lesson to be learnt from the political quagmire that the former government got itself into, it is keep your commitments, so we will keep them. But one of the most fundamental commitments of all was to get the Budget back under control, to put the Budget back on to a path to a sustainable surplus. So we'll be doing that, but as for pensions and pensioners, I am confident that pensioners will be better off, because under this Government they will lose the carbon tax, but keep the compensation.

Mark?

QUESTION:

Those commitments, though, Prime Minister that included no changes to pensions this term. So you’re going to honour that?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will keep our commitments and we will do the right thing by the people of Australia and that certainly means looking after the vulnerable, but it does also mean getting the Budget back on a path to sustainable surplus.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, just on stopping the boats, has Cabinet discussed an agreement with Cambodia? Have you made any progress there and will you be announcing something on that shortly?

PRIME MINISTER:

We haven't had a boat now for I think the best part of four months. This is a pretty amazing achievement. You might remember that when Scott Morrison and I said pre-election that we would stop the boats Labor derided this as a three-word slogan. Well, we have been absolutely as good as our word.

Now obviously there is the issue of what will ultimately happen to people currently in our centres – our processing centres – in Nauru and PNG. As you know, PNG has undertaken to accept for resettlement people on Manus Island. My understanding is that by the end of next month, their internal processes should be completed.

On the subject of other countries in our region, we are always talking to other countries in our region about how best to handle the problem of people smugglers because it is a regional problem as well as an Australian problem, and under the Bali Process, everyone has an obligation to do what they can to help.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 23426