Speech on Airports Amendment Bill


I rise to briefly speak on the Airports Amendment Bill 2018. I support the remarks made by my colleague Senator Rice on this bill. This bill actually weakens planning regulations and community consultation processes for federally-leased airports. I'll get straight to the point: Western Sydney Airport in New South Wales. The Western Sydney Airport is a complete scam being foisted on the people of Western Sydney by the federal government and by the state government in New South Wales. The people of Western Sydney are being totally conned. They are being promised the world when the reality that this airport will bring will, really, be quite different.

Western Sydney is being held to ransom. The government are saying: 'You will get significant infrastructure upgrades. You will get jobs, you will get public transport, you will get better roads, but only if you agree to this 24/7 curfew-free aerotropolis in your backyard.' They did not listen to the community at all. Here we are today talking about further weakening community consultation processes. They did not take into account community interests, because the only thing that this government is interested in is its mates in the big end of town.

The Western Sydney Airport will cause significant environmental and human health impacts due to air pollution, due to noise pollution and due to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. That will exacerbate climate change. This is the crucial aspect of where this airport is being built. It will jeopardise the World Heritage listing of the unique Greater Blue Mountains area. Its environmental value will reduce and its quality will reduce. The economic benefits it brings to the local community will also reduce. The Blue Mountains City Council is opposed to the Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek due to the massive impact it will have on their local community, their quality of life and the environment. The government has totally ignored this while planning and developing the Western Sydney Airport.

Let's talk about jobs. The government now is claiming that there will be 120,000 jobs in Western Sydney at some undetermined point way into the future. The way governments manipulate job data is just shameful and it becomes so completely meaningless. It is almost Monty Pythonesque. They used to go around saying that Western Sydney Airport will create 60,000 jobs, and now they have unilaterally doubled it. Meanwhile, the 2012 joint study on aviation capacity puts jobs growth closer to just 10,000 additional jobs by 2040—not the 120,000 this government is touting.

The people of Western Sydney are being sold a lemon by the political elite, who are saying they must take one for the team. What team is this? This is the team with big pockets. This is the team that is part of this whole game of mates, corporations and governments working together to fill these really deep pockets. Jobs for Western Sydney will come from government investment that meets the needs of the community, that meets the needs of the workers and that meets the needs of the employers instead of meeting the needs of the capital markets. We need to invest in public transport, renewable energy, manufacturing and the TAFE education sector. It will come when the state and federal governments stop spending billions on their pet projects and unjustifiable aviation fantasies and start putting it into public transport that serves the people and not the corporations. But there is one thing that will be undeniably good for Western Sydney; it will be good for jobs, it will be good for climate and it will be good for commuters. That one thing is high-speed rail—instead of this new white elephant airport.

Labour market researcher Dr Ian Watson recently released a Jobs for the west report. Overwhelmingly, it shows that a strategy focused on high-speed rail could see Western Sydney become a manufacturing centre for this nation-building project. Dr Watson has said it would 'revitalise and stabilise manufacturing and construction in the region' and this would anchor other initiatives, including rebuilding the TAFE system to upskill the population and extending community banking to support small- and medium-sized businesses that join the supply chain. His report also shows that even on the government's own figures fewer than 120 jobs a year would go to Western Sydney locals during the construction phase of the Western Sydney Airport.

Imagine if we were a country that could dream big, that could construct nation-building projects like an east coast high-speed rail?

Two of the busiest air routes in the world are in Australia. Sydney to Melbourne is the world's second-busiest air route, with more than 55,000 flights a year, and Brisbane to Sydney is the eighth-busiest in the world, with more than 33,000 flights a year. The demand for high-speed rail is there. All we need is the political will. The people of Western Sydney deserve much better than having a 24/7 polluting airport foisted upon them.