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Published 13 February 2013 12:13, Updated 21 February 2013 08:06
By 2029, residents of Barry O’Farrell’s seat of Ku-Ring-Gai will be overflown by up to 467 jets per day.
As the federal government prepares to release a report on the suitability of a second Sydney airport site to solve capacity constraints at Kingsford Smith, members from both sides have finally begun to reveal their preferences on airport policy.
In the shadow of a September election widely tipped to be fought and won in western Sydney, two Labor members from that region – David Bradbury and Ed Husic – have in the past week come out strongly against situating a second airport at Badgery’s Creek, 50 kilometres to the west of Sydney’s CBD.
They are betting that aircraft noise is of bigger concern to voters than the jobs a western Sydney airport would provide – the Western Sydney Alliance of mayors and councils recently reversed its long-standing opposition to a Badgery’s Creek airport in deference to the economic stimulus it would provide to the region.
Labor, which holds several inner-city seats affected by noise from the existing airport, supported a Badgery’s Creek airport until 2004 – the Hawke government even bought the land for which it was intended – but its official preference is now for Wilton, 80 kilometres to the south-west of Sydney’s CBD.
The Wilton site is the subject of the Ernst & Young study commissioned by Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese last July. The study is widely expected to reject Wilton as a feasible site, owing to its vast distance from Sydney, the expense of associated infrastructure and possible contamination of Sydney’s water catchment area.
A negative report on Wilton is expected to reignite moves within the Coalition to gain bipartisan support for building an airport at Badgery’s Creek, which a major independent report (also commissioned by Albanese) last year found was by far the best site, owing to its proximity to existing transport links, and the fact that the required land was already Commonwealth-owned.
MP and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, whose seat includes the heavily noise-affected Hunters Hill; John Alexander in Bennelong (underneath the “Bennelong funnel” arrivals flight path) and Scott Morrison, from the airport-adjacent seat of Cook have all indicated support for a second Sydney airport (Hockey explicitly in favour of Badgery’s Creek) while Russell Matheson, the member for Macarthur, is fervently against a second airport at Wilton, as it is within his electorate.
These Liberal members are on something of a collision course with their leader, Tony Abbott, who has spoken in favour of ramping up Sydney Airport’s capacity beyond its current constraints.
They are also in conflict with NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, whose policy is that Sydney’s second airport should be in Canberra, connected by fast rail. Under Sydney Airport’s latest master plan, which assumes no second Sydney airport before the 2040s, O’Farrell’s state seat of Ku-ring-gai will be overflown by up to 467 jets per day by 2029. Local councils, including Ku-ring-gai, have in the past expressed their opposition to the continuing expansion of flights at Kingsford Smith.