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Badgerys Creek Airport the key to western Sydney's knowledge jobs

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report released last week confirms what American economist Enrico Moretti argues in his book The New Geography of Jobs. Moretti tells the story of the US economy transitioning out of traditional manufacturing because it has been unable to compete with the efficiency of China.

The engine for growth is increasingly found in the knowledge economy jobs in IT, pharmaceuticals and creative industries. And these industries are agglomerating in places with a concentrated pool of scientific and creative knowledge. Places like San Francisco, Seattle and New York.

In Sydney, we are seeing a similar pattern emerging. The arc that stretches from Sydney Airport through the Sydney CBD to Macquarie Park is where the great bulk of knowledge jobs are located. Macquarie Park has been celebrated as the great success story of placing creative industries alongside tertiary educational institutions and backing them up with strong transport links.

Knowledge jobs are hard to come by and, in the Sydney metropolis, they are centralising in the urban core. They also have the strongest economic multipliers - for every software engineer at Apple, about five other jobs are created for workers in the non-traded sector of the economy.

In western Sydney, Parramatta and Westmead have the potential to attract more knowledge jobs, while an airport at Badgerys Creek is the region's longer-term opportunity to establish a Macquarie Park-style employment zone in south-west Sydney.

For a new geography of jobs to be successful in western Sydney, the vision needs to be underpinned by investment in the regional river cities of Liverpool, Penrith and Parramatta. And we need to end the disgraceful situation that has less than 1 per cent of arts funding going to western Sydney, a region that comprises almost a third of the NSW economy.


Our existing radial system focuses all movement to the Sydney CBD. A more enlightened city would connect these regional centres. A light rail to Parramatta and an outer orbital - both road and rail - would make these centres more accessible for work and entertainment. If we don't take action to bring more knowledge jobs to western Sydney, our city will become increasingly unworkable, with 400,000 people having to leave western Sydney and travel east to find a job by 2050.

We all know the impact of the 200,000 workers doing that trip today, with congestion on our roads, trains and buses. Now is the time to deploy the correct planning to ensure the demand on our transport network is alleviated before it is too late.

That's why I've been such a vocal advocate for an airport at Badgerys Creek. Bringing knowledge jobs to the west has to be the first priority for our city. An airport could bring almost 30,000 jobs to the region. It is by no means the silver bullet, but it is a good starting point.

A vibrant, independent regional economy driven by knowledge jobs has to have a strong aviation sector. We must decide the type of city we want for future generations of Sydneysiders. I want one that provides opportunity and equality regardless of whether you live in the east or the west.

The alternative is a city in which the eastern half is job-rich and the western half is job-poor. That's a terrible inheritance to leave our children. We want to help them secure a home and a family. Let's help them secure a good job close to home as well.

David Borger is the western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber.


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