Sydney's sometimes rancorous east-west socio-economic rivalry threatens to hobble the city's second airport at Badgerys Creek before the first plane gets off the ground.
Within minutes of the announcement, key Labor MPs from the expansive western suburbs – home to at least 10 vulnerable seats – were playing the class card in reaction to the idea of a curfew-free 24-hour airport 50 kilometres west of the city.
Badgerys Creek airport gets go-ahead
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announces that Sydney's second airport will be built in Badgerys Creek in western Sydney.PT2M27S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36pow 620 349 April 15, 2014
Labor frontbencher and MP for Blaxland, Jason Clare, said the roads and rail promises must be delivered and the same rules of operation should apply to protect the rights of people out west as already apply to eastern suburbs residents.
“Sydney needs a second airport but it is critical it has a rail link not just road links," he said.
"The airport should have a curfew. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If the eastern suburbs and the north shore have a curfew, then so should the west.”
It was a similar story from other opposition MPs suggesting Labor was gearing up for a major campaign wedge against sitting Liberals, some of whom hold seats in what is usually regarded as Labor territory.
McMahon MP and shadow treasurer Chris Bowen weighed in on the curfew question, dismissing Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss' assurances that modern planes are getting quieter.
“If there's going to be a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek, despite what the deputy PM says, there must be a curfew and proper infrastructure for western Sydney," he said.
But in a sign the politics of the new airport remains intensely tricky, the resistance to a 24-hour airport is not limited to Labor MPs.
Mitchell MP Alex Hawke holds his safe Liberal seat by 22 per cent, but is not exactly singing from the government's hymn sheet.
‘‘If Kingsford Smith [airport] retains a curfew then this airport, Badgerys Creek, should also have a similar curfew,’’ he said.
The government's best hope of cross-party co-operation comes from the former leadership contender and long-time Labor transport minister, Anthony Albanese, who has previously offered bipartisan support to the Coalition in the hope of progress.
But Mr Albanese warned on Wednesday that a major airport at Badgerys Creek would not be viable without a rail link to Sydney’s CBD.
He attacked Mr Abbott’s “ideological objection” to rail and said a rail connection between the two airports and to the greater western line was essential.
“This has got to be not just about the airport,” Mr Albanese said.
“It’s got to be about jobs and economic development of related industries and innovation in western Sydney - part of that has to be a rail line. I don’t understand this ideological objection that Tony Abbott has to rail.
“You need rail as well as road in order for this airport to work.”
Mr Albanese was less forthcoming on Tuesday on the question of 24-hour operation.
"These issues will be examined in the environmental impact statement," he said.
"It's important that the community's views on these issues be taken into account."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Badgerys Creek option had been "studied to death" but conceded previous environmental impact statements on the airport, and associated major transport projects, might need updating.
Pressed on the curfew he said: "We are certainly not saying there will be a curfew."
The government got more support from other sources, such as the nation's No.1 carrier Qantas.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said Badgerys Creek was the best solution.
"After decades of debate, we applaud today’s announcement by the Prime Minister,” Mr Joyce said on Tuesday.
“The role of second airports has been well-established in several of the world’s major capitals. Sydney is the key gateway for air traffic in and out of Australia, and the benefits of having two major airports will be felt nationwide."
Western Sydney Airport Alliance spokesman David Borger said the decision to build at Badgerys Creek was long overdue.
He predicted residents would support the decision, in the end, because it will create jobs and raise living standards.