A protest against the planned airport at Badgerys Creek, which former prime minister Paul Keating says is still the best spot for a second airport for Sydney. Photo: Andrew Taylor
A report in yesterday's Herald that an aviation white paper will rule out ''once and for all'' the use of the Badgerys Creek site in western Sydney for Sydney's second airport would represent a scandalous violation of responsible public policy at the cost of the amenity of the city of Sydney and its people.
The Badgerys Creek site was purchased by the Hawke government 25 years ago. It was purchased with all aforethought to the future needs of Sydney for this vital piece of public infrastructure.
And from the completion of its purchase, the Hawke government vigorously advertised its intentions to local councils and communities, including publishing detailed flight paths and noise patterns.
The sidelining of Badgerys Creek by the Crean Labor opposition and the Howard government occurred for no reason other than cynicism and political opportunism. The opposition abandoned it because of Labor seats and the potential of Labor seats around the site and the government compounded the issue by sterilising the site with its great lie of the year 2000; that Sydney was in no need of a second airport. The Government should look past any white paper group report, to discern for itself the genuine airport needs of Sydney. Inevitably, this must devolve to an airport within the immediate metropolitan area. And only one site qualifies: Badgerys Creek.
This is why the Keating government decided to develop Badgerys Creek, allocating $762 million in the 1995 budget to fast-track construction of the main runway.
The Badgerys Creek land should not be sold. The land parcels could never be assembled again. While the site exists, a second metropolitan airport for Sydney remains a live option.
Already, in anticipation of this report's publication, every flyblown developer organisation is on the record as wanting to chop the site up for development and developer profits. Disposal of the land would simply put developer interests ahead of the community's interest.
The Hawke and Keating governments built Sydney's third runway at Mascot. They did so over huge obstructionism by special interest groups.
But without the third runway, where would Sydney be? And where will it be without a second metropolitan airport?
Badgerys Creek is a far politically easier site to realise as an airport than was the third runway at Mascot. Residential and municipal objections to it can only arise from subdivisions built after the site was bought and in the knowledge that the Commonwealth had planned the site for Sydney's second airport. And as such, should be seen for what they are: special pleading.
Indeed the very same issues would arise should a change to regular public transport use be undertaken at Richmond.
The Rudd Government claims a renewed and special interest in necessary public infrastructure, and correctly so. But, for an internationalised economy such as Australia's, there can be no greater or more specific need than to have adequate airport capacity in its largest city. On this issue, the Prime Minister is entitled to proper public interest advice from relevant ministers: weak white papers driven by tricky factional counter-play are not and never can be a substitute for public policy with integrity.