Here’s a radical thought about keeping the budget in surplus and ending the perennial lacerations of the 2nd Sydney Airport debate.
Cut Sydney loose.
Tell the entitled, chronically poorly managed city that it’s on its own. The rest of Australia doesn’t need it. Not just in terms of its airport, but its pathetically badly managed ports, and hopeless rail infrastructure, and appalling record when it comes to major road building, whether in private public partnership, or just as projects funded by varying amounts of state and federal monies.
Australia could save tens of billions of dollars by telling Sydney, and its current Premier Barry O’Farrell, that it will get not one dollar more than is mathematically due to it from the GST allocations and tax revenues directly reflecting its economic activity, which relative to the rest of the country, is in a death spiral.
Let’s pull the situation apart to its fundamentals.
Sydney, collectively, and under every state government of every political hue, believes it has an automatic right to being the gateway to the nation, and the hub for most of its commerce.
But that’s over and finished. Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has been far too indulgent in claiming that Sydney Airport is critical to the rest of Australian air transport, and that 40% of all domestic aircraft pass through Sydney airport at least once a day, which incidentally, they don’t.
And not all those that pass through Sydney need to. The airlines could within a few weeks, rearrange their fleet deployments to ensure that as little of their capacity as possible is exposed to the daily inefficiency of the airport, meaning that what goes wrong at Sydney will to a large degree only affect jets that do nothing but fly to and from Sydney from somewhere else, and not onwards to and from other destinations during the day.
There is no reason to put up with the miserable inefficiency of Sydney to change from an interstate to international flight, unless you are one of the diminishing fraction of people flying Qantas, and even Qantas doesn’t want you to fly it anymore, preferring you to change over to British Airways to get to London, or switch over to Malaysia Airlines or its new premium short haul carrier in Kuala Lumpur. No wait, that didn’t happen for some reason, like they wanted to do naughty things to Qantas, or thought we were wankers, or whatever.
Let’s get real. If you live in Melbourne, even Qantas will fly you non-stop to LAX. You’d be barking made to go via Sydney. And all those cruel nasty foreign Asian carriers, apart from the ones Qantas tried to suck up to, can fly you non-stop from Melbourne to all the major hubs, where you can easily, and for less money, fly direct to cities Qantas managers couldn’t find in an atlas standing up in a phone booth. If it’s not the mother country, Qantas isn’t interested, and if it is the mother country, it isn’t interested as much as used to be anyhow. So come along possums, hum ‘I still Call Australia Home’ and fly via Sydney if you must, as getting screwed doing it is part of your patriotic duty as an imbecile.
The last large public transport projects delivered in anything resembling economical efficiency in NSW were the Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932) and in the immediately preceding years, the initial stations of the electric City Railway.
The other day Anthony Albanese officiated at the opening of the world’s slowest most inefficiently delivered motorway upgrade in history, at the duplication of the M5 from near Campbelltown to the M7 Junction. It took three years to go about seven kilometres. First the RTA built, make that hand crafted with a man with a shovel and ten supervisors, the two extra lanes, then ripped up the other two lanes. It plonked a pedestrian overpass over the freeway that took so long from the first foundations to the first graffiti upon opening that an entire generation was born and graduating from pre-school before it was finished.
The previous Labor Premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally, spent so long getting her name spelled right in the newspapers in her short tenure in the post that she lost oversight of the Sydney-Inner West metro line, and set a record for spending at least $500 million on a project for which not a single metre of tunnel and rail was dug or laid.
NSW has not successfully built a single new underground rail line since Bradfield. The Eastern Suburbs line was stopped at Bondi Junction, the Bondi Beach line was stopped by yuppies, (it’s our beach, we’re selfish, p*ss off is a reasonable summary) the Chatswood-Parramatta line was stopped at Epping and the really useful station, at Kuringai TAFE, wasn’t built even in the shortened bit because it meant the poor dears with views of the Lane Cove River might have glimpsed and heard trains using a short bridge. And the Airport Line, which attempts to serve the CBD in a backwards direction, went broke, twice.
Sydney has a second airport it can have for free at Badgerys Creek. All the Federal Government has to do is sell it, to anyone prepared to inject billions of dollars back in the public purse and pay for the project, assuming the owners of the existing Sydney Airport, don’t exercise their first right of refusal.
But it won’t even take such a gift. The NSW government apparently believes the chairman of Sydney Airport, Max Moore-Wilton, in his claims that not only is there no problem at Sydney Airport now, but that it will cope perfectly well until 2049. Which is rubbish.
Sydney’s pretensions to being a world city seem incapable of understanding that by the time the economically driven travel booms in China, India and Vietnam, not to mention eastern Europe, central Asia, and resource rich Africa, reach out to fly thousands of additional services a week to Sydney Airport, it will be full.
There is not going to be any room.
There is serious congestion at favoured times now. Barry O’Farrell appears to be totally impervious to the need for a business capital to have convenient flights, and a train, even a 400 kmh train to Canberra, or Melbourne, isn’t going to be a relevant solution to flight congestion, although it will prove critical to the development of the entire SE Australian economy in century ahead.
The only answer to the infrastructure stupidity at Sydney is to let it go. It’s time for Australia to move on, to a future enriched by Sydney’s willing non-participation.