The no-nonsense words from Macquarie Bank about selling out of its residual stake in Sydney Airport for the right price add another tricky element to the arguments about a 2nd airport for Sydney.
In fact the reduced stake Macquarie has in the congested airport at the centre of a massive failure of surface access infrastructure planning isn’t even widely recognised by the general public.
Shock jocks still refer to a Macquarie Bank owned Sydney Airport, but then again, facts are seldom checked or valued at that level.
The fact that the bank wants out at the ‘right’ price for the reduced stake it hasn’t already unloaded ought to be fair warning that when it says Sydney Airport is good for growth until 2049, a claim that is total nonsense, it isn’t talking about Sydney’s future needs, it is talking about its needs, and when it come to the future when banks talk about unloading assets, forget 2049, even 2019 is a date way too far into the future.
For Macquarie Bank, Sydney Airport is all about asset value, or money in lay terms, and that isn’t a criticism for a moment, as that’s what banks are actually all about.
They aren’t planning authorities, they are money makers. Which makes those trite mushy nothings that Premier Barry O’Farrell and federal coalition shadow transport minister Warren Truss have said about how Macquarie Bank has assured them all is well until the middle of the century into statements that brand them as variously susceptible, or daft, or at the very least, inattentive, depending on how forgiving one may be feeling when affronted by such drivel coming from senior political leaders.
The future of Sydney and NSW when it comes to air access is not the same as the interests of a bank that has expressed a desire to quit its remaining equity.
It is hard to flog a stake in Sydney Airport if the need, and thus risk, of a real competitor being built in Sydney basin, is making itself obvious, but that’s where Sydney finds itself.
Sydney either gets a new, and competitive, airport or it chokes and withers, something of course that suits the agenda of some minority political views that don’t make the connection between a totally silent Sydney and one that is also dead.
Anything that the owners of Sydney Airport have to say about the future is contaminated by short term self interest.
Whether the commentary is driven by the Macquarie Bank or other equity owners in the current congested airport monopoly, it is quite rightly a commentary about how much money they can make, not about how well they can cope with the Asia Century, which isn’t even on their radar.
Premier O’Farrell’s Macquarie Bank friendly, anti-2nd airport stance will hand over to Melbourne or Brisbane the opportunities presented by the Asian Century because Sydney can’t handle the flights. This will prove a disastrous betrayal of the interests of Sydney and NSW unless it is replaced with a rational and informed response to the crisis.
Of course forensic attention also needs to be applied to the Federal Government position, in so far as this government is going to be around for much longer, which is urging ‘discussions’ about choosing Wilton as the site, rather than the existing Commonwealth owned site at Badgerys Creek.
The Commonwealth owns an asset at Badgerys Creek that can be sold at a substantial profit to the future owners of a 2nd Sydney Airport which they will also have to build at their expense.
Badgerys Creek is an easy profit of at least several billion dollars for the Commonwealth, and an unclogging of Sydney air access for free, together with a huge boost to the NSW economy.
While federal labor struggles over its Wilton and Badgerys fetishes, and a long and perplexing history of total stuff ups, there is reason to believe that if it survives until a 2013 election it will reluctantly allow itself to get pushed back to supporting Badgerys Creek, the site that the airlines, and many politicians in the federal coalition, as well as the current minority government, want the airport to be built upon with as little delay as possible.