Dec 11, 2012

NSW govt may ‘ambush’ Gillard govt over 2nd Sydney Airport

Has NSW set up Labor for a sharp change of direction over a 2nd Sydney Airport?

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

[caption id="attachment_27128" align="aligncenter" width="610" caption="Sydney Airports terminal areas, a tiny site, locked in by politics:Wikipedia Commons"][/caption] There is more than a trace of smoke to suggest that NSW's O'Farrell government may ambush the Gillard Government's peculiar and opaque resistance to a 2nd Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek in the course of changing its own anti any new Sydney airport stance. This situation is being driven by three factors.
  • The big end of town thinks a 2nd Sydney Airport is needed ASAP
  • The western Sydney business and political attitude is moving toward supporting the jobs and opportunities the new airport would bring, and
  • Labor is, whether correctly or otherwise, seen as shielding real estate interests in preserving the Badgerys Creek site for anything but its intended purpose which is a major new airport in the Sydney basin.
A very substantial report on the Sydney airport crisis appears in today's AFR. The AFR concentrates on the total disdain and disbelief with which the airlines and the investment community hold claims by Sydney Airport that it can meet the demands of the Asia Century until at least 2049, and achieve the efficiency gains to cater for growth within the current airports physical and legislated boundaries in relation to capped traffic levels and a jet curfew. Sydney Airport's claims are ridiculous, and have never addressed the huge volume of jets larger than any built today that will be linking Australia and Asia by 2029 never mind 2049. Nor do those claims address the strong growth in demand for air travel in the western and northwestern parts of Sydney from which access to Sydney Airport is chronically congested. In recent weeks the announced development of Port Macquarie airport to A320 or 737 standard signals the imminent consequences of regional NSW demand migrating upwards from small turbo-prop jets to dozens of standard sized domestic jets within 10-15 years. Whatever the truth about the policy settings of Labor in its resolute but inadequately detailed rejection of a second airport at the site the Commonwealth owns at Badgerys Creek, it is by far the best place for such an airport, with the costs of its development borne by whomever buys the site and the obligations to build an airport off the Federal Government, at a net gain to Treasury. It would be possible to make an even larger airport in Sydney's west by using a so called 'Nepean' site just west of the Badgerys site. However Federal Labor, having invested in an impartial Federal-State review of new airport sites which found in favor of Badgerys Creek a year ago, promptly rejected it without detailed explanation, and pushed for one at Wilton. The Wilton options are seriously compromised by uneven terrain and new housing and an inferior location in terms of access compared to Badgerys Creek.

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12 thoughts on “NSW govt may ‘ambush’ Gillard govt over 2nd Sydney Airport

  1. Steve777

    Badgery’s Creek is the only sensible option. The only alternative is for Australia to conduct more of that part of its business that requires international travel from Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth. As a retired Sydneysider, from a selfish point of view, the more activity moves from choked, congested Sydney to elsewhere, the better, but whether that is best for Sydney and Australia as a whole is debatable.

    If we decide soon, we could have a second Sydney Airport when those about to start school enter the workforce. If it’s anywhere else, judging by progress to date (the issue has been going since the 1960’s), we might have one by the time they are having a mid-life crisis, or possibly when they retire.

  2. Flyer Solo

    RAAF Base Richmond will become Sydney’s new second airport.

    Think about it. Several factors make it an easier choice for weak politicians.

    1. Defence is looking to rationalise bases. RAAF C-130s will move to Amberley and Defence might get to keep the money from a asset sale/lease.

    2. It’s an established airfield already, thereby reducing the amount of start-up infrastructure costs.

    3. It’s linked to the suburban train network. It’s close to the M2 motorway; it would make sense to build an arterial link between Richmond and M2.

    Of course, there’d be more movements per hour as a civilian airport. While urban encroachment has long been an issue at Richmond, an airfield has been there for a long time as a reality over a concept. Home owners would have less complaint than somewhere else in Sydney.

    Perhaps Richmond could become Sydney’s Avalon, albeit in an expanded way. Richmond could cater for LCCs like Jetstar and Tiger, freeing up space at KSA for the mainlines.

  3. Thteribl

    I have yet to hear a cogent and rational argument agaist developing the already much-used (by Her Maj.) airport at Windsor (Richmond. With high-speed military aircraft, does the RAAF really need another base besides Nowra and Williamtown ? A Metro from the CBD to Richmond via Rozelle and Epping was almost on the cards as the last gasp of the Kennealy Government. Was it scrapped because Eddie Obeid …?

  4. nightflyer

    i have been saying the same thing as Flyersolo for years; Richmond is the only real option for a second domestic and possibly freight airport while international passenger traffic can stay at Mascot with no need for customs and immigration duplication.

    1 Richmond is there already, no construction, no land aquisition.
    2 It has existing road and rail access
    3 It is close to the demographic centre of Western Sydney
    4 There is an large local labour base who would welcome the job opportunities.

    I have heard, only anecdotally, that the RAAF are reluctant to share Richmond with commercial operators, but they do this already at Avalon and Williamtown. I believe if an airline were to put a toe in the water by offering flights from Richmond to, say, the Gold Coast, they would sell out in minutes.

  5. Hamis Hill

    Bob Carr famously said, sometime ago, that Sydney was “Full”.
    Well, it is, and any further development will be completely counterproductive.
    Those who think that the effects of the “Asia Century” are going to be, somehow, confined to the Sydney Basin have Hawkesbury Sandstone for brains.
    We are just two years short of the Second Century since Australians conquered the Blue Mountains barrier and still the powers that be treat the place like a giant penal colony of indentured servants, nowadays recognised as mortgage slaves to land speculators.
    Yes, let’s pour some more billions of public money into the basin, simply inorder to produce the growth in capital gains which make those crippling mortgage repayments bearable.
    Just how much of the nation’e $1.25 TRILLION mortgage debt is held by Sydneysiders?
    How much of the annual $60 BILLION mortgage interest payments are made by Sydneysiders?
    And how much is paid for by Sydney employers?
    And how long can these same employers (The Big End of Town?; not really) continue to pay for this very over priced privilege of living in the Sydney Basin?
    SYDNEY IS FULL!, and has been for decades, at the expense of regional NSW. Wake up!

  6. Ben Sandilands

    This will come as a disappointment to many, but there is only 2000 metres of runway at Richmond, book ended by the towns of Richmond and Windsor, and numerous heritage listed early colonial buildings.

    The runway on a hot day is so compromised that a 737 flying Trans Tasman would be load limited. Yes, anything can land on 2000 odd metres but not all that much can take off fully loaded and fly anywhere useful.

    To render Richmond as accessible as Badgerys Creek, with the new SW Rail project and its closer motorway access, would cost serious money. I can’t understand why we would go to so much trouble for such an operationally useless airport that is so much further away from the rest of Sydney than any other proposal other than Canberra or Newcastle when Badgerys Creek costs the public essentially nothing (because it already owns it) and costs the developers who buy it, just about everything that is needed to make it the unrestricted international and domestic airport that Sydney requires.

    Note also that when heavily loaded ‘secret’ US transports depart Richmond for somewhere a long, long way away from Australia they have historically landed at Sydney Airport, Williamtown AFB or facilities in Queensland, to take on the full fuel load they need, and to use the longer runways that they need, in order to continue on their missions.

  7. Allan Moyes


    [Richmond is the only real option for a second domestic and possibly freight airport while international passenger traffic can stay at Mascot]

    That’s a great solution, nightflyer.

    So when I land at Richmond from, say, Canberra, to connect with a flight to Singapore, for example, I only have to factor in about 6 hours to get from one airport to the other to make the connection. I’d be quicker flying to Brisbane and connecting there.

    It’s so brilliant, I’m surprised the Government don’t adopt it straight away.

  8. Flyer Solo

    I’m not trying to say RAAF Richmond is the best and most feasible aviation choice for Sydney’s second airport problem. I’m saying it’s a good solution politically for a federal Labor government which doesn’t have much hope anyway currently in western Sydney and that seeks to rationalize ADF bases naionwide. That makes the site a political winner.

    Allan Moyes:
    Your example connection CNB-RIC, transfer to KSA, then KSA-SGP is absurd. If Richmond is made as the politically expedient choice, there’s no way QF or VA high value domestic or international traffic is moving west. JQ and Tiger domestic will be the movers, not much else.

    Besides, has anyone thought to think of Richmond as Parramatta’s first airport, not Sydney’s second? There’s so much more economically to the Sydney basin than the George-Pitt-Castlereagh-Market-Bridge St CBD grid.

  9. Aidan Stanger


    The runway on a hot day is so compromised that a 737 flying Trans Tasman would be load limited.

    How limited? And would an A320 also be load limited?

    Flyer Solo:
    There is one possible way of attracting some international traffic to Richmond: permit cabotage between Richmond and Alice Springs. Unfortunately that might be nearly as controversial as another airport!

  10. Pilotpete

    Aidan the 737 has better performance than a 320 so it would be more restrictive for the 320 than the 737.

    Another big problem with Richmond (and Canberra for that matter) is fog. Have a look out of your window next time you fly out that way on almost every winters morning and try and find Richmond airport. It will be under the fog bank.

  11. fractious

    Via Lenore Taylor at the SMH, Opposition Transport Minister Warren Truss weighs in, “suggesting” (as Taylor puts it) his support for Badgerys Creek.

    Obviously I don’t have ears as close to the ground as many here do (especially Ben) but up until today, I would have seriously doubted the assertion that Fatty O’Barrell had any intention of trumping Albanese & co. But now that Sloppy Joe and Warren Truss have waded in, both “suggesting” their inclination towards Badgerys Creek, maybe there is some substance to the rumour.

    One wonders what the LNP’s mate Mr Max Moore-Wilton is thinking, assuming he isn’t up to his neck in the poo with Austereo and the 2Day FM DJ debacle.

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