Anyone familiar with the history of trade negotiations and air traffic treaties in Australia would wonder why someone who would know those processes as well as the National Party leader and deputy PM Warren Truss said what he was reported as saying about Sydney’s second airport at Badgerys Creek yesterday.

The papers agree in their reports that Mr Truss said the new airport won’t necessarily mean a big increase of flights because of bilateral limitations.

However if this airport opens in around 2024-25 as the coalition suggests, or even sooner, as normal practice in Asia (excluding Japan) suggests, none of the bilaterals that apply today will exist.

Bilateral air agreements in the past have always reponded to the pressures of growth in air traffic and trade liberalisation in general. Perhaps the reports are so ‘odd’ because no one asked Mr Truss about his own coalition’s advocacy and support for the airport as catering for such growth.

Mr Truss promoting Australian beef in S Korea: from his website

As National’s leader Mr Truss wants to sell as much by way of Australian agricultural and resources exports as possible, which is what sustains his voters. Suggesting that there might be an enduring cap or shut down of air access liberalisation is inconsistent with the trade, tourism and development policies of this government and its Labor predecessor.  It occasionally appears when Barnaby Joyce goes for the populist sentiment in the tabloid mentality, but to put it in the simplest terms, when the world comes knocking, Australia welcomes trade and investment.

For Mr Truss to even think that the existing traffic agreements and for that matter, ownership structures of airlines, will endure until and beyond the opening of the second Sydney Airport is so ‘odd’ that something has to be missing either in the Minister, or in the media.

Approaching the issue from a different direction, as the coalition already has, yet possibly somehow unnoticed by Mr Truss, international traffic between Australia and the world is growing strongly. Badgerys Creek is the response to the inadequacy of the existing Sydney Airport in its capacity to meet those needs. Market research and forecasting may vary slightly in the projections, but is agreed that this growth from China for example, will originate in China, not in Australia.

If Mr Truss was serious about his reported observations he would be accepting that growth will stop, that the pressure for more air and general trade access will end, and that Sydney’s second airport will indeed take international traffic from the existing airport, rather than satisfy the demand his cabinet colleagues have already identified.

It just doesn’t make sense.

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