O'Farrell hits turbulence over airport

BARRY O'FARRELL has become embroiled in a stoush with members of his own electorate over his reasons for opposing a second airport in Sydney.

Two long-standing aircraft noise campaigners from his Ku-ring-gai electorate claim the Premier told them at a meeting in May he would not support another airport in Sydney because of "votes in the western suburbs''.

The residents claim Mr O'Farrell said he would not talk about airport issues in Sydney because they were a federal matter - a stance he back-tracked on this month when he called for more planes to fly in and out of the airport.

The Premier denies their account of the conversation.

Mr O'Farrell has maintained for the past year that Sydney does not need another airport, despite predictions from the aviation industry, the federal government and his own bureaucrats that the city will soon require one.

Upset at the Premier's stance, which they fear will lead to constant flights during the middle of the night from the airport, the two campaigners secured a meeting with Mr O'Farrell at his Wahroonga electorate office.

One of them, Derek Frere, said he took notes of the conversation. The other, John Clarke, recalls the conversation in the same terms as Mr Frere.

Mr Frere said he was surprised by the Premier's candour at the meeting.

''It is all about the votes in the western suburbs,'' Mr Frere quotes the Premier as saying. ''I would like to be able to help you blokes, but you've got to understand it is all about the votes in the western suburbs.''

Mr Frere said: ''That is a direct verbatim quote from my notes. We didn't expect him to say that, but he disarmed us.''

The pair have decided to make the Premier's comments public because of his push this month to break the long-standing cap and curfew on flights out of Sydney Airport.

They fear continued refusal to build a second airport in the city will lead to more intensive use of Sydney Airport.

This is what Mr O'Farrell called for this month when he said the hourly cap on flight movements should increase from 80 to 85, and planes should be able to take off and land between 5am and 6am and 11am and midnight.

Mr O'Farrell's stance has angered members of his own party, including the federal shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey.

Mr Frere said the meeting with Mr O'Farrell was on May 25 at 3.45pm.

At the meeting, they recollect the Premier saying he would not talk any more about Sydney airport issues, because they were ultimately a federal matter. ''I had come away with a clear expectation that Barry basically wasn't going to say anything else, and then he comes out and is prepared to sacrifice his own electorate,'' Mr Clarke said.

A spokesman for Mr O'Farrell said: ''The claims being made about the meeting are untrue.

''The Premier also rejected their proposal of dumping the aircraft noise problems they were complaining about onto residents of western and south-western Sydney.''

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