Coalition joins Labor attack on O'Farrell's airport plan

"Canberra Airport was never a viable option ... and it certainly isn't now" ... shadow treasurer Joe Hockey.
"Canberra Airport was never a viable option ... and it certainly isn't now" ... shadow treasurer Joe Hockey.

SENIOR Coalition figures have joined Labor's attack on the O'Farrell government for approving a housing development in the flight path of Canberra Airport, which the NSW Premier insists should also serve as Sydney's second airport.

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said it ''does seem odd the state government would approve additional residential housing around Canberra Airport, when it says that should be the second airport for Sydney''.

Mr Hockey, who has previously described Mr O'Farrell's position on Sydney Airport as ''absurd'', said yesterday ''the Premier is entitled to his views but we should really be honest and deal with this issue in the Sydney Basin''.

''Canberra Airport was never a viable option as Sydney's second airport and it certainly isn't now.''

As revealed by Fairfax Media last week, the NSW Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, has approved rezoning to allow the building of 2000 homes at the South Tralee housing development, south of Queanbeyan, to proceed.

Mr Hazzard said conditions placed on the rezoning approval meant it would not impede the airport's expansion, but the Canberra Airport managing director, Stephen Byron, has said the development ''severely compromises Canberra Airport's ability to serve as an overflow for Sydney … and Barry O'Farrell's only option for a second Sydney airport is about to be lost forever''.

The federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, said the NSW decision ''simply doesn't make sense''.

''Barry O'Farrell, I think, now looks completely ridiculous,'' he said.

Mr Hockey is one of a group of federal Coalition MPs trying to persuade Mr O'Farrell to drop his opposition to a second airport in the Sydney basin.

They are desperate to avoid what some describe as the ''armageddon scenario'' spelt out in a joint federal/state planning report released earlier this year.

That report said if immediate action was not taken to start planning for a second airport there would be traffic gridlock around Sydney Airport, air travel delays, lost jobs and economic growth, and a return to the concentration of aircraft noise that plagued Sydney in the 1990s.

The report said there were only two options for a second airport. The best remained the Badgerys Creek site, near Liverpool, bought by the Hawke government almost three decades ago but now ruled out by both sides of politics. The second best was at Wilton, south-west of Campbelltown, where the Gillard government has begun scoping studies, despite the NSW government's trenchant opposition.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has not ruled out support for a second Sydney Airport, but has said he wants to see a specific proposal from the Gillard government.

Both sides of federal politics concede it would be almost impossible to develop a second airport in the Sydney Basin without NSW planning approvals and infrastructure support.

Canberra Airport's major concern is that any future curfew could hamper plans to become a freight hub.

Mr Albanese said Canberra Airport was the ''only curfew-free airport between Brisbane and Melbourne that can increase capacity … expected to grow at more than 30 per cent over the next 10 years''.

This story Coalition joins Labor attack on O'Farrell's airport plan first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.