Ignoring the elephant in the room

Karin Sowada

Governing turned into campaigning this week at Rooty Hill, with the much-publicised visit of the PM to western Sydney.

It has been fascinating to watch the emerging narrative. Many things have been discussed, except the elephant in the room of Sydney’s second airport at Badgery’s Creek. The site was acquired for this purpose by the Hawke-Keating government from 1986 onwards and nearly 30 years later, one can’t get a Labor MP from the west to have a sensible discussion about it.

Too much political capital in western Sydney is at stake, with Labor seats threatened by the Government’s crash in the polls. Even Barry O’Farrell won’t back the airport, despite a landslide majority in the NSW Parliament and countless studies recommending the site. Yet a major new casino at Barangaroo gets a green-ish light with no tender.

This sort of politicking and inconsistency casts the political process in its worst light. Governments are elected to make long-term major policy and infrastructure decisions in the national interest, and we expect them to do so.

Bending to the demands of every interest group opposing a decision results in economic paralysis, as evident in Tasmania. The precarious situation of that state was eloquently outlined by Jonathan West in the most recent Griffith Review. Tasmania is home to one of Australia’s highest unemployment rates, over 7%, and receives more GST revenue from the Commonwealth than it raises.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke’s recent decision to allow mining in the Tarkine forest, overriding opposition of the Greens, is the kind of bold economic decision the state needs to create jobs and help underpin stable communities.

Developing a climate in which business, enterprise and work can flourish is central to the task of government. Indeed, work is central to the story of creation: God finished his work in Genesis 2: 2 and placed humans in his creation to work it (Genesis 2:15).  In the modern world, the absence of work is devastating for individuals and families.

It is good to hear political parties talk about support for families, but it dismays me to hear it couched only in terms of payments and handouts. Welfare support is important, but it would be more productive for society if the debate was framed by jobs and growing employment.

The second airport at Badgery’s Creek is a project waiting to happen, all it needs is a bold decision in the national interest. The economic impact will be far reaching, and provide a huge boost to a region of Sydney struggling with pockets of social dysfunction, unemployment and flagging business activity. Let’s just do it.



Feature photo: JaseyR573