ALP backs Badgerys Creek airport

January 28, 1998

By Rupen Savoulian

SYDNEY — The Labor Party's national conference in Hobart has approved plans to build an airport at Badgerys Creek in Sydney's western suburbs. No debate or discussion on the proposed airport preceded the conference decision.

Alistair Dickinson, an anti-airport campaigner and member of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) told Green Left Weekly that the decision was "not wholly surprising. The concept of an airport at Badgerys Creek was raised quite some time ago when the ALP was in federal government. The ALP did not put forward an alternative to Badgerys Creek."

Dickinson said that Badgerys Creek site presented numerous hazards, including "increasing pollution in the mountainous area of Sydney's west, and a major noise problem that would affect Penrith, the lower Blue Mountains and Blacktown. Serious contamination in Warragamba Dam will also arise should fuel be jettisoned or, in an extreme case, should a plane crash into the dam."

These problems — in particular the risks to the dam, Sydney's main source of drinking water — have led most local councils in Sydney's western suburbs, most notably Holroyd, Blacktown and Penrith, to reject the proposed airport at Badgerys Creek.

"The council campaigns, however, have a restricted scope and are tightly controlled", Dickinson told Green Left. "Rather than building public protest actions which involve the largest number of the area's residents and workers as possible, and which demand that an alternative be found, the councils are relying on 'sloganeering'. Banners and posters displayed on public places proclaim 'Badgerys Creek — just as stupid'. This does not convey a meaningful anti-airport message and hardly makes sense. It certainly doesn't give the campaign any direction."

Jackie Kelly, federal Liberal MP for Lindsay, has rehashed the idea of an airport at sea. This was rejected by the ALP when it was in federal office on cost and safety grounds. The idea is being studied by the anti-airport campaign, and activists such as Kay Vella, a leader of the anti-Badgerys Creek airport movement, believe it may be feasible. The cost of such a project has been estimated at $15 billion.

"The preferred option of the anti-airport campaign in Sydney's west is to locate the airport outside of the Sydney basin, possibly at Goulburn", Dickinson said. "This proposal is preferable since noise is expected to be less of a hazard in that relatively isolated location. This proposal is based on a genuine assessment of what is best for the whole population of Sydney, rather than on a 'not-in-our-backyard' attitude."

Dickinson added that DSP and Resistance activists in western Sydney are involved in the campaign because "it is important that the left makes a contribution, helps determine strategy and exposes any attempts by big business and its two allied parties — Labor and the Libs — to manipulate the movement."

The anti-airport movement is organising a "mega-rally". There will be an organising meeting on Sunday, February 1, 11am at Luddenham Town Hall. For more information, telephone Kay Vella on 045 727 994 or 015 270 449.

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