OPINION | Pollies not interested in genuine nation-building

WHEN the Badgerys Creek airport plan was announced a few years ago, it was likened by our government to a new Snowy Mountains Scheme.

“Not only in terms of the sheer volume of excavation works but its significance to the economy,” it said in 2015.

Bulldust.

The Snowy was genuine nation-building. The Badgerys Creek Airport is a smoke and mirrors trick.

This is made clear by the fact there will be no railway connection when it opens! Think about it.

A rail link is not the only thing Badgerys Creek will be missing – it will also be minus the plane curfew that exists at Sydney Airport. Western Sydney will be getting jet engines 24 hours a day.

Call me suss, but no curfew is great for freight, and no railway is bad for passengers and tourists. And I reckon that's the secret plan – Badgerys Creek is only meant to be yet another dumping ground for freight, not a proper international passenger airport. Beyond a few token flights to NZ and Bali, it will be freight.

We’re being sold another Hurlstone-style lie. If it’s not a lie, there’s only one other option: it’s the shoddy half-done planning we’ve come to expect from Canberra.

But not always.

Let’s travel back in time to 1949, to the launch of the largest engineering project in Australian history – the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Luckily, the great Ben Chifley was our PM at the time, so we didn’t end up with cardboard dams and plastic hydro-power stations. Chif didn’t once use the NBN slogan: “faster and cheaper”.

The Snowy was longer (it wouldn’t be finished until 1974) and expensive. That’s because it used cutting edge technology and working off a quality blueprint. It remains to this day a national icon.

Unlike the NBN (also touted by some as the next Snowy!) which is instead the punchline to a joke as its “faster and cheaper” copper-node model makes some of us almost as fast as third world nations in Africa. 

Badgerys Creek without a railway is more of the same.

NSW urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher told us this week a rail link is NOT vital to the airport’s success. “The honest answer is, from an airport perspective, rail is not that important from day one,” he told us. If you’re thinking you’ve heard that before, you have.

“The honest answer is, from a growth centre perspective, building a better road between Campbelltown and Camden is not that important from day one,” was the general attitude once adopted over Narellan Road.

Imagine if our present crop of leaders were in charge back in 1949.

Would we have Malcolm Turnbull’s “faster and cheaper” cardboard dams, as Tony Abbott complains about the hydro-electricity bits (who needs all that ‘lefty’ renewable energy stuff when you can flatten the Snowy Mountains to dig a ‘beautiful’ open air coal mine). Not to mention certain senators urging free speech changes to Section 18C to make it easier to call the huge multicultural workforce ‘wogs’ and ‘reffos’, while Bill Shorten utters zingers and reminds us he is the best that the party of Chifley now has to offer. Sad.

My endpoint is, the Snowy Scheme, despite its success and quality, still caused problems – such as environmental damage caused by lack of flow to the Snowy River, something not adequately foreseen in 1949.

We have enough issues to deal with from unintended shortfalls. Deliberate shortfalls should not be a tool of nation-building.

Imagine if our present crop of leaders had been in charge of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

DIFFERENT ATTITUDES: The Chifley Government and its Snowy Mountains Scheme will still be admired in 100 years. Our present government and its "cheaper and faster" shortcomings will be a footnote in a white elephant museum.

DIFFERENT ATTITUDES: The Chifley Government and its Snowy Mountains Scheme will still be admired in 100 years. Our present government and its "cheaper and faster" shortcomings will be a footnote in a white elephant museum.