Interview with Penny Burfitt, ABC Illawarra - Friday 27 October 2023

Friday, 27 October 2023

Topics: Western Sydney Airport, Illawarra Offshore Wind Farm Proposal


ANNOUNCER: Federal Member for Hume, Angus Taylor says the environmental impact statement released for Western Sydney Airport reveals that Wollondilly is getting the worst of both worlds. I thought we were supposed to get the best of both worlds. No, he says the worst of both worlds. The Federal Government released a report this week finding some parts of Silverdale will be eligible for new noise installation schemes, while large parts of the Shire impacted by State Government land restrictions, won’t, because the airport has not qualified them for the scheme. Our reporter Penny Burfitt spoke to the Member for Hume a short time ago.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we are concerned about it on two fronts. Number one, it was dropped without any warning. We were hoping we'd get some heads up as to when it was coming. But anyway, it has now arrived. But, secondly and most importantly, we are concerned about some of the impacts that are laid out in the report. We are concerned about in particular, how residents are going to be affected in that area from Warragamba through to Silverdale, Wallacia, Cobbity. We're concerned about the worst of both worlds being laid out in this report, where residents on the one hand aren't able to get any rezoning for their area, but on the other hand, are not eligible for any soundproofing in their houses and there does seem to be a serious mismatch here in those areas. So, we'll work, I'll work closely with local residents. I've already been in contact with many. We've got an opportunity to put submissions into the EIS, and I'm strongly encouraging residents to do exactly that.

PENNY BURFITT: Yeah, Wollondilly Council described that as a double standard, the noise insulation and then the rezoning. Do you agree with that? Is that how you describe the situation?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I think it's the worst of both worlds, exactly. And on the one hand, we've got the State Government saying, well, you can't rezone here. Fine, if that's the answer. But on the other hand, if it's true that there are noise levels such that you can't rezone, then surely there should be a strong argument for soundproofing and insulation. It does seem odd, there does seem to be a disconnect, the right hand isn’t talking to the left hand, and I think this is one of the issues that will have to be resolved and we'll certainly be taking that up to the government.

PENNY BURFITT: How do you think the Federal Government should minimise the impact of the airport in Hume?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, Federal and State need to be working together. I mean this is the whole point of the City Deal that was set up in this area, but it should be consulting first and foremost, closely with residents and listening and making sure that the right hand is talking to the left hand. We can't have a situation where there are double standards or the worst of both worlds, as I describe it. And so, we do need connected up government giving sensible solutions to local residents. Look, people are in support of the airport. It does have a lot of support in the area, but we need to have a solution which works both for the airport and for residents and that's why this consultation process is so important and it's why I'm encouraging residents to get involved.

PENNY BURFITT: Will you make a submission?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely, yeah. So, I'm in the process now of listening to local residents and their concerns. I've been doing that over recent months in the lead up to this, and I'll continue to do that in the coming weeks and months. We've got until the end of January to get submissions in. I'll certainly be putting one in, and I'll be representing those views I'm hearing in the community, making sure that we have the voice we need.

PENNY BURFITT: Mr Taylor, we've also had much discussion around the proposed offshore wind zone in the Illawarra recently. In March 2022, when you were Energy Minister you said the start of the offshore wind zone was an important next step in supporting a new offshore industry that would boost regional manufacturing. Do you still support the sector?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I do, but it's got to be in the right places, and it's got to be with appropriate community consultation. I mean, this is no different from any other major infrastructure development. And so there does need to be very close consultation with the local community. There will be some places where these will make sense and there'll be other places where they don't. That's the nature of it and to assume otherwise is to misunderstand how planning works. I think the great challenge for the Federal Government here is this is a Federal Government planning system, and I don't see the checks and balances in place on consultation. I've been up to Port Stephens, spoken with the community up there with similar concerns and it's very clear that the consultation process has been completely inappropriate, and I have deep fears that we're going to see the same in the Illawarra. These planning processes and major infrastructure developments, they require very close consultation with the local community and a deep understanding of the concerns and a recognition of what's achievable and what's not.

PENNY BURFITT: That consultation is happening now. Do you see a scenario in which the Illawarra offshore wind zone could go ahead with the community on board?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I mean that's a question for the process, not for me. I mean, you know, this is the problem. What we saw up at Port Stephens is Chris Bowen just ignoring the local community and there is outrage up there. The process was notional. Very few people got involved and it's incredibly important that people in the Illawarra who are concerned about this make sure that they express their views. We do need to make sure these processes are appropriate. Now whatever the outcome, what must happen is that community concerns are heard and addressed as best as possible and that's how these things should always work.

PENNY BURFITT: What are the alternatives though? As previous Energy Minister, you must understand the pressure to transition.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Sure, there's many places around our coastline you can put offshore wind farms.  We have seen strong support down much further south in Victoria for wind farm developments. You know it's horses for courses here. It's like any planning development. I mean if I said to you, we're going to build a skyscraper in a crazy location you'd say well that doesn't make any sense. You've got to think about where these things make sense and where they don't. There will be right places and wrong places. I'm not going to make a judgment on the Illawarra. But I do think the only way you resolve that is through proper consultation with the community. And that's exactly what needs to happen here.

PENNY BURFITT: There's a protest in Wollongong on Sunday. Will either yourself or Peter Dutton attend that or the corresponding one up north?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I won't be available to attend it, but I have spoken with the community up at Port Stephens and I'm very happy to speak with the community in the Illawarra area at an appropriate time.

ANNOUNCER: That is the Member for Hume, Angus Taylor joining Penny Burfitt chatting about Western Sydney Airport and the wind zone in the Illawarra and some of the issues that both of those topics are causing.