Jobs for the West report slams Western Sydney Airport jobs claims

High Speed Rail (HSR) would generate many more jobs for western Sydney than an airport according to a new report launched with politicians from all parties in Penrith on Saturday, August 18.

Jobs for the West by labour market researcher Dr Ian Watson, puts high speed rail along the east coast of Australia at the heart of a strategic plan for the economic development of western Sydney.

Dr Watson said the strategy focused on HSR because “western Sydney could become a manufacturing centre for this nation-building project”.

Dr Ian Watson speaking at the launch of the Jobs for the Jobs for the West Report on Saturday, August 18.

Dr Ian Watson speaking at the launch of the Jobs for the Jobs for the West Report on Saturday, August 18.

“It would revitalise and stabilise manufacturing and construction in the region and this would anchor other initiatives including rebuilding the TAFE system to upskill the population and extending community banking to support small and medium sized businesses that join the supply chain.”

Dr Watson said the federal government’s job claims for the airport are vastly exaggerated.

“Even on their own figures, less than 120 jobs a year would go to locals during construction,” he said

“The claims of 9000 aviation jobs by 2031 are inflated at least four-fold. A comparable airport, such as Adelaide, supports 1600 jobs.”

But Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said this claim was inaccurate.

“In fact, Adelaide Airport’s total direct employment will reach over 12,200 in 2019,” he said. 

Labor’s Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, leapt on the report’s findings to attack the government. At the launch, and in a speech she delivered earlier that week in Parliament, she congratulated the group and report author, Dr Ian Watson.

“Contrary to the claims of a jobs bonanza, only 120 construction jobs and 800 airport jobs would be targeted to western Sydney workers in the first stages of the project,” she said.

“That is a lot lower than the expectations people in the community have about how readily they're going to be able to get work, and it's been confirmed to me that anyone who takes a job on the airport project and relocates to the region for the duration of that work will be considered a local.

“So you don't have to have been born in that area or gone to school in that area or live in that area now with your family. You just have to be able to move into the area, and they can tick a box and say, ‘Oh, there's another local.’

“So there isn't even any guarantee that the local jobs will go to an existing local employment pool.”

Ms Templeman said nothing she has learnt about “this airport plan since it was first talked about, nothing I have seen in the data and nothing I have seen in researching projects around the world has given me very much peace of mind”.

“Nothing I've seen or been told changes my view that there are profound negative impacts from the flight paths across the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury.”

But Liberal Senator for western Sydney, Marise Payne, pointed to federal Labor’s support for the airport – and backing of jobs claims by Anthony Albanese, Labor’s spokesperson for infrastructure, transport, cities and regional development.

He said in a speech in 2017 that if the government gets the planning right, the airport “means jobs – high value jobs for the people of western Sydney, an area that has been crying out for new employment opportunities”.

“Susan Templeman needs to tell us whether she supports jobs for locals in western Sydney and whether she agrees with her Labor colleague, Anthony Albanese or not,” said Senator Payne.

“Ms Templeman apparently not only doesn’t support her own shadow minister, but she also clearly does not support the creation of more jobs and the increased economic benefits the Western Sydney Airport will bring to the community.”

Minister Fletcher also stood by the jobs claims over the airport, saying it will support more than 11,000 anticipated direct and indirect jobs throughout the whole construction phase in western Sydney.

“A significant number of jobs will also result from flow-on effects. For every direct job during airport’s construction, an additional 2.5 jobs will be supported down the supply chain,” he said.

“By 2031, there will be over 13,000 direct jobs on the airport site and business park, with a further 14,000 indirect jobs related to airport operations and business park activities.

“WSA Co is required to meet jobs targets, supporting local participation in the project. WSA Co has announced a local employment target of 30 per cent during construction, increasing to 50 per cent once the airport is fully operational.”

A cross-party panel at the launch of the Jobs for the West report all voiced their support including Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman (Labor), Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill (Labor), and Crs Kerry Brown (Greens) and Daniel Myles (Liberal) and the Member for Blacktown Stephen Bali (Labor).