Mon, 17 Feb 2020 - 10:56
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Speech to the Western Sydney Business Chamber



It is a pleasure to be here in Parramatta to again speak to the Western Sydney Chamber of Commerce.

In my previous portfolio when I was responsible for Western Sydney International Airport and Western Sydney City Deal I spent a lot of time on Western Sydney issues.

While I no longer hold specific responsibilities for these issues I remain strongly committed to the importance of helping this vibrant region realise its full potential.

In my remarks today I want to talk about:

  • Western Sydney’s signature strengths
  • The commitment of state and federal Liberal Governments to Western Sydney – at state and federal levels
  • The importance of technology, science and innovation to in Western Sydney.

Western Sydney’s signature strengths - Australia supercharged

My starting proposition today is that Australia has a set of signature strengths - and Western Sydney has the same strengths but even more so.  

In many ways Western Sydney is Australia supercharged.

Fast growing economy and population

Australia’s economy and population are growing well above the OECD average, at 2.6 per cent and 1.6 per cent a year respectively over the decade to 2018. [1]

And Western Sydney stands out within Australia - with real gross regional product rising on average by 3.7 per cent a year over the past decade.[2]

Its population growth too stands out - up 12.2 per cent from 2013 to 2018, compared to 8.4 per cent for Greater Sydney.[3]

And there is plenty more growth in store. Greater Western Sydney’s population is expected to reach 2.9 million by 2036[4] - by which time it will be home to more than half of all Sydneysiders.

A diverse and talented population and workforce

One of Australia’s great strengths is that our population and our workforce are talented - and very diverse ethnically and culturally. Western Sydney has that strength to an even greater extent.

40 per cent of Western Sydney’s residents were born overseas - compared to 29 per cent across Australia[5] - and 39 per cent speak a language other than English at home.[6]

Western Sydney University for example has students from more than 100 cultural and ethnic backgrounds.[7]

Western Sydney’s people are younger than the rest of Australia - with 35 per cent of Western Sydney residents aged 24 or under[8].

And while Australia has a skilled workforce, Western Sydney’s is even more skilled.  For example Parramatta has the largest overall number of postgraduates of any Sydney suburb.[9]

Thanks to these factors, employment in Western Sydney rose 11.2 per cent between 2011 and 2016, when the rest of Sydney rose 9 per cent.

The ‘greenfields advantage’

When it comes to planning and infrastructure, Australia has a ‘greenfields’ advantage compared to many other countries - plenty of capacity to develop in places which are not already developed.

In telecommunications, as in many other infrastructure industries, there is a big distinction between greenfields and brownfields. For example, NBN new fibre connections in greenfields areas cost $2,190 per premises; in brownfields areas a new fibre to the premises connection costs around $4,400 per premises.[10]

If Australia as a nation has a greenfields advantage, Western Sydney has it too. Much more than other parts of Sydney, Western Sydney offers plenty of opportunity for new greenfields development, for both commercial and residential purposes.

In 2017, Parramatta had the highest number of dwelling completions in Sydney.[11] 30 per cent of these were in greenfields developments – that is, construction on land where there is no need to work within the constraints of existing buildings or infrastructure.[12]

A greenfields site lets you plan from the ground up.  Look at the advantage enjoyed by Western Sydney International Airport as a greenfields site.

It is an opportunity to design and build a world class airport - with none of the constraints faced if you are trying to upgrade an existing facility.

The greenfields advantage also means an opportunity to build in the very latest technology from the outset - as I will touch on later.

Our commitment to Western Sydney

I want to turn next to the commitment of our Liberal National Governments, at both state and Commonwealth level, to Western Sydney. 

That commitment is seen in the careful urban planning, to maximise the greenfields opportunities which Western Sydney presents; the sheer scale of investment in transformational infrastructure; and the detailed work to leverage the economic opportunities which that investment provides. 

Careful Urban Planning

The careful urban planning we have seen emerges from the work of the Greater Sydney Commission, chaired by Lucy Turnbull, with the vision of three cities in greater Sydney - Western Parkland, Central River and Eastern Harbour. Part of the vision is for residents to be able to live within 30 minutes of their jobs, education and health facilities and services.

The Western Sydney City Deal is the framework which brings together all levels of government - the Commonwealth and NSW governments, and eight local councils - in an integrated set of commitments to support the growth of Western Sydney.

These start with a set of transformational infrastructure investments - but then set out a logical and coordinated strategy to leverage the economic and social advantages that such investments can provide.

The urban planning outcomes are being driven by the Western City and Aerotropolis Authority.[13] The centrepiece of this will be at North Bringelly, just south of the airport, where a master planned town centre will be built.  Privately owned land around the airport will also be developed, in line with a suite of planning documents.

I want to acknowledge the leading role which former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took in championing and driving the Western Sydney City Deal. There is really no precedent in Australia for such an integrated approach to urban planning.  In years to come I think it will come to be understood as one of his most significant legacies as Prime Minister.

Of course our current Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also been a very strong champion of Western Sydney - and of Western Sydney International Airport.  Indeed from the time he came into the Parliament he took a very strong interest in the issue of a second airport for Sydney - and he was instrumental as Treasurer in the Commonwealth Government’s decision to invest $5.3 billion in the airport.[14]

Let me also acknowledge the great work being done by my successor in the Urban Infrastructure and Cities portfolio, Alan Tudge.

Transformational Infrastructure Investment

Certainly the airport forms the centrepiece of the extraordinary investment boom in Western Sydney. It is due to open in 2026 - and there is very good progress, as I was able to see for myself recently on a visit to the site.

The early stage earthworks are approaching completion, and major earthworks will commence shortly. 23 million cubic metres of earth will be moved to prepare for the runway, road, rail and terminal construction.

When it opens the airport will have the capacity to carry ten million passengers a year and is expected to support almost 28,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2031, five years after the airport opens.[15]

Most people here will be familiar with the bold scale of the new airport - including a 3.7 kilometre runway big enough to take the largest wide body passenger aircraft, and exciting concept plans for a terminal building which will be a major public space reflecting the confidence and aspirations of Western Sydney.

The next part of the infrastructure story is the $4.1 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan, which is supporting the delivery of major new and upgraded roads.

The Northern Road is being upgraded to up to eight lanes for 35 kilometres from Narellan to Penrith; there will be a new M12 motorway which will connect the airport to the M7 and Sydney’s existing motorway network; and a range of other upgrades that have been funded under the $200 million Local Roads Package.[16]

If roads is one major part of the story, another is rail.

Under the Western Sydney City Deal, the Australian and NSW governments have committed to build the first stage of the Sydney Metro Greater West 1 link. This metro-style service will become the transport spine for the Western Parkland City, connecting travellers from the airport and the Western Sydney Aerotropolis to St Marys and the rest of Sydney's rail system. The Australian Government is contributing $3.5 billion to deliver the first stage of the Sydney Metro Greater West 1 with the NSW Government.[17]

Of course this complements other major rail investments being made by the NSW Government. Just this month, the underground link connecting Parramatta train station to the $2.7 billion Parramatta Square redevelopment opened[18], and construction on the Parramatta light rail project started.[19]

These projects are transforming the transport connectivity in Western Sydney.

Leverage Social and Economic Opportunities

The overall logic of the city deal is very clear. The airport will be a hugely important economic hub, generating many jobs in its own right and attracting businesses to locate nearby, bringing more economic activity and more jobs.  But the city deal seeks to leverage and magnify its economic impact, with a coordinated plan for urban development and for liveability.

Rather than just an airport, the vision is for an aerotropolis - and at both state and Commonwealth level there has been coordinated work to deliver this vision.

I want to particularly acknowledge the leadership of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, in committing to the aerotropolis vision and driving work to attract major companies to locate near the airport site.

Science, technology and innovation in Western Sydney

The Morrison and Berejiklian Governments are working together in many ways to leverage the social and economic opportunities which this massive investment generates – and in turn to capitalise on the signature strengths of Western Sydney including its extraordinary talent pool. 

In the balance of my remarks today I want to focus on a key part of the vision in the Western Sydney City Deal: the importance of science, technology and innovation in making the future parkland city a place with an advanced economy and high value jobs. Let me touch on several ways in which this vision is being pursued.

A high technology airport

The first is at the airport itself. Western Sydney International will be a smart airport. Its customer and airline experience are being designed around principles which harness digital technology, leading edge design, customer service and sustainability to maximise customer satisfaction and manage assets and resources efficiently. 

The design process is leveraging the greenfield advantage I mentioned earlier.  Such systems are being developed in the areas of passenger screening, passenger identification and immigration processing. Through reducing and potentially even eliminating human error, such systems can provide faster facilitation and an even higher level of safety for passengers. The airport’s board and management are considering a range of other ways to use technology. 

Attracting technology companies to the Aerotropolis

The next part of the science and technology vision is in attracting technology companies to locate at and near the airport.  When we think of the kinds of industries and businesses that benefit from being headquartered around a major airport with 24-hour access to global markets, technology companies stand out.

In 2017, the giant US defence contractor Northrop Grumman announced it would invest $50 million to develop an advanced electronics maintenance and sustainment centre of excellence and become the anchor tenant for the Aerotropolis precinct.[20]

The company has many strategic and research partnerships and recognises the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related initiatives for our future workforce.

Following this initial investment, a number of global firms and innovators have expressed their interest in establishing a presence within the Aerotropolis and across the Western Parkland City.

Commitments have been secured from firms including Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industry and bank Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group. BAE Systems Australia has committed to deliver an aerospace, space and innovation research and development at the aerotropolis.

There is a Memorandum of Understanding with GE Additive Sydney to develop industrial-scale 3D printing at the aerotropolis.

Other companies which have taken up the opportunity to be foundational tenants in the Aerotropolis include Sydney Markets to establish an agribusiness freight and logistics hub; Hitachi to offer its expertise in energy, construction water and railway systems; and Vitex Pharmaceuticals to develop a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical training and research facility which would support about 100 jobs and train up to 200 students at a time.

In total, there are now 18 foundation partners committed to a presence in the Aerotropolis, specialising in areas across aeorospace, defence, education, healthcare, agribusiness and manufacturing.

These agreements represent millions of dollars of investment to assist in the creation of 200,000 new jobs. The employment, education and innovation opportunities that exist within the Aerotropolis have started to grow, along with agribusiness, science and research clusters in other Western Parkland City centres.

The NSW Government has also partnered with the Australian Space Agency to develop space skills and workforce capability. The Agency will work with the NSW Government on the design and development of infrastructure for the Aerotropolis for start-ups, SMEs and researchers to deliver future space manufacturing capability, supported by a $2 million contribution from the Morrison Government.

Science and technology education

Another important element of the plan is science and technology education. The City Deal includes a commitment to establish, by 2026, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics based multi-university campus at the Aerotropolis.

The NUW Alliance (University of Newcastle, University of NSW Sydney, University of Wollongong), Western Sydney University and the NSW Government have signed a Statement of Intent to jointly deliver a world-class higher education and research presence specialising in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by 2026.

In addition, there is a TAFE Skills Exchange on the Western Sydney International Airport site that is providing local training for the workers needed to deliver the new airport and support the Western Parkland City.

This is an on-site learning hub, helping to create a job-ready and locally available workforce. We have seen this model work well elsewhere – for example the Barangaroo Skills Exchange (BSX), which saw over 500 apprentices receive on-site training. The apprenticeship completion rate was 84 per cent.

Pleasingly, the growth opportunities in Western Sydney, catalysed by the Commonwealth and state government investments, have also prompted private sector investment in science and technology education.  The $5 billion Sydney Science Park, located across 280 hectares in Luddenham, is expected to deliver more than 12,000 smart jobs, educate 10,000 students and provide over 3,000 homes.[21]

Celestino, the developers of Sydney Science Park, have announced a number of partnerships with organisations that will locate on site, including

  • The Birling National Avian Laboratories Centre, responsible for avian research, development and testing
  • CSIRO’s First Dedicated Innovation Zone and ‘Urban Living Lab’ in NSW.
  • The Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta which will deliver a STEM-inspired school.

World class communications infrastructure

Now all of this activity in science and technology requires high quality, high bandwidth communications networks. 

5G mobile networks will mean higher broadband speeds, much lower latency and much higher device density.  Already our major mobile operators are rolling out 5G in Western Sydney.

Optus has deployed 5G in parts of Blacktown, Acacia Gardens, Quakers Hill, Glendenning and parts of Mt Druitt.

Telstra has deployed 5G in Mt Druitt, Quakers Hill, Marsden Park and Kellyville.

Vodafone will shortly switch on the first of its 5G sites here in Parramatta.

The Western Sydney City Deal incorporates a 5G Strategy – to help guide how industry and government can enable access to, and early adoption of, 5G for the Western Parkland City.

Earlier this month, my Department met with the NSW Government, local councils and the telco industry to discuss the Western Parkland City 5G Strategy and potential 5G trials for Western Sydney.

The 5G Strategy will set out practical ways for all three tiers of government to partner with industry and create the right conditions for 5G rollout in the region.

The other major high speed network in Western Sydney which I want to highlight is of course the National Broadband Network. Of the nearly 655,000 households in Western Sydney, nearly 65 per cent have taken up an NBN connection - and 70 per cent of these households are on broadband plans of 50 Mbps or more, which is higher than the national figure. Our Liberal National Government has worked to drive the rollout of the NBN across Australia – including in Western Sydney – since we came to government in 2013.

The NBN is creating new opportunities for western Sydney businesses, like Power Creative, a video content production company based in Blacktown owned by Dave and Erin Power. They made the switch from cable to the NBN, and credit the connection for the growth of their business. Clients can view and comment on content as it is being edited in real time.

Smart cities in Western Sydney

As communications networks get faster and more ubiquitous, governments everywhere want to use those networks to carry out their traditional functions more efficiently.  So a key commitment of the Western Sydney City Deal is the Smart Western City Program, to enable NSW agencies to embed interoperable smart and secure technology – such as transport and utility monitoring systems – into new infrastructure as it is rolled out.

Last November a pitchfest in Camden looked at a range of potential smart applications of this kind, including the use of virtual reality in planning, air quality monitoring, tree monitoring and support, ride-sharing and the use of drones in a range of roles. [22]

The Internet of Things offers exciting possibilities to better manage electricity consumption, water usage, air quality management, public safety and many other responsibilities of government.

The eight Councils of the Western Parkland City are putting some of these possibilities into practice. They are setting up a shared sensor network using a $700,000 Smart Cities and Suburbs Program grant from the Australian Government.[23]  The project will install a network of sensors to collect data that will be used to reduce traffic congestion, and to enable the more efficient use of lighting and irrigation in public areas like sports fields.

The Western Sydney City Deal is also a framework to look at how technology - leveraging communications networks - can meet the needs of a modern city. Technology can better manage transport systems and traffic, reducing congestion, improving travel times and improving quality of life.

Smart cities technologies and strategies will inform the planning of the Aerotropolis. Last year, the Western City and Aerotropolis Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an international resource management company, SUEZ, to apply its smart city, energy and resource management solutions to Sydney’s Western Parkland City.[24]

SUEZ will advise on innovations and technologies to optimise the sustainable management of resources at the Aerotropolis, from recycling and reuse through to energy creation and smart water networks.


I have argued today that Australia has great strengths - and Western Sydney has the same strengths, to an even greater extent.

The Morrison Government and the Berejiklian Government are committed to Western Sydney – and to leveraging its signature strengths with the transformational investments we are making. 

We see a critical role for science, technology and innovation in building tomorrow’s Western Sydney as a region with an advanced economy and high value jobs.

Much has been achieved already - and the future for Western Sydney is very bright indeed.


[1] World Bank International Comparison Program database, GDP, PPP (constant 2011 international $), 20 Dec 2019.

[2] Remplan Economy Profile, Economy, Jobs and Business Insights, viewed 24 January 2020 and ABS cat. no. 5204.0, Australian System of National Accounts, 25 October 2019.

[3] ABS cat. no. 3218.0, Regional Population Growth, Australia 2016, 28 July 2017 and ABS cat. no. 3218.0, Regional Population Growth, Australia 2017-18, 27 March 2019.


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[6] ABS cat. no. 1410.0, Data by Region, 2013-18, 17 January 2020.


[8] ABS cat. no. 1410.0, Data by Region, 2013-18, 17 January 2020


[10] NBN Co Corporate Plan, 2020-23 Pg. 52.


[12] Calculation using NSW Planning Department, Metropolitan Housing Monitor and NSW Planning Department, Sydney Greenfield Monitor






[18] Train station commuter tunnel opens, links to Parramatta Square, Daily Telegraph, 7 February 2020,

[19] Construction starts on Parramatta light rail project, International Railway Journal, 4 February 2020,




[23] Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development, Smart Cities and Suburbs, 5 June 2019