The Politics of Perception – Western Sydney Airport Proposal


So at the moment I’m fighting as hard as I can with the best tools I have (namely my hands, head and heart) to get our Australian political system to  wake up.   To realise that a second airport in the Sydney basin is not something we are all rubbing our hands with glee about.   Yesterday felt like quite a good day in this fight, I wrote to two MP’s – Bill Shorten (leader of the opposition – Labor) who had visited my area on the weekend to talk about tax reform and Anthony Albanese (shadow minister for Infrastructure and Transport) to lend my support to his push for more discussion on high speed rail.

I personally see high speed rail as a great way to link Sydney-Melbourne,  Sydney-Brisbane.  At the moment these trips can take between 8 hours (Syd-Mel) and 12 hours (Syd-Bris) in the. Using our ‘slow’ trains you are currently looking at around 13 hours to Brisbane and 11 to Melbourne which is far too long really given the short trips that people generally make between the two cities – weekend shopping, catching up with friends, concerts, same-day business trip etc.  I’ve seen fast rail proposals that can cut these times down to 3-4 hours which, for most of us puts them on a par with a plane trip by the time you have allowed for the drive to the airport, security, check in, flight and then the rigmarole at the other end.

I favour rail over more planes for lots of reasons but I also think it is worth pointing out that I also realise that rail isn’t without its consequences, one of which is noise.  The rail line that traverses the Blue Mountains where I live carries freight trains throughout the night and when we first moved here we found the grinding and clunking of it all would wake us up.  Now I barely notice and when I do I kind of like it as it feels somewhat comforting.  Many mountain dwellers live with this noise as housing development has tended to hug either side of the train line so I guess if you are talking about noise per se, we do hear noise up here but it’s not often and it’s not over-head.

So could we grow to find aeroplane noise comforting?

I doubt it. I am aware of scientific studies that show humans to react more strongly to noise from over-head than to noise from street level.  From an evolutionary perspective it makes sense to me to think that we, as humans might find it a little more frightening when the sky ROARS over when something passes you to the left or the right. Again I don’t have the figures but I know lots of people who are scared of thunder that have no phobia of traffic noise.  Apparently aeroplane noise has a similar instinctive response and is more intrusive and disturbing than the equivalent decibels on the ground. Anyway, something to ponder further and research into properly for sure.

So, with that in mind what I wanted to share with you is this video clip below and why I titled this piece ‘the politics of perception’.  If you have a minute to spare watch how the guys that put the Environmental Impact Statement together for the proposed airport try to play down the noise concerns of the Blue Mountains residents and ‘those against the airport’.

‘Oh it’s nothing to worry about’.

‘It isn’t really a problem’

‘It’s going to be no more noisy than a car driving up a suburban street’  they say.

But the reality here is that the Blue Mountains is a city of villages and at night, other than the occasional train all we can hear are the cicadas.

Is the government trying to gaslight us?

Did they think we wouldn’t notice?

I wonder, I really do wonder.

I am wondering when someone will state the obvious and say ‘you know what, why don’t we trial it for a few days and see what happens, see if the residents notice planes overhead all night. And not just any planes but the freight planes that are planned to use the airport.  Could we get that done and then we would KNOW what the noise sounds and feels like’.

But I’m not thinking that’s going to happen.

Because I have a feeling they are talking bollocks.

Amanda x



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