Issues: Airfares, carbon price, G20 Summit, Sydney’s second airport
ANTHONY ALBANESE: New figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics shows once again that the airline industry is continuing to thrive.
This is in spite of Tony Abbott’s scare campaign. Today at the Tourism and Transport Forum, Tony Abbott addressed a business group and talked down the interests of that business group by saying that aviation would be impacted massively by the carbon price.
Well, what we’ve seen since 1 July is the exact opposite. We are in fact seeing that airfares this month compared with last month have fallen by some 17 per cent.
That’s being driven by the competition that’s out there in the tourism sector, particularly between Qantas and Virgin Australia.
What’s more, we’ve also seen that business fares have dropped by 20 per cent. What we know now is that business fares are at their lowest since October 1992. That’s in real terms.
In real terms in 2012 it is cheaper to fly business class than it was in 1992.
That’s an extraordinary figure and it shows that, in spite of Mr Abbott’s scare campaign on carbon, the exact opposite is the case.
Happy to take some questions about that, and other issues.
QUESTION: On the G20 summit, what do you expect the benefit to be for Brisbane by being host?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, there’ll be enormous benefit for Brisbane.
I think it’s unfortunate that Sydney wasn’t in a position to host the games. I’m a loyal Sydneysider and for three Wednesday nights in the last couple of months I’ve been out there cheering for the Blues against the Maroons.
But the fact is this is an event that requires particular facilities. This is an event that requires a convention centre to be available, and the Sydney Convention Centre simply isn’t available at that time because of the upgrade that’s occurring.
Sydney airport is also one-third the size of Brisbane Airport. We have a situation whereby there’s going to be at least 40 wide-bodied jets needing to park on the airport. We know for example that the President of the United States flies a 747. Other world leaders come in on their jets and require parking space.
This is a reminder once again that Sydney Airport is constrained by its size. It’s one-third the size of Brisbane, it’s one-half the size of Melbourne Airport. The physical constraints that are here at Kingsford Smith are another reminder of the need for a second Sydney airport.
QUESTION: Isn’t it then time for the Federal Government to come to the table with the New South Wales Government and start working on a real solution to the airport?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, the Federal Government has done that. We indeed did that in partnership with the New South Wales Government. We had a joint aviation study that went to not just the second airport but the aviation needs for Sydney.
We had a study that also looked at land transport issues around Sydney Airport.
I’ve also asked for Sydney Airport to bring forward its master plan to July 2013. That’s currently under legal challenge by Sydney Airport as a result of them saying they couldn’t prepare that master plan in that timeframe.
So as the Federal Government, we have done our bit.
But there needs to be an acknowledgment right across the board that if Sydney is to maintain our position as a global city, we do need a second airport, we do need to deal with these infrastructure issues.
QUESTION: So, aside from the problems with the convention centre, did you actually approach the New South Wales Government before you approached the Queensland Government to host here, and they actually refused?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, all of the governments had an opportunity to put in a bid for hosting the G20.
This is a big global event. It’s a great credit to Australia that we are hosting this event.
This year it was in Mexico, next year in Russia. In 2014, Australia will be the host. We needed to make sure that the criteria were satisfied. The criteria included one major convention centre – that is one place where the meeting primarily takes place.
You couldn’t do it at a place like the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was suggested today. Frankly, the Museum of Contemporary Art is a great facility. The Federal Government has put in some money for the upgrade of the Museum of Contemporary Art but anyone who suggests that the Museum of Contemporary Art is a site for a G20 summit doesn’t know much about what occurs with G20 summits.
I went to the first one in London. In London you had, for example, in the order of 700 to 800 delegates from China; over 500 people there from the United States. In terms of logistics, thousands of people attended this event.
This is a huge event that needs infrastructure. In terms of the convention centre, it is good that an upgrade and an expansion of the Sydney Convention Centre is occurring however that means that it simply won’t be available in 2014.
QUESTION: So what’s your response to Brad Hazzard’s comments earlier this morning that this was an opportunity for the Federal Government to, I guess, you know, play to an electorate that where they’re looking pretty grim in the next election?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I understand parochial politics. I’m parochial about the interests of Sydney as well, but we’ve got to get real here.
If the airport isn’t big enough and if the convention centre isn’t available, then that simply means that a decision had to be taken to choose the best option.
The Government has gone with the best option and that is Brisbane. Brisbane does have an airport that is three times the size, physically, of Sydney Airport, so therefore has a much greater capacity to deal with the logistical issues that will arise around the G20 summit.
It also has a convention centre that will be available for three full weeks in the lead-up to the summit.
This is bigger than the Olympics in terms of holding the 20 largest economies in the world. We will have Leaders of countries, their Treasurers, their Finance Ministers, a whole bureaucracy around this event. That will amount to thousands of people here in Australia.
There’s a time for state versus state, and that’s on a Wednesday night when the Blues and Maroons are fighting each other. This is a time for national unity, and we should all have pride in the fact that Australia is going to host the G20.
QUESTION: So $370 million – is that just from the Federal Government? And if so, what – how much do you expect the Queensland Government to tip in?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is a massive exercise. This is very much in the national interest, and should be a source of national pride in the same way our economic record, the fact that our economy is doing better than any advanced economy in the world, bar none, should be a source of national pride.
We need to talk up Australia, not talk ourselves down as Tony Abbott continues to do.
QUESTION: Do you expect it to cost over half-a-billion dollars?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Those issues will be dealt with by the Finance Minister and by the Treasurer. But let me tell you, when it comes to these issues, this isn’t a cost; this is an investment in Australia – in brand Australia that will produce many more times the economic benefit than the cost of holding such an event.
Bringing the world’s leaders here to Australia is a recognition of how the world regards the Australian economy.
Australia played a very important role in the formation of the G20. Previously before the election of this Federal Government, Australia was shut out of the big forums. You had your G7s and your G8s – Australia was shut out of it.
The G20 which brings together economies such as Australia and also involves emerging economies and powerhouses such as Mexico, Brazil and South Africa is very important. The fact that Australia will have a place at that table is of great significance and should be source of great pride for Australia.
QUESTION: The average voter then might say that they would rather have, you know, $400 million in the Budget than an extra source of pride. We have a lot to be proud of already. What tangible benefit will the G20 bring to Queensland or the country?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: With regard to the question about cost, what average Australians want is for Australia to be showcased to the world. This is not just because of a sense of pride, but because of the economic benefit that comes from that.
Australia will be showcased, not just Brisbane. There’ll be people visiting other cities as well and there will, of course, be activity generated through the Australian economy.
All of this will have a tangible economic benefit because whenever Australia is showcased to the world, people get to see that on their TV screens.
In the region with the growing middle classes of our Asia-Pacific region, right throughout Europe, North America, the G20 is the event along with the Olympic Games that showcases host countries to the world.
It will be of significant benefit here in Australia. It will also be of significant benefit because we’re a trading nation. We’re an open economy. We will have that one-to-one dialogue; that engagement by hosting the world’s leaders here will also mean that those world leaders will leave our shores feeling much more positive.
I’m sure they’re positive to begin with, but much more positive about their view of Australia.
QUESTION: So unlike a lot of Olympic Games, you actually expect a net financial gain from this investment?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I reckon the Sydney Olympics served this great city very well. And in terms of the long-term, it’s still serving Australia well. When the London Olympics are held in two weeks, guess what? People will talk about the Sydney Olympic games and people will show footage of the Sydney Olympics 12 years after the event. We can’t be an insular nation. We can’t have borders up that don’t worry about what’s going on in the rest of the world.
What we need to do is to make sure that we do engage with the world.
The G20 is a prime opportunity to do just that. It’ll be a great event for Australia, and I very much look forward to it being hosted here in Australia.
Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.