Subjects: General aviation, Michael McCormack, Riverina Intermodal Freight and Logistics Hub, Mark Latham.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s been a pleasure to be here in Wagga Wagga today talking about the importance of general aviation.
The entire industry is of course committed to safety but what they also want to make sure is that we have a sector that’s growing, that’s able to train pilots and other people in the aviation sector because of the importance of general aviation to Australia as an island continent. But also the potential that’s there for growth, even as an export industry.
It is indeed a tragedy that we have not enough pilots in Australia today at a time when we should not only be able to service our domestic needs, we should actually be an export country when it comes to training pilots in order to secure greater national income for the national economy.
What we’re seeing is this enormous growth in aviation in the Asian region and Australia has enormous potential to benefit from that in terms of jobs and economic activity here.
Today’s forum is a part of a constructive dialogue and I’m committed to working closely with the Minister, Michael McCormack, to ensure that the recommendations that come out of this conference for any changes that are required are dealt with in a bipartisan way, because aviation safety shouldn’t be a partisan political issue and I know that is a view shared by Minister McCormack.
JOURNALIST: It has been something that they’ve been campaigning on for about 30 years they say. Do you think Minister McCormack is doing enough? He’s only new to the role, but would you say that he is on it?
ALBANESE: Well he’s new to the role, but he has attended this conference. He has constructively sat down with me. I sat down with his predecessor earlier on, Barnaby Joyce. And I think Michael McCormack is committed to the same things that I am and that the people who are attending this conference are, which is aviation safety being critical, but also a growing general aviation sector.
JOURNALIST: What should he be doing? What conversations were had?
ALBANESE: What Michael McCormack should be doing is working with the Opposition in a constructive way to make any changes that are required to make sure that there’s not over-regulation; that regulation satisfies safety as a priority, but that also allows the industry to grow and to expand and to provide training opportunities.
General aviation is very important in this country. Quite clearly there are a number of other issues that have been raised with me today that I look forward to having discussions with the Minister about – issues such as the charging of airports on the activities of general aviation, making sure that we protect airports from non-aeronautical development so that aviation remains the focus of the airports, particularly secondary airports and regional airports around Australia. This is of vital importance and it’s one which I’m sure the Minister will work constructively with myself on.
I’m very positive about the discussions that we’ve had. We’re both committed to making sure that this not be a partisan political issue and today’s conference, getting the input from the sector is now something that they will submit to us jointly in coming weeks and we’ll sit down and work out how these issues can be addressed.
JOURNALIST: What do you think is the future of regional airlines?
ALBANESE: Well regional airlines are so important. That’s why we’ve ensured for example regional access to Sydney Airport. There was a proposal last week from TTF that would completely deregulate the activity at Sydney Airport, which would mean that regions such as Wagga Wagga were not able to have that access during peak periods into and out of Sydney. Now that’s critical for regional cities, such as Wagga Wagga. I flew here this morning from Sydney Airport. There are flights back this afternoon during that peak period, and it’s absolutely vital that we protect those regional slots at Sydney Airport for regional airlines.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, as Shadow Infrastructure Minister, do you think there’s a role for the Federal Government in getting the Riverina Intermodal Freight and Logistics Hub off the drawing board and into reality?
ALBANESE: Well certainly when we were in Government, this was an issue that was raised and Simon Crean as the Regional Development Minister was very supportive of the intermodal. This has been around for a considerable period of time and it should be progressed. It’s something that the Federal Government should look at – the business case for any proposal, because intermodal hubs can be really important in ensuring that there’s employment growth in regional centres. There of course is a major intermodal which will be at Parkes, where I will be next week in fact. But here in Wagga Wagga is a logical location given its proximity to the Hume Highway, given where Wagga Wagga’s located between Australia’s two largest cities.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, do you think with all the issues in general aviation and aviation more broadly that the sector would benefit from a Minister for Aviation (inaudible) … alone?
ALBANESE: Well there is a Minister for Aviation and it’s Michael McCormack. The issue of having a Minister for Aviation who doesn’t have other responsibilities is that will be a junior Minister. Michael McCormack is the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. He is able to sit in the Cabinet. He is someone who is ranked number two in this nation and therefore I think that that gives him more influence than a junior Minister outside the Cabinet with the specific designation of aviation. So, whilst that might sound attractive what you’ve got to look at is influence and there’s no doubt that Michael McCormack, as someone who is the Leader of the National Party and the Deputy Prime Minister, has more influence that a junior Minister for Aviation would have.
It also is the case that aviation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in conjunction with other transport modes including road and rail. So when we look at the way that transport networks work, whether it be shipping, aviation, road or rail – they’re integrated in how they function and how we move people and how we move freight.
So, I think it does make sense to have a Transport Minister in a senior role in the Cabinet. But it’s also the case that perhaps, there is an argument to have a junior Minister assisting Minister McCormack, but I wouldn’t want to see aviation diluted in its importance from where it is now.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese you mentioned in your speech the Aviation White Paper a couple of times that was done in 2009. Is that paper going to form the basis of the ALP’s aviation policy going forward?
ALBANESE: Well it’s provided a basis of things that happened in Government. There were 34 recommendations, just about all of them were implemented in full, including the changes I spoke about – the increased depreciation, the prioritisation of aviation activity at secondary airports, a range of the other regulatory changes that were made including a restriction on the amount in which CASA fees could increase to CPI. There were a range of changes which came out of that Aviation White Paper to assist general aviation, they were all implemented.
But the truth is that that was in 2009, it’s now 2018 and things don’t stand still. So of course Labor will update our policies if we’re in a position to form Government. And today’s conference is a part of that, responding to the immediate needs of industry as indicated by them.
UNIDENTIFIED: Last questions.
JOURNALIST: Mark Latham potentially teaming up with One Nation, what’s your reaction to that?
ALBANESE: I make it a policy of not commenting on Mr Latham I think that his comments and his actions say more about him than any comment could add to and I think they speak for themselves and it’s up to him to justify his own actions and his statements. Suffice to say that Mark Latham moved on from the Labor Party a while ago. That’s a good thing.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.