COMPERE: Well the International Air Transport Association Conference is currently underway in Singapore. Anthony Albanese, Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport is in town to attend the event. He joins us now live from our studios at the SGX(*) in a first on CNBC interview.
Minister, a real pleasure to have you with us today. Thank you so much for joining us. I know that you are…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Nice to be here.
COMPERE: …attending the IATA event, of course, as I mentioned, over in Singapore. This is, I guess, particularly relevant to us. There are a number of issues that are facing Australia when it comes to the air transport industry. You have said before that one of the, I guess, the biggest issues that we face is the need for a new airport in the Sydney location. We know that other locations are being looked at. Tell us, from where you sit now, how close to we – how close are we rather, to getting a second airport in Sydney?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well it’s certainly what the figures show is that Sydney Airport is at capacity. We have now something like seven hours of the day where the demand – that is the number of flights that are sought in and out of Sydney Airport – are greater than the cap which is there of 80 movements an hour. So we know also from experience, unfortunately, that when there’s a delay at Sydney Airport because so many flights go through Sydney, both domestic and international, then it has a knock-on effect through the whole system.
That is one of the challenges that we’re facing. We’ve set up a body, jointly with the state government, to try and get the politics out of the issue so that we can identify a site, identify land transport issues associated with it. This is really a matter of keeping economic activity going. Sydney is Australia’s most global city and obviously plays a critical role in the economic activity of the nation.
COMPERE: Just really briefly, minister, before we move on how close are we?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we’ll receive that report by the end of the year, so that will enable a public discussion to take place.
But, of course, there’s a range of challenges facing the aviation industry. That’s why we produced an Aviation White Paper back in 2009. And it’s interesting talking to delegates at the international conference here this morning, our Aviation White Paper Flight Path to the Future is regarded as global best-practice in terms of an attempt to have a holistic approach to making sure that aviation has a good future dealing with air space issues, land transport issues, issues relating to the interaction between airports and the communities around them. All of those issues were dealt with in that holistic way trying to make sure that we look not just a year ahead, but decades ahead into the future.
COMPERE: You know, speaking of some of those issues minister, we know that Singapore Airlines has been wanting to get into the lucrative trans-Pacific route. For some time the government hasn’t allowed that. You are in Singapore, of course, IATA conference. How are you going to have a further conversation with Singapore Airlines about that issue?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Technical issue with broadcast] the second Australian entrant, Virgin Australia on that route, that we have said that we’d enable them to get settled. They, of course, have the arrangements, the code share arrangements with Delta that are currently going through their final regulatory stages in the United States. So I think Singapore understand that that isn’t immediately on the agenda. But we have very much a good relationship with Singapore – both the government and with the airline – and I’ll be meeting with the new CEO of Singapore Airlines this afternoon.
COMPERE: It will be interesting to hear what comes of that meeting.
Minister, look, let me move on and ask you, you know, obviously the carbon tax has been a huge issue in Australia – quite a controversial one at times. There have been calls for an early election to essentially allow the public to decide on this issue. Let’s talk about the impact on the growth of infrastructure going forward and the growth of the aviation industry.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, of course, what we see is a lot of hysterical reaction from the Opposition. It’s really a tactic rather than a serious policy position being put forward. We all know that climate change is a serious issue that requires action and the best way to take action is through market-based mechanisms.
That’s why we’ve put forward a carbon [technical issue with broadcast] demonstrated large numbers in their thousands. Capital cities right around the country and in regional centres, in support of action on climate change which, of course, Australia’s a particularly vulnerable nation. We’re the driest inhabited continent on the planet and we stand to lose a great deal if we have icons such as Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef endangered. If we have our coastal regions, of course, many Australians – in spite of the fact that we’re a large continent, we tend to live right around the coast and many of those communities are vulnerable as well to rising sea levels.
So we understand, and I think Australians understand, that we need to take action on climate change. The introduction of a new tax is never something that is welcomed overwhelmingly. But economic reform is hard, but we’re determined to get it done in the national interest.
COMPERE: Okay. Alrighty minister, look it’s a pleasure to have you with us today. Thank you so much for joining us here on CNBC and we will be interested to see how that meeting with Singapore Airlines goes this afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Indeed. Good to talk with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.