ABC CANBERRA BREAKFAST WITH ADAM SHIRLEY
THURSDAY, 20 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECTS: Canberra Airport; ACT infrastructure; need for a plan for aviation.
ADAM SHIRLEY, HOST: Catherine King is Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development and she’s with us this morning. Ms King, we really appreciate your time on Breakfast, what’s your main reasoning for thinking taxpayer dollars should go to supporting a private enterprise like the Canberra airport?
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Well, I hadn’t quite said that, what we’ve said is that aviation overall, because of the pandemic, because of the necessary closure of borders, and because of the closure of our international border, that what that has meant is that aviation, which we’re going to need when we come out, is really in trouble. We’ve seen evidence of that right the way across the board from Virgin going into administration, from Rex struggling and having to require assistance from the Government, regional airports have been in real trouble and we’re seeing airports themselves, who really only get money when planes are coming in, passengers are going through and people are parking their cars in airports, that they’re struggling as well. And so what we’ve said is that the Government needs to actually look at what is the plan for aviation coming out of this? What does it want aviation to look like? What do we want to survive out of this and where it does need to intervene then it should do so. Now, most airports are not asking for money, what they are asking for is the continuation of some of the support the government has already put in place, like the subsidisation of perhaps fee relief and a range of other things.
SHIRLEY: That’s effectively money, though, isn’t it Catherine King? I don’t want to get caught up in semantics, but you said before we haven’t quite asked for government funding, but that’s effectively government funding, isn’t it?
KING: Well, of course it has been and the Government has already been providing some of that. But, what we have said is it needs to have a look at what is the plan for aviation going forward and I think that really is the challenge because airports in and of themselves, they are incredible transport hubs, they have been doing vital work making sure we all get food and we get access to essential workers, that’s been across the country. But what we haven’t seen is governments actually say ok this is where we may need to assist, in terms of looking at a plan for how we recover. Regional airports in particular have been in real trouble, particularly those that are owned by local councils because they haven’t had access to JobKeeper.
SHIRLEY: So are they the ones that should be the absolute priority, as opposed to a small or large metropolitan airport.
KING: I think that it’s going to have to be case by case. So for example, what you’ve in Melbourne or Sydney Airport, whilst they’ve struggled, they have been able to raise capital. They’ve taken the opportunity at this time to bring forward a whole range of their capital improvement projects and they’ve been doing a range of things to try to work their way through it. They’re not doing well, I think everyone sort of saw at June we started to say a bit of recovery, they mapped a way out, and then obviously with what’s happened in Victoria and New South Wales and the Queensland border shut that’s really caught everyone I think by surprise again, and they’re trying to manage their way through it. So I think the airport’s association is presenting before the Senate COVID Committee, which is really our best bet of trying to get some accountability from the government today, and they are again saying we need a broader plan for aviation and that includes our airports, the support workers, the clearers excetera, who work around airports, and our firefighters that are at the airports as well, and it should include airlines as well.
SHIRLEY: So you’re talking there of the jobs and particular businesses that are in trouble, but associated with in this case, the Canberra Airport, what are the elements to that plan that you want to see? You said a couple of times a broader plan is required, but what specific detail?
KING: Well, one of the things in particular that both the unions and the airport’s associations have been talking about is, you know, whether they need to look at the way in which JobKeeper is structured, particularly for aviation, because we know this is going to be a very long time before we see any substantial recovery from that. So that’s one of the things that they’ve called for. I think, again, there’s been a call to look at the extension of some of the programs that the Government’s got in place at the moment around subsidisation and I think equally they’re asking for some clarity around whether there’s some consistency around border closures and around domestic travel when we start to come out of it and the data starts to suggests that we are.
SHIRLEY: We’ll see what comes through the COVID-19 hearings, which are chaired, of course, by ACT Labor Senator Katy Gallagher, she’s the chair of the COVID-19 response committee that is listening to all this testimony in Parliament. Catherine King is our guest, she’s Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development at a federal level. Adam Shirley with you on Breakfast, 19 past seven. And in your role, Catherine King, the development and construction of projects, of not just roads, but other links such as rail is a ongoing hot topic for this capital region, the lack thereof that people feel. What specific infrastructure projects, do you see not only giving an COVID-19 kick but being essential to better linking the capital region to the rest of New South Wales?
KING: Well, obviously rail has been a really significant issue for a long time for the ACT. People want the opportunity to look at having a rail link and to look at that connectivity, and I think that’s one of the challenges that the government hasn’t taken up is again, looking at using infrastructure in a strategic way to link capital cities and regions to each other and where are we generating wealth across this country. What they’ve done is largely used infrastructure, I think, around election time to prop up particular seats and play favourites.
SHIRLEY: Not exactly exclusive to in one side of politics, I think it’s fair to say Catherine King.
KING: The reason that we established Infrastructure Australia was really very much to try and change that, and I think that the priority list that Infrastructure Australia has, I think the Government needs to look very seriously at that, I think there are a range of strategic projects there. But equally, it also needs to think very seriously about where we can bring money forward, what the capacities are currently within the country for those projects, both in the short, the long and the medium term. But again, this is about what is its plan for recovery? What is it planning for jobs, whether it being the aviation sector, whether it be in infrastructure, or whether it be in tourism, the Government needs to articulate that plan and as yet it hasn’t done so.
SHIRLEY: We shall see if this call to further support airports in a variety of ways comes to pass and whether it’s heard at the top levels. Catherine King, we really appreciate your time.
KING: Good to talk to you.