Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 21 September 1995) . . Page.. 1613 ..
which is not very far away. If the Government intends to buy the airport itself, to be part of a consortium to purchase the airport or to be involved in any way in the future ownership and management of the airport, then time is running short. The Government needs to begin to consider very carefully what its intentions are.
There was some interesting debate on subjects such as an appropriate method for valuing airports. That, for me, was a valuable debate and raised some interesting issues about how you go about putting a valuation on an airport. One of the interesting things that came out was that the actual operations of aeroplanes at some of the major airports around the world were the least of the methods of gaining revenue at those airports, so much so that the manager of the San Francisco International Airport was moved to comment that Heathrow, under the management of the British Aviation Authority, has become, as he described it, “a runway with a large supermarket alongside it” or words to that effect. It is interesting that when you are looking at the future value of an airport the actual operations of airlines in and out of it are perhaps not the most significant feature. In considering future value, you need to look at so many other activities that go on or can go on at airports.
It was also noted that one should not rely on commitments made by aircraft operators, by airlines, as to what their future intentions are. There was an example given of an airport in a fairly small city in the United States that spent a very considerable sum of money - hundreds of millions of dollars - on developing its airport on the basis that one of the major airlines intended to make its headquarters there. They spent the money and the airline moved in, and one year later it moved somewhere else. You need to be very careful if you are relying on the airlines. They will go where the business is. That is the point to be noted. If Canberra declines in importance as an airport in Australia, then the airlines will take their operations some place else. If we are going to make major investments in Canberra Airport, we need to know what the sources of revenue are and not rely entirely on the operation of aeroplanes in and out of the airport. There were some interesting presentations, notably from the United Kingdom and from the United States. There was an emphasis on the environmental aspects of airport operations and I have summarised some of that discussion.
I think the bottom line is that, because time is running short in terms of the program for the sale of airports, the Government needs to consider some very important aspects now. I mentioned the Government’s intentions about being associated with the management and ownership of Canberra Airport and how it is going to control what goes on there. How will the speedrail, the Tilt-train, the slightly slower train, or whatever it is that we are going to get, relate to the airport? What are the ramifications of that for the ownership and future revenue-earning potential of the airport? If a very fast train gets people to Sydney just as quickly as the aeroplane does, what are the ramifications? Some interesting and important issues came out of the conference, and I thought that members of the Assembly might benefit from at least a summary of the discussion that took place there. I put the report before the Assembly for their consideration.