07 February 2018

Speech: Avalon Airport goes international reversing Labor’s botched deal

Last Sunday I was incredibly proud to join the foreign minister; Lindsay and David Fox and family; Justin Giddings, CEO of Avalon Airport; and Tony Fernandes, the global CEO of AirAsia, for an incredibly significant announcement for our region: Avalon Airport is going international. Victoria is to have its second international airport. AirAsia has struck a deal to fly from Kuala Lumpur into Avalon twice a day before the end of the year, which equates to around 440,000 passengers inbound and outbound. This represents a huge economic boost for the Corangamite electorate, and right across the Geelong region and the south-west of Victoria. One hundred and eighty-seven direct jobs will be created, and visitor expenditure is forecast to double in 10 years to $582 million. By 2028 this investment will also generate an additional 2,000 jobs. There’ll be approximately 10,000 kilograms of freight capacity per annum, meaning the region will now have direct access to Asian markets.

I’m very proud of our government’s support of Avalon through the Department of Defence, including placing Avalon in the regional package, our master plan, which has triggered some major investment by the likes of Cotton On. Over the coming months our government will be working hard to support the construction of an international terminal, as well as the provision of additional resources for the border agencies: customs, immigration and quarantine.

One of the very first campaigns I ran as a candidate back in 2009 was to make Avalon international. Why did we have to campaign? In 2007 AirAsia reached an international flights agreement with Avalon, but soon after the election of the Rudd government, in early 2008, the deal was dead. Incomprehensibly, Labor rejected Avalon’s proposal to build an international terminal. This was one of the most terrible economic decisions that we had seen in our region in many years. In an article in the Geelong Advertiser on 31 August 2012, the member for Corio said:

“… Avalon put forward a proposal that did not safeguard Australia and Geelong’s interests.”

What precisely does that mean? Why was AirAsia’s deal to fly to Avalon in 2008 contrary to the local and national interest? The member for Corio has never been able to produce any evidence to support his claims. He also justified this decision by claiming the government would need to know how many quarantine and customs officers would be required along with Federal Police officers. He said:

“It is hardly prudent to grant international status in the abstract, because opening up another door to our country, in Geelong’s backyard, carries with it many risks that cannot be managed without this information.”

It was absolutely extraordinary. In reality this was nothing more than a flaccid, pathetic excuse by the member for Corio for his government’s incompetence. The member for Corio let this happen on his watch. He simply did not fight for Avalon to become international. As I said, he’s never produced any evidence to support his claims—because it was all just baloney.

Our government is working through the detail, including the number of Federal Police officers and customs officers required, but that is not going to stop us from making this happen. I will be working day and night to ensure that the Turnbull government does everything possible to facilitate this wonderful economic opportunity for our region and for all of Victoria. I will also be fighting for an Avalon railway station and a rail link direct to the door, something Tullamarine cannot offer, which I hope will attract more international flights and carriers. Tony Fernandes has already flagged the possibility of more flights to Bali, Thailand and India.

A number of weeks ago the Prime Minister very proudly announced a city deal. This and the economic fortunes that this deal brings are an incredibly important part of a city deal which focuses very much on transport infrastructure: air, road and rail. I’m very proud of the city deal. I’m very proud of our $20 million of investment under the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages. We have delivered a quarter of a billion dollars in rail upgrades for our local region. This is another wonderful economic opportunity for jobs, for small business and for tourist operators. I’m very proud to be part of a government that’s delivering record jobs growth to our nation, including on this very significant project.

7 February 2018