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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2569


Mr MACPHEE —My question is directed to the Minister for Aviation. Regardless of the Government's decision regarding the sale of airport terminals, would the Minister see merit in selling airports to State governments so that they can compete with each other for tourists and therefore for air traffic? Would the Minister raise this matter with the Treasurer so that it can be dealt with at the next Loan Council meeting so that the States can borrow on a basis to enable efficiently managed State owned airports to make a profit after making debt and interest repayments?


Mr N.A. Brown —Is this privatisation?


Mr PETER MORRIS —This is a suggestion from those in exile, from the honourable member's Party.


Mr Macphee —Take it seriously, though.


Mr PETER MORRIS —I am taking it seriously but I was responding to the honourable gentleman on the front bench, which is where the honourable member ought to be. I would have been much happier to have received the question from him, were he there. However, we will bear with him and look forward to his return to the front bench.


Mr Porter —You will be here in a minute; don't worry.


Mr PETER MORRIS —The honourable member will never be there.


Mr Porter —No; I will be there.


Mr PETER MORRIS —I took the honour- able member's voice to be that of the honourable member for Fadden. I withdraw the comment I just made; it was directed to the honourable member for Fadden. The suggestion made by the honourable member for Goldstein has been heard by the Treasurer. I think in the past the Treasurer may have contemplated such a move. If one were in the business of selling to the States, the net financial outcome would simply be a rearrangement of numbers rather than the transmission of hard cash.


Mr Macphee —Not if they were competing with each other.


Mr PETER MORRIS —I am talking about payment by the States to the Commonwealth if such a course were followed. This matter is not in the area for consideration but the Treasurer has heard the honourable member's question and I am sure that in his generous manner he would be keen to grab any opportunity to get fresh dollars. If he thought some fresh dollars were in this move, he may have already looked at it.

From another point of view, if we were to pursue the suggestion the honourable member made we would have only to look at the operation of ports. The provision of port services is a key element in the shipping industry and they are controlled by the States. One of the main criticisms from conservative politicians of transport services is what they allege to be the inefficient and costly operation of ports.

Where States have control of port services we have seen the duplication and triplication of investment, the operation very much of a cost-plus type of charging system and almost a complete lack of co-ordination in investment in the provision of port services around Australia. On that evidence it would be reasonable to assume that if States were to have control of airports we would see a repetition of the experience that has been exhibited in respect of port investment and the complete lack of co-ordination of any national approach to port investment and port management.