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Thursday, 12 September 1996
Page: 3385

Senator TAMBLING (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Development)(12.25 p.m.) —Senator Harradine's initial comments related to this bill and I appreciate that he took the opportunity to talk about the other issues concerning the media. I address the question he raised which related to the process of the airport sales. It is acknowledged—and it is very important to recognise it—that when the Commonwealth is disposing of an asset which it in effect holds in trust on behalf of all Australian taxpayers, in the process of any disposal or change of arrangements such as leasing of airports, we must achieve an outcome which is normally best achieved by a competitive tender process.

I sought to indicate that it would be the government's intention in the first instance to test that market—very properly—and to ensure that it sees what interest there is. We often have to be careful not to talk down the interests of regional areas which are developing. Very often, we can tend to prop up and provide a special kiss and cuddle arrangement that tends to shield the development of very proper commercial activities in remote and regional areas. I think there is a very strong advantage in ensuring that commercial operators extend their ambit and their aim into looking away from the parochial capital city bases that so often preoccupy the funding or commercial operators.

As the Minister for Finance, Mr Fahey, indicated, we will go through the tender process to be applied. However, I have already acknowledged that we have to recognise the special circumstances and arrangements of regional areas. As I have indicated earlier to Senator Harradine, I have also received a number of representations from colleagues and various regional development organisations in Tasmania with regard to this particular area.

We will look very carefully at the leasing and regulatory strategies to monitor them very carefully to see how they develop in the first phases of the sales program. As I have said, our policy commitment is very clear, particularly with regard to Tasmania. We have talked a lot about the separation of Hobart and Launceston. We will certainly look for that preference for local participation and local ownership from the community in Tasmania.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bills reported with amendments; report adopted