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Speech at opening of Rex Airlines Pro Hart Lounge, Adelaide Airport.

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Speech by Senator the Hon Nick Minchin Minister for Finance and Administration Leader of the Goverment in the Senate

Opening of Rex Airlines Pro Hart Lounge Adelaide Airport Friday, 13th July 2007

It's a real honour for me to be asked to officially open this Rex Pro Hart Lounge at Adelaide Airport and I do want to commend Rex and I think in particular, John Sharp who has obviously been the driving force behind this wonderful idea of having the lounge named after Pro and the wonderful collection of memorabilia of Pro. It really is hard to think of a more appropriate Australian after whom you would want to name a lounge such as this given that Pro was such a wonderful Australian who obviously loved regional Australia. That's what his paintings are all about and this is a great airline dedicated, obviously and completely, to serving regional Australia.

And of course I think it's most appropriate that it is the Adelaide lounge of Rex that is named after Pro given that really Adelaide was the city in which Pro was discovered back in I think 1962 at the Bonython Gallery, so I think it's very appropriate. And of course I think we South Australians like to think that Pro's home town of Broken Hill really is part of South Australia. It's nominally in New South Wales, but I was only there just three weeks ago visiting my brother who is producing a series on the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and it's a great reminder of just how South Australian that town is. It's got the right time zone, the right kind of beer and they follow the right kind of footy, so it was terrific.

It was my privilege to meet Pro on several occasions. He and I shared a great passion for the preservation of our great system of constitutional monarchy and I went to a number of meetings and spoke with him on a number of those occasions, and indeed one of the great things about Pro was that he was even more right-wing than me, that's always a very good

thing to know someone who is actually even further out there. He had very strong views on a lot of subjects and was a great conservative and a wonderful man for that. But of course it is his wonderful art for which we remember him and which so powerfully evokes all that we love about Australia and really sells Australia to the world.

I am no artist and not much of an art aficionado, but interestingly my father's first cousin, Eric Minchin was indeed an artist and was in fact one of the five Brushmen of the Bush who really did so much to promote Australian art and so much to promote Broken Hill, and Eric, like Pro, was one of Broken Hill's real characters and it's an amazing iconic town Broken Hill the way it's produced so many wonderful and great Australians and it's good for me that the name Minchin continues to be associated with art in Broken Hill through Eric's widow, Roxanne Minchin.

But Pro, as I say, made an enormous contribution to Australia, but most particularly to Australian art, and I just want today to acknowledge also the contribution that Rex makes to Australia, especially to this state of South Australia, and this state could not operate without the sort of services that Rex provides in flying South Australians all over this state and one of the great things for me, having as a migrant to South Australia come here in 1985, is to see the tremendous economic activity that's really starting to happen in South Australia, it's been a sort of sleeping giant waiting to happen in the resources sector and to see what's going on

at Roxby and all that, it just means that there are great opportunities and great opportunities that need servicing by a great airline like this.

This airline does provide a service which is vital to all of us, vital to this state and we - I have got to know Rex quite well because there is a particular Government scheme that's quite important to regional airlines in this country, and Treasury and Finance officials are always trying to get rid of it, and Rex and I spend a lot of time talking about why it should be preserved and I am glad in the last budget we have locked it in for at least the next four years, and that's very important to Rex's continued operations. And of course Rex and I have a lot of dealings over our failed attempt to try and get more public servants to fly on Rex between Sydney and Canberra. You know that is one of the biggest prop-jet routes in the world but we cannot get those public servants out of their fancy lounge and the fancy jets and my Finance officials were among the best users of Rex, but I was not prepared to direct people about what airline they should fly, I don';t think that is a proper thing to do, but we tried all the powers of persuasion but ultimately not sufficiently successful, so regrettably Rex had to pull out of that Canberra/Sydney route leaving it as a monopoly to another airline. That's not a good situation. I do hope that one day Rex can come back onto that very important route and provide a bit of competition to that other airline.

I have been very impressed with my dealings with Rex, from the Board through to Management it's a great company and really is dedicated to providing the best possible service to Australians and I think the existence of this lounge and the quality of this lounge demonstrates that commitment.

Finally I just want to take this advantage today to acknowledge the success that is Adelaide Airport Limited and this fantastic new terminal. It is the best terminal in this country and long may that remain the case. I think Phil Baker - I wish we still had knighthoods because if

someone deserves a knighthood it's Phil Baker - what he had to put up with, it's an enormous achievement for the city and then having a few little teething troubles which were way beyond his control, must have been an absolute bloody nightmare for him, and the way he got himself through that with tremendous perseverance and good humour and that is all in the past and this is just a wonderful terminal which all South Australians are very proud of. I fly in and out of it probably two or three times a week - it's fabulous.

And of course the announcement today I think which will make the service to regional airlines that much better just shows the commitment to service. I think may I say the success of Adelaide Airport Limited is a testament to the wisdom of our Government's policy of getting Government out of the business of owning and operating airports and our privatisation program for the airports has been one of our singular successes, and certainly I wear as a badge of honour my role and responsibility for the sale of the biggest of them all, Sydney Airport. I think it is one of the best things we';ve done and that's what's enabled the private sector to come in and provide the sort of service and facilities which Australians need and want and have a right to expect.

So I think today is a great day. It brings together three great success stories for Australia - Pro Hart himself, Rex and of course Adelaide Airport, and I therefore have very great pleasure in declaring officially open the Rex Pro Hart Lounge at Adelaide Airport.

Thank you very much.

Contact: Senator Minchin's Office - Simon Troeth (02) 6277 7400/ 0439 300 335

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This page was last updated 16 July, 2007