Australian airports - privatisation

Oct 10th, 2008, 12:22 PM
  #1  
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Australian airports - privatisation

On the "LAX layover" thread I was about to start whingeing (again) about the effects of the sale of Australian airports to private interests, but thought it best to make another thread of it.

I mentioned the fatal separation of the domestic and international terminals. Well, the new owners have no incentive to spend the sort of money needed to fix that. The previous government's decision to privatise the airports was a lousy idea, no more than giving a favoured few a licence to print money through extortionate monopoly charges and rampant commercial real estate development on Commonwealth land.

The Canberra Airport case is instructive. The actual airport terminal and ancillary facilities now appear to be of entirely secondary interest, being dwarfed by a sprawling, ever-growing "business park" and discount outlets. All this is outside the control of our local (Australian Capital Territory) government, which would normally exercise some planning controls in the interests of residents and local businesses, many of which have been affected by this sudden onset of uncontrolled, and they would argue unfair, competition.

This being the case, a lot of Canberrans couldn't help laughing at the chutzpah of the airport owner, a local developer, when HE had the nerve to complain of unfair competition from a discount outlet centre recently opened in the nearby light-industrial centre of Fyshwick.

Given that Fyshwick is also home to most of Canberra's brothels, sex shops and XXXX porno video industry, one can only speculate on what form the airport owner's counter-attack might take. But then, the Federal Government, headed by a churchgoing prime minister, might draw the line at some forms of commercial activity on Commonwealth-owned land.

Neil_Oz is offline  
Oct 10th, 2008, 03:56 PM
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Born whinger are you?
Not too many people other than pollies and media clowns would be using Canberra, and what's this about separation - if you think Sydney, just how long have they been separate terminals? and Melbourne?!!!!!!
Go and fix the economy or send a whinging email to a politician.
Bushranger is offline  
Oct 10th, 2008, 11:47 PM
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I was hoping for a half-way intelligent response, but obviously in vain.
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Oct 11th, 2008, 02:08 AM
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Airports should not be in private hands, end of story. Ditto electricity and mass transport.

Never been to Canberra Airport - why would you when the bus to Sydney is cheap and lands you right by Central Station?

But what really gets me is that airports are now seen as retail opportunities and what I want to know is .. do the people we elect allow this to happen due to political principles, economic necessities, or an eye to the main chance?

In the eight years I've been using it Sydney has got worse. I don't want to buy any of the stuff on offer, what I want is (and I'd want it even more as an visitor from overseas):

Good signage, good transport links, places to get a coffee and a snack; a bookshop; a post office; internet facilities, showers, and lots and lots of seating.

Sydney fails. LAX fails in spades. Haven't departed from Heathrow for a very long time, only arrived.

Canberra isn't an international hub but same rules apply.

Trying hard to think of an airport that fits my criteria of what a world class airport should be - Singapore isn't bad.

It would be great if Sydney could be one - seems they are forecasting mega increases in traffic. But as it stands it is a disgrace.
afterall is offline  
Oct 11th, 2008, 02:25 AM
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"Airports should not be in private hands, end of story. Ditto electricity and mass transport"
And then there's why not?

And then afterall you can have a shower at Sydney - http://www.sydneyairport.com.au/SACL...es/default.htm

If you're really so posessed to want one, and that being so, who do you want to pay the bill?
Surely not the general taxpayer.

And then with "But what really gets me is that airports are now seen as retail opportunities and what I want to know is .. do the people we elect allow this to happen due to political principles, economic necessities, or an eye to the main chance?"

In keeping with the who pays for the shower, I'd suggest that more than a small modicum of taxpayers and electors would like nothing better for the elected ones to govern in a manner that keeps taxes as low as reasonably possible and that means to some that services that can be considered optional ought to be run by private enterprise on a user pays basis

Hence the free enterprise approach to running an airport.
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Oct 11th, 2008, 03:43 PM
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Bushranger - I didn't say that the showers should be free! Ditto left luggage, cups of coffee, etc. etc.

Glad to know they exist at Sydney. I am lucky in not having a long journey from home to and from the airport so I've never needed to look for one.

Do you think railway stations should be privatised too?
afterall is offline  
Oct 11th, 2008, 05:06 PM
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I should have known better than to use the example of my local airport, even though it was simply to illustrate a general situation. It's been some time since I've had t deal with a classic unthinking, kneejerk Canberra-bashing response and I'd been lulled into a false sense of security.

Bushranger, of course you have a choice between fully tax-funded, fully user-pays and anything in between, and this applies to any public service or facility. Public transport, for example, is one of those in-between situations, for a very good reason. You don't want to discourage usage, because there are invisible benefits from maximising its use.

Roads, it could be argued, could have a greater or at least fairer user-pays element, given the damage caused by heavy vehicles, among which I number large 4WD "Toorak tractors".

Airports also are an in-between situation. They differ from trains in being seen by some as a rich man's facility, a very outmoded view in this day and age. In fact they're a vital part of the economy from a number of perspectives, not least air cargo, my old game, and air travel is no longer a middle-upper class preserve.

But whatever mix of tax and user charges you use to fund them, you also have a choice between public and private ownership. It's been said that "the only thing worse than a public monopoly is a private monopoly", and the airports case illustrates this vividly. The key difference is that the primary objective of a private owner is to maximise shareholder value, the means by which this is done being secondary; whereas the primary objective of public ownership is simply to run an airport, under whatever financial and other rules the elected government may determine.

And public ownership guarantees a level of accountability and transparency that private ownership lacks by such means as the Auditor-General's reports and Senate estimates committee hearings.

Anyone planning to travel to somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area might wish to make a simple comparison. Take the (privatised) short train trip from Sydney city to the (privatised) airport, about 15 minutes, at $14.40 a ticket. Bear in mind that the taxpayers have already shelled out $800M for the airport link.

At San Francisco's non-privatised airport make a mental note of your progress through customs and immigration. Walk to the non-privatised BART station in the arrivals area and buy a ticket to downtown SF, a half-hour trip at less than $5 - or a lot further than that for a maximum fare of about $7.

When you get back to Sydney at sparrowfart in the morning, take good note of the chaos in the baggage claim area as confusion, disoriented an jetlagged visitors try to discern, unaided, the customs queue, many of them getting their first impressions of Australia.

If you can avoid it, BTW, I don't recommend a visit to the gents' in the arrivals hall. When I did the locks on the cubicle doors were out of service, as were most of the liquid soap dispensers, leaving only ragged holes in the tiles. Obviously maintenance had taken second place to the value demanded by the Macquarie Group's shareholders, as determined by the CEO of Sydney Airport Corporation, former PM John Howard's former Sir Humphrey, Max Moore-Wilton.

Now that the Bush administration (of all governments) is into part-nationalisation of banks (of all things), maybe it's safe for us to reconsider the ownership of our essential national infrastructure.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Oct 11th, 2008, 05:42 PM
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While you're on the comparisons bicycle NOZ, have you been through LAX? - hear it's a riot!
But then our population numbers do not provide us the luxury or condemnation to multiple international airports in southern states.

Have you tried out other forms of Sydney Airport to CBD transport?, for you may well find the train fare sits pretty well with other Sydney options,

Then as for the tiled surface holes, would that have been because some cretin ripped dispensers off the wall?, and were you checking weekly to see how long it took for repairs?

At least a lot of schools will have less computer maintenance problems because they do not seem to be getting the numbers promised so quickly, and a good thing that too.

And Afterall "Do you think railway stations should be privatised too?", a good stretch of the imagination and certainly the Southern Cross Station in Melbourne is a great improvement on its like as Spencer Street - very commercial and possibly well marketable but I would wait for better economic times.

NOZ might feel the airports and stations are rather remiss in not having provision for ladies of the night to be offering their services, possibly a better place not to be found for travellers suffering jetlag or a discomfortable train sleep, so some value adding still to be done.

Bushranger is offline  
Oct 11th, 2008, 06:27 PM
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"NOZ might feel the airports and stations are rather remiss in not having provision for ladies of the night to be offering their services"

I've always been a supporter of sound entrepreneurial activity, but I take issue with the euphemism "ladies of the night", given that both Sydney and Canberra have a curfew. I envisage an 0600-2300 service, in line with our modern "open all hours" expectations.
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Oct 12th, 2008, 03:34 AM
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And Bushranger, seeing as you are clearly someone who thinks private is good and public is bad, in all circumstances and as a matter of principle, what is your opinion of the current mad dash of the American Govt (private write large) to semi-nationalise the banks.

I think we should be told.
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Oct 12th, 2008, 04:35 AM
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Afterall, a littel bit amazed with the stretch to "And Bushranger, seeing as you are clearly someone who thinks private is good and public is bad, in all circumstances and as a matter of principle" from

[And Afterall "Do you think railway stations should be privatised too?", a good stretch of the imagination] but that doesn't stop me from having an opinion on the mad dash as you put it, one that Oz is now sprinting hard to catch up with it would seem; there clearly being a crisis within global economics, to the extent that we may be on the cusp of a great depression - something that none of us should relish having and whilst it could be true that an underlying cause is the partying of times past likened to those of the twenties, prime mortgaging included, ideally some soft landing solution is desirable and will attempting to shore up the banks one way or another work?, maybe, but for how long? for in some way that sends a message that all is good, is good as was and please continue on merrily!! - do you reckon that is right afterall what has gone before Afterall?
I have this gut feel we are still on borrowed time and the chemo job ain't a cure for an advanced cancer - perhaps another solution for a cancer being the knife and the longer it is left, the more chopping out will be needed for any chance of success, and after something like that you do not have much choice in a new lifestyle being adopted - you don't and you perish.
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