Julie Bishop drops in to talk Coast airport expansion plan
THE SUNSHINE Coast Airport expansion project may be taxiing down the runway but whether a federal funding commitment takes off remains to be seen.
Deputy Leader of the Liberals and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in town yesterday, meeting with LNP candidate for Fairfax Ted O'Brien and local representatives to discuss Sunshine Coast Airport expansion plans, among other topics.
"I'm certainly very keen to talk with my colleagues in Canberra about what we can do to ensure that the Sunshine Coast continues to attract high quality tourism and tourism infrastructure," Ms Bishop said.
"We're at the airport discussing with the airport authorities and the local council ideas behind the expansion of this airport because tourism is such an important part of the Australian economy."
Ms Bishop praised the advocacy work being done by Mr O'Brien in pushing for federal support for the project.
The expansion plans recently received the State Government tick of approval, and are currently awaiting the green light from the Federal Government.
The Sunshine Coast Council is seeking a $181 million concessional loan from the Federal Government to deliver the $347 million airport expansion.
How do you think the airport expansion should be funded?
This poll ended on 29 May 2016.
Federal Government loans which council repays over time and council remains owners of the asset
Privatisation, put it out to private companies to come in and do the job for us
Council should stump up for the build along with other funding, then sell off a large share once it's operational
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
While Ms Bishop said constructive talks around project funding had been held, she stopped short of committing to or hinting at a commitment to federal funding.
"We've had a very productive discussion today about a whole range of innovative ways of funding airport expansion," she said.
"A number of regional airports across Australia are looking for support.
"We are certainly open to discussion innovative ways of funding the airport expansion."
Ms Bishop said the Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester was focused on ensuring immigration, customs and other support was given to the Sunshine Coast Airport, "but also obviously infrastructure support".
Ms Bishop said there was a "whole range of ways" of providing support for the expansion.
One of those appeared to be privatisation, an avenue Deputy Mayor Tim Dwyer said had not been ruled out.
"We're looking at all the options," Cr Dwyer said.
Ms Bishop also flagged a potential visit to the Coast from PM Malcolm Turnbull in the coming weeks, hopeful, but stopping short of a commitment.
"Oh I would hope so, the Prime Minister's been all over the country and he's most certainly making himself available to meet with candidates," Ms Bishop said.
She said the Coalition was "carefully going through the process of understanding the business plan", meeting local council and airport representatives and working to ensure any future pledge was sustainable, when asked whether the Coast could expect any major commitments before July 2.
"There is no point making promises you are not going to keep," she said of the detailed approach being taken.
Cr Dwyer said it was "fantastic" to have the minister in town and important the focus began to shift squarely on the Coast and its needs.
He said the airport was a "vital cog" in the region's economic growth plans and "if nothing else" a win on the airport would be vitally important.
He said recent talks with Ms Bishop and high-profile Opposition MP Anthony Albanese about the airport expansion had been "very positive".