26/02/15

Committee Communiqué

We must protect airport curfew-free status

One of the major advantages Melbourne airport has over other Australian airports is its curfew-free status. Our extended operating hours not only allow for movement of extra passengers – Melbourne airport indicate additional flight capacity brings an extra two million passengers a year, who add nearly $600 million to the economy – it is also a major advantage in allowing us to move time-sensitive freight. This means we can transit valuable export goods, such as fresh meat and vegetables, overnight so they arrive fresh for morning markets in Asia and the Middle East. The additional capacity our curfew-free status gives us is incredibly valuable to our economy. We must make it very clear that the curfew-free status of both Melbourne and Avalon airports is not open for negotiation. Further, we must carefully plan for appropriate residential exclusion zones around these areas to avoid conflicts in the future.

Are foreign fees the answer to high cost of housing?

The federal government has announced plans to charge fees to foreign nationals buying residential property. The scheme proposes to charge $5,000 for properties under $1 million, $10,000 for properties over $1 million, with an additional $10,000 charge per extra million after that. While this plan will raise around $200 million in much-needed additional revenue, there are questions as to whether or not it will have any impact on the government’s desired outcome of lowering house prices. Global real estate company Savills has indicated there will be little impact on property values as foreign buyers, even with the levy, still find it cheaper to buy property in Australia than buying similar properties in neighbouring countries. This levy will also have no impact on growing numbers of domestic buyers taking advantage of low interest rates to buy investment properties for negative gearing purposes, which also drives up prices. While this scheme may have some positives, it is unlikely to provide a quick fix to the problem of ongoing rises in house prices in and around our cities.

HECS for VET

A new report released by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University has called for all tertiary students, whether studying at vocational or university level in a public or private institution, to have access to a HECS-style loan scheme. Speaking on ABC News Breakfast, CEO Kate Roffey noted that shining a focus on the VET sector will help to bridge the skills gap in areas that are reliant on vocational training. In Germany we are seeing some good examples emerging where skills-based training courses are being better geared toward sectors where there is a need for more workers, and this is helping to bring down the unemployment rate. Carefully designing an appropriately integrated scheme and loan repayment model that suits both the VET and university sector will be essential if we are to get this scheme right, but this concept certainly adds interest to the higher education funding reform discussion.

Parramatta light rail tests private self-funding model

Developers who have put forward a plan to build two light rail lines linking Parramatta to growing business and residential hubs in the outer Sydney suburbs believe that voluntary contributions from landowners, developers and large businesses could conservatively generate around $1.1 billion in funding. While we are still coming to terms with the concept of using voluntary contributions for large scale infrastructure build in Australia, overseas it is already being used very effectively. The London Crossrail project is being partly funded by a business rate supplement levy. Businesses themselves in the greater London area voted for this levy as they realised their future growth would be enhanced by much-needed improvements to the public transport system. In Australia there is a tendency to think that mechanisms like value capture and benefit levy options will be unpopular. Experience is showing however that we can, and should, have a sensible conversation around these types of funding opportunities, in particular in cases where the contributor can see the direct benefits to either themselves or their business.

Avalon Airshow a major international business event

In addition to an amazing display of aerobatic skill, the Avalon Airshow is also one of the biggest and best business events in Australia. On top of bringing in around $140 million in economic benefit to Victoria, the Airshow trade expo also brings over 600 exhibitors from more than 20 countries and over 40,000 trade visitors, as well as over 170,000 public visitors. When we look at investment in our major events such as the Airshow, the Australian Open Tennis Championship, the Grand Prix and White Nights for example, we tend to simply look at the hard economics to make decisions as to whether the return is worth the investment. It is easy to overlook the role these events also play in bringing businesses and industries to Melbourne who would not otherwise come, and in exposing Melbourne to a worldwide audience. Our major events play a vital role in generating economic return, building business links, and positioning brand Melbourne in a global sense. That is why we must keep investing in these events, especially when the competition to host them is growing every day.

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