The end of ‘Brangelina’, first Canberra international flights, drawing the backpacker tax and Victoria’s $9.7 billion port windfall

I don’t know what is today’s most exciting news – the ending of ‘Brangelina’ or the first international flight into Canberra? I’m sure you will all agree with me that it has to be the first Singapore Airlines flight into Canberra by a country mile.

Today’s first overseas flight into Canberra Airport has been a long time coming and welcome news to see Canberra join the list of Australia’s international airports with direct overseas services.

The ACT is an international tourist’s playground – home to some of Australia’s best food and wine experiences, cultural and sporting events, and iconic national attractions – and now they can access it directly from Singapore and New Zealand. Singapore Airlines should be applauded for its decision to invest in these routes which reflects the confidence of the industry in the growing maturity of both Canberra as an international destination of choice and the Asian love affair with Australia’s culture and heritage.

According to the latest figures, Canberra is attracting 203,000 international visitors – up 13 per cent on the previous year – and $420 million in spending – up 16 per cent. The commencement of these new air services means more international visitors will be able to experience what Canberra has to offer.

Today’s historic flight could not have been achieved without the determination of Canberra Airport and VisitCanberra in securing this fantastic partnership with Singapore Airlines. TTF has been a strong supporter of attracting international flights to the ACT for a number of years and I am confident that this is just the beginning of the connections between Canberra and the Asia-Pacific.

You know you are starting to get traction on an issue when the political cartoonists start drawing about it and that’s the point we’ve now reached with the backpacker tax. I don’t think the Federal Government ever thought that a $540 million cash grab buried in the 2015 Budget would become the next defining political battle after the changes to superannuation.
The ongoing backpacker tax debacle has been building in pressure in just the last few weeks alone as more farmers and tourism operators speak out about the impact the proposed 32.5 per cent tax is already having in the number of working holiday maker applications they are receiving – or more accurately not receiving as a result of this ill-considered tax.

The backpacker tax has become a grassroots issue in regional and rural communities across the country and it won’t stop until the Government announces that it will scrap the backpacker tax. That will be just the first step. Assuming the Government finally sees reason and walks away from this devastating policy, it will now have to work with industry to repair the damage that has already been done to the working holiday maker market. When the dust finally settles the backpacker tax will end up costing the Federal Government rather than be the windfall it was hoping for. But that is what you get when you don’t consult before you announce a new policy.

Great news from the Garden State this week with the Victorian Government securing more than $9.7 billion from the 50 year lease of the Port of Melbourne. The leasing of the Port will free up much needed capital that can now be reinvested in economy-supporting transport infrastructure. The proceeds will be parked in the Victorian Transport Fund with part of the proceeds already factored into the removal of 50 level crossings that plague the inner suburbs of Melbourne and exacerbate congestion.

The record windfall above the $7 billion the Government was anticipating from the lease will give the government leeway to deliver extra transport infrastructure and fast track the next stage of projects. TTF has been a strong advocate of asset-recycling to help fund the backlog of transport infrastructure projects in our cities and this is a lesson to other jurisdictions of the benefits of asset leasing to the private sector.