Taxpayer hit for airport safety
TAXPAYERS will be slapped with a multimillion-dollar bill by an Australian airport trying to make customs and agencies pay rent to keep us safe.
The federal government has been locked in a year-long dispute with the penny-pinching bosses at Darwin Airport — primarily owned by industry super funds — which is demanding an unprecedented lease agreement from border agencies including the Australian Federal Police and customs. The airport’s chief executive Ian Kew is demanding $1.76 million from the department for occupying areas of the international terminal from 2014 to June 2018.
The airport also wants the government to sign up to a new ongoing lease agreement that sources believe will cost taxpayers about $1.4 million a year over the next decade.
Senior government sources described the lease agreement as “unprecedented” with most major international airports allowing mandatory security staff to occupy areas free of charge. In a letter to Border bosses, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, Darwin International Airport claims the rent being demanded represents “a heavy discount” on the amount it is entitled to.
Negotiations broke down in recent months after the airport threatened “legal proceedings”. Darwin Airport is owned by IFM Investors, an industry super-backed investment fund chaired by former ACTU assistant secretary Garry Weaven and its board includes former Labor minister Greg Combet. The federal government refused to comment but a senior government source said, “We won’t be shaken down for doing our job to keep Australians safe”.
Mr Kew said agencies paying rent was “commonplace”.