Tax­payer hit for air­port safety

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - ANNIKA SMETHURST NA­TIONAL PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

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”.

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