We consider the renewed focus on this once publicly owned asset a useful look at the problems of privatisation as proposed by the LNP.
Sadly, most of the privatisations done in Australia have been on the British model with no continuing oversight by the government. And these have gone badly in the UK, as you can read here.
THE CAIRNS AIRPORT - PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT #1
The airport was sold by the Bligh ALP government to a consortium of investment funds, aka the vulture capitalists. While some of these funds are comprised of our pooled superannuation investments, it's unclear if this is the case with our airport. Despite this being THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF INFRASTRUCTURE IN CAIRNS, there is no public oversight or feedback into the operation. Sure, you can write a letter when something goes wrong, but anyone that has done so gets the same response. Nothing. It isn't just that they don't give a shit about the public, it's that when Anna Bligh sold the airport, public oversight wasn't even a condition of the sale.
Don't like how the airport is being run? Free market economics can fix it - GO USE THE OTHER AIRPORT!
Oh, wait - there isn't one!
Lack of real competition is the fatal flaw when governments sell off public utilities without any watchdogs. Victoria copped this lesson years ago. Why would we let Campbell Newman, or ANY government, do it to us?
The only privatisation that's gone well was Telstra. While no oversight was provided by the Howard government for this sale, there is robust competition (think Skype) that did the job for us.
Kevin Brown and his Cairns Airport board of directors can wake up tomorrow and shut the airport down if they want. THEY OWN IT.
CAIRNS AIRPORT UPGRADES
Since privatisation, there have been only two major infrastructure projects done by the private owners of the Cairns Airport.
The most significant was a $15M upgrade to the International Terminal. Did they add seating to accommodate the known shortfall of seats at busy times? Nope. What about the steep, dangerous stairs all passengers must negotiate after a long international flight from the arrival tunnel to the customs and baggage hall? Despite reports that these stairs see at least one fall per day, they did (and continue to do) nothing. Did they fix the unintelligible public address system? Nope.
Instead, the $15M was used to redesign the arrival and departure access - to force all the passengers to walk thru the (poor value) duty free shop. A requirement of their contract with the duty free shop vendor. Even the duty free vendor was smart enough to put conditions in their contract to benefit their business.
Why doesn't the public get protective and oversight conditions in our sales of public assets?
The upgrade to the domestic terminal was no better. After the last major upgrade (underway when the airport was sold to the vulture capitalists), the Cairns Airport boasted that "terminal floor space was doubled". This was not to increase the size of the passenger waiting room, but for more shops and restaurants. At busy hours the terminal still doesn't have enough seating.
Did they install aerobridges for all the gates so that passengers don't need to walk thru the rain to the slippery stairs of their airplane? No.
Instead they installed expensive, covered parking for the "elite" local traveler - likely the same crowd that pays $80 for a lunch at the Casino.
It's still impossible for locals, arriving or departing the airport in a private car, to get to or from the terminal without walking in the rain. Airport employees are also forced to use a carpark that requires a walk in the rain (without any marked crosswalk) to get to their jobs - flight attendants with their luggage.
Sure, Kevin Brown spreads some airport dosh around to his tourism buddies to sponsor some events. Their only "locals" initiative however is just a cruel trick.
They advertise "10 Minutes Free Parking". NO ONE can get mum from the carpark to the terminal, say goodbye, and get back to their cars in 10 minutes. And the penalty for this little piece of airport chicanery? It'll cost you a $Fiver to get your car out.
And bring your credit card. The owners of the Cairns Airport sacked the car park cashiers years ago.