Australia's New International Tourist Attraction Is An Empty Paddock
"Where the bloody hell are you?"
Australia has a new international tourist attraction, according to the PM (and former tourism boss who approved that Lara Bingle campaign).
It's a building filled with Utopia-style promotional videos, in the middle of a paddock an hour's drive from the Sydney CBD.
Welcome, international visitors, to the "Western Sydney International Nancy-Bird Walton Airport Experience Centre".
This building, proclaimed Scott Morrison at the grand opening yesterday, will allow "tourists… people from all over the world" to take in a "world class" facility.
The ribbon cutting involved no fewer than five federal ministers. Other dignitaries and worthies were also on hand for the raising of the flag, the national anthem, a Welcome to Country, the whole shebang.
You'd be mistaken for thinking they were opening the airport itself, except the first plane is still seven years away.
Let's get real. This tourist attraction is simply a room. It's the airport equivalent of a display suite for a still-to-be-built apartment block.
There's a nod to the history of the area and then dozens of screens bombard you with slick videos extolling all the virtues of the facility and the jobs it will create. You can also look out into the empty paddock through an iPad and see where the runway will one day sit.
Sure, the airport is an important project. It's been promised for years, and finally it's happening.
But who knows who will be in power when planes start landing in 2026?
So, the government needs to capitalise now.
They can't cut the ribbon on the airport, so they’re making a song and dance about the "experience centre" instead.
Its main customer base is likely to be school kids bussed out for compulsory excursions.
A global tourist boom? Tell them they’re dreamin’.
And how much is this "experience centre" costing the taxpayer? We're not allowed to know.
This is the background to the questions I asked the Scott Morrison yesterday.
Here's the exchange in full:
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister how much does this experience centre cost and who's paying for it?
PRIME MINISTER: Well it's all within the scope of the Western Sydney Airport's overall project budget.
JOURNALIST: But how much taxpayer money?
PRIME MINISTER: that's a commercial in-confidence matter.
JOURNALIST: So you can't tell us how much?
PRIME MINISTER: No because that was commercial in confidence.
JOURNALIST: Your media release says that you expect tourists will come here. Can you really expect that tourists will want to visit Sydney, go to the Opera House, Bondi Beach, Harbour Bridge, and the Western Sydney airport experience?
PRIME MINISTER: Why wouldn't they?
JOURNALIST: Do you really think they will?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, sure, why not?
JOURNALIST: How many tourists are you forecasting will visit?
PRIME MINISTER: As many as we can cater for. There'll be a lot of schoolkids coming here too which I think is really important. I mean when I was a kid we went out on an open excursion the Warragamba Dam we visited the experience centre just like this. I remember it to this day. And kids will remember going to this centre and they'll go home and they'll tell their parents, and they'll say what's happening out there the airport is fantastic mum and dad. And that's what this is about, it's about people understanding what's happening in their community.
JOURNALIST: Do you expect it to become a tourist attraction? Do you?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm happy for people to come and visit it, why not! Look at the, look at the story that's being told. I mean if people are coming out to Western Sydney why wouldn't you stop in and have a look?
JOURNALIST: The first line of your media release says it will be tourists will be coming here. I just wonder what the Government's basing that on?
PRIME MINISTER: Because it's a great facility that tells a wonderful story about Western Sydney.
JOURNALIST: Predominantly it's just government promotional videos being played over and over again is that, you think it's a tourist attraction?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, what I just saw was the history of Western Sydney. I'd encourage you to go and have a look at it and actually look at the videos that are there. It tells the story of the development of this entire part of this wonderful city. I'm very proud of my city. I have been a Sydneysider pretty much all of my life and I'm so proud of what this city has achieved, not just over my lifetime, but the generations of Australians who have made this city what it is, and going back into our Indigenous history, that's the story that's being told here. These are stories of Australia. I think people want to know the stories of Australia. And here they can hear them.
The airport is great, PM.
The "experience centre" serves a purpose.
But tell us how much we've spent on it.
And don't try to tell us it's a tourist attraction.