Back last October, a deal was announced that would allow Geelong's Avalon Airport to become an international airport. Depending on traffic Avalon Airport is about 45 to 60 minutes by road from the Melbourne CBD. At the time, Victorian Premier Baillieu said the Government had committed $50 million to the design, planning, land acquisition and preliminary construction works of a rail link, and $3 million to develop a fuel line to pipe aviation fuel directly from Shell Geelong to the airport.
The desire to turn Avalon into a second Melbourne international airport has been around for a while. I haven't had the time to go back and refresh my mind on the history, but it's certainly more than twenty years.
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell was distinctly sniffy about the whole thing.
After signing a $30 million tourism marketing partnership with Qantas on Monday, Mr O'Farrell was quick to point out Victoria's planned second international airport was not in Melbourne proper.
''It is an airport at Geelong,'' he said. ''Geelong's about as far from Melbourne as Wyong is from Sydney as Springwood is from Sydney as Bulli is from Sydney.
Barry, try getting from either place to the Sydney CBD in the same time. You couldn't do it.
Mr O'Farrell's sniffiness came from an announcement that an agreement had been signed that would allow direct flights from the Philippines to Avalon.
The question of a second airport for Sydney has been a vexed question for a very long time. In 1986, the Australian Federal Government announced that a new airport was to be built at Badgerys Creek to the west of Sydney. Land was acquired and planning begun, but the whole project then foundered on local opposition. It became all too hard.
Now the question of a second major airport for the Sydney Basin is firmly back on the agenda. For some obscure reason, the operators of Sydney Airport don't feel that one is necessary, or at least not yet. Mr O'Farrell has his doubts about the whole idea.
I don't think that the operators at Avalon or the Victorian Government should worry too much. Building a major new project like an airport takes a lot of time, the approval processes are even longer and require an equivalent weight in paper to the airport itself.
My best guess would be that Avalon has about twenty years before it needs to worry. It's hard to believe that thirty years ago Tullamarine, Melbourne's main airport, was a very minor international airport compared to Sydney, Brisbane smaller still. How the world changes.