Millionaire shopping centre lobbyist and former SMH editor Milton Cockburn writes to Crikey following the news that Frank Lowy’s Westfield lost their action against the Brisbane Airport Corporation.

Westfield loses Brisbane Airport action

Subscriber email – 3 February

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Frank Lowy’s Westfield received a huge slap in the face in the Federal Court today with the decision to reject their action against the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) and Federal Minister for Transport, John Anderson.

If successful, Lowy would have prevented BAC from developing Airport Drive into an integrated Airport/leisure zone in a similar manner to highly-successful international airports such as Amsterdam’s Schiphol.

Westfield has waged an aggressive two and a half year campaign against the BAC with former SMH editor and Olympics spinning boss, Milton Cockburn, leading the charge through that well known Westfield front called the Shopping Centre Council of Australia.

Milton’s big spin was that Brisbane does not need another “major shopping centre” when what is proposed is nothing like that. Justice Cooper was very dismissive in his 60 page judgment today and is now determining the millions in costs that Westfield will probably have to fork out.

It will be interesting to see if Westfield and Lowy decide to appeal and further aggravate the deputy PM and a major company partly owned by the Queensland Government. Who can forget the Orange Grove saga in western Sydney where all those huge Westfield donations to Labor are perceived by some to have caused the Carr Government to intervene

The first approved project in the Airport Drive precinct is a purpose built Direct Factory Outlet, which will house more than 130 brand outlets under one roof.

Other possibilities for the precinct include a homemaker centre, golf course, convenience retail stores, child-care, health and fitness facilities, restaurants, cafes and hotels, corporate offices and car parking.

The sort of shops and service consumers would expect to find in one of Lowy’s own Westfield Shopping Centres which are dotted all over Australia’s major cities, including Brisbane.

BAC recently reaffirmed its position as Australia’s fastest growing airport with 23 per cent growth for the half year to date. International passengers through Brisbane Airport grew by 18.8 per cent (24.6 per cent YTD) and domestic passengers grew 7.3 per cent (11.5 per cent YTD) on the previous December quarter. This year more than 15 million passengers passed through the Airport.

Milton Cockburn on the unfair Airports Act

Subscriber email – 4 February

Millionaire shopping centre lobbyist and former SMH editor Milton Cockburn writes:

Congratulations on becoming a “millionaire publisher”. Those of us green with envy at least have some satisfaction in knowing that Eric Beecher (my editor in the early 80s) will not allow nonsense such as the comment yesterday about the Brisbane Airport decision to appear without checking first.

(I have the highest regard for Eric – undoubtedly the most decent and talented individual I’ve ever come across in newspapers. You’ve chosen an excellent owner.)

The Shopping Centre Council (18 members, of which Westfield is but one) has never said Brisbane doesn’t need another shopping centre. That’s an unlikely comment from a body representing shopping centre owners!

All we’ve sought is that the unfair advantage, which the Airports Act gives to private airport companies, when it comes to commercial developments is removed. The private airport companies should be subject to the same planning and development approval processes for commercial developments as every other private developer.

Milton Cockburn
Executive Director
Shopping Centre Council of Australia

For the latest on the Brisbane Airport story, see this report on yesterday’s Federal Court decision.

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