Topics: Dismantling and moving the Vickers Vimy; South Australian rapid antigen test deliveries; Defence assistance in hospitals; George Christensen remarks


10:05AM AEST




Brenton Cox: Thanks very much. My name is Brenton Cox, I’m the managing director of Adelaide Airport. Thanks very much to everyone for coming here to mark Vimy’s next journey, the original Great Race back in 1919 was 18,000 kilometres long and it took 28 days. This one, because of the complexity of the task, it might just be down the road but it’s going to take more than twice that time. Now here today, I really want to thank the Minister, Simon Birmingham, the senator on behalf of the federal government. Without their support this wouldn’t be possible along with the combined support of our local state government this journey today wouldn’t be able to take place. Also want to thank in advance, Ian Miles from Artlab Australia, his team are about to undertake a painstaking job. We’re very lucky to have Artlab based here in South Australia, have that expertise locally, they’ve got long experience with this aircraft. I sort of liken the job a bit to a bit of a meccano set like you have as a kid. It’s just there’s no instruction booklet that comes with it and the stakes are a bit higher if you are left over with a few bolts at the end. You know, you get into a few problems which might be the case with an actual meccano set [indistinct]. Also, in particular, I do want to thank the Adelaide Airport team, they’ve put a huge amount of effort over many years and actually, if you go over now to the terminal, the new home for the Vimy is already in place, constructed as part of the extended terminal there to have pride of place for the Vimy going forward. So really for all of that, I think it’s fabulous for everyone to be here in person and see just the scale of this aircraft, it’s over three tonne and more than twenty metres wide and it does give you a sense of how difficult this task will be, over 100 years old and actually quite fragile. It makes you wonder how it flew halfway around the world and when it did take that journey in 1919, it actually beat the continuous air record by nearly four times at that moment. And so the whole story behind Vimy and the journey that this aircraft represents is really one of guts and innovation. It’s a tale that will provide inspiration for future generations of Australians, and it really gives you a sense that something that people might not think is possible really is possible. And we’re absolutely blessed to have this wonderful aircraft and the seed of all that inspiration right here at Adelaide Airport. So I’ll hand over in a moment to Senator Birmingham to talk about the Commonwealth’s perspectives on this wonderful aircraft and then hand over to Ian Miles from Artlab to talk about this particular task and then we’ll open up for questions after that. Thank you, Senator.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much, Brenton, it’s a delight to be here today for this very important next step in the history of the Vickers Vimy. The story of Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith and their exploits in the Vickers Vimy really is a telling of the Australian story, the story of adventure, the story of innovation and today we are seeking to preserve and to celebrate, to make more available the history of that story. We want to make sure that more Australians and South Australians, more visitors around the world can understand that the exploits of Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith in the Vickers Vimy made possible the type of air travel and aviation exploits that came in the decades to follow. They broke down barriers, they made people believe that what was thought to be impossible was possible and in doing so, they made travel more accessible to more people. Today, of course, notwithstanding the perils of COVID-19, the ease with which individuals can easily move around the world is something that 101 years ago, was just not considered, not thought to be possible. And yet now we have this magnificent celebration available to us to be able to make sure that we preserve that history. The federal government was proud during the centenary a couple of years ago to be able to commit $2 million dollars in funding support for this project, to take the Vickers Vimy, which Adelaide Airport has cared for and looked after in this site for so many years and to put it effectively on public display in the new terminal. This is going to ensure that South Australia’s proud history is at the forefront and a reminder there for every single person that arrives in Adelaide and walks past this plane in years to come, they will know about the exploits of these South Australians, the proud history of aviation in this state and the barriers that were broken down by the Smith brothers during their exploits. And so Brenton thank you to Adelaide Airport for the foresight, the leadership and the investment that you are making. As a team, you’re now undertaking what is the painstaking work of dismantling, moving and reconstructing the Vickers Vimy. We wish you well. We know that this is a most challenging undertaking to ensure that the history we are seeking to make more accessible and to preserve is able to moved safely and carefully so that it is there on display for all to celebrate and enjoy for years to come. Thanks very much.


Ian Miles: Thank you Minister Birmingham, thanks Brenton and thanks for the opportunity to work on this fantastic relic from 1919. My name’s Ian Miles I work for Artlab Australia. We’re part government, part private [indistinct] within Artlab lucky to win this work. This is a fantastic project [indistinct] I’ve been working with larger objects for the last 20 years, this is by far the most challenging object I’ve had the pleasure to work on. With this object I’ll go through [indistinct] in more detail but the work is ongoing as you can see we’ve got the scaffold structure [indistinct] will be transported safely [indistinct]. Once again thank you Brenton for the opportunity to work on this aircraft and I look forward to any detailed questions.


Journalist: Can you take me through long this is going to take to dismantle, and the process to dismantle, to move and reconstruct?


Ian Miles: Yeah, yeah sure. We’ve done a full schedule. Hopefully, the dismantling of the aircraft will follow the schedule where we’ll be able to have a window between the end of March about March 20 to 25. As previously discussed, this is a very fragile object its construction is timber frame with a [indistinct] on top of it that makes it which kind of treats it. This is about 100 years old so it’s very fragile the adhesives and fittings that they used at that point of time render this as an extremely fragile object so with any of the [indistinct]. That’s the detail the process is to break it up into three parts and dismantling it. You can see by the brackets between the engine and the outer wings it’s separated into three parts and we’ve started work as you can see on this outer wing and we should be complete with the scaffold ready for [indistinct] maintaining its environment same as this environment here throughout the journey to its new location. By around the 20-25 March depending on weather. We don’t want rain, we don’t want high winds. So we will move the object gently to position in the new building [indistinct].


Journalist: [Indistinct]


Ian Miles: No, this sounds quite simple and that’s what we are trying to do, keep it simple. When you start to overcomplicate things-. It’s literally, the scaffolding that we’ve got at the moment is going to be sat upon some chassis, so we’ll have a fixed chassis and steering chassis. So essentially we’re making a trailer. So it’s going to be encapsulated in scaffolding [indistinct] to maintain the environment and we’re going to tow it through the car park [indistinct] into the main terminal. Following the normal road, we’ll have a tow truck which [indistinct] Adelaide Airport because we’re using one of their essential bits of equipment.


Journalist: What’s the process for getting it out, what’s got to go to get it out?


Ian Miles: That’s a really good question, because space to get it out of this building and get it into the new building we’ve got restrictions. We’ve through the size and the limitations of the aircraft. It is tight to get it out, it’s got about 70 millimetres either side. So there is a spatial requirement and also a height requirement. You can see by this building, this fantastic bespoke building. We shouldn’t dismiss the building as well as the sculpture outside [indistinct] the building itself has got an arched ceiling and that in itself will restrict the exit of this aircraft [indistinct]. Once we’ve got the three parts we’ll go through the rear of the building. It is tight, as I say 70mm either side but we’ve got spotters and we’ll take it through [indistinct].


Journalist: So technically, it’s harder to move it 2 kilometres than going from the UK to Australia?


Ian Miles: These were these explorers. These were people who were relying on [indistinct] top get the aircraft over here. They’ve just come out of World War 1. The flights and the innovations were still progressing. Remember this is only just like 1903 was the Wright brothers. Who flew seconds from a motor powered heavier than air flight, 1903. 1909 Louis Bleriot crossed the English Channel, 22 miles, 1909. Ten years later, we’re flying from England to Australia. It’s extraordinary, these people, it’s just crazy, no? It’s extraordinary.


Journalist: Take me through how it will be preserved in the end, do you need humidifiers, so what will be enclosed in a case or? How will it look?


Ian Miles: No, there’s been a lot of effort by stakeholders Arketype design in providing this as an experience  to visitors. We’ve gone through from Artlab and our input from a conservation point of view to make sure that the people and the access to the aircraft is full in the 270, so we can actually go around the aircraft and we can look at the aircraft in as much detail as we can. Look there’s going to have to be barriers so people can’t lean over and touch and the environment itself is going to be stabilised to what we’re actually [indistinct]. Essentially, when we’re making the framework, all of this environment should be transferred as a package to the new building and then we can unwrap it and all of those changes will be minimising fluctuation [indistinct] light. The light damage to the aircraft [indistinct] quite a restoration in the 1980s which meant the leading edge of the wing needed relining. So we are monitoring the light to give it the best possible chance of preservation [indistinct].


Journalist: [Indistinct] how long will it be before people will see all three parts back together?


Ian Miles: I’ll hand that over to Brenton actually.


Brenton Cox: So, what happens once this gets reassembled over into the new home we then have the task of actually creating a space that people get to live, breathe and be part of. And that will take some time as well. We’re looking to do that in the second half of this year. It’s difficult to put out a precise date with these things because if something doesn’t work according to plan you can’t just go to Bunnings and get a spanner. It is particularly unique exercise. So something that we’re expecting the public to be able to experience later this year, I just really can’t wait for that moment. It’ll be pride of place where people are getting dropped off in the taxi area. Everyone can come and see, that’s that part of the journey. We’re actually keeping access airside, so you won’t need to go through the security requirements. So that just increases the accessibility for not just the travelling public but the broader public too.


Journalist: Do you think enthusiasts will travel from interstate just to see it?


Brenton Cox: We found that, we had an open day, the first time we enabled bookings for the public to come into this very space here. And when that occurred, we had we had bookings from all over Australia to come in. People making the trip just to feel the story and just be part of it. It’s a magical aircraft with a lot of love around it, so we’re so lucky to be able to have it here. I think it will be something that South Australians, that will increase learning experience and then be proud of being able to have that on front and when we do have visitors that come here and get to learn the story we have more and more people wanting to come and see it.


Journalist: How long has this been in the planning for Adelaide Airport?


Brenton Cox: You could almost say a 100 years. It has been a very long time. It’s one of these things that requires a huge amount of stakeholder effort, it requires a lot of money and requires significant intricate planning. It has been in terms of real detail, certainly the best part of the last 5 years. But it’s been something that’s been conceived in a lot of people’s minds, you know well beyond our organisation for longer than that. I think since the original old domestic terminal here was replaced by a beautiful new terminal over its current location in 2005, really since that point there’s been a desire to see the Vimy be back part of the journey is for those that come in and out of Adelaide Airport. So people can experience and what this aircraft has around it and the story that we’re all [indistinct].


Journalist: Minister, in regards to RATs and the accusations that the eastern states are taking our RAT tests. What is your response?


Simon Birmingham: Firstly, make very clear that the federal government, though, we are certainly in the market for purchasing many millions, tens of millions of additional RAT tests for Australians we’ve already been providing millions through the aged care network. We’ve been providing and in the process of giving 10 million to the states and territories, that we certainly have not been requisitioning RAT tests at a federal level. Our understanding from other states is that they say they have not been doing so either. However, I back fully the call by the South Australian Premier for the ACCC to investigate this matter and make sure that there isn’t subversion in the marketplace that’s preventing any RATs that have been appropriately ordered from getting to suppliers in South Australia. Crucially, South Australians should remember though that if they need a COVID test because they have symptoms, because they are a close contact, they can get one for free. They can get COVID tests for free if they are symptomatic, PCR tests available at many different sites. And if you are a close contact a RAT kit available from the different distribution centres the state has set up. So testing remains free for those who need it, tests are available, waiting times are far shorter than they were a few weeks ago. So people should not hesitate to access a test if they need.


Journalist: With the strain of COVID in the nation’s hospitals, will the Australian Defence Force be called?


Simon Birmingham: We do continue to work closely with the states and territories around all aspects of the COVID-19 response. Our health system continues to hold up incredibly well across Australia, under these unique and challenging circumstances. Bed capacity, ICU capacity, remains strong, but of course, there have been pressures on staff numbers as a result of a number of staff being forced to isolate and unable to be in attendance at different hospitals [indistinct]. That’s where real pressure sits and its why the agreements that have been put in place with the private hospital operators in particular are so important for public health systems to be able to access those additional staff, where and when they need them in ways that will help to ensure that capacity is there in our hospital networks. Here in South Australia, I think we’ve continued to see strong capacity in the hospitals to cater for individuals who need that type of treatment and care and support for COVID-19. We haven’t seen the scale of cancellation of other surgical procedures as is the case some states, but of course we stand ready to make sure we continue to provide the additional where necessary, and I know that in relation to the ADF, you know, they have provided a range of different supports throughout the pandemic in terms of helping be it with security operations, be it with contact tracing operations, logistics, they’ll continue to respond in those sorts ways to any requests of the states and territories.


Journalist: And I have a question from Canberra. George Christensen telling parents to not vaccinate their children, do you think it’s time for him to move to the crossbench?


Simon Birmingham: Well, George Christensen is meant to be retiring at the next election and I would and do condemn the remarks, the fact that they undermine confidence in the vaccine rollout is something that is deplorable. I urge all Australian parents to follow the lead of so many millions of others around the world, including myself as a dad, in getting our kids vaccinated. Vaccination has proven to be one of the most important factors in preventing serious illness, preventing hospitalisations, preventing death. It’s been shown to be the case in Australia, it’s been shown to be the case around the world, it is crucial that we all do our part there. I urge everyone to ignore those types of irresponsible remarks. To make sure that they do all they can, in Australia we should be proud of the fact that as an adult population those over 16, in fact, we are now see more than 95 percent first doses, around 93 per cent second doses. This is a higher type penetration of vaccination that you can realistically expect in any type of population setting. It is a akin to the very high prevalence of childhood vaccination we have as part of our ordinary child vaccination program in Australia and I hope parents will back the vaccination [indistinct].


Journalist: So you’re not comfortable with accepting his vote?


Simon Birmingham: Well, look, I urge everybody, who sits in the nation’s parliament to vote for the government’s agenda. As the Senate leader sitting in a different chamber to the Member for Dawson, that as the Senate leader I’m routinely urging people of other parties, of other viewpoints to vote for the government’s legislative agenda, and I urge that right across both chambers whatever the different views of individuals may be. Thanks guys.