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Disappointment of Senate Inquiry into Airfares

Mayor Joyce McCulloch has said the findings of a Senate Inquiry into airfares in regional Australia are insulting, and more needs to be done to rectify the obvious issue of exorbitant airfares in and out of regional Queensland.


“For too long our residents have had to put up with outrageously expensive airfares, particularly to Brisbane,” Cr McCulloch said.


Cr McCulloch said this was an opportunity for both levels of Government to show a deep understanding and commitment to issues that affect people living in regional areas.


“I feel they’ve ignored the facts and stopped listening to the people who are affected by these very real issues,” Cr McCulloch said.


In its 2015 White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, the Australian Government committed to unlocking the potential of the north, but Cr McCulloch said it seems the inquiry doesn’t support the paper.


“For all the talk of strengthening Northern Australia and unlocking the potential, I question how this can be done when people can’t afford air travel in and out of one of Northern Queensland’s largest cities,” Cr McCulloch said.


“We also hear a lot of talk about decentralisation and what can be done to achieve it. Allowing exorbitant air fares to cities like our certainly won’t help.


“The current cost of airfares prohibits any potential business growth, tourism opportunity and greater liveability, it essentially acts as a tax on those living in our region.


“It’s often cheaper to fly direct from Brisbane to Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo or Auckland than it is to fly from Brisbane to Mount Isa, which is just a 2.5-hour flight.


“This makes no sense. Mount Isa is consistently ranked in the top 40 of all Australian airports in terms of passenger numbers, and the most recent figures show monthly passenger numbers at Mount Isa Airport are continuing to increase, so there is no reason why we should be paying as much as we are.


“Simply put, something needs to be done to make our air fares fairer.”


The Senate Committee also recommended that any future public inquiry into regional airfares should also investigate the feasibility of increased subsidies to help lower regional airfares, and for states to work together to develop a framework to expand access to community and compassionate fares, such as for “last-minute” flights.


“Those living in regional or remote communities already have to contend with so many challenges as it is – outrageous air fares should not be one of them,” Cr McCulloch said.