The Nationals Senate team has welcomed moves by the Government to ensure costs incurred by regional airports to implement improved security screening measures will not be passed on unfairly to regional travelers.
The Nationals in the Senate negotiated changes to the cost recovery model proposed by the Government to ensure travelers did not face disproportionate cost increases, particularly at a time when regional aviation is reeling from the consequences of COVID-19.
“The Nationals are here for regional Australia. When travel restrictions are lifted we want people visiting the regions and we don’t want costs to replace COVID as an impediment to those visits,” Nationals Senate Leader Bridget McKenzie said.
“We support the security screening, but right now regional tourism is stagnant. We need to kick start it again and adding costs to regional air travel is the wrong thing to do in a post Covid-19 environment,” she said.
Chair of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee and Nationals Senator for Queensland, Susan McDonald said regional airport operators had made it clear what increased costs would mean.
“Everyone is aware that if you increase costs on airports, they will be passed on to operators, who will pass them on to passengers,” Senator McDonald said.
“At our hearings many regional airport operators told us they are concerned about the potential impacts of increased costs leading to fewer passengers, fewer services and eventually even fewer airports serving regional Australia.
Senator for NSW, Perin Davey said the Nationals had to negotiate a better deal in the light of COVID-19 because the original regulations were drafted in December at a very different time for aviation in regional Australia.
“Had we not negotiated, the impact on a regional airport like Wagga Wagga would have been as much as a 40% increase to costs,” she said.
Queensland Senator Matthew Canavan said he was pleased the Government had agreed to an alternative model for cost recovery of security screening that would be fairer for regional Australians.
Dr Sam McMahon, Senator for the Northern Territory said travelling to and from regional Australia was already an expensive exercise and she welcomes a solution that does not lead to disproportional cost increases at regional airports.
The Nationals in the Senate will not take a backward step in standing up for Rural Australia.