Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Development
Leader of the Nationals in the Senate
Senator for Victoria
25 August 2023
ALBANESE GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO TACKLE HIGH AIRFARES AND FLIGHT UNRELIABILITY
A lack of transparency behind the Albanese Government’s decision to block Qatar Airways from greater access to the Australian international airline market has left Australian travellers without an explanation on the high cost of international air fares.
Opposition Transport Spokesperson Senator Bridget McKenzie today called on the Labor’s Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers to instruct the ACCC to investigate international airline competition and pricing.
Senator McKenzie also urged the Government to immediately release the Government’s response to the problem of aircraft slot allocation at Sydney Airport.
The Harris Review recommended improving flexibility of aircraft movements at Sydney Airport which is a decision the government could make tomorrow that would have an immediate positive impact.
“The Government has the opportunity to make some immediate decisions that will put downward pressure on airfares, and improve reliability and competitiveness,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The Government’s decision to block Qatar from flying extra flights into Australia makes little sense, particularly when we’ve seen the cost of international flights in some cases treble in the last couple of years,” Senator McKenzie said.
“So far, we have had four different explanations as to why the Albanese Government blocked more competition into the airline industry, and none of them stack up.
“Minister Catherine King has variously claimed it was a human rights issue, a decision to protect local jobs, and that she wanted to help Qantas afford to buy new planes.
“They’ve even said keeping Qatar out of Australian airspace would help reduce carbon emissions.”
Senator McKenzie said the obfuscation had to stop, and instead focus on decisions that will benefit the industry and the travelling public.
“It is the Australian that suffers when we don’t have a competitive airline industry.”
Senator McKenzie today urged the Government to undertake the following steps:
• Request the ACCC conduct an urgent inquiry in airfare competition, reliability, and prices
• Release the Government’s response to the Harris Review including a decision on demand management at Sydney Airport (the allocation of take-off and landing rights for aircraft)
“This government seems to be running a protection racket for a major domestic carrier by refusing to increase competition and freight capacity,” Senator McKenzie said.
When asked by journalists last week about the government protecting airlines that are charging expensive fares and recording record profits, Prime Minister Albanese said, “if you have a look around the world, it in fact is the most competitive market in the world…”. (18 August 2023, interview with Laura Jayes)
Senator McKenzie rubbished these claims by the Prime Minister, as data shows airfares continue to remain punishingly high.
“The Prime Minister and the Government have lost touch with the cost-of-living pressures facing struggling Australian families and small businesses.
“The Australians are being treated with contempt by this Labor Government,” Senator McKenzie said.
Australia has a serious problem with policy failure at a federal level as the number of flight cancellation and delays in July jumped once again, with 4 per cent of all flights cancelled.
Last month alone 1,845 flights were cancelled.